Rites of the Spring Horn

Game 7: The Summer Queen

Summary

Everyone in the group is awoken on the night of the solstice by Byron to come see the changing of the seasons ceremony in which the Summer Queen, Kenna, takes power in the freehold. The next morning, Zia gives everyone in the group new clothes for the ceremony in which they re-pledge themselves to the Summer Queen. The group changes, then goes to the court to wait their turn to re-pledge.

Log

On the evening of June 20th, at about 4:00 am, there is a knock on each person’s door.

Iris grumbles and rolls over.

Marcella makes sure she has a sword by her side and answers.

Hulda wakes up and blinks before opening the door.

Amy slides out of bed and opens the door.

Standing in the doorway is Byron. He looks excited. “Come with me,” he says. “The seasons are officially changing in a few minutes, and there’s nothing like watching it happen for the first time. Don’t bother getting dressed; just come in whatever you’re wearing.”

“Is it okay to bring my sword, or should I leave it here?” asks Marcella.

“No weapons in the court hall. Please leave it here,” Byron replies.

“Gotcha.” Marcella leaves her sword, and goes to the hall in a thin sleep shirt and pants.

Hulda grabs a robe/coverup, puts it on, and then steps into the hallway.

“Oh! Just a second.” Amy dashes to her bed and grabs a sheet, then dashes to her windowsill to grab her doll. She rigs up her usual doll-sling, and goes with Byron. She is wearing a nightgown.

Iris finally gets out of bed, she had only crawled in about half an hour ago anyway, and in her pajamas she follows Byron.

Byron leads everyone, including Fianna and Zia, to the court hall, which all are familiar with by now. It is crowded with people, most of whom are in a relative state of “just out of bed.” The exception is a number of changelings standing near the head of the room. The Spring Queen is one of them, and she is flanked by ten changeling honor guards. Another woman stands on the other side of the dais, flanked by a guard of her own, and she and her entourage are dressed in golds and reds and oranges. “That’s the Summer Queen,” Byron whispers. “After tonight, she’ll be in charge for the next three months. Now watch.”

Zia, elegant in a lace nightgown with an embroidered wrap, yawns. “This change of the season ritual type thing always happens at the oddest hours…” she mumbles.

Iris blinks sleepily, but her mind is wide awake. She is paying close attention.

Marcella is excited, and looking around to see if she recognizes any of the court changelings.

Hulda is observing the scene and thinking about how it compares to stories/legends.

Fianna sighs. She is wearing a loose sleeveless crop top and sweatpants, and is barefoot. Her hair is out of its normal ponytail, making it appear even more massive than usual. “I think that’s the point. The seasons don’t bend to our whims. We bend to theirs. it’s why we’re up at freakin’ late o’clock.”

Marcella grins at Fianna. “I wonder if this is happening all over the world like this? It’s like a ritual that ties all freeholds together.”

The Spring Queen ceremonially seats herself in the throne. As she does so, the flowers that deck the hall become even more vibrant and all-encompassing. Every remaining bud opens and the hall is filled with the sweet scent of flowers. “I am Eostre the Spring Queen! We have fulfilled our desires and reached our goals! The season is passing, but the light that guides us to what our hearts need will never dim,” she announces, her gentle voice filling the hall.

Byron says, “Shush, this is almost the good part.”

As the Spring Queen finishes her announcement, the Summer Queen takes a step onto the dais. She is radiant in rich metals and fire and lightning flicker around her.

Summer_Queen_Kenna.png

“But the seasons change, Eostre. For balance to be kept, all seasons must play their part. It is now time to move past desire and feel the fire of righteous anger! As the world warms, so must our hearts. The True Fae’s crimes and all injustice must never be forgotten!” The summer queen’s voice is booming, deep and majestic.

“Oh I LIKE her,” Fianna says.

Amy looks at Fianna and puts a finger to her lips. “Shhhh.” Amy then turns back to watching.

Marcella gives Fianna a “me too” grin.

Iris too perks up. She finds herself agreeing with Fianna, strange as it may sound. She throws both Marcella and Fianna a small smile.

Zia humphs slightly. “Revenge is never all that you want it to be…”

Amy turns to Zia. “Shhhhhhhhh” she says again, more emphatically this time.

Hulda is still silently watching, but raises an eyebrow at the enthusiasm in the group.

“The seasons change, Kenna, and with that change, I cede the throne and the leadership of our freehold to you. Though you will no doubt find desire wrapped up in your righteous wrath.” Eostre stands up from the throne and the room dims slightly. She inclines her head to the Summer Queen who takes her place in front of the throne.

The crown of flowers begins to crumble from the Spring Queen’s head, just as a brilliance of light starts to form on the Summer Queen’s head.

The Summer Queen holds out her hands. Fire, fruit, images of green growing things seems to collect between her hands. “I am Summer Queen Kenna of the Ever-Burning Fire, of the Midnight Lightning. I declare this court to be in SUMMER and dedicate this season to fighting the enemies within our hearts that we may be stronger than iron and destroy those who come against us.”

As the Queen declares summer the entire court suddenly is ablaze in light and heat. The flowers that had previously decked the hall are molding, changing, budding, into summer vegetables and fruits, the very color scheme of the hall changing to bright, vibrant colors, mostly greens, oranges and reds but others as well.

The crown on the queen’s head resolves into a golden crown with fruits upon it.

The Queen sits upon the throne. “I will hear your renewed pledges now or you may return later today to say your pledge,” she says.

Everyone notices that as the queen declares summer, the fire that surrounds her flickers and grows.

Amy looks at Iris to see if it looks like she’s going to panic again.

Marcella looks at Byron to see if he indicates which is preferable. She’s inclined to swear now, in case that impresses or makes a difference to this awesome new queen.

“See what I mean?” Byron said. “This is what happens at every turning of the seasons. It will happen again when Autumn comes around, and Winter, and so on as the cycle goes on.” He pauses, and considers something. “Oaths tonight are mostly sworn by people with positions and who know the monarch personally, and those who are already pledged to her season. As I dragged you out of your beds, you might as well head back to them, and wait until the official ceremony. It’ll be just like what you did with Eostre; in fact, it’s a transfer. You just affirm that you follow Kenna for the next three months or so rather than Eostre. It’s not precisely a new oath; more of a change in clauses.”

Amy nods. “That was very beautiful.”

“Thank you for bringing us to see this. It was incredible.” Marcella starts heading back to her room, though she lingers a bit to see who’s staying.

Iris nods, but her heart is still beating somewhere near her throat. She is not going to sleep well tonight.

Fianna heads back to hers, flops on her bed, and burrows under the blankets.

Hulda heads back to her room and spends a few minutes writing down notes about what she had seen before going to bed.

Amy walks back to her room, and falls back to sleep, thinking about what she had seen.

Zia walks back with the others, after one more glance at the flame dress of the Summer Queen.

Iris after a few more seconds of trying to calm down heads back to her room as well.


The next morning each person is awoken by Zia knocking at their door.

Fianna opens her door. “This better be good, Bossybritches.”

“I have an outfit for you! For the swearing of the oaths! I knew this was coming and got an outfit for each of us ready in Summer colors!” Zia says happily.

Fianna blinks owlishly. “You made me clothes?”

“I and a few of the seamstresses made you clothes! They are quite nice and helpful when you do favors for them.” Zia smiled in a secretive fashion. “Now here is your gown!” She shoves a pile of red and orange silk in Fianna’s hands. “Wear it or I’ll make sure you go naked!” she says, and disappears down the hall

Fianna stares helplessly at the pile of clothes in her arms, leans her head out the door, and yells, “You’re a right bonkers nutter, you are!”

“Only as nutty as you, oh knife of stars!” she calls back.


Zia knocks on Marcella’s door next. “Oh Marcella, time to play dreeeessss up!”

Marcella opens the door, then blinks at the exuberant Zia she finds. “Good morning, Zia.”

“Good morning!” She sweeps into the room. “This is for making your pledge today.” She hands Marcella a black and red pile of fabric.

“Oh!” Marcella is momentarily speechless. “You made me clothes for the ceremony? Thank you, that was so thoughtful of you!”

“You’re welcome! Oh, and here are some additions to your ivory crown!” She hands her a piece of black diaphonous fabric to hook from one end of the crown to other around the back of Marcella’s head and a red jewel that hangs from the crown to her forehead.

“Oh and I must be off! Everyone must look their best you know!”

Marcella gives her a hug. “I really appreciate this, Zia. It’s been a very long time since someone gave me a present like this.”

Zia hugs her back. “Just look pretty!” she says and flounces off. Marcella puts the dress and headgear on.


Zia knocks enthusiastically at Iris’ door. “Iris, I have a present for you!”

Iris grumbles from inside the door. She had gotten almost no sleep and very much looks the part when she opens the door.

“Good morning Iris! As you know, we must present ourselves in court today! I made you this lovely dress!” She holds out a simple white floor length dress with abstract embroidery in red and orange that looks like rifles if you look at it the right way.

“Dd… dress? But… I’ll fall! It’s WHITE! I mean it’s pretty, but…”

“You won’t wear it?” Zia says sadly. “But I spent hours at the embroidery….”

“I’m sorry, I mean I can try it, but… um, well… I kinda prefer suits.”

“And the white was perfect for the embroidery and…” Zia looks like she might cry.

Iris is blushing. “I’ll wear it, but you may have to watch out for me, if I get tangled and fall. I’m not good with dresses, sorry.”

“Well, there is a slit in it so you can run in it and fight if you wanted. Everyone’s outfits are fighteable and I made some bargains to get them hedgespun! They respond to your emotions and need! I’ll keep an eye out for you, no worries. Thanks for wearing it!” Zia dashes away.

“Oh! good! Do you think it can become a suit if I want it to?” Iris adds, half to herself. Then she goes back inside to try the strange garment on – oddly enough her skin is almost the colour of the dress, maybe even a bit more blueish in shade.

Iris gets dressed, but still feels incredibly uncomfortable. It’s a dress, it’s a damn dress, she was feeling weird and exposed and she was probably going to fall over that skirt, but she didn’t want Zia to cry… but it was white and bright and… well… suffice to say that she did not at all feel comfortable. It did have some very nice embroidery, but still, it just didn’t suit her.

The first thing Iris notices when she puts on the dress is that she isn’t tripping. It is like the dress is moving out of the way.


“Oh Amy, I have a present for you! and your dolly!” Zia says as she knocks on Amy’s door.

Amy grabs her doll and opens the door, rubbing her eyes. “A present?”

“Yes, new outfits!” she says. Zia hands Amy a confection of petticoats, steampunk style, in red, orange and yellow and a pair of orange overalls and a little red shirt for her doll.

Amy takes the clothes, looking curious, but happy. “Just a minute. I’ll put them on.”

“Okay!” Zia says, comes in and shuts the door.

Amy has a bit of trouble getting into the layers, but eventually manages, then rushes to the mirror. She looks at her reflection contemplatively for another minute, and then turns to Iris. “I love it! Thank you.”

“You are soooo welcome and you look adorable!” Zia says.

“Now I am must go get dressed myself!” she says and runs off.

Amy looks at her doll, and the doll outfit, in befuddlement. “But…”

“Well, I guess you can’t stay in the same clothes all the time. They’ll get dirty.” Amy undoes her doll’s overalls, and changes his shirt, but then stops, looking confused again.

She redoes his overalls, then after a moment’s hesitation puts the new overalls on over the ones he is already wearing.


Zia knocks on Hulda’s door. “Hulda! I have a present for you!”

Hulda opens the door. “Hello.”

“Good morning. I have some nice new clothes for you! For the pledging!” she says.

“Good morning. That sounds very nice.”

“Excellent!” She hands her a red and gold sheathe dress. “Toodles!” she says as she dashes away.

Hulda blinks at the bright colors but Zia dashes away before she decides if she was going to say something.

“Well…..I suppose it is appropriate for the occasion……..” Hulda slips into her room and gets dressed in preparation for the pledging.

Each of these outfits has something hidden about them and the ability to adapt in minor ways, which the group will find out shortly.


Fifteen minutes later, everyone is assembled in the court hall in their new clothing.

Faron comes out, dressed in the same court outfit he wore when everyone first saw him at the Spring Court. “Hello. I’m supposed to escort you to the Queen for your pledge in this season. Are you ready?”

“Hello Faron,” says Marcella. “Will you be renewing your pledge now as well?”

“No. I took care of that last night.”

“I suppose that makes sense, as a member of the Summer Court. I liked what I saw of our new queen last night,” Marcella grins.

Amy nods. “I’m ready.”

“Let’ do this,” says Fianna.

Iris is fidgeting and visibly uncomfortable, but doesn’t say anything.

Marcella makes sure to thank Zia for the new clothing on behalf of the group when they’re all together.

Zia stands and surveys the group with pleasure. She herself is wearing a fabulous gown such that it looks like she is on fire. She has carefully convinced her hair and eyes to be red and orange today.

“I think we are ready, let us go in and present ourselves!” Zia stands next to Faron, expecting him to offer his arm like a gentleman.

Faron’s mouth quirks it what may have been an answering smile before he goes back to neutral. “This way then.” He doesn’t offer his arm.

Iris is feeling a sting of jealousy, feeling more like a kind of ornamental flower than herself. She couldn’t hide in this dress, it didn’t have any soothing darkness to it at all, it kept exposing her legs and it seemed like it was trying to flaunt her embarrassingly small breasts. Ick. Still, she goes along with it and tries her best not to look too grumpy or tired – which unfortunately for her does not work very well at all.

The group enters and the Summer Queen is on the throne, just as resplendent as last night. A line of changelings wait to make their pledges.

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Marcella's Journal - Game 6 (1/5/14)

Marcella is surprised to see the variety of cases that come before the Spring Queen, as well as the range of importance of the matters brought forward. It’s clear that what Byron says is true, and Eostre is indeed the kindest of the monarchs. Marcella attentively takes in the details of the court operations, and wonders how she would fit in here. Spring doesn’t seem like a good fit for her, but that’s no reason not to make a good impression. Growing up in the home of a politician had drilled certain values and instincts into her, that was for sure.

She is relieved to hear that the court will take care of the foxes – she had no trust in the creatures to stop hurting those they deemed “oath-breakers.” On the other hand, she is confused and a little unsettled by what they hear about Spring in the mortal world. Clearly the season has an abundance of power this year. But why? And what is the connection to Spring being “withheld” in Arcadia? It feels like there is something she is missing, but she can’t quite put her finger on it yet. She resolves again to stay vigilant for more clues about this mystery.


When searching for bone in the park, Marcella is a little grossed out by digging up the cat skeleton. This is probably someone’s pet, and it’s disrespectful of her to raid its grave like this. Memories of dead soldiers on the field of battle rise to her mind briefly, but she pushes them away and grits her teeth to the task.

Once she gets her carvings, Marcella wears the queen on a gold chain, and stows away the brooch for safekeeping.


Marcella is quite pleased with the way her request for a sword bag to Zia went. Though Zia’s a little fashion-obsessed, she is quite kind, and Marcella still isn’t sure why a look at her crown and the other chess pieces is worth the magical bag she got. Even though Zia feels they’re even, Marcella still feels like she owes her one. Maybe the payment for the hedgespun armor she wants can be something really special. You know, once she owns anything of value.


Mariska Flickfinger is quite a character. Marcella isn’t sure what to make of her frank attitude and her invasion of other people’s space, but she suppose the woman knows what she’s worth and that she can get away with it. She’s thrown by Mariska’s charge of her original identity, though. Give up her real name? Promise never to try and live as herself, with her family again? Rationally, she already knows it’s an impossibility. She’s 10 years older than she’s supposed to be, and if there’s no obituary there is probably another ‘her’ who’s actually the right age living with her parents and her brother. (She tries not to think about her brother, not until she can go see for herself. He wouldn’t, he can’t believe it, can he?) But she’s also wary of this ‘no holds barred’ favor that Flickfinger is asking for. Does she really want to agree now to do whatever this woman asks later, no questions asked, no backing out? But, in the end, she can’t give up the flicker of hope that is (was) her old life. She can take whatever Flickfinger sends her way. And then she won’t have to dream about the ways that her fetch gets “taken care of,” or her parents at the thing’s funeral thinking it’s her. Or her brother. She’s still going to dream about how tempted she was, though, and how there’s a small part of her that thinks this would have been the perfect way to get the thing out of the way, get the creature out of her home. It isn’t her home any more, after all.

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Zia's Journal, 1-5-14
Hedgespinning!

Dear Journal,

I have to say, the courts do keep us busy! Fianna and I solved a mystery before we even slept! The ways of Arcadia and the Hedge are so different than the real world. Pinky and Ring don’t seem to have the framework to understand how the real world works. For that matter, changelings taken young don’t either! I think Amy was taken young for sure. I wish I knew how to help her learn about the world as it is. I wonder if I can get Byron to find someone to help her. I wouldn’t ask Faron…he would just give that look of, “I’m supposed to help you?”

This ten days of freedom was wonderful though! I spent the first few days relaxing, making new friends, crafting and walking around the city. Aachen is a rather lovely city, but I do miss Vienna. I’d rather like to go back, but I feel like the freehold here is ready to support me and help me. I know that this level of organization and training is normal, I should take advantage of it, but I’d love to go home, find out if I have a fetch, start up my business again. I spoke the Muse about her future here and she seems to be settling in. She spent the night in my room and it felt a lot like old times…but minus the slavery bit.

After a few days of freedom, Rue was kind enough to go into the Hedge with me and teach me hedgespinning! After some…embarrassing hiccups, I got that down! I spent the next days preparing clothes for everyone for the summer court. I hope they love them! When I popped back into the freehold, Marcella asked me to make a bag for her sword and armor. I made her the bag, but the armor is going to have to be a project for the future.

I wonder who the Summer Monarch is. I suppose I could ask…when I started to ask Rue she laughed. I think I’m not supposed to know yet. That is ridiculous.

Toodles!
Zia

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Hulda's thoughts on game 1/5
Eyeballs are gross

After completing our mission with the foxes, every member of the group had some time to do whatever they wished. I had been researching abilities I could learn, and I had discovered a contract called Murkblur. Murkblur would let me basically blind someone, which would be very useful during a combat situation. I asked around and was able to find someone who was willing to teach me the contract. I was directed to an old library. Sitting on the table was a jar full of eyeballs with instructions to eat them and then find the Changeling before he found me. Eww! Eyeballs are not tasty. However, I did successfully eat them, and found a place to hide. Eventually the Changeling approached the room I was hiding and I found him first completing the mission.

That wasn’t very hard……until it turned out that was only the first training session. I had to train several more times, and each time I had to consume a larger jar of eyeballs……They don’t taste better after more exposure…….EWWW!

Finally, after way to many eyeballs, I successfully completed the training. Good news, I now have the contract and the Changeling gave me my own jar of eyeballs so I don’t have to find more. Bad news, I have a jar of eyeballs that I am planning on eating…….

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Marcella's Journal - Game 5 (12/15/13)

Marcella’s mind is racing after the conversation about the seasons with Zia, Hulda, and the others. It sounds like they have something here, something big, to judge by the fact that all of their keepers seemed to have some information about this Spring-withholding business. The memory of the Hedge slamming closed on her view of Berlin when she was escaping is still fresh. Could this have something to do with why all of them, even the English-speakers like Amy and Fianna, ended up in Aachen? These are answers she wants badly, but now isn’t the time to go searching for them. Not until after they find out if they are too late to save the missing children. She’ll have to make sure to talk to the Spring Court once all this is over.

Marcella has been steadily getting more suspicious about Amy’s “friends” as they find out more about these incidents, and finally she decides to ask Amy about them. What she hears confirms her suspicions – these could definitely be the creatures that drowned the pawnbroker and kidnapped the children. The fact that Amy doesn’t seem to acknowledge the possibility that her “friends” might have sinister motives is pretty concerning. Didn’t she learn from her time in Arcadia that things are almost never as they appear?

When they find the foxes, Marcella becomes even more concerned for Amy. These creatures just killed a man, and she wants to walk into their lair! As everyone else seems to be slowly won over by Amy’s arguments, Marcella’s certainty begins to waver slightly. Is it possible that she is overreacting? Could Amy be right that they are harmless? Every time she starts to be swayed, though, she pulls herself out of it. There is definitely something wrong with these foxes. They kidnapped and murdered people, plus who knows what else. Hedge creatures can say anything to get you to do what they want. Why should these be any different? There is a small part of her that realizes that this is the only way for their group to have a chance of finding anything out about the foxes – without Amy going in, they will literally be at a dead end. But her overwhelming instinct is to protect Amy from danger, even though this is their only lead. In the end, she only lets Amy go because it seems like the others are perfectly willing to break into the Hollow with her if something goes wrong.

Fortunately, it doesn’t come to that, since one of the little girls let them in. Once she finds Wendel Braun, Marcella begins to understand the foxes. It isn’t that they are evil, precisely. They just have no concept of human morality or complexity. That still makes them incredibly dangerous, however, when they have the power to enchant humans, or even kill them. Though the immediate goal to get the three humans out of danger is eventually achieved, Marcella plans to make a full report to the Court to make sure that the freehold is on watch for further incidents perpetrated by these foxes.

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Game 5 Foxes in the Hedge

Summary:

The party shares some information about their Keepers and conversations overheard in Arcadia. They then investigate the financial analyst who disappeared from his home, whose wife reveals he had been promised a promotion and then never given one. The group finds a gate to the Hedge outside the man’s home and goes through. They find the Hollow of some fox spirits, who it turns out were trying to protect those who to whom promises had been made and then broken (the girls and the analyst), as well as punish people who broke promises (the pawnbroker). The foxes don’t wish to keep their “charges” against their will, however, so the party convinces the humans that they should come back to the mortal world for the sake of their loved ones, and gets the three mortals out of the Hedge.

Log:

The group is standing outside the pawn shop, and starts walking back to the van. Marcella remembers a Fae who visited her Keeper who changed her appearance a lot. “Her clothes kept changing to those of different cultures, like Egyptian, Mayan, and Greek. She told a story about a man who loved someone so much he put her heart in a jar."

Hulda says, “I know that story, and……that sounds like what my Keeper looked like the few times I saw her.”

“Oh really? Well, she seemed to know my Keeper. Actually, my Keeper was giving her condolences for losing something …. I wonder if that was you escaping. They also said something about how there hadn’t been a good ‘harvest’ in three seasons, and someone had forgotten what the Fae had done for them. But I have no idea what they meant by the ‘harvest.’”

“Changelings, maybe?” Hulda suggests.

“Yeah, maybe? But it sounded like someone was collecting or harvesting for them?” Marcella replies.

“Hmmmm.”

“There was also an ice Fae there, and she said something about weather being fickle, and it would come back,” Marcella continues. “I wonder if it’s related to those girls being taken into the Hedge?”

“It’s possible,” Hulda agrees. “When I was escaping, my Keeper was talking to someone who had just lost a Changeling from their graveyard…..”

“They said Spring hadn’t come in a long time.” Amy pipes up.

Marcella looks at Amy. “Who said that?”

“The Fae who liked to visit my Keeper,” Amy replies.

“Huh, that’s odd. The Fae talking to my Keeper said this was the second summer of bad harvest. Well, I guess if you can have summer without spring anywhere, it would be Arcadia.”

Amy frowns.  "Maybe.  But it sounded like they meant winter never ended."

“Maybe it’s not a literal interpretation of summer or harvest?” suggests Iris.

“What interpretation would it be, then?” asks Blue.

Iris shrugs. “There is more than one thing you can harvest, and summer can mean all sorts of things, not just it being a bit warmer and sunnier, if you want to be metaphorical.”

“My understanding of how the fae lands work is that each Fae’s lands are independent of each other, but changes happen, things like the seasons, through contracts,” Zia offers. “I….made some things to help the seasons.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” says Marcella. “I’m not really sure what kind of summer or harvest they were talking about. So perhaps they were discussing one of the seasons themselves, and a contract they have with it?”

“So you’re saying something is going on in Arcadia?” asks Iris.

“Marcella, I think you might be right! Before I left Arcadia, my Keeper was very displeased that her garden towers were being buffeted by winter wind and snow. She said that that spring was being withheld from her.” Zia says.

“Hmm… somebody could be using contracts to manipulate the seasons elsewhere though,” Iris says.

“Hm, I wonder if the problem is that Winter won’t leave, or that Spring won’t come,” Marcella muses. “But I do think we’re on the right track.”

“We could probably just ask those court people,” points out Iris.

“Now that you mention it, when I was stuck in the sky I remember seeing the seasons changing reasonably regularly…but for the last bit or so before I fell it stayed cold and snowy…at least I had something soft to land in when I hit the ground, I suppose,” says Fianna.

“My graveyard was… odd. It didn’t have proper seasons,” says Iris.

Zia jumps in, “Yeah…Arcadia…only has the seasons you have the contracts for…and they don’t have to apply to all of your lands.”

“Two things to look into, then. I wonder if anything strange occurred for the seasons here, in addition to Arcadia,” Caesar looks to Faron for an answer.

“Yes, Faron, has there been anything off about the seasons in the mortal world in the past few years?” asks Marcella.

“Nothing too unusual outside of what can be attributed to climate change,” he replies. “Although spring might have been a little… stronger… than usual.”

“Stronger? As in warmer or what, exactly?” asks Blue.

“Maybe the Spring Queen might know more then? If something is going on with the contract with Spring,” suggests Marcella.

“Just… stronger. Flowers and plants and all that new life people like to associate with spring. Growing faster and more robust.” He winces. “Way more flowers.”

“Hmm…” says Iris. “If changelings are going missing, they need to be replaced, don’t they? If Arcadia is in unrest there will be more things coming through, right?”

“I think we should complete this mission. We have no way of knowing if this is connected to the oddness of spring and a man’s life and two little girl’s lives are in our hands.” Zia says, clearly a bit upset.

Marcella looks a little surprised that Zia’s upset. “I agree, this mission takes immediate priority. I just think we may want to continue investigating this path when we have the chance.” Blue agrees.

“Okay, good, can we have this conversation in the van then?” Zia asks.

“We’ll ask the Spring Queen when we get around to it, but we still have one more place to investigate, don’t we?” says Iris.

“Absolutely, let’s get going to the next site,” says Marcella.

Caesar begins walking towards the van, not voicing anymore input. Everyone gets in, with Amy and Marcella in the back. Faron turns the radio off and starts driving. Marcella asks Faron to remind them of the details of the incident.

“A couple. The husband went missing after a day of hearing strange voices. The wife didn’t hear him leave.” He grits his teeth. “Not hard to imagine why, now.”

Marcella sighs. “Yeah, I hope there’s something we can do to help these people.”

“Was there anything left behind like there was for the girls?” asks Blue.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see. But it’s likely,” says Faron.

To Amy, Marcella says, “So, tell me about your friends. How did you meet them?”

Amy jumps, startled. “Well, we were going through the hedge, and some voices asked us to come play with them. One of the others was going to go, but I didn’t think she should leave the path, because she might get lost. So we told the voices to come play with us instead, and they did. Then they helped us get out of the woods, and told other voices to stay away, and told us when we should run and stuff. I also think they helped us run faster to get away.” Amy looks to the side as she speaks, as if maybe she is leaving something out, or lying. “Oh, and they helped me find my fruits.” She is still not looking directly at anyone.

“Oh, that was very nice of them. Did you ever see any of them? Or the other voices they told to stay away?” asks Marcella.

Zia turns around in the seat, “What did they look like?”

“I didn’t see the other voices. My friends are foxes,” says Amy.

Marcella glances at the rest of the van. “Well, if you see any of them, let us know, okay? Maybe they could help us with our investigation.”

“Was there anything weird about the foxes? Other than that they wanted to play and could talk, I mean?” Caesar listens in on the conversation.

“Ok. I think they might still be in the graveyard though. I think they turned into statues. And… I don’t think they were weird. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen normal foxes. I didn’t think it was weird when they talked, either, but you guys said it was.”

Nearly all of the group makes the connection that Amy’s foxes are small and furry, and could definitely be the animals they are looking for.

Zia asks, “Your friends turned into statues? Well…we can check on them after we visit this place. Also, we should totally be looking to see what promises this guy broke or had broken. The last two people both broke promises. Amy, do your friends know anything about promises? Maybe they could help us find the person who did this.”

“I don’t know,” says Amy. "The girls didn’t break any promises though.  Their parents broke promises to them."

“Collateral punishment,” says Faron.

“Yeah, that is what I meant. The girls had promises broken to them and they disappeared. The pawnbroker broke promises and died. Hopefully this guy is not dead, just disappeared. So likely, following this pattern…” Zia offers. “Sorry, I just put it together but in both of the object readings I did, oaths and promises came up.”

“Sometimes people aren’t fair when they’re angry and blinded by something like revenge, honey,” Marcella says to Amy. Amy is silent, and Marcella tentatively pats her shoulder.

Faron parks a block over, and everyone gets out of the van. Zia gets out of the car and leans on the van door. “How are we breaking this one up?”

“Did he just disappear from his house?” asks Marcella. “We could have one group talk to the wife while the other looks around outside.”

“How large a group is practical?” wonders Zia.

“Why don’t we just do the split we did at the first house?” suggests Fianna at the same time Marcella says, “I think no more than three, perhaps four to go inside.” Marcella pauses, then says, “That works for me.” Faron, Amy, and Blue agree.

“Whatever gets these people saved,” says Zia.

“If you find any holes… wait for us,” cautions Faron.

“Yes, please don’t go into the Hedge without the whole group,” agrees Marcella.

Before the inside group leaves, Blue asks, “What aliases are we going with? Same ones as before?”

“I’ll go with ‘Regina Werner,’” decides Marcella.

Everyone reaches the building. It has been converted into apartments. Faron knows that their destination is apartment 2B.

Aachen04.JPG

“What are the names of the residents, by the way?” asks Blue.

“Braun,” answers Faron briefly. Marcella, Blue, and Faron head upstairs.

“What aliases are you two using?” ask Marcella.

“I’ll…hmm…I’ll go by ‘Guy Blue’ I suppose,” says Blue. “I’ll try thinking of something better for next time.”

“Erwin Klein,” says Faron.

Blue walks to the building room and knocks. Marcella and Faron are flanking him, slightly behind. After a minute, the door pops open. “What do you want?” a woman asks. Her hair is incredibly neat, but her makeup is smeared.

“Hello Mrs. Braun, I am Guy Blue of the Bureau’s investigational department, along with Ms. Werner and Mr. Klein. We were hoping to have a moment of your time for questioning over the disappearance.”

Mrs. Braun says, “I have already been questioned. Go read that report.”

Marcella says, “Mrs. Braun, we understand that this must be very difficult for you, but we had a few follow-up questions for you. We will only take a few minutes of your time. May we come in?”

“Well, young lady, you can come in. I’ve already been questioned by several rather ham-handed policemen. These two…if you must, I guess you can bring them.”

Marcella takes the lead and enters first. “That’s very kind of you, and again, I’m so sorry to bother you. These two are part of my team, so it would be best if they could come in as well.” She gestures for Blue and Faron to follow, which they do.

The apartment’s entry and living room are rather messy. On the side table next to the couch sits a messy pile of prescription bottles. The decor is distinctly modern, as if when the room was put together, the decorator had a purpose. But…that purpose has fled the mess. As she leads them all into the living room, she pushes the bottles into the trash can next to the table. Marcella tries to catch the name on the bottles, but can’t see it before she throws them away.

Marcella asks if it’s okay for them to sit before she sits down. Mrs. Braun starts and says, “Ah, not in here please. And you two! Don’t you touch any of our things!” She leads the three into the kitchen/dining room and gestures at the chairs there. Once they pass into the dining room and kitchen, it is impeccably clean, with many carefully annotated lists on the fridge. The appliances sparkle.

Caesar followers her request and touches nothing.  When led through, Caesar makes certain to thoroughly observe the kitchen and dining room area as best as he can while walking for any and everything.

“Mrs Braun, we may end up repeating a few of the questions the previous team asked. We just do this to make sure they covered all their bases and didn’t miss anything,” Marcella says kindly but firmly. As she talks, she and the others try to observe the kitchen area more closely. The kitchen/dining room is spotless. The lists on the fridge are all in the same handwriting, but some are labeled Wendel at the top and others Alyssa. Also on the fridge is a reminder postcard from Dr. Maritz, Psychologist for an appointment 3 days from now. Caesar using Whisperwisp’s ability to tell Marcella to “ask about Wendel and Alyssa.”

“I would prefer that you read their report, young lady, Ms….” she says.

“It’s Werner, and I understand. We’ll do our best to minimize repeat questions,” Marcella assures her.

Mrs. Braun says, “Very well, ask your questions. I just want my husband to come home. He…has not been well and I am concerned. Go find him instead of asking me the same questions over and over.”

“I promise, Mrs. Braun, we will do our very best to find him. Is there anywhere you think that Wendel may have tried to go when he left? Relatives he wanted to visit, or friends he had been talking about recently?” Faron tenses.

“He doesn’t really have many friends. He mostly just goes to work and comes back.” Mrs. Braun says.

“Do you know if anything unusual has happened at his work lately?”

Mrs. Braun slumps a little. “He works a Financial Analyst. The problem is really that nothing has happened at work in a long time. He’s been expecting a promotion when he got his CFA Level II and he got it a month ago, but no promotion is on its way. He is really upset about it.”

Marcella looks sympathetic. “Yes, that would be quite difficult. Does he have a superior who he thinks may be withholding that promotion?”

Mrs. Braun says, “Well, his boss promised him a promotion a year ago, the moment he had it. Wendel has been working at this firm for about 10 years and only had one promotion.”

“Does his boss often make promises he doesn’t keep? It seems like this may be part of a pattern.”

Mrs. Braun says, “Mostly this one. He is not the nicest man, and doesn’t really appreciate him, but makes very few promises.”

Marcella nods, “That’s rough. How has your husband been handling things this last month while he was expecting the promotion?”

She blushes, “He has some issues with depression. It is a long fight, he tries, I try, but this just made everything worse.”

“Oh, I can only imagine. That is a difficult health issue to deal with, my sympathies for you.” Marcella hesitates, then says gently, “I know some people find this difficult to discuss, and I’d understand if you’d prefer not to say, but was he taking medication for his depression?”

Mrs. Braun says, “Yes, he was.”

“Mrs. Braun, what do you do for a living?” asks Marcella.

“I work from home as a content writer. But how is that relevant?” she asks ‘Regina.’

“I’m just making sure we have a complete picture here. Any small detail may be the thing that leads us to your husband.” Marcella glances back at Blue and Faron. “Do you two have other questions I haven’t covered yet?”

“I have none, no,” Blue responds to Marcella. He continues to listen to the interview.

Faron shakes his head slowly, but he’s trying to meet Marcella’s eyes. She raises an eyebrow, and he sweeps a hand through his hair, tugging on his right ear quickly before setting it back down in his lap. Blue and Marcella both realize this means he wants Marcella to ask more about the voices Mr. Braun heard before he disappeared.

Marcella looks back at Mrs. Braun and smiles. “Actually, there is one other thing I wanted to ask you about. It had previously been reported that your husband had been hearing voices in the day leading up to his disappearance. Do you happen to know what he was hearing or what they said?”

Mrs. Braun flushes again, “My Wendel had never heard voices before yesterday, Never! He isn’t crazy, just depressed! I don’t know what exactly they were saying, just that the voices were telling him everything would be alright, that he was worthy of a promotion and that they would help him, if only he would let them take him somewhere safe.”

Marcella nods, “I understand, and we don’t think he’s crazy, Mrs. Braun. Thank you so much for your time and help. We’ll do all we can to find your husband.”

Faron and Blue nod at Mrs. Braun and stand up in preparation to leave.

Marcella offers her hand to shake before they depart. She keep an eye out for other clues as they leave. Mrs. Braun accepts the handshake and ushers them all out. No one sees anything new.

Once outside, the three head over towards the rest of the group. On their way, Blue makes mention of something he realized. “We never figured out who the Alyssa on the note on Braun’s fridge was.”

Faron frowns, but keeps heading towards the group.  "Is that where those names came from?"

“It was, yes,” says Blue.

“It’s probably Mrs. Braun’s name, if it was next to ‘Wendel’ on the fridge. But you can keep that in mind,” says Faron.

“Oh, I assumed it was Mrs. Braun too,” agrees Marcella.

“Probably.”  Caesar nods.

Fianna pokes her head around the corner to see the rest of the group. “There you guys are. Come on. We found the gate to hell.”


While the events inside are happening, Iris starts looking around outside for ghosts or thick underbrush, but doesn’t see either. Iris looks towards the others, then slowly starts walking towards the building, looking for anything unusual. Zia walks alongside her.

Iris sees brush on the corner outside and a small child in clothing from the 1800s sitting on the front step playing with a doll. Iris walks towards the brush, intently focused on the child.

The child does not notice her. He is very intent on his doll, and as she draws closer she hears, “Up up up into sky, in the sky you never die.”

Zia, not wanting a crowd on the front step, goes to the nearby bus stop and acts as if she is waiting for the bus.

Iris tries to get to the same height as the child. He still doesn’t notice her, so she greets him, whispering.

The little ghost boy looks up at her. “Oh. You’re not my sister.”

“Your sister?”

The little ghost says to Iris, “My sister, she went to buy milk and cheese and never came home. I’m waiting for her.”

“Do you always wait here?” asks Iris.

“What do you mean always? My sister will come back soon. Then she will take me to my Nana’s and we’ll play with the new puppies. But I’ve been waiting a long time. I know that.”

“I’m sure she will. But did you see anything unusual here in the past few days? I’m missing somebody too,” Iris says to the ghost boy.

“Unusual? People come and go all the time, but I am waiting for my sister. And my dollie Peter helps me watch. He wasn’t baptized, so he can’t go to Heaven, my brother said. That’s very sad,” the little ghost boy says.

“Oh. You see, we think somebody has been kidnapped, we were going out to meet him, but he wasn’t there. Did you maybe see anything? I could try looking for your sister later.”

“Oh would you! My sister told me to wait RIGHT here and so I can’t go looking for her. Someone was kidnapped! Oh, well, people leave this house all the time. And come back. But nothing odd. The lady who lives above us has a doggy. The doggy is soft. I haven’t seen the doggy in…. a loooong time, but he was grey when I saw him….the last time it was dark. I thought Mrs. Abrams’ doggy was black…” the little boy said.

“Sure, if you can tell me where she went, maybe I can find her. We’re looking for something that doesn’t look quite human, we’re investigating you, see. And I can try investigating for you too,” Iris says.

The little ghost boy hugs his doll, “I just saw the grey doggy and some mice and rats and birds. No other not humans. My sister was going to market to get bread and cheese, just about 10 minutes away.”

“Hmm…” Iris goes looking around for parts of the hedge.

The little boy waves and says, “Good luck! My name is Gregory Amsel and my sister’s name is Astrid, please find her!!!! Then I can leave.”

“I’ll do my best,” Iris replies. Based on her memory of the city before she was taken, she is trying to remember where an old 19th century market might have been. She remembers that a long, long time ago, there was a small market on the outskirts of Aachen. It was demolished to make way for more housing around 1900. She thinks the group is near where that might have been.

Since she can’t see anything that looks like it might be a part of the hedge, Iris instead sneaks off towards the place she vaguely remembers.

Zia is standing at the bus stop, whistling a jaunty tune, keeping an eye on the rest of the outdoor bits of the party. Fianna is leaning on a wall, keeping an eye on Amy and Iris.

Hulda is looking around not only this building but adjacent buildings as well. She looks around the house, walking around it twice. Unremarkable. dumpster, small shed in the back, place to park some cars. Hulda wanders around looking at things, but finds nothing interesting, and so is now being unobtrusive.

Amy starts looking for any bricks, pottery, or other clay substances that might have witnessed the disappearance, but there aren’t any at this house. She looks for some in the wider area, including adjacent houses.

Amy uses a contract, and she senses all the random bits of clay in the nearby houses, a terra cotta planter in front of the house one over, and the house two doors down which is made of brick. Amy wanders over to the planter, and frowns at it, not sure what to do for this Primordial Voice catch. She ends up placing rocks decoratively around the top of the planter, but the planter stubbornly refuses to yield its secrets.

Amy wanders about for a bit, then smiles. She doesn’t know where the hedge is, so she doesn’t prick her finger, but she does know how to find it. Using the contract Pathfinder, Amy knows that there is an entrance to the Hedge nearby, and that it is part of a structure.

Amy returns to Fianna. "There’s a way in to the hedge near here. It’s part of something else, but I don’t know what."

Fianna raises an eyebrow. “Glorious. Well, I guess we know where the old man ended up. You said it’s part of something else? What sort of ‘something else’?”

“Um… some sort of built thing. Maybe a fence or a building or something, I think.”

Fianna frowns. “So I guess we do this the hard way, then.” She turns to Zia. “Oi, Fancyfrills! You can talk to stuff right? We need to talk to stuff.”

Amy giggles, “Fancyfrills.”

Zia turns from her contemplation of the bus times. “I’m afraid that I can’t help you. I already picked a name and it isn’t … that.”

“Whatever. Listen, the kid says there’s a Hedge gate somewhere nearby, but it’s lodged in some thing or structure or summat. You two can talk to things, right? Maybe the things will tell you where it is,” says Fianna.

Amy says, “I tried to talk to the flower thing, but it didn’t answer. I could try that building.” She points to the nearest building she found that had a clay component.

Fianna says, “Let’s do that then. Lead on, kiddo.”

“Fianna, oh sky sparkler, I shall come with you, but only to protect Amy from your influence,” says Zia. She follows Amy and Fianna.

“You two call each other the funniest things,” Amy says to Fianna and Zia. She walks over to the building, and fidgets a bit, then begins cleaning the brick, like with the let building. “Excuse me, but do you know where I could find a way into the hedge?” She listens for a minute, and frowns. “It won’t answer.” She tries again, but it still doesn’t work.

Fianna shrugs. “Well, then we’ll let Rainbow Brite have a shot at it. Maybe it’s just being grumpy.”

Zia straightens, “Rainbow Brite? I will sew you the most uncomfortable gown and then sew you into it while you are sleeping. But for the sake of those little girls, I will speak to the house.”

Hulda sees Iris leaving and walks over to her. “Where are you going? Have you found out anything? I haven’t found out anything.”

“Nothing related to our case,” Iris says, “but I’d like to have a look around over there anyway.”

“Ok. What is over there?” asks Hulda.

“An old marketplace – I think,” says Iris.

“How long are you going to be gone?” asks Hulda. "I don’t think we should be separated for too long."

“A few minutes, if I don’t find anything.” Iris walks off slowly.

Zia communes with the house…the house is occupied by a family of 6 and has a lot to tell her. After about 10 minutes of a retelling of the family squabbling and life, she gets to the early hours of morning before. The house remembers feeling that funny tingle in its side, the smell of green things, blood and magic and a mysterious chirpy voice saying, “The thorns rip ever deeper, but the will of Arcadia calls."

Zia withdraws from the communion a bit dizzy, remembering the feeling of having pipes and a basement and electricity running through her, “The entrance to the Hedge is over there. I’m a little dizzy….Houses have a bit more life to them than fountains and baby carriages.” She points further down this side of the house.

Amy goes to investigate, looking for the actual entrance.

“Should someone go get the posse upstairs?” wonders Fianna.

Amy walks towards the back corner and finds a brick archway with a heavy metal door, locked. This is the entrance to the Hedge. Scratched into the edge is, “The thorns rip ever deeper, but the will of Arcadia calls,” into the bricks to the left of the door.

She goes back to the others. “I found it. It says ‘The thorns rip ever deeper, but the will of Arcadia calls.’ It’s locked though.”

“Locks can be opened,” Fianna says with a grin. “I’m going to go collect our two wayward stragglers. Then when the away team returns we can bust ’er in.”

Fianna jogs over to Hulda and the retreating Iris. “We have us a Hedge gate, this is not a drill.”

“Great…” says Hulda. Iris feels for her rifle and turns around

“Tentative plan is to wait for our ‘investigators’ and then asses. But you should see this thing. Mad creepy, even for a Hedge gate. C’mon,” says Fianna.

“Okay,” says Hulda. She walks over to the Hedge gate and reads the inscription. Iris approaches tentatively.

Zia picks herself up from being a bit flopped against the house and walks over to the hedge entrance. She brushes the inscription with her fingers. “Hey, this is what the voice in my vision said.”

Based on the inscription, Hulda puts together that this is a gate created and used at least initially by changelings working for the True Fae. She lets everyone else know.

Zia says, “This gate was open in the early hours of this morning and the same voice I heard at the two other locations read this inscription.” She takes her hand away. “Oh God. Those poor little girls.”

“So the same voice gives us one connection between the sites,” observes Hulda.

Blue, Marcella, and Faron return from inside, and Fianna says, “There you guys are. Come on. We found the gate to hell.”

“Gate of hell?” Blue runs towards the others, confused and curious about the statement.

“Gate to hell, Hedge gate, same difference,” Fianna shrugs. Iris clasps her rifle.

“Please, don’t be so dramatic, Fianna. You’ll scare people.” Zia snipes at her.

“Oh yes. Drama. Because you would know nothing about that.” Fianna rolls her eyes.

Marcella says, “Mr. Braun had been expecting a promotion at work, and apparently these voices were promising to give him what he wanted.”

“What did he want?” Zia asks.

“He had been expecting a promotion for about a month, ever since he passed some test. But his boss never gave it to him. The voices promised he’d get it,” Marcella explains.

Faron walks over to take a closer look at the gate. “If you are set on going, then I need to grab something from the van.”

“Going? Going through the gate? Well…if that is what is needed…” Zia says. “Huh, so he disappeared because someone broke a promise to him. And the people or things who took him promised that would give him what he wanted…it is kinda hard to give someone a promotion…” muses Zia.

“Eh, we’ll be fine. The kid can always find the way back.” Fianna ruffles Amy’s hair.

“Did you all learn anything else?” asks Marcella.

“This is the gate they used. Same voice as the other two places,” replies Zia.

Faron looks at Marcella, and asks quietly, “Do you also need something from the van?”

“Yes, if we’re preparing to go in, I’d like to have my swords.” Marcella goes to the van and grabs her chess sword and the bamboo sword.

Faron looks at the group, sounding somewhat subdued, “Does anyone else need something from the van?”

“I didn’t bring anything. I’ll be little use in there, but if I can find one of the thorns, I can lead the way,” says Blue. Faron goes to the van to grab his sword as well.

“Well, are we agreed? Are we going in?” asks Zia.

“I think that’s the only option we have left if we want to try and find these people,” says Marcella. Everyone agrees.


We left off with our group, armed as much as may be about to enter the hedge. In terms of location, Zia is standing with her right hand on the brick archway, looking at the inscription, Hulda is next to her. Fianna is about 5 feet away with Amy and Iris. The other three are to the right of Fianna and Amy, in front of the archway, about 8 feet away from it.

“It’s not too late for you to change your minds,” Faron says.

“No. This is for the little girls. We have to go in.” Zia says. “I’m ready.”

Marcella double checks the buckles on her swords, then says, “Everyone ready?”

“Ready.” Iris said.

Fianna merely slams her fist into the palm of her other hand.

“I’ll be going, I suppose.” Blue said.

Amy nods. “We’re going to save them.”

Marcella grins at Faron. “Thanks for the escape clause, but I’m seeing this to the end.”

Hulda nods agreement

“Now…before we go in, I hate to say it, but Amy, the signs mean that your friends might be involved. I’m sure you have thought of it, but we need to be prepared for any circumstance.” Zia says quietly.

Amy nods. “But maybe they just took the girls to their dad, or something?” she says hopefully.

“We hope, but we have no idea. It sounds like the dad didn’t really know where the girls were either. I hope he would have called their mother. If we need to…hurt your friends, will that be okay with you?” Zia added.

“Um… if we have to, I guess.” Amy replied.

“Okay. I hope we don’t. Now, how do we open this gate?” Zia asks the group.

“Good question.” Blue said.

Amy looks at Fianna expectantly.

Fianna shrugs. “I can try picking the lock, I guess.”

“Well, if that’s our only option, go for it.” Marcella said.

With her hand still on the archway, Zia says, “In my vision, the voice said, “The thorns rip ever deeper-Oh!” Zia stops when as she starts to recite the inscription and the door of the gate shimmers and the featureless, dented metal has a single rose blossom suddenly appears as if etched in the center. She snatches her hand away. “I think the inscription is the way in….”

“Well, THAT’S not creepy or anything.” Fianna said.

“Well the inscription and the gate was made by Changelings working for the Fae,” Hulda said.

“I’ll do it.” Amy puts her hand on the gate. "The thorns rip ever deeper, but the will of Arcadia calls.”

The door of the gate shimmers and the featureless, dented metal has a single rose blossom suddenly appears as if etched in the center, from this blossom grows a whirling maze of thorns, vines and roses. The lock drops from the door and it swings open. Beyond you see a clearing the hedge, circumference of 15 feet, with two paths. Just as the door opens, you all see a flash of a black tail going down the path to the right.
Iris’ rifle grows to full size

“Hello. Are you there?” Amy called, but there is no answer.

“Still no second thoughts?” Caesar steps forward into the path.

Iris suppresses a shiver but replies: “Let’s go.”

Amy starts down the path the tail disappeared down, but stops to make sure everyone is following. She then pulls out her knife.

Hulda steps inside the Hedge and casts Shadowpatch to hide herself.

Zia follows after, “Amy wait for us please!”

“And here we go…” Fianna hops in

Marcella tries to keep up with or get in front of Amy, and says, “Faron or Fianna, please bring up the rear!” Faron brings up the rear. Iris follows, hand on the safety of her rifle

Hulda says, “I have basically no combat skills, so I am going to hide and follow along with everyone”

The path looks freshly made. The brambles are spotted with roses, blackberries and stretch above your heads. There are a few tufts of black, grey and white fur in the brambles. Caesar notices a glittery princess wand stuck in the hedge.

“I’m pretty sure this is the right path…” Caesar mutters loud enough for the others to hear and moves over towards the wand. He reaches up and grabs it.

“Well..for the Hedge, it is kinda pretty, Zia says and continues to walk down the path.

Marcella continues to keep the lead, and goes down the path Caesar indicates. “See?” Caesar holds it out for all to see. “It” being the wand, of course.

“Must be one of the girls. Zia, do you want to confirm?” Caesar asks.

Amy is cowering back from the rose bushes, but upon seeing the wand, stand up straight again.

Hulda stays with the group but is in the shadows and hard to see.

Iris nods, but her expression isn’t happy. She is not looking forward to going towards Arcadia again

Marcella holds out her off hand to Amy. “Stay close to me, okay?”

Amy takes her hand. “Ok”

“Sure, I’ll take a look at it.” Zia says. Zia takes the wand from Blue and feels herself held by a warm child’s hand. “Her” little girl, Gabriele, asks, “Where are we going, Mr. Fox?” “Somewhere safe, where your dreams will come true. No one will ever hurt you, ever break a promise to you there.” “Okay…will my dad be there?” “He’ll come visit you there soon.”

“So, yes, on the right track. And the little girl was talking to someone she called Mr. Fox and it was the right voice.” Zia says quietly.

Caesar instinctively looks to Amy. “Same as your fox friends?”

Amy frowns. “I don’t know. I mean, my friends were foxes, yeah”

*Everyone starts to feel comfortable and a bit safer than you really should. The path is warm and the light comforting. *

“Let’s see what we can find further in,” Caesar would pose.

Marcella will walk rather quickly until we find more clues or run into something

“Yes, let’s get going.” Zia agrees.

Amy goes as well.

[Hulda is still stealthing along

“Let’s hunt some babystealers,” Fianna says harshly, and jogs after.
Iris proceeds forwards, following behind everyone

The path comes to a dead end. The brambles are incredibly tight in front of you. In the center is a blackberry, the biggest one you have ever seen. It is hanging on a vine, slightly out from the rest of the brambles.

Marcella stops. “Anyone know what this is?”

“Something tells me we don’t want to eat that”

“Nope, no idea.” Zia replies.

“Big fruit, but not much else.” Caesar states the obvious, and reaches in to take the berry.

“Don’t touch it!!!” Hulda yells. Caesar stops.

“Touching things here can be bad, let me look at it,” Hulda explains. She examines the fruit being careful not to touch it

Marcella keeps an eye on the path behind them as people come look at the blackberry

“So it’s not a normal fruit….it seems harder. Don’t eat it.” Hulda states. Iris stares at it suspiciously.

“Goblin fruit, likely.” Faron said.

“Could still take it and see if anyone at the stronghold knows about it. Goblin fruit?” Caesar asks.

“Can I poke it?” Marcella asked.

“You are physically capable yes…” Zia replies

“I don’t think anything bad will happen.” Hulda says.

Ignoring Zia, Marcella waits for Hulda’s answer and then pokes the fruit with the tip of her sheathed sword.

Hulda backs slightly away while Amy peers in.

As Marcella hits the berry, it emits a fox bark to the normal tune of ding-dong when you hit a doorbell. Hulda is surprised

“…um…” Caesar says.

Amy smiles at it.

Marcella pushes Amy behind her and unsheathes her sword

Iris takes off the safety

“….a doorbell.” Fianna says.

Hulda gets behind the fighting people

Caesar just doesn’t know how to react whatsoever. He gets behind the armed people, but otherwise doesn’t do anything.

Faron swears and draws his sword.

“If we had eaten it, I wonder if we’d bark like foxes too?” Amy wonders.

“I’m not sure whether we would have been able to eat it," Iris says.

“It’s not edible….” Hulda states.

“Should we just be waiting here to see what is coming or what?” Caesar asks.

“Maybe nobody is home.” Amy says.

“Do you have any better ideas?” Iris asks.“I mean we coudl try breaking in, but…”

Amy peers around Marcella and calls, “Do you remember me? It’s Amy. You helped me find my way out of the hedge, before.”

After a few minutes, you all hear a voice, a chirpy, but oddly melodic voice say, "Hello? Who’s there? and the blackberry suddenly shows in all of the little buds a fox’s face. Caesar blinks.

“Well, that’s trippy,” Fianna says.

“Hi!” Amy walks around and peers in the berry. “It’s me.”

“Oh, the little girl we helped! Hello!” the fox says.

Hulda is hiding behind everyone

“What brings you to our Hollow?” the fox asks.

Zia is unimpressed. She’s made cooler doorbells for her Keeper.

“We are looking for some missing humans.” Marcella steps forward a bit, “Two young girls
and a middle-aged man. Have you seen them?”

“I’m glad you didn’t turn into statues. Or at least did it on purpose. I was kinda worried.” Amy says.

“Oh! We turned into statues when we left the Hedge initially because it was such a shock on our bodies to leave that first time. It let us watch the human world for a bit. Not that much happened in the graveyard. Do you like these changelings little one? Do you need to come in? Away from their weapons?” the fox said.

“They won’t hurt me. They just think you’re scary.” Amy beams back at the others. “See, I told you they were nice.”

Caesar nods.

“Well, they all don’t stink like oathbreakers. But that is rather a lot to let into our home. We have to keep our charges safe. We promises.” The fox replied

“See.” Amy says to the others, again.

Iris narrows her eyes slightly “Your charges?” Marcella asks

“Charges?” Caesar echoes after Marcella.

Amy hesitates, feeling like someone is watching her. “Is someone else here? Hello?”

No one answers Amy. The fox says, “Little one? No one but me is here. My sister is in the house”

“Sorry, I just thought… it seemed like someone was watching.” Amy says.

“Someone’s watching?” Marcella looks around in the Hedge and behind them

Caesar looks through the surroundings for any kind of shape which might indicate someone, or thing, being nearby.

Zia pulls out her multitool and takes out the knife on it.

Iris is feeling distinctly uncomfortable, since she doesn’t know where to point her rifle

The fox says, “Little one, you may come in. I’ll keep you safe with the rest. They may stay outside, too many people. I can’t let in more than I can protect.”

Marcella says, “she’s not going anywhere without one of us.”

“It’s ok. I’ll be back later. They’re not going to hurt me.” Amy replies.

“We would also like to keep her safe.” Fianna said.

“And you still haven’t said anything about why you took the others.” Marcella said.

“We didn’t take them, we invited them and they came. Just like the little one will. They can all leave if they wish.” the fox retorts, a bit offended.

Amy frowns at both sides of this discussion. “No one here is trying to hurt me.”

“We don’t have much of a choice, Marcella. Amy can continue the investigation in there. Fox — or whatever you prefer to be called — did two young girls recently leave when they were under your protection?” Caesar asks.

“The families of those humans are very worried about them. Don’t you think we need to bring those girls back to their parents?” Marcella asks. “And these foxes may have killed someone.”

“That was a very bad man. This is getting silly. Yes, I’d like to come inside.” Amy said.

“I can’t tell you about our charges. We keep them safe! Hmph. Little one, ask your friends to back up and put away their weapons. I can’t trust they won’t rush the door,” the fox said.

“Please, everyone?” Amy asks.

Zia raises her eyebrows. “Will you hurt us when we do that?”

Marcella puts a hand on Amy’s shoulder to hold her back. “No Amy! They just want to take you away again!”

Amy harrumphs. “No they don’t! They got me out in the first place. If they wanted to take me away they could have done it then. And if you back up, nobody will be able to hurt anybody!”

Iris, fairly confidently takes a step back. Her weapon is ranged however.

Marcella looks at the fox. “How are we supposed to trust you?”

“Would someone who hates oath breakers so much break a promise?” Amy asks.

“Keep an eye out, guys. Amy thought she felt something watching her, it might still be here,” Caesar calls out to the party. They were backing up, so they wouldn’t pay too much attention to their surroundings — something that could be dangerous.

Fianna steps forward, reaches up, and plucks a star out of her hair, quite nonchalantly. “Here. For good luck. Whatever you do.”

Amy takes it. “Thanks, Fianna.” “I solemly promise by the stars in the sky and my mother’s heart that I will not harm the little one.” Is that enough for you? The fox asks. Hulda knows that this is a strong oath.

Fianna then steps back.

Faron hasn’t moved from his spot or sheathed his sword, although he was in the back to begin with.

“How are they going to give Wendell Braun his promotion? He can’t go to work at all from here. And how are the parents of those girls supposed to visit them in the hedge?” Marcella asks.

Iris’ eyes widen slightly and she nods, somewhat lowering her gun

Hulda, still stealthy, backs up

Zia nods as Marcella makes her points, but does put away the knife, if not the trusty tool.
“Does your definition of safe include letting her leave if she wants?” Marcella asks.

The fox says, “Your world failed them. We are helping them. “Your world is full of oathbreakers. Yes, if she wishes to leave she may. I have already said that you ivoryhag.”

Amy gasps, and puts a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle.

“Not every creature in the Hedge is perfectly honest, either,” Caesar retorts. “Its just a matter of using the correct wordings.”

Marcella looks back, and sees that everyone else has already agreed. She reluctantly sheathes her sword, then looks at Amy. “Amy, will you come back soon?”

“Yes. I will. Don’t worry.” Amy replies.

Marcella glares a little more at the fox, then steps back and say, “Okay, since you really want to. We’ll see you again soon, okay?”

“Ok.” Amy says.

Faron’s sword is still out. “Sir, in the back, please put away your sword. Young lady with the long black stick, please put it down” the fox says

Amy puts her hands on her hips. “Come on! I’ll be fine. Just go farther back if you’re scared.”

“I cannot endanger our charges” the fox says.

Iris’s rifle has already been lowered. She replies, “I can’t, it might get damaged”

“How many charges do you have?” Faron calls from the back.

“Not your business, Sir. Young lady, may I have your promise not to attack with your magic stick while I open the door?” Hesitantly Iris nods

Faron sheathes the sword.

The fox’s face leaves the facets of the blackberry. The vines and brambles unravel, showing a courtyard and moderately sized home with blue shutters. Amy hurries inside, before anyone can glare at anyone else any more.

“Stay safe!” Marcella calls after her

Once Amy is inside the vines ravel back together.

“Well…I guess there is nothing to do but wait out here…” Zia says.

“Whew. They were being so stubborn.” Amy says to the fox.

Jenna: “Little one, may I know what you call yourself?” asks the grey fox.

“I call myself Amy. What about you?”

“I am Pinky, this is my sister Ring.”

Amy smiles, “But you’re not pink at all.”

The fox dances around her, “It is a joke of a name.”

Amy laughs. “It’s a good name.”

Ring, the black and white fox, is a bit quieter in mood, but says, “Would you like to see our home?”

“Yes, please. It looks very pretty.” Amy replied.

The foxes lead Amy inside. “We are keeping people from your world safe. There are so many broken promises, we got there and knew we had a mission to help the people of your world. We enacted vengeance upon those who broke their promises and hurt other people so much and helped those who needed it.”

Amy nods. “That’s very nice of you. Everyone is just worried. We thought for a while that the Gentry took them.”

Ring leads Amy into a lovely courtyard, with a pond at the center and lovely English-style garden. There are several rooms overlooking this central courtyard. Amy claps her hands together. “It’s so beautiful.”

“The Gentry! We are no Gentry! We would help a Gentry keep a promise, this is what we do, but too often they push people into promises they do not understand.” Ring says

“Thanks!” Pinky says, dancing around. “Would you like to meet Gabriele and Simone?”

“Yeah!” Amy says.

The foxes lead Amy up to the second floor and into a playroom a la the suite from Escape from Witch mountain. Every kind of toy you can imagine and an ice cream parlor and video games and slides are there. Amy’s eyes go wide. “Woah.”

“Oh, it looks like the girls must be in their own rooms, come this way, let’s go talk to Simone first!” the fox says.

“Ok.” Amy says.

You see this room, but with bronze gears added everywhere and attached to a children’s engineering lab in purple, pink and blue. A girl is in the room, her brown hair up in a fancy bun. She is wearing a lilac ball gown. She looks like a princess.

“Hello,” Amy says to the girl. “Your room is so pretty.”

The girl looks at Amy, then at the fox, then back at Amy. She looks confused. She says something that Amy doesn’t understand, in a different language.

Amy blinks. “Um… oh.”

The fox looks at you both. “Oh, you do not understand!” He says something to the girl in purple. Her face lights up, and she says something back. The fox looks up at AMy. “She says her name is Simone, and who are you?”

“I’m Amy.”

“Have you come to stay here too? My sister Gabby is here and so is the strange man down the hall, and I’m a princess!” Simone says.

Amy shakes her head sadly. “I can only stay for a little while, or my friends outside would get really upset.”

“You brought friends with you? Are you all waiting for your daddies too?” the girl asks.

“No. I can’t find my daddy or my mommy. I lost them.” Amy replied

“Oh no! I have not seen my daddy for ever and EVER but I know he is still around. That is the saddest thing ever!” She looks around and finally offers you a plush stuffed teddy bear. “Hug Mr. Bear. He makes everything better.”

Amy hugs the bear, “Thank you. There’s a nice man though who said he’s going to try to help me find them, so they won’t be lost forever. Where did your daddy go?”

“I don’t know where my daddy is. Mama says he is working, but he’s ALWAYS working. And she promised he would come home.” The girl said.

Amy frowns. “That’s not good. He should come home and see you. Have you tried looking for him on a computer? I tried to find my mommy and daddy that way, and it didn’t work, but I did find our old house. I’d lost that too.” Amy aid.

The girl nods. “My fox friends are going to get him to come, but said he had to go to the hospital to be made better first. I hope he is okay. But once he is better, there will be me and Gabby and Mama and Daddy and everything will be better.”

“Oh no! He’s in the hospital? What happened?” Amy asks.

“We’re not supposed to use the computer without supervision, and Mama’s always busy with Daddy gone.” The girl replied.

The next words that are translated to Amy are just: “He needs to get better.”

Amy frowns. “Is there a computer here? I could be supervision, right?”

The fox looks at you. “What is a com—pew—ter?”

Amy smiles. “It’s a magic box that can tell you all sorts of things you want to know. I learned about it when I got out. I guess you must not have one here, though.” Amy said.

The fox smiles. “We have all sorts of magic things! Do these com-pew-ter things tell the future also, if they are so full of knowledge as you claim?”

“I don’t know. I never tried that. No one told me they could, if they do.” Amy replies.

“So many curious things the human world has. We will have to obtain one of these magic boxes for our Hollow.” The fox says.

Amy looks at the workstation. “You have neat things here. Could you maybe make one? Would you know how, Simone?”

Simone smiles. “So no computer. Would you like to play a game? I have dolls and toys and lots of fun gears that go ‘whirrrr’”

“Oh, yeah! That sounds like fun. What do you want to play?” Amy asks. Amy frowns. “We can’t play with my doll, though. He’s actually a boy under a mean spell. I’m trying to figure out how to break it.” She pauses, “So he probably wouldn’t like us to play with him.”

“Let’s play Invading Teddies from Outer Space!” She runs over to a toybox, gown rustling, and pulls out two large rocket ship toys, and two teddy bears dressed up like space explorers.

Amy takes one of each, and freezes for a moment, looking at them like she can’t remember how to use them. Hesitantly, Amy puts the bear on top of the rocket.

“Here! You do it like this,” Simone says. She puts one of the teddies in a rocket ship and begins flying it around, making spaceship noises. She points to a pile of Lincoln Logs, built like a small town. “A settlement! WE ATTACK!” She begins to perform aerial dives with the teddy bear at the houses.

The fox looks very pleased that everyone is so HAPPY.

Amy laughs. Still hesitantly at first, but with increasing confidence and pleasure, Amy copies Simone. “Whoosh, Whoosh! You better run. ‘cause we’re from… What planet are we from?”

“The teddy bears have no planet. It’s gone. That’s why they invade! They need our planet to live on, so they’re trying to TAKE IT OVER!” the girl yells gleefully as she smashes her rocket ship through a log cabin.

“Oh! That makes sense.” Amy smashes her ship through a building too. “Out of the way! This is our home now.”

Simone gets up and runs back to the toy chest. "I almost forgot. The teddy bears have a super special secret machine that makes the world like they like it. She unrolls a small children’s carpet with roads and buildings on it and plops it on the remains of the lincoln log town. “It’s called terraforming,” she says, nodding sagely.

“Ooh, neat.” Amy says.

Amy pauses in her playing. “Oh, I know!” She turns to the fox. “You told them they could see their daddy, right? But you can’t because he’s in the hospital? I could take them to visit him there. I’m an adult now, so I bet they’d let me in.”

“Oooh, could we? I want to show him my new dress!” Simone says. But the fox, after translating, looks sad. “But how will you be safe, when promises have already been broken!” he says. “We can’t keep you safe if you go away!”

Amy frowns. “Hmm, can you be invisible, or something? You could come too. Or I could get a really big bag and you could hide in it.”

“Yes, we can become the unseen,” the fox said. “It is how we found them, poor people, broken promises. Invisible is one of the ways we FIX things.”

“Well, then you could come too. You could protect them while we went to visit.” Amy says.

“No! this is the only place you are safe!” the fox exclaims.

Amy frowns. “But they can’t see their daddy that way, and they miss him.”

“But he broke promises…and he is in the hospital besides. A hospital is no place for little girls,” the fox says huffily.

“Well, maybe he didn’t break the promises on purpose. And I don’t think they’re going to get hurt in a hospital. They make people better in hospitals.”

“Hospitals are not happy places. People…good, promise-keeping people…should be HAPPY.” The fox says.

Amy puts a hand on the fox’s back. “I think so too, but kids can’t stay happy without their mommies and daddies. I know. I tried and I miss them sooo much.”

“But they broke promises! And promises are absolute!” the fox yelled.

“But you told them they could see their parents, and if they can’t you’ll be breaking promises too. Besides, parents are…” she stops, searching for the right words. “They shouldn’t have broken promises, but they might not have done it to be mean. They might have just not been able to keep them. Parents do that kind of thing, sometimes. It’s not good, but it doesn’t mean they should go away.” Amy answered. “When I told her I lost my mommy and daddy she was really sad for me. She doesn’t want to be away from hers forever.”

“But promise breakers are bad! And those that keep promises are good!” The fox says earnestly.

Amy frowns. Somehow she knows she has to be careful here. “Breaking promises is bad. But, sometimes people do bad things, but aren’t bad all over. Sometimes people don’t even know they’re doing a bad thing when they do it.”

The fox just shakes its head emphatically. “No! All bad, or all good, and promise-breaking is ALL BAD.”

Amy bites her lip. “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think a person is all good or all bad. Not human people, anyway. And I think maybe not fox people either, because it sounds to me like you’re thinking about breaking your promise about their parents in order to try to protect these girls. And I don’t think you’re bad at all. I think you want to help.”

“We are NOT breaking promises!” The fox looks offended. “The father simply needed to go to the hospital first.”

“But how is he going to get here when he gets better, if you couldn’t bring him before?” Amy asks.

“He will come!” the fox yells.

Amy pulls back, looking frightened by the yelling.

The fox quiets down immediately. “Now, you should continue playing. Playing means you are HAPPY!”

Amy stands up and stomps one foot. “No it DOESN’T! When I was with my keeper all I did was play and I hated it. Playing might make you happy sometimes, but playing doesn’t mean you’re happy, it just means you’re playing.”

The fox’s ears go back. “No! Playing is always happy! There’s laughter and happiness and good feelings all associated with it!”

“That’s not always true. Simone seems happy now, but she won’t be in a week, or a month, because children need their mommies and daddies! Even when those mommies and daddies do lots of stupid things. Leaving won’t make it better. Leaving just makes it far away for a while until you miss them and then it’s awful.” Amy responds.

“But it’s BETTER here!” the fox yells.

“It’s very very nice here, but it isn’t better. I would go home, if I still could, and my parents broke promises sometimes. Sometimes even important ones. But I don’t know where my home is, and I might not even be able to go back, because maybe there’s a pretend me in my place, and I don’t want anything like that to happen to Simone and Gabriele. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else. Not ever!” Amy sits down again, and grabs the teddy bear off the floor, crying into it. “I want to go home.”

“I will not keep you,” the fox said. “That was my promise. I keep my promises.”

Amy looks up at the fox. “I don’t think you can help me. Not any more than you already did. But can Gabrielle and Simone leave too? They’re going to want to, later. For really real, and you won’t tell them not to?” She tries to sound calm, but hasn’t stopped crying.

Pinky’s ears go up. “Oh! Someone wants me. Stay right here, girls. I’ll be right back.” He leaves.

Amy looks at Simone, “Sorry. I don’t think I made him mad. I didn’t mean to; he’s so nice. I just wish he could understand.”

Amy sobs a bit, “Oh right. You can’t understand me.”

Simone shakes her head sadly. She can no longer understand you without the fox to translate.

Meanwhile, with the rest of the group…..“Yeah. They called this a … ‘hollow,’ does anyone know what that is?” Marcella looks back at Faron

“A ‘safe’ place, more than most of the Hedge, anyway. A hiding place.” Faron replies

“Are we going to stay by their door the entire time or should we move?” Caesar asks.

“Move where?” Iris asks.

“Anywhere but here.” Caesar replies.

Zia says, “I’d prefer to be here, waiting for Amy. I could see if I understand how the door opening mechanism works…”

“I think we should stay here, since this is probably where Amy will come out again. We should all keep watch though, in case there really was something watching us earlier.” Marcella replies. She then looks at Zia. “That seems like a good idea … just in case.”

Caesar nods. “Alright then.”

“At least she’s armed. They didn’t take weapons from her.” Fianna says.

“As far as we know — wait, she was armed?” Caesar asked.

“Does she have any weapons?” Marcella asks doubtfully

“That star you gave her and her knife?” Zia asks.

Fianna pulls another star from her hair and arcs her arm sharply downward, throwing it at the ground. The star hits a root, and shears clean through, embedding itself in the dirt. “If her little thorn pigsticker doesn’t help, that should do the trick.”

“Yes, I do believe that will do…” Zia says.

Caesar’s eyes widen in surprise. “Remind me not to get on your bad side.”

Marcella looks impressed. “Nice.”

“I could have shot them…” Iris says.

“I think that would only have made them mad, and they might not have let Amy come back to us then.”

Zia ignores them and spends the next 10 minutes talking to and petting the vine door.

“Yeah, well…if they try and keep her from us, I’m burning down that door.” Fianna says.

Caesar wants to comment, but holds his tongue for once.

“I’ll be right behind you,” Marcella agrees.

“How would we know when and if they’re trying to keep her from us?” Caesar asks. “They said they’re protecting her, but for how long?”

Marcella considers. “I’d say we should give her at least … half a day? Until morning? Unless there are other signs that something’s going wrong of course.”

“And how many others are they ‘protecting…’” Faron asks.

“Yeah, at least Amy’s a changeling and understands things like the Hedge. Those poor humans …” Marcella replied.

“Is time in the Hedge similar to how time was in Arcadia?” Caesar looks to Faron for an answer on that. “I’d like know that myself, too.”

Zia turns from her communion with the door. “When needed, I should be able to open the door.”

“Excellent. For now, let’s wait and keep watch.” Marcella says.

Iris is facing the non-door side of the hedge, eyeing it suspiciously

Caesar periodically examines the Hedge around him to see if there’s anything new and
Hulda keeps an eye on her surroundings

“They said they promised to keep their charges safe. They didn’t say who they made that promise to.” Faron says.

Caesar begins picking the blackberries and then casually begins eating them. He gains one glamour per handful of blueberries.

Zia sits down to have a talk with the trusty tool about making some weaponry. “Okay mister, now, I want to have a weapon. Make me one!”

The trusty tool grumbles, “A weapon! I am a TOOL! I make things you dumb rainbowfart”

“Now, Trusty Tool, come on now, I wouldn’t want to be attacked and not be able to defend myself and then no one could use you.” Zia coaxes.

“Then grab a star from fireball over there. I don’t want to get dented.” he grumbles back at her.

Caesar checks the Hedge for anything new again.

Fianna picks up the star she had pulled out of her hair earleir and flings it with incredible accuracy into the ground at Zia’s feet. “Here. Go nuts. They grow back.”

Zia pats the tool, couldn’t you make me a sword or a taser?"

“A taser! You want so subject my poor self to that electricity!” As the star appears at her feet he says, “There, use that, hmph”

“Thanks Fianna, I appreciate it…though you could have handed it to me.” Zia says. Zia then picks some blackberries

“No I couldn’t.” Fianna replies.

Suddenly you hear another voice at the door.

Caesar jerks and turns to face the door.

“Hi! I heard there were more people here! Are any of you my Daddy? Pinky and Ring have been trying to get him to come…but he went to the hospital instead.” Through the black berry you see a little girl’s face, Gabriele of the picture sent earlier.

Caesar listens and doesn’t respond yet.

“Hi there! What’s your name?” Marcella asks.

“I’m Gabriele. I don’t see my Daddy…do you guys want to come inside? We can play with all the toys or go swimming in the waterfall!” the little girl who is at the door says.

“Yes, please,” says Fianna, getting up.

Caesar looks to the group before back to the girl. “Could we? We’d love to play!”

Marcella slowly approaches the door. “Sorry we couldn’t bring your dad, Gabriele. Do you know why he’s in the hospital?”

Hulda gets up and follows the group, smiling at the girl.

“I’m trying to get the door open…I only saw it open once….” she trails off. “Daddy was scared of Pinky and Ring…they put him in the hospital.”

Zia goes to the bramble door and whispers instructions to the girl. Gabrielle opens the door.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that. Well, we’d love to come and play.” Marcella says. She then goes inside, but leave her weapons sheathed.

Caesar goes inside.

Hulda follows still in stealth.

Faron’s going to follow the group in. His sword is sheathed.

Fianna does as well. Whispering, she asks Gabriele; " Do you know where everyone is in the house?"

Zia follows the group, brandishing her star weapon.

At Fianna’s question, Gabrielle says, “Yes! I know where everyone’s room is! Pinky and Ring share a room and my sister has a room and I have a room and sleepy man has a room.”

“Sleepy man?” Caesar asks.

“There are lots of empty rooms too! But we were told not to go in them. They need to be …keyed? to people.” Gabriella said.

“Do you know what his name is?” Marcella asks.

“Umm…something staring with a w? He never comes out to play and Ring said he is happier in his room. I like my room. It has my own summer garden in it! His room is boring.” Gabriele replies.

“Would you mind showing me where his room is, Gabriele?” Marcella asks.

She looks a little uncomfortable and rocks a little in her heels. “Well, I mean, I guess I could. But wouldn’t you rather play first?”

“Would it be okay if we play after you show me?” Marcella says.

“Let’s play tag to there! I’ll be ‘it;’ if you get there first, you win!” Caesar feigns excitement.

“Tag! I love that game! Okay, let’s go!” Gabriele dashes into the house.

Caesar followers her.

“Nah, nah, I’m gonna win!” she yells.

Fianna jogs after. Faron does too. Hulda stealths after. Zia runs after her, her poofy skirts flying. Marcella runs after, trying to catch up to Blue. Gabrielle dashes into the house, to a room at the left side of the house. Catching her breath, she smack her hand into the door. “I win!”

“I’m in the safe zone, you can’t tag me!” Gabrielle shouts.

Caesar huffs. “You win, good job!”

“You should be a professional runner, kid,” Fianna says.

“Uh oh, Blue’s still it!” says Marcella

“Okay, this is where his room is. Can we play now?” Gabriella asks.

Marcella looks questioningly at Blue as she says, “Blue and everyone else can keep playing, I just want to talk to the sleepy man for a minute.”

“You guys go, I’ll keep playing for as long as I’m needed.” Caesar says.

“Are you ready?” Caesar asks the girl.

“Yeah! You can’t catch me!” she cries and dashes down the hall. Caesar follows her, chasing
at a speed to where he wouldn’t catch her; this would allow him to see as much of the place as he could. The house’s hallways are a square, with simple decorations. She runs around the first floor once, then into the courtyard. Caesar keeps an eye out for any non-human animal and continues after the girl.

In the courtyard she leads you in circles and screams happily.

Caesar stops and runs in the path that the girl was heading for.

Time passes and Gabriella and Caesar continue to play tag. After a while, Caesar’s lungs are on fire from the continuous running

Gabriele is having a great time!

She asks if you want to come play in the waterfall.

“Sure! Let’s go!” Caesar agrees.

“Come upstairs!” She leads you to the suite that Amy is in, but instead of going to the left, she goes to the right, taking you into a kid’s summer heaven. A waterfall with lots of rocks to rockhop, deep enough in places to swim or dive, bushes with berries on them, tree swings, etc.

“Wow!” Caesar exclaims at first sight.

Meanwhile, Marcella knocks on the door she indicated. There is no answer at the door." Hello, Wendel Braun? Are you in there?" Marcella calls. She knocks again but there is still no answer

Fianna steps forward and opens the door. Inside the door is a very nicely appointed office. A man sits at the desk, doing paperwork, but he is clearly kinda out of it. He is dressed as if he was a king.

“Oh boy,” says Marcella under her breath.

Zia takes a step back. “Something is really not right here.”

At Marcella and Zia’s exclamations/speech, he looks up. “Do you have an appointment? I am far too busy if you don’t have an appointment.”

Marcella takes a hesitant step forward. “Wendel? Are you Wendel Braun?”

“Yes of course! Who else did you expect to find here! this is my office and I earned it!” he said, a bit frantically. In this light as he looks up at you all, you can see how tired and bloodshot his eyes look.

“Wendel, my name is Regina. I came looking for you because your wife is very worried about you.”

“My wife? Alyssa doesn’t need to be worried. I have what I want. I am a Senior Analyst. The company needs me. My pension will keep us well-cared for when we retire.” Wendel replies.

“Wendel, take a good look at what you’re wearing. Is that the uniform that Senior Analysts at your company wear?” Marcella replies.

“I…I am wearing what important people wear. That is what the spirits told me, I mean, what my boss told me when I got the promotion.” he says, confused and dazed.

Marcella looks back at the rest of her group. “He seems … enchanted or something? Can anyone break him out of it?”

Fianna walks up and whispers in Marcella’s ear. “Lie. Just lie. Tell him whatever he wants to know to get him out of here.”

In the meantime, Marcella keeps talking to him. “Wendel, your wife has … had an accident. She needs you to come right away.”

He stands up suddenly. “Oh God, is Alyssa okay! Why didn’t you say so!” As he moves around the desk, he is clumsy both because of the robes and his clearly foggy mind.

Marcella will take his arm and start leading him out. “Do you think we should try and find Amy now?” says says to the rest of the group with her* He shakes you off, “Please young lady, I can handle myself. Now, why do you know anything about my wife? Where is she?”

“I’m from the Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Braun. She reported an emergency earlier today, and requested that we bring you from work. I don’t have many details, but as far as I know she is at your home.” Marcella replied.

“Very well, let’s go.” He marches with purpose to the door and looks at the hallway. " I…how do I get home?" he asks. “This is…wait.” He walks back to the office room, opens a door to reveal a bedroom. Inside lying on the bed is a fetch of his wife, sleeping. “Oh, she’s fine. I’m home. Thanks for your help.”

“Well, shit,” Marcella mutters under her breath, so that Wendel can’t hear. “What now?”

Zia whispers, “The foxes can’t have enough magic for a good fetch, right? Maybe we could try to wake her up?”

“Even sleeping that woman doesn’t look exactly like Alyssa.” Zia adds

“Good idea,” Marcella whispers back. “Mr. Braun, let’s check on her.” She walks forward to try and wake up the fetch.

Oh, you want to make sure she’s all right! Thank. I…need to sit down." He wavers to an armchair.

“Mr. Braun, when was the last time you ate something?” Marcella asks as she walks across the room.

“I ate just an hour ago. This wonderful mushroom soup. I’ve had a lot of mushrooms here. The mushrooms help me feel better. Accept my new station.” He replied.

Marcella raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t reply. She tries to wake up Alyssa

Alyssa wakes up and says, “Hello, how are you today?” in an almost robotic way. The crunching of leaves can be heard.

“Alyssa, how are you feeling?” Marcella keeps an eye on Wendel as she talks

“I am fine. Where is Wendel? It is nighttime. He needs his rest to do well at work.” she replies

“He’s not feeling that great. Could you go check on him?”

“Yes, I can do that.” As she gets out of bed, the illusion is inconsistent and it is apparent as she moves that she is also made of sticks and leaves.

“My god, my wife…” he says. “I…yes, I asked the spirits to help me feel at home. But I didn’t want to go home where I had nothing to offer her. They made her for me, but that…that isn’t my wife.” Wendel said.

Marcella looks at him solemnly. “No, it isn’t, Mr. Braun. And your real wife misses you very much. She doesn’t know where you are right now.”

“I…okay. Let me tell the spirits I am leaving. They…helped me.” he says as he struggles his way upright.

“They … may not like that. But if you really feel you must …” Marcella trails off.

“They fed and clothed me. They gave me a position in their company, I think.” Wendel replies.

“Well … they made you think you had a position in a company. But, I think they were trying to give you what you wanted, all the same.” Marcella responds.

Faron is shaking his head quietly, but mostly eyeing the fetch.

Back with Caesar…..as Caesar and Gabriele walk in, Ring (black and white) sits up. “You brought a friend, Gabriele?”

“Hi,” Caesar nods as the fox asks its question. “Yeah, she wanted someone to play with, so I said I would.”

“He played tag with me!” she said

Ring tilts her head. “Excuse me, I must go.”

“…I wonder what’s going on. Does this happen often?” Caesar asks Gabrielle.

“No…except when Simone played a trick on them! It is a little bell we can use to summon them to help us. There’s a bell in here too!”

“Simone? Is she another friend of your’s?” Caesar asks.

“Simone is my sister. Want to play in the waterfall!? or we could eat berries or go on the tire swing!” Gabrielle says.

“Why don’t we get Simone over here and all three of us can play?” Caesar would suggest, “then we can play in the waterfall!”

“Hmmm..Simone doesn’t like to change into her swimsuit, but we can ask. Come with me!” She runs through the suite to Simone’s bedroom.

Caesar follows her.

“Oh, hi! I’m Gabriele!” she says to Amy, “Simone, this is my friend. He played tag with me!”

Amy, you have no idea what Gabriele just said.

Amy can’t understand her, but recognizes the name. “I’m Amy. Hi, Blue”

She buries her face back in the teddy bear.

“Hey Amy,” Caesar says, saying it rather slowly as he takes in the sight. “What’s wrong?”
Caesar uses empathy to realize that Amy is upset, and that Simone seems worried

“You two: what happened?” Caesar asks twice, once in each language.

Amy speaks into the bear. “I’m ok. Don’t be mad at them.”

“I’m not mad, I’m concerned. I promise I’m not mad.” Caesar says.

Simone speaks up. “They had a loud conversation. I did not understand all of it, but I think Amy is upset we have not seen our daddy yet”

“They just want to help. They’re just confused. They’re not bad. They maybe did a bad thing, but that doesn’t make them bad. And they could still fix the thing if I could just make them understand.” Amy says.

“Because he’s in the hospital right now?” Caesar looks to Amy, “were you trying the diplomatic way of getting them out of here?”

Meanwhile downstairs, our favorite Analyst is making his slow way to the front of the house. “When you press this, the spirits will come.” he explained to you all. Then he pushes a little bell. tinkling noises fill the house

Marcella looks a little nervously at Zia, Hulda, and Faron, and says, “At least we didn’t promise to stay out?”

“Yeah….” Zia replies.

Faron’s lips thin, but he doesn’t say anything.

Both Ring and Pinky appear next to Wendel. “You called?”

Wendel says, “I am afraid I need to leave. My wife is ill. I need to be with her. In sickness and in health, I should be there for her.”

“We understand. Your wedding vows are very important. If she is sick, go to her.” Ring says solemnly.

“We hope that she is not too sick. You are welcome back anytime.” Pinky offers.

Then they look at the rest of you, “How precisely did you get in?” Pinky asks.

“One of the little girls, Gabriele, asked us to play with her,” Marcella replies

“And she knew how to open the door?” Ring wonders. “Where is she! Did you hurt her!?” Pinky asks stridently.

“No, she’s fine. Blue is playing tag with her.” Marcella said.

I am going to go check on her!" Pinky says. “Ring, make sure they haven’t hurt Wendel!”
Pinky runs upstairs, calling for Gabriele.

Caesar turns around before receiving an answer for the source of the voice.
“Pinky!!! We’re in here!” Gabriele calls.

Amy frowns. “No. Maybe. I just want them to understand that Gabrielle and Simone need their parents, even if they did lie. I don’t want them to lose their families.”

Pinky runs in, looks Gabby up and down. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I had so much fun!” She replies.

“Simone, are we going to see our daddy?” Gabby asks.

“Maybe…” Simone said, a note of hope in her voice. “I…I want to.”

“Me too! Is she going to help us? I want to go! But…I’d like to come back to play here…”
Gabby said.

Pinky says,“Well, if you both want to go…we can’t, we won’t keep you.”

“I promise you, uh…fox,” Caesar uses “fox” since he doens’t know its name, “I’ll keep them safe at least until they can see their father.”

“Promise on your mother’s heart!” Pinky demands.

“Could that I would.” Caesar replies.

“I knew we couldn’t trust you!” the fox says.

“She’s dead.” Caesar states obviously.

“Her heart lives on. My mother is also dead.” Pinky says.

“I see…then I do swear on her heart that I will protect these two girls until I can bring them to their family and to see their father. I will die before any harm comes to them.” Caesar replies.

“Very well. I cede their protection to you. Girls, you are welcome back anytime. Call my name into the night while burning a candle and we will come.” Pinky replies.

“They can go?” Amy looks around, then beams at the fox. “Oh, thank you! You really are the best.” She throws her arms around his neck. “I’m sorry I yelled before. I was just scared.”

“Yay! We’re going to see daddy!” Simone yells. She jumps up and drags Gabriele down to the entrance.

“Thank you for all you’ve done for them. I hope you can find that I am one of the human in this world who will keep their word. Like Amy, I would like to consider you friends.” Caesar nods. “Girls, if you need anything, go get it. We’re going to go see your daddy!”

If the fox has nothing else to say, Caesar makes his way down to the group. Amy does as well.

Two girls come barreling down the stairs towards the rest of the group. Marcella is extremely relieved to see them

“We’re going to see daddy!” they yell

“Oh, good to see you Amy,” Marcella smiles

Amy smiles back. “We’re going to take them to their Daddy.” She wipes off her face on her sleeve.

“Sounds good to me.” Marcella replies.

“The girls are under my protection; I made an oath to keep them safe until we can take them to the hospital — whichever that is — to see their father,” Caesar informs the group.

“We’ll keep them safe,” Marcella agrees

Pinky and Ring see all of you off, sad to see their charges go and confused as why this didn’t work.

“Thanks,” Caesar showed gratitude towards the group, and to the two foxes, Caesar repeats what he said, “thank you two for all you’ve done!”

“You are welcome. We will keep up our good work.” Pinky replies.

Amy pauses at the doorway. “I know I shouldn’t have yelled it, but think about what I said before, please? I think it will help you with humans if you can understand. And then you can do your good work even better.” She looks wistful. “I’ll miss you. Stay safe.”

“We’ll miss you too! You ca come back and visit us!” the fox says.

“Not sure they’ve done much but cause trouble and kill someone,” Marcella mutters once they’re out of the hollow

Caesar feels a little worried about them “keeping up their good work,” but makes no mention of it. They had done what they had to do and they succeeded. There were unanswered questions in the end, but they were of no concern.

At this point, you exit the Hedge with no difficulty, and bring Wendel and the girls back to the freehold so the “proper authorities” can return them to their homes. Wendel sees a mindhealer, and Caesar, having sworn to do so, is told to stay with the girls until the exact moment where they both see their father. Congratulations on finishing the mission.
Amy asks to stay with the girls until then as well.

After you have all had a few minutes to rest, you are summoned to the court. There the Spring Queen thanks you for your work and congratulates you on your success. She explains that you all have earned the right to choose one small token from the court chest. Clearly you all are tired and she ushers you off to your beds.
Amy tries to peek at the court chest, as she is ushered off.

For a double session, end of story, and in general being all around awesome people for being here for EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS, you get….10 experience points.
So today is June 10th, you all will have 10 days till the first day of Summer. Please think of what you would like to spend your experience points on and tell us. Also if there is anything you would like to do with those 10 days. We will then arrange 1-2 person short sessions to address those things.

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Hulda's thoughts on game 12/8

After spending some time talking to the mother of the two lost girls, and finding a gate to the Hedge, the group decides to go and look at the second site, where a man had died. The plan seemed to be that Iris would talk to the ghost of the man, and figure out what had happened to him. Of course, talking to a ghost who had experienced a violent death is not the smartest plan, but that was the decision.

After Iris talked to the ghost, and Zia talked with the fountain, we figured out that the man was killed by some creature, obviously magical or mythological, but anything, pretty much, can turn into a small black and white creature. Also, the creature cried out “Oathbreaker” when it drowned the man. Being an oathbreaker is one of the biggest crimes in myths and in Fae. If you break an oath, you are proving that you are unworthy of trust.

Since that was all the useful information, we then headed over to the pawn shop that the guy had owned to talk to his assistant. Turns out, this guy was awful! Changing rates, selling things before the contract was up, basically breaking as many promises as he could. And since promises were oaths, this was a major deal for anything from Arcadia. Doesn’t really narrow down our search, but useful.

After we left the pawnshop, Marceila mentioned that her Keeper had been talking with another Keeper who wore mythological clothes and who sounds exactly like my Keeper. Wonder if anyone else’s Keepers had interacted before we escape?

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Marcella's Journal - Game 4 (12/8/13)

Marcella continues to be impressed by the others’ investigation skills. She hasn’t gotten much yet from the bone and ivory they’ve encountered, but it seems like Zia and Iris have had much more luck with ghosts and communing with objects.

When they go to see the drowned man’s assistant, Marcella is surprised to see Faron turning on charm and actually trying to butter her up. She didn’t think he knew how to show (or fake?) that much emotion. He did seem to get a little tripped up by talking to her directly and not outright paying the bribe though, so she feels like her initial impression that he wasn’t very social was not entirely wrong.

As they listen to what the ghost and the assistant tell them, it sounds more and more like the connection between these cases has something to do with oaths. And something about small animals? It’s definitely worth pushing Amy more about her “friends,” whatever those actually are. If they’re hedge creatures, they could be involved, hard as that might be for Amy.

Once they all left the pawnshop and started talking about what the animals might be, Marcella was reminded of the clothes-changing myth Fae. She also wonders if the conversation she overheard right before she escaped about the seasons and the harvest could be relevant, and decides to see if the rest of the group knows anything else.

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Amy's Journal_Game_4_12/08/13

I couldn’t find a way in, and it was really upsetting because I was worried I wasn’t being useful enough. I was scared they’d send me back. But they didn’t. They seemed just as confused as me, and I guess that was good, except it meant no one could help the little girls.

Little girls… but they’re no younger than me. Not really. Are they? I look like an adult, and I guess I’ve lived a long time, but I don’t feel like an adult. I guess I have to learn how to, though.

The others don’t seem to be able to talk to the hedge at all. I told them how, and I was glad I could help.

I told them I could find any paths into the hedge wherever we went, and then everybody talked about where to go a lot. I’ll just go where everybody else decides to.

Fianna put some music on in the van that was strange, but kind of fun, and way better than what Faron had been playing, but then she turned it off again, which was sad.

Faron told us we shouldn’t tell our real names to anyone, and it made me kind of sad. I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to. All I have are two letters. I hope the person at the Freehold finds my real name for me soon. I don’t mind keeping it a secret; I just want to know what it is.

Everybody went and talked to things when we got to the fountain. I didn’t have much to do, so I just listened to Iris. I couldn’t understand her though. Everybody speaks German here. I miss England.

Iris said the fountain talked, and killed the man, but I’m confused. If it’s weird for animals to talk, why would the fountain?

Then the snobby lady looked at it. She said it was something in the fountain that was small and furry and black and white. I’m worried because that sounds a lot like one of my friends. But my friends are nice! They helped me, so it can’t be them. Or if it was them they must have had a good reason. I’m not going to say anything though, because everyone was so upset by my friends last time.

People wanted to go to the man’s shop to talk to a lady who knew the dead man. I asked to go too, because if my friends were involved I want to be the first to find out, because everyone else is so suspicious but I’m sure they must have had a reason. If it was even my friends. Which it wasn’t.

We went to the shop and I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, so I looked at the stuff. There were some neat watches, but when Faron came over I moved, because I wasn’t being useful if I was just looking at the same thing.

Then I found a mirror. I looked at the lady in the shop and she seemed different from me. Everybody was different from me but she was really different and something told me she was different in a way that was normal. I looked in the mirror. I’m not normal. I have doll joints and my face is weird and my skin is too smooth. It’s not right. I stared really hard because I was hoping the mirror would turn me back to normal, like last time, but nothing happened. I just got more upset. I was so excited to have a normal body again but it isn’t.

After awhile I didn’t want to look at the mirror anymore because it made me sad, so I went and looked at the tv and the sewing machine.

Then I noticed the woman was crying, so I harvested some glamour. It made me feel a little better about things.

I looked in the mirror one more time before we left. I just want to be me again. I don’t want to be an adult and I don’t want to be a doll and I don’t want to look so weird. This body is all wrong.

Marcella told us about the man, and why he was an oathbreaker. He sounded like a very bad man. Maybe he hurt the girls. Maybe he stopped the girls’ dad from coming home, and that’s why my friends killed him. If it was them.

Then Zia asked what kind of Fae was cat-sized and furry, which was silly because Fae can look however they want, but at least they’re not thinking about my friends anymore. I need to keep that a secret or someone might get hurt. I don’t want anyone to get hurt.

It’s a bad secret. What if my friends did do something bad, and more people get hurt because I didn’t tell? But I don’t think they’re bad, and if I do tell, my friends might get hurt. But it does sound a lot like them. They must have had a good reason. This man was bad, and maybe they didn’t hurt the girls. Maybe they brought them to their daddy! I’m not going to say anything until we know more.

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Game 4: The Man in the Fountain

Summary:

The group finishes investigating the site where the girls disappeared, but discover nothing new, and no way to go after the girls, so they set off to investigate the next disappearance. They investigate the site, and have an interesting and informative, though emotionally trying, conversation with the dead man’s assistant.

Log:

Amy and Iris spend some time trying to find another path into the hedge, or widen it, so that they may pursue the missing girls.

Meanwhile, Faron and Blue finish questioning the mother of the girls, thank her, and join them outside.

Amy looks from the hedge back at the others, wide-eyed. “I can’t find another way in.”

“Maybe if we make this hole a bit bigger?” Iris says, “Does anyone have a sword or a big knife or something?”

“I do.” Amy holds out a large knife that looks suspiciously like a thorn, itself.

“It won’t work,” Faron interjects. “The Hedge doesn’t work that way. And entering from an unknown portal is dangerous. Especially if you’re unarmed.”

“Is there any other way we can make a bigger entrance or shrink ourselves?” Iris asks.

“Not this one. It stays this size.” Amy answers.

“I thought we are at least armed.” Iris responds, “so we need to look for hedge portals around the other disappearances?”

Amy perks up. “I can find them! If they’re there, I can find them, really easy.”

“Can you, now?” Blue wonders.

“She did this neat little trick while you were inside that told her all about the damn thing. Had to stab herself in the hand to do it, but it worked.” Fianna informs those who had not been there to see Amy do it.

Amy holds up her bleeding finger, smiling. “If you feed the hedge a little, it tells you things.”

“It does?” Iris looks confused. Amy looks confused at Iris’ confusion. “Well, it does for me.”

“Would it be safe with the Hedge?” Blue wonders in response to Amy.

“This area won’t help you much anymore. Even if you do find another way in, it won’t necessarily lead to the girls. It doesn’t work that way.” Faron cuts in “You’d be better off investigating the other disappearances.”

Amy nods. “Ok.”

“Which one of them would have been larger than all of us?” Iris wonders, still thinking about how to get in, “Apart from the dead guy?”

“Where to next, then?” Blue asks.

“The dead man in the fountain, or the man who went missing from his home. Your choice.” Faron says.

“We may find out more from the body. Would I be correct in thinking we’re not going to find it by the fountain any longer?” Blue says.

“The dead man in the fountain didn’t go through, we’ve got a better chance with the one who vanished from his home I think.” Iris comments, “but on the other hand I could try and look for the ghost of the dead person to find out more about how they were taken” Iris looks around at the others.

“If you’re willing to for us; as far as I understand, that’s our only means of determining in that case.” Blue states.

Iris shrugs, “I can try.”

“They moved the body, but his shop assistant might have some information,” Faron volunteers.

Iris has not given up on the ghost idea, “We could try looking around to see whether the ghost stuck around there”

“If that’s what you want to do. Are you all done here?” Faron asks the group.

“I think it might help, but if we want to follow someone through, the other guy might be a better bet,” Iris responds. “I’m done here”

The group gets into the van, and drives to the site of the next event, the man who was drowned in the fountain.

Fianna changes the radio station. Iris sighs, and Fianna replies, “Oh hush, I just want to hear what passes for music these days. You can tell a lot about people based on the music they listen to.” She finds a popular music station. After a couple of minutes she abruptly changes it back to the classical, muttering things like “awful” and “cretins” under her breath. If you listen, you can hear her singing along to a Faure piece under her breath.

The fountain turns out to be no more than five minutes away. The fountain itself is the centerpiece of a garden square type thing, and is currently still surrounded by police tape. They park about a block away and walk the rest of the distance to the fountain.

“Think there’s any police guard still there?” Blue asks before stepping out of the van.

Iris nearly jumps out of the car. She sees a ghost man. He is wearing dapper clothes that seem just been worn down. Ghostly water bubbles constantly out of his mouth. He sits on the edge of the fountain, shaking his fist at all passerby

“Before you all go…” Faron says, “You may not have had a chance to learn this, so learn it now. Names are important. Names have power. Never give them your real name.” Faron finishes.

Iris carefully approaches the ghost man, staring directly at him. She is too distracted to listen. Iris only register’s it at the back of her mind.

Amy had been listening intently, but then sighs and jumps out of the car. “That’s easy. I don’t know mine.” Marcella gives a nod. “Thanks for the advice.” Blue realizes this was directly referring to what he had said earlier. He mumbles something of an apology. Zia looks at Faron. “Of course names are important. No worries, none of you have anything to give away on me.” and gets gracefully out of the car, following Iris. Hulda steps out of the car and keeps and eye on Iris. She is unsure about talking to ghosts since this frequently ends badly, especially with ghosts of violent death."

Marcella stays in the car. “I’m going to see if I can sense any bones or ivory to talk to, but give a holler if you need backup.” She places her ivory sword across her lap and closes her eyes. Marcella begins using a contract to try to locate any of the aforementioned bones or ivory. “I told you none of you were getting my name, anyways,” Fianna grumbles, and hops out. “Is she talking to ghosts again?” She jabs a thumb towards Iris.

Iris is now fairly close to the ghost, waiting for him to notice her staring for a few seconds. The ghost man sees Iris and glares at her. A watery voice says, “What do you want! Why are you here? Watching me? Making fun of how I died! Is that why you’re here!?” He shakes his fist and the water pours from his mouth.

Faron nods very slightly at Blue and walks off a short distance away, observing the square in general.

Iris shakes her head. She says, “We want to know how you died. We’re trying to keep more people from dying.”

“Other people! Who cares about them! I am the one who died. I just wanted the watches but she was here somewhere behind the fountain and then…. I died” the ghost rages.

“Watches?” Iris wonders, “If we find out how you died we might be able to avenge you.”

“Watches?” Blue under his breath, listening to the single-sided conversation.

Zia crosses the police tape and stands beside Iris and says quietly, “Tell me if you want me to talk to the fountain.” Iris shakes her hand a bit,a gesture to wait for now, although it might be useful.

Marcella finds the bones of same small animals, and says to Faron, “I’m going to go make an offering to some bones, but again, call me if you need me.” She pauses and looks at her sword for a minute. She finds a tarp in the back of the van, wraps the sword, and sticks it under one arm.

“I got a phone call from a woman who wanted to sell me a large collection of WWII watches, but she needed to do so the night I died. I was on my way to her house, when I heard her voice from behind the fountain, calling me, telling me she realized she had given me the wrong address. As I got closer to the fountain, it was odd, her voice was coming FROM the fountain.” the ghost tells Iris, “Then I died.” He seemed to deflate at this point.

Iris bows. “Thank you.” Zia nods at Iris and is waiting quietly next to her.

“We need to have a look at that fountain, there is probably something going on” Iris says. Zia agrees to take a look at what the fountain had seen.

“He says there was a voice coming from it and that was what killed him” Iris tells Zia.

“A voice coming from it? Huh…I wonder if it is like the force that moved the baby carriage…” Zia says and talks to the fountain.

“Perhaps.” Blue says.

Zia sees the cops remove the body from the fountain, the weight removed from it. The cops as they remove it are wondering aloud if he committed suicide, or perhaps if someone drowned him on purpose.

Iris starts to have a closer look at the fountain.

Further back the fountain remembers something small, maybe cat-sized and furry crawling through it and a voice, “Mr. Kaestner! Please, over here, it is Mrs. Holtz. I realized I gave you the wrong number! Silly me”. A man, the now-drowned man approaches, puts his hands on the fountain as the voice says,“Here, here I am Mr. Kaester.” Then the creature leaps and pushes him in, hissing “Oathbreaker!!!!! There is a struggle and the fountain then feels his final exhalation in its water. He is dead”

Meanwhile, Marcella makes a small cairn for the bones and begins to commune with them. The impressions the squirrel’s bones give Marcella are disjointed and helter-skelter…because it is a squirrel and squirrels don’t really focus. She gets flashes of a grumpy looking man walking purposefully up to the fountain….a scream…a body’s lower extremities twitching as something holds his head underwater as he drowns…but no culprit in sight. Once she finishes her communion with the squirrel bones, Marcella returns to the van.

Zia draws back from the fountain. “Oh…I saw his death”

“What did you see?” Blue asks.

“He was walking by I guess? Iris, do you know where he was going? But there was a voice from the fountain that called him over, a Mrs. Holtz who told him that this was the wrong address. Then he got closer and the creature that in the fountain, something cat-sized and furry, black and grey pushing him in! and drowned him! The creature hissed Oathbreaker as he drowned him,” Zia said haltingly. She is clearly affected by being this close to death.

“Oathbraker. what could that mean?” Iris asks as much to the ghost as to the others.

Mr. Kaestner’s ghost says, “Oathbreaker! I am and upstanding business man. I don’t know what he is talking about.” He is clearly affronted.

“Okay then… you don’t have any idea why it might think so?” Iris inquires of the ghost.

Much of the party realizes that to break an oath in fae society is among the most taboo of actions a changeling or a true fae…really anyone involved in Arcadia could take.

“Oathbreaker. They broke some swear they had made. ’ What was the oath he made’ might be a better question.” Blue says aloud, for the benefit of those who did not make the connection.

“And who he made it to.” Hulda adds.

“Yes, but he isn’t saying anything” Iris says, “and I can’t really force him to talk I don’t think.”

“Has he said anything useful about what happened? Or who the woman was?” Hulda asks.

“He said he couldn’t see what killed him, but I’m not sure about the woman..” Iris answered.

“Zia said the woman was a small animal.” Amy says, somewhat nonsensically, but accurately.

“Hey, do you know if the others have found anything?” Marcella asks Faron as she heads past the van, on her way to the others, “All I found out was that he seems to have been attacked and drowned, but his attacker was either very small or invisible.”

Faron frowns. “They’ve been there long enough. They probably know something by now. I’m not leaving until I’ve spoken to the drowned man’s assistant though.”

“His assistant?”

“The one who heard his mysterious conversation on the phone. We might not get much more detail out of her, but we should still try.”

“The attacker spoke with the voice of a woman…but definitely was not woman-sized….” Zia said.

“Ok, I’ll go check in with the others and see who wants to talk to the assistant.” Marcella tells Faron.

“Where did it come from? Did it just appear out of nowhere, through the pipes? Do you think it has anything to do with the two girls?” Iris asks Zia.

Marcella heads over to the group by the fountain.

“Can you describe the attacker at all?” Hulda asks.

“The fountain felt it jump into the fountain from behind, then wait for awhile. It left the same way. It is cat-sized, furry and black and white.” Zia said.

Marcella hears this as she walks up. “Ah, that explains why the squirrel bones over there couldn’t see the attacker. What else have you all found out?”

“Something about a broken oath. He got dragged in and drowned, nobody was trying to take him away.” Iris fills Marcella in.

“Huh, so this is different from the girls. Was he a Changeling?” Marcella asks. Iris relays the question to the ghost. “A what! I am not a…whatever you just called me! I am a victim! A victim of horrible violence!” the ghost rages.

Amy remembers that of her two fox friends, one was black and white, and the other was several shades of gray. She says nothing about it.

Iris nods. “Just making sure, you see, changelings deal with this kind of stuff”

He glares at you. “Changelings or the police! I don’t care, you are too late! I want to be alive and you CAN’T GIVE THAT TO ME!” he screams. The ghostly water from his mouth briefly covers you and Zia (not that Zia sees it). Then he, a la Moaning Murtle, disappears into the fountain.

“Was that a no?” Marcella wants to know.

“Hmm… I might have been able to let him do one last thing.” Iris says, “Either a no or an I won’t tell you.”

“Huh. Well, Faron said his assistant had a mysterious phone conversation, and he wants to talk to the assistant before we leave. Anyone else want to come?” Marcella changes the topic.

“I’d like to come.” Amy says. “I vote we get away from the cranky bogle and go talk to the assistant. Perhaps they’ll be less irritating.” Fianna agrees. “I’ll come,” Hulda says. “I’ll wait out here.” Blue says.

“He had a phone conversation as well, said he came here about some rings. Sure I can tag along.” Iris volunteers.

“Yes, let us not crowd this crime scene any longer” Zia says and walks back to the van.

Everyone else follows back to the van. Faron is leaning against the van. “What did you learn?”

“Apparently the man had seen some kind of feline familiar and was dubbed an oathbreaker.” Blue says. “He was drowned by some sort of cat-sized animal. They said something about him being an oathbreaker, but the ghost wasn’t very helpful in explaining that.” Marcella elaborates. Iris shrugs “It seems to have lured him out specifically to kill him. Maybe the barrier between here and the fae is getting weaker?” “The bogle’s a crazy oathbreaker. Also apparently a grumpyguts.” Fianna asserts. Amy giggles at Fianna, “What? It’s true!”

“He did seem relatively useless” Hulda says.

“But how do we know he is an oathbreaker? Or if he even broke an oath that was worth his death?” Zia asks. “This is murder.”

“Of course it’s murder. but that’s all we know. We have no idea whether it was lying or what it might have been. What interests me is whether and how this relates to the girls” Iris says.

“Technically, it’s murder whether or not the oath was worth it,” Fianna drawls. Iris nods.

“Well, it may not relate to the girls at all. Though it is suspicious that mysterious voices, perhaps coming from small animals, seem to have been involved in both cases.” Marcella says.

“I don’t really see any kind of link between the two, other than this cat being able to talk, obviously not normal. Is it like those other talking animals from the Hedge? Did its eyes glow?” Blue asks.

Everyone thinks about possible connections, and remembers that the father of the girl had been away for the last four months. The mother had repeatedly promised the girls that their father “would be home soon.”

“All right. I’m going to speak to his assistant, about a block over.” Faron says. “I’d like to come.” Marcella says. “Why don’t we move the van from the active crime scene?” Zia says acerbically. “We could just drive over I think.” “Why Zia, it’s almost like you don’t want to be in trouble with the law!” Fianna says, voice dripping sarcasm. “I can’t imagine why…” Zia responds.

They drive to the shop, and when they arrive, Faron goes straight in. Marcella pauses outside. “Maybe we shouldn’t all go in at once. It looks a bit suspicious.” Amy looks at Marcella. “Why?” she asks. “Because we’re a large group, and we don’t look very official,” Marcella answered.

“It might looks just as odd for us to hang out out here,” Zia says.

As the door opens, a woman behind a counter greets you. “Hello! How may I help you today? Are you buying or selling?”

Marcella sighs, shrugs, says “Well, I suppose it is a pawnshop,” and follows Faron in. Amy, Hulda, Iris, Zia and Fianna go in as well.

Faron doesn’t immediately respond to the woman behind the counter, so Marcella says to him in a whisper, “Do you know if that’s the assistant?”

Faron nods at Marcella briefly before flashing a rather bright smile at the woman. “Buying, possibly.”

Amy begins looking around at the stuff for sale. She sees a collection of watches in a glass case. The case is cleaner than the others. She also sees a massive tv, a sewing machine that looks identical to the one her mother had and a full-length mirror. Amy wanders over to the watches to take a better look.

“I’m rather interested in watches, if you wouldn’t mind showing me what you have, Miss Heidi.” Faron says.

Heidi smiles brightly, but there is a fragile edge to it. “Well, come over here please then. Mr. Kaestner was an avid collector of watches and he had a great eye for picking up watches for sale.” Hearing Faron, Amy wanders away from the watches, and goes to look at the mirror.

“Was?” Faron asks with gentle concern as he steps towards the assistant. Amy gently places a palm on the surface of the mirror, looking intently at her own reflection.

Heidi walks over to watches. “He passed away last night. He will be much missed by the community. His widow requested that we keep the store open to raise money for his funeral.” Her voice is a bit trembly.

Marcella says, “I’m so sorry to hear that” sympathetically “Thank you,” she says. “Please, anything you are looking for?” she asks, still a bit trembly. “I’m especially interested in watches from the Second World War.” Faron responds.

Heidi starts. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any for sale right now. Why don’t you go to the pawnshop about 10 blocks over.”

“Are you all right, Miss?” Faron asks.

“I’m fine, thank you.” she says, trying for curt, but mostly coming out watery.

Amy just continues to inspect the mirror, and listening to the conversation. Hulda is wandering around and listening without hovering.

“You don’t seem fine. Would you like to talk about it?” Faron pushes.

“Talk about it? No, I don’t! But what I have to do is sell as much as possible this week so his widow can pay for his funeral and I don’t loose my job! And no one knows what killed him and the police already confirmed that there is no Rebecca Holtz in the city!” She is now crying. “Please leave unless you are going to buy something. I already relived the whole night with the police. The odd offer, the need for it to be yesterday, I just don’t need to do it again! Not for that horrible man!” Heidi tells her.

“That horrible man?” Iris chimes in.

“My employer, Mr. Kaestner, the man who drowned! He was not a good man,” Heidi replied.

“Could you tell us a bit more about him?” Iris asks.

“Buy something and I’ll think about it. Are you missing the part where I asked you all to leave?” Heidi says, getting a bit of her spirit back.

“Of course,” Faron says, and selects one of the cheaper but not crap watches.

Heidi takes the watch from him, looks at the tag, walks over to the cash register. The watch is marked as 22 euro. She tells him, “This just got marked up, found it was a bit older than we thought. That will be 30 euro.”

Marcella smirks at her sass and Fianna doesn’t even try to disguise her chuckles. Amy finally wanders away from the mirror and over to the tv.

Faron smiles a little bit sharply. “I understand. But as I said before, I’m a bit interested in watches. Since we both know what it’s really worth, how about we split the difference?” The edge fades, and he looks gentle. “As an apology.”

She looks Faron in the face, tears dripping slowly down her face. “That will be 30 euro or get out.”

“All right.” Faron gives in.

“Thank you.” She rings Faron up, takes his money and hands him a receipt, explaining also that there are no returns at present. Now, since you all are clearly gruesome people who are interested in death or horrible amateur reporters, you have 5 minutes to ask me questions related to my boss."

Amy wanders over to the sewing machine.

“What did you mean when you said he was a horrible man?” Iris asks.

“He doesn’t run a pawnshop entirely legally. He will give the worst interest rates to the people who are the most desperate. Sometimes a really interesting or valuable item will be sold before the 90 days are up.” Heidi tells her, "But he’ll tell people who pawn their wedding rings, "oh, I’ll just keep this safe for you, no worries, so long as you pay up when the time comes. Then he’ll sell it two weeks later and alter the contract, since he never gave the other person “a full copy”"

“I know the type,” Fianna says darkly. “My old….employers had some dealings with several of that stripe. It’s all about the loopholes.”

“Do you know if there was anyone in particular he did this to who was angry at him, and might have wanted to get revenge?” Marcella asks.

“And the shady deal last night, with Rebecca Holtz?” Faron adds.

Heidi says, “Last night he got a call from an older woman with a really weak voice. She said she was Mrs. Rebecca Holtz and she wanted to sell her husband’s large WWII watch collection bc her husband had just died abroad. She wanted to it last night so she could leave the country this morning. The money was for his funeral. I don’t know how shady a deal it would be, but desperate old ladies rarely got the best of him.”

“Was there anyone who ever did get the best of him?” Faron wants to know.

Iris stays quiet for the time being, she is more concerned with people who he might have gotten the best of.

“No one notable. He mostly dealt well with people who might have the knowledge to do anything,” Heidi replied.

“I’m guessing he didn’t run into this woman then; you mentioned that the police didn’t find a record of anyone of her name living in the city. So the question is…who did he run into?” Fianna wonders.

“What about anyone who might have been especially upset about him getting the best of them?” Marcella asks. Iris perks up at this.

“There was an immigrant family, I don’t recall their name…but I believe they have gone back to their country. The dad threatened to destroy everything in the shop and Mr. Kaestner reported him for having overstayed his student visa,” Heidi answers.

“Do you remember anything about them? Their country of origin, anything like that?” Marcella asks.

Iris whispers: “maybe if they’re changelings one of the others knows”

“I am really not sure, their accent wasn’t familiar. He was dark-skinned, maybe Liberia? But I could be pulling at straws.” Heidi says.

“ix-nay on the angeling-chay…” Fianna whispers to Iris.

“Aside from the strange call, did anything else unusual happen yesterday? Was he behaving oddly?” Faron continues.

“No, he was his usual self, trust me. He left really excited, watches of that era are…were his favorite.” she tears up some more. “I’m sorry, I didn’t like him much, but sob I’ve been working with him for about 4 years now.” She cries some more. Hulda attempts to calm the woman with a contract, but does not succeed. Amy uses the opportunity of the woman’s strong emotions to harvest some glamor from her, and feels much better afterwards.

“I understand. I am sorry.” Faron says to Heidi.

“Thank you, I appreciate it. Now, have I answered your questions sufficiently?” she asks.

Amy wanders back over to the mirror.

“Yes, I think so. Take care.” Faron takes the watch, leaves the receipt, and walks out the door.

“Learn much?” Blue asks as soon as Faron exits.

Marcella says, “I’m sorry we put you through that, but we really appreciate your help,” then leaves. Hulda and Zia both nod at Heidi and walk out. Amy and Fianna follow them.

To Blue, Marcella says, “Well, it sounds like we know how he’s an oathbreaker now. He used to cheat customers by changing their pawning contracts and selling their stuff before he was supposed to. There was a family he cheated who swore vengeance on him which might be worth investigating, but the assistant thought they had left the country and didn’t remember their names.”

“And he did it repeatedly, which means that he holds oaths as something he can break at will. The fae would take that poorly.” Hulda adds.

“We got a few details about the call that lured him out last night, but the police have investigated and the old woman who supposedly called doesn’t seem to exist” Marcella continues, “At least, that the mortal police can find.”

“He just seems…so different from the girls…what is the connection between them?” Zia wonders.

“Maybe he did something so their father couldn’t come home.” Amy suggests.

“Maybe the same person is involved from the other side?” Hulda says at the same time.

“Yeah, I agree Amy. It might have something to do with the girls’ parents.” Marcella says.

“Indeed, the parents are a likely link. But what fae is cat-sized and furry?” Zia says.

“Any Fae that wants to be.” Amy replies.

“Well, Blue mentioned those animals he saw on his way out of the Hedge.” Marcella reminds everyone.

“Okay, but what Fae would choose to appear that way?” Zia follows up.

Hulda remembers that there are many gods and goddesses and mythical beings who turn into cats, dogs, and other similarly sized animals. She thinks of the big ones like Zeus and Loki, faeries such as Selkies and Kitsune. Of the ones she think of many have shifted into or can shift into animals that are cat-sized, few black and white. “Pretty much anyone who shapeshifts in stories can shape shift into something like a black and white cat….without more detail I can’t narrow it down”

“There was a Fae who visited my keeper who seemed to take on guises from Earth mythology” Marcella muses out loud.

“Oh? like what?” Hulda is interested.

Amy shifts her weight from foot to foot, slouching.

“Well, then let’s go get more details. Shall we go to the next crime scene?” Zia proposes.

“Let’s, I guess.” Blue agrees.

Amy and Hulda agree as well.

Marcella says to Hulda, “Her clothes kept changing to those of different cultures, like Egyptian, Mayan, and Greek. She told a story about a man who loved someone so much he put her heart in a jar.”

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