How far will some people go, to save a life?
There are mysterious diseases - ailments - infections like the one Kip's been suffering with; if left untreated, it is inevitable that he will die. All signs, portents, omens, roads lead to that outcome if there's no intervention -- but there is an option: a Hera Pear. Being well connected fae about town, Mina Grey and Ben Utridge would have heard the rumour -- travellers on the Deep Hedge Trods have been saying there is a Hera Pera Tree growing somewhere past the Fanwood Fen.
How long have they been travelling?
Long enough that feet are starting to hurt. Long enough that the group have gone through Rainbowside Markets, picked fruit from the thorny sides of the Mad Garden, narrowly avoided getting absolutely fucked over in the Hedge Maze when a bunch of Will-o-Wisps made survival kind of confusion, and finally, finally, finally arrived in the deep, deep, deep Hedge.
The Deep Dark Hedge.
Leaving the confusing Escher like staircases of the Giant's Steps, up until this point there have been scant few Hobs around -- aside from the silhouette of a woman walking two dogs somewhere in the confusing upside-down-and-sideways staircase, there's just some birds overhead, flying high in the sky. Blindbirds or Vileshrikes or something, it's so hard to tell.
But now, up ahead, the Trod moves through a curved landscape which is getting closed in on by trees and the sound of rushing water. Something croaks. The sky overhead remains a deep, bright, blistering blue -- but the banks of The Slips are dark like night, the algae and moss glowing on rocks besides the River, highlighting two facts:
One: the Trod bends straight down into a little dock by the rapids. Two: there is a small hut with a single lamp hanging above a sign that shows a drawing of a boat. There's smoke coming out of the chimney of the hut. It smells like a swamp. Hell, it sounds like one two: in the shadows, creatures creak and croak.
Damion lets whoever is doing the trailblazing take the lead in the endeavor, but otherwise takes the vanguard if allowed. He's probably the most heavily armored one, and one of the meatier ones there. So he seems to think he should be the first one to brunt any attacks. His high Wyrd also has an affect as they pass. Wherever they go, around them any small hedge beasts and the like the spot seem to take on more reptillian appearances. Inanimate objects look newer, fancier. Often taking on a gilded look or seemingly sprouting gemstones. And plants likewise become gilded. The Dragons connection to this place altering it, however temporarily. When they reach the hut and river he stops, studying the area carefully.
There were words of genuine gratitude from Mina at the start of it all. The Fairest, she looks tired. It's not been an easy go of things, with Kip slowly losing his mind. She's wearing reinforced clothing, and the bow over her shoulder suggests that she knows that this isn't going to be easy. The look on her face suggest she knows just how unfortunately this could all go for her. "I hate going this deep," she says under her breath. She might have been the one that put out the initial call for help, but she's clearly not the one guiding this rather...interesting group of people.
As they're walking along through the hedge, Cerise wavers between walking over next to C.B. and then slowing her pace to give the Lost more room. Now and again, she'll frown at his back. As the hours drag on, and marching through it's hedge takes its toll, she'll find herself drifting further and further away from C.B., eventually ending up marching near to Mina.
As they reach the spot where they can see the hut, she, too, stops. Perhaps rashly, she moves towards the front of the group where she can get a better look, her eyes narrowed and cautious. "Any way to get up and take a look without being seen?"
There's also a diamond ring on one of Mina's fingers. It's worn on her right hand, but it looks suspiciously like That Sort of Ring. Ahem.
C.B. Alexander tends to have a 'look' when he goes into the Hedge: like he's just raided an army-navy store. He's got on an army jacket over an olive green t-shirt, dog tags around his neck, camo pants, army-style backpack on his back, Korean jungle boots on his feet, and the one anomaly, the newish-looking Red Sox cap on his head. A chrome-plated megaphone dangles from the backpack. He's seemed rather sullen and withdrawn throughout the earlier part of the journey, not made any better by Cerise drifting away from him towards Mina. Which means he's bringing up the rear, though he seems to be alright with that, even if he is glowering at the two women ahead of him.
Trotting alongside him at his feet is the papery form of Yossarian, his Hedgebeast Companion. Yossy tends to only speak when he has something important or relevant to say, and now is no exception. He just walks ahead, yellow eyes agleam, looking out for things of interest.
Ben, the Magi of the Gilded Thorn, is the one guiding the group through and into the Deep Hedge. He's fully covered a robe with a hoodie made of many rags of different materials stitched together. Leather, skin, hide and feather. All the purest black. From the cloak drips a black oily substance that dissapears upon hitting the floor. Over his face there is a very weird and creepy mask. It's made of a deer skull. It's carved with many unkown symbols and sigils and from its huge antlers hangs many trinkets. Feathers, shattered mirrors and dried herbs. In short words, the Magi is looking much more like a witch with a crepy mask.
"I don't think we can pick inside without its occupants notice us." He says to no one in particular as they reach the hut and the groups starts analyzing the options. I can try and do the talking if it's a Hob, though." He adds a bit later as he glances to the others looking for approval or more suggestion.
Damion shakes his head at Cerise. "Not by me. I'm not the stealthiest of people." He gives her a crooked, onyx-toothed grin. With him being seven feet tall, red, and wearing a full suit of riot/organic plate armor he doesn't seem like he'd be very good at hiding. Then he shrugs over at Ben. "Works for me, if nobody else has any problems." He's here mostly as muscle. So he'll let those better suited to it do the social stuff.
"By all means. I'll leave things to those that are more skilled than I am." There's a wry smile from Mina, and a glance towards Cerise at her side. She's been watching Ben, unfamiliar guide that he is, though there was, of course, a friendly greeting to her favorite paper feline. And C.B.. She shifts the pack on her hips - way cooler than a fanny pack, with plenty of pockets for the things that she's carrying. One, handily, even has the red medic's cross on it.
Cerise watches a little longer, her eyes all narrowed and astute before they suddenly widen. She reaches out a hand to poke at the person closest to her, which happens to be Mina. "Ummmm....that house just /winked/ at me. I think it may be alive." Then she pokes a little bit more insistantly. "Yeah, look! See, there's like things poking up through the roof? They're eyes! Like what snails have!" See what an undergrad degree in biology from Harvard gets you? The ability to spot snail eyes.
Over by that bowl-shaped hut with the riverboat sign out front, smoke bellows out from the chimney -- greenish grey, it mingles with the mists that boarder the river. Man. That's one rapid river -- which was is it even flowing? Up or down? The rocks along the edges of the river look slippery, sharp, and unwelcoming -- glowing with acidic green and yellow algae and slime. The thorny trees that boarder the river hold glowing purple mosses that hang down close to the water, but not touch. Looks sticky.
Sticky and dark. The light around the river is poor -- it looks like it's the middle of the night, really. So strange, seeing as the skies above the trees canopy are bright, burning blue.
Over by the hut, there is some movement -- sure, stems of something are wiggling in the air. They could be snail eyes. Or something. The smoke from the chimney does suggest someone's home...
Yossarian glances up at Mina, but says nothing. C.B., meanwhile, scowls and sulks to himself. Although something about his expression seems worried, something probably only Yossy picks up on. Electricity crackles around the Wizened's form from his elemental armor, making him all the less approachable. He stares out at the river...stares at the hut. Stares at the strange snail eyes. Then he starts heading towards the door without a word. Someone's feeling reckless.
The whole place looks, somehow, familiar to Ben. Or at least this is what it looks like since none of its features, including the snail eyes' glancing at them bother him. He remains motionless and calm until seeing that someone took the lead to head and do the chatting. At that, Ben follows along C.B. in silence up to the hut's door.
Damion blinks a few times, trying to spot what Cerise is pointing out. "It's alive? Okay. So we probably are going to want to avoid getting too close to it, then. Though it might not be the whole thing that's alive. Could just be something weird living on the roof." The Hedge. You can never be sure with it. He notes that some of them ARE approaching the cabin, and he sighs and loosens his sword in its sheath as he follows after the pair. Just in case.
Mina's eyes squint at what Cerise points out. "Hrh," is her reply. "We should probably..." She doesn't finish her sentence, seing as C.B. heads towards the door of what could possibly be a living house. Not following immediately behind, letting that trio go and investigate that. Watching the river, instead. And all of that strange, interesting flora and fauna that lives around it. And then giving a small shiver.
Cerise is still hanging on the path, blinking as she peers at the hut, apparently still trying to find a way around it that doesn't draw attention. She's still peering and blinking when CB just saunters by her. Her head swivels, she blinks in alarm, hissing at him as he goes by, "Wait! We don't know who's there..." She takes a few steps to follow, but Mina is staying behind and apparently, Cerise has decided to stick to her, but she does try and pull the fairest over to the side of the path, where they might not be seen right away, and she does edge down a *bit* closer where she can get a better view and maybe hear anything important that goes on.
Fortune favours the bold.
Before C.B. can make it all the way towards the hut, the front door burst open with a ::CRACK!:: and out hops not one, not two, but -three- Hobs: they are short, squat, and look like what'd happen if a Mandrake Root and a Cane Toad had spent a significant amount of time together. At first the sound they make is a trill -- one, two three -- each in unison but somehow out of sync with one another as they line up, realign, pause, hunch, and start to rub their webbed fingers together.
One has a moustache. They are all wearing white shirts and red trousers. The smallest one has a tiny black cap with rolled edges. Otherwise they are practically identical -- no. Perfectly. Perfectly identical.
"River road is well ridden!" Says 'Tache, all smiles. As if that's a full explanation for what's going on. The other two stare out at Damion, Ben, Mina and Cerise -- milky film passing over their eyes on occasion. Through the door to the hut, there is more movement. More Hobs? Undoubtedly. Spotting something in the group -- a... Human perhaps? The third Hob starts bopping up-and-down on his feet, while the second croaks out at the group; "Whadda you want?"
C.B. snorts, turning his bloodshot, silvery blue eyes upon the three hobs, not really looking at one of them in particular. He keeps one hand hovering somewhere near his hip, inside his army jacket, and as he shifts his posture, the megaphone clanks up against the metal pieces on his backpack. "Looking for a Hera Pear," he grunts. "You guys know where to find one?"
Ben watches as the three Hobs come out of the hut. His expression, masked by the deer skull, is hard to tell. But his body remains still and, apparently, calm. His hands rest loose by his body's side even when one of the Toads starts bobbing strangely. When the three toad-like creatures ask their motivation, he turns his head to C.B. and waits for the Wizened's answer and when it's done, his yellow eyes return to the toads.
Damion raises a brow as the three hobs emerge from the hut. Well, that's at least better than the whole cabin coming to life and attacking them. He just lets the others talk, keeping an eye out for anything else that might sneak up on them. Or the three hobs preparing to attack.
It's an easy enough thing, for Cerise to guide Mina to the side of the path. Not quite out of sight, though. Those solid blue eyes of hers focus on the Hobs, flicking to C.B. briefly when he answers their question. "Stay near me," she murmurs quietly to Cerise, even though the woman already is doing so. But that up and down bopping is not unnoticed by the succuflower.
"Guess we're not being subtle." Cerise mumbles under her breath. For some reason, she looks over at Mina momentarily, as if expecting to find some comradery in the woman. Instead, she gets a direction to stay close and Cerise gives a curt nod before turning her head back to the hobs, her expression growing distant and distracted as she stares at them. It's almost as if she's completely unaware of anything else going on for just a moment there.
Inside the hut, there is a roar of laughter.
Outside one of the Hobs -- which one?! -- merely gigglesnorts after C.B. snorts and speaks to theme, while 'Tache continues to rub his hands togther, smiling and nodding and looking entirely amphibious. Big wet eyes, a shocking shade of orange, have horizontal slits for pupils. "We can't get you all the way, but we can bring you close." It's hard to tell which way he's looking, although he most certainly is running a big flat pink tongue over his thin lips as he considers the group.
Above in the bright blue sky, winged creatures hover and swoop and do bird things.
The river roars in the background. Boats knock together by the dock. 'Tache and his two buddies look at the group -- Short Stack and his friend Tinyhat turn to one another and start, uh, clicking and croaking at one another. It makes like zero sense. 'Tache looks at C.B., then he looks at Mina, then he looks at Damion and Ben, then he looks back to C.B..
"Negotiations open: food, flies, fears, fruit. What'da you smoothskins got?" Quite suddenly, the colour of 'Tache's eyes turn from orange to purple, and he stares at Cerise - pupils dilating. "...Times three, and a lock of that one's hair."
C.B. folded his arms at some point, and stares down at all of the hobs with that same grumpy frown. Yossarian, meanwhile, is sitting up beside C.B., watching the hobs closely with those big, yellow eyes. He's about to open his pack, which he's managed to swing around without hitting himself in the face with that megaphone, but he pauses at something -- blue-silver eyes narrowing. "Why her hair?" Just try to bullshit him, you crazy hobs. You just try.
Ben watches all the chatting going on, ignoring the birds above them all and the river at all. He doesn't look phased by the Hob's demands as he doesn't move an inch. When C.B. talks again, the Witchtooth'eyes jump from the three Hibs to the Lost by his side for a little longer, maybe trying to figure out what's going on on the man's head. But it only goes on for a couple second before he turning back to look at the three Hedge denizens.
Her hair? A frown passes over Damions features, his thick arms crossing over his chest. That doesn't really strike him as a good idea. Who knows what Hobs could do with something like that? He glances at the others to see how they react to the request. He glances around them, looking back the way they came. His eyes widen some at something he sees, and he grips the hilt of his sword. Something about it set off alarms for him.
A glance towards the sky, and then back over her shoulder. Mina lets out a slow breath, and then murmurs, "We need to move. Quickly." Even with the quiet talking, hers is an unfortunately drawing voice. It's hard not to at least pay attention to. Drawing, out of that belt full of pockets, a pack of little brightly colored tabs. Sweettarts. A whole little package of them, and offering them towards the hob.
Aaaaaaannnnd so much for being unobtrusive and not being noticed. The hobs have clearly seen Cerise and her eyes sharpen and narrow at them for a moment, before she comes to a decision. She draws out a knife with one hand, and tugs on her ponytail with the other, lifting the knife to her head. It might be that Cerise is actually ready to comply, when she seems to sense something. The mortal pauses like that, hands occupied with hair and knife, and then slowly turns to look down where they came from. "Yeah, let's go." And just like that, Cerise cuts off a bit of her hair and holds it out to the hob unceremoniously.
"Your human girl is a freak." Says 'Tache, the half-root/half-toad with webbed hands, a shuddering throat sack, and psychedelic eyes. "We accept bits of food, flies, fears, fruit and freak as fare. We're /ferrymen/ -- and you fucks are up Slip creek without a paddle, if you don't pay us what's due."
In the background, Short Stack and Tinyhat lift their webbed fingers and click twice.
High above in the day-time skies, birds circle. Down in the dark by the Slips, unseen things rustle in the shadows.
None of the Hobs seem to think they're talking shit. No. 'Tache seems pretty confident. When Mina speaks? His toady smile only widens. "Good start. Cough up, smoothskins." He waves a hand in the air -- Tinyhat takes off his namesake, and starts moving around to collect goods from the Lost Adventurers. Sweettarts from Mina, brown lock of human/freak hair from Cerise...
What else, what else? Greedy Hob eyes pry and blink, milky film over neon green and speckled yellow.
"God-fucking-damnit," C.B. mutters to himself, paranoid eyes flicking up at the birds over head. He stares in horror as Cerise hands over her hair and spews out, "What are you, a fucking idiot?!" But it doesn't stop him from handing over something, too: a couple of blushberries and a can of Narragansett Lager because yes, he probably has more than one kind of alcoholic beverage on his person. He throws in one of his rollies for good luck. "Will that do it?" he asks the hobs, eyes wide, but it's more like yelling than asking.
The Autumnal doesn't look thrilled by the offering from Cerise, neither by the presence of the Bird above or the things that bumb in the shadows while they're negotiating with the Ferrymen. When one of the Hob comes closer to Ben, he gives him the only Fruit he managed to gather during their trip up to that hut. A Dream-a-Drupe. No words are spoken to none of them, but his yellow eyes stare at Tunyhat for as looks at the Hob looks back at Ben.
Assuming the rest of them managed to pay off the Hobs sufficently, Damion moves to the back of the group. Standing between the assembled Lost and mortals and whoever that is following them. He keeps an eye on the distant figure with the two dog-like shapes, drawing his sword and resting it lightly on one armored shoulder. "Whatever we're doing, lets do it quickly."
There's another look over her shoulder, to where she last saw a figure in the midst of everything else. Mina is more than a little paranoid about that, and the birds, and, well. The entire situation as a whole. "Yes, please, let's get going," she says towards 'Tache.
Cerise hovers by C.B.'s side after she offers up that lock of hair. Her eyes are dark and worried. "We don't have much of a choice." Her eyes flick up to the swirling birds and then back at C.B. When their eyes meet again, she gives the changeling a smile, as warm and filled with confidence as if they were in Cat-22, "It'll be fine. Don't worry." The mortal seems awfully sure of that.
Let's face it: God probably doesn't need to damn any of these guys. The Wyrd's done a pretty good job of it already...
"Three boats, three boats sent to ride the river..."
Tinyhat's hat is getting less tiny - growing in size as it's filled with sweets and hair and beer and fruit and--- the Hob stops short, when Ben starts staring at him like that. He stops short, stops moving, just -stops-; those wet psychedelic eyes taking on a pale colour, pale like the breath of a ghost.
...it smells really swampy here...
Then without a word, Tinyhat turns tail and speed-waddles off into the Hut, his throat-sack jiggling as he goes 'crik-crik-crik!', then immediately slams the door behind him.
'Tache and Short Stack turn and look at each other. They do not look happy. "...Two boats." They mutter -- already waddling off towards the docks, motioning for Ben, C.B. and Damion to take one boat, and Mina and Cerise to take the other. Really? These hobs divide things by gender?
The waters of The Slips are fast moving - black waves frothed with luminscent blue froth, the occasional streak of neon green, yellow or purple making them seem very Wyrd indeed. The boats are small and shallow - shaped like a leaf or a spear, and flat bottomed. Perfect for navigating complicated waterways. The Hobs say nothing more - just wait for the Lost to get onboard, so they can ferry them close towards Hera Pear territory.
"It won't be fine. Nothing will be fine!" C.B. yells at Cerise. And hey, he hasn't even activated his Mad Harbinger Powerz yet! That's the power of pure paranoia talking there. Then he stops, stares at Tinyhat, and whirls to look at Ben. "What did you /do/?" He tromps off towards one of the boats, dog tags clanging, but he's still staring back at Ben like he's waiting for an answer...
Damion lets out a somewhat annoyed sigh when the third hob retreats into the hut with the third boat. Great. He just glances at Ben, then moves to take his place in the male boat. Since it's particularly hard to use a sword in a moving boat, he firmly resheathes his weapon and rests a hand on the grip of his revolver instead. Still glancing in the direction the ghostly figure was seen before.
Ben doesn't give C.B. an answer when he's interrogated about his motivations. Instead, he just starts moving towards the pointed boat to the male Lost. If the others hesitate, he goes first and takes a place in the front part of the dubious boat in silence. His yellow eyes glancing around the water and the surroundings instead of the group of Lost their own comments regarding his behaviour towards the Hob.
Mina gives a glance towards Ben as well. "Autumns," she murmurs under her breath. It's not really -hostile-, just one of those 'what can you do' things. She moves into the boat, keeping a close eye on things around her.
Cerise gives a sigh when C.B. goes tromping off and yelling. It's not exactly unexpected, but she still seems a little disappointed in it. "We need to go." She murmurs with certainty and climbs into a boat with Mina. Once she's settled, she sits upright and alert, looking down ahead of them in the direction the boat is going.
Two boats on the river: Ben, C.B. and Damion in the one with 'Tache, while Short Stuff steers Mina and Cerise along. Whatever the Changelings and Mortal Accomplice choose to do for the first part of their River Journey, they may be glad to know it is without much drama. The water rushes by. The world around them is dark as night, illuminated by neon glow of Wyrd plants. Time doesn't feel real. The sky overhead is bright blue - bright, terribly bright.
Birds circle. Birds circle. Wherever they are floating up river, there are birds. Are they the same birds? A single pair, or are they switching over? Their wings look like black smudges from this far away. Sometimes they swoop out of the thin line of sky above the river, out into the Hedge that's covered with thorny trees - but they always return. Is that normal for the area? Are they watching?
The landscape is changing. Over the water there comes the sweet scent of some appetising yet sickly flower - accompanied by a chrome yellow mist. The river is changing - less of a roar, more of a trickle - the trees lighten, moving from forest into marsh. Like a mangrove really; tall rushes poke out of the water, long purple frills of lacy fungus hang from the boughs of trees: along with long vines, that sway gently in the mist, nearly touching the surface of the water.
In fact, some do. If folk aren't careful, the vines will touch them too.
C.B. casts a long glare over at the lady-boat, but then he and Yossarian -- lest we forget the Hedgebeast -- huddle into the boat with the other dudes. His shoulders are hunched up high around his ears and he's muttering to himself, paranoid eyes flicking over the vines. He removes something from his coat -- a strange, old-fashioned looking flintlock-style pistol, but it's black as pitch. No light reflects off of it at all. And now it's at the ready, down by his side. Yossarian has his front paws up on the side of the boat as he watches, though he takes care to avoid the vines as well.
Damion draws his own gun. It's an oversized revolver, but looks to be made of solid gold. The handle is plated with ivory. Or something that looks like ivory anyway. He checks to make sure it's loaded, then looks up into the sky at the swooping birds. Also trying to shake the fuzziness out of his head. "How much longer to the tree?"
Ben doesn't have weapons since he doesn't take any from underneath his robe while all the others do just that. Instead, he remains standing still in the front part of the boat trying to pay attention as much as he can to whatever may come their way up ahead.
Mina gives a rather concerned look to, of all things, the vines. Yes, the redhead is doing all that she can to make sure that she doesn't end up near them. Ducking, leaning, even shifting where she is in the boat. "I'm not getting the happiest feelings about all of this," she says quietly. At least not loudly enough to be heard in the boat full of the men-folk. "There's a rocky outcrop, in the middle of this place. That's where we'll find the tree." That part does carry.
"Stay clear of the vines. It'll be fine." Cerise orders lowly to Mina because for some reason or another the mortal thinks she's in charge here. Even as she gives that warning, Cerise is on high alert. She sits as close to the bow as she can manage. Her eyes scan the shore, coolly taking note of what she sees there before she once again looks out in front of her, chin lifted as she searches out for that outcrop that Mina mentions.
"Bigrock?" Short Stack croaks after Mina speaks, his violet-and-green eyes staring at them both. "We know the way. It's not far, but--"
On the edges of perception, there is a buzzing. Not everyone may hear it - not if their head is fuzzy - but it's there; the sound of a saw, or... Bees? Bees. Something that sounds like bees. When this pipes up, the two gnarled amphibious hobs start to make a very, very low warbled croaking sound -- it's the strangest thing, but all the sound around the group starts to get splotched out.
Like sound was being erased - just wiped clean in places.
'Tache croaks out in something the Lost and their Head Mortal In Charge can understand: "All of you; stay low, stay quiet -- don't want to attract them, they sound hungry." Then back to that warbled croak -- both Hobs each flattening their bodies down, as they steers their boat onward.
Above them, another bird circles -- only occasionally seen between the strange Fanwood Trees and curtains of vines that sway.
C.B. /tries/ to stay low and quiet, but doesn't do the best job of it. His knees pop and crack and he hisses "Ow!" probably a little too loud. Yossarian gives him a sharp, bright-eyed look of warning, and C.B. whispers, "I'm trying!" But apparently he really is too Loud and Clear to stay utterly quiet and lie low. I mean, the guy did bomb a police station, he ain't exactly known for being subtle...
Damion tries to get low in the boat, but rocks it somewhat in the process, letting out a low grunt and cursing. Too loudly. Yeah. Giant armored dragon is not stealthy. He readies his gun in case it draws the bees, or whatever they are towards them.
Ben tries, he really does, but it doesn't happen. Contrary to the group, the ogre apparently is too obvious to do things like hide and stay quiet because when he turns around (too quickly) to look at the toad Hob he makes the many trinkets hanging from his creepy mask to hit each other making the sound of glasses hitting each other. With that mistake made, he gives up on whatever he was going to do and returns to his previous position and tries to pay attention in the surroundings.
"Yes, Bigrock, if that's what it's called. I would..." Mina cuts off, as that sound comes up. She's a flower, perhaps she likes bees. That foxglove in her hair is certainly in bloom, after all. But when the Hobs start making that sound, and tell them to lay low? She does just that. The succubus goes completley, utterly still. Is she even breathing?
Despite her desire to keep looking straight ahead, Cerise follows directions, pushing herself low in the boat, although her eyes still lift upwards catching sight of as much as she's able to by looking around her. A flicker of something passes over her face. A smile? Couldn't be.
The Hobs continue their strange croaking sounds -- it doesn't blot out all sound, but it blots out a lot: every other beat gone, erased from existence - so C.B's harsh whispers sound more like '--'m tr-n-g!', and the boats pushing through the water has a stunted, hard-to-place quality about it. How far are they from anything? The reeds and rushes reach up high on the sides of the watery Trod, while the lacy protrusions from the Fanwood trees sway in the chrome yellow breeze.
The source of the buzzing is evident -- over by yonder trees, a swamp of purple-and-green insects erratically drift this-way-and-that. But for all their energetic buzz, the Wyrd bugs to not drift in the direction of the boats: neither the glint of Damion's fancy weaponry nor the misguided movements of Ben draw the swarm's attention.
While bees love foxglove, those ones seem like they'd prefer Fairest blood rather than nectar -- but they are oblivious to the intoxicating draw of Mina, just as they are to the scent of earth and humanity that wafts around Cerise. She is left to smile in the gloom.
The gloom continues, as the Hobs push along their little boats.
Only... Haven't they come this way before? That tree looks familiar. Those rushes were in the same pattern before. Weren't they? That fork in the watery trod, surely they passed that and--- hey, there are those damned swarms again, buzzing by those yonder trees. Wait. Wait. Are they going in circles?
Did any of what just happened, just happen?
Wait. What? In fact, C.B. says that aloud, whispering to himself under his breath. It's a favorite question of his, anyway. But he seems to puzzle it out...not like everyone is supposed to be speaking right now, anyway. In the end, he takes a flask out of his jacket, uncaps it, and takes a long drink. He looks down to see that Yossy is standing on his hind legs with his paws on C.B.'s thighs. He pats C.B.'s thigh in an almost comforting sort of gesture before he gets down again, now keeping his eyes almost entirely on the birds above....then over to a tree on a rocky outcrop.
Damion squints his molten gold eyes as he considers the bugs and the various things they pass. ARE they going in circles? Wonderful. Like traveling all the way back isn't going to be hard enough. ....crap. And they are going to have to travel back. Which means they might run into whoever that was once they get the pears. That's just great. He's too distracted by that thought to figure out what's going on.
Ben is another one that doesn't realize the group is wandering in circles all the way. In his place, he looks sharp and attentive to whatever lies ahead. Or maybe the mist took him and he's tripping away and faking being alright. Hard to tell since he doesn't remove the mask.
There's the slightest movement to Mina - just a furrow of brows that only Cerise can really see. Her eyes shift where they're looking, paying attention to the things around them. Weaving their way through the patterns and the movements, until she seems satisfied. Yep. Everything looks a-ok. The Hedge is just fucking weird. Surely.
Cerise might just be the only one not overly worried about whether or not they're going in circles. The mortal stays low, avoiding the Bees, which is probably wise considering that she's sharing a boat with Mina, but otherwise doesn't seem too concerned with any potential pitfalls though. "Shouldn't be much longer." She murmurs to the fairest, sounding pretty certain of that fact despite not knowing exactly where they're heading. She could just be trying to be reassuring.
The Mortal is right. Not much longer now...
For all the going around in circles — and really, it did seem like the were doing that for /quite/ some time — it seems that the Hobs do in fact know where they're going. Out of the chrome yellow mist rises a tall rocky outcrop, water cascading off the sides in small waterfalls here and there - the rest dotted in thick vines and fronds of purple fungus. Even from this low in the marsh, the boughs of some vivid, beautiful tree stretch out high above.
There is a little dock there, at the base of the outcrop. Long enough for the boats, and then some.
Probably for the best, as two small flat bottomed boats are already there.
Do the Gnarly Amphibious Hobs come here often? They look practically identically to the ones the Hera Pear Heist Gang are travelling in. Small Wyrd World, eh?
'Tache and Small Stack manoeuvre the flat bottomed boats towards the edge of the Dock, and start to moor the boats up there in preparation to let the group disembark. Guess they're going to stick around. How generous - or opportunistic. Everyone knows what Hera Pear's are guarded by: trouble.
Some evidence hints at this: a the base of the Trod that leads up, up, up around the rocky outcrop, there is an expanse of freshly disturbed white gravel. No. Closer inspection reveals it's bone; lots and lots of of bone, fragmented into splinters, with the occasional jaw or femur on display.
"Great," C.B. says flatly. Yeah, he saw the bone, just like everyone else, and he's about as thrilled to be here right now as...well, Cerise seems kind of thrilled, doesn't she? He glances over at her and gives a familiar, suspicious squint. Otherwise, he hops out of the boat once they're docked. No, he's not going to lead the way, but he's not going to stay in the stupid boat, either. Another quick swig from that flask, making the lightning around him crackle, and then Yossarian steps out of the boat as well, sniffing at the air.
Damion climbs out of the boat, reholstering his revolver. He draws his sword now, holding the massive balde with easy as he considers the bones and then the path up. "Well. There's no chance of me sneaking up on whatever is up there. So I suggest I go first, and anybody who wants to stay more hidden follow behind me. Hopefully it'll be busy enough attacking me that you guys can get in shots at... whatever."
Ben steps out of the boat an knees on the ground to touch the bones. He picks some on his palm and bring them up to his face to a closer inspection. When he's satisfied with whatever he was doing, he throws them away and stands up. I doesn't even take more than 5 secs."I can go with that." He answers to no one in particular as he turns his gaze to the Trod ahead.
"Damion's certainly a better point person than I am," Mina murmurs, as she too gets out of the boat. "Seems better equiped to deal with whatever might be in our path than, well. Me." She doesn't follow immediately behind anyone. No, more to the side and the back. Trying to take quiet, sneaky steps.
"Great! Let's go." Cerise agrees easily with Damion's plan as she climbs out of the woman's boat. She flashes an excited smile around at the group, because what's /not/ to be excited about when exploring the hedge? And then she pulls out her knife and prepares to follow after Damion, holding it easily in one hand.
The story continues with Act II of Heroes Plunder Hera Pear.