Wonderland, Scene V (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

   
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"But fiiiiiine. Just someone let me know where I'm going, all I ask." Heather said with a pout.
Erin bit her lip at that. Heather had no doubt heard the "Arcadia" comments flying around, and had been semi-informed on what that was when the ruse was started, but it seemed she didn't quite grasp the seriousness of the place. The faux-changeling quickly found herself pulled into a huddle similar to Cinder and Underwood's.

"We are going... home," Erin murmured, very quietly, keeping one eye on the Venatores to make sure no one was listening. "The place where I was taken apart and turned into this. The place where the Mistress rules - let me tell you another story, okay, sis?"

"Once upon a time there was a mother and a daughter, and the mother doted on the daughter more than any child in the world could ask for. Anything the child wanted, she would have. Anywhere the child wished to go, she would go. No compliment was left ungiven, no word to sweet to say. From the instant the child awakened to the moment she slept, her mother would be there for her. Then, one day, the mother and child were out having a picnic. The child found her cooked candy fruits too hot, and made a face as she burned her tongue. The mother thought how ugly her child looked just then, and reached over and snapped her neck. The way her child twitched in death reminded her fish dancing on the honey streams of her home. She went and walked by the banks for a while, and by the time she went home, she'd forgotten her daughter's name."

"That is the Gentry. Those are the Masters. They rule Arcadia, and they are like gods there. You must remember that, so long as you wear that mask. Arcadia is the place as beautiful as Heaven and as terrible as Hell. You must never act as if you don't fear it, to people as us, or the game will be up."

Erin glanced back toward Cinder, and then toward Venatores, curious to see if they'd get while the getting was good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Pleasant
"Yes." She said without inflection, watching Underwood to see what he was going to say.
Underwood sighed again, deeper. "Thought so."

He looked down for a moment, collecting his thoughts, then met her eyes. "I'm going to lay it out for you straight. You and me, we may have different ideas of what we want to happen, when you get to Othello. My idea, there's emotions, sure. But there's nothing done that doesn't get a good, hard look at it first, to make sure it's the just thing to do, and done for the right reasons. And if that means some people stay alive just a little longer… Well. That suits my idea just fine."

"Now, I don't presume anything about your idea, other than you come by it honestly. But I do know one thing that your idea and my idea have in common. You, Miss Pleasant, have got to get to Othello."

He tilted his head towards his traveling party. "It took some doing, but I talked the guys around. You give Nature Boy and Ferret-Girl the heave-ho, so nobody gets a knife in the back--" (a brief nod at the privateers) "--and we'll stick by you. See you get to him. Some of my friends, they may want your formal word: that you'll spare him for so-and-so long, or something like that. That's between you and them. I don't want any such thing. I'm saying that, Miss Pleasant, because I think you're an honorable woman, and a just woman, and because I think you deserve my trust. And I don't give my trust to just anyone."

"So. I would like to get you to Othello. What do you say?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"You must never act as if you don't fear it, to people as us, or the game will be up."
"That's... horrible." Heather whispered. She shook her head, clearing the dark thoughts from her mind. It was entirely possible that Heather had never quite processed what Erin had gone through, not emotionally, not in the gut. Now she did. "That's just insane."

"Okay." Heather took a breath. She reached out and put a hand on Erin's shoulder. "Okay. Being scared, I can do that. No act. But if one of those things looks at you cross-eyed, I'm punching it to next Tuesday, got that?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
Erin glanced back toward the Venatores, curious to see if they'd get while the getting was good.
They hadn't. Quite the contrary, Isengrim was rubbing his strange, crimson-engraved rifle with an oiled cloth, smiling as it gleamed. Reynarde, in the meantime, prowled next to him, raising her face to sniff the air from time to time. She saw Erin looking at them, and scowled -- the foxwife seemed to distrust Erin even more since being given liver. Isengrim followed his wife's gaze and spotted Erin. He grinned, and then he tipped her a wink. The Venatores were up to something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Underwood
"So. I would like to get you to Othello. What do you say?"
Cinder gave Underwood a long, hard look. She did not conceal her scars now, and so it was rather like being judged by Hel, the Goddess of the Dead. Given that Cinder could render Underwood dead in short order, this was apropos. Then, still tense as a cat, she nodded.

"I think you confuse me a lot." Cinder said, then blew out a breath. Some of the tension bled out of the werewolf now. "But I won't take you up on it. Not if the others don't come as well."

"Arcadia is dangerous. Fine. I'll live long enough to get to Othello, because that's my fate. And for you, I'll talk to Othello before I kill him." Cinder was not bending on this point. She smiled for a moment, and it was a surprisingly cheerful smile. "But I don't expect to make it out of Arcadia. If the others don't come with us, then that leaves you in the middle of Arcadia all alone. And I won't have that on my conscience."

"So. Let's see what your friends have to say."

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
Heather took a breath. She reached out and put a hand on Erin's shoulder. "Okay. Being scared, I can do that. No act. But if one of those things looks at you cross-eyed, I'm punching it to next Tuesday, got that?"
"I'd rather we both ran," Erin murmured. On impulse, she returned the hand-on-shoulder gesture, then pulled herself into a full-fledged hug. It was a bit like hugging a battery, she supposed. There was just so much life, so much vitality, humming inside Heather's compact frame. She didn't feel like a Fetch. Not something this alive. "I love you guys. You are my friends. You are my family. And She... She is going to go after all of you, because I love you, and you are mine, and she will try to break you all and take you away. So, whatever happens in there, all that matters, is that we get out alive and Unchanged. Don't worry about me, just so long as I still have my family, and they are still happy."

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
The Venatores were up to something.
Erin decided she didn't like this one bit.

Heather was quickly pulled back to the big group, which was quickly pulled into its own huddle - given the amount of huddling going on, this was not passing strange - though it was more of a semi-huddle, with everyone only close enough that they could talk without much opportunity to be overheard. "I don't like the fact they have not left yet," Erin said to her group. "It means they are up to something, and 'something' is not good when they are slavers and privateers. Even if they are just sticking around to give Cinder the bill, we don't want to stay on this High Road any longer. The Gentry travel this way, so we are not going to. Seryozha, get Beat to start looking for a path off the road. Anyone else can help, but we'd better keep an eye on Venatores. If they try anything funny to harm us, Mary, break that gun. That thing can shoot through people's souls, and you only promised not to hurt them, not their stuff." Erin's eyes twinkled slightly. "It may even be worth turning off the contracts in the area, Heather, if extreme. It will be awful for us and worse for them. But that is likely something we wish to save for the Masters."

She glanced over her shoulder again at Venatores.
Wits+Wyrd vs Isengrim's Composure vs Wyrd:
Dice Roll:
9d10s8e
d10 Results: 4, 5, 1, 4, 2, 9, 6, 4, 3 (Total Successes = 1)
Cupid's Eye - Desire at Forefront of Target's mind
I'm not even dignifying that first one with a response:
Dice Roll:
9d10s8e
d10 Results: 8, 6, 2, 1, 6, 7, 5, 7, 9 (Total Successes = 2)
Cupid's Eye - Desire at Forefront of Target's mind

<Sasha,> she murmured in Russian. <I waive your promise against harm, until we are away from those Hunters.>

She switched back to English.

"Let us try to avoid a fight at all costs. Violence attracts the Masters. I doubt we can take our sledge with us onto a smaller path, so let us grab the remaining barrels and get moving. I'll go fetch Mr. Underwood."

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"So. Let's see what your friends have to say."
Erin approached. She did her best to look nonthreatening (not hard), but she was definitely moving at a restless, insectile pace.

"No offense to you, Miss, but your companions are up to something odd and I don't much trust them," Erin said, with a polite nod and half curtsy to Cinder. "It's not safe to linger this deep in the Hedge - we'd like to get moving as fast as possible."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Pleasant
"Arcadia is dangerous. Fine. I'll live long enough to get to Othello, because that's my fate. And for you, I'll talk to Othello before I kill him. But I don't expect to make it out of Arcadia. If the others don't come with us, then that leaves you in the middle of Arcadia all alone. And I won't have that on my conscience. So. Let's see what your friends have to say."
Okay, so Cinder had said "conscience," which was vaguely promising. Underwood gave a two-hands-open shrug and a smile. "This, I can live with. Come on."

He turned around, about to lead her over to the main group, then realized that Erin was suddenly right in front of him. The height difference may have been a factor, here. "Whoa, sister. Didn't see you there."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"No offense to you, Miss, but your companions are up to something odd and I don't much trust them," Erin said, with a polite nod and half curtsy to Cinder. "It's not safe to linger this deep in the Hedge - we'd like to get moving as fast as possible."
"Yeah, I think all of us are of one mind when it comes to the Bobbsey Twins over there. I ran the setup we talked about past Miss Pleasant, kid, and she's all for it -- including ditching the escort." Underwood glanced sideways at the Venatores, and grimaced. "Yeesh. Those are not the faces of people who aren't planning to sell us into eternal servitude, I tell you that much."

Back to Erin and Cinder. "Either of you get a psychic read on them, if you can do that? Regardless, I'm with Miss Lamothe on this one. We've got to get away while the getting's good."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"Let us try to avoid a fight at all costs. Violence attracts the Masters. I doubt we can take our sledge with us onto a smaller path, so let us grab the remaining barrels and get moving. I'll go fetch Mr. Underwood."
"Will do." Sasha said laconically, while Mary Mack picked up a keg in each arm. Even without the bloodborne strength she could sometimes command, Mack was still perfectly capable of jogging with a hundred pounds of weight under each arm. This would not be a problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"No offense to you, Miss, but your companions are up to something odd and I don't much trust them," Erin said, with a polite nod and half curtsy to Cinder. "It's not safe to linger this deep in the Hedge - we'd like to get moving as fast as possible."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Underwood
"Either of you get a psychic read on them, if you can do that? Regardless, I'm with Miss Lamothe on this one. We've got to get away while the getting's good."
Cinder turned to the Venatores, and her gaze grew distant for a moment, even as she sniffed the air. Then the werewolf laughed, a mirthless sort of sound. "You're giving them too much credit. They are considering betrayal, that's all. Or perhaps profit yet. They won't go to Arcadia, but they know something will happen on this road... perhaps they can rob us when we leave, or offer to guide us back through the Hedge. Whatever the looks best at the time."

"Fine. I don't care to stay here any longer than you do." Cinder said, straightening suddenly. "Let's go."

"If something will happen on this road, it is a good thing we intend not to travel it," Erin said. "Let us find a better path. Then we can talk."

Dice Roll: 5d10s8e
d10 Results: 7, 8, 6, 2, 2 (Total Successes = 1)
Assisting whomever is rolling the real survival roll, Heather or Beat I guess

"You ought to go home," Erin said simply, as she wandered along the edge of the thorns. "You've had your revenge. You just won't accept it. You've destroyed him, and all of us, besides."

"Well. You have your reasons. You don't realize, what it's like there. You want to kill him with your own hands. You shant, so I won't argue it with you. But where we are going is a place you haven't been, and don't understand. I don't think you can understand. To do so would require you to know far more fear... you don't seem like the kind who is often afraid." Erin glanced back over her shoulder.

"But it is a dangerous place. And it is my friends and family we are gambling with, should this all go wrong. And they shant likely be given even the mercy of death, if they are captured. Not a quick one. So. Mr. Underwood and I, we will tell you things about the place we are going, and ask you to listen. I ask you to follow our lead, because we have lived there, and you have not. This is fair?"

Underwood looked back at the Venatores, shivered, then tugged his hat brim down and followed along behind Erin, shooting her a quick response: "Easy there, sister. Miss Pleasant knows the score."

He went on talking to Cinder in a low voice. "I'd put it different, but I'll give her that last bit. As far as you working through your own feelings and coming to terms, this is your show. But you asked for guides, and you came up with a couple that know the turf, and know how to get you there healthy. We trust you, you trust us. And me, I like the sound of that."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"Mr. Underwood and I, we will tell you things about the place we are going, and ask you to listen. I ask you to follow our lead, because we have lived there, and you have not. This is fair?"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Underwood
"But you asked for guides, and you came up with a couple that know the turf, and know how to get you there healthy."
"That's fair." Cinder said simply. The werewolf was happy enough to just be moving again, in the right direction. If the price for this was to be lectured by the two changelings, it was a price that Alice Pleasant was perfectly willing to pay. "What do I need to know?"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The trod that ran alongside the High Road was a small and cramped thing, only wide enough for one person to walk abreast at a time. To every side of you were the towering Thorns, every scratch capable of stealing a little bit of your soul away. You were close to Arcadia know. It was in the very air, sharp and pungent. Once, you heard the rattle of wagon wheels on the other side of the Thorns.

An hour later, the path turned, and you heard the roar of an engine as someone hurtled down the path at breakneck speeds. They stopped just before you, and you saw something quite out of place in the depths of the Hedge. It was the Horseman.

He rode a motorcycle, wreathed in fire and gleaming black, its headlight a single bloody eye. He was dressed in black, a black leather jacket, black leather pants, and gloves that covered his arms. His head was half-transparent, only a shadowy suggestion, like smoke floating in a room, though his eyes and mouth gleamed like fire. There was an iron collar around his neck, and a shotgun resting in a holster alongside a sheathed cavalry sabre.

"You are who?" The Horseman, the Autumn King, whispered in a graveyard voice.


Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"That's fair." Cinder said simply. "What do I need to know?"
"Follow the stories," Erin said, hovering anxiously behind her hidden mortals. The thorns ripped more then flesh, they ripped human souls, and her humans had torn enough souls already. Her explanation was as much for them as for Alice.

"Stay by our side. Tell nothing your name. Eat nothing. Drink nothing. Touch as few things as you can manage. Take nothing you have not been fairly given, and even then, be cautious taking it at all. Be polite to everything you meet. Do not venture into the library without a light. Cover your face. I will make masks for those who need it, but the Mistress' servants will know you do not belong the moment they see you. You must mask yourself if we are to get inside."

It could have been better organized. But that made things a little too easy. Give the hothead three rules she absolutely must not break, and she'd promptly break all three in a row, and then die. It was a classic story of a villain who met a foolish end. Villain or not, Cinder was doing everything she could to paint a target on her back.

"Arcadia does not work as you wish it to," she continued, squeezing her wings tightly around her, to avoid the thorns. "In your world, the contracts and rules are set. Food nourishes. Fire warms. Wood breaks. You need do nothing to have these privileges. But God does not show his face upon Faerie. It is a different realm, and so the rules that are there do not apply to you. You may as well not exist to anything in Faerie, and if it feels like it, it will ignore you. This is how it is. You will have to make your own bargains, if you want to be a part of that world."

"Promise nothing to the Masters," Erin hissed, looking over her shoulder. "Promise next to nothing to their servants."

"Kill nothing while in Arcadia," she said. "Oh no, not even your father. For you see, sometimes they die, sometimes they do not. Cut a girl's heart out with a knife, and it beats still, and she lives still, though she is now empty and hollow. Cut a man's head off, and replace it with tin, and he will walk and talk and speak just as he did before. Always, though, violence attracts the Masters. What will you do when you rip out his heart and it still beats, when you rip off his head but it still weeps, when you break every bone in his body, but still he does not die? What will you do, when the Mistress comes?"

"I'll only ask you for one thing." The moth dropped her voice, pitching it lower to avoid being eavesdropped on. "One promise. If the Mistress comes, if the Gentry come - you take Mr. Underwood, you run. You get him somewhere safe. Whatever else may be there, whatever it takes, whatever else you want, you run and get him out of there. He had nothing to do with getting caught up in this. He has no reason to be here still. You and I know that. He's no revenge to follow, no old friend to rescue. He's along because he's a good man, and he'll stick with us until the end. But it's not right for him to die in this place, for no reason, because he was good enough not to abandon us. Surely we can agree on that?"

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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"You are who?" The Horseman, the Autumn King, whispered in a graveyard voice.
Erin deeply bowed. "Your majesty, Lord of Autumn" she said.

This was a cue for the other, less politically savvy people here to also bow. Even if it required some shoving to get the point across.

"I am Erin Lamothe, of the Spring," the moth answered. "And... er... my entourage."

This was not entirely accurate, but it was ten times easier than trying to actually explain.




 

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