It is night. Some sections of the Hedge don't follow the rules of the regular world, and the Wild Roses Market is one of them.
For those unlucky enough to be here by chance, the trods are broad, by Hedge standards, and not quite as claustrophobic as usual, worn into the fabric of the realm by the passage of many, many travelers.
For those here to hunt, why, hobs and the occasional changeling are in and out in search of the silver hart with fair regularity, though none have yet seen hide nor hair of the beast.
For those here to defend the freehold, the recent forays by the queen and Harvestmen seem to have calmed down the hobs' eagerness to attack travelers. Weaver encounters no trouble along the way.
Count is a creature of dichotomy, on one hand, he's always kind of embraced the night, because he is after all, one of them spooky goth kids. However, he is also a triumvirate of conflicting beasts and instincts, Lion, Goat, Serpent, and the things those three tend to agree on, is that they love basking lazily in the sun. Thankfully he has already basked in in the summer heat during the early afternoon, and is now decked out in full hedge hunting gear, and stalking along the trod in hunt for something that sounds potentially delicious.
The horny beast of Winter is in full armor, mundane armor, like SWAT, rather than anything hedgespun or fancy, it's black(ish) and scuffed here and there from long use. He is armed, with an assault rifle in hand, aimed mostly to the ground, and there is what appears to be a heavy revolver of sorts, in a holster just below his hip.
In the darkness, from the right angles, his eyes seem to glow an eerie reflective green. Overhead a tiny bat occasionally streaks by, and to his left, there is a DINOSAUR... no, not really, but it is a rather large and fully grown monitor lizard that looks down right cantankerous.
Asa for hobs, Count tends to generally get on with Hobs.
THe night time is the worst time. The worst time for the worst kind of people. Enter Weaver, so carefree and almost at ease to be in the hedge. He's wearing an armored vest and a pair of black pants - nothing more and nothing less. The vest's one modified for the wings that pop out of his back, and he more than freely stretches them out as he moves along the trod. His claws sink into the earth below, although he doesn't leave a step behind. His mantle displays itself as a gathering of shadows taking on some massive bestial shape in his wake, but that isn't what announces his precence. The hedge moves and changes around him. The green around him grows darker, as if receding from the light. The plantlife that can be seen grows taller than even the normality of the hedge. The draconic yawns as he moves, flashing those pearly sharp whites as he mumbles, "I should've brought Mkaz."
Widget is just following everyone else around and seeing what happens. She showed up with a backpack full of snacks and ended up armed to the teeth. Daggers, a proper shotgun, and a pistol. The sleek black equipment clashes with the rest of her, but she seems quite happy to have gotten her hands on it. She porbably just got them to keep herself from getting butchered, but it's still...y'know.../guns/. Widget would take it if it was a zipgun made from a bit of copper tubing and a barbecue lighter. Plus she might get to use the special shells. So far the gremlin is spending her time wandering close to the others, staring at everything about the Hedge.
An Omen is what one makes of it. Chasing the wrong rabbit, avoiding the wrong patch of concrete. Ducking into the bit of greenery on a path. It doesn't matter which Omen she -thought- she was avoiding, but Charlie zigged when she should have zagged. Much like Alice, she wound up in Wonderland. But fear and confusion simply fuel each other in this place, and the mind has a way of tearing itself to pieces in the most exquisitely damaging ways.
Fleeing from what might amount to a hedgy Squirrel, Charlie shoves her way through thorns stumbles out onto the path, looking more than a little worse for wear. Not only did that squirrel belch lightning, but it had great big jagged teeth like a rock chewing piranha. She's -certain- of it. Hair mussed and eyes wild, her clothes.. look about normal, really. They're always kind of torn up and stained. The scents of the forge and the hides in process of being tanned, and the musty smell of the flesh eating beetles probably clings to her.
The wind whistles through the sharp and spiny thorns which border the trods outside the Market where our heroes presently are. They have also been all too eager to sup upon a tasty Charlie's blood any time she has gotten too close to them. Picture briar roses with a really, really dark attitude problem.
The occasional hob wanders by, and while the regulars give Count an amiable nod, they eye the others with rank suspicion or distaste, depending on preferences.
Or acquisitive interest, in Charlie's case.
Having been here all along, Damion wears his own suit of armor, sword, gun and a backpack full of various things. He's keeping an eye out for trouble, and also an eye on the gremlin to make sure she doesn't wander into anything too dangerous. And... then Charlie comes out of the hedge nearby, and he stares at the sight of the mortal smith. Rubbing his face with one hand, he motions her to come closer to him. "Charlie. Do you know how to use a gun?"
One of the hobs approaches Count, reaching up to tug at the hem of his vest to get his attention.
Fee to the Fie to the Foe to the Fum, Count comes across the gathering group and recognizes at least one. Which would be Widget, from that one place that one time? Novembers thingy with horses and people playing renfaire? Count's memory aint that great, damned Beast Brain.
Still, she looks FAMILIAR, and so,m as paths Cross, Count inclines his head towards the little gremlin, and then at Daimon too, because he ahas totally been her all along and I don't wanna go back and rewrite this pose.
But then there is Charlie, a piece of the puzzle that not only does not fit, but belongs to an entirely different puzzle, or even game, like a monopoly piece.
Charlie is a little metal hat.
The look he spares her is curious, and comes with an absent minded flick of a vividly blue tongue as he tastes the air.
He opens his mouth to say something, when a hop appears and tugs on him, which gives this beast a start, and he turns to face the Hob with sudden alarmed suspicion that he hides a moment later, squinting at the creature. "Yes?"
The Market does its business at all hours, and there are more things for sale than trinkets. Like transportation, for example. So, when a pair of porcine-looking hobs round the bend, drawing a rather luxurious-looking rickshaw behind them, it might not be all that surprising. The person being carted, on the other hand, almost certainly is.
Carter Logan, the Devil Himself, is seated in the rickshaw, the tip of his cane set against the footrest as he gazes about imperiously. Around him, the Hedge shapes itself in accordance with his Wyrd. It becomes lush, vibrant, full of beautiful flowers, enticing smells, and alluring lights in the distance. And he seems utterly, completely disinterested in all of it.
Until, that is, he spots Widget on the path ahead. And a human. That gets one eyebrow to lift in faint surprise, and he raises a hand. The rickshaw comes to a halt just a few feet away, and he peers down at the assembled Lost. And their mortal companion.
After a moment, he says, in a voice like bottled thunder, "Miss Widget. Are you going to introduce me to your friends?"
Widget might ruin Carter's awesome intro a bit by padding over to tacklehug what Charlie presumably sees as the actual goddamn devil rolling up to party. Still, she goes over to tug the woman over. And Damion, but she couldn't move him if she tried. "Yes! Hi! This is Charlie! She's normal. Except this one thing. But it's secret! Yes. And Damion. He's a dragon. And Count and-" Well now she's just introducing /everybody/. She's just excited! She might get to shoot something with magic!
The little hob tugging at Count's clothes beckons for him to crouch down and get closer, quietly telling him, "Blacktooth said Tumblegriffin said the dragonman said the Roses said the beast'd been seen toward the Fangriver Falls."
The hob speaks quietly enough that the others are unlikely to overhear without effort -- then freezes, quivering, upon spying Carter on the approach. The little creature swiftly ducks behind Count's calf, then flees into the Hedge off the side of the trod.
Like the Monopoly hat, no one wants to be Charlie right now. Not even (maybe especially), Charlie. The thirsty thorns, the sparking squirrel, now a chimera, a Widget, a dragon, a demon. The thorns are almost welcoming, especially when the world seems to brighten, beautify with the arrival of Carter.
Wait. Eyes flick back to the rusty gremlin and linger. Widget? Maybe Widget. Might be like that flower that tried to eat her. Looked like a lily. NOT a lily. Amber eyes go wide when Widget just does that squeezey huggy thing. Friend or overly enthusiastic python?
BEfore the human can make up her mind, she's being drug along to meet the uh. Group. And there is definitely dragging needed. "Wi-WIJ." Hissing as she is pulled. "Don't, that's that's the.. holy fucking shit." It's a little much. And surely a bad joke - the devil, a dragon, a chimera, and a rusty spigot find a terrified human on the wrong side of the thorn tracks.
Freezing, she stares. She can't help it. She's open minded, but this is still stretching it uncomfortably wider.
When Damion sees Carter, he feels a sudden tension throughout his body. One massive hand starts to reach towards his zweihander before he stops himself. That level of Faeness has that affect on some Lost. He eyes him warily for a time. Widget going to hug him makes him relax slightly, though she doesn't always have the best judgement so not entirely. He lets her draw him along to the Devil, noding carefully to the near-Gentry. "Damion King. I'm pretty sure Widget has mentioned you a few times." He reaches out a hand to the mortal, rubbing her back comfortingly. Which might or might not help. He unholsters his oversized golden revolver, and offers it to her grip-first. "I'll hope you can shoot a gun. Be careful with this. It has a lot of kick to it." He's hoping a smith will have enough strength to at least handle it two-handed.
Count keeps one eye on Charlie, not in any ominous or menacing way, but as if calculating, and considering. Unfortunately the gears in Count's brain are rusty and ill equipped for too much heavy lifting so really it just looks like he keeps glancing at her and developing a furrow between his brows.
So instead he focouses on the hops words, which has him reflexively checking his gun, and it's magazine, and his sights.
"Fangriver Falls huh? Well..." he says, glancing around at the others, and then smiling wide, peeling dark lips back to reveal too many too sharp teeth. "...Who's hungry?" Bounty? What Bounty?
He glances back to look at the hob, but it's already fleeiong back into it's native thorns.
Carter may be somewhat difficult to tacklehug, considering his position in the rickshaw. What Widget actually succeeds in doing, then, is in wrapping her arms around the devil's obscenely expensive and well-tailored suit trousers, utterly ruining them. Carter himself, however, merely looks faintly exasperated, rather than infernally enraged, so perhaps Charlie can relax a bit.
"Miss Charlie, then," he says, with a nod to the mortal. For a moment, she gets the unenviable experience of having the Devil's full attention focused upon her. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to take much interest - his eyes drift away towards Damion and Count after only a few seconds. "And Mister Damion. Mister Count. A pleasure. To forestall the obvious-" his eyes flicker to Damion's sword grip "-I am not one of Them. My name is Carter Lysander Logan, and I have no designs on stealing any of your souls tonight."
He steps down from the rickshaw, somewhat awkwardly, and takes a moment to prop himself up on his cane. "Now then," he says. "I see we have some sort of hunting party forming here. What is the occasion?"
Gun? A gun? Charlie blinks at Damion, at least recognizing him - though it's still unnerving. "No, I'm.. I got this." she murmurs, rejecting the offer of the weapon without thinking twice about it. "I have my knife, my hands, my fire. I'm good." she adds as an aside. She's not good. She is so far outside of 'good' there isn't even a word for it that the smith knows. "Knew I should have fuckin' made some iron bangles. Easily reshaped into blades or spikes." Starting to bounce back, a little. Still terrified, but now there's a meatshield or three she can feed to the monsters first. Bitch ain't above hamstringing someone to slow down the bad guys.
Widget is eventually shaken off, leaving her to hop off of the rickshaw to go poke at a dead thing she saw in a puddle. It's got far too many eyes and an uneven amount of limbs, it's flesh pitted with acid burns. Nothing the twig of scientific wonderment couldn't sort out.
So that's what Widget is offering the group, it seems.
In fact, really only Damion and Count have seen her to anything approach fight. It's not like she's a very threatening presence anyway, especially not crouched on the ground prodding a dead beastie with a stick. Perhaps she has some sort of utility. Like ferrying g- No, she's too small for that. Guarding somewh- No, too fidgety. ...Maybe they just throw her at things, who knows. Her cheerfully responding to Carter continues to throw her efficacy in doubt. "Don't know!"
The latest group of hobs passing by the group take one look at the mixed-bag of Changelings, then at Carter, and hastily make obeisances to the Gentrified devil before scuttling away into the Market. There are a few, however, who slow as they walk past...
Damion nods his head slightly towards the Devil, forcing himself to relax. "I see. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Logan. I take it you're acquainted with Widget then." He absently rests a big hand on top of the rusty girls head, rubbing it briefly. He glances around at the assembled group, and the abundance of hobs wandering around. "There's a white hart of some sort wandering around. The hobs think it's somehow disrupting their stuff, so we're trying to capture it. Alive. I'm kind of doubtful about the disruption. I'm expecting they just want it for some other reason." He nods to Charlie, reholstering his weapon. "Right. Keep forgetting about the fire." His eyes flick down over her briefly before he adds, "Stay close to me. If anything dangerous happens, get behind me." He switches his gaze to Widget. "Same to you." He glances over at the hobs that pass them.
"There is a creature with a Bounty... I simply wish to know what it tastes like." Count says, looking at Carter and inclining his head in that direction. "On my way I stumbled upon these fine... people." Count, not a freeholder, has been mostly a hermit these last months, isn't exactly seen at most Lost gatherings.
Count's eyes flicker, darting to watch the hob that is pilfering from Daimon, and, like most people who don't want stitches, he does not snitch.
Carter's rickshaw is still waiting. They are, apparently, content to do so - maybe they're still on the clock while Carter does his little walkabout. The devil doesn't seem particularly bothered by this possibility, however. He just watches blankly as the crowd of hobs shuffles past, then lifts his eyes to Count. "Well, then," he says. "I'm not particularly inclined towards hunting, myself, but I admit to some excessive boredom that may just find alleviation here."
He glances back towards Damion, nodding. "Oh, yes," he says, "I know Miss Widget. I rescued her from jail, once, after she decided to... tinker with some power lines." He sighs heavily and taps the tip of his cane against the dirt. "I may not take part in the hunt itself, but I have nothing better to do for the evening. I may as well follow you, just to see if anything interesting happens." And he turns around to climb back into the rickshaw.
Charlie doesn't need to be told twice to use the meatshield as... a meatshield. When it comes to saving her own hide, she can be a bit savage. "Hart's are deer. Whites are albinos, but seen as having spiritual importance." She murmurs, more or less to herself. "But what if it's a -thing-, like you? Not-human, but not a deer? What then?" Always good to know the morals of those around you - though anything Carter says probably won't surprise her. Devil and all.
Brushign herself off a little, Charlie makes sure she isn't still bleeding where the thorns of the Hedge tore at her and scratched her up, then takes a moment to get the sheath of her smaller sized, handforged blade settled in a convenient spot for plant stabbings.
Widget pauses to look up at Damion, her experimentation resulting in the half-rotted thing leaking some sort of blue fluid. Water starts to sizzle as it deflates, until all that's left is a dessicated lump and a small divet in the ground. Aw. Oh well. Getting up, she waves at Carter and the hobs ferrying him. Always nice to know the devil is on your heels! And a dragon. And guns. Speaking of!
Widget checks her weapons, mania creeping onto her features as she hears the action and smells some residual powder. Oh yes. Yessssss.
The Dragons lips twitch slightly at Carter's words. "I see. That sounds about right." Damion makes sure his sword is loose in its sheath, then says to Charlie, "We don't know for sure. That's part of why we're taking it alive. If it's harmless, or the Hobs are after it for a reason they're not telling us... well. We'll see when we get there." He glances around at the small group, brows drawing together. "So... who's going to be in charge of the tracking?" He could do it to an extent, but it's not a speciality of his. So hopefully somebody better suited will take over that role.
Count has already started down the trod, as if the mention of the Fang Place is, was all he needed to know. With Fucker at his heel, and Damnit scouting in the air, the beast heads in the direction of his dinner; After all, he is a Knight of the Tongue, this is what he does.
"I will." Says Count, glancing back "I am familiar with the falls... and with finding prey." He flashes a smile at Widget as she checks her weapons and then looks to the rest, one at a time. "We can decide what to do when we get there, and find out exactly what it is."
It takes some time, but after traveling down narrow, twisting trods which have obviously seen far less traffic, their edges ragged and all too close -- they even catch on the sides of the rickshaw, tsk tsk -- the small group of decidedly noticeable travelers arrives at the river the hobs had indicated. The water is placid and calm, with nothing remotely dangerous or fanglike about it. Gee. I wonder why it got its name.
After a bit longer, however, Count picks up on the trail of what appears to be some form of deer...
Damion takes the rearguard, in case anybody attacks them. He tries to watch the path around them as best he can for signs of ambush or the like. Then soon enough they get to fang river. Hmm. Fang river. He peers into the water, looking for Hedge Pirahnna or something like that. Or, heck. Maybe Hedge Guppies. You never know.
Widget is...somewhere. She darted into the underbrush and hasn't come back out yet. She's still with the group, given the tiny rustle or the light flicker of her eyes being seen. Hopefully. Fang River is left placid, until a pebble comes out from somewhere in the thicket and bloops into the water. Evil fish still scattered with noise, right?
Carter rides along in his rickshaw, largely motionless, only moving when some distant motion or sound briefly catches his attention. Around him, the Hedge continues to shape itself to match the sheer intensity of his Wyrd, the effect moving ahead of him like a tide as the hobs tug him along.
As they approach the ominously named Falls, Count starts to pick up it's trail... or at least /a/ trail. I mean, it's hard to tell with hoof prints what color the alleged deer might be, but perhaps the odd tuft of fur will clarify things.
To those that watch Count, he does a lot of that odd reptilian tongue flicking, tho his tongue is not forked, it does seem to be a bit... too long from time to time, almost disconcertingly so, and once or twice someone might notice that there are more than one tongue tasting the air.
There is a point where they cross the river in the shallows, and Count cautions before crossing. no one wants to get swept away in a hedge river... it'd be a pretty bad day for them.
From time to time he stops, presumably where it stops, and after one such place Count goes still, looks up at the sky and frowns. his brows furrow again, and then he crouches down to confer with the monitor lizard in low whispers, and then reaches up to give what looks to be a vampire bat a perch, and also confers with it.
"I think it likes light... starlight, mooonlight." Count Offers to the rest of the party.
"Fangs. Bet there's giant crocodiles. Or crocodiles cross with alligator gar. Or.." Charlie falls silent, hooking her thumbs on the edges of the pockets on her jeans, trying to keep hold of that paranoia and fear, but it's hard, and it manifests as overly informed ramblings of worse case scenarios. "Deranged muppets with real teeth. That's on the list, too, I bet." she mutters, sticking near to Widget but making sure there are people on -both- sides incase there's an ambush and she needs to feed the monsters.
There are, indeed, a rather large number of unpleasant creatures in the river. Fish with too many fangs to seem remotely probable, who eat the worms, and leeches who eat everybody, or... well, they try to. The hobs carrying Carter jostle the Devil about a bit while trying to yank the things out of their skin.
As for Count's idea, the trail continues onward, meandering in an aimless sort of fashion, but it does, indeed, seem to pause in any area where there is a fair amount of natural light.
Considering the river, Damion glances at Widget and Charlie. Bending down, he scoops Widget up and lifts her to rest on his shoulders. He notes to Charlie, "I could carry too if you want. I doubt you want those legs to get all chewed up, do you?" He raises a brow at the short smith. If she declines, he starts wading across with his gremlin.
Carter observes the leech attack with his usual attitude of complete and total disinterest. Even the writhing of his drivers gets nothing more than a faint sigh and a drumming of his fingertips on the top of his cane. It's probably just as well that he /is/ being driven, though; a crippled man attempting to cross the river on foot, even with his cane, would likely not end well.
Damion looks at the others and adds, "Anybody else that wants a ride across, let me know."
A-ha! The rock did nothing, and the water didn't explode into tentacles. Clearly this was a safe place to ow no this was a mistake.
Thankfully the gremlin is scooped up, eyes swivelling about. Must be alert! Must watch for monsters! And still be sneaky. Once she makes onto the other side of the shore she wriggles back into the brush. Now, though, now she just picks the weird fish off of her ankle. Hm. Hmmmmm.
"Ow, fuck Goddamnit! Ow! Quiddit! Christ on a cracker I hate you all." Fucker opted to scramble onto Count's shoulders as they crossed the river, and between the biting fish and the clambering reptile, it's hard to tell just what in particular Count is kvetching at. In the end, no one is dead, and Count kicks an ornery flounder-looking-fish back into the waters after shaking it's teeth from the front of his boot.
Afdter the bit of kerfuffle, he continues on, after all, if you were gonna quit every time a puddle tried to eat you, why even go into the hedge at all?
Wait, did Widget just eat... she did! Count stops, distracted by this, and observes.
Charlie shakes her head at the offer of a lift across, slogging through and then /dancing/ and splashing as the biting things and the bleeding starts. No regrets, though. Except watching Widget, "No! Bad! Spit that out! You don't know where it's been! It could put your eye out!" Charlie tries to tug Widget over to smack her on the back of the head a few times. "For fuck's sake don't swallow!"
Damion eventually notices Widget inspecting the odd fish she picked off of her leg. It occurs to him too late what's likely to happen to anything possibly edible, and he says, "Wait Wij, don't ea-" And then she swallows it. Well dammit. He sighs. "I hope there wasn't anything too bad in that."
Widget is already chewing by the time people catch up to her, thoughtfully humming. Kind of like....cheese? But...with a chemical aftertaste and slight notes of algae. Gulp. Went down easy enough, too, surely-
"And this, I believe," says Carter from his perch atop the rickshaw, "is the point where I offer my drivers double the payment in exchange for rapid transport to the Hedge-gate closest the Wayhouse, so that we can get our young friend here some proper medical attention." He sighs heavily and taps his cane against the footrest. "I can't say I'm surprised by the overall outcome, but it did happen rather faster than I expected, so well done, Miss Widget. You have managed to surprise me, however mildly. Now come." He leans down and offers a hand. "Up you get. The adventure is over for you, tonight."
Count's nose wrinkles as the *SPLATCH* *SPLATCHES* all over Damion, and his shoulders do a little, perhaps sympathetic shudder. When one hunts for strange creatures for elusive dishes like Mermaid Foie Gras, occasionally one has a miss or three along the way.
"I would not recommend trying to use that river to wash off..." Count points out, unable to look away.
When Carter speaks up he inclines his head tot he man and then looks to Widget, wondering what choices she might make, and then glances around... because it's the hedge and you never dont watch your surroundings.
Too late. "Damnit, Widget." Charlie steps back in time to, smugly, avoid the puke fountain, sighing as she steps back in and gets to work on Widget. From a pocket, she produces a half crushed roll of peppermint lifesavers. One for Damion, one for Widget. "You are just.. like an untrained puppy, you know that?" But it lets that fear get taken over by the need to fix her friend. Using pressure points and peppermint, and a dose of old-fashioned psychic healing, Charlie stimulates the chakras and pushes all the acupressure points she can think of - using that odd mix of mysticism and science to block the vomit and increase Widget's natural tolerance for things like this. "... no more puking on Damion." she grumbles, giving the man a nod and slapping Widget's leg before she starts to look to where Carter and Count are.
Nng. Ergh. This was a mistake. Okay. No eating those. She knew this feeling, too. Once, riiiight before she got taken. Keeper fixed her up, but that was a bad time. Really bad. She got kicked out of the house for what had happened to her. So Carter gets to deal with gremlin now, as she gets transferred to the cart. Her face is dazed, but filled with a level of dread not normally seen on her face. She knew this.
This was going to /hurt/.
The beasts head turns slowly as he scans the local surroundings and then sharply as he catches sight of a tuft of silver fur, alight in the breeze. Leonine eyes widen and then his head tilts, as if listening, raising his hand and pushing a sharp "Shhh!" past his lips.
"I hear.... something, singing? This way, same path as our dinner." Our Dinner? Well, Count /is/ the charitable sort.
When Charlie calls Widget and untrained puppy, Count snorts, one of those short abrupt sounds of pure amusement that comes weather one wants or not; it's rare that Count gets to watch someone else herd cats.
"Are we prepared to move?"
Carter takes Widget by the wrist and helps her up into the rickshaw, scooting to one side to make room for the scrawny gremlin before tapping his cane against the footrest. "Right, then," he says, looking down to the rest. "I wish you luck with your remaining endeavors, and I'll attempt to have her treated at the Wayhouse before taking her in to the hospital. We don't want to have to deal with mortal doctors discovering Hob-poisoning if it can be at all avoided. But either way, you can rest assured that I'll get her help."
He sighs, then reaches over and adjusts Widget so that she's facing away from him, over the side of the rickshaw. "Try to vomit onto the road, if at all possible," he says. "And... off we go, I think." He gives another tap on the footrest, signaling his hob drivers to move once again.
Charlie watching Widget roll off with the fucking -debil- himself isn't easy. It lets that fear creep back in. Shaking it off she looks back towards Damion and Count. At least she can ask after Widget at the Wayhouse and verify that Carter is a good guy, later. That, and Damion hasn't tried to remove his face. That's a good sign. Nodding Damion towards Count, she settles in the bring up the rear with the quarry ahead of them.
As they start moving on their way, Count reaches into a pouch on the pack on his back and pulls out a small plastic container, like the kind some might package jell-o shots in, and he tosses it towards the cart, and the sick girl inside of it.
And then Count's attention is back on the task at hand, and heads down the trod, towards where the trasks and tufts and now the sound of singing, faint on the every absolute edge of hearing.
Nothing has ever gone wrong by following the sound of mysterious ethereal singing... right?
Yeah, ethereal singing. Great. Right now, Damion starts searching around for a spring, or a creek, or anything that doesn't contain eatey fish. Oh god, as if the river fish wasn't bad enough. He told her to stop eating stuff out of the trash. He finally manages to find a puddle large enough to rinse himself off, and starts to do so vigorously.
"God damn that was disgusting. I love Widget but she really needs to learn to not put anything she can into her mouth. It's okay sometimes but not when it's lampreys out of a hedge river or half-eaten tacos out of the trash or something. Not that I don't understand what with her having been homeless and poor on the street for so long, I always feel real bad for wher when I think about that... man it would suck to live like that..." Damion finds himself babbling for some reason. "That's weird. I don't usually talk this much. I wonder why I am now. Seems odd."
The singing, as it turns out, comes from the hart.
The silver hart is, well, a hart, with silver fur. It's not just silver, though. It's the silk-soft silver of moonlight's cool caress, the still, pale cloudgleam upon the branches of a tree iced over within the heart of winter, the whispering illumination of a spirit's sigh, of...you get the picture. It's the kind of creature legends were told of, once upon a time, and it stands, poised, caught in a shaft of shimmering starlight with head raised as if to drink.
Charlie is quiet, and stays that way as they move on the trail of the silver hart. Spying the beautiful coat on the beast, Charlie lets out a soft breath. "He's beautiful." she murmurs, glancing to Damion and smirking. "You talk that much to me all the time." she points out to him in low tones, moving to watch the hart with open admiration for the animal.
Damion stares at the hart when it appears, studying the coat and the graceful way the beast stands there. "Wow that is really beautiful. I hope we don't have to kill it. That would be bad. I wonder what the hobs want us to capture it for. I bet they're going to eat it or something. That would be a waste. You know, if we did capture it I bet we could make a lot of money having it perform. Maybe it wants to go into show business." The words from Charlie make him shrug at her, not really paying attention as he replies, "Well, that's cause I want to fuck you. You're hot, and curvy in all the right places. I especially want to smack that ass of yours. I bet it jiggles real nice." He blinks a few times. "Wait, why did I just say that out loud?"
"...it's always a clusterfuck with these people isn't it. Just wanna do a little hunting and nooOOoOOooo, suddenly the hedge is a s crowded as a mall the day before Christmas." Who is he talking to? Himself apparently, or maybe the bat that is still circling the party, or perhaps the lizard at his heel. "And people wonder why I dont go out anymore and 'hang out', it's because it's one dramatic shitfest after another, you know? I mean granted this isn't like being in a room with fuckin CB, now that's a torture that'd make Mother Teresa start swinging... god I hate that guy, I never should have helped his ass, he'd be rotting in jail, or on the lam, things would be sooo much easier. But Noope, I'm a fucking sucker, some dipshit needs help and here comes Count..." and here his voice shifts into a self deprecating falsetto "...Oh don't worry, i'll help you! i just cant help myself, please come take advantage of me because I'm fucking retarded...." and then Damion speaks up and count rolls his eyes "And mister big and horny here is in the middle of the hedge and all he wants to do is get his scaly dick wet, what is wrong with..." and then he opens his mouth, and literaly bites his tongue. There is blood.
There is also something up ahgead, the Hart, he points.
The singing doesn't stop when the hart lowers its head to regard the trio, two of which are babbling, one of which is not. Gleaming droplets of what look almost like moonstones cling to its delicate antlers, and it gazes at the three, poised, still, silent.
Well, since we're all being honest! "I can't man, I just can't. That'd be like fucking this guy's pet lizard. It's not gonna happen. I'm not into that level of freaky shit." Charlie says, rolling her eyes. "Whether you do or don't have scales on your dick. Though I am curious. I bet they'd be really soft, like the skin on an iguana's throat flap and I could probably make a nice piece of leather out of it." No, she didn't need to, but maybe talking about tanning his dick-skin will change his mind about her ass-jiggle!
Sighing it off, she starts towards the big, silvery buck. "Come on, beautiful. The locals aren't real fond of you, and as pretty as you are, I'd hate think of you tacked to someone's wall or eaten." she mumbles, not moving terribly fast. If the Hart isn't singing, who is?
Damion glances over at Count and frowns. "It's not scaley so you know, and thank god for that. It freaked me out when they started growing in, and now they're everywhere except my cock. I mean I don't think they're that bad looking overall but I do miss having hair. It is easier to wash scales than it is to maintain hair admitedly but whatever. You know when I've strengthened my Mask to where I can see it I still have a goatee, I'm not really sure how that works to be honest. Thugh I haven't trimmed it or anything so who knows." He blinks over at Charlie. "I'm sorry to hear that, though I won't push the matter if you're not interested. It's not like I can help who I'm attracted to. Not that that's what's important right now, we need to figure out what to do about this hart. If we don't capture it, the hobs might, and since we don't know what they have planned for it that would be a bad thing."
"That wouldn't be too hard..." Count says through bloody lips, that truth still coming out "...I am quite the taxidermist after all, you just need to cure it properly, though there is always a risk of losing scales, but with the proper adhesives no one will ever know."
Oh, and that assault rifle of Counts? That's pressed to his shoulder and he's aiming it at the Hart. "I mean if it's dead, maybe I wouldn't be getting my earballs violated by all this Tee Emm FUCKING Eye!" Count grumbles "Who cares what they want with it, good or bad, we're not the hedge police, this is their fucking world, not ours, I just hunt in it, because I /NEED/ it. Things from earth just dont have that same... nutrition anymore. Imagine how fucked that is? Think about it, like, I could starve to fucking death, eating a bucket of KFC..." and then his eyes fall on the Hart again "Are you doing this shit? You wanna stop? Can you talk? Are you food or can you actually think and communicate? I mean I'm /trying/ to be moral here, but half of me doesn't care and you look fucking delicious."
Whether or not the hart can speak, it seems to understand the threat implicit in Count's rifle, taking a step back, another, another .. and as soon as it leaves the moonbeam, the sweet, high singing stops, as does the odd compulsion. The beast seems ready to flee at a moment's notice, waiting to gauge what the travelers' next move will be.
"I don't do reptiles often." HAH. Charlie smirks at herself, "But I'm familiar with the process." She doesn't notice a change in anything, beyond the cessation of the song. "Oh, you made it stop singing. Maybe we can rehome it, you think?" she asks, pausing and blinking at what Count said. Wait. "You... I really don't understand any of this. Why would you starve eating food"" This makes no sense to the human. Of course it wouldn't.
"I think it knows that's a gun, though. Come on, lets see if we can get it move along." she says, keeping up that slow, creeping advance towards the pretty beastie.
Damion snaps his mouth closed once the singing stops, glancing at Charlie then looking over at the hart. He mutters something under his breath, shaking his head. He frowns as he studies the hart. "Once you slip far enough into the Wyrd, just food isn't enough anymore. You need things only the Hedge can provide. As much as you might hate the place, it makes sure you can't abandon it." He looks over at Count. "As tasty as it might look..." He sighs and shrugs. "I don't know what we should do here. I'd like to just send it somewhere else safe. But I don't know if it could, or would, listen to us."
At least from Count, and in that silence there is RELIEF in the winters eyes, and entire posture, like a drowning man getting air. The Horned Beast of Winter likes his lies... loves them, cherishes the web of deceit in which he lives, to have that stripped away? No, count did not like that very much, not at all.
He adjusts the drip on his rifle, and glances sidelong to Charlie. "Maybe I'll explain it too you, another night." and that lack of honesty, the absence of compulsion to spill his guts brings a smile that is wide, sharp and almost sincere. "I have some things I'd like to talk to you about anyhow."
And then he frowns as it backs away, and he grunts "You might be right dollface, I think it does know what a gun is, which is a perfect ending to this day." and with a grunt of mild annoyance he lowers the tip, just a touch. "I mean, I can already tell why the Hobs would want this thing gone, or captive."
The hart steps backward into another moonbeam, and, again, the sweet, high singing resumes... as well as the compulsive honesty. Observant and intelligent people that the trio are, they all notice, too, that the gems in the hart's antlers seem to glow more brightly than they should, and that the singing is coming from -them-.
Charlie takes a breath and lets it out nice and easy, stubborn enough to stave off the urge of the singing again. "You know what?" she says, studying the beast as the gems begin to shine. Count needs food, the hide would fetch a FINE price, or look good on her bed. She looks at the dragon.
"Take your shot." she says, clapping Count on the shoulder and backing up. "But I want the parts you can't eat."
Damion frowns over at the other two, then sighs. "Well. I guess majority rules here." He slips his own weapon free from his holster, turning his gaze to the hart. He can't help feeling sad at the idea of killing the beast. It seemed...well. Magical. Not that everything in the Hedge wasn't magical, but still.
Yes. The beast IS rather magical, isn't it? It gazes at its potential murderers with pale, wise eyes, singing its eternal song of truth into the shadows of the night...
"We can negotiate, I tend to use every part of my kills." pause "I might even show you some time...." but the rifle is rising again, and those that have eyeballs will notice that it is not standard make, I mean, most gun makers don't use tusks and teeth in the construction.
Count is watching the thing, observing it down the barrel of the rifle, and it seems, taking more than a few seconds to make a decision, perhaps watching it for signs of sapience.
And then a decision is made.
The Sound of Gunfire fills the air...
The hart bellows in surprise and pain, pure animal frustration and fear in the sound, and, limping, bleeding, starts to turn to flee, the singing cutting off the instant it is out of the moonlight.
Count does not take his eye off the Hart, that magical mystical creature, the famed white Stag, so portentous, so potentially delicious. As it flees, Count fires again, once more taking a controlled shot, not wishing for the creature to suffer, but definitely wanting it dead...
Damion watches the barrage of shots by the beast, griting his teeth and raising his revolver with one hand. He hesitates slightly, gun wavering a moment before he finally steels himself and firing. As it falls to the ground and stills, he closes his eyes briefly. There's a moment of sorrow that he pushes down then sighs. "I guess that's it then."
Charlie tests the edge of her knife as the shots ring out. So certain, but something nags and niggles at the back of her mind. Sympathy? Empathy? A thing in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Surrounded by monsters... There's a grimace and she shoves the idea away with a chuff of annoyance as she starts towards the fallen Hart. It's a life lost, one given, and she's respectful of that. She doesn't slit the throat in whole, just uses the tip of the blade to deep-nick the artery along the Hart's neck - to save the pelt and quicken the end of any lingering life.
"No, now the work begins." Count says as he shoulders and then sets his rifle back on it's strap and starts to approach the fallen creature, pulling out instead a heavy survival knife... and then finds that Charlie has beaten him to the punch. He slows his approach, and puts his blade away, watching the mortal woman with a twitch of black lips, a smile. Impressed? Admiring? It's hard to tell with Count (when he's not being magically influenced by damnable truth making creatures).
Damion lets out a deep breath and puts his revolver away, turning from the hart to watch the surroundings while the crafters work, eyes scanning the Hedge around them for signs of any other dangers that might appear. Maybe there's other Harts out there that'll be annoyed at them for killing this one.
Charlie is... gentle. Precise. The hide is taken with care, the organs sorted for consumption and laid out on the inside of the skin. The beast is quartered, then cut into parcels of meat - excellent cuts. Charlie's butchered a lot of animals in various states of decomposition. Even the bones are kept, fodder for the flesh eating beetles.
When she gets to the head, she dabs a spot of blood on the forehead where the hair swirls, then kisses the spot, murmuring something lowly. With utter care the antlers are carved - this taking the longest of the work in processing the animal. The fiddly work to harvest the stones. Help at either end is accepted, though she works in silence and brow-furrowed thought.
To the group's knowledge, nothing has come in response to the gunshots.
It's only a matter of time before more attention falls upon them, preferably not with sharp pointy objects or vomit comets attached.
With a whisper to Damnit (the bat) and Fucker (the lizard) Count gets down to helping field dress, and carve the Hart. Thankfully Count is alike a boy scout, in that he always comes prepared. Look, there's Rope, and a tarp, and handcuffs, and knives and a gag... oh and things to put other things in. When it comes to field dressing in the hedge, this is not Count's first rodeo, or even his second. When he cuts he is careful, of both the hide and the bones, and the meat.
He does not however, linger without need, the moment that it is reduced enough to move, he suggests that they do so. Scavengers are something he is familiar with.
Once the others are ready to move the Hart, Damion helps. It'll be a trip back to the Freehold, and then he needs to bring Charlie home.And figure out how she ended up in the Hedge to begin with. Also make sure that Widget is okay at the Wayhouse. Hopefully the night won't involve anymore vomit. On the plus side, he has a few truth gems now. Those might be useful at some point.
So Count will lead people 'home' which means a trip through the hedge, down another path, and into... WTF why is this some ancient Aztec looking Jungle? Count doesn't let anyone stop tho. He then leads them into THE REAL WORLD... and into,.... a large apartment with walls covered in all things macabre, bone and taxidermy. Is that a shine? With a skull on it?! DOWNSTAIRS Count urges, through a stairwell, and a heavy door, and into the Laundry. On him, he insists.