As far as locations go, the Wild Roses have certainly chosen theirs for maximum comfort. Far enough from the mortal world to keep away the lazy worthless busybodies (without competent guides), their business goes on, day or night, for it is always day Where the Wild Roses Grow.
Guards stand at the entrances, watching for visitors and assuring that none are wearing roses, carry roses, have anything pink on their persons, and, lastly, that all weapons are tied with a white ribbon, string or something similar as a symbol of their peace-bonding.
No violence in the Market.
Tonight, it is business as usual.
Vorpal's here to browse. He's a common sight among the stalls, often trading fruit for more tasty or less common varieties- he goes through the stuff like candy, but collects more than his share to be sure he has a wide selection when it's time to eat. In the Hedge, there's no Mask- he can't even -pretend- to be Less Than He Is. So it's the God of the Hunt in all his shadowed glory gliding through the stalls, bantering idly with the hobs, most of which take some level of enjoyment in his willingness to good-naturedly 'lose' their bantering conversations. It's fun to come out on top of someone with his reputation, even in something meaningless, and it's an inexpensive way to earn a little goodwill from the locals while he does his business. He's got his shadows reined in, lest they spread throughout the Market- though he can only do so with his -personal- shades. The deepened darkness and sharpened edges of the Hedge's features, the ghostly mist trickling around ankles? He can't stop that in the slightest- nor does he try.
Uschi has spent Quite A Lot Of Time researching where to find the Wild Roses, and how best to keep from violating their customs. Bloody Marketeers, always so -rulesy-. The Moon Ogress wears mostly black, save for those gaudy white, black and red tassels sewn into the shoulders and arms of that heavily patched-up leather jacket of hers. They jingle and dance, as the Ogress hefts her oversized rucksack on her back -- who /knows/ what she has inside of that thing...
From the side, boots hang. Feet? Bare -- cracked and calloused and dark; grime and shadow hiding the specifics, as she walks on; gait hunched and crooked, compensating for the very, very gnarled and very, very dead left arm that hangs crookedly by her side, translucent flakes of skin peeling off occasionally, and crumbling away into dust.
No weapons, no armour, no problems. Uschi... Is probably here for a specific reason; Wyrd knows she ain't sharing it right now. She's lingering off to the side in the area close to the entrance, trying to catch her bearings, watch the folk pass on by, and remain... Inconspicuous as a unsettling Moon Ogress can be.
Ashe has been busy this evening. So once she was done at the Wayhouse and Stoneheart she'd hopped on Apollyon and they'd travelled down to the Wild Roses. The Fate's Harvest Monarch's reign is drawing to a close so the woman is starting to wear black again. It's easy to see that the Shadowsoul is just waiting for Winter to take over and she's trying to hide that grey streak in her hair. Apollyon put her down a distance away and she walks in with her hood up. Just looking around for now. Nothing to see here.
Apollyon is a very large bat like creature with a split mandible mouth and a bright crimson streak down it's spine. He's not very cute or cuddly, but he is left with his rabbits to eat. http://tinyurl.com/ydcu8oh7
Wares had been dispensed, and all save the glass-kept cakes reserved for the Lady Day had been managed. Per usual, the cakes were left alone atop the counter of the stall beneath their glass case, and he had no fear for thievery of them. Nobody would dare take anything with 'Reserved for the Lady Day' embroidered on a long piece of silk. This meant Cassian's day was done, and he'd taken to wandering the stalls with a pocket full of coin, as the case may be. Barefoot, casually strolling, Cassian busied himself with flipping a small coin that to a keen eye might be a 1610 'piece of eight'.
One of the stalls, attended by a Marketeer Cassian, at least, would know is relatively new to the area, has been doing a brisk business all night, selling minor gewgaws, trinkets for paramours, and various other enchanted and enchanting wares. The occasional Contract is bartered for as well, but weaponry doesn't seem to be on the table.
The proprietor does, though.
Two feet tall if he's an inch, the little hob has a blobby nose, a greenish-yellow complexion and what look almost like daisy petals growing from his scalp. And shoulders. And back. Really, take a human(ish) faced Hedgehog and make it a person and replace its spikes with bright yellow/white petals and you've got a fair idea of what he looks like.
With business slowing down, he hops up, barefoot, to pad through his wares, stoops down, and collects a small sign from the rear of the table. He pads back toward the front and hangs it on a hook, where it sways, boldly painted and plainly visible: HELP WANTED
As luck would have it, Vorpal happens to be passing by at that moment. He's passed Cassian at least once, and offered friendly greeting on the way past, but Uschi and Ashe are both doing a little work to be less notable, and he's not about to draw attention to them, even if he -does- notice them.
He stops to look towards the sign, then the proprietor, halfway through a snack of clover, wrapped into a tight bundle like... well, like a wrap. He shakes his head briskly to clear the heat from his thoughts, and clears his throat.
"Help Wanted? Might I ask for what you're seeking help?"
Neirin, the hands-jammed-in-coat Thusser so new to the freehold, is in no danger of wearing any shade of pink or red-- or of carrying anything anyone might consider a weapon. He gratefully, having just sworn to the freehold that day, took up Vorpal's offer as a Harvestman to be accompaniment to the Market; he's not making eye contact with anyone, especially, and he didn't say much on the journey there, except to let Vorpal know that he's a blacksmith. It's just that all he's carrying is a blank notebook and a fiddle case.
It's not like he ditches the Wyrd Ridonk helpful shadowmonster once they're there; instead, he trails silently after, reading signs and mentally taking notes. He very nearly stumbles into Vorpal's back when he stops, and then only eyes the other Lost dubiously.
"And when you're done talkin' to him, mate, I'd like to make a purchase," he says a little gruffly.
Uschi, lingering about like the feral and undersocialised Wyrdo she is, has noticed some things: the first is an autumnal Fairest with a Crown. The second is a fellow who's familiar in that he's edging towards being a personification of a shadow. The third is the tiny Hob the gewgaws and... Is that a sign?
The Ogress makes zero attempts to even look at it -- her iridescent eyes just pass it over, in favour of looking at what the minuscule Marketeer has for sale -- but hell, she's probably listening. How could she not be? Even if she's all...
...part of the background, really. Who -cares- what Uschi is doing? She is, essentially? A non-entity. Don't mind the Farwaker. She may as well be invisible.
Another toss, with a flip of Cassian's thumb, and the silver piece catches a bit of sunlight and glints, before landing back in Cassian's hand. He seemed rarely uninterested with things, as his mind had turned to managing the risk that a Fate's Harvest crown might rest on the head of a Moon. It kept him ... occupied. So occupied he didn't notice Uschi, or the newcomer. An invisible-hat-tipping is offered to Vorpal, mechanically.
Ashe spots a barefoot, knife eared Darkling and starts to head that way. Once she's not that far from Cassian, "You looking for something in particular or just looking around?" she asks the Dusk as she adjusts her hood. The horns still poke out a bit, but hey, the crown is mostly covered. "I feel like I'm trying to hide from the Empire here." she mutters to him.
The little hob squints up at Vorpal, giving the Hunter a long look. Up, down, then side to side, to see if anybody else is offering. Upon spotting Neirin, he studies the Thusser, too, then grunts, plopping down onto his petaled patoot. "Need to find the pieces of a token. Lost 'em."
"As you like," Vorpal murmurs affably to Neirin, perfectly happy to let him get whatever deals he wants. "Lots bits of a token, you say? Hm. How lost are they? "I know where they are but it's dangerous" lost? Or "heavens knows where in the world they've gotten to" lost?"
The Crown does draw Cassian out of his focus for a moment, as he glances sidelong towards her and her 'disguise'. "No, I like to wander after a day of work. See who I'm competing with. You'd be surprised how many upstarts will just appear and unsettle the work I've built in foundation," he says, nodding once. The sort of thing that draws Vorpal's attention affords Cassian a thought. "Are you not enjoying your management of the crown?" Cassian asks of Ashe.
A brief, agreeable nod to Vorpal. Then: "Did you, now?" asks Neirin mildly, and his bright, bright blue eyes flicker sidelong towards Vorpal for a second, then to the diminutive hob. "How many bits, more like?" His manner's easy, unconcerned, but clearly interested. "And how far d'you think the bits might be? Because if it's more than a few, or they're a ways away, I might ask for a little more in return than what I set out to buy."
How many creatures manage to spend their time hidden amongst the Wild Roses? While Crowns and Marketeers and Creeping Shadows and Curious Grumps go about their perfectly reasonable and healthy level of socialisation... Uschi... Well, she does not. Only the keenest, most vigilant would see her -- where has she gone? What is she doing? Is she in that bit of shadow over there? Utilising some other manifestation of a mien to go about unnoticed?
Irrelevant. Sometimes the best place to be is not the most obvious. That's where Uschi is; doing... Whatever feral Moon Ogress' do when nobody is watching.
Possibly picking her nose.
Ashe gives Cassian a look and there's a shake of her head to the Darkling, "No, I'm doing just fine, just a bit of a joke." she tells him. "Sadly we'll be handing the Crown over to a new King or Queen though in less than a week. So I'm a bit sad." she admits. "Hoping that I've done a decent job the past few months." she states as she looks off towards another of the booths. "And how is business?" she asks him.
The little hob shifts from side to side, then reaches into his belly, revealing a pouch there, marsupial style. If, you know, marsupials had flower petals. What he draws out looks like an intricately molded piece of tarnished metal knotwork, with a tiny loop at the top, through which is strung a bit of leather cord. A broken necklace? Something like that. On him, it covers a fair amount of his chest. On a human, it would fit easily into a palm.
"Eight of 'em." His voice is piping and small, a breathy tenor. "Not counting this one. This one's the guide. Hold it, and it'll tug you where you need t'go."
"Oh, you know. Debating on ways I can slant the appearance of a crown upon the head of a Moon Courter," Cassian admits, before stopping to face Ashe. Though he seems to regard her more directly, the coin slips between his fingers passively. "I've never seen you walk the roses before," he says, pointedly, suddenly considering how complicated his life could become here. "Looks like my favorite set of daggers has ben conscripted to adventure," Cassian says, tilting a nose towards Vorpal.
Neirin's response answers most of the questions Vorpal has, and he nods at the replies they recieve. "And what is it being offered in exchange for the retrieval of the other eight pieces?" Always confirm every detail of a deal before agreeing to take it up, that's what this god always says.
The market, a truly unlikely place to find Count right? WRONG! After all, a Knight of the Tongue needs a place to do a little bargaining, to find delicious delicacies and rare whatsits to ingest and imbibe. The beast however, does tend to avoid freeholders, for one reason or another, but today, the carnivorous chimera's distracted wandering leads him right towards another lost; his eyes momentarily drawn towards some thing or another, mouth and hand occupied by bone and charred flesh as he rounds the nearest corner, ever alert for thieves and pickpockets that he does not notice the ogress lurking and spying and ends up plowing directly into her back.
Neirin switches his fiddle case to his right hand, eyebrows up. "'S very pretty," he observes. "Seven pieces. That'll take a little bit of doing, especially if the pieces are far." He doesn't take the piece yet, but he glances sidelong at Vorpal again. "I might could do it, but yeah, mate, what the Hunter God here's sayin'. I've got in mind what I came here for, but what are you willing to trade in return for this task? It sounds as though it may be an onerous one."
"You don't like Moons, do you, Cassian?" Ashe asks him as she gives him a look. Then there's a chuckle, "I've been here before. Long before you came here." she points out. "Just haven't had a lot of time lately." she admits. "And tonight I'm keeping an eye on someone." she states quietly to the Dusk as she looks to Neirin. Because the Monarch tailing your ass is a good thing. It could be!
The little hob perks up when it seems the Changelings might be able to assist, and quickly gestures toward the wares on his table. "Whatcha want? Trade you for anything on here, if it's fair." He squirms a bit, wobbling side to side, then hops up to pad toward the back of the table, dragging a sack forward. It clinks as he does, tiny glass phials glinting in the light. "Got gewgaws and Contracts here, the odd minor token. The pieces're kinda far away, but you're big." Because that makes everything better.
"Big, and equipped to travel," agrees Vorpal. "Very well. I'm certainly willing to help retrieve your bits and baubles. Your wares seem about even costs- what say you we go get your tokens, and once we return with at least one, we can trade for the pieces we bring back, plus a small concession on the trades on your part as a finder's fee in consideration for going out of our way? How's that strike you?" He looks to both Neirin and the hob, curious as to their opinions.
Ashe looks to Cassian and there's a nod to that, "Well, it's not my place to tell you that they can be trusted. That's for you to try to work out on your own at some point if you wish." she states. She wasn't a Dawn, people! "And yes, you do have your position with the Greenies to think about." she nods in understanding to that. Then there's a look to Neirin and then back to Cassian, "Newly pledged. Was coming to market tonight. Figured if he got into trouble it would be good to have other support. I mentioned your name but didn't know if you'd be out here or at home already." she states from beneath the hood.
It's not just an expression of sound, but an actual word, the beast actually says 'Oof', and turns around to stare right into Uschi's... chest? he lifts his eyes upwards to her face, and as she sniffs at him, he does similar; but while his nostrils flare, its a blue tongue that flicks out to taste the air, amber eyes watching the ogress a moment before he cracks a vipers smile. "Sorry 'bout that gorgeous, wasn't lookin' where I was goin?" All bastards smile, all charm.
Then Count is looking past her, towards where her thumb is pointing while he tactfully takes a step back from the large woman with the dead arm and flaking skin, towards the crowd of other lost and the hob, and his eyes immediately narrow. "What now?" He asks distractedly, before moving his foot to block what appears to be a full grown monitor lizard from passing him up. "Huh, I know that guy..." he murmurs to himself. "...what you spyin on them for?"
"Hold, if you should be so kind," Neirin says pleasantly to the hob, lifting his hand, "I wish to be on the same page as my comrade-in-arms, who, indeed, is far bigger than I am. That all right? There's things he can do which I ain't near equipped to, so I don't want to go promisin' a thing, yet."
Provided it's okay with the hob, he'll lean to whisper with Vorpal.
"He looks like the sort that reads a lot," Cassian says quietly, smirking. "Roz is the reader. I'm just the Thief," he says. The discussion of the moon stuff seems to fade. He still hoped for a Winter Crown to avoid it altogether. Another glance to Ashe. "They seem to be conspiring, your friend and my favorite knives," Cassian says. "Should we intervene? Or do we wait for them to kiss first?" He whispers.
The hob does, indeed, wait for Neirin to whisper to Vorpal, biding his time.
What's that sound, over there? It sounds like a dog barking while a boulder falls down a hill of shale -- only it's not that, it's Uschi laughing. For someone who was, up until very recently, a subtle shadow of stealthy survival instincts, she's doing nothing to hide that gruff laugh of hers. "So whot, ya gettin' new eyes or somethin'? Sense of direction -- or just fuckin' sense?"
MORE LAUGHING. Then Uschi is sizing the pint-sized (alright, averaged) Beast, giving a side-glance to Vorpal and Neirin and the Hob Marketeer, as her ruddy right hand lifts, slaps her hip with a *THWACK*, then an elbow is aimed in Count's direction. Hope the Winter likes getting jostled by a gruff elbow to the chest. "Ain't ya pre-scrumptious." That has to be a mis-phrasing. Uschi continues; "Just learnin' the flow of the Market. It decides, yanno. Say -- d'ja here that? They're havin' a laugh, mate! Goin' onna Wyrd goose chases after broken Tokens --- ya know, somethin' broken an' done got lost? Often for a good fuckin' reason -- d'ja get me, squirt?"
Uschi grins, a crooked cuspid glinting as shadow moves about her face. Monitor lizard? Noted and ignored; Uschi's eyes are always roaming, but just looks like an iridescent flicker in the gloom.
"There's nothing wrong with reading." Ashe tells Cassian with an amused look on her stitched face. "Lady Cobalescu seemed to go quiet after the deaths. Hope she is doing alright." she comments idly. Then there's a soft chuckle, "I'm hoping they don't kiss, I'm also not stopping them. Nothing they are doing is illegal...or well...against the rules." she admits.
Hey now, Count ain't that short! He's a mighty 5'6"-7"!! He's also built slim and compact, tho the clothes he is wearing here in the market bulk him out just a touch, heavy boots, thick pants with, are those knee pads? Heavy leather jacket, and lets not forget the assault rifle on a strap, slung over one shoulder. "Girl, you couldn't sell me sense if you included a blowjob with a gargling finish." No really, those teeth are scary. Count however, is still smiling, falling easy into the banter and self-deprecation, turning crude in response to immediate company.
The elbow coming for him is met with only a subtle shift of his body, taking it half on his shoulder half on his side, and returning the genial physical impact with a closed fist to her shoulder while he listens to her explanation, raising a brow and then looking over at the group, thoughtfully. "That so? Well, some things don't wanna be found, some things do, and some things only wanna be found by certain people."
Vorpal whispers back, before straightening. "I'm alright with the deal as stated. We'll go retrieve the pieces, and on return, trade for the pieces we've brought back, plus a concession from you for the trouble. Agreed?" He looks to Neirin and the hob for their agreement.
The wiry little Thusser -- that'd be Neirin with the fiddle case -- nods. "Agreed." And then he holds out his left hand for the piece of necklace.
"I never said anything about it being illegal. Besides, here, my loyalties are sworn to the Lady Day--A subject I'm hoping does not create any drama between us. But, if they're conspiring to Adventure, it could lead you out into the wilds chasing people chasing gilded geese. Are we up to that?" He asks, curiously, of Ashe.
The little hob squints. "Not agreed. You bring the pieces back, you get to choose a fair deal from my wares. A fair and -honest- deal, compensatory to the difficulties you endured." Because deals made in the Market must be honest on both sides. "Bringing the pieces back IS the trouble." He eyeballs Vorpal with suspicion. "You don't get paid twice for the same goods.
"Blow job? Do I look like a fuckin' Windy Wizened? There ain't no job I'd do for no man, last of all put out yer fires." ... Uschi might not know what Count is talking about -- or /DOES/ she? Either way, it doesn't keep the Crust Crone of Moon from laughing, her ruddy right hand knocking against Count again.
Then the Ogress, she sighs. Sounds like a gust racing through the pines.
One beat. Two beats. Oh no, it's like the under socialised Ogress has had An Idea. That can only go... Strangely.
Ruddy right hand is raised to her lips, and Uschi whistles: LOUD. Shrill and sharp, like the referee-whistle call of a Varied Thrush. Oh, it's a bird, don't worry.
"Hey!" No need to be so gruff, Uschi - the little Hob Marketeer is right over there. Maybe she assumes tiny = hard of hearing. "Can I axe ya a quest-tin?"
Vorpal tilts his head. "You said what I said with different words." He shrugs, not particularly concerned by the clarification, and leans in as Neirin whispers something, nodding. "Tell you what- I'm not what anyone would consider an expert with setting these terms. Perhaps you'd rather settle them with my friend?"
The little hob's petals all pouf out when he hears the whistle, startlement sending him into a sudden inward tuck and roll to present his petals to the sunny sky, for all the world like an oddly round and spiky mutant daisy. Slowly, when nothing attacks him, he uncurls and stares at the Ogre, a tiny frown on his tiny face. "That wasn't funny!"
Looking to Vorpal and his far more human friend, the tiny hob holds out the token piece. "If you accept my terms, you're good to go."
Apparently his friend's eager to accept the Hob's bargain. "Mistook what you meant," Neirin says in gruff apology. "Your deal's fair, I accept the terms, annat." He holds his hand out again-- "Give it here, mate--" then accepts it when it's offered. "I won't even ask if you got what I came here lookin' for."
Once it's in his hand, he smiles, bright and quick and lopsided, and it makes him and his gasflame eyes look briefly younger; there's a scent of his own peculiar glamour in the air as he closes his eyes: coal smoke and rosin and old books.
"Well, if they are going to go get themselves into some sort of trouble I have to go chase the gaggle." Ashe tells Cassian as the stitches in her cheeks pull. She gives a look to the business being conducted as she adjusts her gloves and there's a bit of a nod that lets her hood fall lower. Because it was her thing for the moment.
The coal of a Collier if not a collier: born and bred working class; the rosin of a fiddler, practiced and proven; the scent of old libraries that hold books older than the oldest of the Lost and older than many Gentry besides-- and the wiry man who somehow seems smaller than he is has to set his fiddle down. The case gets put between his feet, as if to guard it, and the piece of a Token's held in both hands. Three missing pieces appear almost immediately and merge with the guide, making the object bigger; another moment's effort and the last two of the first batch join them, followed by two more from somewhere else entirely-- and Neirin frowns, brow furrowing. He knows there's another piece--
One last burst of his humble magics and the final piece materializes and joins its fellows.
Vorpal grimaces at the piercing, shrill whistle, turning towards Uschi and her terrible... was that a dwarven adventure two-part pun? WHO EVEN KNOWS, right? Neirin's taken the token-bit and started... doing... so he looks towards the Ogre and inquires, "What's the question, m-"
"... Count???" All whilst Neirin works some impressive, literal magic.
"Youse heard me - an' course if fuckin' does, shortstack" Uschi grunts distractedly to Count, but it's strange: the big, tall, shadowy lookin' pillar of unsettling Ogress -- looks... Well she looks a little bad, when the grindstones of her mind start to separate the logical wheat from the irrelevant chaff and realise that Little Hob is startled. Oh dear. Maybe tiny things don't like loud noises. But birds are tiny! Hob is tiny! Why doesn't Hob like bird greeting? The Ogress stares, her mouth a bit open, a trace amount of drool just sort of... Dripping a bit.
"...It ain't meant ta be." Uschi says after a moment, deadpan. "S'posed ta be, how'd'ja say it... Po-light. Stedda harsh, d'ja get me?" Hardly anyone gets you, Uschi; deal with it. Only she doesn't deal quick enough -- poor, slow, dumb Ogres -- Neirin and Vorpol seem to've made a deal, but the Ogress is lowering her voice to a whisper, nodding a horn in Tiny Hob's direction. "Can youse ant-sir a quest-tin I got? 'bout yer line of bees wax?..." No pause; Uschi just keeps asking: "That Token you done asked these..." Confused look to Vorpal and Neirin, as the Wizened does his magic and the, uh, Not-True-Fae recognised Count. "...Fellas," Said so warily, before Uschi confidently looks back at the Tiny Hob, "Ta find for ya - whot's it do, exactly?"
Check out that easy smile of Uschi's - wide mouth which is still not wide enough for all those crooked teeth. There's absolutely nothing... Technically wrong with her smiling like that. So why's it feel so unsettling? Must just be her aura.
Cassian had little else to offer as Ashe seemed ready to traipse into the wilds after Neirin. The fact that may not happen at all had entirely eluded him, being himself unfamiliar with magics that involved finding things. He prefered the old ways for hunting, as it were. So, he seems to fall quiet, leaning against a nearby wooden wall of a stall, rather than interject anything.
For a sliver of a moment, the expression on the Chimera's face reads 'aww crap' and, less then a second later the words "Aww Crap." leave Count's throat, only escaping his lips on the lowest, nigh sub-vocal registers. More loudly, and with that lazy smile of his slipping back into place on black lips, he lifts his chin in Vorpal's direction. "Hey there Killer, yer lookin'..." Here, the briefest of pauses. "...like yerself."
Internally, Count is giving himself, for the Nth time, a rebuke about standing so close to ogres, especially in markets, they always draw attention. Always.
"What's shakin'?" he continues, amiably, shifting his shoulders, and then looking to the tohers near the tall Pantheon member, openly looking them over, lifting his chin in silent greeting.
The pieces of the Token join together with, at first, a dim golden glow, honeyed, warm. That glow brightens, and the token heats further with each piece which fuses with its mates, reaching a slightly uncomfortable level by the seventh piece Neirin summons.
You know that question Uschi asked? The one the hob didn't have time to answer?
Yeah, she's about to have that answered, right now.
The moment the final piece is summoned, fusing with the eight already there, the Token becomes, oh, decidedly reminiscent of holding a piece of metal left out in the painfully bright sun of the Sahara, or, say, a brand left in a forge to heat. The scent of burning Neirin-flesh, whatever that scent may be, briefly rises from the Thusser's hand as the Token brands a sigil there.
Whether or not Neirin drops it, it remains precisely at the height it was when it was made whole, a brilliant *FLASH!!* of golden light dazzling the eye of anyone looking that way.
(The hob, notably to anyone who happened to be watching him, was -not- looking. He turned away, in fact, the instant it became clear Neirin was using magic to gather the pieces.)
When the light-dazzle fades, uh, hi. If you thought Vorpal was bad, don't you worry -- this one is worse. The token falls to the ground, spent, as a too-tall, too-spindly Fae appears, stepping out of the light as casually as a honey-glowing, luminescent, vaguely mantis-like creature with glassy skin and swirling mists instead of flesh can be. It is the mists which glow, their movements almost like sand grains.
Unerring, its head tilts slowly to the side, inhuman gaze (all eight eyes) fixing on Neirin to the exclusion of all else.
"Neirin, Vorpal, Cassian and everyone else back away." Ashe snaps quickly as she steps forward. Sorry, she doesn't know everyones name. But she does at least want them AWAY from the Fae. "Please get away from the Fae." she states as she moves to put herself between them and it. Her hood is removed, "I'm Ashe Whelan. Legate of the Legacy of the Black Apple." she states to the tall glowing Fae in front of them. It'll give them time. Just a little bit. But a little bit is better than /none/.
Cassian considers the magic for an instant, when he watches the Hob turn away. There's a grunt, and Cassian grabs the hem of his jacket and brings it aloft to shield Ashe from any harmful magic that may follow--She was the Crown, after all. When only a flash abates around them, the jacket falls, revealing Cassian was armed, though, the white ribbon bound the whip. And, despite there now being a Capital-F in their midst, they were still bound. Fae were rare in the markets, but not entirely impossible, and being there served no course for them to break accord. "Mind y'er hands, Lads," Cassian calls as Ashe takes charge. Even as the hair stood up on the back of his neck, now was the time for careful, careful actions.
Oh he let go all right, holding his wrist and squeezing his eyes shut tight; Neirin nearly stumbles over his fiddle case as the scent of burning human flesh fills the area, then sucks in a breath and calls on Winter to clear his mind and body of the 'BUT I'M LEFT-HANDED' agonyfog. Unfortunately, it clears it for Ashe's command, which means he looks up to see what he's backing away from, and his mouth forms a small 'o'.
"Bollocks," he says faintly, then carefully reaches with his uninjured right hand to pick up the fiddle case and do exactly as Ashe commands. Back, back, back...
There'd been thoughts of responding to Count's curse, to his overcasual reply, to all manner of things occuring in the vicinity, and then? Then there's That. Morpheus meets Mantis, with the eyes of some sort of Sandspider, and all previous concerns are gone.
"... well! That answers that, I supp-" And then Ashe is snapping, demanding, and- Vorpal is left subtly grinding his teeth as his Queen demands he step back. It's the WISE decision- this IS the Market, and he's not to be lashing out, even if this IS one of THEM, but... cooler heads prevail, and he shifts an arm between Neirin and Them, backing them both away as Ashe steps forward to interject, shadeswallowed eyes locked on It.
It doesn't take much to interpret the springloaded tension in Vorpal's posture. Count's seen it before. Cassian's BEEN it before. Slow breaths, focused stare, overly relaxed posture.
This is 'Give me a reason.'
"Jeezusfuckmytitties!" This well articulated exclamation comes from the long blue tongue(s) of Count, in response to the sudden and unexpected flash of light. One arm comes up to shield his face, and the other comes up with... a gun? I mean this gun has a white ribbon around the trigger, tied in a pretty bow even, and Count has impeccable trigger discipline, but the heavy revolver is in his hand none the less.
He blinks away the afterimages and focuses on the mantid creature. "Zorak?" he murmurs, not to anyone in particular, just an image association unconsciously vocalized.
"..." Uschi has no response to the non-answer that the Adorable and Tiny Hob gives her, as the vigilant Ogress has slowed her already glacial roll, once Neirin's magic re-configuration of that Token results in... Well, Uschi does't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Wait. Which way did Uschi -go-?
Who cares. Farwalkers aren't important. Fae are Important. Focus on /Them/.
Wait. Wait. No, no don't focus /too/ hard...
The Fae spares no attention for threats, no attention for anyone, in fact, beyond the one whose hand now bears its mark, beginning to step toward the bard with insectile precision and a sandstorm's grace -- until Ashe calls upon her own privileges as a Legate.
It stops moving, though it radiates a heat palpable across the aisle, other shoppers making quiet retreats of their own or, in the case of hobs, abruptly pausing what they are doing and remaining very, very still, eyes fixed on the Fae.
The little hob who started all of this, meanwhile, jumps up and down on the tabletop, waving his arms. "Hey! Hey!! Not THAT one."
The Fae's eyes remain fixed on Neirin, but it doesn't speak, doesn't move, waiting.
Ashe's black and silver gaze goes to the hob, the silver draining from it. Leaving big black obsidian pits staring at him. "Silence." she states. Then to the Fae. "Neirin. State your bargain that you made with this hob." she points to the man behind her. "Clearly and concisely." she tells him.
This was beyond Cassian's expertise, though he knew it to be Ashe's. They weren't traipsing through some domain, and all his tricks were to know how to act within another's land--Not out in the Roses with one face to face. His eyes remain on Neirin, decidedly not the Fae, and Ashe. In case he needed to get them out of there.
Count is so very suddenly standing ALONE. Okay, not alone, there is a rather heavy looking reptile lashing it's taile just to his left, but the ogress would have made such an amazing, and more importantly, ample shield. (Those Cover penalties are Legit).
Just in time it seems, the Beast remembers the market rules, but he does not put his weapon away. See Ribbon! Still Complying! Survival however, trumps rules and Count takes a step backwards, and his mouth has found a way to keep itself shut. Nothing to see here, not my business, don't need anymore scars.
Vorpal leaves Ashe on point, letting the hob shriek, holding his position between the Fae and Neirin while she negotiates. He -looks- relaxed, patient, but it is one hundred percent a farce. He's keeping himself between the Fae and its apparent quarry on the offchance it might assault him in an attempt to retrieve the other changeling. Self Defense is a thing in the Market- even if Friend Defense is not.
"He said: 'You bring the pieces back, you get to choose a fair deal from my wares. A fair and honest deal, compensatory to the difficulties you endured. Bringing the pieces back IS the trouble.' I said, 'Your deal's fair, I accept the terms, annat,'" Neirin's voice recites, and it's a clear and steady tenor, the resonant timbre of a storyteller with its peculiarly riveting cant. Comfort taken from rote, even if he's frozen behind Vorpal and Ashe, trying to decide whether it's worse to look at or away from the Fae. He sucks in a breath and clarifies, "He has not yet paid me for the task for which I contracted, and he was wrong about bringing the pieces back being the trouble."
Where's Uschi? Who knows, who cares -- if she /is/ watching from the shadows somewhere, she's being really frickin' subtle about it. How else is a brash, one-armed Ogress of Moon supposed to survive, if not by getting the fuck outta dodge when shit gets real? S'not like she can fight her way out of -this- one...
The Fae never removes its attention from Neirin, ignoring the increasingly irate flowery hob. The little hob's petals prickle out like soft white-yellow thorns which, you know, aren't actually a threat to anything, display or no, and he hops down from the tabletop with no signs of trouble for the distance involved, moving over to the completed token --
-- and freezing, quite abruptly, when there is suddenly a luminescent, glassy leg blocking his way. He yelps in pain, some of his petals wilting in the heat, though the source is .. okay, the source is pretty damn obvious, even if the exact cause isn't visible. The hob never touches the Fae.
The hob does, however, insist upon speaking, pointing at Neirin and Vorpal. "They were contracted to aid me! I had the calling token! I did!" The hob jumps up and down again, agitated.
The Fae's voice is the hiss of sand over chitin, the wavering of heat over the dunes, wind's whisper through dessicated palms.
* You are owed one favour. *
No, it is not talking to the hob.
Count continues to rather slowly back away, focused on not being a target, even if that seems unlikely. Amidst all this danger and strange, he does have one niggling thought, which is:
'Did that guy just collect all the dragon balls?'
He does not however, speak this thought, and instrad crouches down to grab Fucker (the monitor lizard) by the tail and start to drag it backwards as well (with some effort as the thing is a stubborn asshole)
Ashe continues to keep herself between Fae and anyone else. She does shoot a look over to the irritated little hob. Who was probably just trying to give this over to get somebody taken. That left a sour taste in her mouth. "Thank you, Neirin." she tells him. Then she looks to the Fae and the hob and she gives the thing a look, thems the breaks. Like it or not.
Cassian furrowed his brows in thought as Neirin was placed in a harsh place. In his own mind he wondered about how all of these things would fall together, given their circumstances, but he had nothing to say to ease their position. Mostly, he waited for the right moment to dive for Ashe and get her somewhere else.
Vorpal flashes a brilliant grin as the issue is settled. Does it touch his eyes? Nope. But then, his eyes are lost in shadow, so who can tell? "That's nicely settled, then, I'd say. What's left, Miss Whelan- we just need to settle up with our little marketeer, and we can be on our way, yes? Is that about the size of it?"
Ashe is perfectly calm looking for the moment, but that one grey lock of hair is going to be joined by another. She's waiting to get her people out of their safely. There's a look to Vorpal and a shake of her head, "No, that's not all of it." she tells her fellow Shadowsoul. Then she looks over her shoulder at Neirin.
That thing's gaze is pinning him like a butterfly. Neirin honestly doesn't give a shit about the contract anymore. He just wants this thing to go away. He can make day pledges with people for honesty. That's fine. Ashe thanks him, and Vorpal's talking, and then Ashe is looking at him, too. It won't leave. It won't leave until he answers it.
So the comparatively little Briton, years spent now on punishing himself to make cold iron for people like these to defeat things like that, promises made just this afternoon to this woman who offered him the protection of the freehold and just proved it, finds there's only one thing he can say.
The bard's voice is a threadless thing, winter cold and singing like the telephone and power lines over a fresh blanket of snow. "The favor I ask is that you and yours leave the Freehold of Fate's Harvest alone, neither harassing nor taking its members."
Uschi is not to be seen - so nobody can see her reaction, presuming she -has- a reaction, to Neirin's favour. They can't even her her tisk -- presuming she /does/ tisk. Why would the Moon Ogress be so dismissive? She wouldn't. Because nobody could tell if she was -- and besides... Uschi ain't doing jack shit right now. There's a Fae here. She's totally grey rocking it.
The Fae waits. Is it breathing?
Does it NEED to breathe?
Why doesn't it move? It's just staring at Neirin.
When Neirin's answer finally comes, the Fae's head tilts again, a sharp gesture, insectile, regarding the Thusser from a different angle.
Its voice is devoid of anything as human as emotion when it speaks in reply, inquiring, * By which token will the members of the Fate's Harvest Freehold be known? *
See that's the problem with freeholders... (or rather problem #547), always thinking only of themselves. Who cares about anyone else, he ddint /have/ to be so darn specific, he could have said /anyone/, potentially neutering this Gentry for good...
And So Count?
Where there was, a moment before, very definitely a Count, there is now, distinctly, an absence of him. A space where he was that he is now not. AS Very clear, and sad (Because winter) dearth of Chimera.
Ther is a Fucker, and... a bat? Both of which, fuck off into the crowds.
Ashe wasn't expecting that answer from Neirin and there's not really anything that she can do to change it. Then there's a look to the Fae when he doesn't say 'Hell No!' to the offer. Heavy is the head that wears the Autumn crown right now. She looks to Neirin when the Fae agrees to the terms and there's a quirk on an eyebrow, but a blank expression on her face for the moment. She needed to stay focused just in case shit went sideways.
The Thusser looks surprised at the Gentry's question. "You can't tell by the weight of the pledge on our souls? Maybe-- you should wait until you can tell-- before trying to approach anyone in the area, because they might be pledged," he reasons haltingly, gripping his violin case and trying to focus on how much he's going to biiiiitch when Sorrow-Frozen Heart wears off. "Whelan--? Have you any ideas for it, if that doesn't suffice?"
Ashe looks from the Fae and then back to Neirin when he's talked to her. There's a look from Neirin to the pin that she's passed out to all of the Freeholders that have sworn and then back to Neirin. A pale finger reaches out to tap the two Autumn leaves twined together, "It's the best visible token we've got for now." she states.
Cassian was made uncomfortable by how closely they were skirting the line of associating themselves with Fae. A neccessary evil, perhaps, to survive the current storm, but not one that sat well with Cassian all the same. He didn't like that he was in such a tough spot, in such a way, and for such a reason. For the moment, he tries to study the Fae in a subtle way.
The Fae finally looks away from Neirin, fixing Ashe and, more importantly, the Crown with its unblinking stare. It watches Ashe for a long while, studying her, then, when they are mentioned, the Autumn leaves of the pin. It then fixes each Changeling in its vicinity with the same stare, and good thing Count's invisible, right?
Very Good Thing.
It must have found SOMEthing it can use as identification, however, because its head turns to regard Neirin again, a hint of alien satisfaction warming the whisper of wind through palms.
* Members of the Fate's Harvest Freehold will be neither taken nor harassed by me or mine. *
And with that? Another blinding *FLASH!!* precedes the disappearance of both pendant and True Fae, favour granted.
The hob, irate, makes a sound rather like a flowery teakettle left too long on the heat. "You stole my favour!!"
"You made the deal," Cassian points out, "Nothing was stolen." He considers the remaining individuals for a moment in thought. Others had left, and there was little else to do, since danger had fled from them.
"...better make sure everyone's got one, then," Neirin says in a small voice. "Not just them as pledged in Autumn. Fitting it's Autumn's sign we're known by as it's you who bore the weight of the Crown for this, Whelan..."
And the hob's shrieking. Neirin's gasflame blue eyes turn on him and he lifts his left hand, showing the still-glowing still-burning awful brand on it, then shoving it and its burnt-flesh stench at the little rose goblin. "Listen, fuck you, as far as I'm concerned you lost what I got you when you din't fucking pick it up, and you din't pay me for my fuckin' troubles, you stoat-felching little stomafucker. You decide you want to follow Market rules and pay me, you can tell someone who gives a shit."
Ashe looks to the Fae, she's not afraid to. Probably the reason she has the job that she does. She gives a bit of a look to Neirin and there's a set to her a jaw, like she's a about to unhinge it. But it's stitched. When the hob continues to yell there's a look to it and she waits for Winter to stop speaking and she approaches it. "You. /YOU/ wasted your favor. And making a deal with a Fae is nothing less than a death sentence that is yet to come. You can't try to push it onto someone else either." she states in a hiss. "It's stupid." she states with bared teeth. "So be glad that it didn't decide to take you with it when it left." she snaps. Then she turns to look at the members of her Freehold that are there and it's quite clear and she's not happy.
Ashe doesn't say anything though. And she doesn't stick around for long. Because Ashe's body tears itself into a swarm of vampire bats and takes off into the hedge.
"... well. That- was... not how I expected to spend MY afternoon," murmurs Vorpal once all is said and done. "But that's... I mean, that's a good thing, that deal." He speaks while he pulls a burlap pouch off his belt and fishes out a few rolls of Catseye clover. "Here, friend. For your trouble." This is offered to Neirin! Because he's good for his word. "Now. Once you've settled your deal with our diminutive, erstwhile business partner, I'm happy to escort anyone home who's feeling unsettled."
Yeah, scary people are scary. The little hob quivers in wary outrage, petals turning pink around the edges, and bounces up onto the tabletop with a cat's ease. It flops down, glaring at Vorpal and Neirin, and folds its arms. "You didn't get into any danger at -all- by magicking the pieces together. One thing! One simple thing! Tell me, and buzz off!"
"Yeah same," mutters Neirin to Vorpal, reaching up to rub the back of his neck, then flinching when his neck gets the sensation of that brand on the back of it. "Ah-- actually, if you've got one, something to heal this shit'd be favorite," he says ruefully. And then the Hob is /still/ being an asshole. He rounds on it, eyes wide.
"I got fucking branded, yer fucking twatwaffle," the Thusser says in a tone of limit-breaking exasperation. Some people cope by gibbering. Some people cope by utilizing inventive vulgarity and promising themselves a fifth of Scotch when they get home. "Give me the Sight of Truth and Lies and I'm fucking gone. I'll have no more shit from you."
Vorpal pauses and nods, resettling the clover and plucking out a little bottle of Blushberry cordial. "Here. Sorta like Lucy's stuff, but probably tastier, on account of actually existing." Was that a Narnia reference? That was a Narnia reference. He suppresses a chuckle at the colorful invective, studying the hob carefully. The keen-sensed be aware- Vorpal is not a fan.
The little hob copes by snarling and emitting a puff of pollen. A very angry puff.
"I hope you have allergies!"
He stomp stomp stomps over to that little bag of delicate glass phials, reaches in, grabs one with even more delicate gold filigree on it, and holds it out. "Drink it and you'll learn."
With that, he stares at Vorpal next. After all, Vorpal was part of the original deal.
Cassian hadn't considered any further that Neirin or Vorpal might accost the hob any further. Even if Cas had an interest in causing a little harm on the Hob for dropping one of them Capital-F's into his lap, he was still duty-bound to serve the Roses. With that concern fleeting, Cassian goes back to plotting whether he could prevent a Moon from crowning for the season. And musing while flipping his piece of eight.
"Don't suppose you happen to have a vial of Calling the Guardian, do you? If not, Sight of Truth and Lies will do me just fine. Be glad to take that and hie myself gone," Vorpal explains, plucking one of the rolls of clover to pop into his mouth and chew, doing his best not to react much to the spicy bundle.
Neirin takes the vial with first gratitude, and then enormous amusement. "Ta, mate," he says, a smile turning up on half his face-- and then the hob PUFFS at him. He takes the filigreed vial and smirks at the hob. "Smoker. 'S a miracle I breathe at all." He takes a step back, and drinks Vorpal's better-than-Lucy's vial before doing literally anything else. After that, he'll just leave. Uh, definitely with Vorpal. Or Cassian. Or both.
The little hob grumpily reaches into the bag of phials, pulls out one with sky blue-tinted fluid inside, and holds it out for Vorpal. "Guardian. Now scat! I refuse to do business again with either of you!"