Log:Cat-22 - Another Public Meeting

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Cat-22 - Another Public Meeting

"Can we maybe narrow the discussion?..."


C.B., Cerise, Dross, Kiril, November, Olenka, Sigrun, Uschi, Vorpal, and Zhenya.

Cerise as ST.

12 February, 2018

Cerise Hodgson calls another meeting at Cat-22, to follow up on the whole Children of the Suns situation - the attempt to get Freeholders and Unaffiliated to discuss the matter goes... Somewhere?


Cat-22 Collective

Tonight, it's Cerise's job to host the meeting and the mortal has done so by setting up the room as before. She's also brought refreshments in the form of heart-shaped cookies, coffee, tea, diet cokes, and water. There's not alcohol out on display, but this being Cat-22, there's doubtless some in the fridge. As changelings enter, Cerise is standing by the mike stand, leaning on the back of her chair in her typical jeans/sweater casual prep get-up.

As with the first meeting, Sigrun has brought along a growler of mead. A growler from which she's already poured herself a pint. She's dressed in skirt and leggings combo, favoring warmth over fashion. A long sleeved blouse over a tank top rounds out the look. Functional stuff, if a bit more feminine than is her usual day wear. Perhaps her idea of 'dressing up' for the meeting. She's got her backpack with her again, which means her notepad and lecture recorder are probably close at hand. She offers a rosy-cheeked smile to Cerise as she takes her sight, "We meet again."

Uschi is already here -- looming over in yonder corner, dressed in grimy set of patched up jeans and leather/denim vest over a series of mildewing long-underwear, moth eaten t-shirts, and a green-n-umber flannel which, quite possibly, has blood all over one sleeve. It's the left one. Uschi doesn't notice.

The Ogress is crumbling bits of heart shaped cookies into an inner pocket of that vest. Occasionally something squirms -- is that her boob? Is she crumbling cookies onto her breast? Only if Uschi's boob makes a whispery hissing/chirp noise now and then. Stranger things have happened.

As other fae filter in, Uschi... Barely looks up, and most certainly says nothing -- she remains an effortlessly unsettling pillar of feral neutrality. How sociable of her.

Well, C.B. is here, but he's /often/ here. He comes trudging up the stairs, clad in red and black plaid flannel, jeans, and work boots. Normal. He grunts and nods to the others already in the room as he makes a beeline straight for the fridge. Yes, there is always a stash of Narragansett Lager in that fridge, and probably some other stuff. He takes out a can for himself, cracks it open, and gets right to drinking. That's what meetings are for, right?

Sometime after the Wizened, Dross drifts in from downstairs. On this clear, gelid evening, the Darkling is dressed in a gray silk shirt, black vest, black trousers, and black shoes. Sleeves rolled back; white gold pin shaped like a sword slicing through a stylized knot fastened through a buttonhole near his collar. A long, grayish-blue scarf hangs from his neck, worn open indoors. He takes a quick look around the room and settles on a chair near the door.

Cerise continues to lean casually as people enter, watching all with a neutral expression. Although she does give a nod of acknowledgment to Sigrun, and follows with a question, "Would you mind taking minutes for me?" Once the room looks like it's filled up, Cerise straightens, grabs the mic stand, and moves to the front of the room. "Hi all, I'd like to thank you all for coming. If you weren't here for the last meeting, we're here to discuss the situation with the Children of the Sun, is everyone familiar with what's going on? We can have ..." Cerise pauses as her eyes sweep the room. They land on Uschi first, but her nose wrinkles, "We can have C.B. give a summary if it's needed?"

Headscarf, check. Oversized sunglasses, also check. Trenchcoat, very check. Olenka is incognito. Not that she tends to be so memorable as to need a disguise or anything, and she didn't go so far as to conceal her legs. Those are the same, all long and would be practically glowing white were they not clad in dark stockings and leather boots that reach her knees. Like the previous occasion, she filters in on her own, after practically everyone else has shown up and finds a place to lurk unobtrusively in the back with a nice, solid wall securely and comfortingly behind her.

Click. The lecture recorder is turned on and, one must assume, begins to record. Sigrun sets it down near her chair, flips open her steno pad, and begins taking notes with her pen. She was present before, and looks up at Cerise when prompted, shaking her head in the negative. No need for her sake.

C.B.'s eyes flit to the 'incognito' Olenka as she comes in, and he frowns. What's /that/ about? His frown only deepens when Cerise tries to get a summary out of him. "No, no, this is /your/ meeting. You give the goddamn summary. You think I remember what happened two hours ago, much less two days ago?" He takes a swig of beer, leaning up against the counter with his arms folded.

Uschi is oblivious to Cerise's nose-wrinkle -- or is she? Because the Ogress is slowly lumbering on over, her dirty bare feet making soft, heavy thump, thump, thump as she goes to loom about fifteen inches behind and to the right of the Mortal woman. She sniffs in twice. Something squeaks, and Uschi crumbles the last few bits of non-anatomically correct heart cookie into her vest. It wriggles accordingly.

Finally Uschi looks up, and around the room -- iridescent eyes flickering from folk to folk, as she... Remains quiet, no helping with any of the summary or contributing to the conversation; save for the soft, raggedy pull of her breath. Yeah. Totally sociable.

Cerise wobbles the microphone towards C.B. in case the man shows a sign of taking it and when he refuses, her eyes narrow in his direction before she lifts it to her lips. "Right, so just to make sure that we're on the same page, The Children of the Sun are a cult of radical changelings who have been raised to worship a Fae. They were discovered because that Fae struck a deal with Neirin that protected freeholders, but left those of us not pledged to the freehold exposed. During a quest to find more information about that Fae, we came across two of the cultists beating a mortal woman. Apparently, the mortal woman had helped with a kidnapping?" Cerise looks to Uschi for confirmation on that, even though it's unlikely the ogre will actually manage to clarify anything.

Then Cerise turns towards the room and takes a breath before continuing, "Again, we're here to decide what to do next. On the agenda, I have a question about the mortal woman and what happened to her, a suggestion that we attempt to rehabilitate some of the cultists, and of course, there is still the original danger, the Fae, on the loose. But before then, I believe there was a meeting of the Freehold and some things were decided that may affect our discussion tonight?" Cerise looks to Sigrun questioningly and waves the mic in her direction.

Dross remains silent, unmoving except for his eyes, which glance from person to person around the room. At the sight of Uschi feeding red crumbs into her vest, a gleam of something like amusement passes briefly through the pale blue of his gaze. Then Cerise starts to speak and his attention shifts to the dark-haired mortal.

Uschi opens her mouth, when Cerise turns to her for confirmation -- but before the Farwalker can get a word out, the Mortal woman is talking over her and continuing. ...Hmm. Uschi doesn't move /much/, but there's a sort of, uh... Huh. Intensification? Is that even possible? All that happens is her stance widens, and the six-foot-something of Ogress with the blood-covered sleeve leans in closer to Cerise -- and snorts. Very softly.

So. Business as usual. Uschi's jacket has stopped squirming. The Ogress probably has something to contribute - right? But she's tilting a horn to look over Cerise's head, and to Sigrun -- blank faced and impassive.

Olenka probably, totally isn't spying. A real spy wouldn't take their sunglasses off. That's essential spy gear, after all. She does though, as Cerise begins to talk she pushes them up atop her head and brushes absently at the dark fringe of bangs hiding her eyebrows. After that, her hands are lightly clasped together before her, her arms go lank and loose and she slowly returns to an almost complete, statue-like stillness. It's just the odd blink from her after that, the gentle rise and fall of her chest and the slow, soft tendrils of mist that seep out of her mouth.

Sigrun rises to her feet when prompted to do so, and despite the small crowd, does accept the offer of the podium and the microphone before she addresses the room. "Good evening, everyone. I know most of you, but for those I haven't met yet, I am Sigrun Ljosdottir of the Charmed Circle, Arrayer of Distant Thunder for the local Summer Court within Fate's Harvest. I had the honor of speaking with the winter crown both at Court and after. He's asked me to convey to you all his thanks for your feedback, feedback he and the council welcome. He wants you all to know that there exists within the structure of the Freehold a means to petition for both redress and alteration of both custom and law, such as laws regarding the treatment those who come under the mercies of the Freehold's justice. Those wishing to effect such changes would find it easier to do so as members of the freehold, of course. Hopefully this evening will provide us with additional ideas that I can present to the crown."

Sigrun then segues, shifting her weight to her other foot. "As to the decisions of the Freehold Meeting? The crown and council feel that, insofar as the Children of the Sun present no danger to the Freehold or any other Lost within our area, acting against them in any organized fashion would be a waste of resources, time, and energy. The Freehold is engaged in numerous other activities, such that dedicating additional resources to this matter is unwise. Harbingers and Seers put to the matter were able to confirm that the Children of the Sun do not, in fact, present any immediate threat. They are not looking for us, they do not know we exist, they are not even looking for those that were killed as a result of the unfortunate events in the Hedge that led to their death and capture. While the circumstances of captive birth of human cattle is morally repugnant, addressing it directly would be an enormous risk and likely lead to enormous loss of innocent life as the people we would be trying to liberate took up arms against us."

"I will do my best to answer any questions regarding this information, should you all have any." She places her hands on the podium and scans the crowd, waiting.

Cerise blinks as she finds Uschi standing over her and although she's attempting to let Sigrun speak and trying not to interrupt people, she leans over to whisper to Uschi softly, even though her eyes never leave Sigrun while she's talking. When Sigrun finishes, Cerise nods all very polite, "Thank you, I may have questions as the evening goes on, and I think others probably do, too, but first ...?" Cerise takes the mic again and offers it questioningly in Uschi's direction.

C.B. seems to be listening closely to Sigrun: blue-silver eyes glued to her face, narrowed and skeptical as they are. "Tell your King Charlie that, the idea of pledging onself to a monarchy being a repulsive concept aside, some of us will never join Fate's Harvest so long as there's a death pledge," he says. Then he changes tactic, shifting his position against the counter as well. "What I'm curious about most is you, Sigrun. If you're a member of the Freehold, why do you care what a bunch of outliers and outcasts do, hmm?" Then he adds, "And Freehold aside, what's /your/ opinion about the Children of the Sun? Do you agree with your crown and council's decision not to pursue the matter?

"My motives for attendance are not the subject of tonight's meeting, C.B. Nor, I think, will I be allowing you to distract the discussion from matters more pertinent than my presence at an open invitation meeting at an establishment with posted Hospitality." Sigrun answers C.B. directly, her expression as calm as the arctic ice. She does, however, address the pertinent bits. "I will convey your concerns regarding the sanctions of breaking one's oath of fealty. My opinion was swayed last meeting by Uschi. She's right. Making trouble with those who mean us none, coupled with the prospect of having to kill even more people like the woman I excecuted seems exceedingly dangerous. To the freehold, to my sanity, and to the people we would be trying to save." Sigrun then glances aside at Cerise with a look of apology. "I'll cede the floor now. Thank you, Cerise."

Uschi looks towards Olenka, as the mysterious-woman-of-indeterminate-Seeming takes her glasses off. Shadow moves across Uschi's face -- hiding her expression, but causing her eyes to glint like she were some nocturnal animal. No comment is made, no gesture of greeting either - the Moon simply reaches into her vest with her singularly working hand, and... Is she scratching her boob?

Also grumbling; a sniffing, hacking, grunting kind of grumble -- like Uschi's got a bad taste in her mouth; ironic, since she's probably /all/ bad taste, right? There's a wet sucking and popping sound, as the Ogress tries to worry something out of her oversized teeth. It just-so-happens to coincide with Sigrun's very thorough explanation of Freehold's Stance On Things.

It ends with a bark of incredulous amusement, as the Farwalker pads around the outer circle of chairs - slow, loping gait asymmetrical, dipping as she passes by Dross, but she doesn't dally. Mouth shadowed, when she turns to look at those gathered it's hard to read Uschi's expression, but those eyes are narrowed.

"This ain't ever been 'bout what to do with them who worship some God inna Hedge; said it to y'all last time, we ain't gonna get nothin' but wasted time, following that. And this ain't 'bout no police-y down in Tamarack Falls. This's 'bout what we do, to guide folk home." Uschi's vest squirms, but she ignores the activity. What does she have hidden in there? Ruddy right hand is lifted and flicked in Sigrun's direction, as she murmurs low. "You'd do good to go get some Flickerfruit, gi'l; with a frost like that, yer comin' 'cross like you ain't ever walked inna Legate of Mists."

Cerise's eyes dart between C.B. and Sigrun as words are exchanged between them. When Sigrun sits again, Cerise says, "I said that I suspected people would have questions for you, we're here to discuss things and the relationship with the freehold /is/ something to be discussed."

Cerise gives her head a curt nod, before looking back to Uschi, "But right now, let's focus on Uschi's suggestion, only, Uschi, can you clarify more what you're talking about?" Yes, Cerise winces as she asks Uschi to clarify, because when has Uschi ever brought carity? "If you're not talking about rehabilitating Children of the Sun, who are you talking about? Just ... anyone? Aren't there already procedures for that?"

Dielle comes upstairs. She's wearing a hoodie with the Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse on the back. There's a big, two-hand-type pocket on the front, which she has a hand in. The other hand is holding her black wool coat. There's something moving in the big sweatshirt pocket. Once upstairs, she looks to see who's sitting where. She tips her hat at the assemblage and goes to claim a seat near Sigrun. And then she stays quiet to listen for a while. She appears to be petting something in the pocket.

C.B.'s lips purse. Clearly he has more to say about -- a number of things, but he's not running this meeting. He doesn't pound on the counter and demand to be heard; he simply leans back and works on his beer. His eyes move to the door as Dielle appears. He gives her a brief nod, but then his focus returns to Uschi.

Sigrun settles back down into her chair and crosses her legs at the knee. She takes a sip of her glass of mead and turns her attention to Uschi as the ogre speaks. "I'll take that under advisement, Uschi, thank you." Another sip of her mead. Dielle's entrance merits a glance and a nod of the head, "Good evening, Captain Heller."

Black ensemble, ultraviolet trenchcoat trending iridescent, and a red-hydrogen swirl of hair announce Zhenya following some minutes behind Dielle. Surprise, no fluffy Malamute trimmed in black and silver-white heralds her, and no wintery soldier accompanies the tall woman. Her hands clasp that omnipresent tea flask, as steady a presence around her as the peculiar absence of any overt mantle. A glance about to the assembled participants warrants a deep dip of her head, the snow crusted on her mittens endangering anything papery or sensitive to the cold. Better for everyone for her to go seeking somewhere to sit.

Olenka returns Uschi's look with a steady, unperturbed stare. Her eyes look like they have a fresh skim of ice over them, with a dewy, melt water shine at the corners which might explain the frozen tear streaks down her cheeks. There's no flash in them, no challenge, just a deep well of sorrow. Maybe she should have kept her sunglasses on. Her expression, flat, shifts from fully resigned disinterest to something approaching, maybe, kind of, sorta thoughtful with a tiny press of her lips. She looks away only when more people arrive, and standing at the back as she is, she hears them first and turns to observe their arrival.

"I believe," says Dross, pale gaze moving from Uschi to Cerise, C.B., Sigrun, Olenka, and the newly-arrived Dielle and Zhenya, "that Uschi is making something like a declaration of universal rights for Changelings. For new Lost, in particular." Here, he looks back at the Ogress again. "She appears to be concerned with establishing the rights -- and the 'right' ways of treating -- /new/ Lost, in particular." Voice low and level enough to hang a picture straight by.

Uschi snorts, and turns to look at Cerise after the Mortal woman questions her. Slowly, she shakes her head -- but does she comment on the /obvious/ gap in cultural cues and communication that's going on? No. No she does not - instead she turns and looks at Sigrun, her singularly working hand still burrowing around in her vest.

"...Under advise-mint? What part, speci-ticularly?" The Moon asks the Summer. A flake of something papery falls out of the blood-stained left sleeve of Uschi's filthy flannel shirt, although her Very Dead Arm does not move. The right one does, though - as a small, scruffy, mean-faced and stunted opossum crawls out of her battle vest and starts climbing over Uschi's shoulder and head and horns.

The Ogress doesn't blink. She merely snorts out through her nose -- and then... Wait. Dross is talking. The only confirmation that Uschi has been listening, is a loosening of her ruddy right hand as her fingers relax out of a fist.

"Oh! Okay." Cerise seems to be a lot more clued in to things once Dross translates for Uschi. The mortal even seems to be approving of the idea, "I'll open the floor then to discussion on the treatment of newly found changelings and general discussion of the treatment that they should expect?"

"Flickerfruit," Sigrun answers Uschi amicably. "The rest I'll report back to the council and crown as I had promised them." She toasts the ogress with her mead and has another sip of it, unruffled. "It's the ideas about how to improve treatment of, for lack of a better word, 'prisoners' that I was hoping would come out of this meeting. And last meeting. What could be done differently to avoid the prior events happening again in the future. I'm genuinely interested in hearing what you all suggest."

Dielle gets an odd look on her face, as she listens to what's being discussed, one of disbelief. She keeps petting the kitten in her pocket. She leans over and whispers something to Sigrun, with a nod towards her cup. It's just loud enough to be overheard. "What are you drinking and is it alcoholic?" It's a hopeful whisper.

"Mead," Sigrun whispers back, pointing to the growler she brought with her, resting on the refreshment table.

As quiet and discreet as a rainbow ever is, November makes her way up from downstairs, truth veiled beneath a strengthening of the lies she tells the mortal eye. Not a fairy here, nope nope. Totally A Human. Yes. Very Very Human. Just ignore the too-pale skin and too-bright eyes and the way the colours everywhere around her seem to shift to ensure that they are never unfavourable to -her-. This is easy tonight, seeing as her attire consists of white, white, white, more white, and oh yes, airbrushed silver holographic rainbow paint. She has flip-flops, but they aren't on her feet, and once she does get all the way upstairs, she picks a wall to lean on near the door and listen, watching the gathering with neutral and polite interest.

"Any ideas we suggest are for their own sake," C.B. says, looking at Sigrun, "and not only for the Freehold's benefit. Sure, we can work together, but if we wanted to actually join the Freehold, we would've been at Court the other day." Yeah, clearly C.B. has more thoughts on the Freehold, but maybe they'll come back to /that/ later. He drinks more beer and continues. "I like the idea of establishing a declaration of rights for new Lost in the area, one that could be shared by Freeholders and non-Freeholders alike...could be good. I know they often end up here, or at the Wayhouse, and Hospitality's in effect in both places, but if there were designated ambassadors dedicated to helping the newly found...it could work." His head jerks over at the door as November arrives, and his brows go up. This meeting gets curiouser and curiouser.

Pale, and vaguely luminescent as she is, Zhenya brightens whatever seat she chooses to claim. That shall be somewhere not terribly far from Uschi, for remaining in earshot whilst saturating herself in all the fascinating nuances and micro-expressions counts for something. Especially when her tactile grasp of English is far from excellent. Her feet cross beneath her, wedge heels dripping a faint patina of meltwater to circulate when and if she rolls her heel but a little. "Thank you." This to Dross. Never overlook the niceties. The plastic lid on her mug snapped open by a slide of her finger, she preoccupies herself catching tail ends of conversation. That and tail end of an opossum, that warranting a doubly long look than any Lost or mortal so receives from those star-bright eyes burned in effervescent swirls. Opossum has teeth. "He speaks well." She nods to C.B. in passing. Forgive that heavy Slavic accent, unless someone wants to translate for her, the limitations persist. "Those come out from the Thorns do not know of Freehold or non-Freehold. They know fear. Confusion. Despair. No one cares to politics when a refugee." The soft cadence of her voice filters through, terribly low in its mellifluous lilt. "Safety is the first thing. A good way to start, da?"

At the reference to ambassadors, and upon receiving C.B.'s attention, November lifts her fingers in a silent 'hi, ambassador here!' twinkle-wiggle of a wave, but doesn't comment.

"There ain't no lack. They ain't 'prisoners', gi'l - they /folk/, just like you or me." Uschi grunts, turning sharply to eye Sigrun. Does the feral opossum crawling over the Ogress make her seem more or less unsettling? The dried blood stains flaking on the left sleeve of her plaid shirt probably do nothing to make her seem, well... Any less feral than the animal that's clawing at her hair. And yet, Uschi seems capable of speaking, thinking even...

...even if the Moon's reply to C.B. is a grunt. Is that a yes? It comes with an upnod -- then Uschi turns, and peers at Zhenya - her semi-shadowed lips twitch, as if trying to follow wordlessly with what the Fairest is saying. Finally, the Ogress' singularly working hand raises, and she stabs a finger in her direction. "This woman fuckin' gets it, even if the unseasonable chill o' Summer ov'r there don't."

Now that the floor is open, Cerise seems to relax from her moderator and her tone becomes more thoughtful and contemplative. Then C.B. is talking and Cerise's head is bobbing in agreement. "You mean there isn't already people who greet the new Lost? You just hope they show up at this Wayhouse? But I like the declaration idea too, even though I find it hard to believe there's not already a set protocol for treating new Lost." Cerise's eyebrows furrow in thought and her head turns back to Sigrun, "Sigrun, do you think the Freehold might work with us on this? Maybe if you were willing to side with us in helping to persuade this King? I'd be willing to help in that if I could ..."

Dielle tilts her head, then gets up and pours herself some mead. "I think that maybe you should stop claimin' you can read Sigrun's mind or puttin' words in her mouth." She takes a breath. "As far as procedure goes, it's pretty much the same anywhere: whoever meets the new Lost first does their best to help them. We don't treat newcomers like shit and got no reason to. It'd be counter-productive." She retakes her seat and sips from her cup, then says, "Thanks for the booze, Sigrun."

"The Freehold maintains a group of Waykeepers who serve that function. They maintain the Wayhouse you spoke of, and the Hospitality there. They provide care and safety for new Lost, and so forth. They serve the needs of the newly escaped." Sigrun explains this to the room, for those that might not be aware such a role exists. "They also serve an ambassadorial role, have a full working knowledge of law and practice, and so on. So yes, Cerise, there are." Sigrun draws in a slow breath and regards Uschi for a long moment. "If you don't appreciate the difference between a willing Loyalist or Slaver and a willful escapee or refugee, then your ideals may well be the end of you one day. Those who serve the Fae are no folk of mine."

So much for staying quiet. Piffle. Lifting her voice to be heard, November indicates Sigrun with a graceful gesture of one slim, pale hand and introduces herself as, "Waylady November an Nua," for the sake of those who may not know her. "The Wayhouse is for all Changelings and those who know of us. It is a guarantee of safe lodging, and rumours to the contrary, no one is expected to join the Freehold to do so. We make newcomers as comfortable as they can be made, if they are willing to allow us to do so. We teach them. We house them. We feed them. There are comparatively few who arrive in this area directly; typically, we acquire new Changelings as migrants from elsewhere."

"Waykeepers are go-betweens. Do they provide the support newly escaped Lost really need, though?" C.B. nods briefly in Zhenya's direction. "That's what I really want to know. The Freehold shouldn't be so adverse to having outsiders critique it. Begins to make one wonder how much of a tyranny it really is." He drains his beer and opens the fridge again, pulling out another one, which he uses to gesture at November. "Do they have rights, though, apart from whatever Hospitality provides? Does it annoy the King when people start talking about rights?"

Cerise's head bobs in understanding at Sigrun's words and then November speaks and Cerise flashes the rainbow haired changeling an encouraging smile. Her eyes are on November as she responds, and characteristically, Cerise keeps her tone purposefully mild as she does when she knows she's ambling into controversial territory. "I think the concern is that with some new Lost, they may need more help than others. They may become loyalists, not because their true self really is loyal to the Fae, but because their cage is so tight around their mind, they need extra help in freeing themselves."

Dielle stares at C.B. for a moment, then she starts to laugh, like she can't help herself. It's damn near hysterical laughter, with more than a bit of bitterness to it. It goes on for a while, like she seriously can't stop. She finally does stop, and says, "Oh, hot damn, I didn't realize tonight was gonna be a comedy routine!"

"..." Uschi stares back at Sigrun - unmoving, save for where her hair is displaced by that roaming opossum. Her stance, it widens after a moment; her dead arm swinging pendulously at her side, as the Ogress leans forward on the balls of her very bare and very dirty feet, and squints at Sigrun. "Them what grow inna cave, eatin' nothing but shadows, ain't know the truth of flesh -- ain't nothin' fair, 'bout keeping folk blind when all you gotta do is take 'em through Gate of horn, and into that what is really real, so they can cast out them fake gods and dumbness. It were lazy - it were foolish - it were the actions of them who are scared, like a little fledgeling who ain't left the nest, to test the real potential inna flesh."

Uschi sniffs the air in twice - and laughs, horns tilted back as she looks at Sigrun. So. Diplomacy in action, eh? Keeps her from listening into November and Cerise, C.B. and Dielle. Alas.

Tilting her head to regard C.B. in quiet puzzlement, November points out, "Those who are not members cannot, and do not, know all that the Freehold does, Mr. Alexander, though you do benefit from its presence. You are not sworn to the same oaths. What is reasonable to expect of you? What assurances do -we- have that you are not Loyalists, yourselves?" A single russet brow rises, lips quirking to the side in a brief half-smile. "To which rights are you referring?"

Zhenya lapses quiet. One might think she and Kiril have a bank account with a set number of words and no capacity for overdrawing them. Once they're gone, away they go. Her teacup is lifted in somber salute to November, a greeting of a sort, one tempered by black tea in a lavender pinched base that holds a deeper fragrance than floral. For now, few words pass. Listening requires much attention, stitching this way and that between each speaker.

"From all that you say, it's evident," says Dross, looking gradually around at all those present, blue eyes resting briefly on each person, as he speaks through the laughter, "that the Freehold has structures in place for new Changelings. And evident that in the case of the prisoners, these structures failed." Still looking around at the others, he pauses for a moment. Then adds, more quietly even than before, with the likely result that few will hear him, "Likely because they were blind, and never meant to help such persons."

And just like that, Cerise puts her moderator self back on. The mortal woman stands up straight again and eyes Dielle sternly, her voice harder than it usually is, "The last time we met, there was a lot of insults and fighting, and not much got done. Tonight is for productive conversation, not insults or fighting. If you cannot handle that, I would ask you to please leave." She gives Dielle a final, stern look and then attention returns to Dross, C.B., and November, "I'm sorry for the interruption, please continue."

"Right. The equivalent of Blackbird Bishops, but for new Lost. I think Cerise has got the -- " C.B. stops, frowning, as Dielle starts laughing at him. "Something on your goddamn mind, Dielle? By all means, won't you share?"

His cheeks are a touch red, but he keeps his anger in check. Nodding as Uschi speaks. "Prioritizing anyone's rights over anyone else's is always a dangerous game." To November -- he winces at something she says -- he snorts when she says he benefits from its presence. "Yeah, okay. You wanna torture me and find out if I'm a Loyalist? People have been accusing me of that since practically the day I got here. Be my fucking guest." He pauses once Cerise has her moderator hat on, lips pursing again, and then says to Dross, "Yes. Whether or not we know the structures as outsiders, they cleared failed, and that got our attention. That's why we're here."

Sigrun's brow furrows and she looks aside at Cerise, then Dielle, as though making sure she heard that correctly. When Dielle begins to laugh, her composure briefly slips and her mouth scrunches up to reaffirm it. She clears her throat and then asides back to Uschi, "You covered that ground last week, Uschi. And I agreed with you." She then offers to Dross, "The main cause of the breakdown is that we had never encountered captive born Loyalists before. People that had literally never /not/ been in the hedge. Their zealotry was taken as read and dealt with harshly. But. Again. I thought we were going to discuss ideas of what to do differently. What to change. We seem to be rewinding back." She then looks to Cerise, "We're torturers now?" She gestures to Uschi with waning patience.

Dielle eyes Cerise and starts chortling again. Apparently, she found that funny, too. "You want me to take it seriously when someone tells me repeatedly that I'm stupid for joining an organization, then wants to have a say in that organization without joining it. You can't get a tow out of Triple A if you don't buy a membership. Can't shop at Costco without a membership. Why should this be different? Why are you guys so special that you should get to have a say without being a member? There's a reason we join. If you don't want to, that's your call, but you don't get to tell us that we should do things your way without tryin' to change it from the inside."

"You can buy alcohol at Costco with no card here and in Massachusetts." The soft-spoken Russian woman provides that essential detail for all assembled. Go get that Kirkland vodka or other spirits at a fraction of the cost, from the namebrand supplier or distiller, without the pesky annual fee. Everyone is sure to appreciate that, no?

Zhenya. ^^

As the discussion takes a turn, Olenka reaches up and slides her sunglasses down from her bescarfed hair and back into place. With those on, she seems one step further removed from the proceedings, and probably intended as much. Safe in obscurity she returns to that slack limbed stillness of hers, watching and listening. Her last motion is to turn her collar up as if feeling an icy chill coming off the wall behind her, then slide her cold, pale hands deep into her trenchcoat pockets. Whatever thoughts she has about the current topic remain locked up tight, and are possibly being tortured.

"Productive Conversation." This time Cerise's voice is lower, gentler, and directed at C.B. Then Dielle is speaking again and Cerise sighs and looks back at the freeholdless changelings. "Would we like to pause and address that now? /Are/ we trying to force our will on the Freehold? C.B., I know you probably wanted to say something at the beginning, would this be the time to discuss that issue?" Her questions are mild as she generally is, but towards the end she grows stern again, "Look, this could get heated, but yelling at each other doesn't solve anything. Let's focus on the issue, and not on the past or current actions of any one individual."

November flashes Zhenya a brief smile, glancing belatedly toward Cerise. "In an ideal world, we would investigate far more thoroughly than our combined group, Freeholders and unaffiliated, did. The deaths of the strangers was a mutual failure, and a loss to us all. We will all learn."

Dielle is the passion, it seems, because the rainbow is calm, detached and could give Spock a run for his money on smooth expressions this evening. When C.B. speaks again, she shakes her head, strands of many-coloured hair sliding over her shoulders as the motion ripples through its oddly fluid length from scalp to knee. "Mr. Alexander, please. Civility. I have no need to torture you to discern whether or not you are a Loyalist; the freehold pledge assures us that those who serve the Fae will not long survive."

The Totally A Human Waylady tilts her head again, periwinkle eyes fixed on C.B., assuring, "My interest tonight is genuine, however. To which rights -were- you referring? What do you perceive as a fault which we could mend in our treatment of newcomers?"

Uschi merely stares at Sigrun -- looking from her to Dielle when they share a smile, as if the Moon is puzzled by their behaviour. What's so funny? The opossum crawls down to wrap it's weird tail around her neck, and Uschi turns and jerks a thumb in Dielle's direction, asking The Room in general. "What's she on about? You're looking at the sapling, girl. A lot of you are. Rights. We talking about the forest. A wider... What do ya call it..."

The Ogress snaps her fingers a few times, as she paces back and forth. "...Echo-cistern. Rain, river, spring, mist." Meanwhile - does Uschi seem worried about being called a Loyalist? Nah. She's 100 confident she's great. Instead she turns and walks over to Cerise, looming above her as she states, firmly: "No."

"I'm not yellin', ma'am. Sorry, I don't know your name. But I am askin'." Dielle's voice is still calm, she hasn't raised it yet. If anything, she just sounds amused. She sips her mead again, and says, "I'm passionate about what I believe, but I ain't angry. You'd know if I was, I'd likely be standin' on a chair, yelling. I'm not shy about my anger. This ain't what it looks like." Then a kitten sticks its head out of her pocket. It looks around, sniffs the air, then pops back into her pocket. "Hard to be angry when pettin' a kitten."

"Who called you stupid, Dielle? Projecting much? And it's like I said last week --" C.B. pauses, too, eyebrows raised at Cerise. "No, of course we're not trying to do that. But this was never only a Freehold issue. It involved non-Freeholders, like /me/, from the very beginning."

Man. He's so distracted by all of this, he didn't even pick up on Zhenya's potentially very useful tidbit.

"I'm plenty civil, November." He turns to the Waylady next. "All we've been doing is questioning the amount of support new changelings get that goes beyond their feeding, teaching and care. What their fundamental rights look like. What would happen if one of them were a Loyalist. I could talk about the Freehold all day, Cerise," C.B. says to Cerise again, looking unimpressed in general, "but they don't want to hear it. They wrote me off as a dangerous crackpot long ago. I'm not an idiot. I got ears. So maybe this is all completely futile, in the end. You tell me."

"A system which divides persons into classes, some of whom have rights, like members of the Freehold, and others of whom have no rights, inherently, due to their assignation to a given class, such as Loyalists, is a system with no rights for anyone," says Dross. Still speaking just as levelly as before, with no real change in the expression of his face. "Only privileges." He glances once more at November and the others, but then seems to lose interest for the moment in what's being discussed, gaze moving out to the blackout curtain-sealed windows, just as if no one else at all were present.

"Two minutes ago this wasn't for the benefit of the Freehold at all, C.B., and now because you believe we've a set opinion of you, all of this is completely futile. You are exceedingly changeable." Sigrun's brow furrows again as she leans forward onto her knees, placing her chin on her palm. "As you civilly call us torturers to our faces. You may be right. We may not wish to hear from /you/, but since this place-- you have assured us --is not about /you/, had it occurred to you that we might be here to hear from /them/?" A gesture to Uschi, to Dross, to Cerise. "And if you truly felt that your presence alone were of such detriment to your goals here that it would render them defeated, why in the name of thunder are you here then?"

Dielle shakes her head. "Uh...every time I come here, CB, you tell me everyone joining a freehold is stupid. Every time. Why do you think I don't come here? Ain't no one enjoys being called stupid. However, none of you have answered my questions."

Oh, hey! Uschi's looming over her with that possum. Cerise gives the ogress and opossum a nervous look, using Dielle as an excuse to turn away, indicating both Uschi and C.B., "There, as you see, this is not about the Freehold or what the Freehold believs, but what we, here, in this room believe is right. This is about us, all of us, including you. However, we seem to be at a crossroads about what we'd like to discuss. I would put it to a vote, would people rather discuss how we treat new lost or our relationship to the freehold?"

Zhenya unscrews the lid of her cup and looks within. Alas, a limited amount of hot water steeped with a selection of leaves remains. She endorses the Cat-22's tea collection well enough, but she swirls the contents around in hopes that it magically might level off. Alas, no magic tricks there. Back to drinking the remainder.

November listens to the others, and while she glances at Dross, the androgyne doesn't comment, attention drifting back to settle on C.B. again. "Hospitality is hospitality, Mr. Alexander." Although her words say she is speaking to C.B., the slow scan of the room indicates otherwise, periwinkle eyes briefly touching every other person present. "The Wayhouse welcomes all comers, and all are entitled to one full day of respite on the premises. More, if they are willing to pitch in and help with its upkeep. We do not ask if they serve the True Fae. We do not ask if they -are- the True Fae."

Pale hands spread in graceful ambivalence. "Everyone has reasons for their actions. If a member of the Gentry held your child hostage, what would you -not- do, to protect them? How could you -not- serve as a 'Loyalist', however temporarily such service might be? It is not our place to judge. It is our place to determine whether and how much of a threat those who follow the Fae are to ourselves and our livelihoods, and react accordingly. Warding them away is, of course, preferable to killing them."

As regards Cerise's query, the rainbow simply smiles to the woman and remains silent.

Uschi turns, and looks at Sigrun and Dielle. The Ogress' confused expression is back - although this time she's shaking her head. "You did hear from me. Both of you. I said my bit. You just ain't that good at listening." Her ruddy right hand is lifted, palm out. No weapons! (Right now). "Nobody here cussing you out for being torturers -- the only thing you guilty of, is being well bad at... Diplomating."

Oh, it took Uschi a while to remember what the word was! But the Ogress is calm - solid, stern and unfussed. She snorts when Cerise speaks though, and shakes her head again. "I vote we ain't talk about anything else, less of all Freehold matters."

Dielle says, "See, I vote CB answers my question. Because honestly, I ain't a diplomat. I'm a fighter. But even I can recognize when someone's gaslighting me."

C.B., however, has gone strangely silent. Strange for him, anyway. He just stands there, arms folded, ankles folded, staring up at the ceiling with his lips pursed. Almost like he's willing himself to become invisible. Shame he doesn't have that contract, and it's banned here, anyway.

"Poorly, I might add," seconds Sigrun on the topic of gaslighting.

Cerise's frown turns tight. "We're not here to attack any one individual, C.B.'s words have been no more offensive than anyone else's here. If no one has anything productive to discuss, then we can draw this meeting to a close and you can settle any disagreement you have with C.B. through a non-violent duel." Cerise was so confident up until that last sentence, which has her looking back at C.B. and mouthing, 'those are the rules, right?'

Sigrun is now content to remain silent herself, simply gesturing towards Cerise to continue. Either topic, it seems, suits her fine, and she is happy to let Cerise reassert her control of the meeting.

When November speaks, Dross' attention shifts back to the gathering, lingering for a while on the eloquent rainbow. After a moment, he inclines his head, briefly. "Then perhaps," he says, "in the future, others, be they Freehold or otherwise, will remember to involve Waykeepers when new Changelings are found. ==However== they are found." On these words, the Darkling's eyes deepen slightly, reaching a darker, more saturated shade of blue, just for a moment. He glances at Cerise, then, and at Sigrun and Dielle. "I have no objection to Alexander's voice, here or elsewhere. Only to his drive always to jump to the conclusion of his own defeat."

"Since when is questioning someone's motives the same as gaslighting?" C.B. asks, though he asks the ceiling. Then he looks at Cerise and nods a little. Yeah, those are the rules. His gaze eventually wanders onto Dross and just remains there for awhile.

"No." Uschi says to Cerise again, then puts her ruddy right hand on her hip. Turning out to face the room, the Ogress' stony calm does not waver, not even a single iota. "We ain't here to fight -- and you two ain't here to listen to what you don't wanna, is ya? Ain't nobody tryin' to light you on about nothing, and I'm getting the feeling..."

Uschi sniffs in twice, a dirty hand raised to scratch at the shoulder of her very dead arm.

"That you ain't wanting to find no solution to whate'er problem you walked in here with. Hopeless. That ain't real generous -- two of of you? Are disgracing what you represent." She looks at Dielle when she says that, sniffing at the Dawn gently. Wait. Isn't Uschi Moon? Disgust - not Shame, right? Who cares. Uschi turns to Cerise, and barks: "We're done here."

It's not like Johnny's a heavy guy. In fact, he's anything but. He's skinny as shit and light on his feet, and seeing as how he's got himself all wrapped up in one hell of a Mask, he does't loom over the room but rather slinks into it, the skinny kid scrubbing at his face like he just woke up. He glances around the room as he arrives, at a frowning Xerise, CB staring at the ceiling, Uschi barking that they're done. "... what, did I miss everything already? I didn't think I crashed -that- long."

Dielle eyes Cerise. "I'm not here to duel C.B. It's not attacking to point out that he's constantly called me stupid for joining a freehold, and to ask some honest questions that I want answers to." She ignores the gaslighting question. She likewise ignores Uschi. "You've asked a lot of questions, why do I not get to?"

Zhenya cups her chin against the mount of her palm. Elbow on the table, the star-bright woman chews at the corner of her mouth a fraction. Her expression shows none of the same opacity to all reading that Olenka's has; who is the better spy now, daring to show an elusive hint of emotion now and then.

Cerise's eyes flit to Johnny as he enters, her face unusually grim as she gives him a nod. Then her eyes return to Dielle, "I have already said, you can ask any question you want that is not an attack on any individual person. Do you have such a question? Ask it. If not, it seems everyone else is ready to move on, allow us to."

November glances to the side when the other Ancient arrives, her Totally A Human Really I Am eyes lingering on Vorpal a moment, then drifting toward Uschi as the ogress chides the others. She leans in toward the shorter man, flip-flops dangling from one hand, and it's a toss-up whether she's talking to him or kissing his ear. The whisper of swiftly sliding rainbow hair veils the details.

As her own statements have yet to be addressed, she simply waits in silence once she straightens again.

Sigrun picks up her recorder and fiddles with it for a moment, rewinding it to a certain point, then hits play again. It plays November's recorded voice: 'My interest tonight is genuine, however. To which rights -were- you referring? What do you perceive as a fault which we could mend in our treatment of newcomers?' She then fast forwards it back to the pause point and hits record again, setting the recorder down without a word of her own having been spoken.

Dielle gives Cerise a direct look of dislike. Then Sigrun does her recorder thing, and Dielle turns a look on her of absolute approval. There might even be a great big, beaming grin to go with it. Ok, there actually is.

In comes Winter, in comes wintery dog. Beren is licking crumbs from his whiskers and waving his tail blithely, as Kiril hitches his way up the stairs behind him. The gathered crowd makes his lips thin out, but he picks his way to Zhenya slowly, the Malamute at his side.

Uschi turns, and looks towards... November. Who is this Waylady? The Moon doesn't ask - she just... Watches her, while the opossum that was on her head starts crawling back into the safety of the Ogress' vest. Staring of the white-clad, rainbow-haired, odd-eyed, Obviously Wyrd yet Masked woman over, the surprisingly judgy Moon watches her whisper and...

When the pre-recording of November's question comes through, Uschi looks at the machine - startled! What witchcraft is this?! But it's short lived as the Ogress presumably remembers what a recorder is, and furrows her brow. "...The right to live. The right to choose. The right to be free."

Then Uschi grunts, and adds gruffly: "Take them lost in the Thorns, and give them a hope. Let them touch Earth, and see the moonlight on snow, and learn their name. If they don't choose freedom? Don't matter. So long as they been shown the flesh and not just seen the shadow, 'portant part's the /choice/."

C.B. clears his throat. "You didn't ask that question," he points out to Dielle, "and several of us already answered it. Dross did. I did." And now, it seems, Uschi did, because he stops talking and watches her when the Ogress puts in her two bits.

November's answer is equally simple, albeit not gruff. One word, in fact. She smiles slowly to Uschi and states only, "Yes."

Cerise looks at Sigrun as the recorder plays and then back at Dielle, arching a brow, "So, you wanted to hear an answer to that question? I'm glad to know that." The woman visually relaxes as she huffs out a breath in relief, she even smiles a little. "Perhaps, next time, you could make that more clear? It would also help if you allowed the people who could answer to do so?"

And Cerise's eyes turn to Uschi and she gives an agreeing nod, "So, I think I've heard several people say that they should at least be brought /here/ and out of the hedge."

Dielle rolls her eyes. "I did, in fact, ask that question, too, Cerise. I'm so sorry that you weren't paying attention when I did. However, maybe next time, y'all could just answer the question instead of taking the time to be insulting, the way you're doing now." She sips her mead again, then gives up and drinks the entire cup in one very long draught.

Vorpal returns Cerise's nod, listens to Uschi's response on that question. "That's an excellent idea, in theory. Presuming the Lost in question either doesn't present a threat or can be neutralized as one, it makes sense. I'd like to know what you recommend be done with those who -do- present a threat and -cannot- be easily neutralized as a threat, though. What if bringing them back here means putting people at risk? What if we find Lost in the Hedge who are actively violating those same rights of others? The rights to be free, to live, to choose? I'd like to hear what you propose we should do then. Some of us here are directly charged with maintaining the safety of the Freehold and those within its territory, and-" He pauses, surprised, as he spots Dielle downing a cup of booze, then blinks back into his statement. "-and considering recent events, that seems a rather topical question."

Those long fingers dandle a greeting at pup-level, wiggled where Beren's snout can earn a good scritch. Nothing like enduring thick fur in winter, transitioning from the chilly weather outside to the comparative oasis of the Collective. Sadly no cookie or treat to sneak to him, but Zhenya fetches up a modest quirk of the lips to Kiril in the most oblique of angles. Those two may be very much aligned to one another, but the likelihood of her raising her voice at all reduces to chances the temperature will be around 61'F tomorrow. It //could// happen.

Again, Cerise's eyes twitch in Dielle's direction, that smile of relief disappearing as quickly as it came and replaced by confusion. The woman shakes her head and returns attention to the conversation at hand, "Well, so, we know that we've kept threats confined in the hedge, is there a way we could keep them confined here and still show them what's real and true?"

While the others talk, Dross is watching the windows again, intently. Why, when they're blacked out with nothing to see, is anyone's guess. But when Uschi lumbers by him, he reaches up to stroke the dark back of the opossum that's been climbing over the Ogress like a particularly mobile rock outcropping. As far as how to treat newfound Lost, he seems to consider that he's spoken his piece-- or more-- for the moment.

Uschi blinks slowly, turning to look at November. Shadow of her Moon Mantle drifts across her face - but is that a smile, underneath? A secretive one, if it is so -- her horns inclined ever-so-slightly in her direction, either a twitch of possible acknowledgement of her one-word affirmation.

Then again, Uschi doesn't really seem to be one for a -lot- of words. The semi-feral Ogress' stance widens as Vorpal starts replying to her, although admittedly she doesn't seem to focus on him until somewhere in the middle of his spiel. Huh? The Moon's lip curls, and she wrinkles her nose. Disgust.

"...You're outside your territory. It don't extend into the Hedge, neither. Risk is something we all gotta take, to survive. Everyday." Uschi sniffs, and then starts to roll her asymmetrical shoulders, "And I ain't gotta answer nothing; you showed up late. Have your girl play you the rememberer, if you really care."

Gruff. So Gruff. What, did Uschi grow up in some horrendous nightmare wilderness of a million deaths?! How -uncivil- she is!

Uschi turns to Cerise, then snorts. "Yes." ... Wait. That's her full answer? Indeed. Silent she goes; not even looking to Dross, as the Darkling starts to paw at the feral opossum clinging to her side. It hisses gently.

Dielle considers that question. "Ok, this is a serious question, and not an attacking one. You all have very strongly held beliefs. So do I. We've all been shown examples of why we might be wrong. It hasn't changed our minds. If we're talking Loyalists, why do you think it would change theirs? I mean, it's alien and all, but is it worth the sheer amount of lives we'd put in danger by doing that? Wouldn't it be pretty irresponsible, to put however many thousands of humans who live in this area at risk, to get a ten percent shot at showin' someone they've been wrong their whole lives? And I'm bein' generous with that ten percent." Her tone of voice is now earnest, and she's leaning forward.

Sigrun uses this new influx of people as a chance to refill her glass. She heads over to the mead growler, pulls the cork, and pours herself a tall glass of the stuff. She then circles around, growler in hand, and refreshes Dielle's glass. And back around again to set it back onto the counter and cork it back up. She lifts her glass and inquires of Cerise, "If you confine someone, are they not a prisoner?" She then suggests, "If they willingly pledge to remain in the place you bring them, then it's not technically a situation of imprisonment." With her glass in hand, she heads back to her chair via Uschi's locality. She notes into the Ogre's ear as she passes her by, "I am my own. Imply otherwise a second time. Please."

The dog settles his ears right under those scritching hands. Perfect. Kiril slips in mutely beside Zhenya. Come to lurk and listen again, it seems. No comment, even nonverbal. There to share warmth with his fellow Winter.

Vorpal nods to Cerise at her question, and looks to Uschi when she dismisses him before shrugging. "Nothing in the charter about being late to meetings nullifying my being a person and getting to speak and ask my part." And he looks away, dismissing Uschi as easily as she dismissed him. Possibly easier.

"The concept of territory isn't actually relevant to my question. My point was that some of us take it on ourselves to keep some part of the world and its residents safe. Insisting that -every- changeling encountered in the Hedge be brought here, even if engaged in Loyalist activity, is dangerous on multiple levels. First to those near the area they're brought- second to those you're insisting -do- the bringing. Taking captives in the first place wrenches at the soul in a way that even -killing- doesn't. You're demanding that the ones, already taking on the burden of putting their lives and spirits between Loyalist and Privateer threats and you, add the burden of taking and holding prisoners. You are literally putting the "rights" of someone who has- presumably, in this scenario- zero respect for the life and freedom of others and putting them above the integrity of someone risking their soul every time they fight to keep you safe. I'm... not saying there isn't merit to trying to establish some sort of holding facility in the wilderness someplace. But you're very casually suggesting damaging the souls of intact changelings to roll the dice for those with no regard for life or freedom."

Cerise lifts a hand, palm out towards Sigrun, "Nothing was meant by it, although, yes, Uschi was probably a bit gruff. Still, we're all here to talk, not to argue." Cerise repeats again, although she doesn't give the comment much attention, her eyes on Vorpal instead, "Can we maybe narrow the discussion to the Lost who are captured anyway and would be held for a time? That would ease some of your concerns, wouldn't it?"

C.B. has been pretty darn quiet, for him, but he muses now -- after going into the fridge for another beer -- "Mmm, Vorps. You sound just like our illustrious government. You know, I'd do it." He squints at no one in particular. "I'd risk my soul to parlay with unknown Lost. I have nothing to lose. I'm sure there are others like me who'd be willing to take that kind of risk. Who might even be willing to work with the Waykeepers." He frowns at November, Waylady Incarnate. But Cerise is trying to get them to move on, anyway. "Changelings, as a rule, don't like keeping folks captive. That's been part of the crux of this whole dilemma," he tells Cerise. "What I'd like to find are some alternatives to captivity that aren't murder."

"Of course I do. I'm taking responsibility for the safety of others. I'm thinking of the integrity of everyone I'd be telling to do this, and the lives and freedom of everyone around -where- we'd be doing this. Of course I sound like the government- this is what taking responsibility -sounds- like," remarks Vorpal in response to CB's quip. "'Don't like' is a horrible simplification. It -literally- damages the soul, far worse than killing in defense of one's loved ones. And for creatures with only so much soul left to them, that is a -big deal.- Are you volunteering your services as jailor, CB? If we established a safe holding facility, would you be willing to sign off and accept responsibility for everyone we bring back, absolving the ones who deliver them and taking the toll for every prisoner held on yourself?" Is he serious? He sounds serious. He sounds -very- serious. "We're creatures who can escape captivity in an instant of inattention and set cities ablaze in minutes. For those of us who aren't of the opinion that human life is worth preserving, captivity until rehabilitation or death are the only options of note- I'm not saying that to be overly grim, either. Even a death pledge won't prevent them from taking as many lives as they like if they're willing to lose their own. Someone like that would either need to be a captive, fixed, or dead."

Did someone just whisper in her ear? Uschi doesn't turn to Sigrun -- although her iridescent eyes glint up towards Dross, as the Darkling continues to investigate the nature of the opossum clinging to Uschi's side. In short: it's feral. Better not try and touch it -too- much, otherwise... Well who knows. Do opossums carry rabies?

"I ain't demanding nothing." Uschi insists to Vorpal after a long moment, tone as firm and steady and either eerily confident or alarmingly dimwitted -- although, why not both? The Moon snorts, her grimy hand raised to scratch at the base of her horns. "Ain't it weird, that I ain't said nothing but..." Uschi looks at her fingers, wiggling them in the air; one, two, may, lots. "A few breaths of sound at you, and you're going on and on 'bout insisting this and demanding that and suggesting what-the-fuck? Boy, you spent too long inna Hedge or something? Start hearing things? They got Blackbirds in town, all you gotta do is whistle. 'fore then? Go pay attention to someone else. I ain't need your words to get on with my life, no more than you need mine. Embrace the season and chill out."

Chill out?! Who taught Uschi that phrase?! Some enterprising and/or ironic soul, no doubt.

"...'cause this ain't nothing but hot air whistlin' through a damp crevice." Uschi states, looking around -- so... Presumably she doesn't just mean Vorpal - she means everything, right? So judgey!

"Pledging to certain conduct to include a boundary of free movement is an alternative to captivity that isn't murder," Sigrun notes and not for the first time before taking a sip of her mead. "But as Vorpal has pointed out, even those have their limitations." Sigrun crosses her legs again and reclines once more into her chair, lifting her glass for a sip.

Dielle shakes her head and nods at Vorpal. She speak-sings, "When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game, but you don't get a win unless you play in the game. Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it, you get nothing if you wait for it." She's about halfway through that second cup of mead, but she's doing a pretty good Hamilton. And she's not actually drunk, there might even be a point behind what she just said.

"Uschi." Cerise sighs, and at the same time, the mortal gets that slightly uncertain expression she does anytime she asks Uschi to do something, because how much can you explain to an ogre. "We're not attacking people, we're having a productive conversation." Of course, odds are the ogress isn't even going to understand what Cerise means, let alone abide by it.

"I said 'parlay,' Vorps. Not 'imprison.' Do I look like someone who would want to be in charge of an insuitution for to you? By the way, one man's 'responsibility' is another man's 'subjective bias.'" C.B. swigs more beer. He smirks a little at something Uschi said -- is he included in her judgment? Doesn't care -- and then, eyebrows raised, nods at Sigrun. "Sure, everything has their limitations. But that's a start, Sigrun."

"And when they break the pledge or refuse to swear? And when they play by the rules set out for them, but refuse to alter their loyalties? What then?" Sigrun looks aside at November and inquires of her directly, "Waykeeper, what would -you- have done in this hypothetical situation?"

"You didn't. They did." Vorpal nods towards Cerise and CB, in response to Uschi. "And I'm quite chill." He pauses and snorts laughter abruptly for no apparent reason, grinning wide. "Very chill."

"Of course you wouldn't. I wouldn't want to be, either, CB. But what do you mean by parlaying? I thought that term was used to negotiate terms of ceasefire. Are you saying you'd rather let the Loyalists or slavers wander off into the Hedge, so long as they don't operate here? I'm not -saying- that's what you're saying, I just don't know what you mean."

"... pledges feel like a bad idea. Even if you paired it with a penalty of permanent crippling, that can take a -week- to set in. A Pledge would be little more than an early warning system, practically, as appealing as the idea is. Same problem with a Death pledge. It takes days to take effect. That's a lot of time to capture mortals or slaughter indiscriminately. It'd be like putting serial killers on house arrest. Yeah, that nice little bracelet might tell us where he went, but it won't stop him from killing another half dozen people before we get to him."

"Waylady," Vorpal gently offers to Sigrun. "She's the big cheese in that department."

"Waylady," Sigrun corrects without rancor, "my apologies."

Dielle is keeping quiet for the moment, but she's clearly finding it a struggle. She keeps sipping her second cup of mead and stroking the kitten in her pocket.

Uschi turns, and eyes Cerise. It is... A blank faced, indifferent sort of look. Just watching her, silent and still and... Is Uschi confused? She's not moving.

And then that feral opossum hisses in Dross' direction, and starts gnawing on Uschi's very dead left arm, and Uschi doesn't even seem to notice. Because it's dead.

Uschi's too busy trying to work out what Vorpal said. So many words - from him, Sigrun, Cerise, almost /everyone/. The Ogress looks off in the direction of the quiet assortment of Russians. They've got the right idea; cold and stark as some arctic tundra. Snow, untouched by trespassers, under countless miles of conifers; imagine Uschi... Grimy, ruddy fingers start to grip at the air as Uschi's stance slowly begins to widen and---

Wordlessly, and with hardly a sound, Uschi turns and begins lumbering off towards the stairs. Did she just whisper something? NO. And she certainly doesn't try again seconds later...

The Russians seem to have no collective opinion. Kiril's got his fingers knotted in Beren's ruff again, habit, comfort. The Soldier's expression has gone drier and drier, even as the others argue, lips thinning out.

Cerise straightens again and holds out both hands in front of her, "Okay, I understand that you all are focused on pledges, because that's what you know, but what if there was some /other/ form of magic that could block their ability to do violence? If we found an alternative like that, would something like that work?"

Olenka isn't apparently having any struggle keeping quiet. There's not a peep from her, nor any stirring for that matter until her head starts to follow her chin down, down and then, suddenly, snaps straight. Totally wasn't nodding off, she just had to look at her feet for some reason. Gotta watch them, they could run off. There's a slow, subtle roll of her shoulders after and a turn of her head to watch Uschi truck by from behind her dark glasses, and that departure seems to signal the end of the meeting for her since she silently follows suit.

Olenka heads through the door and back down to the cafe.

The tea is gone, the conversation still. Zhenya dares so far as to reaching out with her toe to nudge the leg of the seat, assuring movement nonetheless remains in her extremities. So it is. Uschi venturing out of their collective presence does not go unnoticed; see, Olenka has the right of it too.

November's expression throughout all of the hullabaloo is unchanging: smooth, polite, reserved and attentive. For all that she looks human, mostly, ish, she is utterly still, and it isn't entirely clear whether or not she is breathing, standing there like a pretty rainbowy statue. She reacts no more to the Freeholders' side than to that of the unaffiliated, regarding the entire room with silent neutrality.

Upon being addressed by Sigrun, however, her answer is prompt and calm, unhesitating. "The Wayhouse's truth is this: we uphold Hospitality. We do not issue demands and we do no harm to those who do no harm to us while on the premises, though it is established policy to acquire as much knowledge of guests as is possible within the bounds of Hospitality."

That said, she clarifies, "I would ascertain, to the best of my ability, the relative threat level of the individual. Their motives and personal desires would be paramount in this evaluation. If they were a victim, acting unwillingly, I would seek to aid them. If they were able to be persuaded of the error of their ways, I would persuade them. If their actions were made knowingly and willingly, and they did not respond to persuasion or other methods of drawing them to our point of view, we have the talents and resources of an entire Freehold at our disposal, should information come to light which seemed to require more decisive action than diplomacy."

Directly, this time, looking at Sigrun, she adds, "I would not have killed her. I would have studied her with the aid of the Watchers' oneiromancers and seers, and set her free."

Dielle stands up, at that point, and says, "I support Vorpal's actions. He's a Harvestman. We /exist/ to make sure threats to the freehold go away. I'd have done the same thing." With that, she starts singing again, as she grabs her coat and goes towards the exit. "No one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage gets maaaaade. We just assume that it happens, but no one else is in the room where it happens," comes floating from her mouth as she walks downstairs.

Cerise bobs her head as November speaks, and then addresses takes the official mic again, being all officially official, "Alright, so I think we actually had a good discussion and learned a few things. First, /no one/ is trying to tell the Freehold how to conduct it's business. Second, it's important to give new Lost, especially those that don't remember life outside the hedge. Third, keeping prisoners is bad. However, we still need to find and think of alternatives, but maybe that's good, because as the waylady says, every lost and every situation is different. Still, thought should be given on ways to achieve this end. Since I doubt that we'll come with a solution tonight and since this has been going on rather long already, I'm going to adjourn here. Thank you all for coming."

Who'd that creeping by the stairwell? It's Uschi -- the slow, crippled Moon has lumbered over there, but paused for a convenient amount of time, to put her rucksack on. Looks heavy! The weight of it has her grunting - although... No, that can't be right, because the Ogress handles the bag like it were filled with moonbeams and secrets (it is) - and the grunting, it almost sounds, appreciative?

Iridescent eyes flicker back towards the totally human November. Shadows shift on Uschi's face, and light glints off of crooked cuspids. The Ogress is smiling widely in the Waylady's direction.

Then a slow pan: Uschi looks over to C.B. with a weighted unsaid -focus-, briefly at Cerise, lingers on the Russian Contingent over there, peers at the Freeholders, and finally stares at Dross -- for like two blinks, and a shake of an opossums' tail. Then she's out; taking her weird smell and puff of dead arm flakes with her.

"In the actual event that may have been a safe course," Sigrun concurs with November, nodding her head once. "I, personally, do not understand how letting a loyalist who has knowledge of our wherabouts and faces and the like return to their Keeper is a sound decision. At all. And it was largely that consideration that made my mind up, in the end." Sigrun lets her eyebrows lift and fall, shoulders shrugging. "In the future, I will bring whatever Loyalists try to get past my shield and leave them in your care. Or perhaps here. And see if deed follows word." She pushes up to her feet and begins to collect her things. The recorder, her backpack, and so on. With Cerise already writing the coda to matters, she's being efficient with her time.

Vorpal leans off the wall and remarks, "Well, Sig, you're not the Trickster. If I've learned anything in my time with dearest November, it's that she's usually about as many moves ahead in her plots as I am on the battlefield. I trust her judgement in this. We could have involved the Watchers and seers, and likely wouldn't have had to wait for Uschi's dream to give us the rest of the picture." He looks about the room and waves his hand. "Sorry I was late, folks, but thanks for hearing me out anyway. I'll be back for round three, whenever that is."

C.B. -- oh he's still here, right? -- grunts at something Cerise says. He doesn't go downstairs, though. Instead, he lingers behind to start cleaning stuff up, muttering to himself, disgruntled.

After Cerise closes the meeting, Dross stands. Oddly, he looks right at the mortal for a moment or two, though it's hard to tell quite what that means. Then he inclines his head slightly, re-wraps his scarf around his throat, and straightens up, taking a quick scan of the others left in the room, including C.B., Vorpal, the disappearing Uschi, C.B., Sigrun, November, and Zhenya, Kiril, and Beren. Then turns and vanishes through the door himself.

Vorpal pauses. "And Cerise? If there -was- other magic available that could ensure captives wouldn't harm others? I, at least, would be fine with it, were it readily and regularly accessible. That's not a terrible idea, if it's an option."

Cerise watches CB clean up for a little while longer, and then people are calling her name and her head swivels to Vorpal, "Well, I'll look to see if I can find something." And then she, too, makes her way downstairs.

The only commentary from Kiril is a shake of his head, rueful. Lips pursed, before he leans over to kiss Zhenya on the temple. Beren sighs, tail uncurled and laid along the floor. Apparently the subject of conversation is upsetting to the spitz.

The rainbow waits until Vorpal is suitably distracted, dips her head to the room at large, and blithely turns in place, her free hand giving the shorter Ancient an oh so casual *THWAP* on the patoot with the soles of her flip-flops. "Spank you later, lovely." And off she goes!

Vorpal jumps on his heels and hisses after November, "You are -so- lucky the Jabberwock has the night off," as he follows her down the stairs.

Sigrun slips her long black coat back onto her shoulders, shoulders her bag, and heads down the stairs, herself, hands in her coat pockets.