Further Down The Rabbit Hole

Renatoram

Franklin looks down his arms, now that the killing spree has passed, and seems more surprised than in pain.

He drops the fire extinguisher to the ground, arms still limp down his sides.

"Hank, Mr. Ribsy, I think I'll need some help pulling out these needles, before we can do anything else."


HamBandit

Mr. Ribsy looks from Franklin's arms to Hank's hands and face.

"Yeah… yeah of course. I think there are some bandages in the top drawer of your room's closet. CranBurry8, right? Uh, I'd help but unless you want a tongue bath, there's not much that I can do." He gingerly steps over the corpses of the Needle creatures and sits at the top of the stairs.

"Marjory!" He calls out, as loud as a housecat can. "We could use some help up here, when you get the chance."

"Psst!" Hank's attention is drawn by the Lady in Red's whisper. She sits on a nearby windowsill half behind the curtain, high-heeled shoes hanging off the edge of her feet.

"Hank, we need to have a little chat, when you have a minute."


Tancred

Unenthusiastically pulling at the needles stuck in his hands, Hank manages to get out a couple, but blood oozes from the wounds.

"Let's get those bandages Franklin."Sure… I'll catch you up. I've got to have a word with a friend." Stepping gingerly over the corpses on the rooftop, Hank joins the Lady in Red.

"What's up?"


HamBandit

The Lady in Red and the Dwarf wait on either edge of the doorframe for you. You think that you can barely see the Thin man sitting up higher on another portion of the roof, but it's hard to tell.

"Hank. Those things back there were Needlers." The dwarf begins, chewing a lump of gum. "They work for the Tax man… sort of like his personal bodyguards and hitmen. Now, Red and I have been talking." He looks to her.

"Though that Franklin character concerns me, the fact is that those were 90% probably here for you. And, if the Tax Man is collaborating with Lamp, we may start having a very bad night. We know that you may not understand all of this, but we think it's time that we gave you this."

She detaches her prostethic arm and removes the finger. It's hollowed out: and inside is a silver dog-whistle. She removes it and hands it to you.

"You need to take this and show it to any figure of authority here in Mad City besides Lamp or the Tax man. They'll understand.Long story short, it's from you. Back before your little operation."

The Dwarf sighs and grumbles. "Which I am totally regretting right now. I was never for it in the first place. Anyway, we also think it would be a good idea if you found out a bit more about your chum, Franklin. Find out what he's really up to, you know?"


Renatoram

Franklin sits on the bed in his room, wincing and screaming a bit while Marjory pours alcohol on the needle holes. Then she manages to bandage him, more or less, using scraps of a bedsheet.

"Ungh… Thanks Marjory… actually, the looks is probably worse than it is"

After walking around a bit, testing the bandages, he walks off looking for Hank.

"Ok, Hank, I had enough of this weird crap, I'm tired, and I'm pissed. Let's just walk to the Wax King, ask some questions, and move on. What do you think?"


HamBandit

Marjory slides open the closet to place the scissors and remaining bandages back in.

"No problem, dear. You know, if you're looking to speak to the Wax King, I'm sure Ribsy could set you up. Just ask…oh my." She stops dead, looking into Franklin's closet.

"That's strange indeed…" The closet is stocked to the brim with straight jackets.

"Well…" Marjory continues, hesitantly. "You do get used to this sort of a thing after a while here. Take your medication, Mr. Waters."


Tancred

Hank looks at the whistle sitting on his palm, then up at Red, then back down at his palm again. His expression is one of annoyed disbelief. "Let me get this straight," Hank grumbles, "You're telling me that if I wave this little Christmas cracker whistle at some bigshot they're just going to nod sagely and help me out? 'They'll understand' you say?" Hank rumples his hair with the other hand, frustration writ across his face.

"Well what about me? I don't understand!" Shoving the whistle into a pocket, Hank exhales loudly. "Okay, so there's some operation I had, right? A lobotomy or something?" he asks the dwarf. "And so now I don't know anything and I'm wandering blindly round this crazy place, no idea what this Lamp or Tock or whatever are. I think you guys better fill me in - and less of the mistrust of Franklin: apart from you three, he's just about the only guy that's even approximately on my side."

Hank paces round in a circle, trying to press his thoughts into some kind of order. "Look, just lay it all on me, and let me deal with whatever shocks from the past you guys are shielding me from with your well-meaning hints, okay? I need to gain the initiative, and to do that, I need to know what I'm dealing with here."


HamBandit

"So that's the way you want it, huh?" The dwarf furrows his brow, making a sour face. He seems extremely agitated.

"You just want to blow the lid off, to know everything? Is that it, Hank? Because I'll be the first to tell you that you will not like the answers you get. You see that guy up there?" He asks loudly, pointing up at the Thin Man on the roof.

"Do you know who that is, Hank? Well I'll tell you, Mr. Fuck the Consequences. That guy is you. The real you. You know why he smokes, why he never talks? That's because you used to work for the Nightmare, Lamp. You were best buds. Peas in a goddamned pod."

As they speak, memories sear through your brain. The image of a crumpled wreck of a school bus with Hank standing over it while small pig-faced people with electrical sockets for eyes swarm all over it stands out.

The Lady in Red leans in closer, a look of bitterness on her face.

"You did whatever he wanted: his most trusted right hand man. You see Hank, Nightmares have the ability to imprint a tattoo of their insignia on a human's neck to bind them into their service permanently. You helped Lamp: abducted children from the world above, so he could tattoo them, or make them into Sockets: the pig faced children you see in your dreams. You were the one who helped Lamp get to the position he is now in the city Government. You know those stories about children disappearing in the middle of the night? That was because of people like you, Hank. You're a Boogeyman."

The Dwarf looks sideways at Hank, glaring. "The only smart thing you ever did was decide that you'd had enough of it." He gives a humorless snort.
"Are you happy now?"

OOC: Your brain hurts agonizingly, as you start to recall the past few years. Part of you feels as if it's been ripped out and stuffed back in, twisted and molded into a broken heap. Hank has gained a point of Permanent Madness.


Tancred

Face upturned toward the smoking man, the world whirls about Hank's head and he grabs some wall for support. The thick tobacco clouds swirl around in front of the Thin Man's face, a sudden breeze parting the fug and allowing Hank a glimpse at the grimacing face beyond, lips curled back in mock-humor, curled round a bent cigarette. Two eyes stare out above, neither malevolent nor desperate just… dead.

With a strangled gasp, Hank slips to the floor, head pounding red with pumping blood and unwanted memories.

"No, that's not right," Hank moans, clutching his skull. "I'm not that guy, I don't want to be that guy. I like kids, I couldn't do that," he whispers as the memories swarm back to flail his mind with images of pig snouts, screaming and electric sockets.

"You little prick," Hank chokes, sprawling forward and seizing the dwarf by his throat, "You smug bastard, what the Hell evil shit did you get up to? A guy like me doesn't get friends mutilating kids, so what sicko shit are you in for?"

Mind reeling wildly at the shock, Hank is dimly aware of the Lady in Red screaming and beating on his shoulders as the dwarf punches him repeatedly in the face, trying to release Hank's desperate chokehold, as his face slowly turns purple.

With a sob, Hank lets the dwarf drop and falls back onto the cold floor. Looking around with wild, desperate eyes he can't help seize on a lone, selfish thought: "If I got out before, why am I back here now?"


HamBandit

The Thin Man watches from a higher balcony. He flicks his cigarette down off into the darkness below somewhere before striding out of view. The Dwarf clutches his throat, gasping and coughing while the Lady in Red pats him on the back.

"I knew you couldn't take it. You were *cough* always… weak." The Lady in Red stands and casually crosses her arms, looking at you earnestly. "There's more that you need to know at some point, Hank. Hold onto the whistle. When you think it's absolutely necessary, when you're out of options, and have nowhere else to turn…blow the whistle."

Mr. Ribsy pokes his head out the broken door, dragging one of the Needler's corpses with his teeth. He must have been stronger than first glances suggested: as when fighting the creatures, you could definitely feel the weight behind their frenzied blows.

"You OK out here?" He asks through a mouthful of denim cloth. "I thought I heard shouting." He drags the corpse out onto the edge of the roof and drops it off. The Wax people timidly burrow up through the ground to the surface, sniffing the air. When they realize that the danger is gone and fresh meat is on the ground, they swarm over it-ripping the needle filled body to shreds and eating the pieces.


Tancred

"Just fine," Hank answers tiredly. "No problemo, everything A-Okay." He glumly picks himself up and dusts himself off. "I'm done with the weird crap too," Hank answers Franklin, "but I don't think it's done with us. Sure, why not, let's go see the King."


HamBandit

Mr Ribsy's ears prick up.

"I could get you an audience if you want. I actually know the King personally. Well, I used to… it's a long story. But, um, yeah. I could do that." Marjory opens one of the rooms near the roof access door with a long ring of keys, carrying a vacuum.
"Ribsy dear, you haven't spoken with the King in ages." She flips on the television in the room and begins to vacuum the floor.

The cat grumbles. "He would still hear me out." Marjory rolls her eyes.
"How do the dressings feel, Franklin?"


Renatoram

Franlkin flexes his hands and arms a couple of times, carefully.

"I'll be fine, thanks Marjory. I can move without problems, and the cuts were small"


Tancred

"Mr. Ribsy, if you can hook up a meeting for us, we'd be much appreciative," Hanks says, wondering briefly at the wisdom of asking a cat to get an audience with royalty…


HamBandit

He shrugs, as much as a cat could."Be happy to. Just got to make a few calls…"

The picture on the television in the room Marjory vacuums is covered in static, and ripples strangely, but you can clearly make out a man in a business suit with a thumbtack for a head, standing at a podium in front of a small crowd in what looks like a plaza in front of a clock tower.

"…As most of you know, Mr. Sterner was a good friend of ours, and a valuable asset to the City Police force. We're… saddened to see him defect to the forces of the Wax King, though we have every hope that he will reconsider. If you happen to see him, please report it to either the Police Station, or my office." The crowd in front of him applaud politely as he steps down and leaves, while three of his Pin Head minions pick up the podium and take it with them. The pedestrians resume milling about aimlessly, twirling their strangely ubiquitous black umbrellas as they chat about the nice weather. The camera pulls back to the news anchor: a pale woman who's missing an eye.

"That was the Tax Man, live from Clock Plaza. In other news, the sentencing of the mysterious child from the Upworld is reaching its final hours. We got to our Biggest Fan, Daniel for more details." The shot changes to a view of a rotating fan, blowing back and forth.


The fan remains silent, as Marjory turns the vacuum and television off. Mr. Ribsy steps in to the back room and begins dialing the rotary phone. "I'll just be a minute. Franklin, you may want to grab a lantern…"

The choking aroma of wax grows stronger as the three of you walk through the tunnels, the lantern's flame casting a flickering globe of light in the pitch darkness. After a half hour of walking, the caverns have narrowed down into something resembling corridors, though you still aren't able to see the ceiling. You don't see much of the wax creatures from before, though you can hear them crawling high above your heads and in the walls. Mr. Ribsy's tiny feet sink several inches into the soft wax with every step as he leads you down a short, slippery incline, and up to a huge double door built in the wall. It's made from tarnished brass, and extends upwards hundreds of feet, though two knockers are attached at eye level by the base.
Standing guard in front of the door is a corpse… or so it seems. The gender is impossible to distinguish, and it wears chunks of battered and rusted medieval armor. But two slender candles sit in its empty eye sockets, which cast a glowing blue light over the three of you. It hovers a few inches off the ground, toes just barely touching down.

"Who comes?" It creaks, sawdust spilling from its open mouth. Mr. Ribsy steps forward.

"I've made an appointment with the King, for these two." The hovering knight scans Franklin and Hank emotionlessly.
"Humans do not enter the Kingdom. They must leave." Ribsy sits down.
"We've made an appointment, ask the receptionist."
"No exceptions…" It whispers, not moving from the doorway. Mr. Ribsy glances back over his shoulder at the two of you.

"Fellas, I guess they assumed that I meant we were all Nightmares. Um… any ideas?"


Tancred

"Well…" Hank says, stepping forward, "I think we qualify, or at least I do. I am a Nightmare, all smoking and little piggy minions with power sockets stuck into them, stealing away kiddies. Or at least, I believe technically I am, or was, or will be, and anyway the Wax King knows me, or knew me, or wants to know me, and my companion here," Hank rambles, jerking a thumb toward Franklin as his monologue warms up.

"You've been here awhile, I can tell, and maybe you're out of touch with latest events, missed the memo, not your fault, no-one could blame you - not that they will, no sir, no way the Wax King's anger at you is justified. I mean you're just doing your job right? Just what he wants? Or wanted at least, before he changed his mind and you didn't hear - but it's not your fault right buddy, he'll understand why you disobeyed his instructions. You thought you were doing right, if you had a second chance todo things over, whyyou'd letusinrightawaysir, no delay, snap to it, openthedoors rightup and letusin, why evenguide usalltheway tohis Highnesshimself," Hank continues, his voice buzzing monotonously as his words stream together into a cajoling, persistent hum.

"Wouldn'titjusbebestallroundifyoujuststeppedasidenowand let us pass?" Hank finishes, a winning smile flashing from his yellowed teeth.

OOC: Hank's trying to use his Exhaustion talent to bluff his way past the guy.


HamBandit

OOC: I'm pretty sure that just having the talent was enough for Hank to get past the guard, so no rolls required.

The corpse knight stares blankly ahead, opening and closing its rotting mouth as if at a loss for words and trying to think of something to say.

"You… may enter." It finally chokes out, descending slowly into the wax. The doors creak open and a bright blue light stings your eyes. The cavernous chamber beyond spans out as far as the eye can see in all directions: the wax floor meeting smooth sandstone. Buildings that look like detached rooms and battlements of an old castle are built into the walls like cliff side birds' nests, and jut out at odd angles. Much like a medieval village is the town before you, a maze of Gothic stone structures dripping with red liquid, while the ubiquitous blue candles line the sides of the streets and provide an ethereal azure light. Walking through the streets are a strange combination of normal looking folk in older rennasance era dress, but melded with everyday objects, (such as a blacksmith with hammers and tongs for hands). The wax coated people crawl along the rooftops and walls, collecting and eating the sticky red substance, and the strange knights like the door guard hover motionless and watching on the street corners. A huge castle looms over the tow, with long draped tapestries from the top floors depicting an epic battle between horse mounted knights and soldiers with clocks for heads.

A tiny snowy-white owl with bottlecaps for eyes swoops down from a nearby rooftop with an exited hoot, landing at Franklin's feet. Upon closer inspection, you find it to be sewn together from scraps of torn paper and strips of old rags. It bows deeply to you.


Renatoram

Franklin bows in reply, then in a formal tone says: "We are here to be heard by the King, please, lead us".

Then, he nudges Hank gesturing him to bow.


Tancred

"You and your critters," Hank whispers through gritted teeth as he sweeps the floor with the extravagance of his bow.


HamBandit

The bird peeps curiously and hops a step closer. Mr. Ribsy hisses at the owl, recoiling. It turns its head to the side, and looks up at Hank. After a second or two, it gives a chirp of recognition.

The clothbird opens its tiny beak, and continues to open it wider and wider as a snake unhinges its jaw. With a hacking noise like someone with tuberculosis might make, it disgorges from its stomach onto the paved road a wad of paper and cloth scraps, covering a folded note bounded with twine. The scraps float away like loose feathers as Mr. Ribsy sniffs it suspiciously, dodging a passing chef with a giant meat cleaver in place of a head.

"I don't like these things. I never have, never will. I'd leave it here… Though I'm not about to start asking questions, especially about what the hell it was you did to that guard back there Hank, but it seems someone's after the two of you. It could be a trap, and I wouldn't take the chance." The bird chirps, hopping backwards once from Ribsy.


Tancred

"You only live once," Hank answers Ribsy dubiously. He bends forward, eyes flicking between the cloth-bird and the note, before snatching up the twine-bound message.


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