DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Night 47: Chapel
[well]
scarefaux wrote in damned
[From here.]

The Scarecrow skidded into the room behind Abe, thankful he was in the company of a professional for this sort of situation. Once through the open doors, he turned and immediately set to work on closing them, trying to put at least one wall between them and whatever was lurking in the hallway. They clanged shut and the strawman leaned on them, trying to settle his racing mind. What was that out there? And would those who were fighting it be okay? He didn't like to think of what could happen to them, especially if that had been some relative of the Mangled Witch lurking in the hall.

Oh, his sensations were definitely in working order at the moment- he could feel that thudding of his heart in his chest as he tried to catch his breath, his legs jittering as they threatened to give way beneath him. It took a moment to force himself to relax his body. The human form reacted so strangely in duress- it was a wonder it could handle itself at all.

"That went well," he said with an optimistic smile to Abe. "I thought it'd catch us for sure!"

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For someone so seemingly clumsy the Scarecrow ran very fast. Abe had planned on forcing himself to slow--when the Scarecrow took off Abe had to hurry to catch up. If the monster saw him, he never noticed, all his attention was set on making sure his companion kept his feet moving and wasn't halted by a wide swing of one of those hovering blades.

He skidded into the doors--they were there--and threw the force of his momentum against them, curving back around as his feet touched the rough carpet and shoving the doors closed again. The noise felt far too loud to his ears, but it was between them and it. Through the door Abe could still faintly hear the sounds of the fighting and felt a soft sting of regret at not staying to help. But they weren't his humans and they weren't his responsibility. New, backbone-filled Abe didn't go sticking himself out for human strangers.

Now, how was the clumsy human he'd taken to guarding out of no reason besides guilt?

Abe held one hand up in front of the Scarecrow's face "Shh. Not too loud, it might still notice us." He left two fingers on the door and turned to look at where they'd barricaded themselves into this time.

Well, it wasn't another cafeteria.

"Where does Landel get the money for this?" Abe murmured in resigned bemusement, staring up at the marbled ceiling. To all appearances they'd stepped out of a mental hospital and into a church. First the ballroom and now this new beauty tucked away behind banality with no seeming purpose.

Something was slightly off about the room, however, and Abe let his eyes roam until he figured out what it was. There were no crosses, no stars (six pointed or five), no scenes of conquest or redemption in the glass or carved angels framing the podium. It was a place of worship with the symbols taken out, leaving it bare of any recognizable religious artifacts.

Recognizable to Abe, anyway, and Abe knew a lot of religions. From the back he heard the sound of flowing water but couldn't quite make out the source, and to go and look would mean leaving the door behind. He tore his gaze from the colored glass and went looking for something to use as a barricade.

Shushed, the Scarecrow stayed against the door, listening carefully for anything that might have been out of the ordinary: he didn't hear anything, save for the sounds of his own breathing and the commotion from the hall. He let his feet slide forward on the floor, having a seat in front of the door with his legs stretched before him. The moment of rest was used to take a look around the room. He clicked on his flashlight, illuminating the view around him.

Well, this certainly was a strange room. Long, ornate decorations- the way it was structured somehow reminded the strawman of the throne room in the Emerald City, though it was definitely less green. Now that his breathing had slowed, he could tell there was some sort of water flow somewhere in the room, but he couldn't see from his position. He rose to his feet, taking a step from the door before having another thought. It was possible the creatures from the Horrible Hallway might have seen them run into this room. They'd be in trouble if the Mangled Witch followed them.

"Money?" the Scarecrow asked as the beam landing on a bench of some sort- that would work. With one quick glance at the door behind him, he walked to the structure, shining his light to the floor to see if it was nailed down in any way.

Edited at 2010-02-17 05:22 pm (UTC)

Apparently they'd had the same idea. Abe gave the pew a tentative shake and found it impossible to move. "To pay for this. There's a grand ballroom hidden in the basement and a chapel here. Why would you hide the most beautiful parts of the building behind dull white walls?" he mused, gesturing to the Scarecrow to come away from the door. If they couldn't barricade it, they could at least be far away enough to get some advance warning before the creature burst through.

Abe carefully walked in further, scanning the pews and walls for some symbol, some art, something that wasn't so...agnostic in design. The secular banality frustrated him, places of worship were usually amazing keys to the identity of those who created them. How could someone worship nothing but build a shrine to it anyway?

"That does seem peculiar," the Scarecrow agreed, moving away from the door at Abe's beckoning. He couldn't think of any reason the Wizard Landel would have such apparently special rooms hidden away in dangerous locations like the second floor- well, any good reasons. The room did have certain aspects similar to the Emerald City's throne room, and that was where the Wizard of Oz had- oh! What if the Wizard Landel operated from this room? Surely he would have revealed himself when they entered, but there was always the possibility he was just biding his time.

As the other man seemed to be eyeing the walls, the strawman shined his light into the dark spaces between the pews as he crossed the room, making sure the Wizard Landel or the Mangled Witch wasn't hiding there. While it seemed Abe was being cautious enough for the two of them, it surely couldn't hurt to throw a little more onto the pile, especially when they were only a wall away from monsters and the Horrible Hallway.

Getting closer to the front of the room, the sound of water became more apparent, along with something else- a curious smell in the air, one the Scarecrow didn't recognize. "What is that?" he asked, having another inhale to try and pin down the identity of the scent.

"Sounds like a fountain. I'd say baptismal, but this doesn't appear to be a Christian facility." Abe let his hands hover over the pews and pillars of the room, finally resting upon the podium itself. Extending his mind found nothing--this was a place of darkness, but of peaceful darkness. No one had been in the room tonight, nor evil rituals conducted here.

It left him reeling, and when he turned he had to blink several times to even understand what he was looking at. It was some strange stone form with liquid pouring from its maw, definitely nonhuman but not in Abe's lexicon of known creatures.

Not Christian. Not normal human, either. Was this the being this chapel was dedicated to?

The Scarecrow nodded in the darkness at what Abe was saying, not fully understanding some of the terms he was using, though he supposed it was some sort of jargon from his line of work. He started to ask, but his light landed on the elaborate fountain as he neared it, giving the man pause.

"Well, would you look at that!" he said in a loud whisper, surprised to see such a structure in a place like this. It seemed strange to see a fountain inside- one would think the water would splash on the floor and make a real mess of things. He trailed his light down the font, trying to get a better view of it and hopefully figure out what the structure was supposed to be. It looked too bizarre to be a common decoration, and--

His thoughts cut off abruptly as the liquid flowing from the structure was illuminated. While it was definitely the source of the smell lingering in the room, it certainly wasn't water. "You're the professional," he said, getting the feeling that whatever the purpose was for the room and fountain, it couldn't possibly be good. "What do you suppose all this stuff is for, then?"

Edited at 2010-02-19 10:02 pm (UTC)

"I'm not sure, I've never seen this kind of artifact before." Abe circled the statue uneasily, one hand before him and the other directing the flashlight's beam down its length. "Don't touch it, and if you see any writing don't read it out loud. If it moves, start running." Oh, for Hellboy or Liz or someone with proper training in handling the disturbed occult.

His light traced down the spout to the thick liquid in the fountain's pool. Blood. From where and feeding what, Abe had no idea, but his own blood froze in sympathy. Nothing that took this much blood to power its worship was on the side of good.

"Will do," the Scarecrow confirmed. He would have been reluctant to touch it even if Abe had ordered him to do so. Running away from it, on the other hand, was an action he was already considering. Something about the fountain- and the entire room, for that matter- sent that tingling, foot-on-floor feeling throughout his body. He couldn't put his finger on why, either- even though the room was dark and within the Institute's walls, it seemed safe enough. Nothing had formed itself from the shadows to strike at them yet. Despite that, he was sure he didn't like this entire setting.

"Where should we go now?" he asked, taking a step back. He tore his eyes from the pool, looking along the walls with his light. "There doesn't seem to be another way out of here, and going back out there with that thing doesn't seem smart at all. I doubt we'll be lucky twice."

Edited at 2010-02-20 03:49 am (UTC)

Abe ignored the Scarecrow's ramblings and kept looking over the statue. It was the key to all this, he was sure of it, interpret the statue and he'd get a clearer picture of what kinds of beings he was dealing with.

"Do you think they worship this...thing?" he asked, more for his own benefit than any interest in the Scarecrow's opinion. Talking helped one think. "Perhaps Landel sacrifices the pain and fear of the patients to feed its hunger. It would explain the seemingly pointless torture."

Coming around the front of the statue again and Abe just barely avoided stepping on a square-shaped indentation in the floor. Indentations were also not good, that meant something was meant to go there and cause something else, usually something bad. A flash of letters in the flashlight beam caught his eye, and Abe crouched to read it.

Any sinner who is injured, step forward and be healed for a price.

Interesting. What injury was Landel trying to heal?

"I'm not really sure what you..." the Scarecrow trailed off as he returned his attention to Abe, trying to figure out what he was doing. The man looked lost in some serious thought (oh, how he knew that feeling!) as he moved around the stone form, scrutinizing every detail to figure out its purpose. Knowing it would surely be easier to concentrate if he weren't being bombarded with questions, the Scarecrow stood silently for a few minutes, observing Abe's work.

Feeling a dull ache in his legs, the Scarecrow took a seat on the nearest bench, resting his hand on the surface next to him as he leaned into the pew. Oh, the little things he took for granted sometimes- especially those human feelings. It was as though the mysteries of this place never ended! As he seemed to come closer to finding out some scrap of information about one question, several more appeared and took lives of their own. It couldn't be as easy as simply traveling to the third floor, finding his straw body, and somehow finding a way to return to it and get home: why was the Horrible Hallway so protected during the night ours? What was this room doing here? And what was it used for? It wasn't simple as narrowing it down to only those ponderings, either.

Well, what was he worrying for? It wasn't as though things had been uncomplicated in Oz, either- the fact was that he had more means of thinking about what was puzzling him there. Here, he had a brain of questionable quality, and he was sure it muddled his thoughts sometimes. It was unfortunate that it was with this brain he was forced to do some of his hardest thinking: so many questions of his own character had crawled into his mind since his arrival. Was it worth it to trade his knowledge for human sensation? Would he trade who he was for a life he couldn't possibly have had in Oz? Or was that the cowardly choice, running away from obligation? Even if he wasn't sure if he'd make it home or not, it wasn't as though he could simply ignore those concerns.

Abe's voice pushed through the silence, drawing the strawman's attention again. What he was saying made some sense. "Wait, are you saying he drew us here and sets his minions on us to somehow power his dark wizardry?" he asked, making sure they were on the same page. "That would explain why he put some of us in human bodies. What about people who were living things, but also non-humans? They could already feel pain before, so why change them?"

"I don't know. Perhaps human forms were required, or perhaps they were easier to manage. Perhaps the process of coming here transforms us all to humans by default. These things operate within set rules but those rules are often complicated and hard to outline."

Sated, if not satisfied, Abe turned his attention to the wall behind the statue. He ran his hand over it, then pressed down his palm and gave it a reading. No doors, no passage. No back way out so easily, it seemed. Headache for naught, just like the rest of this blasted place. Abe sighed and leaned against the wall, waiting for the pain to wear off.

It was a horrible lead. The writing was in plain, useless English and the statue was unlike anything he'd ever come across. Here he'd come and set him up as the experienced protector of the innocent Scarecrow and he knew absolutely nothing and now they were blockaded into the chapel by a monster he also couldn't identify and this entire trip was turning into yet another pointless runabout.

In his experience, the Scarecrow had found that magic was difficult to explain, so it didn't surprise him that Abe didn't have a definite answer for his question. Even if he had his own body and brains back, the fact was that he wasn't a wizard, and some of the intricacies of magic would always be a mystery to his untrained mind. After all, it could produce fire from thin air as easily as it could send a girl from Oz to Kansas with a click of her heels. It was apparent that the magic could be used for good or for wickedness, depending on the caster: the real question was whether the Wizard Landel was a good wizard or a bad one.

Judging by the feel of the room and the clever little thing, the Scarecrow was willing to bet he was not a good wizard by any standard.

The Scarecrow got to his feet, immediately noticing the lack of the feel and weight of his body and finding himself awkwardly unbalanced. His arms flailed a second before he caught hold of the backrest of the bench and righted himself. The clever little thing sure found odd times to activate- he'd not been doing anything aside from sitting quietly and thinking. Something had to be causing it to work, he just knew it!

Well, here he was with someone who might have some inkling of how it worked, given his expertise. "How is it you know so much about this sort of magic, anyway? I know you said you're a professional and-- " He stopped as he gave Abe a concerned look. "Are you all right?"

Edited at 2010-02-23 01:52 am (UTC)

"Just a minor headache from using my psychic abilities, it will pass." Abe touched two fingers to the middle of his forehead, trying to will the annoying ache away. For nothing else he wanted his body back, to stop the necessary migraines.

"Before I came here, and before some..." His free hand waved about as he tried to encompass the gigantic incident in simple terms. "Incidents with my employers, I worked for an organization dedicated to researching and defending against attacks by the occult, either through magic or by supernatural creatures. For lack of a better term I was raised to research as much as possible about such things."

He paused, hand falling from his face. "And in many cases, when it became dangerous to humanity, to capture or destroy it." The Scarecrow wouldn't understand the BPRD's complexities, or the fact that actions that were necessary at the time could seem in retrospect to be cruel or downright traitorous. If Nuala had come to him earlier, or god forbid found him first instead of the humans...he might have been a very different person.

Abe briefly entertained the image of himself as some soldier in Nuada's army, sword in hand, wetsuit replaced with fine linen and gold. It appealed to him, strangely, and made him worry about how this place was starting to influence what had previously been a very firm moral structure.

While he couldn't relate to Abe's experiences, the Scarecrow understood what it was he did: he was someone who protected folks from wicked witches and wheelers and the like. It was a much more admirable profession than he'd imagined for the thinking sort he pictured Abe to be.

"I've got to say, Abe, you're a surprising guy," he said with a smile as he approached the fountain. "Not only could you tell I wasn't originally flesh and blood from one handshake, but you defend people as well? Well, color me impressed! Even the Royal Army of Oz can't do all that. That sounds like a job that takes a lot of brains, heart, and courage. Most people would face their worst fears to have just one of those, you know."

He gave an approving nod- he'd have faced a whole box of matches to get brains and help Dorothy get to the Emerald City, but to do it as a profession? It was something to envy, being able to help others in such a way.

Edited at 2010-02-23 04:54 am (UTC)

"Oh. Well." Abe squirmed, flustered in the presence of someone actually thinking his job was good and courageous. It was either being feared by the outsiders or criticized by the insiders for not doing his job with enough stealth or efficiency. "I don't have a lot of brains, just a slightly abnormal one. My frontal lobe has a unique shape to it, which we believe allows my psychic abilities. As for the others...well. I don't think, in any exceptional quantity."

His heart was only big enough to ache with loneliness, and his courage enough to face the darkness with a gun but not to step out and show his face in the light. How simple things had to be in the Scarecrow's world, where disappointment didn't seem to exist.

"An abnormal brain?" the Scarecrow asked in genuine surprise. Until that moment, he'd been certain that brains were brains and aside from the experiences they'd had, they were mostly the same from every person and animal to every slimy creature that slunk through the seas. The possibility that having a differently shaped brain could grant different abilities and effects had never crossed his mind. Perhaps the Wizard had been right: it wasn't the amount of brains someone had that gave them wisdom, but the quality and unique aspects of those brains.

In that case, he definitely needed to find his straw body. The brains he'd had were the best, and were certified as such with his Doctorate in Thinkology- it'd be a shame to lose them, especially when he'd worked so hard for them. Until then, he needed to learn more about his human brain and figure out how to get the most out of it. "So having an abnormal brain or one that's been tampered with isn't necessarily a bad thing at all?"

Abe outright winced. He hadn't said anything but the truth and yet somehow he felt he was decieving the Scarecrow about the dark reality of the situation. No one could have a firm grasp of things here and still be constantly finding the good side of the situation, nobody thought like that.

Not unless someone had, for lack of a better word, programmed them to think like that. Abe wondered for the first time about the Scarecrow's origins and who'd made such a peculiar grinning golem.

"It really depends on the abnormality and how it's been tampered with," he said carefully, wary of any statement that might be taken the wrong way. The actual headache faded, but the metaphorical ache remained. "Your alteration, done without against your will and for some unclear sadistic purpose...I can't imagine anything benevolant about it."

"You have a point," the Scarecrow agreed reluctantly, his brow furrowed. He wanted to believe there was some hope for his human brain, despite the Wizard Landel's experiment- surely it wasn't entirely ruined, even if it wasn't in the best condition for thinking.

"Still, just because something happens to you against your will doesn't mean all the consequences of it are bound to be bad," he continued. "After all, I was brought here without permission, and even with all the witches and dangers, I wouldn't take back what has happened to me here. There have been so many good things as a result of my coming here- things I never could've had in Oz, things that couldn't have happened if I wasn't brought here in the first place. And I doubt I would have ended up here on my own."

He wouldn't have situated himself on a pole in the middle of a cornfield on his own, either- even back then, he knew hanging around idly couldn't have been the best method for scaring birds- but had he not been there, he'd have never crossed paths with Dorothy, met his dearest friends, traveled to the Emerald City, or become the wisest man in Oz.

"If the Wizard Landel is indeed a bad wizard," he said with a determined smile, "I'm sure he didn't intend for this to be a positive experience, but that's no reason not to keep my head on straight and turn this situation toward my favor."

To Abe's great consernation, the Scarecrow was making sense. There was nothing good about this place and yet he was making the dark chapel seem brighter with his words.

"I must admit, it has given me a few chances I would never have had in my own form," Abe said reluctantly, fingers turning over each other. "It's the first time I've been able to socialize with normal humans outside the BPRD. I don't think I'd quite realized the limits of my guilded cage until I became human myself and was able to pass amoung them. The majority of my life has been spent with government agents and outsiders, or hidden away underground to spare society the pain of seeing my face...until now I didn't know what I was missing."

The confession spilled out, and without his knowledge Abe's faced formed a tormented expression. He hadn't had a chance to really talk to anyone about his experiences, everyone had either been so guarded he could barely speak with them or laughed outright at his fantastic claims of monsters and ESP. He was so angry at the BPRD for keeping him locked up but even angrier at himself for never in thirty years seeking to mingle with any creatures but the ones locked up with him. At least Hellboy took to escaping every chance he got and Liz could pass easily as long as she held back her fire. What was Abe's excuse?

The Scarecrow was visibly taken aback by Abe's story and the pained look on his face. While their individual experiences had some similarities, it seemed Abe's gifted humanity provided an even deeper release from his previous form. Even as a scarecrow, the former strawman had been able to socialize just fine with the human folks and regular Ozites in the Emerald City- to be deprived of such contacts and friendships, especially those the Scarecrow prized more than his brains, was unfathomable.

"I don't understand why you'd think you need to hide yourself from anyone," he admitted with a shake of his head. "Whatever you were before coming here, surely it wasn't so bad that people couldn't see past it to who you are. Once you get to know someone, they are who they are and that's that. Why, even a dandy lion who seems ferocious at first or a man completely made of tin can be a great friend. I mean, I wasn't made of much more than rags and some old hay, and I managed to help defeat the Wicked Witch of the West and end up a king! You've got talents unlike anything I've ever seen- surely that counted for somethin'."

He was reminded of Dorothy's words- scarecrows didn't talk in Kansas, so he could see why someone visiting Oz might have initially found him an oddity. Boy, had she not been so understanding, he could have been stuck on that pole until the crows had picked him to pieces. Even with her kind nature, the fact was that she wouldn't have spoken to him at all if he'd never spoken to her.

"It's different where I come from, Scarecrow." Abe stepped away from the wall and began pacing behind the statue. Different, and he could barely understand a world where it wasn't until he'd slipped into the Troll Market. Abe's throat hurt, and it took him a moment to manage a level speaking tone.

"When I was found I was thought of as a freak, little more. They--the humans--experimented upon me, and when they finally acknowledged my sentience they used me as a tool to seek out those like me. I almost never left the building without some kind of human escort, and I was given to understand that if I tried to go out I would be feared or hunted as a monster. And when the truth of our existence came out to the world, the only surprise in their reaction was the lack of violence. Perhaps that would have come later. It has nothing to do with the content of my brain or my heart...to the outside world I'm just webbed hands and a pair of damned fish eyes."

Abe wasn't often given to swearing but he also wasn't given to such strong emotion in general. His thin arms wrapped tight around him and even in the concealing darkness he kept his head down. Thirty years of good work and study, and now it all felt wasted when he couldn't have a single conversation with another person without embarrassing himself. How had he stayed so happy with his tank and his books, and exactly three people in the world with whom he could talk on an even footing?

Abe's homeland sounded so completely foreign to the strawman, who honestly couldn't grasp the concept of a place where someone as skilled and kind as Abe would be outcast as some sort of monster, no matter what sort of a fish he was. It wasn't as though he was a witch (or an evil one, since all witches weren't necessarily bad), or a danger to those around him... though it might have seemed that way. Lion had seemed like quite a threat at first, as did the Winkies in the Witch's castle.

"Well, it's clearly not your fault people treated you like that," he said, irritated that such a place could even exist. "I just don't see why they wouldn't give you a chance no matter what you looked like, but I suppose fear of the unknown makes people behave strangely sometimes. Fear doesn't excuse what they did to you though, not in the least."

It briefly crossed his mind that the people of Landel's might have been shocked to see him as himself- Dorothy had been surprised he could talk during their first meeting, and some of the other patients had been confused upon hearing he was originally stuffed with straw. That thought that had plagued him for days came back to mind: "Would you go back if you could?"

Abe paused, raising one finger to his mouth as he considered the heavy statement. "If it were a choice between home and Landel's, of course I'd go home," he said after a few moments of silence. "This place is a nightmare. But if I was given the chance merely to stay in this body when I returned home, well...I don't know what I'd decide."

It wasn't just that he was used to being a freak, it was that he had never dealt with life as a normal human. He could speak a dozen languages but he couldn't shop for groceries or pick out his own clothes. Without his psychic powers to guide him he had trouble even holding a conversation. Was it better to be a human freak or an inhuman one?

The Scarecrow averted his eyes, letting them fall on the nearby fountain. "I'm not sure what I'd choose, either way," he admitted, his tone unsure. He knew he needed to go home- it was his job to take care of the Emerald City, after all- but here, he had a chance to possibly see Dorothy again, and maybe convince her that Oz was real after all, despite what she'd told him during her visit. He was so sure she'd been tricked by the Institute somehow, and who would help her if he didn't? "I like to think I'd return to Oz if I could." He spoke in a dimmed voice, as if someone else would hear him and think him terrible for thinking like that. He felt guilty for even considering it, that was for sure.

"I would like my body back," he noted, putting a finger to his temple for a moment as he put some serious thought into the matter. "Especially my brains- they were given to me by the Wizard of Oz himself. Aside from having worked hard to get them, they've got some sentimental value. At the same time, even though it's frail and confusing at times, this human body is something I never dreamed I'd ever have the chance to experience. I never knew sensation before this! Touch and taste and smell and even pain- they're all so great at times, and I know I'd miss them if they were gone."

He was already feeling that each time the clever little thing activated; it was a strong reminder of his reluctance to go home and the guilt that came with it.

An unfeeling body of sackcloth and straw, preferable to living flesh? Abe supposed everyone was more comfortable with familiar settings but he couldn't imagine why--and wait, back up. What?

"You have actual brains?" Abe asked, stopping in place and giving the Scarecrow a look of concerned disbelief. "In your usual body? Actual human sorts of brains, not straw ones? What do you do with them?" He had a horrible image of brain matter stuffed into a jar and set on a shelf somewhere, taken by a creature with no understanding of the harm caused by stealing other people's heads.

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