Pook and Pook Antiques is a Tamarack Falls staple, and has been for years. An old brick store with an inside that's half eclectic, half modern, half unfinished, and half delightfully charming. That's a lot of halves.
Kip is seen inside by one of the shop keeps, and entirely mundane shop keep, and then escorted to room in the back. This must be the 'break room', judging by the presence of a coffee maker and a table, though it's also possibly just the sitting room. Certainly, there's no cheap folding table or hard chairs, yet more lovely, old items. The windows that open to the garden behind the shop suggest someone enjoys the view. It's there, sitting at that small table, that Kip will find Reginald Pook, the Spring Queen, a beautiful trellis of green branches and barely blooming buds set atop his head. There's already a tea pot set down, covered in a tea cozy, and two glasses on saucers. He's prepared.
It might not be what Kip was expecting. It might entirely be what Kip was expecting. It's hard to judge just by his expression alone since it's one that is a mixture of faint awe and intrigue at the unknown, tinged with the ever present hint of anxiety that sparks around him like an aura of lightning that zips and zaps and crackles as it chases itself around his body. But antique stores have a similar quality to book stores and book stores are somewhere where Kip feels at home, which helps ease that nervous tension that gnaws at the back of his neck and brain. He's dressed for the occasion. Sort of. At least he has on a nice dressy shirt with the sleeves slightly rolled up, a pair of nice slacks and a pair of sneakers. In his defense, it's the only footwear he's got. "I uhm-- this is nice. I mean to meet you. Nice. Hi." His words try to all come out at once, so he ends up spacing them out awkwardly as he shifts, like he's realizing just now that he doesn't know the protocol and there's nobody else to takes cues from. So he stands there, hands shoved in his pockets, shoulders slightly slumped forward.
Queen Pook is dressed in a smart suit of pastel colors, pink and green. His hair is perfect, his crown resting perfectly atop it. He is every bit a Queen, and so very comfortable in his own (admittedly round) body. He rises, as Kip enters, and then a frown crosses his lips. "Oh, dear," he murmurs to himself, as he gives Kip a once over. "Oh, dear... my dear boy, please, come..." he says, and gestures to a seat at the table. Pook steps back, and sits down once more. "Please do try to relax. Tea?"
"I am," Kip tries to protest, though it falls flat. "Relaxed. I mean-- thank you. Tea. Yes." When someone offers you a seat and tea, you take them. Especially when that someone is wearing a crown. He lowers himself into the seat, trying his best to not trip, not knock anything over, not make a complete and utter fool of himself. Somehow he manages to avoid all the usual pitfalls that exist between himself and gravity. "Thank you. I uhm-- thank you for uh, taking the time out for me. I've been told I needed to meet you and um-- you're probably busy. Are you busy?"
Pook gives a single nod, then goes for the tea pot. He fills Kip's cup, then slides over the milk and sugar. The whole tea set matches, of course. He then takes his own cup, already full, and takes a moment to sip. All this is done before he offers any response. "Perpetually," he decides. "As a bee," he adds, with a warm smile. "But I am rather pleased to have the oppertunity to meet you," he says. "As you surely know, my name is Reginald Pook. Now, you can tell me your name, or whatever it is you go by. I'd also love to hear why you are in the middle of nowhere, Vermont?"
"It uh, it says Scott. Kensington. On my ID. But that's... I'm Kip," he says in response, giving a slight hint of a smile as he takes his teacup and adds the sugar and the milk in an almost exaggerately slow, careful way. "And New York. I mean upstate. That's where I uh... originally. The uhm, the one who helped me, found me when I came out. He thought this was far enough away. Said there were a lot of... us here. Be good place for me." He raises his tea and sips from it, like he's trying too hard to have good manners and it makes his motions slightly off, slightly stiff. "He gave me money. For the store. And when I make it back I will send it back so he can help someone else. That was the deal." A pause. "Please don't call me Scott. It doesn't... feel right."
"Oh, my dear, I wouldn't dream of it. We all have those parts of our lives. Those old memories that don't feel right anymore. Some of us can never see our birth families again, some of us must change our entire lives about... A name... a name is a good thing to change," Pook says, with a small nod. "It sounds like you just recently escaped the thorns?" he asks.
"Few weeks," Kip says, nodding his head in an agreement in a way that flops some of his hair into his face from the half-pulled-back style he tried to tame it into. He takes another sip of the tea and maybe it's the warmth of it, maybe it's the sense of history and stillness he gets from the things around him and maybe it's the Springness that is Pook, but something unsnaps one of the bits of anxiety in him and he relaxes. Just a little. But it's a start. "I uhm, I don't know. My family. I don't really-- you know, remember all that. But I've made friends. Here. Very nice friends. Who I want very much to keep safe and I was told you can help with that. Help me find ways to keep them safe, I mean."
"Well, that is wonderful," Pook says, that warm smile holding. "I speak of family a lot... this Freehold is my family. Extended family, of course. And while some of them... I may not like, it does not mean I do not love them, and do not want to keep them safe," he explains. "Which..." He makes a small gesture. "We exist to keep each other safe. We are all survivors and refugees. We all face grave danger. It is the design of the Freehold to keep us from being killed or worse. To join the Freehold means aiding in that cause, because without the hard work and dilligence of every single Freeholder, we will not last," Pook says, then pauses. He stares at Kip for a quiet moment, before he gestures again. "What is it you mean to bring to thi Freehold, Kip?"
"Uhm." Nobody warned Kip that there would be a test. A quiz. Something he would have to be prepared to answer. Because he's drawing a blank, apparently. "What I-- I mean, that is to say... uhm..." He pauses and exhales a little. His voice, which has a quiet whispery quality to it as if someone's been stuck in a library for decades, gets the faintest hint of certainty to it. Just a touch. "I don't know," he admits. "I'm not-- I don't have any useful skills. I just... know books. I like books. But there's more than that and I... just have to find out what. But I don't know. I'm not good at fighting, but Paige is going to help me learn. I'm okay at telling if someone is lying, but that's just by paying attention, it's not some special skill. I make good coffee. I don't... I don't know." Because bringing adorkableness is not a useful skill for the Freehold. "Is that a problem?"
And it might seem that adorkableness is working on Pook. He sure is smiling, and looking sympathetic and warm and welcoming. It's not, of course. Pook just always looks and acts like this. But how would Kip know? "Every bit helps, Kip," Queen Pook says. "That you are good at books means you can assist in the library. That you're good at reading people - you think - means you won't lead trouble back to our doorstep. These are good things," he says, with a small nod. "Personally, I cannot fight," he says, with a small shrug. "I am good at keeping shop. I am good at making people feel welcomed. I am good at serving tea and working out agreements. There's nothing special about what I do," he says. "So, no, it is not a problem. I will give you the name of someone you should meet," he says.
Kip has a few little nervous tics. One of them is the way he pushes hair from his face, hooking it between his thumb and forefinger and pushing it back, just so it falls back into his face again. Clearly getting haircuts is not in his wheelhouse of useful skills. "You-- of course there is. Special. About--" he lets go of his two-handed hold on the teacup to motion toward Pook. "You know. You. You've got--" the hand motions to his head. Meaning the crown. Spring Queen, after all. "And that's special. Besides, isn't that the point? Of wearing a crown? You make agreements, you make people feel welcome and you figure out who is the best person to do different things. It's important. And if I should meet someone, I will. Who is it? I mean you'll tell me. Of course you will. I just get ahead of myself. Sorry. I do... that. Sorry. I'll be quiet."
"The Wyrd chooses the best to rule for a season," Reginald Pook explains, with a soft, comforting smile. "It was the Wyrd that put this crown upon my head, and I do all I can to embody the values of my court and my freehold. You can do likewise," he says. "Nothing special about it," he adds. Then there's a nod. "Of course, though I would be remiss to give you names and contact information before you've pledged yourself to the Freehold," he says. "Are you ready to do such?"
"I could, if I-- knew what court that was," Kip mentions, moreso to himself than anything else. For while Pook's mantle finds no resistence against Kip, the lack of one just makes it more evident to Kip that he's in the presence of a Spring. It seems something he's comfortable with, the way the mantle of others can come right up to brush against him, no buffer of his own forming even the thinnest of membranes between them. But he goes quiet. Still, even. The last of Pook's words weigh heavy on him for a moment before he sets down the tea onto the matching saucer and folds his hands in front of him. "You asked me what I bring. But what about you? Everyone speaks about protection and promises. But what does it all mean?" Another slight pause. Like he's suddenly aware of what's come out of his mouth. "I mean no disrespect."
And, of course, the Queen of Spring's mantle is a potent, lovely thing. All delicious smells and warming breezes and the slight damp of a spring rain. Pook raises up a single eyebrow as he stares at Kip, and for a moment, there might just be some bit of respect, but then Kip covers that up quickly enough. The eyebrow drops, and Pook offers a smile. "First off, of course, there's very literal protection. We have people, like Paige, whose task it is to keep us all safe. They respond to the needs of the Freehold. Should you find yourself in danger, you call, they come to help," Pook offers up. "You also have the Pledge... by Pledging to the Freehold, we've all sworn we will serve the Freehold, and we are not agents of our enemies. That is the foundation of trust that we can build upon. I know it may seem strange... to require a pledge to know you can trust others... but the loyalists and privateers are deceitful and evil," Pook says, with a soft frown.
That helps. The ability to know you /can/ trust someone. For Kip had been alone for much of his time there and the times he was not, he was forced into the role of the deciever. It was never a role that sat easy on him. it made him uncomfortable. It's a role he had high hopes to never be put into again. But that's not something anyone else would know, for it's all internalized. And so he mulls the information over, finding it something that he is prone to jumping at. Something he wants to believe in, despite the niggling doubts and uncertainties that remain in his brain that tries to question and overanalyze everything. "I understand," he says quietly. "The need for certainties. For pledges. And I assume there is a... noncompete clause of sorts. Like a contract. I don't betray you, you don't betray me. At least to the best of your knowledge and ability. I don't learn what I can from you and take it elsewhere. It makes me wonder if other Freeholds are a potential threat somehow as well as the ones who knowingly work for Them." Again with the hair, pushed from his face, revealing that sparkle-flash of glow within his eyes that is more evident when his emotions are high or when he is deep in thought. "Everyone tells me to take this pledge, to become one of you. And while I am not opposed, I just feel I need to make the decision of my own accord. Which means fully understanding what it means. What is expected. Of me and of the Freehold. I-- feel like if I agree without knowing in my heart that it is the right thing, that it may feel... discourteous and I would not want that." He doesn't speak as if he is opposed to it, simply that he is not taking this flippantly. If anything, for him, this pledge seems to have meaning down to his very bones.
"Freeholds do not often speak to one another. Freeholds generally prefer their privacy and their quietude," Pook explains, seeming not at all bothered by the thought and caution which Kip is giving this. "It's not that we have enemies, but rather, the fewer people that know of you, the fewer chances there are for the Gentry to come seeking you," he says. "To be truthful, the pledge is not too binding. You can leave, if you wish to leave. It is more, as I said, to build that foundation. Should we find a Lost amongst us that refuses the pledge... we do not run them out of town. We do not seek to destroy them. It is merely a suspicious sort of thing, that we deal with best we can," he says. Finally, Pook shifts, to pick up a half-sheet of paper, and hten to hand it over. "The pledge, so you might read it, before you make it," he says.
The paper reads: I pledge my time, my talents and my fealty to Fate's Harvest.
I swear that I no longer serve the Fae, nor will I while this promise stands; that while I am under its protection I will obey the principles and bylaws of the Fate's Harvest Freehold as ratified by Monarch and Council, in return for the support and safety they provide.
May I perish in exile, should I be forsworn.
Kip's eye-glow remains bright as he reads. It's always present when reading, but moreso when he is intent on the information. He doesn't read it once. He reads it twice. A third time. Not memorizing it, but taking in the words, the nuances, the meanings. Then he sets it down. "And I just-- say these words? And by doing so I'm part of... part of the Freehold?" Did he expect a blood oath, a new tattoo or something more ceremonious? He doesn't look much like he had any idea what to expect. "And nobody will be... suspicous of me anymore?" He seems almost surprised that anyone /would/ have been suspicious of him at all, but that is part of what Pook just said. Kip had not Pledged. Kip was to be suspicious of. It adds a sense of reality to the proceedings, to the choice he is making.
"Well, there is also the Spring Orgy to attend," Pook says, with that same warm smile. "Which, believe you me, is much preferable to the Summer or Winter orgy," he adds, words solemn as ever. He lets the words linger for a moment, before he gives a small laugh. "Oh, my dear, I am teasing you. Yes, you speak the words, before me, and I seal them. That is the nature of the fealty pledge," he says. "And yes, you will be welcome into the Freehold. You will be shown to our hollow. You will be afforded all the lovely benefits of being a member of Fate's Harvest." Then he pauses. "And your peers will also know that you are one of them. Family."
Kip, of course, just sort of stares at the Spring Queen at those first words. Though he does relax and let out a little laugh. He probably looked almost comical for a moment. The laugh, as soft as it was, broke the overwhelming seriousness of it all for Kip. "I uhm-- pledge-- er..." he picks up the paper again to find the words to say. "Uh, I pledge my time, my talents and my fealty to Fate's Harvest--" he reads, glancing up at Pook for a second before his eyes fall back to the page. "I uh, I swear that I no longer serve the Fae, nor will I while this promise stands; that uhm-- that while I am under its protection I will obey the principles and bylaws of the Fate's Harvest Freehold as ratified by Monarch and Council, in return for the support and the uh safety they provide." He sets the paper down and looks back at Pook again, as he swallows hard all earlier levity gone, as little of it as there was. His last words are a bit quieter, but almost firmer. "May I perish in exile, should I be forsworn."
As Kip begins to speak, he'll surely note the gravity of the room shifting. That smell of dirt and rain and new growth gets stronger. The room itself grows cooler, yet a warm breeze blows past. Kip can feel the misty rain against his flesh. The more he speaks, the stronger it grows, until there's finally a rush of energy, and it's all gone. The Wyrd has sealed his words, and Pook seems all the more pleased for it. He's smiling brightly, and his eyes twinkle with desire. Like a fat man staring down the worlds most delectible cupcake. He takes a deep breath, and the look fades away, just as the power of the Wyrd has. "Welcome to Fate's Harvest, Kip," he says. "I'll be sending you the number of Ashe Whelan, she is our Custodian-Elect. You will fit in well with her. I'll also send you contact information for a few others that you may need to speak with. Then... soon as you're ready, Paige can show you the Freehold hollow."
As he spoke the words, Kip had sunk down little by little into his chair. Only an inch or so, but hey, that Springness has settled heavy on him. "Ashe Whelan," he repeats quietly as if making sure he remembers the name. "And the uh-- Custodian? Like a janitor?" Leave it to Kip to think he'll end up the Freehold janitor. Maybe that's why Pook was looking at him like that. Maybe they've been trying to fill that position for a while and now they found someone or something. "So uhm-- do I uh... call you like your majesty or something? I mean you're my-- Queen now? I just... I don't want to uh, get it all wrong. Mess it up." As that lovely Springness faded, it left a void for his anxiety to creep back in and with it came the stammering and the awkwardness. "I mean... uh, thank you."
"She's the Custodian-Elect," Pook says once again, as if that's going to answer anything at all. He moves right along. "Generally, any sign of respect is appreciated. Queen, your majesty, highness, or something else you choose. Some monarchs are quite formal, and while I consider myself a very formal person, I do not expect others to be. Such expectations lead to frustration and anger, and that's not what Spring is about," he says, that smile back, looking ever so paternal. Or maybe maternal. "Now, did you have anything else you needed to ask, Kip? If not, I do have my busy bee deeds to tend to."
"No. I mean-- well. I mean I have lots of things to ask, but they don't require asking /you/. Er your... Queen-- Highness. Your highness," Kip says as he reaches forward and moves his tea a bit closer to the middle of the table out of his way so he can push his chair back with with is a disarming creeeeekscrape sound that causes him to look sheepish. He rises and holds out a hand as if to shake, then looks uncertain of the motion. "Uhm I'm uh-- I'm glad I met you. And not because of the uhm..." he motions to his head, meaning the crown. "I mean I like your shop. I like it a lot. And you-- you seem nice. But I mean busy. You're busy. I should go."
Pook winces, as the chair scrapes against the ground, but recovers quick enough. He's to his feet, ever proper and formal as he'd just said, and reaches out to take the man's hand. There's a light squeeze, and then he releases. "Stay safe, Kip. And do call if you need anything," he says. Then comes a gesture, towards the door. Formal dismissal.
Kip thankfully doesn't say anything else. He just nods and turns and nearly races out, though he did check to make sure the chair didn't leave scrape marks on the floor. It must not have, otherwise he would have been racing out even faster than this. And so he goes forth to be the newest member of the Freehold.