Logan's driver, an older gentleman named Fritz, picks up the others in a sleek black Mercedes SUV that's more than large enough to accommodate the party. The ride is relatively uneventful, and well-hydrated -- coconut water, anyone? There's a small refrigerated compartment in the back seat to provide such things.
At any rate, the small group returns to Fairfax in a reasonable amount of time. Logan is dressed similarly to last time in fancy hiking gear, though he leaves his huge hunting rifle in the trunk as they get out to explore the (really rather small) town.
Poppy is apparently one of those people who reads in the car unless there's conversation going on; she's carting along a small backpack that contains at least reading material, if not a myriad of other possibly-useful, small items. Under her short coat, she's dressed in layered, somewhat neutral shirts in shades of blue, black skinny jeans, and more-sensible-than-usual heeled boots. "Town tour?" she asks the other two as they get out of the car.
Dross steps down from the car last. As before, the Darkling wears a long, dark gray coat over a black shirt, trousers, and boots. A white gold pin shaped like an open circle with a smaller, closed circle at its center is fastened through a buttonhole near his collar. At Poppy's question, he glances toward Logan. "You might say that," he says.
Logan hoists the backpack over his shoulders as he gets out of the SUV, glancing back at the others. "I think if we work together, we should be able to figure out if there's /something/ in town, apart from the Hedge gate. is suppose we could start in that area, even." He grins at the two of them. "Near the strip club. Is anyone especially sensitive to finding things of that nature?"
Poppy shifts her her own backpack over her coat as she settles everything into place, then glancing about at the streets. At Logan's comment about the strip clubs, she smirks. "Sexy," she says dryly. "But that does make the most fucking sense, since it's pretty much the one lead that we've got. And I'm okay at that sort of thing? Not exactly a fucking walking detector, though." Her eyes twinkle at that.
Looking from Logan to Poppy and then back again, Dross slips his hands into the pockets of his coat. "You take the lead," he tells the Dawn. He doesn't smile, exactly, but there's a slight movement at the corners of his mouth that suggests that perhaps he'd like to. "You can find anything, can't you?"
Logan, for what it's worth, talks about strip clubs exactly like he were talking about cheese pizza or Benjamin Franklin or water skiing, i.e. not as something he finds particularly titilating. He smiles from Poppy to Dross and nods. "Sure I can, Dross." Then he laughs, starting off in that direction. "Or at least, I can try."
Poppy nods to Dross, apparently trusting the Darkling's judgement, then glances to Logan, tucking her hands in her pockets as she starts after him. "To be fair, you already know where the hell we're going," she says with a laugh. "Or at least where we're starting."
The trio searches Fairfax high and low, but sees no signs of organised changeling activity. There are some markings which are long since weathered and worn, decades old, but nothing new.
When their search starts to look fruitless, Dross pauses just outside the doorway of the last building that they left-- a diner with buttercream yellow wooden siding and dark red trim-- and turns to the others. Looking first at Poppy, then Logan, the Darkling suggests: "A larger town, perhaps?"
Logan doesn't hesitate. He smiles at them both, arms folded. "We could either head back into the Hedge from here and try one of the doors we haven't tried, or just have Fritz drive us to Swanton. What do you two think?"
"Well, there sure as hell isn't anything here," Poppy says dryly. "Smaller might be possible, but not fucking likely." Sharp teeth dent her lower lip as she chews consideringly. "Swanton's a little fucking bigger; remind me why it pinged? And how likely are the other doors to lead somewhere that isn't here?" A wry look. "Not that that kind of thing is really all that predictable, so that might be a pointless question." A shrug.
Dross looks up for a moment, thinking. Then, gaze passing over Logan and Poppy again, he says, quietly, "We'll not find the same thing twice in the Hedge." What does that mean? His blue eyes rest on Logan, seeming to expect their current leader to interpret for him.
"It didn't ping, Poppy. We're just going through towns north and west of Fort Brunsett that have at least /some/ population," Logan tells her, tapping his hiking boot. Then he looks to Dross and nods. "You're not wrong. Well? All in favor of getting back in the car?" He raises his hand, smiling.
Poppy nods to Logan. "I suppose there could be a commune in the middle of fucking nowhere, but that sort of shit is a double-edged sword." At the suggestion they get back in the car, she sighs. "It's either that or poncing around the Hedge hoping we find something that isn't all eyes and teeth, so I'm good." She grins, starting back towards the vehicle.
Dross raises an eyebrow, then his hand, not as high as Logan's. He lets it fall again and puts both hands back into his pockets. Looking faintly amused, he follows the others back to the car, where he greets Fritz with a low "Grüezi" before getting in.
Fritz greets Dross in return before starting up the car again. He's an older man, thin with a full crop of white hair, who is apparently Swiss. And then he drives them not /all/ that far to the town of Swanton, with a grand high population of six thousand or so souls.
The search of Swanton takes a fair number of hours. It may be a small city, but it's still a city, and the icy weather has caused a few accidents.
While the group doesn't find any signs of large numbers of Changelings actively present, there are a small number of supposed psychics advertising services and plenty of stores selling souvenirs related to Champ the lake monster. Again, there are traces here which point to populations which had been here in the past, but nothing immediately of interest.
For the next seven days, the trio searches the wilds of northern Vermont, some areas more 'wild' than others, sussing out clues and meeting the occasional stray Changeling. Most are wary, and once, they find a few decidedly unfriendly hobs living in a garbage can off an alley, but eventually, the search begins to narrow down. Signs lead them through town after town, vague rumours, until eventually they find themselves in southern Troy, following the advice of an old man who refused to give his name or anything else about himself, pointed ear-tips droopy and wrinkled, just like the rest of him. There's a gate under the Missisquoi river bridge on the VT-100, he told them, and a loop of trod. An old escape route. There used to be a Freehold there back when he was younger, and there may still be one.
Once arrived near the bridge - likely the last bit requiring some walking to reach it properly, given the whole 'river' and all - Poppy studies the bridge and its surroundings, considering where the gate itself may be located. Archways may be popular, but hopefully it isn't the bridge itself... And then the siren notices the rusted metal hula-hoop half-hidden in overgrown brush, welded to a metal fencing post jammed down into the riverbed, out on the water. "Of course there it is," she says sardonically, gesturing to the thing. "At least I don't have my /good/ fucking shoes on."
Dross lets Logan and Poppy exit the vehicle first. Trailing behind them, he scans the steel truss bridge for a path toward the footing underneath it. A place for folks to sit and watch the water go by -- water with a heavy flotilla of ice to carry these days, no doubt. While he's looking, Poppy spots the thing itself and calls their attention to it. Without a word, he glances ahead at Logan and moves toward her, the three of them eventually converging on the old span of metal.
Logan actually takes out a pair of binoculars so he can take a good, long look at the rusty hoop and all. And once they're on the path, he lets the binoculars dangle around his neck. "So this is it, huh?" He looks between the two of them with a grin. "Guess we should head back to the Freehold and report it." He takes another look through the unlikely gate. "As much as I'd love to go through it now, I'm sure His Majesty would be interested to know what we found."