ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote,
ZERO :: the Fool
annwyd

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Ruined Crescent: Part 1a (Nami, Luffy, Nojiko, Zoro)


5/29/2005 07:55 PM
Ancient City - Ruined Crescent
Across most of the space of the Gameboard, the everchanging nature of the Dream hides the depths of its age. Here, the past is frozen in place. A sense of changelessness holds in the air here; only the faint aura of slow, dry decay contradicts it. The crushing weight of the millennia has leached the color from once-vibrant architecture, leaving it done in greys and tans, salvaged only occasionally by a shard of red or blue. Weather has abandoned the Crescent; in its place, an endless supply of fine dust drifts aimlessly about.
Toward the southern end of the Crescent, a coherent shape emerges from the jigsaw arrangement of ancient ruins. The soaring golden curves and towering silver spires of the Dream's first great city are cracked and dusty rubble now, but the lingering echoes of past glory remain formidable enough to inspire awe.
This isn't a place for gawking, though, and although the crumbling chambers hide fabled riches, few treasure hunters ever return from the southern depths of the Ruined Crescent. The architecture is not the only relic of ages past; an uncounted number of nameless citizens still wander the broken streets, and they do not take kindly to living intruders.
Contents:
Nojiko
Zoro
Luffy
Nami
Obvious exits:
West <W> Northeast <NE> Northwest <NW> East <E> Southeast <SE> Southwest <SW>

The problem, really, was that a treasure hunter in Bluefinger got a little too drunk around Nami. He started boasting about his adventures in the Ruined Crescent, and one thing led to another, and before you know it, he was telling her about how deep in the most dangerous heart of the ruins lie untold treasures for the taking.

Which is how the Straw Hat Pirates, or a sizable portion of them, at least, wind up tromping through the ruins. They've passed a few camps of treasure hunters on the way, but now they're far enough in that it's getting lonely. But that's good, right? Thing is, for the most part, the outer edges have been stripped clean of treasure, and these days it's hard to find anything new there. But inside...

Well, the further in you get, the fewer treasure hunters ever *return*. So that means there's more treasure there! Right?

Before the nakama now, the ground slopes down slightly. A crumbling clocktower tilts across their path, the hands on its face frozen in place. At its base is an arch. Through that arch can be seen a strange maze of passages, the light bouncing through them oddly. But if you look *around* the clocktower, there's nothing there but a collapsed dome. Strange, that.

But in the maze, something glitters.
---
A problem? No. A solution? Yes. Because Nami was the one who had been pouring him the drinks; one after the other, flattering him and teasing, coy flirting here, a compliment there. And all to get the information that she knew he had. Once he started talking about the Ruined Crescent, he had her full attention; and naturally, after he had passed out from drinking, she'd robbed him blind and darted back to the ship to tell the others what she'd found.

Treasure hunting. There's little that Nami loves more, and not even the felony Sanji committed could get her in a bad mood for -that-. Danger? Pfah! Nami isn't concerned about the danger. Luffy and ZOro were with them. Walking side by side with Nojiko, Nami holds the lantern aloft on the end of her staff to light the way. "Maaa..~" Nami breathes after a while, "I knew it was old, but I didn't know it was /this/ old."

The thief comes to a stop before the clocktower, tilting her head up at it, then around. "Hhhn." Wait. Was that a glitter? Nami's face breaks out into a grin as she turns her attention to it. "Ne minna~." Look, look! Nami points ahead of her at the glittering shiney, as she starts forth - cautiously, of course.
---
These are ruins that would be undoubtedly -fascinating- to someone like Nico Robin, but for someone like Monkey D. Luffy, it's something even better (in his mind) than history: another adventure! Unfortunately, he'd been more of a pain in the ass than a helping hand in getting to where they were within the Ruined Crescent, as he had a tendency to meander, lag behind, run ahead, and generally try to poke at everything.

Already he'd had two near-misses with boobytraps, set by treasure hunters hoping to remove a little of their own competition. Fortunately, they'd only been things involving toppling walls or other bludgeoning traps, and had little, if any, effect on the rubber pirate.

It probably didn't help his nakama any, though. <_<;;

At present, he's gawking at the tilted clocktower and what lies, impossibly, through its arch, frequently stepping to the side to look past it, and then back to look through it. "Sugee. SUGEE!" +_+ Um, yes, he's sparkling at this latest adventure, need anyone ask?

"Do you see that too?" asks Luffy eagerly, grinning at his three nakama, "Let's hurry up and go inside!"
---
All that glitters isn't gold. Nojiko -tried- to remind Nami of that before they even headed for Ruined Crescent. It was meant as a metaphor more than anything...she thought the guy her sister originally got her info from was probably full of it. A drunk treasure hunter? How reliable is that source anyway. She didn't want her to get her hopes up only to be disappointed.

Would that kind of logic stop Nami from looking? Uhm...no. And would Nojiko stay behind while the others went to check it out? No again. But the deeper they're in, the more it seems possible that there might be something to it. A place this creepy just has to be hiding something good! Nojiko's still staring up at the clocktower when Nami points something else out and begins edging towards it. "What is that?" The older girl squints, trying to get a better look before following. "Don't get separated!" She calls back, wondering if it would be enough to keep their captain from exploring the clocktower first.
---
A treasure hunting adventure? Well, Zoro would guess it's better than sitting around on the deck of the ship all day, though he doesn't mind doing that either. Actually, he usually stays behind to watch over the Going Merry when everyone goes running off to explore, but this time, perhaps because of Nami's nagging, he came along. And he's not really disappointed either. This place is pretty interesting looking. Yes, Robin will have to come herself sometime and take a look at it.

For now, the first mate keeps up the rear of the group, glancing around and occasionally grabbing Luffy by the arm or the shoulder to bring him with them when he lags behind to stare at something COOL! When they come upon this strange toppled clock tower and the sparkling further inside the cavern he pauses to glance around. Hm, everything seems quiet enough.
---
The clocktower isn't quite toppled. It's just at a tilt, frozen permanently at a sixty-degree angle, as precarious and impossible as that might seem. It doesn't shake, shudder, or fall as the pirates approach. It just stands there. Waiting.

But then, as Luffy races through the arch--

A single toll of the bell within it shatters the silence, vibrating deeply across the broken landscape, shivering and trembling in its low tones. The hands of the clock still do not move.

Then the world around them changes as they step through. It's a maze of crumbling marble and rusted gears that look as if they should be turning but will never do so again. The last harmonics of the ringing bell remain in the air forever here, a low, unsteady thrum that could drive one mad if one stays too long.

The source of the glitter becomes clear after a moment. The only thing not rusted or tarnished here is a length of quicksilver-bright chain, vanishing around the corners of the maze, marking out a path deep into the ruined labyrinth.
---
You were saying something about it being Quiet Enough, Zoro? :D The single, sudden bell toll actually gets Nami to jump about three feet off the ground with a startled yelp. Her hands press against her ears as she casts a glare up at the clock tower, as if she could force the thrumming tone to stop from Sheer Fury(tm) alone. Sorry to pop your bubble Nami, but you don't control time or sound. Nojiko's warning is acknowledged with a small wave of her hand, before it goes right back over her ear, and the navigator pads towards her sister again, turning her gaze towards where she'd seen the glittering. Awww - it was only a chain? Mou. that isn't worth anything. Instead, she looks to the others. "So, ne? Which way?" Nami rather wishes she'd had a /map/ of the place. But since she didn't, there was no way of finding out what lay /ahead/ of them. Best option was probably to follow the chain; at least they'd be able to follow it out if nothing else.
---
Now he's done it. Hey, guys? Don't mind Luffy while he gets you all into trouble yet AGAIN by running off ahead when he should be using that rusty brain of his. "Na?!" exclaims the captain as the clock begins to toll and their surroundings change. Instead of being frightened, he is awestruck. "Woooow!" *__* This place just gets cooler and cooler!

He wanders with fingers in his ears over to the chain.

That chain. (It reminds him of something.) A silver chain. (Something he heard before. About Promethea?) No, that was just about special paths to different places, back when people said the moon could be seen at night. Luffy rubs a fingertip along the chain a moment, thoughtfully glancing towards his nakama.

He is abruptly -all smiles- the moment Nami asks her question. "Why don't we follow this?" Wow, Luffy, that was kind of... smart! Hold the phone! "...I mean, with a chain this long, I bet the pendant at the end is really HUGE!" -_-; Or not. He thinks it's one big necklace.

Hopeless. He's -already- trying to follow it.
---
Nojiko winces, her hands flying up to her ears to try and guard them against the loud toll. That's really annoying! And that isn't the dinner bell Luffy...don't go all Pavlovian on them! She lowers her hands in time to catch the last part of Nami's question. "Back the way we came?" Her suggestion which is accompanied by a soft chuckle. She knows very well they wouldn't go back so soon, even if they /could/. Just look at the roster here. All the usual suspects have gathered. There's a blink at what the captain says, and an expression of 'Did he really just say that or are my ears permanently damaged?' exchanged with her sister. "Ne, Luffy!" Nojiko calls out, but it's already a lost cause it seems. They'll have to follow him in order to stick together. And with Luffy in front of Zoro bringing up the rear...at least she and Nami should be relatively safer.
---
Zoro puts his hands over his ears at the sudden sound from the bell and winces. Geez! Who did that? That old clock couldn't still be working, could it? He lifts his eyes to the face of the clock but sees nothing is moving at all. "Weird." His hands are lowered once the sound fades a bit but Zoro still finds it annoying at best. He takes a few quick steps after the group and into the maze entrance, only to see that chain lying on the ground.

Nami may be disappointed but Zoro is just suspicious as usual. "Oi.. who'd put that there? Maybe someone's exploring already." That chain could be like a trail of breadcrumbs or something. It doesn't look as if it's been sitting here as long as everything else has. But despite it, Luffy is already running off following the chain. "Luffy!" Oh for cryin' out... *grumble* Zoro hunches his shoulders and follows after.
---
The path twists and turns, and all the while the chain continues to gleam. The neverending faint thrum of the bell remains in the background, too, wavering from pitch to pitch, shifting up and down slightly in volume, but never, ever going away.

The gears become rustier; the marble becomes dustier. Still, there are no cobwebs, no rats skittering around the corners. There's no life at all, in fact. Just the endless echo of the bell, making the air itself tremble.

They round another corner, and there seems to be an added shine around the next bend of the path. Could it be that they're almost at the end of the chain, and something brighter awaits them?
---
"If someone put it there, then that just means we'll have to re-acquire whatever they got." And by 'we' she means you two beat 'em up, and Noji and she will take the loot. :D ( Why don't we follow this? ) Nami casts a surprised look at the Captain, and grins. "Saaa, that's a good idea Luffy! I was just thinking the same thi---" ....... Nami's smile drops slightly. "...a ..pendant.." ...Ahah..hahaha..haha.. she glances back at her sister, an identical expression on her face. "...I can't believe I actually thought he had a BIT of sense in that head of his." She mutters, grabbing hold of her sister's hand and breaking into a run after her Captain, with Zoro behind them. "LUFFY! My compliment - give it back!" And what's up with that bell? Why was it ringing still? Shouldn't it have stopped by now?
---
Luffy is such a pain in the ass, isn't he? At least he pulls his own weight, but otherwise...damn! He's such a troublemaking brat! He's just following the chain studiously, though even his singleminded attitude is starting to fray in concentration. And it's all thanks to that wavering noise that digs into the skin of his thoughts like a thorn. It's aggravating.

Give it back? "Give what back?" Luffy calls over his shoulder, his grin fading when he spies something glowing just around the next bend. He stops to wait for the others, already practically sparkling with anticipation. "Na! Minna! Do you guys see that? Did we find treasure?" *_*;;

Naturally, the moment they've caught up, he'll run around that bend anyway. My, aren't we eager?
---
Nojiko likes this plan of Nami's. It sounds smart. She sighs and offers her sister a weak smile. "Hope really does spring eternal, I guess." Because one of those days, Luffy's really gonna understand something! There might not be anyone there to see it, but anyway. She takes Nami's hand and hurries after him, a glance given back over her shoulder to the first mate. "Zoro, this is no time to be napping!" They're exploring here, step it up! Don't make her call you a rotten egg. Noji comes to a sudden halt when she looks forward again, her grin slowly fading as she starts looking more and more curious herself.
---
Zoro follows behind the group, now and then looking over his shoulder just out of habit, though he has no doubts in his ability to sense something that might be coming... you can just never tell in this world. Zoro's like a guard dog, this is what he does for his nakama. Someone has to when they're all running around like a bunch of hyper active kids. And this is a strange place. It's like a void or something. Nothing moves or even seems alive but the crew walking through the maze. Even the sound of the bell has a dead tone when Zoro hears it. "Found something?" Good, just get it so they can get away from the damn ringing!
---
The scene that greets them in the wide courtyard beyond the next turn of the path is the most spectacular yet. For certain values of the word "spectacular."

The chain itself ends at a cracked and broken doll, life-sized and dressed in tattered lacy finery; it wraps around her and ends somewhere in the dusty folds of her dress. Around this centerpiece, glittering gems and bright jewelry vie for attention with swaths of strange cloth and gleaming weaponry. It's a veritable treasure trove, with more than enough loot to send Nami into fits of pure glee.

At a closer glance, though, all of the treasure seems to have been dropped by previous adventurers. Scattered about the courtyard are bleached bones, most of them forming complete skeletons--and all of them human.

The lingering echoes of the bell are louder here, and strange new harmonics have joined the mix. It's at a headache-inducing level now--the kind of headache that throbs behind one's eyes like something is tryiing to get out.

In the midst of this, it would probably be easy to ignore the shiny brass pocketwatch lying in the doll's lap. It's clearly not worth anything near as much as the treasure scattered all around, and it's not even working anymore. But...it is *very* shiny.
---
"Luffy! Don't you touch anything!" God only knew what kind of traps he'd stumble on if he kept running ahead. And Nami really wasn't keen on running from boulders, thanks. ;.; She hunches her shoulders briefly, gritting her teeth as she casts another glare over her shoulder, "Is that ringing getting on anyone else's nerves? It really shouldn't be ringing like that." For that matter -- why did it even /start/ ringing? Was it a trap that someone triggered? Zoro, go back and break that thing so it stop's friggin' ringing!

As she follows Luffy around the bend, she comes to a stop when she notices the chain, ".. what the..." That's .. a little odd. But before she can comment on it, she spies the treasure trove. *_* CHACHING! B.B "I'm HOME." *_* *_* She reaches into her shirt without preamble and bounds for the treasures scattered around the doll, paying it ..surprisingly little mind.
"o/~ Treasure, Treasure.. ~/o" She singsongs gleefully, stuffing whatever she can find - discarding other things. It's then that she notices something -else-. A rather intriguing looking statuette of a gold cat, a gem-studded collar around its neck, standing on a pedestal with its mouth open in a yowl. "Kirreii." You're coming with /me/. She gets to her feet and reaches over, pulling it towards her. And that's when one of the skeletons falls, bleached white bones and cobwebs landing across her shoulders.

"IIIIIIEYYYYYYYYYEE!!!" Nami hooks the statue under her arm and runs around in a circle, "GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!" ;.; Nojiko, help! ;.; And while you're at it, someone go and BREAK THAT FRIGGIN CLOCK! It's giving her a headache!
---
Luffy is just inside around that corner, mouth agape while he takes in the view with an expression that best bespeaks of utter, dumbfounded amazement than a simple exclamation could.

He turns around to look at his nakama, grinning. TREASURE! They really DID find treasure! Then, to Nami, "Nami! I'm going to find you something to make up for your trees!" A wide grin, a short nod, and he turns around to hunt for the very thing.

It'd be just like Luffy to disregard true monetary value in favor of something shinier, imbued with more glam than the rest of the wealth before his eyes. After all, he's a true dreamer, though a little more childlike with wonder than the rest of his crew, with the exception being, of course, for the young Chopper.

The skeletons are given hardly a second glance. Had Usopp been here, that may have been a different story, as not even Luffy can resist puppetting a skull at him just for his spectacular reactions.

His search would be more productive if he didn't keep feeling like he was hung over. -_-; It's after two turns around the doll and stepping over the chain that he bends to pick up the shiny brass pocketwatch and lifts it over his head. "This one!" laughs the straw hat captain triumphantly. What was that about not touching anything?

"Hahahaha! Nami! It's just a skeleton, it's dead, it can't hurt you or anything." So silly, navigator.
---
As soon as she rounds the corner and gets a good look at everything, Nojiko is stopped again. The sight before her is unlike anything she's ever seen, and she can only wonder if the others are as (momentarily) speechless as Noji is. For a long moment she just stares, at first paying more attention to the actual doll than the treasure around it. Okay, that's just creepy. But ultimately her eyes do drop to the loot, and grow even wider still at the sight of human bones. She blinks, realizing for the first time then that Nami has broken free of her hand. Nami-chan, come back! She yells after her sister, unsure if she was even heard above the noise -- because that's exactly what Nojiko would call it.

Is she the only one here who's worried about joining the skeleton crew? Yes? Thought so. But she still glances to Zoro, about to appeal to him to be another voice of reason when Nami's startled cry alerts her. Damn skeleton! She just knows it must've been a man when it was alive too. >.< Nojiko hurries over, trying to untangle Nami from it but a little freaked out at the same time.
---
Zoro looks more interested now that they've come upon something worth looking at. Oooh, weapons! He wonders what condition they're in. The treasure itself is nice as well but something has to catch his attention first and it'll be any katanas. He stays in the back as he looks around, taking a few steps and stopping when his boot crushes the bones of an arm beneath his foot. He looks down at the remains of the adventurer and frowns to himself, then frowns even more and lifts a hand to his temple. How can that sound be getting louder? A bell shouldn't ring that long.

Zoro nudges the bones aside and continues walking over to where he sees some of the weaponry stashed, reaching to pull one of the katanas free from the group. Nami's screams draw his attention and he looks over, watching her run about with the dead man on her back. "Would you quiet down!" Like it isn't noisy enough in here already!
---
And then Luffy takes the pocketwatch. For a moment, the thrumming echoes of the bell stop. Everything is perfectly, utterly, terrifyingly silent.

Then the doll's shiny marble eyes fly open wide, and she jerks up to her feet, still tangled up in chains. "My watch! You took my *watch*!" And all around them, the bell starts ringing again--not just echoing like before, but actually *ringing*--sounding like a million different versions of it are chiming somewhere in the distance, all of them at odds with the other ones. It's a terrible, disorienting noise, and not one anyone should have to fight through.

But it looks like the Straw Hat Pirates will have to fight through it anyway. Because all of a sudden, the skeletons--even those that are half-broken--lurch to their feet. The air shimmers around them, then resolves into the ghostly forms of long-dead treasure hunters, features twisted in bitter anger. "The watch!" they cry hoarsely, their voices like distant echoes of the bell itself. Their bare white bones are almost hidden beneath the translucent flickering of their ghostly bodies as they pick up swords and axes and daggers and clubs from around them and stumble towards the intruders.

All around, more chains slice through the air. In particular, they block off the way back out of the labyrinth. As for the doll herself? She reaches for Luffy's throat.
---
Something to make up for her trees? Awww. Nami would feel a lot more appreciative if THAT FRIGGIN RINGING WOULD STOP. Clinging to her sister's shoulders and SHUDDERING, she glares over her shoulder, "That's not the point!" It was still touching her, that icky bleached skeleton ;.; When Nojiko helps push the skeleton off of her, Nami relaxes. Until the chiming of the bell gets WORSE - almost enough to make Nami want to drop her treasure and put her hands over her ears.

Wait. Where did those other voices come from? "Luffy! Put the watch back for god's sakes!" Clearly the doll wanted it back - if the doll gets it back, the skeletons will stop right? She stuffs the cat statue into her treasure bag, then reaches to her hip and grabs the tacts. They can't have her treasure! >.<! "Nojiko!" Oh great, the chains have blocked the way to safety. So much for running away. ;.; Assembling the staff in a quick movement, she holds it defensively, standing back to back with her sister. And to think, she could be sipping a pina colada on the ship right now ;.;
---
The Straw Hat Captain -had- been laughing at Nojiko's efforts to remove the skeleton from Nami's person, until the sudden and total silence steals the mirth right out of his throat and he blinks at the brass pocketwatch clutched in one hand. Metal usually warms to the touch, but...

Luffy brings both hands (with the watch clasped in one) to his ears, his confused exclamation almost entirely lost in the cacophony of ringing bells, eyes squeezed shut. "Nanda nanda nanda?!?" The HELL is going on?! He only picked up a stupid watch!

Wait. Was that doll TALKING? He wheels around, eyes widening as skeletons begin to MOVE, assuming ghostly visages only passingly similar to those they had in life. The watch? He glances to it, and then to his nakama. And nods.

"You want this?" He lashes out a foot at the chained doll viciously, using that turn to try to break into a run, opposite his nakama. Sorry, fellas. If you want this watch, you'll have to catch him. He won't let undead tear his nakama limb from limb over a silly watch.
---
Nojiko finally gets the skeleton free, holding it at a distance with a look of disgust. She looks away from it and to Zoro when he barks out his order, smirking softly before yelling back to him. "Oi! Zoro, look! Another girlfriend for you!" She laughs and looks back to the skeleton...

To say she screams would be an understatement. Because the dead haven't stayed dead, and now a bunch of Bad Stuff is happening. She pushes away the ghostly creature, backing away from it in disgust. There's a reason she didn't like dolls when she was growing up, and it's not just because she was a tomboy! "Give her back the watch!" She echoes her sister's sentiments while glancing about the treasure for something to take up as a weapon. Hell, give her anything she wants! Stay here and keep her company even! Just let her and Nami get out of here!

---
The shriek of the doll draws Zoro's attention and he turns to see what's happened just in time to see Luffy get grabbed by the throat. "Luffy!" Let go of my Captain! >_< Zoro drops the unfamiliar sword to draw one and then another from his side. His steps are stopped by the loud ringing that appears, gripping his swords tighter in an effort not to drop them and cover his ears. He can't let his swords go now of all times but that damn ringing! As the skeletons start to rise around them and take up their own weapons he realizes they have a lot more problems than they bargained for. Zoro swipes at one of the skeletons to try and get closer to the area where the girls are at, but it's obvious getting to the door will be a lot more difficult. Spotting Luffy as he runs, Zoro gets to worrying even more. "Luffy, wait!" Damnit, where is he going!
---
There are plenty of weapons lying around for the pirates to defend themselves with. Daggers, swords, clubs, just about anything, really. It's all just another part of the great treasure stash. Unfortunately, the previous victims of the bell-trap--for it appears that's what it is--are advancing fast. One of them, now quite near Nojiko, takes a swing at her with a short scythe, a feral expression on his ghostly face. Like all the rest, he's gone silent now save for a low moaning that distantly parallels that of the bells.

Other skeletons converge on Nami and Zoro. There are two going for Zoro, one wielding dual scimitars, the other a spiked whip. The one heading for Nami has a longsword in his grip and seems quite proficient in its use. None of the weapons look (or feel!) as spectral as their bearers, either.

Luffy, though--none of the skeleton-ghosts are going for him. Instead, the doll takes another step forward, her glassy eyes burning with hatred, and lifts her cracked hand. More chains spring through the air--and now they wrap around Luffy's throat.
---
Don't you TOUCH her sister! "Nojiko!" Nami doesn't really have to cry the warning, but she does anyway. Hopefully Nojiko remembered to bring the staff Nami had given her a while back! Or at least has /some/ kind of weapon to defend herself. Nami is all ready to head towards her sister's aid, until she notices the skeleton heading towards her with the sword. "Nn!" Dangit. Well it's not like there aren't a lot of weapons and shields lying around if Nojiko /had/ been unarmed. As for Nami? She holds her staff up, rearranging the tacts so that the top two are in a X formation. "Cyclone Tempo!" She draws an arm back and Throws her arm into a forward motion; the upper tacts flipping free of the base of the staff -- and whipping /right/ past the skeleton. :O

Agh, she missed? SHE MISSED? Onoes, she's doomed! Wait - no, she didn't miss. The tacts are actually boomeranging back to hit the skeleton warrior from behind; in they do hit, the impact might be enough to knock the proverbial stuffing out of 'em o_o Wait - how do you kill something that's already dead?

Oh she's so going to need some aspirin when this is over. "The bells are driving me NUTS!" She growls; mostly to herself. "Luffy!" What the hell are you doing! Drop the watch!
---
Both Nami and Nojiko have told him to give her back the watch, which is why Luffy takes one second (only one second, which would be his second great mistake) to call over his shoulder, "They won't let us leave!" Even if he gave back the watch. He's touched it, it's do or die, now. How does he know this?

Instinct.

And it's clanging louder than the bells, so he's inclined to again put his trust in it, even in spite of the recent trouble.

Pausing to speak was, as said before, a mistake; the doll's chains have a dexterity that suggests a thing with its own life, not an inanimate object under the control of another. He attempts to throw himself to the side and is jerked back with a hand flying to his throat, fingers trying to find purchase in the thin chain.

A few moments are spent struggling with the chain before he lashes out with an arm to hurl the shining watch at the doll. Even if it's going to try to strangle him, he'll not go down without a fight! Fine! He didn't want it anyway, you bastard!
---
Nami's cry alerts Nojiko to the swing being taken at her by one of the undead. She gasps sharply and jumps back, the blade slicing through shirt and possibly skin. She's not taking the time to check. Ya know...Nojiko hasn't been having the best of times lately. Maybe this was just what she needed -- an excuse to knock someone's head off. Literally. She reaches down into the treasure, taking up a club and letting the creature get -just- close enough before swinging it. Cut off the head and the body dies, right? Unless that body is already dead. Looks like she's having the same thought Nami's having. But the Hivemind isn't providing many solutions for a change.
---
Zoro brings both of his swords to his sides ready, then as the first skeleton comes at him with the dueled scimitars he blocks with one sword, pushing the blades away and then using his second sword to slash at the middle backbone area of the translucent man. If he cuts right through that spine there won't be anything holding that undead man up! Should that one be dispatched quickly, Zoro will lunge for the second carrying the whip, dodging to the side if need be to bring a katana down on that skeleton as well, now aiming from the slender neck bone to decapitate the monster. But no matter how fast he goes it won't be fast enough. The girls are handling themselves alright but he can see Luffy's problem out of the corner of his eyes.
---
The pocketwatch hits the doll in the face. Another tiny crack appears in her broken visage--and then something weird happens with the space around her face and upper body, and suddenly the pocketwatch is hanging around her neck, gleaming brightly. She seems not in the least bit inclined to let Luffy go. In fact, the chains begin to tighten around his throat, slowly and implacably.

At least the rest of the pirates seem to be having a decent amount of luck with the skeletons. Nami's tact whips back around on its boomerang path and slams right into her attacker. He stands there in shocked silence for a moment, then collapses in a heap of bones. The ghostly form remains standing for an instant afterwards, then promptly dissipates into nothing. But another skeleton is coming for Nami already, that of a scarred woman furiously swinging a length of spiked chain at her.

The ghost-skeleton attacking Nojiko suffers a similar fate. The ghost-form stays there for a moment after its skull is knocked off, blinking at her in puzzlement. Then it vanishes, leaving only a headless skeleton which swiftly collapses in a rattle of bones. For the moment, she manages to escape the notice of the others as well. But that's unlikely to last long.

The first of Zoro's attackers goes down easily in a clatter of bones and a sizzling fade of the ghost-form surrounding them. The swords themselves hit the ground with a clang. The second one--a wire-thin woman with bitter hatred in her translucent eyes--is a little trickier. She gets off a nasty crack of her whip at Zoro, although whether it actually hits him is up for debate. And then her head falls off. Pretty simple, really. She blinks one last time, then vanishes as her bones fall down around her.
---
What a time to lose your head.
(OOC) Luffy says, "Ahhhhghhh that was bad! XD"
(OOC) Nami says, "Yeah, that was TERRIBLE. >.< Who did that?"
(OOC) Luffy gigglefit.
(OOC) Constantine says, "Own up! XD"
(OOC) Nami looks around suspiciously!
(OOC) Luffy says, "Wasn't me. XD"
(OOC) Zoro swats.. Nami!
(OOC) Nami says, "OW!!"
(OOC) Nami says, "Damnit, you know me too well. :D"
(OOC) Zoro o.ov
(OOC) Luffy X)
(OOC) Nami giggle. n.n
(OOC) Nami behaves. n.n And poses. ^^
---
Wow, that was a lot easier than she thought. She has to step to the side to catch the tact as it comes swinging back again, on the end of her staff, and she glances past, "Luffy!" Quit fooling around! Kick her ass already!~ If you die, Nami'll kill you! >.< And then Nami lets out a startled YELP, hitting the ground when a spiked chain nearly takes her head off. @.@; Scrambling to her feet again, she backpedals and swings her staff forward to strike the chain - even if she does get tagged by it - in the middle; to get it to wrap around her staff so she can jerk back on it and pull it out of the undead's hands. MINE! Gimme!
---
He hadn't expected it to cause the doll to let him go, it was just the only thing Luffy could throw at the doll, aside from a punch. But the gradual and unslacking constriction of the chain is crushing his windpipe closed, (rubber or no, even he needs to breathe) and breathlessness makes him drop to his knees, his other hand grasping the chain and trying to tug on it, give himself some slack.

It's useless. The doll's strength isn't even a factor in the strangling; the chain is doing all the work -on its own-. This was... a really bad idea, huh? He'd -meant- well. Luffy only meant to find her something that would perhaps cheer her up after her trees were (twice!) disturbed.

But ignorance is no escape from the undead, it seems. What -is- this place, that it has such things in it?

Putting all his strength into his legs, Luffy stands back up and hurls himself bodily at the doll, aiming to (while blackness starts to crawl in quick around the edges of his vision) pin it down and put his fist through its cracked, porcelain -head-.

And topple over, successful or no.
---
Nojiko lowers the club for a moment after her opponant has vanished, enough time bought to take a deep breath. That felt pretty good actually. "...leave me, will you?" She mutters under her breath. Err...was she really talking about skeleton warriors there? c.c; Moving on. The yelp of her sister brings her back to the here and now. She glares at the dead woman, and while Nami works on trying to disarm her, Nojiko sends her club spinning end over end in the monster's direction. There's only room enough for two evil women in this room, and those positions are already filled!
---
A strike from the whip digs into his skin and slices his shirt but Zoro won't let that stop him from dispatching the second creature that attacked him. He's heaves a sigh when the woman falls to the ground, only to look and see how his nakama are fairing. Together they've rid themselves of a few, but Zoro gears up to take out some more in the mean time. He uses his two swords to block and slash when he sees an opening, but finds no reason to use one of his trained moves on these kinds of enemies.
---
The skeleton wielding the spiked chain lunges at Nami--then stops, her chain snared on the staff. She attempts to shake it free, but to no avail--and when it's yanked from her grasp, her hands come with it. She snarls and keeps grabbing at Nami, but she has no weapon now, and her ghostly hands pass right through the thief with no bones to back them up. It doesn't take long for Nojiko's flung club to hit her square in the back of the head. Her skull caves in, and she stumbles and falls, the translucent imagery around her fading.

Meanwhile, Zoro's dealing with the skeleton-ghosts in quantity. More of them fall to shattered pieces beneath the blows of his swords. But even as the number of opponents dwindle--there's still no way out of this strange courtyard.

As for Luffy? He's not doing so well. The chains continue to tighten mercilessly around his throat, while the doll makes vague motions with her hands, controlling them from a distance. Except suddenly it's not so much a distance, because Luffy is coming at her with that rubber fist of his at the ready.

Luffy's blow drives his fist right through the doll's cracked porcelain head. Pieces of it fly everywhere. Her dusty golden hair unravels from the scalp and falls to the ground. The doll herself teeters for a moment. The chains tighten cruelly around Luffy's throat, tight enough to crush his windpipe if he's not careful.

Then she falls, hitting the dusty cobblestone ground. When she does, the chains blocking passageway out of the labyrinth unwind rapidly until they fall on her in a heap of tarnished silver, no longer bright and shiny.

One skeleton remains, menacingly twirling an assortment of daggers as he advances on the pirates--but then a chunk of the ceiling falls out and knocks him down. He doesn't get up. Funny, that...how convenient.

No, not so convenient. Because suddenly, the whole place is shaking. The endless ringing of the bells grows to near-deafening levels, and around the pirates, the entire maze begins to crumble.

With the strange timeless magic of the doll no longer in effect, the leaning clocktower is finally toppling.
---
(OOC) Constantine says, "Quick! Run! THAT WAS A LOAD-BEARING BOSS!"
(OOC) Luffy DIES LAUGHING.
(OOC) Luffy says, "Did I not call it? I said Luffy would wind up making a shortcut out of knocking down a load-bearing wall."
(OOC) Luffy says, "Instead, I killed a load bearing doll. ;o;"
---
"Eeye..!" Nami shakes her staff and shudders when ghostly hands pass through her arms in an attempt to grasp her. Unwinding the chain from around her staff, she drops it, looking up and around, "Nojiko, are yo-"
CLUNK.
The sound of a piece of ceiling hitting one of the undead and killing it ded..er.. gets Nami's attention. So does the rumbling. "... GODDAMNIT Luffy, I told you t-" No, now is not the time to lecture. "We have to get out of here!" She scoops up her bag full of treasures -- like HELL she's leaving that here after what they went through. "ZORO!" Time to go! "Nojiko, come on." Nami tucks her staff back in place and tugs for her sister's wrist. Escape! Escaaaaaaaape! Agh, she can barely hear herself THINK let alone yell - she hopes Zoro's paying attention, so he knows to follow them.
---
Luffy's...

...Well, there's not much to say about someone lying face down on the ground, but his head is slightly turned, but with his hat askew and his hair in his face, it's hard to see what his expression is, at first.

One arm's pinned underneath him, but the other is splayed out on the ground, fingers twitching. Not to try to loosen the chain around his throat - that, he already knows is a useless attempt. He knows something's wrong with his throat, tasting copper at the back of his mouth and between his teeth, and thinks it might mean he won't be able to breathe even if the chain had loosened.

Well, that's alright, if they're okay. Under the shade of his hat, he closes his eyes. It's the strangest thing, but this feels so much more like slipping away than...

Yes! It's time to run, except, uh, aren't they missing someone? Their missing fourth is not getting up.
---
"I'm fine, is every--" Nojiko's question is likewise cut short by the ominous rumbling. She knows what that means: time to haul ass kids! Nami doesn't have to tell her twice, though she's tugged along by the wrist anyway. She cringes as they hurry along to get out of there, half-certain that at any moment a piece of that strange place is going to crush them from above. "Zoro! Luffy!" It's then that she realizes that she hadn't been able to pay much attention to the plight of the two guys during the fight, and that cold fear starts to grip her and say it might be too late to check on them now. She glances back over her shoulder as they run, seeing only the place falling apart. It's okay, she tells herself, looking forward again to concentrate on their escape. Those two could survive just about anything. Except...they've both already died once. o.o; Not the best time to remember that!
---
Zoro strikes down yet another skeleton, the bones crumbling at his feet. He then turns to look up at the ceiling as things start to shake. Oh great. This whole place is going to collapse! On top of that there's all that noise again! Hearing Nami's shout he nods, watching to see that the girls are on their way but first running back into the room to go after Luffy. He can't just leave his Captain here! Dead or not! Zoro slices through another skeleton, then leaps and makes a downward slash, sending a wave of air that's like a blade itself out at the skeletons to part the seas of enemies so he can land near Luffy. A final dash and his katana is brought down to cut right through the now rusted chain that attached Luffy to the doll. With that cut Zoro gets to one knee next to Luffy, "Oi, hang on!" He puts one katana away to remove the chain from around Luffy's throat and then hoist the rubber boy over his shoulder. "You dumb ass. You'd better not be dead..." Zoro will be -extremely- pissed off at you! Not to mention... ".. or I'll make sure you never live it down that you got your ass kicked by a dolly." Hah! As he turns to run out of the cavern he can hope that now that the doll is dead the skeletons will fall over too!
---
Now the walls are crumbling around them as well as the ceiling. Flashes of sky can occasionally be seen in glimpses at the corner of one's eye--but never any way to get there. Rusted gears fall over or explode in fragments as the pirates run by--it's all too possible for one to be struck with the flying shrapnel. Choking marble dust fills the air. There are no more skeletons, and no more chains attempt to foil Our Heroes--but it's still a perilous flight, with chunks of marble and ancient metal falling down all around them.

And always, there is the ceaseless tolling of the bell, multiplied a thousandfold, all the echoes chiming off each other in terrible discord. They sound almost hysterical now, and the very sound of them is maddening.

And then suddenly there is silence. For a moment, it might seem as if they've all gone deaf. Then the cloud of dust begins to dissipate, and it becomes clear that they are free. Behind them lies the crumbled ruins of the clocktower, now completely fallen over, its glass face crazed with cracks.

Above them, the sky is that bleached shade of blue that it seems to be throughout the Crescent. Below them, the ground is grey cobblestone and white marble. The broken old city around them stands in silence.
---
"They'll be fine! They're both stupidly strong -!" Nami calls -- doing her damndest to shake off the vague sense of unease that settles at the pit of her stomach like a rotten orange. MOre than once she looks over her shoulder at the same time as Nojiko.. worry and anxiety playing across her face. Come on.. COME ON..! Don't tell her they got lost in there? They're goofing off at a time like this? The marble dust rising up almost chokes her as she breathes in the frenzied flight, and more than once she has to either jerk to a stop or dive forward to avoid falling debris. Got to get out. Get out. GET OUT. The bells. THE BELLS. THe ceaseless tolling of the goddamned BELLS. What's up with ( ..and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee ) that?

The sudden thought that interrupts her original thought process causes Nami to stumble, right out the exit, eyes wide in surprise. What the hell would make her think of that all of a sudden? Exhaustion and a loss of adrenaline causes her to collapse to her knees, panting, and it isn't until she hears no more bells (the silence, the blessed blessed SILENCE) that Nami looks over her shoulder, to see Nojiko, Zoro and.....Luffy. Only their Captain isn't walking of his own power; he's being carried. And as much as Nami would like to believe it's because he got conked on the head or something, there's something in Zoro's face that ..says otherwise.

So Nami looks away, gritting her teeth, fists clenching as she fixes her gaze on the ground. Not the ruins, not the ... not the... "......" Nami gets to her feet again.

Dont' look back.

".. let's go." This to Nojiko and Zoro, as Nami slings her bag of treasure back over shoulder. Back to the Going Merry. It's true that Luffy will be back. But what kind of a heartless individual would you have to be to /not/ be upset by a friend being killed? Especially...when it was your idea to come in the first place? o O ( Somehow.... these treasures don't..seem worth it anymore. ) Wow. There /must/ be something wrong with her to think something like /THAT/.
Tags: roleplay
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