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October 19th, 2019, late afternoon

Claremont Academy auditorium, backstage


"Whoof! That is some dust!" Leroy crawled laughing out from under a pile of fallen costumes and the hanger box they'd been stored in. In the dim, harsh light of prop storage the doublets, robes, hats, gowns and shawls seemed like a great sprawling mass of fallen humanity, struck down by some horror. The sleeves reached pitiably, shawls and hats created the shadows where faces might lurk and the robes and gowns hunched and billowed as if something was still lying within. 


Jumping lightly to his feet, Leroy beamed happily. "I did say we would find it, and behold: we have! Now, to select the costumes for the main parts. Jack, an oppressed farmer boy; Red Riding Hood, a child forced to care for senior citizens in leiu of proper civil programs; Cinderella, a scullion with aims to seize political power; and finally the Bakers, man and wife, seeking fertility assistance."


Despite not really needing to breathe, Leroy took a breath. Smiling proudly at the titanic pile of costumes and random assorted clothes, he tossed off the robe he'd worn on the way with Max to the auditorium's backstage. Under it was his usual tunic and trousers, black and threaded with green and pink flowers. 


"What say we split up which character we pick for, Max? That way, we will bring our own tastes better to the fore." Kneeling at one side of the mountainous pile, he smiled across it to his schoolmate "By the by, what did you do to be set to this? I grievously burned my Farside Flan in Extrasolar Ec!" 


"I helped burn them." The great green dragon Dio shifted under the pile, revealing his reptilian face and spiny crest. He sounded not the least bit sorry. 

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Max coughed, waving off the cloud of dust motes that threatened to choke her. "When was the last time they used this stuff? She managed to wheeze out. It took her a moment before the air was clear enough for her to breath properly again. A fine layer of dust was quickly brushed off what had fallen on her black t-shirt and worn out jeans. Her eyes did their best to adjust to the light, the strong contrasting shadows gave more than a few outfits a menacing presence.

She cracked a smile as each character was listed off, trying hard not to laugh. "Never heard of Cinderella described like that before." Max glanced back up at Leroy and shrugged. "I really only know what Red Riding Hood and Cinderella are suppose to look like so I'll look for them. Not super familiar with this play."

Eyes were away from him and on the pile and what few were still hanging up before she could answer.  "Eh, really long story. Either this or community service." Max did her best to layer that with as much sarcasm as possible. The teleporter crouched down and did her best to get the pile off the great green dragon.

Edited by Darksider42
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"Justice is rarely found in this world," Leroy said, seemingly deaf to the ladles of sarcasm Max had poured over her words, "but I am glad its lack brought us together." Sifting through the dizzying pile of assorted cloth, sequins and cracked leather, he considered two red capes carefully.


"No. Too little flair." Setting them up on a clothes rack, he went back to the search. "Cinderella and her path to glory was portrayed in a film. Radiant Judith Smith adores the story and its myriad delights of romance and freedom from an oppressive parent. She wears blue, the colour of purity and her bonds of strength. Red Riding Hood is self-explanatory, the cloak and hood of sacrifice and renewal."


Seizing a likely red hood, Leroy turned it over in his hands for inspection. As he regarded it, he went on at full speed. "Jack is a farmer, and hence wears darker clothes to hide the dirt and grime of his labours. Mutability of purpose and inner change. There is no change in his costume. The Bakers wear brighter ones, such as cream and dove grey and white aprons, with caps at first to keep their hair out of the bread. With travel clothes, a headscarf and pluméd hat. Steadfastness and unflinching integrity."


Unfurling a dingy grey smock, the golden-eyed boy smiled in triumph. "I shall take the Bakers and Hood. I have strong opinions on how they should look. I desire to play Jack, as his story speaks to my own hopes and dreams, yet he is easily-clothed." 


The largely-hidden dragon chuckled, "I get to be the cow, and the scenery." He grinned, revealing giant bone plates instead of teeth. "And speaking as the priest of a buried god, this stuff's got a dust layer on it about ten years' old. I think Prof. Kuzin just got sick of wrangling kids into costumes, but still grabs them up thinking maybe he'd get to put a costume production on." Shifting under the load, his own golden eye rolled over the pile. "Still, this is a lot more costumes than any school could want or need. This is more like something ArcHall stages would have back on Earth-2."


"Yes, far too much."Leroy paused, surveying the box and its contents. "And it seems impossible that all this could have fit within even such a container." Settling back on his haunches, he frowned, "Every time I look, there seems more of it too."


A faint, sudden chill swept through the air, and a whisper at the edge of hearing.


"It's your fault..."

Edited by Ari
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"Wouldn't know much about oppressive parents." Max mumbled to herself as she sorted through the pile of assorted slacks, gowns, jackets and cloaks that spilled forth from the box, tossing anything she could find useful back in. Occasionally she would jump around the small area, leaving behind fleeting after images of herself that faded in seconds. Every article of clothing thrown back seemed to release another plume of dust on the blue haired girl. She held up another red cape for Leroys inspection. "We know who's playing these roles? Pretty sure we need to get the right sizes as well."

"If you had the fangs, I think you would have been a shoe in for the wolf." She said with a smile as she reached for a dark grey robe when she paused. "Now that you mentioned it, it feels like I put most of this away." Maxine was not even sure she was making a dent on the pile on top of Dio.

Then the voice spoke and she froze. "Uh. You guys hear that?" She asked after a second, finally grabbing the robe off the scaled holy dragon. Already she was checking the darker corners of the room and the auditorium for possible hiding spots. Has the old Academy found me already?

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"I hear many things," Leroy said brightly, "usually they are merely my own imagination, or Dio playing a prank-!" He paused, a white jacket in his hands. "Usually, they are more specific."


The white jacket in his hands turned, something inside it filling the sleeves and looking into his face. Stale, cigarette air tangled with the reek of decay.


In Max's hands the grey robe also filled. The hood had fallen forward, covering a gaunt, snarling face whose hollow eyes gazed into hers. 


They spoke, in the same voice and with the same words.


                                                 "It's your fault.


And then the costume mountain came alive. Sleeves and trouser legs filled with unseen, monstrously-strong limbs, reaching and curling around the three super-powered students. Capes, shawls and scarves slithered out, tying themselves into snakelike ropes coiling about the necks and legs of the teens. Dio bucked and struggled furiously, roaring in fury, to the hoarse, rustling snicker of the animated cotton and polyester.


"Hurrah!" Max heard Leroy yell above the growing havoc, "Finally, ghosts!"

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"Not reassuring Leroy." Max said with a sidelong glance in his direction.

She almost did not see the robe fill up until it was at full height. Only a few steps backwards were taken in a vane attempt to escape before she was in the serpentine grip of ageing cloth. "They said nothing about ghosts when I-" The words were stopped as a scarf quickly wrapped itself over her face and tightening around her neck. Max struggled a bit in the grip of possessed costumes before they unexplectedly lost their grip. The teen had teleported a few feet away from the fray.

Regular ball of sunshine you are. She thought as her hand went to her neck and she gasped. That took a lot more more out of her than she was expected. "I didn't...do anything." She said between gasps. The teen looked around, trying to figure out how she was going to get the rest of them out of storm of clothes and capes.

Edited by Darksider42
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"I heartily agree! Ghosts! I will answer for this, whatever it may be!" Leroy seemed none the less for wear, at least emotionally, though his struggles against the constricting cloth was only pulling him steadily deeper into the pile. Dio was already gone, where the dragon had once been was a massive divot in the mountain of costumes. 


"It's your fault!" spat the voices. They were everywhere now, bodies invisible except by how they filled the empty costumes, faces masked or hooded stretched hideously under the layers. Leroy's words seemed to have swayed them, and the mass of invisibly-occupied clothes that had surged for Maxine had paused, then turned to leap on the Dragon Prince. As he sank, Leroy blazed black with power, briely holding his head above the pile. 


"Max! Heed me!" He shouted above the cacophany of accusing voices, the air filling with their babble and the stink of the grave, "Run! Save yourself! I...I will be fine!" He managed a weak smile, right before a scarf slithered around his head and dragged him under. 


"His fault..." the voices were growing fainter, but remained, the mass of scurrying, slithering costumes noticeably smaller, but casting about uncertainly, "His fault?"

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Maxines wide eyes jumped between the receding mass of cloth, the shrinking form of Leroy and the obvious exit out of this mess. She could go get help, certainly. But there was a lingering bit of doubt that she would be beloved. After all, she did not know how often ghost attacks happened in this school and the last thing she needed in her life was to be blamed for the disappearance of two students.


There was a low sigh as Max spared the exit to the auditorium one last look before catching one last glimpse of Leroy before his head went under. A split second later she was in the air above the shrinking pile, her body covered in a shimmering light blue haze as she became slightly transparent. "Oh like hell I will! You're gonna owe me for this!" She announced as she plummeted and phased into the last spot of the golden eyed teen.

Edited by Darksider42
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The sight that greeted her was of a spiralling tunnel of mist-like ghosts in what at first blush were clothes of many eras. Another look, and Max saw they were costumes. Sequins and feathers, artistry outside any fashions from the real world, endless artifice and the illusion, the shadow of reality in this world of the dead. 


Suspended in the air by impromptu ropes of severed hands and twisted cloth, including the ragged remains of his own clothes, Leroy hung before a giant, gaping skull. On the floor, thrashing furiously, was Dio. Leroy was trying to shout over the giant skull, and failing.


"Address me, giant skull! What crime-?"


"YOU WILL PAY!" The skull clacked its teeth together, empty pits somehow staring at the gravitybender. "I WILL BE REBORN IN YOUR BLOOD! DANCE UPON THE LIVING STAGE!"


Leroy sighed and leaned back in his bonds, yelling out half-heartedly "What wrong has-?"



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As Max plummeted through the ethereal vortex, she stretched out her arms and legs to slow and control her decent. She almost lost control when a dress made of sequins rushed past her face, but the teenager kept control.

The bellowing of the skull made her wince and she could make out the missing dragon and fellow classmate. In a split second she was gone and falling towards the giant skull, boots first and surrounded by the same strange blue haze. "boo!" She shouted as the heels collided with the screaming apparition, feet sinking a few inches into bone matter before escaping as though she had stepped through air. She leapt off the skull and left another after image of herself. Dio could feel a weight pressing down on his back.

"Hey guys." Max said between pants as she sat cross-legged on top of the might green dragon. "I'd ask what crawled up his ass and died, but I don't think he has one."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bone thick as her own head shattered under Max's impact, shards big as dinner plates flying off into the packed billowing ranks of ghostly actors. From the gaping new hole in its head, the skull blazed out a searing white light. A light made of writhing shades twining around each other like ropes, wailing as they struggled to hold on, the giant skull that contaned them falling in a slack-jawed heap to the relative ground. All the tunnel ghosts gasped, and the cloth binding the two dragon-blooded boys slackened just enough.


"Max! You returned!" Leroy yelled cheerfully over the growing susurrus of angry ghost voices "After I specifically requested that you not do that! I would expect no less! You and I know the true face of femininity, eh?" Silhouetted by the ghastly white glare, Max could make out his boyish, carefree smile.


Dio poked his snout through a pile of feathers. "Hey, Leroy. You're naked.


"What-?" Leroy glanced down, yelped at realizing the truth of his dragon's words, and somehow swung upward to tangle his legs and hips in the lines of his pleather bonds, leaving him upside down. Straining against them with terrific force, he called down "Er, please do not assist me! I, uh, will be down shortly!"


"Oh no, my wandering prince, disrobing around other girls? Judy will be just heartbroken when I tell her about this..." Dio couldn't actually grin, but the wild, wavering light made it look for all the world like he was.


Leroy's scarred face might have been made of stone. "Sweet Max, please kill Dio before I free myself and think of something appropriately dire." 


The emerald-scaled dragon laughed uproariously, twisting enough to rend vast swathes of cloth, sending up a billow of feathers and belching red fire. That was enough to break the spell. The tunnel contracted sharply as a wave of skeletal faces and bodies held in faded costumes surged towards the trio!

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Max squinted through the bright light. The teleporter was not aware she kicked the giant skull that hard, but then again she had been falling long enough there was bout to be force behind that kick.Nearly blinded, she tried her best to make out Leroy. "Aww, is someone hitting on m-" There was a pause when Dio pointed out the state of Sun Dragons clothes. In that they were now non-existent. "Wow, not even first date yet Leroy." She said, though her eyes jerked up towards the ghostly vortex above them in an attempt to give the man something resembling privacy.

It was then she noticed the procession of the dead coming down upon them with aged clothes in hand. The smirk dropped from her face. "Gonna take a raincheck on playing Dragonslayer. Got some jerks with no fashion taste to take care of." And like that, Max vanished from Dios back and into the midst of the spectral horde. A phased kick connected with the chest of one of the ghosts before she vanished again and was above some of them. "Could ask these guys for pants."

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  • 1 month later...

"They seem unkindly," Leroy said with a frown, a tension growing at his shoulders and hips, "and their clothes are not to my liking."


Screaming and howling, the faded and rotting spectres of players past fell apart under Max's assault, the swirling mass of faces and reaching claws expanding and roiling around the Claremont trio. As they watched, a building crescendo of bubbling rage boiled free again from the walls, arcing and twisting straight for the young heroes!


Meanwhile, the gashed skull had righted itself after spinning slowly in mid-air, turning a gaze of gathering wrath and comprehension on Max. The world of empty howls and rustling, threadbare fabric resounded with the cries.


Your fault! It is your fault! You brought us here!"


Leroy blanched. "Max!" he shouted, as his muscles strained hard enough snap and fray his bonds, "When we escape, we must tell our story! No student will ever go astray again!"


"That's not likely, Prince, and besides the odds are this hasn't anything to do with us." Dio had proved notably more sanguine than his charge, and was still gnawing industriously at the slithering shreds holding his ankles to the local floor. "The Binder of the Unnatural will do for this lot, but I'll need some time to get free. Don't let up, Max!"

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