The landscape on the other side is...well...it isn't EMPTY. There is grass, and there are trees ringing the field, but it looks rather as though it has been neglected and forgotten for decades. Small trees have sprouted in the field, and while there are several versions of clover and other crop plants clustered here and there throughout the varied greens beginning to grow, they are no longer in anything even vaguely resembling neat rows.
The barn? Sure, it's clean, but it's clean in the sense that it was scrubbed and bleached so thoroughly that no self-respecting spider would have reason to set up house there; there's no food to attract food.
The temperature is much the same as the area they left, albeit absent the unnatural fog called up.
Logan...well. It's not his style to frown. But he does narrow his eyes. "I think we've gone the wrong way," he says, looking over at Dross. Voice still cheerful, but with a hard edge to it. Despite that, he still heads to the barn doors with the intention of going outside. Perhaps what he perceives of as a wrong way will lead them to the right way.
Poppy blinks as the group passes from the Hedge and into the real world. "What the fucking fuck," she says, glancing about and placing her hands on her hips. "I feel like maybe we missed a step. Wrong goddamn door? Were we supposed to walk through backwards while singing fucking Henry the Eighth?"
Duncan passes through the gate back to the mortal world and scans the barn for any sign of trouble. His disappointment at finding none is hard to miss. "So much for meeting the locals." The cleanliness of the barn does get his attention though. "Who scrubs down a barn. Were they covering their tracks?"
The cheerful, entirely mundane sound of birds singing mating calls trills through the trees somewhere in the distance. There is no obvious sound of anything human in the vicinity.
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The wind soughs through the branches of the trees, whispering through knee-high grasses. My, how lovely it is out there. So many things to see.
Dross walks out of the barn, too. Like some of the others, he's still soaked through from their trip down the river. He looks around the empty landscape, then back at Logan, in response to whose comment he shakes his head. "If you were a 'delicate' farmer," he says, in reference to Uschi's description of her dream, "where would you hide your flock?"
Once they've broken on through to the other side, Uschi's laughter has stopped and she has reverted to stoic Ogress mode. Lumbering along to take up the rear, she tilts her head up to squint towards the rafters. So... Clean. Is the Moon offended? Possibly. Still smelling of damp and hauling that oversized rucksack, she sniffs the Earthen air in and preoccupies herself with adjusting her Very Dead Arm to rest twisted and tucked into the sleeve of her vest. Looks a bit like a chicken wing.
"What makes you think it's the wrong way, and not just the right what what someone wants you to think is wrong?" Uschi grunts in Lo's direction - then apparently exhausted by said communication, pants in a raggedy breath and adjusts a strap on her belt - glancing from Logan to Poppy briefly, then grunting to Duncan. It's almost approvingly - but brief. Bird call has her perking up, looking over yonder post-pastoral landscape with them flickering nocturnal eyes. They briefly flick to Dross, after he's spoken. "Wherever I wanted."
Such a helpful Ogress. A moment later, Uschi is looking to Duncan - looking to where he's looking - then grunting and nodding a horn in the direction of some slightly thinner band of wildflower and clover. Oh. Is she ushering? Could be. There's even a vague gesture with her working right hand.
Logan looks back to Uschi and grins, his hands falling lightly onto his hips. "Okay. Prove it." He looks suspiciously at the way she's gesturing, though it doesn't necessarily stop him from following her. "Did you find something?"
Duncan ambles around, studying the ground with a vaguely irritated expression. He glances up when he sees Ushi's gesture, then peers at the thinner vegetation too. "Uh-huh," he confirms to the Ogress. Then the Elemental turns to the rest of the group. "No recent tracks I can see," he nods toward the area the Ogress pointed out and offers an answer to Logan's question. "Looks like there was a road starting over there."
Poppy glances towards Duncan, smirking at his comment about the barn. "Dead bodies," she suggests, then she turns her attention towards Uschi and the Ogress' exchange with Dross before looking out towards the fields. A shrug, then she starts walking towards the indicated area. "I volunteer as tribute," she comments to nobody in particular, then adds dryly, "Hopefully I don't fucking eat that statement."
Uschi merely grunts in Logan's direction, for both accounts. As for further explanation? She leaves that to Duncan - deferring to the Elemental's superior social skills, so she can amble off closer to the ground - sticking closer to the taller foliage along the edges of the vague path.
Does she take lead? No. Uschi's more of the amble around the peripherals, checking things and sniffing about sort of Ogress. Poppy can go ahead, so can the others - Uschi will shadow, like a coyote or bear or mountain lion might. Only more humanoid.
As the motley crew sans motley travels down the long-dead road, the worst they come across is poop.
Is that--no, no that isn't poop. That's a rotting .. something. It's too far gone to easily tell, but it was small. Maybe a dismembered chipmunk?
The birdsong continues in the distance, though they do startle the featherheads into silence around their unsubtle selves, and eventually, the undergrowth begins to thin, trees overhead overgrown enough to be a risk during the winter, as evidenced by several broken branches, trunks, and heavier boughs the small group is required to clamber over or avoid along the way, brought down by winter storms or rot, from the looks of it.
After a good half hour of hiking through the woods in fumbuck nowhere, the forest begins to thin even further, further, further...and they are in another field, with a far more obvious and well-traveled dirt road ahead of them. It even has a sign, albeit a worn one, advertising lodging and food and pointing ---> that a-way.
Duncan laughs at Poppy's joke, even though his expression is somewhat less than amused. Then he takes a place near the head of the group as they set off on yet another hike. The storm-elemental doesn't try to be quiet, and his method of dealing with any overgrown foliage is to try to plow through. Once they reach the plowed field he stops for a look around, side-stepping so anyone behind him can come up and look as well.
Poppy shrugs at the dirt road and the sign. "Well. Unless anybody has a better fucking idea, I vote for following the sign." A pause, then she seems to have a thought, fishing in her pocket and pulling out her cellphone, tapping on the map application to see if there's enough signal to see exactly where they are.
The only time Uschi looks puzzled is when they come across dog shit.
What? Moon never seen dog shit before? It really has her stumped for one hot second; she stands there staring at it, possibly pleased - or disappointed - that she hasn't accidentally stepped her bare feet in it. No move it made to alter that course of events, though - Uschi turns and looks at the ground around them, then gives Dross a look, of all people.
"Wyrd can bless folk with never being seen scratching the earth with their busted soles, but can't keep their shepherd shitting all over the place." Just a gruff whisper along the trail, and Uschi is moving along -- giving Logan an upnod, like he should get whatever that means. By the time they amble over broken bough and bramble, she slows as Duncan and Poppy get to the sign, although again, she seems confused. Again. A look to the sky, then back down to the field. "What sign?"
Why, yes! Poppy does indeed get a signal. A fairly clear one, too, by Vermont standards. The siren's phone thinks a moment, then informs her that she is in Derby, VT, and that the temperature is a slightly chilly 64°F. She may get rain later, but it won't last, and it would take her 1h 32min to get to work.
"That sign, Uschi." Logan points to the sign in question, with the tone of someone not at all surprised Uschi didn't understand what Poppy meant. "Maybe we'll find some more shit that way." He looks quite ready to head off in that direction, but he pauses when the siren pulls out her phone. "Where are we, Poppy?" Surely he could just look at one his own several phones or other devices. But he doesn't.
"Are you seriously fucking kidding me?" the siren mutters. "This says we're an hour and a half from home." Poppy taps something into the phone, then pockets it before looking back to the others. "I mean, granted, we could end up through another goddamn door and another four years away again, but." She shrugs, hooking her thumbs into her front pockets. "I vote for finding more shit that way, regardless." A tilt of her head in the direction the sign is pointing.
As they walk past, Dross pauses, briefly, to look down at what's left of that chipmunk. Raises his head again in time to catch that look from Uschi, although he does not respond. The Darkling watches quietly as Duncan stops to look ahead and Poppy checks their location. As for whether to follow the sign or not, he says, drily, "The air isn't going to speak."
Huh? It takes Uschi a second of following Logan's hand to acknowledge the sign -- when she sees it, not even that shadowy Moon Mantle can hind the somewhat gruff look of discontent as she squints, like whatever she sees on the sign... Well, no matter. Shit is being discussed, as she turns to look at Logan and Poppy as they discuss logistics. It's only after Dross' quip that she turns to him, stares, considers what he says, takes a single step in his direction, and vanishes straight down into the earth below her dirty bare feet.
Blink. Duncan takes a moment to register Uschi's sudden disappearance, then gives a low chuckle and shrugs it off. "Right." Hearing what seems to be general agreement, the storm-elemental sets off in the direction indicated by the sign. He'll halt if nobody follows, but otherwise he's willing to lead way, walking alongside the road rather than on it, thumbs hooked into the straps of his rucksack.
Logan laughs. "It makes sense. We always knew this place wasn't going to be far from us, didn't we?" He himself heads down the road, keeping apace with Duncan. Walking next to him, now, on the road instead of alongside it, whistling a pretty tune to himself. "Keep up, Dross," he says with a grin, not bothering to look for the Darkling.
Whispered on the wind, for Fairest Ears Only, Logan gets a message - it starts with a grunt: "Town up ahead. Shitty lodge. Hospitality." He alone gets sweet nothings whispered from Uschi.
When Uschi sinks into the earth, Dross laughs, too. Although short, and perhaps a little strange, his laughter seems genuine. He glances at Poppy, nods towards Duncan and Logan, and turns to walk after them towards... lodging and food and, presumably... people, of some kind.
"Fair." Poppy seems content to accompany the others towards wherever the sign ultimately leads, humming absently under her breath; despite her rather casual posture, those opalescent eyes flicker attentively over the surroundings.
Logan smiles to himself, for some reason. He is indeed following the sign, but it seems like he has a purpose. Like he knows where he's going, now. He does say to Dross -- presuming he's nearby. "Apparently, there's an inn up ahead and apparently, it has Hospitality." He grins at the Darkling. "Score one for us, huh?"
After perhaps another eight or so minutes of walking along the side of the road, a nice hotel-looking place appears around a bend, nestled into the trees. It's a little old and run-down, with an old, old, old-fashioned symbol representing Hospitality carved into the wood of its gingerbread molding.
Looking fairly fresh despite todays soaking and hiking, Duncan halts in front of the hotel and looks around the area for any activity. His gaze ends on the carved symbol, which causes the Elemental to grin and muse aloud, "It's not breaking hospitality if they swing first, right?"
Dross returns Logan's smile. "Yes, Logan," he says. As they walk up to the hotel, he scans the path and surroundings, including the trees that the somewhat dilapidated old inn is settled back against. He looks at their other companions now and then, too, to see how Poppy and Duncan are getting on. As the group gets nearer, his roving gaze pauses on one tree in particular: a tall maple near a bend in the road just a stone's throw from the building up ahead. "Hello again," he tells the tree. Tree? "Uschi..."
Ah yes. It's not until our ambitious travellers come across the nice-for-some hotelish building and the Darkling speak to the tree, that there's a rustlin' in the shadow and out steps Uschi, still all shadowy and smelling of rust and rot. She doesn't say anything, but she does go to stand closer to him - head turned, looking at Logan first, then Poppy and Duncan. Observers may notice there's a grimy once-white ribbon streaming from her belt - so fancy - and in her singularly working right hand, a bundle of grasses and wildflowers have been twisted into a rough looking braid.
"Why you think they oughta swing at you, squirt?" Uschi grunts in Duncan's direction - but there's a jovial aspect to that gravely voice of hers. "You're here to parsley, ain'cha?"
Poppy nods to Logan as she continues to walk. "Sounds like a plan." She then gives Duncan a sideways look, smirking before making some gesture at him - nothing clearly obscene, anyways - then she grins sharply at Uschi. "You'd fucking think."
"Yes, Uschi. We're goign to parsley," Lo comments, that bright note in his voice. Not like it ever left. He walks right up to that door and tries the handle. It's an inn, isn't it? Under hospitality? Then there's no reason they shouldn't be able to just walk right inside.
Duncan gives a rumbling chuckle for Uschi's question and eyes the hotel windows, looking any sign of someone inside. "Can't blame a guy for hoping." The gesture Poppy throws his way gets a full blown laugh, and then he's following Logan up to the door.
And then, in accordance with the laws of physics and the much more complicated 'Laws of Doors', the latch depresses and the door swings inwards, granting Logan, and potentially others, ingress into the Hotel (which has a name, probably, but the sign has been washed mid 're-branding for more business'). Inside the hotel continues to be a hotel, and there is a person. A Changeling person, a tall lanky blonde man who looks to be Iggy Pop's uglier brother, wearing a very very old denim vest with patches from the Judas Priest era of heavy metal.
He is on the phone looking a wee bit exasperated, and when the door opens he says "Hold on I think someone is lost again."
And he puts his hand over the receiver (yes it is a land line) and squints his eyes towards the entrance.
Uschi takes a moment to consider Poppy -- really /consider/ what she's said, like those three simple words hold a lot of weight. It leaves the Ogress looking halfway between contemplative and contemptuous, but that might just be an effect of her Seeming. Still lingers when she considers Duncan's words, too, but no reply from her. When Logan speaks, though, she turns and gives him an upnod - so communicative - letting the Fairest Folk go first. She'll wait for Duncan and Dross to move ahead too, and take up the rear. Nobody looking to hawk parsley puts Moon on the driving seat of a welcome wagon, after all.
Then again... When Uschi spots the emaciated concierge in the patched up threads? Could be that she shifts her weight to the side, all the better for shadow to fall on the patches of her very on battle vest. No big deal.
"Hey," Logan says to the lanky Changeling -- like he's known him forever, and is just dropping by for a Coke and a smile. He raises a hand in greeting, paused near the doorway and sticking his thumbs through his beltloops. "I'm Logan. This is Dross, Uschi, Poppy, and Duncan." He introduces each in turn. "What's your name?"
Dross steps into the hotel after Logan and Duncan. Inside, he looks around, but doesn't say anything, although he does give the man on the phone a rather long, intense stare before glancing back to see that Uschi has come in and shut the door.
"Hurrah we're here," Duncan announces loudly as he steps inside, "break out the beer." The Changeling innkeep gets a broad grin before the storm-elemental drifts to one side to let the Freehold's more elegant speakers take center stage. He lifts a hand when he's introduced, but otherwise he's opening looking around the entry way, and as much of the hotel as they can see from there.
"Nope!" Said skinny concierge says after taking about 4 seconds to look at the people that start shuffling into the Hotel. "Airheart it's your turn!" And then hew starts to walk away, phone clutched to his chest, only to stop, walk back to where the damned phone is rooted, tell whomever is on the other line to stop laughing, and then storms out of the room, in a hurry.
Uschi... Well, she's got the blessing of Dactyl to keep her social mechanisms in order, but there's a lot more grease than wheels there. Is that why Skinny Concierge is slipping away? Inside, Uschi's nocturnal animal eyes look all the more, well, off putting. The lights to nothing to hide the gnarled chicken-wing aspect of her very dead left arm, even if the dashing Italian leather glove has given it a certain je ne sais quoi. Left with no conversation to ooze over, the Ogress turns - peers at Logan, Duncan and Dross with a blankfaced expression, then observes their surroundings - although she seems a little ... less than impressed? Disapproving feral Ogress vibes.
A delicate little woman, wrinkled, but prettily so, steps out around a corner with a damp mop in hand shortly after the skinny concierge quite literally 'nopes' out of greeting the strangers who walked in. Rather than yelling, she gives Iggy Slop a slightly bewildered look on his way past, then leans, timid, around the corner, squinting through half-moon spectacles. She's perhaps in her sixties, older than Iggy by far, and has a quiet air of sorrow about her, her shoulders ever so slightly down-curved, brows ever so slightly furrowed without quite furrowing.
When she sees the group awaiting her, from flipping SIREN to wow, so much light-shadow-what, to storm elemental, to whatever Dross is, and, last, and most lengthily stared at, washed-out blue eyes wide, the chicken-winged ogress with the Michael Jackson glove.
Gulping and visibly gathering her courage, she scuttles over to the reception desk and stammers, "W-welcome to the--" She hesitates, glances at the sign, then gives a frustrated look over her shoulder toward the direction her colleague just fled away in, before turning back and finishing, "--hotel. I-I'm Emilee Eir-Hart. Are you lost?"
From her tone, she really, really, REALLY hopes they are just stranded tourists looking for a map.
Logan watches the other guy go, but when Eir-Hart comes in, he grins at her just the same. Barely a change at all. "Hi, Emilee. Nice to meet you. What's the name of this hotel, anyway?" After a beat, "I'm Logan. This is Dross, Uschi, Poppy, and Duncan."
Dross answers her question in a quiet but clear voice: "Yes." He watches Emilee's nervous face in silence for a moment as she looks around at each of them in turn, then adds: "Like you."
Duncan grins at Emilee and tosses off a lazy salute when his turn for introductions comes up yet again. "Ma'am." Then he returns to watching while the others do the talking. The Elemental wanders around the entry-area of the hotel, going at most a few paces away from the group, but checking out any other rooms he can see into from there.
Uschi for her part says nothing, and barely acknowledges Emilee's discontent -- there is no reassuring smile, no little wave of that ruddy working hand that clutches a bundle of shoddily braided wickerperson of grasses/wildflowers. The Ogress merely sticks to the back and observes the tiny nervous old lady -- then, belatedly and with some half-remembered etiquette, the feral crust-crone gives her an upnod. A silent 'sup, nana', if there ever was one. Is she looking for Nana Eir-Hart's purse? If Uschi was, she's turning to look elsewhere moments later, freeing up Logan, Dross and Duncan to to the talking, snooping.
Emilee gives Logan a wary look, squeaking a bit when he turns that grin on her, and the dangling, rusted keys behind her jingle-clink against one another as her shoulders thump back against the narrow counter there.
"I-I d-don't--" Here, again, she looks back toward the direction Dogg Starr cruelly abandoned her in, then back to the unexpected visitors. "We don't have a name quite picked out yet. We were thinking about 'The Spotted Custard', but then that darling novel came out with the dirigible in it. Then we thought that 'The Apple Pie' might be nice-" not we, HE, "-but we-" SHE, "-decided it would be unfortunate, with that American Pie movie out so recently. We wouldn't want the guests getting the w-wrong i-idea."
The upnod from the ogress is met with another quiet, muffled squeak of uneasy dismay. The little woman trembles where she stands, but doesn't flee. Unlike Doggy.
From the lobby, one can't really see far. It seems to be a converted old Victorian with age-worn carpets, wallpaper which was popular back in the '60s, and furniture which has seen better days, but is, nonetheless, immaculately clean. Rather like that barn, as a matter of fact. There is, however, a bit of dog fur here and there, tan and black for those with keen eyes.
"Mm hmm." Logan nods and smiles and shines. "They're both cute. Well, listen. We're from about an hour and a half south of here, and we're delighted to meet others who are...like us." He turns the yellow backpack he's wearing around, unzips it, and pulls out an olive branch that's managed not to get mangled. He laughs at his own gesture as he hands it out to her. "I wanted to extend the proverbial olive branch by making it a /real/ olive branch. To show you that we come in peace, we do no harm, and we'd like to be friends, if you'll have us."
Emilee seems all the more wary when Logan starts unzipping his backpack, then somewhat befuddled at the sight of a...stick. A leafy stick. At the explanation, she takes a tissue from the tissue box behind the reception counter's taller front, scarcely lower than her head, and accepts the branch only through that, carefully setting it down far from any surfaces they regularly touch.
"H-how did you f--" Oops. "Oh, dear." The little old woman wrings her hands, twisting an old-fashioned wedding band around on her left ring finger, then wringing her pretty, ruffled apron instead. Quilted, that, with applique, and it looks to have been made by grandchildren. "Are there more of you?"
The barely-a-changeling woman seems to dread the answer, faded eyes glancing from Duncan to Uschi to Poppy and back to Dross and Logan with equal fear and unease.
"Yes," Logan confirms with a smile. "There's more of us. But don't worry." He takes another step closer, palms up and outstretched, the light around him shining out even more brightly, his golden skin sparkling and dazzling as it reflects the light. Not so much to hurt anyone's eyes, but it /is/ quite a spectacle. "When I say we come in peace, I mean it. All we ask for is your trust, and your willingness to meet with us again. For us to learn from one another and grow from each other's presences." Logan watches her face, smiling but not grinning. Patiently waiting to see how she will react. But there's a pull to his words, one that's hard to resist.
The little old lady does not smile. She does not seem pleased, and she does not seem enthused by the HALF FAE's offer. A particularly strong twinkling from the ring she wears may explain why. She does, however, seem somewhat taken aback by it, and she does answer politely when she stammers her reply. "Th-that's all well and good, young man, but words won't fill puff pastry."
What is it with this woman and baked goods?
"This here's our hospitable place, so there'll be none of that, that -twinkling- here, please. We'll feed and house you if need be, but the beds will leave you with a backache something awful. They're terribly soft." Well. Maybe a back ache for someone HER age. She frowns somewhat up at the somewhat creepily always-smiling golden boy. "I'll let Dogg know. Whose representatives shall I say came calling, please?"
Sure, Logan might be half-fae...then again, who isn't? Just about everyone in the room seems to radiate as much power as he does. Or more, in Poppy's case. At any rate, his light dims down to more of its usual aura, and he shrugs. "No worries. Like I said, we mean you no harm. It's just as true now was it was when we walked in the door. We'll be on our way, just dropped in to say hi. You can tell Dogg we're from Fate's Harvest." He smiles again and starts to turn towards the door. "Nice meeting you."
Dross looks at Emilee for a little while after she speaks to Logan and he answers her questions. Quietly, he says to her, then, pale eyes fixed for a moment on her blue ones, "Thank you." With that, he turns and follows Logan and his after-image of golden light to the exit.
The phone rings shrilly just as Logan is starting to depart, and with a distracted, worried look at the taller Fairest and his silent companions (Storm Guy, Artiste Guy, Sexy Boots and Chicken-wing Jackson), Emilee assures, "W-we mean no harm either," and hastily picks up the receiver.
(For those who may linger long enough to listen: Her expression sours, politely, when she hears the voice on the other end, and her tone is distinctly tart as she replies, "Now, don't you try to rope me into your shenanigans, Mr. Orange." Silence. Listening. "Yes. Mister." Silence, and a more exasperated, "I will -not- refer to you as Agent, no matter how many cameras you--oh, hush. Tell Dogg the visitors brought an olive branch and want to meet again." Silence. "I don't know when.")