At the Freehold, Damion is doing a final check on his equipment. The seven foot tall draconic Fairest is wearing an organic looking suit of riot gear, a massive two-handed sword on his back and a likewise massive revolver on one hip. There's also a knife at the small of his back. The only part of him uncovered at the moment is his head. He really should buy a helmet at some point. He turns molten gold eyes on the two other Freeholders that are going to be going on the trip, studying them. "Just to be clear. What weapons are you going to be using today?"
He apparently also has a rather large pack on his back full of various things.
Sara tries the string of the short bow she has picked up from the armory. She gives it a few pulls before holding up the weapon. "Bow" she smiles to the giant. "And I've got a knife hidden somewhere I'm not going to show you." The young woman has also picked up a flak jacket that she wears as best she can. The pack on her back empty and waiting to be filled with tree-buds. "I'm Sara. Sara Fry. Not /Sarah/ Fry. I don't have an 'h'" she explains at speed before offering her hand. "Damion, right? Escort duty? Hope you don't mind."
"Catherine." the cheetah changeling says, extending a hand. "And a rifle." she explains to Damion. "Bog-standard mundane, but still good. Provided we're not going to a deep portion of the Hedge." she explains. She's dressed in fairly tough outdoors gear, but then... The Hedge is very much a wilderness.
Damion takes the hand of the other, smaller Fairest and shakes. His hand is probably a lot larger than hers. His hairless brow raises at the clarification of her name. "I'll try to keep that in mind." His voice is a deep, warm bass. Rather smooth actually. Then he takes the hand of the other Lost as well. "Nice to meet you both. Hmm. So ranged weapons for you two then? Good. Make sure to keep me between you and anything that attacks as much as possible." He taps at the armor that he's wearing. "I'm able to take a hit better." Then he loosens his sword in its sheath. "Anymore gear you two need? If not, I guess we should get this show on the road." Assuming that's fine with them, he'll head out of the Freehold, and begin the uneventful trip to where they're headed.
Small groups of other changelings wander past on their own errands, glancing briefly at the trio and lifting hands, waving, or calling greetings according to their nature when the troupe sets out.
Catherine nods. "Yeah. I'm more used to sitting still and waiting for a shot, but it's not like I can't handle live fire." she explains, as they walk out into the Hedge. "So where are we going anyway?" she asks, "I've been a few places here and there in the Hedge but nowhere TOO far. I might not be able to lead us where we need to go. Sorry."
"Let's get this party started right" Sara enthuses. "And don't worry, Damion, I won't shoot you by accident" she smiles before adding, under her breath, "I hope." Then they are off, Sara still taking in the entire Freehold thing that was always in her home town but she never knew about until life took a sinister turn. "Nice to meet you, Catherine. At least you've done this a few times before?" Sara's voice is also quite seductive in its way - she's probably a great singer.
After they emerge from the caves, with a bit of bruising from the things inside, Damion says, "Alright. Keep an eye out for any goblin fruit." He begins to stop now and then to check various bushes they pass, looking for blushberries. Or anything else that would heal them, really. Blushberries were just usually the most appetizing of the lot. Of course, fruit hunting can be dangerous all on its own.
The trip through the caves is somewhat eventful, considering the light-draining critters. However, as they emerge Catherine looks a bit pale and unsteady as she stumbles near some portions of the Hedge looking for blushberries... Which she seems to be fairly successful at actually.
That was not fun. Sara could feel those dark caves tugging at her life and she didn't like it at all. But now that they're out in the Hedge, she can at least see further now. Though not very well it seems. Her attempt to find Goblin Fruit ending up in frustration and pouty growling...and maybe a couple of branches broken to express her annoyance. "Did anyone find anything?"
When Damion reaches for the berries he finds, a low growling sound comes from beneath the leaves of the shrub, and a set of sharp little teeth snaps out toward his fingers. Sadly, it misses.
The owner of the teeth appears to be a calf-sized creature which may have originally been part cat. Or badger. Really, it's kind of a cadger. It's also very grumpy, trundling out as if it has every intention of nipping again.
Catherine is slowly approaching the creature with a lowered rifle, not leveled at the cadger but staring it right in the eyes as the fur on her ears and the tiny hairs on her skin stand STRAIGHT up much as one might expect of a cat trying to make itself look bigger. She's making slow and steady steps, trying to give it a sense of danger between the three of them and communicate that no the cadger does not want to mess with them.
Damion jerks his hand back after something tries to take a bite out of it, stepping away from the bush and reaching for his sword. When he sees the cadger emerge, he grips the handle. But then Catherine is approaching it, and he loosens his grip. He doesn't remove it entirely though, ready to draw in a moment if he has to. But, if he doesn't have to kill it that's fine as well.
The cadger sees Catherine, growling again, but it swiftly reevaluates its odds, turning tail and speed-trundling off. Strundling? The fruit is free!
Sara had an arrow in her bow and aimed at the Cadger in a moment but chose not to fire. Instead, she wanted to see how her companions dealt with it. There could be a 'no killing Hedge Beasts' decree she doesn't know about. And she is glad she didn't shoot as Catherine encourages the creature to withdraw. The bow is lowered. "Nice work" she smiles to the other woman.
"I do try." Catherine says, grinning. "I mean, hedgebeasts are just another kind of beastie... I work well with them for obvious reasons." she explains. "Also the survivalism thing gives some insight into matters too."
Damion nods over to Catherine, "Not bad." Then he starts off the road again. "Hopefully nothing else will attack us while we're harvesting the buds." Not that he'd count on it. He leads the way past the market, towards the web-laden trod they're aiming for. If they are attacked, he expects it to be something harmless like angry kittens or maybe a confused parakeet. Certainly nothing that could trigger a phobia in anybody.
Sara strolls happily along after the others. It's quite a lovely place...when you don't have ravenous beasts attacking. Or worse. A mental note of where the market is as they continue past it. "I'm a Fry" she explains to Catherine, "The wilds are in our blood. Though I think I'm a bit out of practice. I can't believe I didn't find a single berry." She goes silent as they approach the trod.
"Hey, you want some of mine?" Catherine asks, "I found six, can't be too easy coming out of a life-draining trod like that. Wasn't fun, but here we are I guess." she notes.
No, no terrible monsters here. The trip is uneventful, labyrinthine paths winding through eldritch horrors and natural-seeming landscapes alike as they approach their goal. The scent of something very similar to clove drifts on the breezes as they near the patch of trod where the bud-trees grow, but there are no signs of life. Not even a bird sings here, a macabre example of a sparrow-like creature dangling, lifeless, on a strand of sepia web explaining why.
Damion sniffs the air a few times, picking up that clove scent. He rubs at his nose then says, "I think we're getting closer." He picks up his pace a little, trodding quickly along the path as he tries to spot the budding palnts they're going to harvest. Of course, he's also still keeping an eye out ofr anything dangerous.
There are trees with buds all around the trod. They also happen to all have those enormous sepia spiderwebs on their branches.
Sara frowns at the suspended bird before looking at the others. "I think we can expect trouble" she notes just above a whisper. "Something with at least eight legs." At least she can't miss the buds this time. "One of us on watch?" she asks her companions. "Or speed is preferred over care?"
"Spiders." Catherine says, "Lovely. Well, I'll keep an eye out if that's what we're going to be doing." she observes, "Pulling a, 'Rush in with no plan and try whatever' doesn't seem advisable." she notes.
Catherine is trying to stalk through the webs as carefully as can be, moving this way and that with not exactly catlike agility. Perhaps she trips a few strands here and there, but going for the buds is her top priority here for now.
Damion grunts a little then says, "Well, we should at least try to keep quiet..." He starts towards one of the trees, as silent as he can manage, and starts to reach for one of the buds growing from it planning to pluck it off. "If you hear anything skittering, get your weapons ready." He does hope they're not attacked. He's not afraid of spiders anymore than anybody else, but it doesn't mean he wants to have them jumping on him. Especially not giant ones.
Sara nods to Damion about being quiet. She wants to be. She really does. But, concentrating so much on watching out for trouble, she fails to see the rock behind her and trips over it with a surprised squeal and a thump into the earth. She quickly gets to her feet, brushing herself off. "Sorry" she whispers, but there is no doubt in her mind that if there is something here...they heard her or felt the vibrations of her impact. This is why she needed a bodyguard.
The trees are tall enough that neither lady is likely to be able to simply pluck off a bud the way Damion is attempting, but given how enormous HE is, it's just a bit of a stretch. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a stretch into territory which just proves that the dragon really shouldn't be the one to go putting his hands into things.
First a cadger, then...
AHHHH. GIANT SPIDER!!
With a silent lunge, it darts out to sink its fangs into Damion's arm and shoulder, piercing his armour, though the effort of biting through the armour does lessen the force of the blow. The spider is easily as long as Damion is tall, from cephalothorax to abdomen, but its legs, now that they aren't posing as branches, are easily as long as its body, and longer, in the case of its front two. It is colourd the same dark browns and greys as the trees. More sounds in other trees herald the arrival of other spiders.
The spider which bit Damion withdraws, fiercely mock-striking and posing in a threatening fashion, fangs dripping venom, eyes glittering in the dim, branch-filtered light of the sepia trod.
Two other spiders can be seen making their way through the trees in this direction.
Sara, to her shame, screams in horror as a spider bursts from the trees to savage Damion. That looked like it hurt...a lot. The way the huge spider almost gloats afterwards makes Sara tremble in fear and back away a few steps before having to turn away from the horror. Which means she sees another one, scampering through the trees towards them. Maybe they should have brought bigger guns. Summoning up what courage she can she sends an arrow hurtling through the air towards the beast.
BANG! The rifle lets loose a shot into one of the approaching spiders, though Catherine is trying desperately to keep her mind off of the one that attacked Damion. "You want some, huh?! COME AND GET IT, SHELOB!" she shouts.
Sara's shot does not a happy spider make, taking out one of its eyes. It rears up, trying to scrape the arrow out of its head, which gives Catherine the perfect shot -- and then it is most decidedly dead, dropping to the forest floor and twitching as its legs curl up.
A fourth and fifth spider spring out from a web a bit farther away, off to Damion's right. They are about ten yards from him, and forty yards from the ladies. The remaining tree-climbing spider is about five yards from the ladies. Damion's friend, of course, is right in his face.
Alright, almost... have... oh what the hell! He jerks back as something it takes a few moments to register just lungs at him from out of the tree and sinks very large fangs into him. The armor brunts the worst of it, but it still hurts. And he feels a feverish heat spreading through him that is not pleasent. He backs up quickly, reaching for his sword and swaying briefly on his feet a little unsteadily, blinking at the spider that just bit him as it postures threateningly. It is pretty scary looking, but mostly he feels anger start to flood through his body. The heat shimmering around him grows more intense, his eyes seem to glow brighter, and there's a distant sound like some incredibly vast creature letting out a roar as he begins to move towards it, ready to attack the thing.
The first spider lunges at Damion again with a heavy thud and the scents of chitin, clove and mildew, but while it does manage to connect, it can't quite sink its fangs in, the dragon's armour frustrating its attack.
The spider nearest the ladies rushes the last of the distance and leaps at Catherine, sinking its fangs into the cheetah's flesh all the harder for its heavy impact.
Sara spins around at the sound of Catherine being attacked. Another of her 'protectors' is getting hurt and that will not do. Drawing on her training, steadier now as adrenaline burns through her, she lets loose three arrows in rapid succession into the horrific creature. No one likes spiders! The arrowheads piercing the monster's flesh and burying deep. Vital organs split asunder before it drops dead at Catherine's feet. Foul ichor flowing from its wounds.
The two spiders off to Damion's right skitter through the trees to drop down on him, both of them managing a hit, but neither getting through his armour, though the first to hit him does manage a good whopper of a try. The second to attack him simply bounces off, fangs scraping over the armour with a shrill SKREEEEK.
Damion glances briefly at the other two. They're being attacked, but...they seem to be handling it for the moment. His attention returns to the eight-legged enemy that first attacked him. "You know, that bite hurt." His sword bursts into flames, then the dragon is surging towards the spider. He swings the two-handed weapon in a sharply diagonal slash from the lower right to the upper left, severing the front legs of beast as well as splitting its many-eyed head and part of its thorax, causing a spray of arachnid guts to paint the tree behind it far up the trong. Twirling his weapon to get rid of anything still clinging to the burning weapon, he glares at the other two spiders attacking him. "Anybody else still hungry?"
With not time to pause, Sara turns her bow towards one of the spiders attacking Damion. The guy is taking a lot of damage...and dealing out a lot more. She aims for the cluster of eyes on the creature. Total concentration before she looses, the arrow slamming into one of the black orbs, splitting it open to spray more ichor...hopefully not too much onto Damion.
The spiders attacking Damion try again, but neither does more than scrabble at his armour, long legs waving.
Damion ignores the spatter of eyechor on his arm, turning his attention to the remaining uninjured spider. Wanting to end this quickly, he steps in and reverses his grip on his sword, bringing it over his head, then driving it down and tnrough the head of the creature. Pinning it to the ground to spasm and twitch before finally going still. Pulling it free, he turns towards the last remaining spider in time to see it killed by a rifle shot. Then he takes the time to examine his only serious wound, the one on his shoulder. Ouch. Damn poison.
"And now I know why spiders are so reviled." Catherine says, unloading another round into the last spider with an audible gunshot. "Fuck Ungoliant." she says, spitting on the spider. "Normally I'm not so spiteful, but my leg is burning like hell." she observes.
As the last spider drops dead to the ground, Sara's Battle Brain switches off and she starts taking deep breaths to clear her mind. Her body trembles a little as she comes down from her adrenaline high. "Everyone okay?" A roll of her eyes at how stupid that must sound since the other two have been bitten by venomous spiders. She slides her bow over one shoulder before rushing over to Catherine to check on her wounds.
Damion rolls his neck. "Well. I guess we should get to what we were doing then." He reaches into his backpack, pulling out a sack. He moves over to a nearby tree, and starts to examine the buds on it. The ones that seem to be good, he carefully removes and adds to the sack. He'll show the other two how to spot the good ones, in hopes that it speeds things up some. It shouldn't take TOO long, hopefully, to get all the ones in the safe area. Thirty seems like plenty for one days work.
Once she knows what she is looking for, and Catherine is confirmed okay, Sara moves quickly to grab the buds that she can reach. Stuffing them into her pack while watching, and listening, for any sign of more spiders. "Does this happen often?" she asks...as quietly as she can.
"I'm... Fine." Catherine says, shaking as the adrenaline starts to wear off. HURRRRRRRRRRRRGGK. And there's the vomit. "Maybe." she says, "Poison... Great. Of course it couldn't be a giant tarantula." she moans.
Well, that was a productive if somewhat painful trip. Damion is pretty ravaged by the poison on the way back, but he has a strong enough constintution overall that he can handle it. Stopping at the market, he manages to locate the hob merchant in question who had the one-eyed kitten. After some negotiations, he trades several energy bars and a minor memory for the creature. What was the memory of? He can't really remember.Then he headed back, hiding the kitten in his armor when they passed through the Everdark again. He'll pass it on to Haruki later after they drop off the buds at the Freehold Hollow.
Sara warily watches her companions as they make their way back to 'reality'. Neither of them look well at all and it was all her fault for falling over like an idiot. She's a Fry! She shouldn't be tripping over rocks. The stop at the market has her looking around, but not going too far from the others. A ruffle of the one-eyed kittens fur before they are off again, back through the draining caves and finally into the Hollow to deliver the buds. "That was quite the trip" she says to Damion and Catherine. "Sorry about making so much noise and...the venom and everything. Maybe I can buy you two dinner some time?"
Damion smiles at Sara, "It happens. Don't worry about it. If you ever want to find me, I run a gym here in town. The Iron Church. And....uh. I also own a strip club. The Treasure Vault. Feel free to stop by either of those places, both of you."