The shadows in the Broken Hearth are deep indeed, despite the crackle of the hearth. The flames themselves, tonight, favor the exiting Queen - deep crimson, closer to the shade of blood than mundane fire. The Council has gathered, taken their spots at the set table for them.
It's a Court ruled over by a Moon, and as such the presence of vices is heavy. Substances, alcohol, food. And in the center of it all - Zillah. The Crown is still upon her head, for one of the last nights it will likely remain. She wears a dress of black velvet, the slit in the front a wicked thing that goes past her navel, the whole of it fitting like a second skin. The shadows around her are alive, twisting and serpentine, as she waits for the Freehold to arrive.
When Carter arrives, a little later than the rest of the Council, it is with a small gremlin in tow. The Devil has escorted Widget through the thorns to Stoneheart, no doubt keeping her from running off the track to follow the various bewitching lights and enticing smells that the Hedge always seems to sport while Carter is present. Here in the Stoneheart itself, though, where there's less of a threat of getting lost, he sees fit to turn her loose, and limps his own way over towards a chair not far from the Council table.
The Devil seems to have wanted to dress up a bit, in preparing for the final Court of the season. He's wearing one of his Hedgespun suits, this time, a stunning creation in brilliant scarlet and gold that complements the deeper red of his skin brilliantly. He's even got a matching old-fashioned hat to go with it, nestled atop his head with its brim just behind the curve of his horns.
Moreover, Carter seems to be feeling quite deeply in tune with his season, tonight. His Mantle is blindingly strong around him, filling the air with the raw stuff of Wyrd and the enticing air of Spring. Flowers and vines curl up around his hooves, springing into life before fading away, and the air around him is heavy with exotic and alluring smells and the fresh, clean feeling of the air after rain.
He settles into his chair and taps the tip of his cane against the floor, then plucks up a goblet of wine from a tray held by a passing hob and lifts it in silent toast towards Zillah, smiling crookedly. He murmurs something that goes unheard, then tilts back his head and downs most of the wine in one swallow.
November is early to arrive, Waylady that she is, though, alas, she does not appear to be partaking of any sins. Really, that should be sinful in and of itself.
The icy Ancient DOES have her patootie facing the doorway, however, seeing as she's bent over the Council table for a quiet conversation with Heather Vale, the Dawn Councillor. The riot of twisted changes TWO powerful Dawns are causing on the Mantles around them is something to be seen. Poor Pook (Spring). Poor Charlie O (Winter).
Upon Carter's oh so Springy arrival, the colourful creature's aurora echoes his crimson skin, scarlets and golds, though she doesn't verbally greet the Devil. Not yet.
There's a click of heels against stone, then Poppy makes her way into the meeting room along with Duncan, murmuring something under her breath to him; the harmonics of her voice call attention to the words even if they can't be clearly deciphered. The siren is dressed in a pair of black leggings patterned with purple tentacles and a deep purple, cowl-necked sweater; a pair of black leather stilettos zip up to the knees, decorated with buckles. She grins sharply as she looks towards where the Queen is, waving cheerfully to the Moon snek. The Devil Himself and Widget are also given a cheerful smile and wave, even as she does consider the twin issues of seating and potential refreshments.
The sound of a conversation drifts in from the entrance, something about "Electric Sheep" and "Replicants". Some new kinds of Hedge Beasts perhaps? Whiskey enters, smiling. The 4' tall mechanical tree man has dressed to the nines out of respect for his queen. He wears custom tailored hedgespun suit, made of moonlight and cobwebs. It's accompanied by hiking boots, new and of good quality. His ever-present stein is in his right hand, as always.
A bow is slung across one shoulder, and a quiver of bodkin arrows are on his back. It is still the Hedge after all.
Duncan enters alongside Poppy, the storm-elemental bringing a gust of fresh wind in with him. He flashes a good-natured grin at the assembled Lost, then makes a lighthearted salute toward the Moon Queen before turning back to the Siren. Seeing her eyeing the refreshments, he grins and murmurs to Poppy, "I'll save you a seat." Then he heads down front to claim a pair of chairs. He may consider himself 'dressed up' for court, but in present company his casual, mundane clothes hardly stand out -- faded jeans, brown walking shows, and a grey dress shirt with a black pea coat over the top of it all.
There's power and then there's what Widget walks into. She spends a lot of time with Carter and manages to not go nuts, so she's not entirely hopeless around those deep in the Wyrd. The gremlin isn't tough enough to deal with like six more of them in an enclosed space, though. Whatever mantle she has isn't even going to /try/, the rusty thing nearly going wall-eyed trying to see all of the colors and lights and sensations battering her senses. There's a moment where she just stands away from everything, stopped dead from sheer overload. It passes long enough for her to edge dazedly over to the warmth and potential safety of the hearth with an armful of snacks, entirely unsure what to do.
At least Widget looks nice, wearing a nice black dress and scrubbed clean. It's about as close to proper as she's likely to get, no doubt the work of her chaperone. Even if said chaperone was nearly giving her a migraine from collective power. Quasi-tripping in the corner with a can of vienna sausages isn't the most ideal way to introduce herself to some of the new faces but she's grateful to be able to get there alive. Carter gets a lucid smile, even now.
It's nearly impossible to tell where Zillah's looking at any given moment, save for those times where her whole head goes with that looking. There's a quirk of dark lips for familiar faces as they arrive, an up-nod of greeting given to those in the Freehold that she's spent much time with in these past months. She snags a glass from a passing hob, drinking from it deeply before she takes a moment to glance over her shoulder to the Council behind her. A flicker of forked tongue over her lips, before she speaks.
"Thank you all for coming, tonight, to what will be my final court. Provided that anything catostrophic doesn't happen between now and when my reign ends. Fitting, that the most lovely Luna will shine down on the world in all her glory, as my time ends." Zee's lips give a little smirk at that, and she takes a sip of her drink once more. "I'll open the floor to anyone that has anything they'd like to request, announce, whatever, before I start carrying on."
Aaron arrives to the party a bit later than expected. Quiet on his feet, he makes his way to the place for his elected role as Custodian-Elect. Shadows and phantom moans of disembodied souls follow behind him as representative of his affiliation to the Leaden Mirror. He offers an apologetic nod for his tardiness to the Lunar Queen before taking seat.
Very much not dressed up for the occasion, Lolly's body language is a complicated mix. On the one hand, she is close enough to Whiskey to qualify as following the man. On the other hand, she's lagging behind and keeping a wary enough eye on the fellow that her willingness -to- follow him is in question.
The young Spring brings a breath of fresh air, gentle breezes and the appearance of healing herbs and wildflowers where they very probably ought not to be growing, seeing as tabletops in her vicinity are just as liable to sprout tendrils of trailing meadowsweet and mint.
Conversation? What conversation? Poor Whiskey hasn't gotten a whole lot out of Lolly beyond uncomfortable non-answers and poorly-concealed terror veiled behind polite gratitude. The instant she is in the room, she darts over to a table, any table, and attempts to sink into the floor while eyeing Zillah like...well...a snake. Oh, floor-sinking doesn't work, and anyone nearby will be treated to the sweet-sharp and alluring scent of faerie flowers, lily of the valley, but she gosh darned tries.
Carter offers a nod and a lift of his glass towards November, whenever the rainbow finally turns to glance in his direction. Widget gets a somewhat amused-looking smile as well, as she takes up station in a corner. Beyond snapping his fingers for a passing hob to refill his goblet, however, the Devil says and does little. He seems content to watch Zillah and wait for Court to begin in earnest.
The siren helps herself to mortal-based foods - salami, cheese, and crackers - along with mundane liquor, then makes her way over towards where the storm Elemental has settled himself, sliding into a chair and turning her attention towards Zillah just as the Queen starts to speak. Poppy tilts her head, expression attentive, even as she sips from her drink. It seems she isn't feeling particularly talkative at the moment, either gathering her thoughts or simply enjoying food and alcohol.
A quick an smooth glide bings Whiskey over to Widget, with a slight detour for cheese to go with the pinot noir in the stein. The hob with the cheese plate is recognized by name, and Whiskey congratulates him in passing at the hob's son's new apprenticeship as a smith. On arrival at Wiget's Corner, Whiskey raises his stein to Wiget's sausages in silent salute. Whiskey seems comfortable in the corner, carefully observing everything but a little on edge at so many of stronger Wyrd than he.
November, when it appears that Zillah is about to begin Official Business, slinks her way toward Carter, ice-glittering gown, light-shattering frost, colour-shards and all. While side-stepping to turn, heels clicking on the floor, she lifts a slender, graceful arm to draw the Moon's attention, twinkle-finger waving, and breathes a musical laugh before commenting, "I would congratulate you, our Moony Majesty, for a season well-led. We are alive, and mostly still sane. Victory by any reasonable standard." Her too-pure, too-lovely voice carries well, lightly accented with hints of Irish lilt, and carries ephemeral hints of colour to the ear.
Widget meekly taps her can against the stein, glad to have someone near her who didn't cause her brain to itch like a spider laid eggs in it. Sure, Whiskey was fairly high-Wyrd, but it was a comfy sort. She felt much better with a proper machine-person such as herself. Well, she was getting there. Probably. Eventually.
Right. Now that she's sorted herself out, the gremlin sits a little too close to Whiskey and watches the proceedings the best she can. If she manages to catch Lolly's gaze, there's a look of absolutely genuine comiseration. Sure, this was /awesome/ to look at, the sensations were cool, but it reminded her of /Them/ and that always needled down into terror. More snacks. Those always help.
Zillah's head turns, swinging to the direction of November when that hand lifts. Grinning, and giving a soft laugh of her own. "Thank you, oh Rainbow," she muses, before giving another moment for things to pass. To give anyone a chance. Without any bites, her head turns once more, to look at everyone and no one all at once.
"It's not been the most quiet of Seasons. Troubles have come our way, and while I am no prophet, I see more on the horizon. But for now, our issues with the Kindred of the city have ended. Club Violet is once again fine to visit - but do be wary of what you drink, there."
"Hear, hear," Carter murmurs, when November makes her congratulations towards Zillah. His voice is quiet, barely above a whisper, but, like Poppy's, carries strangely hypnotic harmonies that draw the ear nonetheless. He says nothing else, though, still content in silence for the moment. He does smile as November approaches, however, and waves a hand graciously towards the seat beside him, inviting her to sit.
Commiseration is not the emotion Lolly appears to feel when presented with Widget, handsy phone-smasher that the gremlin is. Oh, she certainly -watches- the teen, but approaching her? With Whiskey who is barely below the craziest of the Wyrdlings in the room right beside her? After meeting Widget's gaze, green eyes flit toward the crafter in question, wary, then flit back to Widget as she firmly shakes her head. Noooo way Jose is she joining the gremlin -there-.
Hearing Zillah, she stares a moment, then slouches dispiritedly down in her seat and thunks her forehead on the table. "...can I click my heels three times and go back to Kansas yet?" is mumbled, half-intelligible, into her folded arms.
Poppy gives Zillah's remarks about Club Violet a wry look, taking another sip of her drink and shaking her head a bit for whatever reason. Perhaps catching Lolly's words, she tilts her head, glancing towards the Flowering, expression amused for whatever reason. Seeing as how the other Lost is currently face-down, however, she doesn't interrupt the flow of Court trying to get her attention, instead looking back towards the Queen, popping a piece of cheese in her mouth.
Duncan settles in, grinning contentedly to himself and seemingly oblivious to the level Wyrdness in the room. He cocks his head, listening to the Moon Queen's introduction, but he has nothing to offer to the Freehold at large. Instead the Elemental leans over to whisper a question to Poppy.
Ever watchful, Whiskey misses little. He seems to see Carter and have am inspirational thought. With a quick, and very quiet "Pardon, I should see someone about an eyemask. Drinks bought by me tomorrow night if we don't manage to sync up after here." He gives a friendly smile in Lolly's direction as he leaves Widget's Corner to walk softly until he stands near Carter, a nod in greeting to give the Devil his due.
November, it seems, is cheating. Not only does she -not- begin to melt on the side nearest Carter's heat, but her frost declines the opportunity either, delicate scrawling fractals beginning to spread over the surface of the seat the moment she touches it, a finger-width haze of colourful mist rising to blur the edges between deity and not.
After leaning in to murmur something to the Devil, she straightens, watching Zillah with unreadably alien interest, as still as the ice sculpture she so resembles. Her hair? Hopefully Carter won't mind his shoulder being a brilliant shade of emerald-streaked chartreuse for the next minute or so. The drifting strands of queerly-liquid colour, too, stain her seat, and anything else they happen to touch.
"Lily knows better than to poach one of our own," she points out, voice raised, slanted eyes ostensibly on the Queen. It's tough to tell when they're as blank and transparent as everything else.
Carter doesn't seem particularly surprised when November's hair starts dying his beautiful Hedgespun clothing different colors. Nor does he seem to mind overmuch. He simply leans back in his chair, lounging against the cushion, and watches the Moon Queen continue her address. When November murmurs something to him, he chuckles and flashes her a brief grin - and then looks up as Whiskey approaches, nodding to the other man and lifting his goblet in greeting.
He says nothing yet, though. His eyes continue to watch Zillah, waiting for things to continue.
Wait, Widget's alone now? That's fine. She was alone for a long time so it's not bad. It's not. Just her and the snacks. Watching the colors. That could be Fae lurking in the corners and-
Huh. She makes it over to Lolly's bench /fast/. Even a poor look is still a look in Widget's book, Lolly being weak enough Wyrd-wise to keep the gremlin from gritting her fangs. For her part, the rusty girl really doesn't look up to mischief right now, looking more unnerved and intoxicated than anything else. And she's got water, right here! See? She can sit here. Right. Right?
"I hope that she does, Rainbow. Because those that visited have a Lost bloodbound to them - something I would not wish upon my most vile enemy. We all claimed our freedom, after all." There's a pause, for those words to hang. "And I'd hate to have to show anyone my wrath, for hurting one of mine."
"We've been lucky enough to have a new leader of the Watchers in Mister Logan," Zillah continues, with a lift of her glass towards the Devil. "And many new recruits to the subgroups. But still, we need more. So one of my final requests as Queen is that if you've got any talents that you've been hiding away - do make them useful. Even when the crown has left my head, I will do all that I can to get you into the positions that you desire." A quirk of lips, there.
"There is still the matter of the Lover, though I have faith that there is a plan in motion to get her gone. We have eyes going towards us, now. Remember that." Zillah drinks again, and pauses.
Lolly, lifting her head just far enough to side-eye whichever person just sat down at her table, lifts it a wee bit farther when that person proves to be Widget. The Flowering just waves vague permission, not super gracious, and not all that graceful. "Dunno what I was thinking, coming to this thing. I KNEW it was full of people like her-" green eyes dart toward Zillah, then back to Widget as the slouching Spring continues to mumble, at least -attempting- discretion. "Czcibor said helping people with magic was how he got so--"
And there she stops, jerking upright, to stare at Zillah and exclaim a squeaky, "That thing's still HERE??" before paling as much as a plant can. Which...honestly, isn't much. Chlorophyll doesn't exactly behave like blood.
Poppy grimaces at whatever the Elemental's question is, then murmurs a response, gaze still focused primarily on the larger exchange taking place. When she's done replying, a piece of salami goes into her mouth to be chewed rather decisively by those sharp teeth, perhaps by proxy. Mention of the Lover is met with a dry sort of look, although Lolly's reaction has her expresion turning rueful.
Carter lifts his cane in acknowledgement when Zillah names him as leader of the Watchers, and inclines his head briefly towards the Moon Queen. Then Lolly is squeaking, and the Devil's dark eyes move towards her. "Yes," he says smoothly, "it is. Though, hopefully, not for much longer. Plans are continuing apace, and the vast majority of its influence over the freehold has already been dealt with. It shouldn't be much longer before it moves on entirely."
Well. He certainly sounds confident, at least, even if it was an extremely vague answer.
Charlie O, Winter Councillor, clears his throat before rising from his seat behind the Council table. "Your Majesty, if I may."
Whiskey's face tenses at the mention of the Lover, and a far-away look enters his eyes. For a moment his mantle changes, the small origami leaves that usually swirl around his feet when he is in the Hedge becoming origami foxes with Japanese Kanji characters on them. The same characters, repeated over and over. Then his eyes clear, the tiniest tear rolling own his right cheek and quickly wiped away. A phrase is whispered to himelf, "Et en Arcadia ea est", before Whiskey turns his full attention to the newly risen Winter Councillor.
There's a near-inaudible noise of pure terror at the mention of the Lover, Widget curling slightly on the bench. It's a reflex. She knows it can't hurt her now. Well, okay, it can, badly, very very very badly, but it'll get hurt /back/. Her friends were strong. Smart. They'd helped get it off of her and now they could get it to just /go away/.
The gremlin scoots closer to Lolly, as much as she can. The rusty girl is spooked, very obviously so, the power of the Wyrd screwing badly with her emotions. "...pleasedon'tleave..." It's whispered to Lolly, worryingly genuine. Just be /very quiet/, and nothing can hear you. And you won't get in trouble. Or eaten. Or all of it at once. "...everyoneelsehurts..."
Zillah's head turns, looking over to Carter as he speaks. She nods, appearing to accept the Devil at his word. And while she makes no comment on the Lover, she doesn't look all too pleased that the Kindly One is still in their neighborhood.
"Of course," the Queen says, with a flourish of her hand towards the Winter Councilor.
Lolly's unease does not abate, and she gulps visibly when -Carter- of all people is the one to answer her. Fellow Spring or not, the look she gives the Devil is a blend of fear, frustration and confusion. "But, -why-? Why is she still here?"
Seeing Charlie O standing up, she blinks a few times, confused, attention shifting from Winter to Moon to Whiskey to Widget in rapid succession. The gremlin's extreme response, while not precisely eliciting sympathy -- hey, the lily holds a grudge with the best of them! -- from 'Captain' Lolly, does prompt a sotto voce, "She get you or something?"
Charlie O nods to Zillah, waiting until the room is relatively quiet before speaking again, the icy tears upon his pale cheek glinting in the bloody firelight.
"We must not forget the threat posed by the Soundless. Winter's intelligence reports have revealed little, which worries us; even for the Soundless, it is quiet in Stowe. What could have frightened them so badly that they would go so deeply under cover?" A hand lifts, spreading briefly, then falls to the tabletop to splay there as he leans forward. "If anyone sees any strangers acting suspicious, please, bring word to the Wayhouse and the Waykeepers; they are our first defense."
He looks to Zillah next, nods once, and resumes his seat without fanfare.
Poppy glances towards Widget at that squeak, then glances back towards Charlie O, curious what the Winter has to say. She sips from her drink as she listens, expression thoughtful for a moment at that mention of Soundless before that opalescent gaze flickers briefly to current Queen.
Widget looks like she's about to puke, fixing Lolly with the most hunted look she's likely to have seen outside of a stray dog. It's rather sickening to see on a human face, even on Widget's. "...i'm why." Guilt, confusion, a /lot/ of negative emotions smashing headfirst into the giddy colorstorm of the various Mantles flowing about.
Duncan perks up when he catches what Charlie O has to say. There's a sense of energy and agitation is the air around the Summer Elemental as he makes a quiet, contemplative rumble before settling back in his seat. After a few seconds he shoot another jovial grin to the Siren across the table and mutters something.
Whiskey looks to Widget and Lolly, concerned. His mouth moves, briefly. Those who can read lips can see the motions are to say "Be at ease. You have friends and are well liked.", but no sound is heard.
Zillah catches that glance from the resident siren, and there's a slight nod of her head. But she waits until Charlie O has taken his seat, before she speaks again. "The Soundless have not been forgotten. Indeed, Poppy and I were talking on the matter of them recently. But no. We should not be unconcerned over the fact that they've been - ha- very quiet. There's also matters of the East - those beams of daylight during the night. It's one of us. More specifically, someone with access to the abilities of the Sun Court. And, inch by inch, these events are moving closer to us."
The snake lets out a breath, and continues. "It will not be a quiet, blissful season that follows mine. Woefully not just a time to enjoy our lusts. Believe me, after a season of having little time to see to my own desires, I wish that it was. Be prepared, my lovelies."
With that, she lifts her drink. "If no one has anything else to say, we can consider business for the evening closed."
Reginald Pook, Spring Councillor, lifts his glass of undoubtedly alcoholic delights to toast Zillah in commiseration for soon-to-be-lost time for desires, a lace-edged handkerchief dabbing artistically at a tear. "Amen."
The news about the Sun Courtier ever-so-slowly approaching the freehold gets a raised eyebrow from Carter, but the Devil says nothing. He simply joins Pook in toasting Zillah once more, then takes a deep drink from his goblet.
Poppy glances back to Duncan at that muttering, expression wry for the Summer's momentary excitement as she murmurs a reply. Still amused, she takes another sip of her drink, turning her attention back to Zillah. Swallowing, the Fairest grins sharply for that remark about the other Freehold, but otherwise holds her peace, apparently not having anything substantial to offer - particularly not after the Spring Councillor's mock-liturgical response.
Whiskey raises his stein in toast to Zillah as well, downing half of the remaining Pinot Noir in one gulp an wiping his mouth with a cobweb hanky, sadly already stained.
A second passes. Three. Ten. And then Zillah, satisfied that there's no one else with any business, nods. "Thank you for coming." That said, she slides off to the side, no longer quite the center of attention. Besides, there's drinks over there on the side, and her cup is woefully empty.