Wonderland, Scene V (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

Cinder listened to everything that Erin said, committing it all to memory. Sometimes she asked Erin to repeat herself, but that aside she asked few questions. The uncertainty of death was not something she was pleased to hear. At all.

"Fine." Cinder said at great length. The werewolf stuffed her hands in her pockets as she walked, and there was a frankly mutinous look in her eye. "If what you say is true... then I promise."



Originally Posted by Erin
"I am Erin Lamothe, of the Spring," the moth answered. "And... er... my entourage."
"One fearsome, you I know." The Horseman whispered, still blocking the road. Dressed in black, the Horseman looked less like a changeling and more like some uncanny personification of doom, waiting for someone to befall. "Not yet, court-of-my-court."

The others bowed, with greater or less eagerness. Even proud Cinder bent her back, while Heather was staring at the Horseman with undisguised interest. She liked motorcycles.

"Going you are where?"

Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"I'll only ask you for one thing. 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?"
Underwood colored -- well, "colored," anyway -- and gave Erin a concerned pat on the shoulder. While he got that she had intended this as a "get Cinder out of the way in case of Gentry attack" stratagem, he wasn't entirely comfortable with the "while I distract the bad guys by dying horribly" subtext.

"Easy there, kid. We're hauling you out of there with us if we need a butterfly net to do it." He pitched his voice for Cinder. "Kid would throw herself in front of a Pontiac to stop you stubbing your toe. Sacrifice I can get behind, but unnecessary sacrifice…"

He shivered a bit, by way of punctuation.


Originally Posted by The Rider
"You are who?"
By the way Underwood had been gearing up, he was prepped to say something like "J.T. Underwood and his Howling Commandos." Erin had gotten to the introductions first, though.

Originally Posted by The Rider
"Going you are where?"
A hat-tip, and a bow. "J.T. Underwood, your Majesty, Court Reporter of Winter -- and glad to know you. We seek Othello, of New Jerusalem; been tracking him here for days. Have you seen him?"

The Horseman regarded Underwood with neither favor nor condemnation. He was silent, and the Hedge was silent about him. The Horseman was a changeling long gone, powerful and tied to the Wyrd, even as his sanity was frayed and fractured. But the Hedge obeyed him, even so close to Arcadia. And so... there was not a sound. Not a whisper, not a flicker of sound or motion.

At length, the Horseman nodded. He had seen Othello. Yet still, the Horseman blocked the path.

Well. A conversational partner that was being rude and creepy without actively displaying animus. Best to ignore the first two qualities while focusing on the third -- after all, it had worked with Cinder. Underwood smiled pleasantly, as if he was talking to someone who wanted to talk back.

"Swell! If you don't mind me asking, Your Majesty, where was he at the time?"

"Arcadia to road the upon." The Horseman said in a sepulchral whisper. Perhaps it was your collective imaginations, but the Horseman's speech was getting stranger all the time.

Cinder shifted uneasily. Her patience for bizarre conversations was a little short today, after the debate at the edge of the High Road. Nearby, Heather and Sasha carefully concealed expressions of perplexity. They'd met the Jack-of-Crows, as it were, but the former Autumn King was a pillar of sanity in comparison to the Horseman. Sergei just accepted it. He'd seen stranger with Erin. Mary Mack alone seemed not at all put out. Of course, she was also looking towards Erin for instructions to rip the Horseman's head off (this was meant literally), so perhaps this was for the best.

"May we please get by?" Erin asked, giving Underwood a vague look.

The Horseman considered this for a long moment, and then drew a pouch from the inside pocket of his leather jacket. It was an odd sort of pouch, because it was threaded through with iron wire, cold and grey. He threw the pouch to Erin, who discovered that it was heavy.

Inside it were twelve golden coins, each bearing on their face an inhumanly beautiful woman, whose image twisted and turned when looked upon. On the obverse was a castle, and it too seemed to shift, strange runes and sigils bubbling up on the carved walls, before disappearing. Also in the pouch was a small set of scales, made of pure white metal.

"One of these will see you past the Gatekeeper. Which, I know not. Magic with filled, glamoured and cursed are one but all." "Gatekeeper the past, you see will these of one." The Horseman whispered. He shifted his motorcycle to the side, allowing you to pass, if you so chose. "Flame truth's with burn they, scales the beware."

Addendum to avoid Set Theory: The Real Coin is now heavier than the fake ones.

Underwood cast a baleful look at the coins, and grumbled evocatively. "…Math."

Bee-beep! Sparky peeked out of the reporter's jacket pocket. Underwood looked a bit thoughtful, tapping his chin once. "Huh. Now you mention it…"

He turned to the rest of the group: "Excuse us for a moment." There followed an adorable, several-minutes-long conference, with Underwood kneeling down by the coins next to Sparky to hash out ideas. On Underwood's part, this meant spirited discussion at a low mutter; on Sparky's, it meant a complicated player-piano-on-random MIDI sequence, ample dancing around, and what looked like Microsoft Excel.

"Okay." Underwood stood up, extending his hand for Sparky to clamber up and into -- the phone apparently wanted a good angle for presentation. "I'm going to let my partner do the talking on this, since it's his ballgame; if I get the translation wrong, that's on me."

The phone chittered away on his palm, flicking through charts, as Underwood summarized in short bursts. "He says a good way to think about it is number the coins from one to twelve. First weighing, we should do four coins against four coins: it doesn't matter which ones specifically, but, say -- not now, buddy -- 1 through 4 on the left against 5 through 8 on the right. If the left side is heavier, the odd coin's on that side and we're going to weigh coins 1 through 4 next; if the right side is heavier, we're going to weigh 5 through 8 next for the same reason. If both sides are the same, then the odd coin's one of 9 through 12, so we weigh those next -- not now."

"Whichever way it comes out, he says, we've got four coins we're weighing next, one of which is the heavy bit. So first weigh two of those versus the other two, pick the heavier side, and weigh one of those coins versus the other, to pick the heaviest. That's three weighs total -- now hold on just a second -- no matter which way you slice it."

He exhaled, glancing at Sparky, and addressing what the phone had apparently been bringing up at intervals the whole time. "Also…he says can he say hi to Miss Pleasant, because she looks nice."

This was possibly a charitable paraphrase of what Sparky had said, but the phone was clearly enthusiastic about it, jumping in Underwood's hand and beeping happily. The reporter looked at Cinder. "Miss Pleasant?"

Erin chuckled at Sparky, then busied herself with the scales. Just in case Cinder didn't find the little guy as charming as she ought to. Being burned by the fire of truth seemed preferable, somehow.

She blew out a deep breath, and then, very reluctantly, beckoned to her two mafiosos. They had the dubious honor of being the people that could be healed for the lowest price, which meant the had the more dubious honor of performing the weighing. She knew she'd burn to death if she tried it on her own. But it chafed every fiber of her being.

She squeezed both their hands, and then turned to caress Sergei's cheek. He was getting rather unshaven.

"I am... trying to accept what you two say," she said, giving a brittle smile. "To willingly ask you to share in my dangers, my pain... but I don't have to like it, do I?" she asked, plaintively.

Let's fry ourselves as per Sparky's instructions and get moving :P


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