The Hedge is restless today, many hobgoblins traveling the trods the nearer one gets to the market, but then, slave-trading day IS rather popular... One never knows who, or what, one will find to acquire...
The directions posted at the Wayhouse did have a single thick, heavy spicebud still attached to a long branch for people to study, to remember, to use as a goal and destination in the queer, indirect travel walking the Hedge requires -- for those who haven't already been to this area, and who don't already have the mental images travel demands.
As one approaches, no matter the direction one travels, the air grows sweet with spice, the trees' buds teasing the senses on the wind which dances through the blood-hungry, twisted labyrinth of shadowed thorns.
It's not quite clear who exactly told Alexander that he could never fill a sack of spicebuds in one day in the deep dangerous Hedge. But what is clear is that Alexander heard this SLANDER and would not let it stand. Having gathered himself the tools required, a large sack suitable for his gargantuan stature and an Alora to WITNESS, how else could they know that he beat them? He set out into the deep hedge.
The Ogre's presence is felt for quite some distance in the Hedge, beyond the mere charms of his loud personality. The thorns and vines themselves shift and change in a passionate and fiery manner, to echo the make of his Wyrd. Clad in but loose trousers held up with a thick leather belt, as if he cosplayed a WWE champion the marble giant lumbers on. "No I am telling you it -is- this way!" he snorts to Alora as they turn yet another corner in the labyrinth of thorns, his whole behavior arrogant and relaxed. A dangerous thing in places like these.
Widget knows. Widget wants it. She saw the post, asked around, actually planned for once in her very-likely-to-be-short life. She spent a night or two in her shop, smacking together her kit with a surprising amount of care. A crossbow with a simple piston so she doesn't need to strain to draw it back, some insecticide canisters packed with boom-juice, and a spider-chair. Why not /be/ the spider? It's a bucket seat from an old car, little spindly legs of copper and steel going tik-tik-tik through the foliage, guided by some levers gouging into the armrests. Eerily quiet, aside from the little whisp of diesel coming out of the back of it. "It is?"
Echoing Alexander in her much quieter voice, the girl swings her gaze upward, headlamp illuminating in a visible cone. Sniff. Sniffsniff. "Smells like it. Yes."
The three foot tall woman, Alora, looks up at the much much larger Alexander and offers a smile to the Ogre. "Are you sure? I'm all turned around if I'm being honest. I probably need to find a good teacher to help me learn how to not get lost in here." She sticks close to the Ogre like he might be a lifeline of some kind while in here. She looks over to Wiedget and nods her head, her own short bow out and an arrow knocked... just in case.
Ariana looks over at Widget while she walks along the group, feeling the uncomfortable weight of the borrowed sidearm at her side, and frowning faintly. The hedge doesn't make her happy, and she's clearly a little uncomfortable while they walk, but she'll push through to make sure that Widget doesn't do something... too dumb.
Twitchy. That's the best way, more than any other, to describe Marian Fry at the moment. When she originally met this group after seeing the notice at the Wayhouse, part of her wanted to bolt all over again, like she did the first time she met November -- because some of these fellow Lost are SCARY close to being True Fae. For her own part, however, Marian came ready for war -- her Bowstaff, dressed up in full riot gear that looks far more like she's playing at being the Green Arrow (complete with a hood over the helmet portion of the riot gear), a surprisingly nice survival kit and a first aid kit. And arrows... lots of arrows.
Given how twitchy she is, perhaps it's not a surprise that she's ranging a bit from left to right of the group, keeping more to the shadows than anything else. She's doing an okay job of it, but she wouldn't be surprised if most of the others could see her. Her Bowstaff is in hand, arrow already nocked, and her eyes don't stop moving, from side to side, up and down, front and back. Yes... mild paranoia might be a relatively accurate description of her at this point.
Being new to this area of the hedge, Marcus has spent much of his time exploring and learning what he can. The directions found posted at the Wayhouse was a lifesaver in giving him a way to reach this destination. That's how the darkling has come to find himself here, now. He is cautious as he explores, clothed in shadow, and hidden in darkness that the changeling has conjured as he sneaks along. It slows down his movements, but it means he usually isn't caught unaware and hopefully will notice someone or something else before it sees him.
Even without the darkness he's conjured to hide himself in, the hedge reacts to his presence, the sky darkening and shadows growing, moving and shifting. The already alien landscape shifts in response to feel more menancing as if danger hangs heavy in the air. To those that do see the darkling, he looks like an indistinct being made of pure darkness, darker than the darkest night. His fingers seem to end in long claws, his fingers and hands looking stained a bloody crimson up to just past the wrist as well as the same bloody color staining his feet. Catching sight of others, he doesn't speak or make himself known, instead, he waits, watching.
In the midst of all these Changelings, there is an oddity. What can be more strange than various high Wyrd Lost in the Hedge? A mortal! Max had come to warn of possible danger! But then she saw there was already a group aware of such things and decided to tag along to assist. The young woman situates herself somewhere in the middle of the group, making sure there's a Lost on each side of her if possible. However, she makes sure to warn everyone not to touch her. She's dressed casually for the outing into the dangerous Hedge, a hoodie with some jeans, and sneakers. She appears unharmed, no visible sign of weaponry on her. "I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, especially from someone like me... but it's important the group doesn't get separated," she offers, knowing such advice is probably known. But hey! She's trying!
The trods near the edge of the trees they seek are quiet. Too quiet, for anyone who knows anything about wildlife; there should be small rustles, signs of movement in the undergrowth, birdsong, insects living out their tiny lives.
The trees themselves are lovely, in a sepia, rather monochromatic way, with blossoms of palest brown and tan streaked with darker shades open on some branches, closed on others, long-since hardened and toughened in death on still more. The trees themselves are enormous, branches wide nearer the trunk, and block the light with the shadows of their own gargantuan bodies, spidery twigs as thick as a human thumb occasionally *skritch skreek*ing against each other in the wind.
Widget gnaws on her lower lip, looking about all-twitchy like. She's spent enough nights rough to know that something isn't quite right and it's spooking her. She's got her armor, her weapons, allies, but she kinda...like.../needs/ them. If she was on her own she'd be as dangerous as a vaguely snappy chihuahua and she (hopefully) knows it. Just gonna guide Skitters over towards the bigger folks, motioning to Ariana to move with her. Widget needs something to diffuse the tension a /bit/. Enough that the worry doesn't edge into something unfortunate. Um. "...Want snacks?" She's got like a whole bag.
Ariana looks over towards Widget as she is motioned over, and she manuevers over that way. She's on edge a bit, because... well, it's the hedge, one should always be on edge. "Um... I don't think I need any snacks right now, Wij," she answers with a faint smile while she looks at the imp and her spider chair.
"Yes." Alexander nods "I am sure." sounding quite sincere in his booming voice. His crimson gaze is roving high along the trees, hoping to find some of these spicebuds. Somehow having assumed they are on high. He does get distracted, briefly, by the multitutdes of people that arrive but does not linger on it. He's a man with a mission. A mission of fruit.
Marcus moves into the space of the group, slipping in with his flowing, constantly changing /cloud/ of darkness opening up enough for him to make a showing along with the other changelings. A look is given to each, his eyes hidden in the darkness that sheaths his form yet most can feel the intensity of his gaze when its fixed on them. He smiles and its easy to see as the darkness splits to reveal perfect ivory white teeth with elongated canines. "I'm here to help as well." The words are spoken in a low whisper before the darkling disappears into the darkness that surrounds him to hide once more.
Max is startled by the sudden appearance of Marcus. A small jump but she quickly recovers. Slightly. It doesn't help when he gets closer to her. She remains still as she listens but nods at the warning. Her posture becomes more defensive and a look of concentration befalls her face.
Alexander continues to stare up at the giant trees, finding nothing akin to the fruit he seeks he snorts. Scratching at his mossy beard in annoyance before he stomps his feet staring up at the great trees. Which promptly ignore the unsaid wishes of a baffoon of an Ogre. Utterly ignorant to any danger.
Widget is fine with not having to share her snacks, chewing on a piece of jerky as they walk/tromp/skitter/skulk about in the Hedge. Her head keeps swiveling, eventually noticing the change. It's a small one, but it makes Widget turn and stare at Max, headlamp probably quite bright. "What?" Was that bad? That sounded bad. Rusty digits reach out to tug Ariana closer, some panicked whispering following not too long after. No time for snacks now!
Ariana blinks as Widget is suddenly tugging her closer and whispering into her ear, and she blushes faintly, before she nods her head, and reaches towards her leg to pull at the unfamiliar weight of that pistol so that she can get ready for things. Her head looking around, the porcelain doll biting her lip while she looks around.
Marian's eyes, roving as they are, pick up first on Marcus, then to Max as he passes by her. Eyes flicker upwards to see what Marcus may have seen, and the grip on her Bowstaff shifts -- not so easy now, more ready to start unloading arrows if needed. Even so, she keeps looking around to try and see what might be coming.
Alora looks between Marcus and Max and notes Max's reaction to whatever Marcus has said to her. She begins to look around a little more alert herself to see what is going on but as Alexander stomps on forward she follows and sticks close to his side. Surely if he doesn't think anything is wrong everything must be just fine.... until Max's reaction becomes the topic of conversation. "Mr. Alexander. Something is happening over here." She motions towards the group, bow still nocked.
"We're being watched," Max warns Widget... and the rest of group merely by speaking up. There's a nod to Alora as she spots something the group needs to be aware of. "I can probably get one of them but it'll be uh, messy." Get who with what? Who know! "Think they might be waiting for us to make the first move... or get in the right position to be swarmed." The mortal sloooowly inches toward one of the tougher Lost with weapons.
Flowing back into the group, Marcus peels back the surrounding darkness as he comes to stand beside Marian. Getting the changeling's attention, he motions with a hand gesture for her gaze to follow his hand as he points above, right at a spot in the darkness overhead. Leaning closer he speaks softly to give directions on where to shoot an arrow overhead.
Marian shivers as Marcus gets close -- not his fault, really, just how she reacts to those spooky powerful types. But as he whispers to her, Marian's eyes flicker up, and the grip shifts again. This time, she's slowly pulling back the drawstring, focusing on what she sees overhead. One slow breath, a second... and then her arms pivot upwards as she pulls the bowstring taut. Breath out, and the arrow flies upwards, hopefully to hit the target given to her.
A hiss and a clatter from above heralds both the successful strike of the arrow and, being the source of the clatter, the fall of the leg Marian just severed at the spider's cephalothorax in the process. From seemingly nowhere, more Rottweiler-sized arachnids swarm out from their hiding places in the trees, and fix on the troupe of Changelings (and the token mortal!) with emotionless eyes, staring as they skitter for better positions.
At a quick count, there seem to be at least a dozen. Two are on the ground, but the rest remain within the trees.
Marcus knows where the spiders are, but he can't reach them. Pacing back and forth like a caged animal, the hedge shivers around him as if in response to the anger welling in him at being unable to reach his prey. There is another of those creepy grins that shows his too sharp teeth from the clean shot Marian makes, striking one of the hidden spiders. Stopping suddenly, he lifts his hands at the trees overhead and growls as he clenches his fists and makes a sharp pulling motion downwards. The trees all shake and shiver in response, but one bends and spills the hidden spider free to fall toward Ariana.
Alora's moss green eyes go wide as the giant spiders swam out of the trees. As before she remains next to Alexander. She tucks away inside a bush and quickly takes aim up and into the trees above. The short bow is taunt and shakes a little in Alora's unsure hands but after a few seconds she releases the arrow held between tiny fingers and let's it fly up and into the trees above. The sound of a solid thud against one of the arachnids echoes down as Alora hides herself in the bush a little more.
Marian's right hand is almost (but not quite) a blur as she reaches for the next arrow. Eyes close for a moment as she takes another breath, then opens again as the first spider -- the one she took a leg off of just a moment ago -- comes down from on high. Bowstring pulls back until taut, she releases her breath, and another arrow flies. And even as it leaves the bowstring, she's reaching back again for another arrow to nock and prepare for her next shot. Hopefully, this will be the end of at least one spider, but there's plenty more to go. In the meantime, she moves to find some cover of her own.
The spiders swarm into motion, two attempting to bite Alexander and Ariana, but failing miserably, despite the fact that the Ariana-biter was plummeting toward her at the time. It does tear her top, however, and jostle her sideways, as Rottweiler-sized spiders are wont to do when landing on top of someone.
Simultaneously, three spray webs of sticky, brownish silk at Marian, pinning the talented archer's arms to her sides, but doing no overt damage.
More spiders attack, but none are successful in actually HITTING their targets, until one poor, innocent little creature tries to take a chomp out of Alexander's shin. *CLINK*
Widget looks up, around, then all over the place. There's a somewhat-panicked hiss, the gremlin hoisting her crossbow and using the back of her chair as a rest for her- There! The trigger is pulled, the bolt flies, and Widget watches as go. Her cocker device squeals as it wrenches the string and nocks another bolt. Well, that didn't work very well.
Ariana lets out a yelp as stuff suddenly falls down on her, and it's... it's a friggin spider! Her eyes close tightly before she turns over and pulls out the gun and pulls the trigger, there's no way she could miss at this close of a range!
There's no sound, just the sound of her grunting while she tries to pull the trigger, before there's sudden remembrance of Widget and Clarice lectures, and she realizes... the safety is still on. She quickly back pedals away from the spider, the better part of valor is knowing when to run away.
Alexander turns his crimson gaze down upon the one offending spider who actually manages to break upon his marble hide. "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" he bellows down at the poor creature. His voice deep as the roots of mountains. With a crunch his bare foot stomps down on the spider, sending chitin and puss fly everywhere.
The smell of the webbing makes Alora dry-heave, her nose crinkling up as she tries to get herself free from the substance. "That is nasty." She's still trying to be attentive of her surroundings but turning into a cocooned snack wasn't on her to-do list today so she was trying to get herself right the hell out of the webbing before that could happen. After which she tries to wiggle her way into the bush a little bit deeper, probably praying nothing is living in it.
One spider coming after her was bad enough -- but THREE? The little bastiches act like Marian shot the brood mother spider or something! To her credit, however, she does her best not to struggle, and draws upon the Glamour welling up within her to try and escape the webbing... but to no avail. Note to self: make sure to learn how to slip restraints for future reference. In the meantime, she starts to move, trying to be as erratic as she can and throw off the aim of the spiders.
Widget is ready. Is so ready. Right? She just needs- What was that? "Ariana?!" Well, that was a bit more squeaky than intended. It's a cold bucket of sludge on what was a burning fire of enjoyment. This wasn't fun anymore. The girl swivels the chair, guns it at a spider, and really does her best to stab the ichor out of it. Angry gremlin time. Although judging by her /face/ she's more terrified than anything else.
Ariana doesn't yell, as that spider bites her, and sends a large fang through her shoulder. She screams, struggling to pack away as she falls to the ground. Her right arm hangs limp and mostly useless as her left arm presses and tries to staunch the flow of blood, red staining across white porcelain as she groans from where she is laying. Though everything feels a little weird and woobly, and the hedge sure is warm this time of year, the doll thinks while she lays there, staring up at the trees while she keeps a hand, trying to keep the warm red stuff inside of her.
People are getting injured, spiders are getting stomped. Danger all around the mortal! While she's not panicked, there's a healthy amount of fear in her eyes. Still she must press on. Turning her gaze toward Ariana, she focuses on the spider to set it up in flames.
Alexander is forced back as the multitude of spiders set upon him. The great Ogre lets out a bellow, he might only be suffering nicks. But death by a thousand cuts is a thing. Not one that he has ever cared about however, with a grand kick he smashes his foot into another one of the creatures.
As the battle rages on around him, Marcus keeps up his battle movement, slipping around attacks as darkness swirls and billows out around him. He seems almost formless at times in combat, growing taller or seemingly angled in strange positions that would make him seem almost boneless. With the majority of the spiders piling up on Alexander, the darkling turns and strikes out with the darkness that surrounds him, crushing into one spider and breaking open its chitinous armor to spill its foul goop to the floor, still, it stands back up, teetering.
Alora continues to hide in the bush she's taken cover in for just long enough to realizse that she is unable to shoot safely without risking harm to her allies. She secures her bow as she walks over to Marian and pulls out a tiny pocket knife and starts cutting the other woman free.
Her head starts to spin, vision going from blurry to doubled as the spider venom kicks in. Closing her eyes again, Marian does her best to steel herself from the pain of the bite and poison both, and this time she does seem to be in a bit of a panic, but that's before Alora comes over to help cut her free of the webbing. A bit wobbly on her feet, she does manage to catch sight of a spider that looks like it's only been slightly in the fray. Well... that's about to change. Eyes squinting a bit to try and focus in spite of the poison, she lets the arrow fly, and is rewarded with a solid hit, even though it's still twitching.
Now, belatedly, she gets why people don't like that Arachnophobia movie.
Alexander only grows further angered as the spiders leap upon him, staggering back. As pain sears through his body he snarls, but maintains his focus. Letting the rejuvinating tricks of Spring wash over him. Bruises fading in moments.
Marcus pulls back from combat, easily disengaging with an effortless, fluid grace. Well out of the way he focuses on the hedge as he looks to those in the group that have been hardest hit. Softly biting the edge of his lower lip he reaches out with his hands and starts to slowly make motions like he's pulling a heavy weight closer. A rumble can be felt from nearby as vegetation is pulled from the surrounding hedge closer to the changelings. Pulling the hedge fruit as close as he can to the group he points in the direction of the healing fruit while calling out, "Grab some hedge fruit and heal up!"
Ariana is gasping as the world continues to sorta weave in and out around her. She's vaguely aware of Marcus and Alexander continuing to manage to stomp and general just treat the spiders like nuisances, and Widget is probably doing gremlin things. The doll, however, is mostly just trying to keep the red stuff on the inside, her hand still pressed tightly against her wound, though things are slowly starting to fade out. There isn't any urgency any more, at least for her, as she starts to slip into the wonderful world of hypovolemic shock. There's faint black creeping into her vision while she lays there, her breathing shallow while she lays on the ground beneath the trees.
"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!" Alexander roars down at the spiders as they continue to nip, leap and in general bruise and beat at the giant. Like a swarm or pests. He leans down to grab one in a meaty marble fist, staring at it with the rage and hate so characteristic for his court. Squeezing like a vice as he crushes it in his hand, breaking chithin and digging his fingers into its internal guts before he throws it away. "I WILL FUCKING CRUSH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!" he roars out, with a strange glee to his raging bellow.
Marcus focuses on combat once more, fire and heat lead to the scent of burnt hair and chitin as well as those sick sets of goo and entrails of crushed spiders. Rushing into the fray, the darkling turns into a billowing comment of darkness that smashes into the closest spider.
Alora doesn't quite catch sight of the spider before it takes a bite out of her, fangs sinking in and lacing her tiny body with poison but she manages to throw it off just long enough to draw back her bow string and let fly another arrow. It attacked her, it was only fair that she attacked it right back. The little manikin doesn't look all that great after the bite. One bite was one big bite for such a little body.
Turning around, Marian kneels down beside Ariana, pressing three of the freshest ertwen she was able to grab to her. "Here, this should help, I hope," she murmurs to Ariana. "Stay with me, now... don't you fall asleep on me." The spiders? Might as well be forgotten at this moment.
Oh, good, the spider isn't trying to kill Widget anymore. That's good. Now that the roaring in her ears has faded and the panic is a little gone and it doesn't hurt so much anymore, she can focus on... Oh. Oh. "Oh no. Nononononono-" Widget's voice is very small, the rusty thing scrabbling over to apply that antivenom. What did they say, where do you put it, and...and...air bubbles...and...something about...
Max manages to side step the one that tried to take a bite out of her. With a concentrated look and a motion of her hands, she lashes out in return with her fire. Even if it doesn't drop it dead, she hopes that being lit on fire is enough to scare it away.
Alexander snorts with dismay, his fingers being all sticky and covered with spider guts. He keeps kicking out with one leg to keep the two at bay as he wipes it off on his loose trousers. "FUCKING GNATS!" he roars at them as he kicks at one of them, sending the creature flying and crashing into one of the large trees, breaking apart on impact. "WHERE ARE THE FUCKING SPICEBUDS?! TIME IS WASTING!" as if expecting that last spider to cordially inform him.
Marcus takes his damage from the spider attacks, dodging and weaving to escape the worst of it. Using his control of darkness he wraps the elemental shadow about himself and lashes out at the nearest spider, smashing its head and knocking it unconscious.
The remaining two spiders may not be bright, but upon seeing that they are the only two alive, they wisely begin a tactical retreat, dragging their shattered bodies off into the thorns.
In the aftermath of the combat, while dead spiders litter the ground, the sweet, clove-like scent of the buds up in the trees remains.
Marian winces, still kneeling over Ariana. She eats one of the ertwen she gathered while trying to contend with the poison in her system. That's not going to be fun, though if there's anti-venom in her first-aid kit, she'll try to use it on herself in the meantime.
Alexander wastes little time, and begins to climb the great trees with surprising speed. Fully focused on filling his damned sack with spicebuds, there is a determination there. A will. A man with a mission. A stupid baffoon who was dared to do something and thus must do it. He has the will and the way. What is ignoring the plights of your fellow Lost in the face of such sweet triumph.
After gaining her breath and recollecting her composure, Max surveys the area. She first steps over to Widget, giving her a questioning look of whether she was okay or not. Then she looks to Ariana, grimacing some. That seems to be taken of, so she'll head over to help collect what they had come for. Sure, she can't really carry any herself, she can help with the harvest!
With the spiders gone, Alora leans against a tree and pushes a hand to one of her injuries and blinks slowly against the pain. She slowly starts to search the bushes and trees nearby for something to help alleviate the pain and heal the injury, searching for more ertwen through watery green eyes, a brave face being put on by the little manikin. She finds a few and then makes her way over to Alexander where she munches down fruit after fruit.
With combat over, Marcus lets the shadowy overlay flow away from his face and head to continue to cover his body like armor. His features are that of a man, pale featured with amber eyes and a dangerous, almost feral cast to his features. Picking fruit he starts to store some before standing and handing out fruit to anyone in need.