Wonderland, Scene II (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

Wonderland, Scene II (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)


'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'
Alice didn't think that proved it at all; however, she went on 'And how do you know that you're mad?'
'To begin with,' said the Cat, 'a dog's not mad. You grant that?'
'I suppose so,' said Alice.
'Well, then,' the Cat went on, 'you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


April 11th, 2007

"This." Cinder said. "Is silly."

Objectively speaking, the werewolf had a point. At the moment, the motley assortment of changelings, mortals, and one werewolf were standing in a playground in the last hours before dawn, staring at a kiddy sandpit.

Once one knew the logic behind it, the situation made somewhat more sense. Othello's wagon moved around a great deal, deep in the Hedge, which made finding the grinning feline a matter of great difficulty. He could be anywhere in London, on any Trod, in any corner of that metaphysical maze known as the Hedge. But there was a method to Othello's madness, and if one followed through his logic (which Erin could do), it was possible to choose the shortest path.

The shortest path, at present, meant opening the Hedge-Gate that was the bound area of the sandpit, and jumping inside. From there, it would be only a quick hop, skip, and jump to The Marquis de Carabas's Travelling Emporium of Wonders.

"Eh, lass, it can't all be castles and brooding forests." The short man in the top-hat said. "Now, if we are all gathered here? Everybody ready to go? No last rush to the loo, nobody forgot to pack a sandwich?"

"I am ready." Sergei Morozov said, his curling pooka ears a humorous counterpoint to the far less humorous sniper rifle slung over his shoulder. Technology and the Hedge rarely mixed, but old Russian military arms were reliable things, they'd last.

"Sure." Heather Harte, on the other hand, didn't bother with much in the way of weapons. The young woman was Erin's near-twin, and certainly looked the part, though a quite different sort of changeling. Where Erin was small, and fuzzy, and a tinker-fey, Heather was small, and sleek, and had a forest-wildness about her.

"I forgot to bring a sandwich." Sasha Zmeyevich snarked. The dragonish, tiger-demon had a shotgun under one arm, also an old Soviet weapon. He glanced to Erin for orders.

"Ain't that a pity, laddy-me-buck." The short man in the top-hat said. He glanced at his lanky companion (the three werewolves had left), and then shrugged. "All set? Guides first, iffen-you-please."

Originally Posted by Mr. Isengrim
"All set? Guides first, iffen-you-please."
“Roger.” Underwood had been deadpanning most of his comments on the way over here, but this procedure he actually seemed to be looking forward to.

The reporter stepped up to the sandpit, doing that “interlace your fingers and extend your arms out to crack your knuckles” gesture that has no convenient name. “Stand back, gents and ladies: I’ll have this thing open in two shakes of a wolf’s tail. Begging your pardon, Miss Pleasant.”

He tipped his hat at Cinder – as nobody in the Hedge cared how anachronistic your fashion sense was, he had brought it along. Also, it was another excuse to refer to Cinder as Miss Pleasant, which Underwood seemed to find supremely ironic.

The reporter looked down at the sandpit, paused for a moment, and closed his eyes, breathing deep. For a moment, you could hear a pervasive clicking from somewhere, and the night air around Underwood seemed to fade into a white-grey aura, suffused with…letters? Words? Something in Courier font, anyway, and yet somehow illegible.

Then, Underwood opened his eyes, took one step back, and kicked the wooden border of the sandbox as hard as he could. There was a “fzap” sound, and a perfect square of sand vanished in a puff of static, as if someone had changed the sandpit’s channel to the Gaping Vertical Hole Network. The reporter grinned in satisfaction, looking wryly at Cinder and Isengrim.

“Rule Number One of machine shop: if it doesn't work, try giving it a good whack.”

He stepped forward to the brink, looked once at the dark, bottomless void before him, then back at the group. “We’ve got fifteen, maybe twenty seconds. Follow me, kids, and hang on to your hats: it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

And so, hanging onto his hat, Underwood jumped.

Successfully opening the gate with one success, Cloak of the Elements is still up, and ES on Fear is Nothing for the scene.

"I packed a sandwich for you, darling," Erin said dryly to Sasha. She did indeed have a rather large picnic basket, positively huge on her, hanging off her arm. It had all manner of deli meats and cheeses and nuts and fruits and breads, and there was a fairly delicious smelling helping of cooked liver in there. And Erin, feeling a bit bitter, had decided Venatores wasn't getting any of it.

"Looks like fun," Erin commented, watching Underwood vanish into the pit. "We had better wait a few seconds so we don't land on him, eh? Same with you, Zmeyevich, wait at least ten seconds and come down after us. In pairs, I think. Are we ready?" Erin took Sergei's hand, smiling and swinging slightly next to him. "Shall we? One... two... threeeeeee!"

There was a long, giggly "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" all the way down the tunnel, until it finally grew too distant to hear.

Originally Posted by Underwood
“Stand back, gents and ladies: I’ll have this thing open in two shakes of a wolf’s tail. Begging your pardon, Miss Pleasant.”
"You are forgiven." Cinder said calmly. She still wore the cloak of pain about her, nestled it tightly about her shoulders. It gave her a disconcertingly regal look, and made it difficult to look at her for very long. The eyes just didn't want to focus on that jarring, unnerving mass of color and light.

Originally Posted by Underwood
“We’ve got fifteen, maybe twenty seconds. Follow me, kids, and hang on to your hats: it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
Originally Posted by Erin
"In pairs, I think. Are we ready?" Erin took Sergei's hand, smiling and swinging slightly next to him. "Shall we? One... two... threeeeeee!"

There was a long, giggly "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" all the way down the tunnel, until it finally grew too distant to hear.
And down they went. It was a very long drop, and a it was a very slow sort of drop. One just fell and tumbled and careened down this unknown pit, through an unknown gate, until on some find day one would reach the bottom.

At first it was dark. But then, along the sides of this pit, lightbulbs were found, and Heather managed to snag a cord and light them as he fell on by. She had very good reflexes, that girl. Now you could see just what you were falling down. The tunnel was fairly broad, and went straight down, for a very, very long way. There were lightbulbs set into its earthen-packed and thorn-entwined walls, and other things as well. The occasional shelves, and odd toys, and bookcases, and even a fully-set table for two poked out at one place.

Up above, Sasha pushed himself downward, towards Erin and Sergei and Underwood and Daphne. Further up above him, two other figures plummetted towards the earth. But they'd changed shape now, though you could only see their outlines. One was tall, and broad-shouldered, and wore a top-hat which stayed on his head. The other was smaller, and dressed in voluminous furs. And behind them, the very last, was Cinder.

"Have we a plan, Moth?" Sasha said quietly, for in the hurtling wind, perhaps here one could avoid being overheard. "Or play it by ear?"

And still you fell.

Erin was falling through the air like a skydiver, wings spread, as if to pretend she was flying. On occasion she would try to snatch at a toy in the wall, causing herself to tumble head over heels before she could re-balance herself.

Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 2, 2, 8, 6, 5, 8 (Total Successes = 2)
Grabbing at Toys and Books

"You know Othello well enough, to know you cannot plan around him," Erin said back, as she spun down the tunnel. "You don't know the Hedge that well, right now, but there is no point in planning around that either. We'll play it by ear, Sasha. I gave Mr. Morgan's card to the Queen, so the Harbingers know. And Othello is far more clever and quick than I. He has his own powers of prophecy, knowing him, he could be posing as the Summer Queen, and we'd never know until the week is up. And there is at least one way I can think of, for him to turn us to his advantage. He just has to think of it."

"It's their job to keep us alive, so don't do anything you don't have to," she continued, seriously. "From a political standpoint, we really cannot let this end well for them. End in farce, maybe, but not well. You and Beat," Erin patted Sergei's jacket, "you keep an eye out for any levers we can use against her later. Just don't get your head knocked off doing it."

"Don't worry, Sasha, we are good at farce!" Erin reassured, grinning. She reached out and latched onto Sergei's back, popping her head up onto his shoulder. "Hello there, little rabbit," she said into his ear.

Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"It's their job to keep us alive, so don't do anything you don't have to. From a political standpoint, we really cannot let this end well for them. End in farce, maybe, but not well. You and Beat, you keep an eye out for any levers we can use against her later. Just don't get your head knocked off doing it."
"That happened to me, once. Not fun." Underwood had air-swam over to Erin's group over the past few seconds; clearly, these circumstances had brought out his snarkiest instincts.

"Seriously, though: I'm with Miss Lamothe on this. We got good terms and we're not dead yet, which is two points on our side of the board. Nothing left for it but to improvise, and hope we don't end up disemboweled by Tuesday. Fingers crossed, fellas."

Originally Posted by Erin
"Don't worry, Sasha, we are good at farce!"
"Ha...ha...h--" Thump.

You hit the ground.

Everyone landed at the bottom of the long tunnel, in an unruly heap. Ten seconds, it turned out, was not really enough time to avoid having people land on one another, not unless they were really fast. Heather was. Sasha wasn't, and got a giant wolf-changeling (Isengrim, not Cinder) on his back for his trouble. Cinder leapt neatly to one side. Nothing wrong with her sense of grace. Miraculously, no one was hurt, aside from a few bruises.

Isengrim scrambled to his feet, adjusting his top-hat. Now that you saw the privateer up close, he was a huge, brute of a man, covered in shaggy grey hair and dressed in a curious combination of biker's leathers and chain-mail armor. His partner, Reynarde, was a small, petite Asian woman, unimaginably beautiful, with sharp teeth and wearing a huge fur coat, made out of foxes. Not fox fur, but whole foxes, muzzles and tails and little paws, all in the fur.

"This is a strange place." Sergei said, his voice quiet and soft. It most certainly was. You were at the bottom of a well, which spread out ahead of you into a brick wall with five doors. These doors were marked, rather conveniently, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, in huge, gold-inlaid letters.

Also, each door looked as though it was on fire.

Thick, black flames, that had an almost palpable force, radiated out from each door. You could, perhaps, get through the flames to the doors and open them, but whoever did so was likely to be burned quite unpleasantly. Even Reynarde watched the black flames dubiously. There was not enough human in her to know fear, but she knew something dangerous when she saw it.

In front of each door, furthermore, was a small barrel, on a table. Each had a spigot and many tankards near it. Five barrels, each with a spigot, and plenty of tankards for everyone to drink.

Finally, posted onto the third door, was a long parchment scroll. It read:
1. There are five doors, behind each door is a path, and each path leads to a house.
2. The Saint lives in the red house.
3. The Archduke owns the dog.
4. Poison is drunk in the green house.
5. The Spirit drinks tea.
6. The green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house.
7. The one who knows a legend owns fish.
8. Parables are told in the yellow house.
9. Holy water is drunk in the house behind the middle door.
10. The Ghost lives in the first house.
11. The man who knows a song lives in the house next to the man with the fox.
12. Parables are told in the house next to the house where the horse is kept.
13. The one who knows a story drinks faerie wine.
14. The Demon knows a secret.
15. The Ghost lives next to the blue house.

Now, who has the magic potion to let you through the doors? Who owns the cat? (Or rather more accurately, who does Cat own?)

In the interest of clarity, it must be added that each of the five houses is painted a different color, and their inhabitants are all of different realms, own different pets, drink different beverages and know different things. One other thing: in statement 6, right means your right.
"This... is even more silly." Cinder said disapprovingly. She furrowed her brow. "But curious. Who set this here?"

Erin had been lucky. She'd landed on Sergei's back, which was bony but rather snuggly, to her, and he likewise had a rather small, rather light, and rather soft moth land on him. She popped her head up rather readily, eagerly looking around, before finally scuttling up and examining the place they'd landed in.

"You alright?" Erin asked, patting Sasha on the back, before helping Sergei to his feet. She perked up at the sign of the riddle, padding around to examine all the doors. To her mind, the strange riddles meant Othello was involved, or better yet, the Wyrd itself. "These things just happen, sometimes," Erin answered Cinder, antennae tapping on the casks momentarily. "Appreciate them! It means that Fate has acknowledged we are on a Quest of Import. It shows that this is a worthy story, by setting trials forth."

And fey stories always went the way of the trickster, so long as they didn't out-trick themselves.

Well. Except for Loki.

Loki had been a jerk, though, so Erin went about reading the instructions with reasonable cheer. A thought occurred, and she moved back to where Sergei was, putting her arm around his waist and guiding him over to the parchment on the wall. "And we are going to solve it, yes?" she said, tapping his temple with an all too chipper grin on her face. "I know just how clever you are, little leveret. Time to put it to work, yes? You solve the riddle, and I'll drink from whichever one you tell me to."

"We'll give you hints, though," Erin stage whispered to him, taking mercy on putting all the pressure on him suddenly. She tapped Beat, which surreptitiously slipped into Sergei's hand, opening up its viewfinder. "It's not quite a riddle, more of a puzzle. It's just a matter of organization," she said.

Even as she said it, Beat began to place markers down on each door, assigning text to each one and listing more text in the picture within picture. Slowly, it began to slot clues into place.
First Door: Ghost (Yellow House+Parables?) (Legend, Fish?) (Story, Faerie Wine?) (Song?) (Fox?)
Second Door: Blue House (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret?) (Legend, Fish?) (Story, Faerie Wine?) (Spirit+Tea?)(Song?)(Fox?) (Horse?)
Third Door: Holy Water (Ivory House?) (Red House+Saint?) (Yellow House+Parables?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret?) (Legend, Fish?) (Song?) (Fox?)
Fourth Door: (Ivory House?) (Green House+Poison?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret) (Legend, Fish) (Story, Faerie Wine) (Spirit+Tea?) (Song?) (Fox?) (Horse?)
Fifth Door: (Green House+Poison?)(Red House+Saint?) (Yellow House+Parables?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret?) (Legend, Fish?) (Story, Faerie Wine?) (Spirit+Tea?) (Fox?)

The doors are not in a circle. They are in a row. 1 and 5 are not next to each other.


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