Wonderland, Scene IV (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

Wonderland, Scene IV (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)


'Have you guessed the riddle yet?' the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
'No, I give it up,' Alice replied: 'what's the answer?'
'I haven't the slightest idea,' said the Hatter.
'Nor I,' said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily. 'I think you might do something better with the time,' she said, 'than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.'

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


April ??th, 2007

The next morning, or the next unit of time when all felt awake and ready to continue, you set off once again. The group was different, in some subtle, important way. Erin and Daphne and Underwood ranged ahead, searching their way through the Hedge, while Cinder followed along, her cloak of pain resting lightly on her shoulders. She had said nothing all morning but given short, barking commands, and then fallen silent. Nor was she the only person out of sorts this morning.

Reynarde stalked silently along, and she kept close watch on Erin when she could. For whatever reason, the fox-wife was being unduly suspicious of the little moth-fey this morning. Mary Mack responded to this by staying close to Erin, and baring her fangs at Reynarde when she came too close.

In any case, it was about mid-day when you came to another clearing in the Hedge, a huge hillock that rose up out of the thorns, with several smaller mounds near it. This was passingly strange even in the Hedge, but what made it all the stranger were the two giants that sat on top of the hillock and argued.

They were certainly giants, or possibly trolls, each of them twelve feet tall or more, clad in silks and laces, and carrying clubs the size of small trees. They were roasting something which looked a bit like a cross between a deer and a centipede, and which still twitched on occasion.

"No, no, no! I'm telling you, it's twenty and twenty and twenty and twenty and twenty." The first giant said in a high-pitched voice, shaking his fist at his fellow. The other giant was unmoved. "That's not what the King says, donchu know."

"Would you like some liver, miss?" Erin had been saying to Reynarde, offering a wrapped up box. Erin had been out of sorts all morning too, but she hadn't gotten a chance to wallow in her despair. She was too busy being bounced between two incredibly sexy and horrifying ladies. It was distracting.

Erin was dealing with it in the best way she knew how: flat-out bribery. The liver was thin-sliced, cooked in Korean barbecue style. It was cold and not as fresh now, but hopefully Erin's cooking skills meant it would still pass muster.

As point of fact, Erin did not particularly like Reynarde either. She was a psychotic murderer, for one, though so was her husband - worse yet, he did it for profit, and not out of insanity. But Reynarde was too beautiful, and something in her bearing screamed Gentry. It was only that feral mind, and that weird fear of a tiny moth, that let Erin act normally around the fox. But it would have been nice for Erin if she'd known what she'd done, to get Reynarde on her case.

Women. How did people deal with them?

Erin was distracted again, because now there were trolls. Great.

For all that Underwood expected problems at all times, he did have a well-defined hierarchy to slot them into once they inevitably occurred. "Forestall an impending murder-suicide through werewolf therapy," for example, was high on the priority list, but emotionally draining to tackle. It was skiffly business, requiring a light touch and clockwork pacing, while presenting a low probability of actual success -- plus, it involved the mental health of at least two people he wanted to see mentally healthy, which tends to lard any situation with uncomfortable subtext. Underwood hadn't been engaging Cinder too much this morning, partially because she needed time to think things through, but also because he needed a few hours to give his own head a rest.

Now, this problem here: this was the kind of problem that Underwood could get behind just at present. No agonizing webs of spiritual torment, just two lugs on a hill. This was straightforward. This was easily solvable.

Underwood turned back to the party, made a "two fingers walking in a semicircle" gesture with one hand, and silently mouthed "How about we just go around?"

Yep. Underwood liked this kind of problem just fine.

"Go on. It's not poison, unless you're allergic to soy," Erin coaxed Reynarde, holding the box out on the tips of two fingers.

"It's alright, Mary, she won't bite me," she reassured the vampire near her. This might have been a lie. Erin trusted Isengrim would move in if his wife tried to nip off a finger. After all, Reynarde would be at a severe disadvantage if she broke the pledge. Which wasn't actually there. There was a method to Erin's madness, however, in bringing all those people with guns. Isengrim and Cinder did not want a free-for-all breaking out, even with one of their aggressors heavily crippled. And Mary had only agreed to non-violence if no one attacked the others, of which Erin still counted.

Erin vaguely wondered how she got caught fielding two feral, insane woman. Underwood seemed to be having similar problems. She resolved to go give Heather a hug later.

She examined the rock in the way, antennae waving. "What do you think, Mary, can you roll it aside?" she suggested to the young woman looming near her.

Daphne was losing track of her purpose. All except for one thing: Pledge. In this world, it was easy to forget the why of things and simply do them. She eyed Erin, cowed between the two opposing female forces.

She peered forward again--oh, look, trolls!--reminding herself that it was worth seeing to the end merely to ask Othello what he'd done.

Daphne rustled like creaky branches and leaves unless she was careful.

"Mountain." She was too apathetic to state anything beyond the obvious. Daphne trudged around the sides of the boulder as far she could go before bloody slipping off the hill, inspecting for any other sort of trail.

Dice Roll: 5d10s8e10
d10 Results: 4, 4, 10, 3, 3, 1 (Total Successes = 1)

Underwood slumped a little bit at the sight of the rock, though this was honestly well within his "expected potential complications" matrix. At least rocks didn't try to kill you. Usually.

He turned back towards the group, looking slightly peeved that everyone had apparently decided not to keep whispering. "Yeah… Yeah, kid, if you can do it…might be the best option, unless someone wants to tunnel under or break out the machetes. Otherwise, we have to go to those guys." A jerk of the head towards the giants. "And, respect to those guys, I don't want to go to them."

Originally Posted by Erin
"Go on. It's not poison, unless you're allergic to soy," Erin coaxed Reynarde, holding the box out on the tips of two fingers.
Reynarde darted in, snatching the liver from Erin's hand. She opened the box and sniffed it, and then scurried back away a few yards from Erin and Mary, watching the moth-fey carefully. Then, rather delicately, she began to eat, lifting her head up every minute or two to watch where everyone was.

Originally Posted by Erin
"What do you think, Mary, can you roll it aside?"
Originally Posted by Underwood
"Yeah… Yeah, kid, if you can do it…might be the best option, unless someone wants to tunnel under or break out the machetes. Otherwise, we have to go to those guys."
"It's too heavy." Mary Mack said quietly, walking up to the boulder. It was a huge thing, and the path ended at the boulder itself. Judging from the inclination of the path, it led into a cave or tunnel of some sort. Never a good thing. Mack shrugged her shoulders. "I'll have to break it."

"What." Sasha said, looking at the fragile-seeming schoolgirl vampire. He knew she was strong. But this was on another order of being. Mary just smiled sadly, and walked around the rock for a moment, before settling on a good place to stand. She put her hands together into a single fist and adjusted her footing, and then she struck.

"Miss Mary Mack / All Dressed in Black,"

The blow was so fast it was a blur, and there was a resounding crack! as hairline fractures spread from the stone.

"She's got a knife / Stuck in her back,"

Another blow, and the fracture was larger.

"She cannot breathe / She cannot cry,"

A third blow, and bits of rubble began to fall over Mary Mack and her clothing.

"And so she begs / She begs to die."

One final blow, and the stone shattered into at least three or four large pieces, and a great many smaller ones. Behind it was a black darkness, an abyss leading somewhere down. Mary Mack picked up a piece of rock that was probably the size of Underwood's head, and casually tossed it aside. She turned back to you and smiled, rather sheepishly.

"Thank you, Mary," Erin said politely. She did not seem surprised. Clicking out the LED flashlight on her keychain, she turned it on, and ventured into the darkness, without even a look behind her.

Dice Roll: 8d10s8ez
d10 Results: 10, 3, 2, 1, 9, 4, 2, 3, 7 (Total Successes = 2)
wits+composure (2)

"Jeezum crow…"

Underwood looked at Mary with his mouth half-open for a few seconds. He was fast developing a healthy respect for Miss Mack. Being able to punch boulders in half with one's bare fists tended to help that respect along.

The reporter tilted his head slightly, squinting. "You ever try out for lady wrestling, kid? I know a guy who can set you up…"

On some level, and despite being exposed to all manner of martially capable women over the past few years, Underwood tended to associate physically strong females with wrestling, sort of by default. Of course, the many figurative connotations of "lady wrestling" never entered into his head -- ironically, as many of them applied quite accurately to Mack.

The reporter shook his head briefly, clearing it, then tapped his breast pocket. "Sparky: light, please."

Obligingly, the phone scuttled up onto Underwood's shoulder and whited out his display, creating an improvised flashlight as the reporter stepped into the cave.

Erin looked up.

"Hello, Maestro!" she greeted, sounding surprised. Perhaps pleasantly so, perhaps not. "How are you this day?"

The moth walked over to one of the cavern walls and, cautiously, put one foot on the wall. This, by itself, was perfectly identical to what happened in the real world. Erin then, more cautiously, put her other foot on the wall. This left her standing sideways, parallel to the floor. Less normal.

Erin, seemingly pleased, had no further issues, walking calmly up the wall and onto the ceiling. She waved down at everyone on the floor, beckoning her friends to come upward.

"It is fancy to meet you here. We were just passing through," Erin explained, as she reached the table. She didn't sit yet. "May I introduce to you Mr. Underwood, Ms. Pleasant, Ms. Harte, Mr. Morozov, Mr. Zmeyevich, and Ms. Mack?" Had she caught Daphne's last name? Crumbs. "And may I introduce in turn the Magnificent Maestro?"

She gave a little half bow to the ice-rabbit-goat-thing. "Good evening. I do not have the pleasure of having met you."


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