A mission has been called by the recently-appointed Captain of the Harvestmen, for all interested Changelings:
"We have learned that there's a small group of anti-freehold terrorists in a Hollow nearby that wasn't there before. They want us dead -- all of us. We are going to scout and eliminate with prejudice. Discuss this with no one else: if we don't come back, we don't want them coming for our friends."
Ominous? A little. But then, that's the apparent reputation of Clarice. It comes from working as a waitress: those women don't take shit from nobody these days, and good fo them.
Jenny is a rose blooming in the snow. Or, well. Maybe more of a weed. The dryad is covered in layers, leopard-print faux fur coat, neon magenta wrist warmers, rainbow shawl. She's even got on boots, sadly. All of this is buried beneath the vines which crawl across and almost encase Jenny, unusually thick and prolific even for the dryad. She's shouldering a knapsack, walking ahead of Widget with a wave to the small gathering. "Yo. I brought muffins."
Widget is loaded down like a murderous rusty sherpa. Guns, knives, ammo, trinkets, snacks, parts and pieces, and what seems worryingly like a flamethrower, all hauled by a small form made slightly less small by very high-quality flak vest. The black armor is marred by an orange marker labelling the back of it "WIJ" and the front of it "DUN SHOOT HAV SNAKZ". She looks really excited, hopping about in her filthy jumpsuit and battering Jenny with questions.
"Are these bad guys? What's the Hollow like? Is it big? Are there monsters? Where is it? How many guys? What kind of muffins?", etc.
Beatrice put on the slightly thicker vest that says something in Russian that probably meant police. The blood has mostly been washed off of it. She cares approximately not at all if anyone is bothered by that. Otherwise she is still dressed casually, and busy ignoring the energy radiating from Widget.
The hob, a small and stumpy man with an enormous nose and a bright blue, oddly-moist cap, stays behind Clarice until the questions come up, at which point he taps on the side of the Winter Murderer's knee and says something. Oddly, no one else can hear it.
The Mouse looks down to the hob.
There's a moment of silence. Then a nod. "All right. Lead the way." She makes a quick gesture to the creature, and then looks to her team very briefly. "Follow me. Hang low and quiet. Must move quickly" And that's the extent of her instructions, as if she expects everyone to know //exactly// what that means. Immediately after, Clarice does exactly what she asks, crouching down and moving as swiftly and silently as possible. Damned small little thing.
Hopefully, the Gremlin will understand.
Jenny pats the top of the gremlin's head, lifting her other hand as she offers in a low voice, "I guess so? I'm not really sure what kind of bad guys these are. I'd like to hear more about that, yeah? They're apple-cinnamon." The dryad forgets what the other questions were, but quietly passes one of the muffins to Wij. One of the regular non-healing ones she brought as a distraction. Also keeps the gremlin from talking for a bit, so there's that.
Widget does know what Clarice is getting at, smiling up at Jenny before she starts to creep about. She's quite small herself, but that backpack is hampering her. At least she's quiet, everything lashed down proper to keep from jangling and clanking. The muffin is munched as she progresses, questions muted while she inhales the baked good. The giant woman gets good staring-at, a new and interesting face for the gremlin.
The hob scurries down the twisting, thorn-bordered trod, unnaturally silent, and keeps to the edges where there is more cover. At a particular point, beside an oddly yellow rock with what may or may not be eyes, he comes to a halt and crouches down, pointing down the labyrinthine path ahead. He points at his eyes, then looks down at the ground and smooths away some leaf-litter, not talking. A stubby finger scrawls out a brief map, or .. it's probably a map, anyway. It's a little squiggly and vague. Then again, this is the Hedge. It's all malleably squiggly and vague. The part in the middle, though, which he emphatically points at, looks like a triangular wedge of space between two scraggly dead trees with some sort of spiraling thing curling up around them. He nestles back closer to the rock and points ahead, clearly not intending to go, himself.
The Mouse runs her tongue along the inside of her mouth before turning her head.
She gestures to the Gremlin, and then points to herself. Then, she points to the Russian and the Dryad, and gestures to the right side of the wedge, as if to say: 'go that way'. She points to herself again, and then points to the left side of the wedge.
Then, she turns towards the construct, and starts off towards the left.
Beatrice gives an inaudible grunt, surveiling the crude shapes in the dirt before looking ahead. She squints at some of the nearby thorns and plants as though she expected them to say something in turn, before moving forward shifting to the right as requested.
Widget peers at the map, quietly nodding at the hob to show she thought it did a really good job at the map. And give him the rest of her muffin.
The gremlin follows Clarice to the left, quietly checking over all of her gubbins to make sure that everything was ready for potential murderation. Just in case.
Jenny stops to kneel as Clarice gives directions, touching a nearby tree root, the maenad's eyes closing for a moment. She waves silently to the mouse, indicating the position ahead and trying to pantomime someone peering, and then indicating the group as a whole. Look, Jenny isn't good at charades.
The hob looks at the muffin like he's not entirely sure what he was just handed, and isn't entirely pleased with whatever it is, but he doesn't make a sound, only burrowing deeper into the shadows.
The Dryad's furtive motion gets the Mouse's attention.
And the Mouse, like any good grasshopper mouse, peers ahead to look for the binoculars. The scout. She frowns, and then mumbles something softly under her breath before her Glamour releases, causing an inky shadow to coalesce around her. She makes a motion for the group to halt for a second -- hand up -- before she slowly moves forwards to the target.
Probably to subdue quickly and quietly.
As Clarice gets closer, she has a better view of the heavily muscled hob crouched in a thorny bit of shrubbery beside what must have been the odd shape their guide indicated: a pair of tall trees with no low branches, leaning against each other, with a twining vine spiraling up toward the thorny canopy. The scout has heavy leather armour and a helmet, and carries a cudgel of some kind.
There's a soft, rustling sound, and then --
-- **cronk** --
-- and the sound of a body hitting the grass.
The Mouse furtively gestures for the rest of the team to press forward as planned: the Gremlin to the left; and the Russian and the Dryad to the right. Go, go, go. Only a matter of time before the operation goes south, but at least there's one less fool.
Which the Mouse casually robs, by the by.
Oooh! There /was/ a punch! Right. Onward!
The gremlin returns to her position by Clarice, following closely. This was exciting!
The Hedge is quiet, with no sign that anyone has noticed anything.
The Mouse creeps up behind the Gremlin, but moves to take the lead.
Up the left side, towards the front of the clearing she moves, keeping an eye out for any other ambushers. Presuming that there is a front door, she looks about for windows: any way to look into the Hollow without breaking the door down. A furtive gesture is given, first, to the Russian: a palm out, to ward her off, and then a clenched fist to suggest that she get ready to make an entrance if needed. Then, she looks to Widget, and asks in a whisper:
"Got any bombs?"
Beatrice creeps up to roughly where the warding hand was, because the Russian is not detered. She examines the structure, looking it over thoughtfully like someone might a turkey they were deciding how to carve.
It looks like nothing more than a gap between trees. There are no obvious structures here outside of the Hollow on the trod.
Beatrice speaks quietly, her voice a low rumble. "I can open this." She dips a hand into one of her pockets, pulling up some loose sawdust that she rubs over his palms.
Jenny looks between Beatrice and Wij, nodding and patting the top of the gremlin's head as the antlered maenad slips over the woodline, preternaturally blending into the foliage, almost seeming to fuse with the woodlands themselves. "I'll keep an eye out." It's almost impossible to identify where the voice even comes from as the weedling disappears, Cheshire-like.
The Mouse looks to the Giant, after the Dryad disappears.
"Let's see if we can flush them out instead." Beat. "Take advantage of the fray." That is, rather than head in the front -- not a bad idea -- see if the Team can eliminate the opponents as they rush out in haste.
Assuming that the Gremlin can put enough boom in.
Widget smiles at Clarice's suggestion, nodding and setting down her pack. Rummaging, she pulls out her small stash of fireworks, spreading down a sheet of paper and starting to cut out their explode-y portions. She's got some other bits, but right now it's all about the bombs. It's going to take some time, though, even with her speed. These things were tricky.
Beatrice stays within arm reach of Widget, since she doesn't know what Widget is doing exactly and they may need to be physically removed if things go sour. Little does Beatrice know Widget isn't fully clear on it either.
While Widget is working on her device, a shimmer in the air between the two trees is visible a fraction of a second before three hobs come rushing out.
The first hob is slimy and green, and relatively slender in comparison to the veritable hippo of a hob beside him, the bulky muscles under that thick hide the envy of weight lifters. Behind them, a good five feet taller, is a ten or twelve foot giant of a hobgoblin in heavy armour, footsteps thudding on the ground. All of them have cudgels and swords, though they only have the cudgels in their hands as yet.
Suddenly there are hobs. Armed hobs, within arm reach. Beatrice sizes the three hobs up, then reaches out to snatch the big one. Her hands take hold without real difficulty, dragging the large hob towards her. "I don't recall what you did, it has been long day. Give me reason to be angry, da?"
The weedling, who has been watching from nearby, steps out of a shadow next to the gate, frantically throwing herself at the gremlin, vines wrapping around Wij protectively as she melds them both into the rootwood, emerging... not to safety, but at least in somewhat less immediate danger.
The giant hob growls when Beatrice manages to grab him, then grins a jagged grin, thorns erupting from his flesh to impale the changeling. His comrade Mr. Bulkybody, seeing this, roars out an unintelligible word and immediately swings his giant club at Beatrice's back, trying to swipe her off of the giant like a bug. While he fails at that, he hits with damaging force!
Kill the cave troll!
With the Russian holding the Giant Hob in place, the Mouse leaps forward into motion. She pulls her right hand back, and, as she strikes forward into her target's side, it seems to become enveloped, for a millisecond, in ice. Her fist hits true, and, in an instant, armor, skin, flesh, and bone seem to explode from the impact in a way that is clearly unnatural.
And likely, very painful.
Widget isn't sure what was going on. She was making a trap and now she's over with Jenny and there's a hob coming over and it...hits.....her.
Widget's brain goes a bit funny, everything getting steamrolled and paved over with the need to make sure that stupid thing never ever does that /ever again/. Ripping the nozzle from the crude holster, Widget white-knuckles it as the pilot light flares on. She pulls the trigger, bathing the hob in fire.
The maddened cackling that follows is something to behold. Reveeeeeeenge!