After The Trouble With Chickens… and The Trouble With Theories…, without which this story won’t make much sense.
The Lost Buildings encompassed what had once been the pride of the University. They were tall and glorious, stately, and done in the Pecerin style of architecture that nobody seemed to be able to imitate anymore.
(Personally, Trenner thought it had something to do with the amount of opium Pecerin and her disciples had partaken of, but that had gotten her a few too many Hate Points in her architecture elective.)
Most of the buildings – and their gorgeous-if-strange details – were lost within a wild hedge of trees and plants. Some of those had been mapped by surviving members of the Exploration Club last year, and, compared to the last landscaper’s notes, they seemed to be only about fifty percent from the original plantings. Of course, giant chickens might be bringing in who-knows-what from who-knows-where.
This raspberry bush was neither on the map nor in the original plantings. She carefully extricated herself from the thorns, making sure she hadn’t left any blood behind. She didn’t want an A badly enough to directly court death any more than she was already doing.
“Stick to the former paths. There’s something on them they don’t like.”
The voice made her jump and, in a move that made her pleased with her instincts, swing the harpoon gun up towards the sound.
Perched on a whale-shaped gargoyle above the doorway of the former Chemical Sciences building was a person. They were a shaggy person, and they were clothed in what looked like the ruins of seven or eight lab coats. They held up their hands in amused surrender.
“I’m not the one you need to use that on. You’re better equipped than the last explorers.”
“Who- What- You-?”
“Not a languages major, then. Good. They don’t last long.”
Trenner cleared her throat. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here. What are you doing here?” The figure hopped down to the grand stairway – or what remained of it. Something had pecked holes in several of the stairs and taken away the rubble.
“You live here? You live in the Lost Buildings, with the giant killer chickens?”
“Don’t forget the mutant killer ferrets and the feral housecats.”
“Are they mutant?”
“Do they need to be?” The figure came closer to her. Their hair was an indistinctly-colored nest of tangles – no, braids – and their skin looked to be smeared with some sort of concoction. “Here.” They held out a petri dish of what might be the same concoction. “It throws off about a third of the creatures. They can’t sense you then.”
Trenner sniffed it. It smelled mostly of lavender and the strange sense of the world being in two places at once. “What – why do you live here?”
“Well, ten years ago, Professor Lokeg-Fridelabout told me not to come back without a Feltenner Chicken.”
“And you didn’t find one?” Trenner’s heart sank.
“Oh, no, but I was here long enough that I roasted an egg and, let me tell you, they are worth living here for.”