Mel squeaked embarrassingly, and blushed as much as she possibly could. Scary White Leather Vampire was going to think they were complete perverts for staring at the porn so much they hadn't noticed her come in! Although to be fair, it was her own door.
SWLV didn't look like she wanted to be fair, though. After giving both girls a venomous death glare while they stood there blushing, she snapped her fingers and pointed to the open door behind her, which led into a wooden hall lit only by a few candles along the walls. Mel automatically headed for the door, and then had to go back and get her bundle of bed parts while SWLV looked disgusted.
Mel was getting sick of SWLV's attitude, but they were here to ask a favor, and she was pretty scary, so it was a complete surprise when Sandy said, "Hey! What's your problem?"
SWLV just raised one eyebrow again and made pushing motions toward the door, but she looked slightly less hateful. Sandy snorted and stomped into the hallway after Mel. She looked a little startled when SWLV switched past them again, but followed along down the dark narrow hall, up the dark narrow stairway, and along another hallway. This one had nice carpet on the floor, oil lanterns on the walls, and doors all along one side.
Mel was about to be glad that these doors didn't have porn when she heard the sounds coming from behind the nearest one. Oh god, they really were in a brothel! But they were only on the third floor, and SWLV hadn't shown any actual superpowers besides raising her eyebrows independently, so if they could find a window, they could jump for it.
Sandy giggled. She was blushing, but not panicking, but then she seemed to have more faith in superstrength than Mel did. Or maybe she was just more willing to have sex with people. A image of Sandy gasping while demon-girls crawled tongue-first up her bare legs, like the angel on the door, flashed through Mel's mind. She covered her face with her free hand. Maybe nymphomania was contagious!
Up one more flight of stairs and they came into a large, dim room that probably took up the entire fourth floor of the building. It was scattered with pools of light from lanterns and candelabras on tables, and the far end had a blazing fireplace. Mismatched armchairs and sofas surrounded the tables, and in them a mismatched bunch of creatures. A lot were the ominous Halloween people they'd seen in the streets, vampires and werewolves and Frankenstein patchworks, but there were others too. At the nearest table, an old man with metal bird legs and elephant trunk, like Matrissin's friend Brasenase, and a beautiful young man with flower petals for hair, whispered together with someone who had a face with protruding jaw and cheek whiskers but a dress with corseted curves and cleavage bulging out of the neckline. At the bar to the side of the room, a twelve-year-old boy in a tuxedo had his hand on the thigh of a girl about his own age but well-developed in a slinky high-slit evening gown, with black-feathered wings for arms. One of the tables SWLV led them past was occupied by a gaggle of fairies like the one that had thrown up on Sandy, all staring hypnotized at a voluptuous bikini-clad woman with trailing fins like a fancy goldfish, who seemed to be trying to sell them pencils.
SWLV was leading them to the fireplace, which wasn't exactly full of fire. What Mel had taken for a tall flame was actually two figures of yellow-hot plasma twined around each other, writhing and clutching and arching. As Mel watched, entranced despite herself, the two figures moved more and more urgently until they suddenly froze for a moment and then exploded in a blaze of white and a shower of sparks that went up the chimney. The low flame left behind rippled, like a sleeper turning over, and a small jet of fire jutted up near the middle—
"Miss Mason? Miss Clarke?"
Mel jumped, blushing, and tried to look like she was paying attention to something besides sex for a change.
The person talking was obviously not from Halloweentown: he could have been a hobbit right out of the movies, half-height and stout in a gold-embroidered vest and white pants, except that his curly hair was visibly green even in the firelight, and he had cloven black hooves instead of hairy bare feet. He also had a bandage tied around his eyes, but that was hardly strange compared to everything else.
"Hello," said Sandy. "I'm Sandy Mason. This is Mel Clarke. Are you Ambrose the Shield-Giver?"
The hobbit didn't look at her, but he tilted his head to hear better. "I have that honor. Please, be seated and take some refreshment."
Mel and Sandy both looked at SWLV, who for a change was completely expressionless. Maybe her hate had gone beyond what a face could show. But she probably wouldn't poison an important wizard's guests, would she? Unless Matrissin had exaggerated Ambrose's importance. But SWLV hadn't actually laid a finger on either of them, just glared, and Matrissin had acted like the rituals of hospitality were important here. She sat down on the loveseat across from Ambrose. "Coffee with cream and sugar?"
Sandy nestled in beside her. "Hot chocolate, please." SWLV undulated away, still silent.
Ambrose leaned forward. "Tell me, how does my dear friend Matrissin fare? Is her nougat-delivery endeavour still prospering?"
Nougat? But Sandy answered before Mel could, "Butterscotch this time. Although I still think it's freaky that butterscotch is something you can mine."
"You are from distant parts, then. Or perhaps not part of our world at all. I understand from Matrissin's note that you came here upon a magical bed? Was there a Venerian ritual involved?"
This time Mel got it first. "Oh my god, no! What is with this place?! Not everything is about sex!" Then she blushed even harder, because she'd been staring at the porn door and the sexy fire spirits and Sandy's butt as much as anyone. Sandy was blushing too hard to say anything, "It was a ritual that used the active ingredient in coffee, although maybe we should have used real coffee..."
SWLV delivered their drinks just then, including a glass of what looked and smelled an awful lot like blood for Ambrose. When in Halloweentown, do as the vampires do? She'd stick to coffee.
They described the ritual and the trip to the desert, including the masturbating boy that Sandy had pointed out, the missing stuffed animals, and superstrength. "And then we packed up everything we could find and started walking," Sandy concluded.
Ambrose steepled his hands under his chin in the classic mastermind pose and thought about that for long enough that Mel finished her coffee. She thought about trying to catch SWLV's eye and order another one, but that might be pushing it. Sandy fidgeted next to her, but let the vampire hobbit wizard sip his blood and think. Hopefully he was thinking about how to help them, and not what kind of perversions to ask in return.
Finally Ambrose looked up. "And these parcels you're so attached to contain the bed?"
Mel tightened her leg around the bundle of bedding and lumber. "That's right."
"May I examine it?" Sandy nodded, so Mel agreed. "Wonderful. Mary, could you open the Daffodil Room for us?"
SWLV stalked over and dropped a heavy brass key into Ambrose's hand. Mel boggled a little. She would have believed Belladonna or Amanita or Sebastina, but Mary? Maybe even scary white leather vampires had parents with horrible taste.
The Daffodil Room was not much more than a closet with a window, but at least it didn't have a bed for taking advantage of young women, just a few armchairs that they pushed into the far end to make space to lay out the pieces of... the bed. Ambrose ran his hands all over the pieces, and sniffed and even licked the broken surfaces before putting them back together. It was kind of creepy, but Mel didn't know anything about actual magic so she couldn't complain, and the breaks did stick together surprisingly well. After only a few minutes, the bedframe was reassembled just as it had been before it fell out of the sky.
No, not quite. Ambrose ran his fingers into a deep gouge where one of the side beams met the headboard. "Was this intact before the incident?"
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