Currently unmasked, the colourful Ancient is perched atop a boulder near the old rock and tree which serve as the landmark for where the western Gate into the looptrod Hedge is known to be. Her white crow is with her, and swirls of white ice presently leave her an odd blend of light and shadow, the full moon glint-glittering and eliciting more colours than it technically should from her myriad frosty featherings.
Widget sits by the boulder, sorting her things out before she goes off on her trip. She's wearing her jumpsuit, pockets crammed with bits and bobs. What she can't cram into her clothing, she puts in her backpack or her bedroll. Said backpack is old and very likely stolen, but made from good leather and patched well. In it she's stored quite a few traps of the non-lethal variety, snares and noisemakers and stinkpots and all flavors of stealth-ruining mischief. In her 'bedroll', which was a scrap of industrial canvas, she's rolled up snacks and sweets, a deck of cards, and other things to try and make things a bit better. Her thorn-daggers are secured over her chest, out of sight, and her tiny gun is loaded and ready. No hobs were taking her!
Damion wears his armor, sword and revolver. A large pack is on his back. He has a variety of things in there, including some field rations and water just in case. But it's not like he's expecting a simple fruit harvest to go that long. Better safe than sorry though! He watches the two ladies while they ready themselves for the Hedge.
Gert, perhaps surprisingly, looks exactly as she always does. She's made no apparent attempt to gird herself for combat. She's still wearing her faded old Charlie Chaplin suit, still toting the cane that she doesn't really need, and even still wearing that bowler hat over her severely-bunned hair. There's no sign of weaponry or armor anywhere to be seen, unless the cane is much heavier and more suited for bludgeoning than it looks.
She stands at the foot of the boulder, below November and her crow-friend, and adjusts her leather gloves, examining the back of them with a critical eye for a moment before looking up and around at the rest of the assembled Lost. "Well, dearies," she says, "are we all ready, then? Best be off. Even I don't want to hang about here too late o' nights."
November tilts her head, as if listening to something, then flashes a sudden smile to the trio, springing lightly down from her perch and turning to touch the trunk of the tree. "Admit us, please," she bids the gate, and a moment later, it obliges. She performs a cursory scan of the other side -- nothing toothy or toothsome waiting to pounce (yet) -- and steps through into the Hedge, then moves a bit ahead to ensure the others can follow her in.
Once the group is all inside, she asks, "Are any of you particularly gifted where it comes to finding fruit? Excellent survivalists..?"
Damion studies Gert curiously for a time, then makes his way over to her and offers the clown a big, currently gloved hand. "Damion King. Summer." That much is easy to tell, from the aura of heat coming off of the dragon. "Harvestmen. Don't think we've met before." He looks back to November, who was the one who arranged this whole thing. When she enters the gate, he follows behind her and moves to stand between the rest and the Hedge at large, scanning the area. At the question from the rainbow, he glances at her. "I don't know about excellent, but I know a little about finding fruit."
Gert accepts the offered handshake with a twisted little smile, her eyes glinting as she looks up at Damion. "Gertrude Wexley," she says. "Call me Gert, love. Everyone does. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you which Court I call home." She gives a high-pitched little... chuckle-giggle-laugh that scrapes down the spine like nails on a chalkboard, then releases his hand. There's something off about her grip, too, something wrong with her fingers under the gloves, but she doesn't let him keep hold long enough to really figure out what it is.
She's last through the Hedge-gate, moving like a spider with her cane leading the way. "Oh, I can take care of myself out here, dear, and I know some tricks when it comes to finding places to look to find goblin fruits. I'm hardly a specialist, though. Just a reasonably talented amateur. I'm mostly just along because Little Miss Rust over here needs /someone/ to make sure she doesn't go off and eat something poisonous. Or any number of other things."
Widget's too busy marvelling at the Hedge to really answer, content to follow the group around until they tell her to do something. She was sticking close, of course, but still pausing to flip over a rock to see what comes out from under it or chuck a pebble into the many crags.
The gremlin looks up, crouched on the ground and poking a dead crawly beastie with a twig.
Regardless of the effects Damion and Gert, in their nearly-equal inhumanity, are accustomed to causing upon the Hedge, tonight, November's are ascendant, and they're a right pain in the rump to deal with, too.
The Hedge draws from YOU, after all -- what you are, your paradigms, and what is hers, if not being the Trickster? In other words, don't trust anything you see without taking a second look. Strange shapes flicker in the corner of the eye, even beyond the normal lights which glint in her Mantle when you aren't looking at it straight on. Flashes of colour where there shouldn't be colour, or the reflective glint of light off of ice where there shouldn't be ice, are common as well, along with a certain sense of fickle possibility, potential.
Waving a languid hand Damion's way, she suggests, "Let's give our big strong lizard man a chance to show off, shall we? Find fruit, lovely." This last request is toward Damion himself, and while it's clear that colours in her ice have shifted, the darkness leaves precisely -which- colours have done so uncertain.
Damion can't help smiling at Gert. "Hmmm. Spring?" His voice is teasing as he says it, the bass-toned dragon giving the petite clown a wink before glancing over at the gremlin, his smile becoming more wry. "Mmm. She needs that sort of help sometimes, yeah." He stretches his arms over his head then considers Gert. "Would you like to lead the search, or shall I?" He looks at Widget and adds, "Be sure not to get too far, Wij. Don't want you getting lost. Or hurt." He considers the rainbow, then shrugs. "Sure."
"Close. Dawn," Gert says, with a flash of teeth in a sharklike grin. "It's just so painfully obvious. I'm afraid I don't hide it very well. But there you are." And then she falls into step beside November, her gleaming eyes peering about at the shifting Hedge. She props her cane up over one shoulder, whistling a reedy, off-tune little rendition of "The Blue Danube" between her teeth, and simply walks, waiting for the call of fruit-sign.
Oooh. Pretty colors.
Widget pads behind the group, flickering eyes flitting about to try and get a peek at all the odd comings-and-goings of color and logic. Some were far off, hinting at /things/ that she might find there, but she had to stay with the group? Right? Right. So maybe she strayed a /few/ feet. Nothing she couldn't make up! They needed to find fruit, anyway. No point in being on top of each other!
November says nothing about how much, or how little, assistance Widget requires in avoiding things which will get her, or others, murdered or otherwise discorporated. Instead, she asks Yrrh, "My darling dearest little friend, will you pretend you don't hate flying in the dark and check ahead for us, please?"
Yrrh, cawing a derisive reply which needs no translation, rouses his feathers and crouches down, wings spreading, before springing up into the air and flapping heavily to get himself higher, his flaps evening out as he gains more speed.
While Damion is searching for fruit, the faerie Ancient glances back at Widget, then slows, pointedly waiting until the Gremlin is nearby before offering her a little pebble. "Hold it in your palm and turn it in a full circle, reciting, 'I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.' It will glow. You can help Damion search; he will want for light."
After they reach the first patch of dream-a-drupe, Damion glances around to check on Wij. Seeing that the girl has started to slowly wander away, he steps over to her and bends down, scooping the gremlin up and setting her on his shoulders. This is of course after November gives her the glowing pebble. Then he turns back to what they're doing.
More than once, Widget's tendency towards straying ends with the hook of Gert's cane catching her around the shoulders or neck and yanking her back towards the group. The clown sighs heavily after the last of these and gives November an inscrutable look, then shakes her head. As soon as the first patch of dream-a-drupe is forthcoming, she comes to a halt beside Damion, peering about in the darkness. "Not bad, dearie," she says. "It's a start, at least."
Widget smiles at November, turning the pebble in her hand and saying the required pledge. Quietly. So Damion might not hear it. Now she has a glowing pebble, which she holds alongside Damion's head to help him see. She grips one if his horns with her other hand, before the light of the pebble waggles as she points in what seems to be a totally random direction that absolutely didn't contain a nice amount of color when she looked at it.
"That way! That way!"
There was absolutely nothing near the direction the gremlin indicated WHEN she indicated it.
Really, it was totally fine.
Now, however, Widget notices a shadowy figure stepping out from behind a tree. It LOOKS like a Changeling; it doesn't have the same aura of EEK that, say, November does, though November appears to be watching the group's backtrail at the moment.
Damion harvests a few Dream-a-Drupes before they start to move again. And.... Widget saw something? He's curious if it'll actually be hedge fruit, or something stranger. He heads in the direction in question, one hand gripping one of the imps legs to make sure she's secure. Not seeing the shadowy figure, he's not particularly worried about it.
Gert, on the other hand, is always cautious, even if she doesn't show it. She hangs back slightly, standing with November, while the other two go leading the way. She sighs once, shakes her head again, and hooks her cane across her shoulders. "That girl has absolutely no instinct for self-preservation," she says, apparently to no one in particular. "She'll do herself a mischief one day, mark my words." A pause. "She'll do herself /another/ mischief."
Well, sometimes mischief can be useful, or at least teach something useful. In this case, vending machines. In her day, they were very easily tricks by slugs. Yes, they got better at it, but it was pretty hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get an armful of drinks and sometimes it just ate your slug and you had to tell the nice man at the counter the machine was broken. Or locate a screwdriver and /make/ it broken. I any case, you never wanted to lose a good slug. The easiest way to keep it? A string!
So Widget tugs on Damion's horns to get him to pause for a bit, the gremlin rummaging around in her jumpsuit for a decent length of twine. A few seconds later, and the glowing pebble is tossed at the shadowy thing. Widget isn't sure if it's actually a figure, or just November's colors going funny. Like a bad TV signal, but she would get in a /lot/ of trouble if she tried to smack November to clear it up. Or attach tinfoil.
Glancing down a good almost foot-and-a-half toward the nightmare clown, the faerie Ancient's expression is as inscrutable as the statue she resembles. The cant of her head implies a certain degree of study, however, and it is a few heartbeats after she -should- have responded that she concurs, "Another. It is my hope that she refrains from committing it in the Wayhouse this time." While that alien appraisal doesn't change, expression as unreadable as before, her tone, at least, is wry.
The sound of Widget rummaging around catches her ear, and with a quick glance, she takes in the figure, then half-turns, putting her side to him and keeping an alert eye on the trod behind them. No ambushes here, no siree Bob.
The shadowy figure remains shadowy even after he steps out onto the trod, and while he is certainly not human, he also really, really isn't Fae. Spindly and spidery, quite literally, he has too many legs and...yes. That is a top hat. A ratty-looking one, and a particularly hideous shade of puce velvet, but a top hat nonetheless, with a leather hatband and a few bizarre feathers tucked in for style.
"Sssssss. Would you like to play a game?" The voice is simultaneously sibilant and lisping, soft, spoken around a mouthful of sharp teeth.
Damion can't help glancing over at Gert and smiling a little. "Maybe. I try to steer her clear. She's very independent at times though." He gives the gremlin on his shoulders a pat. He still doesn't notice the shadow, until his passenger tosses her pebble on a twine at it. The tugging on his horns had him raise his eyes upwards, not that he can really see her that well. When he does see the figure he tenses, noting the over-abundance of limbs. When was the last time he saw that? Oh right. The Gentry that wandered into the Wayhouse. When the spidery creature speaks, he immedietly raises a hand up and places it over Widget's mouth before she can answer. Because of course she'sg going to if he doesn't. Instead he says, "Who are you?"
"Yes. Well." Gert sniffs disapprovingly. "At least if she does it near the Wayhouse we have somewhere to put her while she- oh, hello there, dearie." This last is offered towards the spidery thing creeping out towards them. There's no fear in the clown's expression. If anything, she seems positively delighted by the sudden appearance of a behatted spider-hob skittering out into the light. She sets the end of her cane on the path and leans forward over it, eyes gleaming a strange orange color for a moment. "We might. But first, I think you should answer the big man's question." She tilts her head towards Damion for a moment.
Widget finishes her sentence anyway, before sullenly reeling in her pebble. Aw. Maybe they could still play. Or maybe he'd let her touch his hat! She'd only seen that color when she got really hurt (Brown, red, and purple. Skin and blood and bruises. Her rust made it different now, though), but it was an interesting choice for such a fancy bit of clothing.
But /fine/. The larger Lost were gonna talk to him. At least she still had her pebble.
November, glancing sidelong toward the sibilant hob, offers nothing by way of introduction, though she does gesture for a few thorny vines to uncurl themselves from a tree and twist at her command, forming a chair precisely to her liking. Yes, darn it, it is a -pretty- chair, with little swirls and everything. Not quite a throne, sadly, but the message is clear: she is watching, not acting, and the others are free to do as they please.
The hob, now, he frowns, many eyes glittering in the branch-dappled moonlight. "Namesss. Namess are not needed for gamesss." He does seem quite eager. "I will ask three riddless. If you cannot guess, I will take one of those delectable drupes I saw you claiming for yourself."
Damion rests a hand on the handle of his revolver, though he doesn't draw it since the odd hob hasn't made any overt signs of hostility so far. He tilts his head a little at the offer from the hob. "And if we guess correctly?" A pause. "And to clarify, we have to give up nothing but the drupes if we fail to answer, correct?" It seemed pretty straightforward, but he wants to be as certain as possible.
"Ooh, the riddling game. Of course it's the riddling game. It's always the riddling game, isn't it?" Gert sounds faintly amused as she says it, and lifts one hand to push back the brim of her bowler hat slightly as she continues to peer at the hat-wearing spider. "Well, if it's /just/ the dream-a-drupes you want, I'm at least not against it. But, as the big man says, that's only half the game. What do we get if we /win/?"
Widget is still muted, spending her time tying stuff to Damion's horns. He can't feel it, presumably, and even then she's still gonna try. Just run the thread between them them, add some tinsel, a broken christmas light, a nice rock (not the pebble!), some marbles, etc. She had to keep herself busy /somehow/ after all.
The hob's legs shift, a chitinous and bristly whisper as they brush against a nearby tree. He seems somewhat unhappy that the changelings thought to ask about the other side of the bargain, but is still game -- har har.
"I will depart, hungry, and not inform the hunting party ahead of us that I have seen you tonight." He bobs his head toward the decorative dragon and his odd gremlin passenger in confirmation.
Damion might or might not notice her tying things to his horns. Though with how they're positioned, curled along either side of his head, it'll be hard to attach strings without them also touching his scalp. So he's aware SOMETHING is going on up there. He's just too distracted by the spidery hob to pay it any attention. The mention of a hunting party makes a frown break out over his lips. "A hunting party? Looking for the bounty on Freeholders?" Great. Just what they needed. He sighs a little. "Tell us your riddle."
"Tch." Gert's upper lip curls back into a sneer as the spider unveils the rest of its conditions, and she draws herself up to her full (entirely unimpressive) height as she glares at it. "Of course it would be something like that. You people can never just enjoy the game for the sake of the game. It's always got to /be/ something." She frowns heavily - an expression which is truly impressive, with lips that wide - and taps the tip of her cane on the dirt, casting a brief glance back at November. "Any objections, dearie?"
Widget stops hanging a bottlecap with a hole in it on the string. One of them. She's added more. A hunting party sounded....bad. Really bad. "Taste bad. Yes." Like...actually really really bad. The spider likely didn't care, but she /was/ coated in industrial refuse, regular refuse, rust, and she didn't wash unless she had a reason. Still...games were fun! And Damion was really strong and November was too and Gert was probably /also/ good at fighting. And being scary. She was still quiet, given the hand. Negotiation was not her strong suit.
The hungry hob all but prances in place, legs shifting eagerly when Damion consents, and he states a swift:
"When you need me, you throw me away, but when you are done with me, you take me back.
"What am I?"
November, on the other hand, simply smiles toward Gert. "Would I, of all people, stop you from riddling?" Which...you know, may or may not be a very helpful answer if no one has pointed out that the rainbow is the Trickster of the pantheon.
Damion looks at the others and murmurs, "Might be a bad time to mention, I'm not great at riddles. What about you three?" Well, two. It seems like November is uninterested in helping tonight. He looks up at Widget. "If you get an idea, discuss it with us first before answering, okay hon?" Then he steps over closer to the vaudevillian clown so they can discuss it in relative quiet.
"I haven't the faintest idea, dearie," Gert says towards November. "That's why I asked." Then she turns back, just in time to hear the first riddle that the spider poses - and her frown slowly twists upward into a grim, self-satisfied smile. She doesn't say anything, though. Instead, she waits for Damion to approach and glances up at him sidelong, without turning her head.
"I know the answer," she says simply. It's not a whisper. She doesn't particularly care if the spider hears her, apparently. "I quite like riddles, though I wouldn't call myself an expert. It just happens that /this/ one's rather an old chestnut. Which, admittedly, most of the good ones are." She lowers her eyes back to the spider. "If we lose, dears," she says, her gloved fingers tapping on the crook of her cane, "we turn and bolt for it, yes? No heroics. Old Auntie Gert will do her best to get you all home safe, but let's not make it any harder on her than we have to."
Then, without pause, she says towards the spider, "An anchor."
Anchor, says the clown.
Aw. Well. Next one? She had time to get the pebble back, at least. Hopping off of Damion's shoulders, she slides down him and trots off to unstick it.
The hob, still eager, stamps its spidery-clawed feet in frustration when Gert so promptly solves the riddle, demanding a swift, "A rooster laid an egg atop a rooftree. Which way did it fall?" by way of its second riddle.
Damion tilts his head at Gert, then chuckles. "Well, that certainly sounds right. I guess I'll let you two handle the riddles then." He focuses on the little clown. "And if we do have to run...well, I appreciate it. But I'll take rearguard just in case. I'm the most likely to survive an encounter with a group out of the four of us." Well, unless November has some violent tricks up her sleeve. She is awfully Wyrdy. He keeps an eye on Wij when she goes for her pebble. He says over to the hob, "I guess that's our final answer." Then he listens to the second one. He quirks a brow at it, then leans in to murmur to Gert, "I guess 'down' would be too obvious huh?"
"It would." Gert's grim little smile remains in place as she folds both hands over the top of her cane again. She's a sharp little thing, and despite the seriousness of their situation, she seems to be enjoying herself immensely. She doesn't answer immediately this time, though. Instead, she turns to look at Damion and the wandering Widget.
"A rooster laid an egg on top of a rooftree," she repeats slowly. "I know the answer again, dearies, but I may not know the last. I need you two to start thinking. Come here and tell old Auntie Gert what /you/ think the answer is. Quiet, now, so our friend doesn't try and act as though this is our official answer."
Widget pads back over, looking up at the two. She joined the huddle, lookign confused. Spider wasn't making sense. Maybe that was part of the riddle? Um. Hm. Maybe the group could help? "...Roosters don't make eggs." Chickens made eggs! Delicious, slow and easily beaten with a stick and stolen for food, feathery chickens! ...Now she wanted chicken.
The hob impatiently awaits the trio's response.
Damion shrugs at the other two and says to Gert, "We'll try our best. But for now, I think you should give your answer."
"Very good, love." Gert nods sharply towards Widget, still smiling. "You're a sharp one, under it all. It's a trick question, because-" she raises her voice and looks back to the spider "-roosters don't lay eggs." She pauses, smirks, and adds, "But if they did, it would have fallen down, yes."
The spidery hob is starting to fret, stiff-bristled hands scritching over one another as he wrings them. He seems more eager when Damion misses the trick of the riddle, but Widget and Gert crush his hopes, and he fires off a morose, final riddle:
"I shave every day, but my beard never changes. Who am I?"
Widget is a little more confused about this one, but she's still smiling at Gert. Clever! Ha! Nobody ever called her that! Well. Cunning, maybe? Tricksy? Certainly not /smart/, which that compliment was sort of like. At least that's how she wanted to see it! Um. Still, though.
Beards grow with men, right? Unless they did something to it. Um. Was this a trick? Unless there was away to shave and not have a beard. Wait. Waitwaitwait. What was that thing Lupe's mom did when...oh!
Widget huddles again, whispering tentatively. "...A woman?"
Damion sighs a little. Right. He really needs to get better at riddles, considering he's pretty much living in a fairytale. He turns back to the hob. "And the last riddle?" Then he listens curiously to that one, and frowns a bit. "Huh. Shaving but your beard doesn't change..." Then Widget makes her suggestion and he smiles. "That sounds likely to me..." Not that he'd be likely to guess on his own anyway. He waits for the others to answer, and either way he digs a drupe out of the pouch on his belt. If they get it right, he still lightly tosses the piece of fruit to the hungry hungry hobspider.
"Hush, dear." Gert lifts one gloved hand to put a finger in front of Widget's mouth, not quite actually touching her lips. "We don't want to give him any excuses. And the answer is 'a barber', though-" she bares her teeth in a nightmare-inducing grin "-it's a bit outdated at this point. Not many barbers still shaving nowadays. You must be about as old as I am, dearie."
The hob, dejected, hisses a soft sound and almost seems to deflate when Gert gives the answer. "Correct," he confirms, then picks his way back toward the tree trunk, starting to climb up. Swift reflexes see him snatching the fruit out of the air when Damion tosses it, however, and he doesn't ask questions, scuttling away with great speed.
Yrrh, too, comes in at great speed, zipping down the trod as though his tailfeathers were on fire.
Wait. His feathers ARE on fire.
Double-wait. ALL of him is on fire, except it's the deliberate sort, and the soon to be extinguished sort, seeing as he divebombs the forearm November lifts the moment he appears. "Hobs," he pants-caws, "Hunting. Coming this way. Move it, popsicle."
The faerie Ancient breathes a disappointed sigh, rising, and murmurs a polite, "Thank you," to Yrrh before turning back the way they came, her 'throne' uncurling itself and resuming its former position in the Hedge as she does so. "We'd best be off."
Widget quickly grabs up her fruit, stuffing it into a bag for later study. The bag gets stuffed into a pocket. There's just a lot of stuffy, really, until the fruit-and-interesting-thing-laden gremlin is walking along with the group. She didn't like being hunted. This wasn't the first time, but this time it wasn't by mortal scum or law enforcement or shop employees after she hid in the clothes rack. This was gonna end up with her as food. Therefore, it was time to go!
Damion watches the spider retreat, then starts to draw his revolver when the flaming bird returns. November seems fine with it though, so he just listens. Well, that's wonderful. "Alright. Off we go then." He motions the others to take off, and prepares to take the rear position, frequently glancing over his shoulder and checking for any pursuers as he does. "It is a shame we won't be able to interrogate any of them though..." Ah well. There was always another time, when he's not worried about others being in dangers path.
"Yes, we'd best," Gert agrees. She gives her cane a little toss upwards, catching it halfway along its length on the way down, and hooks it over an elbow as she turns to the rest. "We got lucky," she says flatly. "They were easy ones, and they were old. From back when I was a kiddie. If they'd been any of the more modern ones with all the logic puzzlin', I'd have been up a crick with no paddle in sight. And so would've you two." She glances at November. "Presumably. Best not to look a gift horse too hard in the mouth here and scuttle off while we've still got all our various bits attached, interrogation or no interrogation. Come on, loves."
And she sets off back towards the gate, taking care never to get out of sight of the rest.