Rites of the Spring Horn

Game 62: Tea Time with the Maker

Summary:

Amy spends her time locked in the dollhouse attempting to escape. The Maker attempts to engage her in conversation and assures her that should the party fulfill their obligation to her, Amy will be set free. She confirms that both Zia and Asantewaa have been returned to the party and that Amy is the only current prisoner. She promises not to harm Amy.

The Maker asks to get to know Amy better, and states that she is an enemy of Amy’s Keeper. She mentions that her exile from Arcadia was partially because Amy’s Keeper stole much of her power, and that she could help Amy get revenge on her Keeper.

The Maker appears to know something about the mysterious Green Man, mentioning that "the Green Man may win his war in Arcadia, "and asks several questions about Amy’s durance and the potential interactions of both her Keeper and the Keepers of the rest of the party

Log:

[Refer to audio log dated September 19th, 2015]

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Game 61: Deal with the Devil

Summary

With Amy, Asantewaa, and Zia in her possession, the Maker makes the party an offer: retrieve a doll she sent of into the world with some of her power, and ensure her legend grows, and she will return Amy and not send Zia back to her Keeper. As assurance, she releases Asantewaa and Zia. Asantewaa is miniaturized once more, and Zia is wearing a tracking device. Fianna reacts badly to the deal and severely injures Marcella.

Log

The group looks around the room and sees that there are three changelings in the room besides them. Two are wearing decent armor and carrying decent weapons. One of them seems to be wearing crappy armor that’s falling off, clothes that don’t fit, and is wielding a rusty sword.

The Fae looks at them, smiles, and says, “I would like to make you an offer.”

Marcella waits, and doesn’t attack, but doesn’t say anything. Hank and Hulda follow her lead.

The Maker looks around at them and says, “You see, as I’m sure you can imagine, that the Hedge is not my preferred locale. I discovered that I have a lovely, lovely bargaining chip in my possession that someone I know would be very eager to have returned to her. It’s been quite the talk, even to one such as myself, who is distinctly … not invited to parties any more, that she would quite like her craftswoman back. So, I have a choice. I can return what was lost, and in so doing, I am sure, gain the assistance I need to return to my rightful place in the world. Or, all of you can help me do that.”

Up in her little box near the ceiling, Zia is disturbingly silent. It seems as though sound is no longer being allowed through the window.

“What exactly would that involve?” Marcella asks.

“Nothing that would make your silly human morals twinge too much.” As far as Hulda can tell, the Fae doesn’t seem to be lying. Hulda knows from some of the research she had previously done that the Fae fight among each other, and losing those fights seems to have a concrete effect on the power level of a Fae. She’s not sure what the exact effects of losing a fight is, though.

“You’ll have to be a little more specific.”

The Fae smiles at Marcella and says, “I have lost something that I sent out into the world in its own way to guard against this very eventuality. However, I can no longer locate it, as it was … moved. So I would merely ask you to do two specific tasks. To locate what was lost, and to … encourage the story of myself as the Maker, as the person who puts people in these dollhouses, to spread throughout the world as a story. Surely that is not too much to ask, for the return of your one … no, three team members.” She smiles again.

“What world is this thing lost in? The mortal world, the Hedge?”

“The mortal world. If it were not in the mortal world, I could get it myself far more easily.”

“Define ‘thing,’” Hank says.

“‘Thing.’ An object,” the Fae replies.

“A non-sentient object?” he persists.

“Generally.”

Marcella takes another look around at the Maker and her lackeys, trying to judge whether she, Hank, and Hulda can take them in a fight. She doesn’t have a great sense of what the Maker is capable of, here in her own little hollow. But, they did pretty well against her in the hallway, though they haven’t seen the other three changelings fight. Given the team she has with her, it would essentially be four on two, so she thinks maybe they could do it, but it is in no way guaranteed.


Asantewaa tries to break the window of the room she’s in by throwing something at it. The glass shatters, but then she runs into the same magical barrier she encountered in the wall, so she can’t actually reach through the empty space. The object bounces back into the room. She moves on to another wall and continues trashing the room.


Marcella glances back at Hank to see if he has thoughts he wants to express. He looks unsure, and not at all reassured by the Fae’s answer to his question.

Marcella turns back to the Fae. “What kind of timeframe are we talking about?”

“Well, I would prefer sooner rather than later, as the longer I have my little bargaining chip, the longer that Brigid is likely to realize it’s here. And if she comes to fetch it, well … I know what choice I have to make.”

“And could you guarantee that the three members of our group who are here in this hollow would remain unharmed?” Marcella asks.

“I have no interest in hurting anyone. I just … give them a place to leave.”

Marcella resists the temptation to punch the Maker in the face. “If we were to agree to this, I would want a guarantee that Zia would still be here when we returned.”

“Well, as I said, I’m not sure that you fully understand the situation. If Brigid comes here, and I wish to keep my life, which I do, that is that. On the other hand, as a sign of good faith, I’d be happy to give you back … hm, I don’t know … perhaps the one who stuck her glaive in me. She is … perhaps not enjoying the present I gave her nearly as much as she should be.”

Hank looks up at Zia. It doesn’t look like she can hear the conversation. The box she is in has a small, circular window that she is peering through. It is between 20 and 25 feet above them.

“Are there things that you could do to … deter Brigid’s attention?” Marcella persists.

“No more than I already do.”

Marcella thinks a moment. “Again, say we were to agree.”

“Hmm?”

“If we found this object that you’re looking for … you just want us to find it, not bring it back to you, and just inform you of its location?”

“Oh no, you need to bring it back to me. That was implicit.”

“I see. And, would it be likely to resist, or …?”

“It can’t. It is a thing. I’m not saying it doesn’t have … particular properties. But I promise you, it is not one of your kind, trapped in an object. It is a part of me. Any intelligence you sense from it is me.”

“Could you give us any more information about it, or its properties?”

“I will, but not until you agree. Do I look like an idiot?”

Marcella is considering, hoping Fianna will show up so that they would have a chance in a fight, but not knowing how long she will take. “I’m afraid we’ll need to consider your offer. Do you mind if we speak amongst ourselves? I trust that your lackeys won’t attack us.”

“One of them would dearly like to. He’s,” the Fae gives a little sigh, “lost all of his favorite objects to your friend up there.” Marcella chuckles. Indeed, the one who’s dressed in armor that’s falling off of him does look very grumpy.

“She does like to destroy things when she’s angry,” Marcella agrees.

“So many people do,” the Fae agrees.

Marcella deliberately turns her back on the Maker and looks at Hulda and Hank. Hank does not turn away from the Maker. She moves close enough to them that she can at least pretend that the Maker can’t hear her if she’s whispering, and says quietly, “I’m not sure we can take them, especially without Fianna.”

Hank looks grumpy about it, as does Marcella. Hulda’s eyes widen, surprised Marcella was even thinking about fighting them. Hank kind of shrugs.

Marcella sheathes one of her swords, and puts a hand on her dagger, and says, “I think I could guarantee, as much as one is able, that she would stick to the terms of our agreement, if we were to make an agreement.”

“What would stop her from us bringing the thing here to her, her letting Zia go, and then her capturing all of us as soon as she’s more powerful from the thing?” Hulda asks.

“The terms of our agreement,” Marcella replies.

Hulda grimaces, knowing too many stories where this ends badly.

“The additional small army that we bring back with us?” Hank suggests.

“Much as I don’t want to help this Fae, I’m not sure we have a choice,” Marcella says. Hank shrugs again, indicating he’s willing to try either option.

The Fae, behind them, is sitting on a small bench against the wall, tapping her foot.

Marcella turns back to the Fae. “What about Amy? We might need her help to find this … thing that you want us to find.”

“Hmm. My apologies, but Amy’s return is not possible until you have completed the task. I might be willing to negotiate that of your rainbowy friend. But I have a more … personal interest.”

“Do you have some connection to the person who brought her to Arcadia?” Marcella asks.

“You could say that something that was once mine made her who she was,” the Fae replies. The Maker has ball joints very like Amy’s.

Marcella sheathes her other sword and takes out the dagger. “I would want you to swear on this, if we make this agreement.”

The Maker laughs. “I’m surprised that they let you out.”

Marcella smiles tightly. “I’m full of surprises.”

“Well, I have every intention of keeping to the terms of our agreement, as long as you have every intention of keeping to yours.”

“That would be the agreement.”

“Yes, that would be acceptable,” the Maker agrees.

Marcella sighs. “So. We, the members of Vogelfrei, would agree to find this object, which you would give us the details of once the agreement is made, retrieve it, and bring it back to you – ”

“And you will not harm it,” the Fae interjects.

“ – without harming it,” Marcella acknowledges.

“And you will not show it to any other changelings, or give them any information regarding its appearance, location, or any information of to whom you are giving it back to.”

“Agreed,” Marcella says.

“Provided,” Hank adds, “that no such requirement becomes necessary to fulfill the ability to obtain and return it to you.” His roleplaying and rules lawyering background are coming in surprisingly handy.

“Very well,” the Fae says reluctantly. “I expect it to be avoided as much as possible.”

“We will do our best to avoid other seeing or knowing about it,” Marcella says.

“Knowing its exact properties or [manner],” Hank adds.

“Very well,” the Fae says again.

“Additionally, we will spread your story, and discuss your abilities and your achievements with others of our kind,” Marcella says.

“Oh, not just others of your kind,” the Fae says with a small chuckle. “In general, spread the story. Make stories of it. Let it be a legend in your world. I trust that one can take care of it?” She looks at Hulda, who gives a small nod.

“We can’t guarantee the success of the story, but we will make the attempt,” Marcella says.

“Hm. Only an attempt?”

“I can write a story. Whether it is read, I cannot control,” Hulda says.

“There are, mm. My understanding is that there are many mediums by which humans communicate,” the Fae begins.

“Look, we can’t promise that you will go viral on YouTube,” Hank says flatly.

“You … tube,” the Fae says curiously. “Diseases?” She looks very confused.

“A manner by which a certain type of story reaches great proliferation in our world,” Hank explains.

“Ooh, yes, that! That’s exactly what I was hoping for,” the Fae says.

“No one knows the secret of going viral,” Marcella says, exasperated.

“We can’t promise that people will read it,” Hulda says again. “We can put it out there, but we can’t promise that people will read it.”

“Well, I do expect you to use what is available. My understanding is that nowadays, you can make a name for yourself much faster than in the past.”

“As I said, all we can control is the attempt, not its success. But we will attempt, and we will pursue many options in our attempt,” Marcella says.

“Excellent. You will also, when you return with the item I require, bring no one who is not a member of your little merry band,” the Fae says. “And, I do know very well the highly structured nature of the … group of castoffs that you all are part of. And any of those … leaders, I do not expect to come back with you. And you should not tell them my location, as, if you return me to some power and then lead your … I cannot remember the human word for it … your ‘charity organization,’ I think, to my home, and clean me out, that would be … unacceptable, given our gentleman’s agreement.”

“So, when we return, we may bring …” Marcella starts.

“Anyone whom we leave with,” Hank interjects. “And any additional members of our group who are not present.”

“There are additional members of your group who are not present?” the Fae asks.

“Yes,” Hank and Marcella agree.

“Such as?”

“There are others that we have gone on missions with in the past for our … ‘charity organization’ who are not with us,” Marcella replies, thinking of Faron.

“But why would you need those people to return my item to me? I think that the number of you which is currently in my domain is sufficient.”

“We have one member who did not come with us into your Hollow who we would prefer come with us to retrieve your item, and therefore also to return it to you,” Marcella says, now thinking of Fianna.

“That is acceptable. What is his or her name and appearance?”

“Her name is – ” Marcella starts.

Hank clears his throat. “She is called ‘Starfist,’ and she is … you may have actually seen her in the market. She’s about yea tall,” he holds a hand up against his chest. “Waifish?”

“Hm, yes, indeed,” the Maker says thoughtfully. “Very well. She may be permitted, in addition to the people currently in my domain. No one else.”

“Very well,” Marcella agrees. “And in return, you will not harm any member of our group while we are in your domain, either now or …”

“Unless you break the agreement,” the Fae interjects.

“Unless we break the agreement,” Marcella acknowledges. “You will not harm us now, or any of the members of our group who stay with you in this place while we retrieve your object. You will not harm us or prevent any of us from leaving from your domain once we have brought you your object.”

“And completed the second task as well, of course,” the Fae adds.

“The timing on the second task is going to be dependent … we cannot control the speed at which the second task occurs,” Hulda says.

“But you can make every effort to,” the Fae says.

“And will do so by the time we bring the object back,” Hulda agrees.

“Understand that some of my,” she looks at her changelings lackeys, “some of my ‘friends’ here will go out into your world and see if they hear of me. And if they do not, you will be considered to have failed.”

“We have no control over that,” Hulda says.

“They will see if they can locate mention of you,” Hank says.

“Yes. They will not walk down on the street and expect the random person to randomly know of me. But if they search your … internet, and find no mention, if they look at the newspapers and find no mention, then you will have failed,” the Fae declares.

“If you determine, when we first return, that we have not fulfilled the second part of the task, you will allow us more time, and not harm us as we leave and return,” Marcella asserts.

“Yes. I will keep Amy until that second part is completed.”

“And you will give us opportunity to prove that we have fulfilled this part of the task, irrelevant of the … competency of your help,” Hank says.

“They will have to make the determination, and find the information, and bring it back to me,” the Fae says. “I find the real world … draining.”

“We will be given the opportunity to bring evidence here, if required,” Hank says.

“You may. That will not be the primary focus,” the Fae says. “My understanding of the internet is that you can put in words into the box, and if you put words into the box, and get no stories, you have failed. They must be fairly specific words, but.”

“If you put the word ‘maker’ into the box, you will not … it is a sufficiently generic term, that we cannot guarantee that the first several responses will be a part of your story,” Hank says.

“There will be more words than that,” the Maker says.

“As long as one puts the right words into ‘the box,’ then the story will be there,” Marcella says.

“Very well,” the Maker says.

“Regardless, for the duration of this task, assuming we do not break end of the bargain, you will not harm us or any of those whom you hold captive, and you will allow us to leave your domain when we have fulfilled the two tasks you have set to us,” Marcella says.

“Yes,” the Fae agrees.

“You will provide no information of us, neither names, nor descriptors, nor locations, to any other members of your race,” Hank says.

“I do not agree to that,” she replies. “You do not understand the politics of my kind. Suffice to say that there could be situations where that would be the only thing between me and losing the final piece of myself. And I will not choose a lack of existence. It is not to my benefit to reveal any of it until our agreement is complete. I am willing to agree to it for the duration of our agreement, but not forever. I will remind you that I am the one who currently has three of your friends in my possession, and that I am capable of this.” She leans back, does something out of the way, and the cube that Zia is in sinks into the wall.

“During the term of our agreement, and for one month afterwards,” Hank says.

“No.” Zia is pounding on the glass of the window above them, now flush against the wall. She has chains on her wrists.

“For sufficient time such that we exit the Hedge,” Hank says.

“Provided you exit the Hedge within one of your human days,” the Fae says.

“Agreed,” Marcella says. “You will not seek out those of your kind who have knowledge of us proactively to provide them with this information.”

“During the course of our agreement,” the Fae qualifies. “I am not saying that I have the intention to do so, but I will not be … overly hemmed in.”

Marcella looks back at Hank to see if he can think of any way to get her to give any more ground, then glances up at Zia, and says, “Fine.”

“In addition, if any member of our group are not here when we return, the agreement is null and void,” Hulda says.

“That is not within my control,” the Fae replies.

“If Zia is gone, there is no reason for us to give you back your item,” Hulda replies.

“Amy isn’t worth it?” the Fae asks.

“If either of them is gone,” Marcella says.

“Amy will be the only one remaining with you,” Hank says.

“I am potentially willing to allow for Zia to go with you, however, as I stated at the beginning of this conversation, she is, one way or another, my ticket to returning to my rightful place. Either you all will provide that for me, or an old acquaintance will owe me a very large favor. So, I am willing to have her go with you, for she is very destructive, and very loud.” Hank smirks at the changeling in the borrowed armor. “However, I will put something in place upon her such that if she doesn’t return to me within a certain period of time, there will be consequences.”

“What period of time?” Marcella asks.

“Well that depends on how long you think you need.”

“That depends on the object,” Marcella says.

At the same time, Hulda says, “Which we can’t tell you until we know where the object is or what it is.”

“Very well then, we need not put it within the formal agreement, for I will not tell you.”

“But you will agree that Zia will leave with us?” Marcella asks.

“Yes.”

“No geis that you put on Zia will in any way harm or hamper her in aiding us in completing this,” Hank says.

“That is acceptable.”

“And it will be removed upon returning the object to you,” Hulda adds.

“It will be removed upon completing both portions of the task. You all keep forgetting the second part. I know it is less concrete, and that humans have such a strange relationship with concrete and not concrete, but.”

Marcella says, “Unless others have anything else to add,” she looks at Hank and Hulda, “you will return to us the two members of our party who you have agreed to return, we will complete your tasks and come back to return your object and retrieve Amy, and you will let all of us leave your domain without harm.”

“Very well.” She walks across the room. Under Zia’s window is a small desk, where she puts her hand down. There is a flurry of paper, and an agreement is written. She brings it back and says, “Read it.”

There is only one copy, which Marcella holds so that Hank and Hulda can read over her shoulder, and reads very closely to make sure that it says what they agreed to. It looks fine to them, and seems like what they discussed. All those present agree sign the agreement. Marcella cuts each of their hands slightly with the dagger, and they swear aloud, including the Fae.

That done, the Maker says, “Thank you. Now let me fetch your glaive-wielding friend for you. Not that she has a glaive right now. I’ll be back in a moment.” She walks out of the room

Marcella looks up to see what Zia is up to. It looks like she can’t really tell what is going on right now.


Asantewaa has been in her room about 25 minutes, and has pretty much run out of options for getting out. She is rather panicky at this point, and has fairly thoroughly destroyed her room. Where she has been punching the walls and floor, the magical barrier is clearly visible. For the ones on the floor, it looks rather strange, since most of the fragmented pieces are still in place on top of the barrier. She also has bruised and scraped her hands in this process.

She hears a doorbell noise, but ignores it in her panic. She hears the Maker’s voice. “Excuse me – oh dear, what have you done to my room?”

Asantewaa doesn’t respond.

“Well, your friends have negotiated your release.” She pauses, waiting for a response. Asantewaa tries the door, but it still doesn’t open. “However, you should know that in order to negotiate for your release, they have agreed to do two tasks for me, and I assume that you will assist.” Asantewaa goes back to trying other ways to leave the room.

“If you would be kind enough to calm down slightly, then I will release you from the dollhouse, and return you to your friends,” the Fae says after a moment. Asantewaa stops attempting to break out of the room. “If I let you out, will you attack me, thereby breaking the agreement that your friends have made for you?” She puts her hands out, palms open. “Will you attack me?” the Fae repeats. Asantewaa holds her hands up, showing she’s not holding anything. “Have you lost the ability to speak?” the Fae asks testily.

Asantewaa mutters in French that she will speak with Henri and Boneblade.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” the Fae asks.

“I would speak with Henri and Boneblade,” Asantewaa repeats.

“You have not answered my question. If I let you out of the dollhouse, will you attack me?”

“I do not start fights,” Asantewaa replies.

“You still have not answered me. If I let you out of the dollhouse, will you hurt me? Is it that difficult to say yes or no?” the Fae bites out.

“I have answered you. I do not start fights.”

“Answer me clearly. Will you attack me?”

“That depends on what you’re doing.”

“Letting you out!”

“I meant afterwards.”

“Getting you the hell out of my home,” the Fae growls.

“That is acceptable, I suppose.”

“So will you hurt me?”

“If that’s what you’re doing, I see no reason to.”

“Say yes or no, or you will go to your friends as a small, small person. That does not count as harm.” The Fae sounds like she’s near the end of her rope.

Asantewaa seems confused about why this is a threat, and raises an eyebrow. “I have no intentions of harming you unless you have intentions of harm.”

“Very well.”

Suddenly, in the room she’s in, appears a small copy of the agreement that the others signed, with a space for her signature. “Please read this, sign it, and then I will allow you out.”

“I do not treat with Fae. Fae do not keep to their bargains.”

“Well, you are insulting me highly by implying that I would break this agreement. I do not know you, but in my experience, Fae do not keep to their bargains. I will not treat with them.”

“And how many have you made bargains with? Most of your kind make bargains with only one of my kind, and some of my kind are less pleased with their own agreements than others.”

“I do not know you. I must base my decisions on past experiences.”

“Very well then. Your group accepted it collectively, and therefore you are bound by it. So, I will release you, as I agreed. Go to the door, it will open now.”

Asantewaa moves the door, which is no longer attached to its hinges, out of the way. There isn’t a magical barrier any more, and she is in a lovely hallway. The Fae says, “Turn left.” Asantewaa does so, and reaches a grand staircase. “Go down the staircase.” She does that because it makes sense, and enters a large, well-appointed room. “Go to the front door.” At this point, Asantewaa isn’t really listening to the Fae, but goes straight to the front door. “You may open it, it will open. Do not destroy it.” Asantewaa opens the door, and sees a lovely, tiny front of a grand house. There are steps down, which she takes.

The dollhouse doesn’t go quite to the floor, since it’s on another platform. Asantewaa is about an inch tall, and has a few feet to the floor. The Maker says, “I’m willing to offer you a … hand, to your friends, if you wish. They will be exiting a slightly different way.”

Asantewaa checks her backpack, which contains an assortment of food, several sets of clothing, two water bottles, and a phone. She looks around for anything else she can see, but the grand front porch she’s on is pretty empty. She walks over to the edge of the circular platform, and looks down at the painted decorations. Asantewaa takes out her hair sticks and uses them as pitons, slowly climbing her way down the side of the platform.

The Fae watches this in a little bit of confusion. “The perseverance of humans is sometimes so interesting. Hm.” All of a sudden she looks up at the door, walks over to a mirror in the room, puts a hand on it, and sees Fianna charging into her courtyard, though Asantewaa can’t really see because of her climbing. “Ah, Starfist.” Fianna retrieves Asantewaa’s hair stick and enters the hall where the battle with the wolves happened, and sees two dead wolves and one unconscious one.

The Maker makes sure that one of the tiles which traps one in the dollhouse is directly under Asantewaa, so that if she actually reaches the bottom before the Maker gets back, she won’t run off to some unknown place, and quickly walks back to the room where the rest of the group is.


After the group has been waiting for a while, the Fae walks back into the room. “I believe your compatriot is entering my home right now. Perhaps you,” she looks at Hulda, “should go explain the situation.”

“Tell her I said not to do anything stupid,” Marcella says to Hulda.

“Is there a way to not go through the portal room?” Hulda asks.

“I can make it so they don’t track you. And I will come with you as your … friend is being very stubborn.”

“Would it be acceptable for me to go instead?” Marcella asks.

“No,” the Fae replies immediately.

Hulda is escorted by the Maker through the dollhouse room, where the Maker points out Asantewaa on the side of the platform. “There’s your friend. She is … very stubborn.”

Hulda sighs. “Asantewaa … here.” She holds out her hand. “Why’s she still small?”

“She refused to sign the agreement. This is not harm.”

Hulda sighs again as Asantewaa crawls onto her hand. “You can put me down,” Asantewaa informs her as she puts her hairsticks away. “We’re going to go see Starfist,” Hulda tells her. Hulda’s little threads of darkness are only about ⅛ of Asantewaa’s width right now. Asantewaa kind of punches them away from herself.

The Maker also responds, “Why don’t you take her with you.”

After seeing the two of them off, the Maker goes back to Marcella and Hank. “Let me go get Zia all set for you.” She disappears into a side room.

Marcella wanders around the room they are in, looking for her sword and Asantewaa’s glaive. The other three changelings watch her. She doesn’t see their weapons.


Asantewaa looks up at Hulda. “I need to speak with Henri and Boneblade.”

“We’ll go see them in a minute,” Hulda says. “We need to go pick someone else up first.”

The two of them head towards Fianna, who’s in the room with the wolves. “Where is everybody else?” Asantewaa asks as Hulda walks. “Why are we going backwards?”

“We’re going to meet someone, and then we’ll go back and pick up the other ones,” Hulda tells her.

“I can go myself,” Asantewaa says impatiently.

“Do you know how long it would take you to get there?” Hulda asks.

“I’d get there eventually,” Asantewaa huffs.

“It’ll go faster this way,” Hulda assures her.

When Hulda and Asantewaa reach Fianna, they see that her hair is completely on fire. Her hair ties have burned off and fallen out, so all of her hair is on fire. Her eyes are glowing even more than they have been since she pledged to Summer, and she looks pissed.

“Hi,” Hulda says timidly.

Fianna stops and asks, “Are you okay? Is everyone okay?”

“Um, well, Asantewaa’s …” Hulda shows Fianna her hand.

“All right then.” Fianna starts striding forward.

“Wait, wait, but, um, we have a deal to get Zia and this one,” she points to Asantewaa, “back, and Amy’s trapped in a dollhouse until we do some stuff – ”

“I’m sorry, what?” Fianna interrupts. “Did you leave Amy in a dollhouse?” Asantewaa whips her head around and looks at Hulda. “Did you fucking leave Amy in a dollhouse?” Fianna asks again. Asantawaa spits when Fianna says this, though Hulda doesn’t notice because she’s so tiny.

Fianna marches right around Hulda and starts running. “Marcella!!”

Asantwaa tries to jump towards Fianna. “Wait, I want to go that way!” Fianna doesn’t stop, because she’s too angry.

Hulda follows Fianna, telling Asantwaa, “I’m going that way …”

“Go faster!” Asantewaa commands.

All three of them head back towards the others, passing through the dollhouse room, where the tiles are still frozen. Hulda tries to direct Fianna where to go, but she doesn’t seem to need it. Hulda realizes that she has perfect time sense, and knows the fastest way to get to them.


Marcella hears Fianna’s scream echoing through the Hollow. “Ah, fucking …” she mutters under her breath, and turns to face the door. She calls to the changeling lackeys, “I think I better go talk to them!”

“No, stay here, they’re coming soon enough, I’m sure,” says the one in the shitty armor.

“As long as you don’t mind them destroying things in their path on the way here, fine, fine, sure,” Marcella agrees testily.

“I was told that you guys should stay here, and not wander, so you’re staying here, and not wandering,” the changeling says. Marcella sighs.

Hank and Marcella both notice that Zia, who previously had been looking at the window, turns and then disappears from the window. Marcella sees the Maker, inside with Zia, appear to lean over the window, and then a curtain is drawn across the window. Marcella glares up at the window, but is still also trying to face the door so that she’s the first thing that the angry Fianna storming in will see. Hank is trying to monitor the other changelings in the room.

Fianna explodes into the room. Marcella looks away from the window and watches her. Fianna strides towards Marcella, fist raised, and Marcella watches her, not moving or dodging. Using her momentum, Fianna hauls Marcella across the face with a powerful blow. “How could you leave Amy in a dollhouse!?” she bellows. Marcella looks like she’s nearly ready to drop between that and the injury she got from the briar wolf, but she stays standing. Her left cheek has a large, spidery crack across it, and she’s bleeding.

“If you have a way to get her out while making her big again, feel free to try, but she had Asantewaa, Zia, and Amy. There was no way to get them out without dying ourselves,” Marcella snaps back.

Fianna seethes where she stands, not saying anything, but also not trying to punch Marcella again.

“We have made an agreement to get them back,” Marcella says after a moment.

“What?” Fianna asks.

Marcella points at the written copy of the contract sitting on the desk. “We are helping the Fae get something that she wants and spreading her story, and in return, she will give us Amy back. We’re getting Zia and Asantewaa back now.”

Fianna stalks over to the contract, briefly considers burning it, and starts reading. As she picks it up, she says, “I hope you weren’t expecting Asantewaa to be any help.”

Hulda walks in with Asantewaa on her hand. “Um, I have Asantewaa?” She walks over to Marcella.

“I want to talk to Henri and Boneblade!” the tiny figure on her hand demands.

“Hello, Asantewaa,” Marcella says as they approach. “I wasn’t … expecting to see you this small again.”

“Qu’est que ce que ca?” Hank mutters under his breath.

“What did you do?” Asantewaa demands.

“We made an agreement so that all of us would not die or be captured,” Marcella replies.

“You don’t treat with Fae, they don’t keep their bargains!” Asantewaa yells.

“She is magically bound to keep this bargain. We swore on this,” Marcella holds out her dagger.

“On the subject of keeping her bargain, why is she small?” Hank asks one of the lackey changelings.

The changeling shrugs. “Well, she looks fine to me. Just a little small. I don’t know, why don’t you ask her? Our mistress does generally keep her word.”

“Are you alright?” Hank asks Asantewaa in French. Hulda hands him the inch-tall figure, and he holds her up to his face.

“I’m out of that … place,” she replies, also in French.

“Due to our bargain, yes,” Hank tells her.

“Fae do not keep to their bargains,” Asantewaa says.

“Well, if she tries to break her bargain, we’ll be in possession of something she wants,” Hank replies. “Conveniently, neither you nor Starfist was available, so our other opportunity was for Marcella and I to fight our way out against a True Fae and three changelings,” he adds pointedly.

“*You* may treat with the Fae. I cannot stop you. But they will not keep their bargains, and I have no interest in such things.”

“Are you unharmed?” he asks her. On a quick visual inspection, he can see that she is bruised. He wraps his diagnostic bracelet around her waist, explaining in French that he is checking to see if she’s unharmed. There is nothing seriously wrong with her, she just seems to be covered in self-inflicted bruises. She still has a wound from one of the briar wolves, and her heart rate is elevated. She is also exhibiting some signs of panic – sweating, fast breathing. Asantewaa tells him she’s well enough.

Marcella is standing quietly, sort of near Fianna in case she has any questions, but not saying anything. She’s not doing anything about the wound on her face, since she kind of feels like she deserved it, so the blood is just dripping down onto her clothes. Fianna is taking a long time to read the contract.

Hank uses the contract Gift of Warm Breath to heal all of Asantewaa’s bruises. Once that is done, he goes over to check on Marcella.

“Oh, I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” she tells him. Hank gives Fianna the side eye.

Marcella occasionally looks up at the window to Zia’s little room, but the curtain is still blocking the view.

From Hank’s hand, Asantewaa asks, “Hulda says Amy was still in the dollhouse?”

“Yes. She was pulled in at the same time that you were, and the Maker was not willing to bargain for her release until we have fulfilled her conditions,” Marcella says.

Asantewaa gives Marcella a look that’s too small to interpret, but seems to involve a glare. “Did you say Amy was terrified of the dollhouses, or something, and we’re not supposed to let her, I don’t know, ‘something something dollhouses, not Amy, something’?”

“Yes.”

“Shouldn’t be around the Maker, or – I don’t really remember.”

“That is accurate.”

“Then why is she still in a dollhouse?”

“Because the alternative was for us to attack the Maker and her helpers and try and free her ourselves, and that seemed more likely to result in our deaths and Amy’s permanent imprisonment than making this bargain. I was not willing to risk Amy being trapped her indefinitely on the chance that we could overcome them in combat.”

“So, she decided to attack and trap two of your soldiers, and you decided to write a treaty?” Asantewaa asks.

“Yes,” Marcella replies.

“That didn’t get your prisoners of war back?”

“It got two of them back, and will get the third back,” Marcella tells her.

“One trades valuable items for hostages all the time,” Hank says to Asantewaa.

“Unfortunately, the Maker had the upper hand on us, in that she had things we wanted, and we had nothing we could trade to her,” Marcella adds.

“Do you not lead them?” Asantewaa asks Marcella.

“I do.”

“Are they not under your protection?”

“They are.”

“Do you aspire to be Dumar?” Asantewaa asks. Hank looks like he wants to slowly back away from this conversation.

“I do not,” Marcella bites out.

Hank takes out his phone to see if his text message to Alter has gone through yet. It hasn’t, so he tries re-sending.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t trade your people the way he would,” Asantewaa finishes, and turns away from Marcella.

“I am doing my best to protect them,” Marcella tells her, but gets no response. Looking extremely angry, she turns away and walks to the other side of the room.

Fianna stands up from the desk with the contract and asks, “Does it have to be Amy?”

“Yes,” Marcella tells her.

“Why?”

“She said she had plans for her,” Marcella says.

“What if a person agrees to stay wilingly?”

“I don’t think she cares. She has a ‘particular interest’ in Amy.”

It has been around 15 or 20 minutes since the Maker left to retrieve Zia. Hank and Marcella are both getting concerned.

After a minute or two, Marcella gets slightly more control over herself and walks over to Fianna. “So, that’s the agreement that we’ve struck with her. Will you agree to it?”

“I want to talk to her first.”

“All right, she hopefully should be back with Zia soon.”

Another 10 minutes pass, during which Marcella paces.

“Where is your mistress?” Hank asks one of the changelings.

“Fetching your friend,” he replies.

“Is that a particularly lengthy task?”

“Well I presume she did not have prepared the tracking item required,” the changeling tells him. “I would also assume you would prefer that that particular item not malfunction in a way which would harm your friend. Surely care should be taken?” He looks like he is very much looking forward to getting Vogelfrei out of the Hollow.

Hulda takes another look at her cloud of darkness, trying to figure out if it will follow her out of the Hedge. It’s hard for her to tell. It continues to seem friendly, like a snuggly puppy that just wants to be her friend. She asks it if it can get smaller. It kind of whirls at her, but doesn’t shrink at all.

Hank starts to make notes in shorthand French, in doctor’s chicken scratch. He starts pacing after he finishes, and Asantewaa paces on his hand.

About 25 to 30 minutes after she left, the Maker comes back through the side door that she had originally exited through. She has in her hands a bag, out of which they can see the tip of the bamboo sword and the butt end of the glaive. Trailing behind her is Zia, who is no longer wearing the rainbow floofy dress she entered in, and is instead wearing what looks like a strange long nightgown thing.

Marcella, Hank, Asantewaa, and Hulda all look closely at Zia to see if she appears to be harmed. Hank also asks, “Ça va?” They see that she looks distinctly upset and very shaky. She does not, as far as they can tell, look harmed. However, strange colors are moving constantly over her body, rather than her normal unified palette.

In response to Hank, Zia kind of nod/shakes, in the proverbial ‘yes but no’ way. Hank holds his diagnostic bracelet, on her wrist again, up to her, offering. She shakes her head, and he puts it back in his pocket.

Fianna stalks forward towards the Maker. Marcella takes a couple of steps towards Zia, then stops and watches Fianna and the Maker.

Fianna walks straight up to the Maker and says, “I’ll stay instead.”

“I have no interest in you.”

“I don’t care, I’ll stay instead. I won’t kick up any fuss, I will sit around; let me stay instead of Amy.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because I have no interest in you at all. I have no intention of harming Amy at all, don’t worry. I merely … wish to observe her, and perhaps become her friend.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Fianna asks.

“She could tell me very useful things.”

Fianna looks like she’s seriously considering punching the Maker, but restrains herself. “So what’s your definition of ‘harm,’ and what’s your definition of ‘not harm’?”

“We have already discussed that; it is not my fault you were not there at the time. Now then …”

“On the subject,” Hank interjects. “I can, if you require, explain the ongoing mental and pursuant physical harm you would be doing to our friend here by leaving her in a miniaturized state, due to the persistent and cumulative effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, which …”

“No,” the Maker interrupts.

“At least let her be her normal size,” Fianna tries.

The Maker sighs. “I think that at the moment, that is the safest way for her to stay within my domain.”

Fianna stiffens, her fists clench, and she straightens up to her five foot even height, turns around, and marches towards a wall. Marcella moves towards her a few steps, worried she’s about to attack. Looking closely, they can see that Fianna’s eyes are steaming.

Asantewaa, on Hank’s shoulder, is mutter/ranting in French, “Yeah, I insulted you my ass. This is why I never treat with Fae, they never keep their bargains.”

Marcella turns to the Maker. “Will you restore them both to their normal size when the agreement is completed?”

“I’m willing, provided that that one does not offer me any further insults, and actually participates and assists,” the Maker says, indicating Asantewaa.

“I think her ability to assist will be hampered by being an inch tall,” Marcella says.

“Well all of you are changelings who successfully left Arcadia,” the Maker says. “I trust in your resourcefulness.”

“Very well then,” Marcella agrees. “And I see you are returning our belongings?”

“Well, I was contemplating holding onto them until you have completed the tasks. But it does seem like that might make you accomplishing the task I request more difficult,” she looks at Zia for a moment, “and this one’s tool is very loud. It only shut up because I told it that it was going back.” Marcella smirks a little bit. “However, while that one is so tiny, she does not need this,” the Maker indicates the glaive, “so perhaps I will hold onto it.”

“Will you return it when she is full size?” Marcella asks.

“Yes, of course.”

“Very well.”

“Perhaps not,” Hank says. “Weapons can be used by many people.”

“Hm,” the Maker considers. “No, I think that unless she is willing to sign the agreement, then I will keep the glaive until you have completed the tasks.”

“Told you,” Asantewaa says in Hank’s ear. “She said the only consequence of not signing the agreement would be to stay small.”

“You have already provided a consequence for her not signing the agreement,” Hank says, gesturing at Asantewaa on his shoulder.

The Fae gives him a look. “That was in no way a deal; it was a statement. Are you saying that in your human lives, everything you say and do is perfectly correct and perfectly right, and no one ever lies to each other, and no one ever is grumpy, and decides to take it out on anyone else?” She pauses and around looks at them. “Oh, I’m sorry, humans are perfect.”

“Yeah, and most humans aren’t trustworthy either,” Asantewaa says, again in Hank’s ear.

“Regardless, you said that you would give us information about the object we are searching for,” Marcella says to the Maker.

“Yes.” She makes a ‘shoo-shoo’ gesture at Zia, who gives her a look, and walks over to the rest of Vogelfrei, putting them between her and the Maker.

The Maker takes the glaive out of her bag, which seems to be magical, and says, “Well, would you like this back?”

“It is mine,” Asantewaa says.

“Will you be willing to formally acquiesce to the agreement that your team made in order to save you?” the Maker asks. “Will you be that ungrateful, not to sign the agreement that saved you?”

Asantewaa crosses her arms. The Maker sits on her bench, waiting. Hank clears his throat. Marcella watches Asantewaa.

“I believe you asked if I had any proof that you were, what was the term, ‘untrustworthy,’ but it seems you’re already misinterpreting the contract that you signed with them, so no, now I do know something about you, and I want to treat with you even less,” Asantewaa says.

“How have I misinterpreted it!?” the Maker snaps, sounding truly pissed. “I have not misinterpreted it!” When the Maker starts yelling, Zia flinches.

“If you think being trapped as what amounts to a doll will not harm Amy, well, then I suppose you must be foolish,” Asantewaa says.

“I think you are misinterpreting that for not human. We are not what you are. We are what you all with your … abilities, in the end, aspire to be. You do not mean to, but you do, every time you use one of those abilities that we gave you, you only become closer to us. Furthermore, you should know that I know exactly what your friend Amy has gone through. What allowed her keeper to do so in the first place was a power he stole from me. And I currently lack the power to do to her what had been done before. Trust me when I say, she will come to no harm. All I wish is to understand where he has taken my power, and how how he has … warped it to his own use. That is why you are no replacement.”

Hulda realizes that the Fae isn’t lying about the idea of changelings becoming Fae. Thinking about what the Maker has said, can make some educated guesses about what the Fae may be referring to about Amy specifically – possibly her high Wyrd, possibly the fact that she was in Arcadia the longest, possibly the fact that she was taken very young.

“Be it still, if she only aspires to be, as you say, Fae, then she is not yet, and therefore harm can be done to her as it would to a human,” Asantewaa replies.

“Hm. That is an interesting concept, but not quite right,” the Maker says. “At least not for her. Of all of you, she is the closest.”

“So on the subject of things you have lost,” Hank interjects loudly. “I believe you are requesting that we retrieve one such for you.”

“Very well. Are you going to speak for your friend that she is done with this object, at least for now?” the Maker asks.

“I do not think she will agree to your bargain,” Marcella tells the Fae.

“Hm, very well,” the Maker says. She takes the glaive in one hand, and puts the bag on the ground with the other. She walks to the bath in the center of the room, puts it in, and the glaive disappears. “It will be returned to you. I have no interest in such weaponry.”

Marcella picks up the bag and checks to make sure everything that was taken from them is in there. It all is, including Zia’s discarded clothing. She hands the bag to Hank.

When the Maker is done, she goes back to sitting on the bench that had been sitting on previously. She pulls a piece of paper out from beside her. “Here is some information which may assist you in creating the appropriate legend.”

Marcella walks over and takes it, then hands it to Hulda.

“Now, the item that you will be retrieving for me is a doll – a poppet, to be precise – and when I last saw it, or rather, where I last directed it, was to a collector in Paris. This particular poppet is approximately two feet tall, and has a porcelain face, but the rest is hand-sewn. I do not know for sure what clothing is currently on the poppet, but when I sent it out into the world, it was wearing a yellow sundress. You should be aware that the poppet is capable of … an interesting trick wherein, when appropriately, hm, interacted with, it will let you know how you will die.”

“And what interaction is that?” Marcella asks.

“Well, having mostly not personally interacted with it myself, it is difficult to say for sure. I believe it involves, perhaps putting its hand over its heart.”

“There are many dolls in the world. How will we be sure this is the one you’re looking for?” Marcella asks.

“Well, your friend over there,” she looks at Hulda, “will probably be able to identify it, or,” she looks at Zia, “one of them will likely be able to identify its nature. Further, when last I heard of it, it had gone from the collector that I had keeping it safe to another collector who subsequently passed away. This was approximately five years ago.”

“Where was this other collector?” Marcella asks.

“In Avignon,” the Maker says. Hank makes a strange face.

“So we’re looking for a two foot tall doll held by a collector of dolls, and all we have to go on is that when you last saw it, it was wearing a yellow sundress,” Marcella asks flatly.

“It has a porcelain face, and a hand-sewn body,” the Maker repeats.

“Hair? What color is its hair?” Hulda asks.

The Maker blinks for a moment. “Hm. I believe that the hair is brown.”

“Long? Short? Curly? Straight?” Hulda prompts.

“Long. The doll itself looks like a young child. And it will likely be considered some form of a haunted doll.”

“If there are no other descriptors you can give us, then I guess we will go begin our search,” Marcella says.

“Excellent. I am afraid that that is what I have. You will, as I said, probably find that is has a … history.”

“A history,” Marcella repeats.


For rest, refer to audio log at timestamp [1:55:43]

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Game 60: Follow the Rainbow

Summary

Marcella, Hank, Hulda, Asantewaa, and Amy fight with and defeat three briar wolves. Marcella kills two of them, and Hank spares the third, asking how to find the True Fae. Following the sound of Zia’s screams, the group moves through the house, past a cloud of dark threads which attaches itself to Hulda, to a room with a large dollhouse. Asantewaa and Amy are sucked into the dollhouse when they try to investigate it. The others move past and find the Fae and Zia, along with three changeling lackeys.

Log

Everyone is moving past the frozen briar wolf towards the door under the minstrels’ balcony, following Hank and Marcella. Hank is trying to convince the wolf that he is the alpha wolf, and also moves towards the door on the far side of the room.

Everyone notices that the room itself has a few pieces of wooden furniture that are actually woven vines somehow frozen to look more like wood, and there are lots of slightly-off things, as though they are made out of materials that one would normally not use. Asantewaa notices that set into the ceiling, at periodic intervals, are small mirrors. She says, “There are many mirrors in the ceiling.”

Marcella says, “Fucking Fae,” and Hank growls.

Marcella makes it to door, and sees a long, dark hallway. She steps in, but doesn’t go any further.

The briar wolf tries to stand, but still can’t move. However, he does howl again, and there are two answering howls from the corridor in front of Marcella.

Amy runs up near Marcella and changes her knife out for a ball of acid. Hulda runs level with Hank, about 10 feet behind Marcella, and casts Shadowpatch, which makes her less noticeable.

Asantewaa runs up to where Marcella is and grabs a bronze-ish vase and rips off the handle, to use as an improvised weapon. She notices that, just like the hallway they used to get here, there are inset mirrors in the walls, deep enough so they are not easily visible. There are at least three, and probably more. She also sees the glow from a wolf’s eyes at the far end of the hallway, and decides not to move towards it until it has moved toward her. She says, “And now, back to the large mirrors.”

A briar wolf runs out onto the minstrel’s balcony and jumps down, landing on top of Hulda. She is on the ground, with a briar wolf on top of her. Hank uses a grappling tackle to take the wolf off of Hulda. He is on top of the wolf now.

Hulda, now that she can move, reaches for her jar of eyes and tries to blind the second wolf. The contract fails.

The briar wolf at the end of the hall, which Asantewaa sees has a lovely, much more reddish-toned coan than the other one, runs down the hall. Marcella notices it, finally. The wolf barrels into Asantewaa, but doesn’t knock her down. Asantewaa stabs it in the back with her vase handle.

Amy switches her knife out for one of the acid balls.

Marcella moves over to stab the wolf near Hank. He has the torso and legs well secured, and its head is snapping at his neck, so she goes for its arm. She misses with the bone sword, but hits with the obsidian sword.

The briar wolf that Marcella has trapped is very scared, but manages to get a contract off against Asantewaa that makes her move more slowly and clumsily. Next, he tries to use the contract Creeping Dread on Hank, but fails, and frightens himself more. He also still cannot move.

Amy goes to attack the wolf that’s attacking Hank. (Good girls don’t fight, but Amy’s pissed. Good girls don’t fight unless they’re really mad!) She throws the knife into its arm, the same arm that Marcella hit earlier.

Hank growls at all the briar wolfs to try and continue to establish himself as their alpha. The one that keeps botching is now not only super afraid, but is pretty sure that Hank knows what’s going on, and he will not attack Hank. He is trying to curl into a ball, as much as he can without being able to move. The one Hank is currently on top of whines a bit. The other one growls back at Hank.

The briar wolf that Hank is on top of bits Hank, sinking its teeth into his shoulder. The one near Asantewaa claws her across the inside of her ribs, but doesn’t try to escape her grapple.

Asantewaa never really removed her jug handle from the wolf, and now twists the weapon in its side again. It keeps bleeding.

Marcella stabs the wolf underneath Hank in the arm with both swords, in such a way that she twice hits a very important artery. The wolf shudders, falls unconscious, and starts to bleed profusely. The pool of blood is spreading quickly. As far as Hank can tell, the wolf is either unconscious, or perhaps dead.

Hulda stands up and tries to cast Murkblur on the other wolf, but it resists.

Asantewaa’s briar wolf attacks her again, giving her another good scratch across the ribs.

Marcella moves up behind Asantewaa, reaches around her, and stabs the wolf she’s fighting with each of her sword, one in each side. This briar wolf immediately becomes an unconscious dead weight on Asantewaa, who manages to stay upright. It topples to the side, tearing the jug handle out of Asantewaa’s hand, and is bleeding profusely.

The cowering briar wolf still can’t move, but howls in a very specific pattern. This is different from how it sounded before.

Amy goes and retrieves her knife out of the dead wolf.

Asantewaa ambles down the hallway, still slowed down by one of the wolf’s contracts. She’s meandering from side to side a bit. About halfway down, she shoulders one of the full-length mirrors in the wall, and breaks it. None of the shards cut her.

Marcella calls after her, “Asantewaa, wait for the rest of us!”

Hulda also heads towards the hallway and starts looking around. She notices the mirrors in the walls, and that Asantewaa has broken one. The end of the hallway seems incredibly dark.

Hank gets up from off of the dead wolf, rather bloody. He also tries to interpret the last remaining wolf’s strange howl. He believes it is a mourning for dead companions and a summon of some kind. “That wolf just … summoned something,” he says.

“Maybe it’s the Fae,” Amy says.

“Or more wolves,” Hulda muses.

“We best get out of here,” Marcella says.

Hank tries again to convince the last briar wolf that he’s it’s alpha, not knowing how successful he has been thus far. The wolf whimpers and cowers, seemingly able to move a bit more than it could before.

Amy moves towards the middle of the group, a little closer to the door to the hallway.

Marcella turns back to look at the room and check on the status of the rest of her team, and the last remaining wolf. She sees that Hank is now standing, and that the wolf looks slightly less like a skeleton on a string. She starts moving towards that wolf.

The wolf runs up to Marcella and says in garbled speak that sounds more or less human, “You killed my friends. I’ll kill you!” It bites her, drawing blood.

Hank growls at it. Marcella says, “Your friends tried to kill my friends; I’ll kill you first!”

Hulda looks around the hallway she’s in at the walls, and sees smooth walnut paneling. Asantewaa walks a slightly farther down the hallway, still sort of listening to Marcella’s request that she wait for the rest of them.

The briar wolf whines as Marcella stabs it with both of her swords. It is also now bleeding.

Amy throws her knife into the briar wolf, damaging it further.

Hulda looks around the hallway some more, examining the mirrors to see if they are magicked. They don’t seem to be inherently magic, though they could still have magic cast upon them.

The wolf bites at Marcella again, but doesn’t connect.

Hank asks the briar wolf, “Where does the Maker take changelings?”

The wolf growls at Hank a little bit and says, “To the dollhouses. To everywhere.”

“How do you get to the dollhouses from here?”

“Continue onwards.”

Asantewaa continues her very slow, ‘I’m definitely waiting for the party’ meander. She’s about ⅔ of the way down the hallway.

Hank moves past Marcella and grabs the remaining wolf by the scruff of its neck. It doesn’t resist. “Stop attacking,” he growls.

Amy walks over to the wolf and puts out her hand to retrieve her knife.

The wolf slumps in Hank’s grasp.

Marcella says, “I still think we should kill it.”

Hulda is about halfway down the hallway, but can’t see if there is a door at the end. She just sees intense darkness. She continues walking, and reaches the end of the hall. She can see a misty cloud of darkness, as though someone spun it into tangible threads.

“We may be able to get more information,” Hank says doubtfully to Marcella.


For rest, refer to audio log at timestamp [1:10:54]

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Game 59: Grand Theft Zia

Summary:

The party makes its way to the Maker’s stall. On the way, Hank asks Amy what her Keeper or any other Fae Amy remembered seeing looked like, and the party learns that Amy’s Keeper was acquainted at the very least Hulda and Zia’s Keepers.

After a short time talking with the Maker, both Zia and Asantewaa realize that the person in front of them is actually a True Fae. Despite trying to keep calm, the Maker realizes that they have figured this out, and reacts by grabbing Zia by the neck and dragging her through her back door.

The party chases after them but the Maker pulls Zia through the house ahead of them, which turns into a Hollow. They encounter several different rooms and periods in their pursuit. They encounter more dollhouses, one of which has changelings in it. They run into a pack of briar wolf guards, and Hank attempts to intimidate them into accepting him as their leader.

Fianna, as the fastest, is sent back with the dollhouses to Byron to drop them off and ask for help.

Log:

[Refer to audio log dated August 23rd, 2015]

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Game 58: Sprinklesnout and Fancy Lady do Business

Summary:

Alter tells the party that the miniature schoolhouse and the people inside it were brought to the freehold by a hob named Sprinklesnout, and asks the party to investigate the issue. Byron drives the party to the Hedge entrance to the market. The party enters through a delicatessen, and while most of them manage to sneak past, Marcella is forced to purchase expensive smoked salmon in order to sneak through to the freezer entrance.

In the market, after asking around, they find another dollhouse at the stall belonging to Sprinklesnout. Zia buys it from Sprinklesnout, as well as the information on whom he got the dollhouse from in the first place, for the price of Zia’s revenge towel and potential future business, Fianna’s stars, and Marcella’s left shoe.

Amy is given charge of the dollhouse, and the party finds another dollhouse in a stall nearby. The proprietor trades it for Marcella’s smoked salmon.

After the party locates the Maker’s stall, Fianna and Marcella do a walk-by to observe.

Log:

[Refer to audio log dated August 9th, 2015]

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Game 57: A Break in the Case

Summary:

Asantewaa received contract instruction from an elderly changeling named Eloise, and reacted badly when Eloise demanded a favor. Hank got Asantewaa a phone that she promptly turned the GPS tracking off of. Marcella worked at the defense ritual until she promptly passed out.

Research continues into the disappearances. There are still a lot of speculation that Amy’s Keeper might be involved, but new video research also implies that there may be a changeling behind some of what is happening.

Alter summoned the party to court with all haste, and when they got there, they are presented with a tiny schoolhouse in perfect miniature, complete with tiny living people.

Log:

[Refer to audio log dated August 2nd, 2015]

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Game 56: Don't Let the Black Queen Ride the Bus

Summary:

The party (mostly Hank and Hulda) do research into the disappearances around the city of Aachen. Amy becomes increasingly convinced that it may have something to do with her Keeper.

Hulda speaks with one of the court archivists and then Alter. Alter decides to implement increased defenses across the freehold using the system Maria, Anya and Marcella are a part of, somewhat confusing the rest of the party, as she is currently unreachable. The system that is put in place requires the use of a special token in order to leave the boundaries of the city.

Meanwhile, a confused Asantewaa is put on a bus back to the house by herself, and when she arrives, attempts to simply break in through the windows, which fails spectacularly because Hank has covered them all with vinyl. This results in a very silly fight, and once everyone has calmed down, assurances from the rest of the party to Asantewaa that she indeed has a place to stay and that she does not need to leave.

Log:

Audio File Missing.

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Game 55: The Black Queen

Summary

The transition to Autumn finishes, and everyone in the group swears to King Alter for the changing of the season. The changeling working to restore the chess pieces has a success with one piece, and Asantewaa joins the group.

Log

King Alter is on a throne that is covered in autumn leaves and thorns with small random objects worked in among the leaves and thorns. Asantewaa sets her glaive in front of him when she makes the pledge, then picks it back up when she’s done. He nods at her.

Once all of them have sworn, he says, “Thank you. I humbly accept your pledges, and I hope that Autumn holds for all of you what you want it to hold.”

When that is done, he looks at them and says, “Come closer, come closer!” They all move closer. Amy looks a little excitable. He keeps gesturing until they arrange themselves into a semi-circle. Amy is right at the base, but no one is on the dais. Hank makes sure he’s not standing in front of anyone else. Hulda is standing half a step back from everyone else.

Alter looks at everyone and says, “Now that we’ve gotten that bit of ritual over with, Now, ritual is important, and I actually quite enjoy it in the right move, but when one needs to dispense with it, one needs to dispense with it, don’t you think? Before we left the Green Room, I mentioned that Asantewaa here would be joining Vogelfrei for one mission, and I would like to apologize for forgetting to have all of you introduce yourself to her. In retrospect, it does seem obvious that what one notices when you are a chess piece and what one notices when you are a full size person and whether any of you might not have met her … my apologies.” Hank gives Marcella a skeptical look at the mention of other members of the team having met Asantewaa previously, and she looks confused, then the realization that she forgot to introduce him to the chess pieces hits, and she looks sheepish. “I would also like to apologize for such short notice again,” Alter adds.

“Well, this is kind of awkward … could each of you … go in a circle and introduce yourselves?” Alter looks a bit awkward at asking grown changelings to go in a circle.

Fianna’s first thought is, ’Isn’t this what rich kids do at camp?’

Amy’s first thought is, ‘Um, is this supposed … this sounds like some sort of game, is there supposed to be something I should say along with my name? I don’t remember, I’ll just say my name.”

Alter looks at Amy. “Hi, um, I’m still Amy.”

Hulda says quietly, so others in the room won’t hear that they’re doing the awkward name game, “I’m Hulda.”

Fianna just says, “Fianna.”

Hank nods, “Hank.”

Marcella says, “I’m Marcella.”

“I’m Zia,” Zia introduces herself.

“That settled, another reason I was not able to give all of you that much notice as to when this meeting was, once it became clear that this particular matter needed to be dealt with, it was important that it be dealt with as soon as possible. At the moment, of the motleys – I mean, groups – under Autumn’s purview, you are the group which has shown in general the most promise, and has consistently excelled in all the missions you are given. Do know that we are also pursuing this investigation within the Council and the Courts themselves, however, we felt it was good to have a group on the ground, focusing specifically on this issue.”

Alter clears his throat. “It has come to our notice that over the past several months, maybe as much as the past six months, there have been people disappearing. Comparatively rarely, many people from one place or one part of the city at once, and there is a pattern to it, but it seems to change at irregular times, such that the police seem to think that these are merely the work of several separate people, or, in a few cases, we believe they have not connected the disappearances at all.”

“I assume you mean humans and not changelings,” Marcella asks thoughtfully.

“It has been primarily humans,” Alter replies. “There were two disappearances during the Summer Games which may have been related. Recently, one of the members of my court who keeps very close track of the various disappearances and the other strange things that happen in and around Aachen, was looking at these disappearances again, because as I said, initially we thought that they were separate and most likely human, because as we know, humans are completely capable of committing horrible crimes (this is never in dispute, unfortunately),” Alter says this with a sense of distinct finality. “Once she took another look at the most recent set of disappearances, she started to put it all together. So far, there have been at least four sets of disappearances that we have uncovered at this time. What is interesting about them is that these disappearances go on over an inconsistent period of time. For example, the first set occurred over a fairly condensed period of time, about one week, and then the second set appears to have taken an entire three to four weeks, depending on whether or not – there is one person who does actually belong to that set of disappearances. And then the one after that took pretty much the entire time of the summer games, and it wasn’t until just recently that it appears to have switched over to another set of disappearances. Now, we are not entirely sure that we have actually initially arranged all of these disappearances into the right groups. These are only an initial finding. However, the first set of disappearances that we can confirm (and there might be others further back) occurred in the beginning of May. First, a husband and wife were taken. They both have children, who were not taken. And then, about three days later, a little boy was taken, and one day later, a little girl was taken. And the thing that they all have in common is that all four have the same physical appearance. Not that they are identical, but they all look similar to each other. Were you to see those two children, you could conceivably think that they were related to the two adults who were taken. Around the same time, next door to where the little girl was taken, a dog and a cat disappeared.”

Amy looks increasingly concerned as Alter describes the first group of disappeared people.

“The next set of disappearances all took place in grocery stores, ranging from people who were actually at the grocery store, who video cameras record entering the store and then they sometimes record them leaving, but if they disappear, they disappear almost immediately upon leaving the store, and on a few occasions, actually disappearing from within the grocery store. This also included grocery store employees, as well as quantities of groceries, various managerial levels of people related to grocery stores across the city. Yes, Amy?” he adds at her raised hand.

“Did all of the groceries that disappeared, were they all taken by the people who disappeared, or did some just disappear?” she asks.

“Of that, we are not quite sure,” he answers. “They have never disappeared separately. They always seem to have disappeared in the same grocery store at the same time someone was taken. Though to be fair, when someone disappears from your grocery store, that’s not really the time you take stock. Though, it could also have been a day later, a day earlier, it’s hard to know. But, I trust you will all investigate it.

“And then, finally, the most recent pattern, which seems to have finished up around the end of the Summer Games was the most curious, in that it does seem to be connected because all of the people who were taken were taken at similar times of day. However, they span multiple social classes. Several socialites were taken – one disappearance got a lot of attention because a politician’s daughter was ‘kidnapped,’ as the news put it.”

Hank nods, as he read that in the newspaper at the time it happened.

“They disappeared. Also, servicemen – several cops, several firemen have disappeared, as well as people from every social class, a wide variety of occupations, and the only thing in common is that almost all of them have disappeared between the hours of five pm and seven pm. And that is what we know at this time. There are a few sets of patterns, of disappearances that right now, we don’t know if they’re connected or not. But now that we’ve realized this is the case, this seems like the level of disappearance that humans are most likely not engaging in. This seems like the kind of strange patterns that might, in some way, be a product of Arcadia or a changeling.”

“Would the freehold know if a True Fae had been in the city?” Marcella asks.

“The freehold would know if a True Fae had been in the city who still had the abilities of the True Fae,” he answers.

“Are there True Fae who don’t still have the abilities of the True Fae?” Marcella asks, confused.

“If a True Fae is banished, they lose many of their abilities,” he says.

“Who has the authority to banish someone who has complete control over their entire universe?” Fianna wonders aloud.

“Well, that is something that we unfortunately do not quite understand,” Alter admits.

“Wait, so True Fae can’t take people from Aachen?” Amy asks.

“They can, but we will know that they have come,” Alter explains.

“So that’s not what happened,” Amy says, looking slightly reassured.

“To our knowledge, no,” he agrees.

Hulda is gazing up and out, thinking through all the myths and stories she can remember about servants of True Fae-type characters who could be taking people out. She wonders whether the number of people who have been taken are close to the number who have come out of Arcadia to Aachen, but it sounds like more have been taken than have come out, unless you count the chess pieces. She is trying to consider who might, mythologically speaking, qualify as not a True Fae for purposes of Aachen’s defenses, but would have the power to take people. She is thinking it’s possible it’s some sort of beast-type creature that is hungry, and plans to do more research. She remembers that there are a wide variety of myths where someone acts on the agency of someone else, which means that there are many choices, too many to narrow down right now. The timing doesn’t quite match up with the changelings who have been coming out of the Hedge to Aachen in great number. That has been happening for about the past 9 months, while these disappearances seem to have started about 6 months ago. It is still possible that this is a response to those disappearances, though.

At this point, Alter is taking questions.

“Who’s been doing the research, and where can I find her?” Hulda asks. “Can I work with her and look at numbers?”

“Yes, of course. The woman working on the research … let me …” he pulls out a notebook. “The woman working on the research is Miss Marisol Emeraldskin, and you can find her working in the Archives, which are I believe two levels below, in the basement. I will have a note passed along to her to expect you.”

“Thank you,” Hulda nods.

“I assume there hasn’t been any kind of event that would lead to lots of people being unaccounted for?” Asantewaa asks.

“No, there has not,” Alter confirms.

Hulda wonders if there is any particular date or celebration in the Fae calendar which would cause them to take more people, but doesn’t know of any off the top of her head.

“Did the disappearances begin before Summer?” Hank asks.

“Yes, they began in early May,” Alter says. “Now that Miss Emeraldskin is working on this, she may have found some patterns that might go back further than that, but nothing else is confirmed.”

“Is it only in this city?” Amy asks.

“To our knowledge, but we haven’t looked further yet. As I said, literally, while Asantewaa was transforming, Miss Emeraldskin found this information.”

“Mmhmm.” Amy looks pensive and worried.

“Is there a list of individuals who have departed the freehold in that time?” Hank asks.

“A list can be made available.”

“Or, shortly before it’s believed to have begun?” Hank adds.

“Are there any more questions? Anything else I can help you with? Any resources that you would like to be put at your disposal?” Alter asks.

“I think we’ll probably start by talking to Emeraldskin, but we’ll let you know if we have other questions as we continue the investigation,” Marcella replies.

“Excellent. I believe she has all the information regarding the locations and people and dates.”

“Excellent,” Marcella nods.

“Okay. Well, that is everything I have for you. The last question that I wanted to put to all of you was that since you will all be working on this mission, and unfortunately I suspect it will take a while, that you may wish to consider extending to Asantewaa if she would be willing to stay with you, so that you would not all need to come to the freehold simply to discuss this issue. That is of course your call, but my understanding from several informal events that you all have interacted with me at is that you have ample space.”

Marcella looks around at the rest of the group, trying to gauge people’s reactions. Hulda shrugs. Zia smiles and mouths, “New victim.” Marcella rolls her eyes. Fianna edges away from Zia, then contemplates that maybe this means she’s off the hook. Hank does not laugh. Amy is still watching Marcella inquisitively.

“Asantewaa, I – and I believe I speak for the rest of the group – would be happy to have you join us in our house if you wish to do so. The choice, of course is yours. You can, if you wish, come see what it’s like and decide after that. You don’t have to decide now.”

“Well, if it’s not a bother, but I think …” Asantewaa begins.

“We have extra rooms,” Amy adds.

“So many extra rooms,” Fianna agrees.

“We even have a guest room bedroom, actually,” Zia says awkwardly.

“… That probably I need to stay here until we figure out what I do,” Asantewaa finishes.

“What you do?” Zia asks.

“For a job, Zia,” Amy whispers.

“No,” Asantewaa says. “Like, contracts.”

“Ohh,” Zia says.

“Can I have the name of the person I’m supposed to talk to about that?” she asks Alter.

“Oh, of course,” he begins.

“And maybe a map?”

“Of the city, of the freehold …?”

“To get to them,” she finishes. “A name and a map to get to them?”

“Of course. Or, better yet, why not after this … Well, hm. Here, I will let Maria know that you can come speak to her at any point, and she will send someone to take you.”

Amy has just pulled up the city of Aachen on her phone and shows it to Asantewaa.

“What’s on the phone, Amy?” Alter inquires. She shows him. “Ah, a map of Aachen. I’m not sure that’s what she was going for.”

“I think she meant in the freehold,” Marcella adds.”

“Well yeah, but I thought … okay.” Amy trails off.

“But thank you,” Marcella adds.

“In any case, speak to Maria at some point, and she will direct you,” Alter says to Asantewaa.

“Okay,” she nods.

“Or, one of us can show you as well,” Marcella offers. Hank nods.

With that, Alter says, “Thank you very much. If you’ll excuse me,” he sighs, “I have a meeting.” He looks as though he’s waiting for them to leave before he gets off the throne. Hank gives him a sympathetic look, and they all bow or curtsy and begin to leave.

As they’re leaving, Amy shows Asantewaa the map on her phone again and points out, “This is where our house is.”

“The freehold’s right there,” Marcella adds, pointing to approximately where they currently are on the map.

“I don’t speak any German,” Asantewaa says.

“Huh? It’s in English. I don’t speak German either,” Amy says, a little confused.

“But that doesn’t help me navigate once I leave the freehold,” Asantewaa replies.

“As it turns out, most people in Aachen do speak a little English,” Hank says to Asantewaa. He has an accent that is bizzarely familiar to Asantewaa when he speaks in English.

“Fianna doesn’t speak German either. We’re learning,” Amy says sympathetically.

“I will not have any more people comment …” Fianna devolves into muttering about “that bar” and “those people.”

“Esque parlaiz-vous francais?” Hank asks Asantewaa suddenly.

“Oui,” she replies.

“Oh, bien!” Hank continues the conversation in French about people in Aachen and what they speak. All speak German, many speak English, and a large number also speak French.

Amy mouths “what are they saying?” to Fianna. Fianna shrugs.

“Well, Asantewaa, we could show you to Maria now, or we could go talk to Emeraldskin,” Marcella says once they’re all outside the throne room.

“I don’t know that we all need to go talk to her,” Hulda says. “I’d like to get some more information, I have some ideas …”

“I need to talk to her,” Amy says firmly.

“About something particular?” Hank asks Amy.

“It sounds … I’m not sure about all of them. I mean, I’m not sure about … The first one, and maybe the others too, which is why I want to hear more … it sounds like my keeper,” she finishes quietly. “The jobs … I need to know what their jobs were.” There is silence for a moment.

“What would that tell you?” Marcella asks her.

Amy is staring at the ground, shifting. “My keeper … likes … human stories. So, a family with pets, and … and and and all the parts of a grocery store … and I don’t know about five to seven, that one’s the weirdest, but if the jobs are like a policeman, and a firefighter, and there’s a doctor, and um … I don’t know, other … maybe, maybe someone military, and stuff like that, then I …. then that would be bad.”

“Yes, it would,” Marcella agrees solemnly. Fianna doesn’t say anything, but she steps over to Amy and stands there, not quite touching her.

“Hey Amy,” Zia asks. “Did … I’m sorry to ask, but … it sounds like the True Fae haven’t been in Aachen. Were you taken by someone else and given to your keeper, or did your keeper take you?”

“My keeper, but he has … a lot of changelings, and I don’t know how they all got there.”

“Okay,” Zia says quietly.

“He … he likes to make stories, but he doesn’t quite understand, so they don’t come out quite right, so there’s … things you can look for.” Amy continues.

“Well, that first group in particular did sound like a family group, so that’s definitely a possibility to keep in mind,” Marcella looks kind of pissed. “Well, I think you’re right, Hulda,” she continues after a moment, “we probably don’t need everyone to go down and overwhelm poor Emeraldskin at once. If you and Amy and whoever else wishes to go could bring the information back to the rest of us, I can take Asantewaa to go see Maria now. We can’t do much more until we know where to go to investigate, so …”

Amy is still looking very upset. “Amy, are you all right?” Zia asks.

“It doesn’t … matter unless the jobs are right,” she says.

“Let’s go find out,” Hulda says.

Both of these things sound boring to Fianna, but she decides to go where Amy is going. “I’ll go with you guys,” Zia says to Hulda. Hank seems not to have a preference about where to go.

Marcella says to Hank, “I know many of the offices in the freehold, but I don’t know quite all of them, so if you wouldn’t mind coming with me and Asantewaa, if it’s somewhere I don’t know how to get to, your help would be appreciated.” He agrees to this.

Hulda, Amy, Zia, Fianna

Now that Hulda and her group have found their way through the library to Marisol Emeraldskin’s office, Hulda realizes she has seen her before, though never interacted with her. She is a short, moderately squat person. She is a treasured, and her entire face is essentially an emerald mask with stylized features. She has other strange markings on her body, and looks like someone did a bad interpretation of an Aztec statue. She is working in a very small office with both her name and another person’s name on the door. There is only one desk, with a computer and very neat stacks of paper. One half of the room looks like one person’s storage, and the other half looks like someone else’s. One half is incredibly precisely filed, and the other is in between and looks only partially organized.

When they come in, she looks up and says in English with a flowing Spanish accent with disinterest, “Ah, you would be Vogelfrei? Yes? I was expecting you, given the information that I assume King Alter has given.”

Hulda and Amy nod.

“I was told you would be coming. So, how can I help you?”

“Can we see the list of the people who were taken?” Amy asks.

“Of course, one moment.” She types on the computer for a moment, hits a button, prints a list of names, dates, and groupings which is three pages long.

Amy asks if she knows the jobs of the third group, and she says that she is still in the process of acquiring that information. “As of yet, we have the following confirmed. There are three people who have no profession as such, but are politicians or people related to politicians who do not work. One of these people has spent much time working as a … oh goodness, what is the word … a lobbyist. But, not too long, because well, here in Germany we haven’t allowed lobbyists for long.

“In any case, one was a young woman you’ve probably heard about on the news, Miss Doring. She disappeared at the height of the Summer Games. She is the daughter of a prominent politician. Her occupation at the time was as the head of a charity she had started all on her own. Very touching, I’m sure.” Hulda laughs quietly under her breath.

“Ah, and then we also have the police chief for one of the local departments, several policemen from around the city, a single fireman, a faith healer, a neurologist, a variety of businessmen, approximately seven children (who presumably do not yet have occupations; I have not yet investigated those), about … hm, this is interesting. A variety of people who have mostly held part time or transitional jobs at least three of whom are from some of the older families in Aachen. Their families are generally part of politics, trade, business … other big names, in other words, in Aachen. For the most part, those taken from these families were between 15 and 25. Janitors were taken. Several women who cleaned hotels, restaurants, etcetera … a librarian was taken. There are more, do you want me to keep going?” Hulda looks a little surprised at the last one.

“No, I think … it’s not what I was thinking, I don’t think,” Amy says.

“What were you thinking?” Emeraldskin asks.

“It’s not … representative?” Amy clarifies hesitantly.

“Representative of …?”’

“A city.”

“Hm. It seems comparatively representative to me,” Emeraldskin says.

“Is it because of the duplicates, Amy?” Hulda asks.

Amy nods. “There’s too many. And they’re not all the right duplicates. And there’s kids.” Amy hands the list to Hulda, but keeps looking over her shoulder. Hulda is looking at the dates. She can confirm that the patterns of dates seem to be about as Alter told them – the three groupings seem distinct. The family-like group disappeared over the course of a week, then there was a break of five days. The grocery-related disappearances happened between the second half of the second week of May into about the end of June (about 6 weeks, and about 30 people). From the end of June, there was a break until mid-July. There’s a small note that says “potential disappearances not yet confirmed.” Around July 20th to the very end of August, the people related to the five to seven timeframe disappeared (around 60 people). The disappearances stop around the time that Iris disappeared. There’s another note about a potential pattern that has not been confirmed since then.

Amy says, “It’s too many, anyway. It would have to be more than one.”

Hulda agrees. “Yeah, I was looking for a pattern, but I don’t see one there.” She sighs and looks at Emeraldskin. “Do you know if anyone has looked into anything specific keepers, or the Fae calendar, or thought about the fact that the numbers are not dissimilar to the number of escaped changelings who have come to Aachen, or thought about what could be doing this – some kind of Fae servant – or should I assume that we should start from scratch?”

“Well, for starters, I broke this pattern yesterday,” Emeraldskin says flatly.

“No, I’m just asking if there’s anyone who’s started to work on those, that’s just what’s popped into my head,” Hulda clarifies hastily.

“No,” Emeraldskin says with a sigh, “it’s comparatively unlikely that it’s related to any kind of Fae calendar, I mean come on now. They don’t keep calendars. Everyone knows that time passes differently there.”

“They don’t like it when spring doesn’t come,” Amy murmurs.

Emeraldskin looks at her. “Explain your comment.”

“They were talking … yeah, they were talking about how spring wasn’t coming,” Amy says. “And they were mad.”

“Hm, I see. Well, it could play in, but … that does not seem like a useful thing to explore. But the numbers, I agree, they are roughly even. However, to say so implies that those Fae know where these changelings are going. And if all of those Fae, all of those keepers, know that you are all coming to Aachen, why haven’t they come to claim you? Instead of taking new humans, why not take the ones you’ve already fucked up?”

“Somebody knows,” Amy says. “We all got here somehow. They don’t have to all know, just somebody.”

“Are you implying that the somebody sending all of these changelings to this city is a True Fae? Is that what you’re implying?”

“… No? I’m not implying that they are or aren’t, I’m implying that somebody knows. Saying that, even.” Amy is looking at Emeraldskin askance.

“Well, hmph. In any case, you had further questions, but you said about five of them at once. Would you care to state one at a time?” she asks Hulda.

“No … I think I’ve got what I need, actually,” Hulda replies.

“Good,” she calms down and looks back at her data, “I do have extensive data, and as soon as I am done getting all the information that I can on each individual, I will have the information provided to you. Should I have the information sent to you in your work at the library?”

“That might be the easiest,” Hulda agrees.

“Excellent. I assume you are computer literate?”

“Yes.”

“I will send it to you via email.”

Once they leave Emeraldskin’s office, Hulda says, “If you guys want to go find everyone else, I’m going to go start researching things.”

“I … I need to go talk to someone,” Amy says. “I’ll be back.”

“Okay, if you guys want to go tell the rest of them … I’m going to keep working,” Hulda says.

“Amy, do you want company?” Zia asks.

“No … no thank you.”

“Would you accept company?” Fianna asks pointedly?

“… If you want to,” Amy agrees.

“Okay then.”

Zia says to Hulda, “I’m going to go check on the chess pieces and craftsman Hobbs, since I don’t actually know where the others went.”

Hulda texts everyone else that she got the information from Emeraldskin (what there was of it), Amy doesn’t think the last group is her keeper?, and Hulda will be researching for who knows how long.


When Marcella, Hank, and Asantewaa reach Maria, she is working away in her office. Her other assistant is there. The annoyingly-voiced child is there, and kind of bouncing, like ‘is it my turn to go do a thing? Is it my turn to go do a thing?’

Maria sighs. “Good afternoon Vogelfrei, what would you have of me right now?”

“Hey Maria. His Majesty said that there was someone that Asantewaa could talk to help figure out her contracts …?”

“Ah, yes. And you said that King Alter recommended it?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Very well. In general, for your reference, the individuals trained in the use of the device which allows people to figure out their contracts (as it is not an uncommon problem) are generally the oathtakers of the courts, since they often serve in capacities where it is important to make sure that everyone knows that everyone can do. In your case, since King Alter requested it, I suggest that you speak with Asmodea. You might recognize him as one of the oathtakers that participated in the trial.”

Marcella nods. “Yes.”

“Well, let me see … it looks like he is in the freehold today. He is working on something else, but I will send this one,” she gives the child an unenthusiastic look, “to go get him, and he will meet you in the appropriate room.”

Marcella ruffles the kid’s hair, and she says, “Hi Marcella!” very enthusiastically. Marcella says hi back.

“Marcella, I imagine you at this point can … I imagine you recall the room where you all stayed prior to the trial?” Marcella nods. “Next to it is a smaller door (a much, much smaller door) of simple wood, carved with a question mark and an hourglass. Asmodea will meet you there.”

“Alright, sounds good. can we head there now?”

Maria sends them on their way as Anya shows up for her shift and the kid dashes off.

Next to the Bronze Room is the door Maria told them about. Marcella knocks when they arrive. The man who opens the door is tall, with chiseled features that look as though they were actually carved from wood. He is bald, with hints of scales around his face and on his hands. He says, “Yes, yes, which of you am I seeing today?”

“This is Asantewaa,” Marcella says, gesturing. “And you are?”

“I’m Asmodea,” he says flatly.

“Nice to meet you,” she says.

“Well, come inside, this shouldn’t take long.” Marcella follows him inside. Hank only barely fits through the door.

Asmodea rifles around on a cluttered shelf nearby and pulls out an object that looks sort of like a tuning fork with a bracelet attached. It has a keypad with an array of buttons. “Tell me a bit about yourself, so I can program this thing properly,” he says to Asantewaa.

“What do you want to know?” she asks hesitantly.

“Tell me a little bit – you don’t have to go into details, unless you think they’re important – about your durance.”

“Oh, I was the black queen.”

“Okay, well, I guess that gives me more than I had … that explains a lot, actually.” He punches some buttons on the machine, and it makes a strange whirring sound. The prongs of the tuning fork begin to send charges back and forth, through the space between them. Looking at it, Asantewaa realizes that Hobbs at one point tried a similar device to turn the chess pieces full size again, but it didn’t work.

Asmodea unsnaps the bracelet-like piece and gestures. “Hold out your wrist.” Marcella takes Asantewaa’s glaive for her.

“I think Hobbs tried to use something like this before,” Asantewaa comments as she holds out her arm.

“Well, I’m not surprised,” he says. “Which is your dominant hand?” She holds out her right arm, and he snaps the bracelet over her wrist.

He starts fiddling with the punchouts, every so often asking, “What does this feel like?” Asantewaa gets different humming or tingling sensations through her arm, sometimes sharp shooting pains. She describes the sensations, and he seems to hone in on the sensations that are not painful, but still feel quite strange. He fiddles for about 15 minutes of poking buttons and asking questions about how things feel.

While this happens, Hank is observing all this rather closely, but he is not taking notes. In fact, Marcella doesn’t recall having seen him take out his notebook at all today.

Finally, Asmodea presses a button, and the device stops crackling. He waits a few seconds to let it finish, unsnaps her wrist, and puts it back up on the shelf. He walks over to an equally cluttered desk, grabs a piece of paper and pen, and starts writing.

Marcella is leaning against a workbench, arms crossed. She sighs and murmurs, “I’ve spent a lot of time waiting in workshops the last two days.”

Hank takes the opportunity to give her a look and ask, “So. Chess pieces?”

Marcella winces. “Sorry, I meant to bring you to meet them … we should go meet the rest of the chess pieces later. I … brought them out with me.”

Asmodea finally finishes and turns to Asantewaa. “Unsurprisingly, given what you are, you have an affinity with both the control and use of both stone and wood … haven’t seen dual elemental affinities in a while. Congratulations, those are both very versatile.” He is writing down the details of the contracts as well.

“I’m pretty sure you don’t have any of the higher ones. Looks like you might have gotten to at least the middling level. I’m going to write down some of the specifics of the higher ones so you can give them a try. If nothing happens, don’t try to push it any further. Bad things can happen. If you want to go further, you can find someone in the freehold to teach you. Also, unsurprisingly, given your origins, you have a bit of skill with contracts of Board, which is kind of a rare thing around here. We don’t get much of that. At the very least, you have the first one, so you can tell if someone is cheating at a game. You also seem to have something of a talent for communicating with the dead, as well as the more wild spaces.” Asantewaa looks confused at that.

“Oh, and this is a good one – you’ve got one of the Spring contracts. Don’t normally see people with these until they’ve been around a freehold for a while. It’s called Gift of Warm Breath,” and he explains what it does.

He finishes writing some things down. “Here is what you have. In short, you have a rather eclectic set of abilities, more contracts than normal for a beginner to the life of a changeling, but as I understand it, you came to us somewhat irregularly.”

“You could say that,” Marcella agrees.

“Marcella brought us,” Asantewaa says.

“You have several avenues of study, should you wish to pursue them. If you do, in fact, wish to pursue them, Maria or Anya (I suppose Anya at this exact moment) could get you set up with someone willing to teach you.”

“Thank you.” Asantewaa has a stack of about 10 pages of hand-scribbled pages. His handwriting is legible, but barely, written in English.

“Are there any other questions?”

“Um … I don’t think so?” Asantewaa says.

“All right then. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you, Asmodea,” Marcella adds.

Marcella checks the time, and sees that it’s about 6:30. She sees the text from Hulda.

Asantewaa says, “Before we go elsewhere, I would like to check on my … we should check on our warriors.”

“Yes, I should introduce Hank as well,” Marcella agrees. “Why don’t we all head down there?”

Marcella texts the group, “Finished talking to the dude, heading to talk to chess pieces. Let’s meet back at home later.”

Zia texts back, “I’m here already.”

Hulda glances at her texts long enough to see it’s not something she has to worry about, and puts her face back into the 17 different books she is looking at.

Marcella leads the way down to the workshop, reassures the chess pieces that Asantewaa is fine, and introduces Hank to the other 30 chess pieces. Zia is there, having an unexpectedly polite discussion with Dumar about the fashions of various time periods. Hank thinks that this is the weirdest thing that has happened to him since he came out of the Hedge.

Hank asks Zia where the Autumn craftmaster’s workshop is in the freehold. she says, “Oh, his workshop is one floor up, and all the way in the back. It’s one of the biggest rooms in that area. I think his name is on it?”

“Asmodea said that Asantewaa has a wood affinity, in addition to a stone affinity, and I figured he would be the person to ask about instructors,” Hank explains. This is the first time Hank has mentioned to Zia that he knows this person, or that he knows that Zia knows this person.

Hank greets all the chess pieces, somewhat bemusedly. They are very tiny, and he is very large.

Asantewaa is carefully taking time with all of the chess pieces, at least all of the black ones. If the white ones want to seem to talk to her, she will talk to them too, except for Dumar. Some of them do want to talk to her, and some of them don’t really care.

Everyone except Hulda, Amy, and Fianna heads back to Vogelfrei’s house afterwards. Asantewaa picks up her things first, including the many petticoats of the dress she escaped from Arcadia in. Zia is very appreciative of the petticoats. “Oh, is this how you prefer to dress? I can help!”

“They’re not practical, I can’t put them on myself,” Asantewaa says.

“Yeah, it took like half an hour to get that off her,” Marcella agrees.

“I could come up with something that you could take on and off yourself on your own, I think,” Zia says, looking thoughtful. “Yes, I will work on that for you. What colors do you favor?”

“I should also be able to fight, if necessary,” Asantewaa says.

“That can be accomplished. It’s a challenge!”

“Okay …” Asantewaa allows Zia to just go for a minute.

“But really, what colors do you prefer?” Zia persists as they walk out towards the bus. Asantewaa is rather overwhelmed by her. Hank is carrying a mound of petticoats behind them. Marcella takes them before Hank has to get on his bike.

Asantewaa looks as the bus for a minute, then turns to start walking. Zia and Marcella stop her, telling her they will cover her fare. Asantewaa points out that she can’t take the glaive on the bus, and she can try walking. Zia suggests that they see if the freehold could lend them a car, and goes to finagle one out of Anya. After some negotiation about how the car will get returned (since Marcella can’t drive it back, not having a license), they agree that Hulda or Hank can bring it back.

Zia retrieves the car, and pulls up so everyone can get in. Hank has disassembled the wheel off of his bike so that it will fit in the car. The glaive stretches across much of the car, but fits, and they drive back to Vogelfrei’s house. What Asantewaa sees is a large, rambling house, semi-mansion-like, that has clearly had some recent work done to it of varying skill levels. They drive up, park the car, and all get out.

They enter into a front parlor-like room. To the right is a living room type space that is very clearly lived in. Zia say, “Well, this is our house. We do have a guest room, as long as you don’t mind sharing a bathroom with me.”

“Or many other rooms, if you don’t like that arrangement, which we could move a bed into,” Marcella adds.

“Should I care about sharing a bathroom with you?” Asantewaa asks, confused.

“I don’t know, that’s why I was asking,” Zia says. “But, since you seem not to care, let’s do that.”

“Are you intending to randomly come in while I’m in the bathroom …?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then it should be fine.”

“Okay, lovely.” Zia leads Asantewaa up a stair and across a hall. The guest room is fairly small, with a door into a bathroom, as well as a door that leads directly to Zia’s room. The bedroom is clearly a room which is in process, in terms of decoration. It seems like one half of the room is decidedly rainbow-like, and the other half is almost colorless. In general, it seems like it’s being furnished for a mature child.

Zia says, “The sheets are clean. Do you have any idea … you probably don’t know what size you are, I’m assuming.”

Asantewaa tells her the measurements she was given that morning.

“Ah, lovely! I’ll be back in a moment.”

“Uh, okay. I have a frilly nightgown … thing …” Asantewaa looks at it sort of skeptically.

“Ah, good. Well, we can get you some clothes in the morning.”

Asantewaa goes through her petticoats and tries to turn one into something bag-like.

View
Game 54: Iris Disappears

Summary

The group discovers that Iris is missing, but despite investigation and consultation with Maria, can discover no evidence about where she went beyond the slightly suspicious note she may or may not have left. They move into their new house, and arrange it to their liking. They attend the ceremony to transition from Summer to Autumn, where Summer seems reluctant to leave.

Log

The planned move-in for the new house is September 1st. On the morning of August 28th, Iris is not at breakfast, which is not that unusual, but she also doesn’t show up for the casual meeting around 10:30 to discuss moving in and what items the group needs to acquire.

“I’ll go find her.” Amy says, and gets up from the table to go to Iris’s room.

Marcella nods. “Thanks Amy.”

Iris’s door is closed, so Amy knocks. “Iris?” There is no response. “Iris, are you in there? It’s meeting time; get up,” she says, louder. There is still no response. Amy frowns and tries the doorknob. She opens it just a crack and peeks around the edge at the bed. “Iris, are you in here?”

The room is empty, but messy, like someone left very quickly. Iris’ rifle is not in evidence. On the bed, which is made very neatly, is a piece of paper.

Amy blinks in surprise, then goes in and picks up the piece of paper. The handwriting is not very great. She tries to read it, but it’s in German. She frowns at the paper and takes it back to the meeting room. “Iris wasn’t in her room. It was all messy, but I found this.” She hands the paper to Marcella. Marcella scans the paper quickly, frowning, then reads it quietly aloud to the group, translating into English.

“I couldn’t take living in Aachen as a freak, knowing I could run into my family at anytime and they would not know me. I’m traveling around. Maybe see you sometime?? Iris”

Amy frowns, and sits down at the table. Hank’s brow furrows, “Are we certain this is legitimate? With what happened at the end of the games …”

Zia raises an eyebrow. “I … that doesn’t seem right, but maybe … it was hard for her to be here?”

Marcella looks around and nods. “I agree, this seems to be coming out of the blue.”

Amy looks at Hank with wide eyes, “But if a Fae took her, that means one got into the freehold. That was on her bed.” She shudders.

“Has anyone ever actually seen her handwriting before?” Fianna asks.

Zia thinks for a moment, “I don’t think we’ve seen her handwriting.”

Hank’s mouth tightens. “Would Maria have anything with her handwriting to which we could compare this?”

Amy pulls out her cell phone and dials Iris’s number. The phone starts to ring and then says in German, “The number you have called is not available at this time.”

“Um…” Amy starts to hand the phone to Fianna, pauses, and hands it to Marcella instead. Marcella listens to the end of the message, then says flatly, “It says her number isn’t available.” She stands. “Maria would know if the freehold’s defenses were penetrated. I’m going to go check if she knows anything. I’ll be right back.” She looks at Hank. “And I can ask about handwriting as well.” She brings the note with her. Amy fidgets in her chair.

Zia says, “Wait! Marcella, let me talk to the paper first?”

Marcella pauses before she goes out the door. “Oh, good thinking.” She hands the note to Zia.

Zia takes the notes, closes her eyes, and sees the paper stored in a desk with many other papers. Then it is being written on in a darkened room by someone who could be Iris in appearance, who feels very sad and lost. The note is being written carefully, thoughtfully.

“Damn, it could have been Iris? It was a dark room, someone who looked an awful lot like Iris, but the paper was stored in a desk that is not the one in her room,” Zia says. “And she was very sad, upset when she wrote it,” she adds.

Marcella sighs. “Well, thanks for checking.”

Hank speaks up, voice grim. “It looking like Iris would not necessarily mean anything.”

Marcella looks grim. “I’ll check with Maria and let you all know what she says.” She brings the note with her.

Maria is sitting at her desk, looking harried as she continues to deal with post-Summer Games issues. Marcella strides up to her desk. “Maria, do you have a minute?”

Maria sighs, “Yes, I suppose I could find a minute. What do you need?”

“Iris of Vogelfrei disappeared sometime last night. She left this note. Are you aware of any breaches in freehold security? We aren’t sure whether she left of her own volition.” Marcella hands her the note.

Maria’s facial expression hardens, then she takes the note from Marcella and studies the handwriting for a moment, her eyes going a static for a moment. “This could be Iris’ handwriting, I’ve only seen her handwriting a few times. Regarding issues in security …” She sits down and closes her eyes, after a few minutes says, “No Fae have entered the freehold. No unaccounted for strangers have been within our premises in the past 24 hours.”

Marcella sigh heavily. “All right. Well, that rules some things out, at least. Her cell number isn’t connecting, but we’ll keep trying. Thanks, Maria.”

Maria asks, “May I keep the note? A changeling leaving suddenly is a matter to be brought to the council, even if in the end she just needed a clean break.”

Marcella nods. “Of course. Do what you need to do. I’ll let you know if we hear from her.” She heads back to the rest of the group.

Hank has been pacing the room. Amy has gone to her room, gotten Petey, and returned, in the time Marcella was gone. As soon as Marcella comes in, Zia stands up and asks, “Did Maria know anything?”

Marcella shakes her head. “Not really. She thinks it could be Iris’s handwriting. No Fae or unaccounted strangers have entered the freehold. So, nothing conclusive.” Marcella is tense but calm, for now. “Maria’s going to bring this to the council, so that they’re aware of what we know,” she adds.

Zia nods, “Good, good to hear. I just … I don’t think Iris would leave without saying goodbye.”

Marcella crosses her arms. “Me neither. But, she’s always been quiet. Maybe there was more going on under the surface than we realized.”

Amy nods, “I was teaching her dream stuff. I can’t teach her if she’s gone.” Marcella looks a little surprised to hear that Amy was teaching Iris. Fianna just reaches over and scratches Petey absently behind the ears. She doesn’t say anything.

Marcella closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose. After a moment she looks up, shaking her head. “Unfortunately, I’m not sure what else we can do from here. Unless anyone has a contract that can track where she’s gone, we can’t follow her.” Hank shakes his head at the comment about a contract for tracking. Marcella pauses, then looks at Zia. “Zia, is there any chance you could tell more about what happened by looking at her room?”

Zia nods and says, “I can definitely try.” She gets up, “I’m going to go do that,” and leaves the room, walking to Iris’ room.

Amy frowns deeply and fidgets. She keeps opening her mouth like she is about to speak, then closing it again without saying anything.

Marcella starts pacing on the other side of the room from Hank. At one point, she pauses, pulls out her phone, sends a text, then keeps pacing.

At Iris’ room, Zia eases the door open and looks around for the best object to use as the base. She settles on the door and begins to talk to it, with one hand on the handle. Zia sees someone open the door very carefully. As she gets a better look, the woman looks vaguely like Iris, but not quite, though it is still dark. She puts the note on the bed, then rifles through the drawers and the desk, putting items in a duffle bag she has on her shoulder. After only about five minutes she sighs, says, “I’m sorry,” and leaves. Zia crosses the room and sits in the chair. After taking a moment to herself she returns to the group.

Marcella turns to the door as soon as it opens. “Any luck?”

“I’m not sure? Just like with the note, it looks like Iris, kinda, and she was so sad and regretful, and the way the room was cleaned out could make sense I guess … but I just don’t think that was really Iris …” Zia says.

Amy slides from her chair to the floor, puts her arms around Petey’s neck and buries her face in his fur. Fianna still doesn’t say anything, but her hair is starting to throw off sparks, and her eyes are burning. Marcella turns her face away from the room for a moment, jaw clenched.

Hank has his arms folded across his chest, and his jaw is also tight. “Can we get someone else in there who might be able to verify this?” he asks.

“You mean someone else to go look at Iris’s room? I’m not sure how formal the Council’s investigation will be. Or if there will be an investigation,” Marcella says.

Amy gets up, and goes to take another look. “I’ll see if I can see anything.” Hank goes with her.

Zia nods at her. “I’ll go ask the guards who was on shift at that time if they saw Iris leave,” she says.

“I can ask Maria about the process for the formal investigation,” Marcella says, and heads out as well.

Zia says, “I’ll go with you Marcella, as Maria presumably has that information.” Marcella nods, barely pausing for Zia to catch up.

Maria looks up at Marcella and Zia arriving, “Yes?”

“Maria, since I last spoke with you, Zia did some more investigation into what happened with Iris last night. We wanted to talk to whoever was on guard last night, and also get information about what actions the council might take.”

Maria moves to her computer and after a moment says, “The two people guarding the entrance are both currently off duty and presumably at home, but I will reach out to them and check in to see if they saw her leave or anything suspicious last night. Regarding actions taken, then council will investigate to see if she was taken against her will, but if she left on her own, we are bound not to force her back.”

Marcella nods sharply to Maria. “Of course. If she left of her own free will, she should of course be free to do whatever she pleases.”

“If indeed. Now, anything I can help you with, or can I continue reaching out to the appropriate people regarding Iris?” Maria asks grumpily.

Marcella glances at Zia to see if there’s anything she wants to add. Zia nods at Marcella. Marcella nods. “No, that’s all. Thanks, Maria.” She heads back to the meeting room. Maria nods back at both of them and picks up the phone, dialing a number by memory.

Zia heads back to the meeting room with Marcella. Marcella looks tense and angry, and starts pacing again once they reach the room. Zia sits down and starts doing some embroidery, as calmly and carefully as she can manage at this time.


Hank steps out into the hall so as not to interfere with Amy’s investigation, and paces up and down.

Amy examines the room to see if she can reconstruct what happened. She has a vague idea of what went on. The person in question entered, the note was put on the bed, and the drawers were systematically rifled through, and several things taken, such as clothing, before the person left, but that’s it. She comes out of the room, “I can’t find anything different from what Zia said,” she tells Hank.

Hank sighs and nods and Amy, “Thanks for trying. Maybe we should head back to the meeting room and see if Marcella and Zia have any news from Maria?” Amy nods, and follows Hank back.

As they enter, Zia asks, “Did you find anything?”

Marcella visibly collects herself when Hank and Amy get back, and at least looks calmer as they respond to Zia.

Hank shakes his head. Mentally, he is trying to calculate how often he has seen Iris since the end of the Games. “When did any of you last see her?”

Marcella shakes her head. “I haven’t seen her since dinner last night. She seemed the same as always then.” She sighs. “Well, if it really wasn’t her who packed up her things in her room, there is someone in Aachen who might know what happened. Does anyone know where Iris’s fetch lives?”

Hank looks surprised at the suggestion, “I did not even know she had one.”

Zia shakes her head. “Nope, I know she has one and that her fetch is in or near Aachen, but that is it. Could be a reason for the person I saw looking like but unlike Iris.”

Marcella nods. “Iris is originally from Aachen, and she mentioned once that she has a fetch, but I don’t know anything about her family, or even how old her fetch appears to be now.” She sighs. “Well, I can ask Maria, but she may not know either. Until the council investigates further, I don’t think there’s anything else we can do,” she says reluctantly. “Let’s keep trying her phone, and all keep our eyes open around the city.” Amy nods, sadly. Hank agrees.

Zia nods in agreement. “I don’t like it, but it is all we can do for now.”

Marcella nods. “All right. In regards to the move in a few days …” She brings the meeting back around to its original purpose.


Vogelfrei moves into the new house on September first. Once they are in the house, Marcella is happy to help with household repairs, but has to be taught how most of that works. Otherwise, she is mostly training and working. She spends occasional nights away from the house, and sometimes comes home late at night. Marcella is saving up for a bicycle to commute to the freehold.

At some point during that time period Fianna finishes learning the contract that lets her walk through closed doors and windows, and for about a week she just casually walks through them when she knows someone’s on the other side and not doing anything private because it startles people.

Amy happily gives instructions to any ceramic or otherwise clay-based parts of the house to have them fix themselves. She spends a lot of time playing outside with Petey. All the brickwork on the house is looking lovely.

Marcella is very admiring of the contract tree Fianna is learning, and is working on the first contract of that tree. Marcella has also learned a contract that controls bones, and sometimes practices by manipulating her own fingers by contract, though usually not in public spaces. Fianna helps with this by standing on the gutters and daring Marcella to come after her. Because she’s helpful.

After a few days, people may notice that Amy starts getting fidgety if she spends too much time in the house away from people, and will start making up excuses to be around people or go to the freehold. She is always happy to volunteer to be the one to make trips to the freehold.

Hank has the most stuff of anyone, and borrows Byron’s car to take everything from his old apartment. About 90% of it is books with titles that none of them can pronounce (even the ones in English). He claims the most isolated bedroom, which is the one in the servants’ quarters.

Fianna claims a room with big windows, higher up. More than once she has been seen to crawl out onto the roof at night. The actuality of having a room of her own that doesn’t belong to anyone else hits Fianna hard, though she tries her best not to show it. Observant people notice that she spends an excessive amount of time arranging things just SO and has even, totally embarrassed, inquired after maybe getting things for her walls from Zia.

Zia asks Fianna what she wants on her walls and says she’d be happy to help make whatever goes there. Fianna, having not thought that far—-only about the effort of asking—says she will get back to Zia.

Marcella can carry all her belongings on her person in one trip. Her room is pretty Spartan. She mostly owns swords and clothing Zia has made for her. She claims a bedroom with a view out the front to the street, where she can keep an eye on who’s approaching the house. Marcella is always up early, even when she doesn’t have work. She doesn’t go to bed particularly early, though. She continues practicing her sketching, and is getting better slowly.

Amy realizes at this point that she has very few outfits of her own, having mostly been borrowing from the freehold, and starts pestering Zia to help her make more outfits for herself. She claims the attic bedroom and mounts lots of shelves on the walls, but so far they are empty, and the room is otherwise fairly bare. The only piece of decoration Amy has in her room, aside from the empty shelves, is a colorful rug that covers most of the floor. She does have a few early readers on her shelves, which she practices reading from.

Zia sets herself up in a bedroom in the upstairs with its own bathroom and claims a large room with big windows that was likely meant to be an upstairs parlor of some kind for her craft room. She puts mirrors in her room and focuses on learning more of the contracts of reflection. She gladly helps teach Amy to make clothes and makes a few for her as the first few such things Amy makes take her awhile.

Zia’s room is bright and colorful and she is slowly, but steadily adding to it and the general décor of the house. She is adamant that this house feel like a home. Next to her bedroom is a smaller bedroom that shares a bathroom with hers. Zia begins to furnish it when she can as a guest bedroom.

Marcella designates a large, empty room as an exercise/practice room, and spends more time there than in her bedroom, when she’s awake. She is happy to help anyone who wants it with physical training.

Fianna works at the freehold most days, often waiting for Marcella to be finished with her own work. On the days she comes home alone, she can often be heard before she’s seen, as she’s usually singing some song or another as she walks up the road from the bus stop. After the first few days in the house, Fianna can tell anyone exactly how long it takes to get to the freehold depending on the day and the traffic level.

Hank sets up the room next to his in the servants quarters as a study, and suggests that they may want to convert another of them into a library. Zia heartily agrees with Hank on this and picks the room in the servant’s quarters with the most sunlight for the library.

Hank disappears for most of a day, and a few days later a van shows up with a huge antique dining room table and chair set that could easily seat 12. It matches the style of the manor very precisely.

Zia has talked to Amy and is happily using the new crafting space to create things for their shop. Their superhero lines are proving quite popular. The house is slowly decorated at least partially from the first attempts at a new product of either their mythological or superhero lines. Some of the creations that don’t sell end up as the first true decorations on Amy’s shelves. Mostly the ceramic things she makes.

Fianna has been attempting to learn better German, but she does so whenever most people are not around or asleep. Marcella starts speaking German to Fianna whenever they spar together. Hank begins speaking German to both Fianna and Amy most of the time, though he will translate as needed.

Amy asks Marcella if she can have lessons too. Marcella is happy to speak German with Amy as much as she wants, but isn’t sure how to go about formally teaching Amy German. Marcella also starts running team meetings in German, once she thinks both Fianna and Amy are close to the right comprehension level. At this point Amy acquires a few more readers, these ones in German.

Fianna’s accent makes her German hard to understand, and she has trouble modulating it until she thinks about is as a singing exercise. The look on her face when she first speaks in (relatively) unaccented German is hilarious and she mutters a lot about not liking it one bit, no sir, but her efforts to learn are much more stringent after that.

Hank surreptitiously outfits another of the servant’s wing rooms as a storeroom for Amy and Zia’s merchandise, but he doesn’t actually tell them about it, just waits for Zia to notice. One day while Zia is puttering in the library contemplating what they can afford to add next, she notices the store room. She thanks Hank for his thoughtfulness. Hank pretends he doesn’t know what Zia is talking about. He also asks Zia for help working on the Animation contract that she used in Iris’ room.

Zia raises an eyebrow at Hank’s lack of memory. She also happily helps him with learning the new contract. The old house gives them great opportunities. Hank and Zia methodically work their way through the house learning about previous inhabitants.

Zia also makes sure that one of the bedrooms on the first floor in one of the additions is simply appointed in case Iris comes back.

Marcella looks pensive and gets quiet whenever Iris’s name comes up, but updates the group when she hears things from Maria. All she has heard is that no one saw Iris leave that day or anything suspicious. The council is concluding that Iris likely left of her own will, but it is not perfectly clear, so the investigation is technically still open.

Hank checks with Maria and Anya several times about the investigation, and also discusses with Marcella about Iris’ family and whether they could see if the fetch is still in place. Maria is reluctant to give Marcella information about Iris’ human family, but says that that angle has been investigated and to their knowledge, the fetch was not involved

Hank makes some quiet inquiries (not through Marcella) with some of the experts in the Freehold about whether it would be possible to make a second fetch of a Changeling after they have come back through the Hedge. He learns that fetches of any skill can only be made by the Fae, and a second fetch is theoretically possible but unlikely, though potentially more feasible if the first fetch has been destroyed.

Hank starts trying to track Iris’ behavior since Epicuria appeared. He learns that Iris was even more paranoid than usual the two days after Epicuria’s visit, but then seemed to stabilize and was only a slightly higher than usual amount of paranoid. The day she disappeared, she seemed a bit restless at dinner. He keeps a separate notebook in French and in code to track the investigation into Iris’ whereabouts, but he can’t stop his sinking worry that Epicuria took her.


Earlier in the week, the house had received an invitation to the turn-over of the seasons ceremony. It requests that they be at the Court at 11:30pm on September 20, a Friday evening.

Zia nods and says, "Ah, yes, we have lovely outfits for this.”

“Do we?” Fianna says. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Marcella is unsurprised by Zia’s “lovely outfits,” and agrees to be dressed up for the ceremony with thanks to Zia for her hard work.

Amy is excited to go to the ceremony. She’s heard a lot about the fall court, and been thinking about them very seriously. Actually seeing the ceremony should be enlightening. Amy happily dons the outfit Zia made.

When Hank moved in he revealed himself to have more than adequate wardrobe, but he’s willing to let Zia continue to make things for him, since it will probably coordinate with the group.

Fianna adjusts all her pins from the Summer Games until she’s satisfied. This is the first official court function since the end of the games and while she won’t admit to it, she’s excited.

Amy surreptitiously checks to see if Fianna wear the obstacle course laurels, and does the same.

Everyone’s outfit has red, yellow, and orange in it. Fianna and Marcella’s omit the greys as they are bright Summer people. The others’ outfits have a bit of sombering grey or brown.

Fianna has been practicing with braiding her hair. Right now she has an impressive braided crown with a soft fall of hair framing her face. The stars have moved to accent the edge of the braid crown, lighting up her face. She is not wearing the laurels. There honestly probably isn’t room on her head.

Marcella, who always wears her hair in a braid down her back, has been helping Fianna practice. There have also been multiple nights where Fianna sat on the roof and practiced. In the beginning, much swearing was involved. Hank unexpectedly reveals himself to know how to do that precise crown braid, and offers to help Fianna with it. Fianna accepts Hank’s help, half out of utter confusion.

The whole team is at the freehold by about 11:30 on the 20th. The room is full of changelings. Queen Kenna and King Alter stand on the dais at front, having a quiet intense discussion.

Marcella makes her way through the crowd, greeting people she knows and vaguely recognizes from the Games and working with Maria. She finds a spot that has a reasonable view, but isn’t right up close to the front.

Zia follows Marcella’s lead and gives a few people a wave. Fianna is not so good with the mingling thing, but an attempt is made.

Amy smiles and waves at Anastasia, but stays with the group. She does maneuver herself towards the front of their party, wanting a good view of the ceremony.

Hank nods at the various people he knows, but mostly he trails awkwardly after the rest of the group. He hangs to the back and tries to make sure he isn’t blocking anyone’s view.

Once they have found a spot, Marcella drifts to the back, since she is the second-tallest in the group. She’s keeping an eye out for Faron and Emil, and will join them if she sees them.

At around 11:50, the room is quite full and discussions across the room are in full force. Alter and Kenna have finished their intense discussion and Alter has left the room. Kenna has the Spear of Summer in one hand.

An assortment of Autumn Knights are in the back of the dais. Nodons stands right behind and to the left of the throne and is examining the room carefully, looking particularly at the people and decorations.

Everyone but Hank overhears someone say, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the summer decorations look so vibrant on the night the season turned over before. If anything … they look even more perfect than the day it became Summer.”

Amy files that away to think about later. Marcella frowns and takes a second look around at the decorations, but doesn’t comment. Zia quirks her head, but doesn’t comment

At around 11:55, a gong is sounded and the deep brassy sound echoes in the room. The people hush as Queen Kenna sits in the throne, the spear with the but on the floor. As she sits upon the throne, the room fills with the smell of fresh-cut hay, ripe fruit, and the heat of the sun. “I am Kenna the Summer Queen. The fire of summer, the fire of revenge upon those who would use us, would destroy us for the humanity we held inside of us, can never die. We continue to triumph over the enemy, continue to strive to become more, become better. This is an endless path.”

As she finishes her statement, Alter comes up to the dais, a massive old-fashioned mirror in his hands. “The passing of the seasons is inevitable and it is time to move past mere might. For balance to be kept, all seasons must play their part. As the world moves towards dormancy, we must turn to searching the depth of our hearts, of our worlds for answers. We must find the fear in ourselves and others and use those fears for more than hiding, but for motivation. It is time to use what we were given to strike back!”

All that is going through Fianna’s head at the moment is movie night.

Kenna replies, “The seasons change, Alter, and with that change, I cede the throne and the leadership of our freehold to you. Do not forget that within fear often lies anger.” She stands from the throne and moves to the far side of the throne.

The Autumn King sits down upon the throne. As everyone holds their breath, the golden crown with fruits upon it begins to melt from Kenna’s head, but the fruit seems to resist leaving. On Alter’s head a dizzying array of leaves seems to begin to sprout from his head.

The summer decorations pulse and seem to grow stronger, brighter as the smells of summer intensify in the room. The color scheme of the rest of the hall is changing veeeery slowly. Alter frowns and they can almost feel him focusing, shoving the room into Autumn. After a full minute the decorations fall into their Autumn coloring and organization with an audible pop. The room is now in the Autumn colors with harvest time leaves, bare branches and many birds.

Alter closes his eyes for a moment, then with the mirror facing out towards them, he announces, “I am the Autumn King Alter Levy, the Historian Shadow. I declare this court to be in Autumn! I dedicate this season to finding the purpose of the fears in our hearts!” As he does so, in the mirror each of them sees reflected whatever fear is foremost in their hearts at this time.

Marcella sees the rest of Vogelfrei dying around her, and is powerless to help them. She sucks in a quiet breath, and her hand goes instinctively to her belt, though there’s no sword there. She grasps her dagger, which is currently in the form of a fan. Marcella glances around at the rest of the group to reassure herself they’re all right, then relaxes slightly and releases the fan.

Hank flinches sharply backwards as the mirror shows him in Epicuria’s lab with Iris on the table in the foreground and all of the rest of the party in cages or on tables moving backwards. Mirror!Hank has a dispassionate look on his face as he calmly reports to Epicuria about something, flipping through pages in his notebook. Just before Hank blinks, he notices that the person on the furthest table is Liv.

Amy sees the room as it is, but she slowly fades away and disappears from the image. Just as Amy is looking sadly at the mirror, she shows back up in the image abruptly, looking far more inhuman than she does in reality. Amy’s eyes widen and she takes a step back.

Fianna sees violence, violence without reason or remorse, her own hands dripping red with blood from an unknown source, and a chilling smile on her face with nothing of a vestige of humanity left in it. She doesn’t turn away from the image, but her eyes narrow and tighten, and her hair sparks.

Zia sees her keeper Brighid with a little rainbow girl holding her hand standing over a recently planted garden. The little girl is helping Brighid plant seedlings in the ground. Zia takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, shakes her head and turns her attention back to the ceremony.

Around them, people are muttering about how long the change took, and some are more startled than others about the mirror.

View
Game 53: House Hunters Aachen Edition

Summary

Marcella discusses with Hank his decision not to tell the rest of Vogelfrei about the fact that his ‘friend’ is King Alter, and he defends his choice. A few days later, Marie calls Vogelfrei together to talk about jobs and housing, telling them that they need to start working and supporting themselves. The team goes on a tour of three houses, and decide to rent a large, rambling house that is a bit far from the freehold.

Log

Hank thoroughly enjoys movie night, and attempts to engage both Alter and William in commentary about it at the end. He also suggests scheduling another to continue the series. William is initially like a deer in the headlights, and stays shy for the entire night, but by the time the movie is reaching its climax he has relaxed somewhat and engaging in conversation.

Marcella continues to be a bit stiff and awkward with Alter, but she is mostly relaxed with everyone else. She enjoyed the movie and the team bonding time, and is happy to have another movie night. Amy is shy towards Alter, but pretty quiet while the movies are going. She happily agrees to another movie night. Zia enjoys the movie well enough, but is taking notes for merchandise.

Alter takes everyone’s nervousness in stride, seems happy when people eat the snacks he provided, and gladly agrees to another movie night. He happily geeks out with Hank on various comic universe points, and comments that one of his favorite things about this century is the availability of a wide variety of media.

Fianna appreciates Hank’s sense of humor, the snacks, and arguing about a fair number of comic points when she can’t help herself. Her arguments are mostly things like ’Rogue’s accent is wrong grump grump.’ Hank grins at Fianna joining the debate, and makes a mental note to lend her some of his comics if she wants to catch up on parts.

After Alter leaves the room, Marcella comes up to Hank. “So, you have a lonely friend, huh?” She has her hands on her hips, but is also smiling disarmingly.

“Oui, I do,” he replies. “I do not think that Alter has just socialized with anyone in a long time. I sent him an omnibus set of the comics, after he expressed interest in them in the Monarch’s box? And he invited me over for tea to discuss them.”

“I see …” Marcella says slowly. She shakes her head. “Well, that certainly isn’t what I was expecting. It would have been nice to get a heads up that we’d be socializing with the Monarch of the next season, along with our comic book movie.” She raises an eyebrow up at Hank.

Hank shrugs at her with the same careful nonchalance that he had used when folks were first arriving. “Where is the fun in that, eh?” His grin fades, though, and he leans forwards. “To be serious, though. Would you have treated it the same way? I did not tell you you would be socializing with the Monarch of the next season, because you were not socializing with the Monarch of the next season. You were socializing with my friend. Alter.” He pauses, and shrugs again. “Who happens to the be Monarch of the next season.”

Marcella crosses her arms and shrugs, looking a little uncomfortable. “In my experience, a Monarch is always a Monarch. You can’t set that title aside for an evening, much as you might want to.” She hesitates, then smiles up at Hank. “But if you and His Majesty are forming a friendship, more power to you.” She nods to him and turns away to finish clearing up the room.

Hank sighs and mutters, “I just wanted everyone to be able to go into it relaxed and not treat it so formally.” He also turns to helping to pick up the room. Marcella doesn’t respond to that.


About one week after the games are over, each of the team wake up in the morning to a note under their door. It says, “HOW TO LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD aka rent an apartment, get a job, pay your rent, Vogelfrei edition. Please come to the Mauve Room at 5pm today.” Hank received a phone call from Maria the day before, asking him to come by at 5 pm the next day if he would like to be there. Hank chuckles, since he already got this talk, Lions de la Teranga edition, but agrees to show up.

Zia sighs a bit and ribs Maria for the wording on the note, who tells her that SHE did not write it, her assistant did. Hulda finds the notes she took about apartments and brings them with her. Marcella chuckles and shows up a few minutes before the appointed time. Amy shows up at 5pm, with her doll, but without Petey.

As everyone comes in, they see a bank of computers on one side, a big table on the other side, and then a more traditional single-person desk at one end, which Maria has set up with rent forms and many other papers. Amy sits at a computer, but Maria shoos her to the table. Hank offers Maria a pastry when he comes in. Everyone is on time to the meeting.

Maria is looking at her stacks of paper as people come in, though she does accept a pastry. She has a small tablet computer and looks slightly grumpy.

At 5:00, Maria looks up from her paperwork. “So. All of you – and Hank – have been out for quite a while at this point. As you know, we have been supporting you, and despite all the help you’ve given the freehold, it’s time to be kicked out and learn to fly on you own. First thing: all of you will need some form of income in order to rent an apartment. So, let’s talk about kinds of jobs.” She then gives a five minute explanation of different kinds of jobs for those who many not have heard of them. She does this very succinctly and does not pause for questions. And the end, she finally stops and looks around. “Questions?”

Amy looks a little stunned. Marcella shakes her head.

“Now that we’ve discussed different kinds of jobs … I believe Hank already has a job, so I believe he can help me help the rest of you go on these computers and look for jobs. I can tell you that the freehold is looking for someone to be a research assistant to one of our archivists -” everyone looks at Hulda “- and also, often when there is a changeover of Courts, the guards change as well, so we will be looking for some Court guards.” Hank looks at Fianna. “Those are the jobs I know will be open, but if you’re looking for work at the Court, let me know. As part of your transition to the world outside Arcadia, we recommend you do something regularly outside the Court that interacts with normal humans. Yes, I know I don’t take my own advice. Hush. If it comforts you at all, I call humans all the time. We will now go around and see what kinds of jobs people are interested in. Fianna?”

Fianna looks stunned. “Uh …”

“‘Uh …’? All right, let’s move on. Hulda?”

Hulda says she’d be interested in the research assistant or a similar job. Maria gives her contact information for the researcher and says she should see if he’s interested in working with her. Otherwise, there are strings they could pull to get her a job at the university.

“Amy?”

“Um … I don’t speak German.”

Zia interjects, “Amy and I have started a craft business together, and we’re actually doing fairly well.”

“Yes!” Amy agrees.

Zia continues, “We’ve been spending a lot of time on merchandise, and we actually recently opened a new avenue. I think we would be able to pay a fairly decent rent, if not super high.” Amy nods emphatically. “Especially as I’ve started to make some of my larger art pieces.”

Maria asks, “So neither of you will take on further employment?”

Zia says that they will not, as they did quite well during the Summer Games and set aside a fair amount of money. The success of their teammates aided in this.

“Happy to be of service,” Marcella mutters.

“Yes, thank you!” Zia agrees.

“I still don’t know German,” Amy says very quietly.

“We’re working on that,” Zia assures her.

“Marcella?” Maria asks next.

Marcella says that she’d be interested in the position she had previously inquired about at Court, if that’s still open. Otherwise, she would be interested in becoming a Court guard or something similar out in the city. Maria shuffles some papers and says the position is still open. She hands Marcella a piece of paper and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning then. 7:30 am.”

Marcella nods and takes the paper. Hank is giving her a very skeptical look, and texts her, ‘Is that what the kids are calling it these days?’ He also copies Zia on the message. Marcella scowls at him across the room, and Zia cackles quietly. Maria gives Zia a ‘Was something funny?’ look.

“And Hank, I assume you are comfortable with your current position?” Maria asks.

“Yes,” he agrees.

“Excellent. That covers jobs.” Hank looks over at Fianna, whose face is completely blank, but Maria doesn’t address her further in front of the group.

“There are a variety of norms while working, which, as changelings taken at various points, you may or may not know. Hank has already gone through this, but for the rest of you,” she takes out a stack of stapled papers. They are labeled ‘So you’re a changeling. You still have to work in the real world. Deal.’ “Here’s a packet of information.” She passes them down. “Please take 15-20 minutes to skim through this. Fianna, come here.” Some are in English, some are in German. Everyone besides Fianna starts reading.

Fianna stands up and very deliberately walks as slowly as possible to Maria’s desk. “So, Fianna. Do you have any plans, any preferences for what kind of work you would do?”

“I would like something that is more than just me punching things,” she replies.

“Okay. Hopefully, there’s very few punching jobs.”

“I have two things I’m good at. That’s one of them.”

“And the other?”

“I can sing.”

“Hm. What I can do is look around and see what kind of singing-related work is available. As I recall, your grasp of German is minimal?”

“That’s polite,” Fianna agrees.

“Fianna can’t speak German either,” Amy says.

Maria inquires about Fianna’s training in singing, and she says she’s completely untrained, but can sing something if she’s heard it enough times. Maria says that this will make finding her a professional singing-related job harder. She could try to get her a job singing at bars, but that usually requires a band. “I can look around and see what I can find, but it is possible you may wish to investigate other avenues. Alternatively, we could see if there is anyone you could apprentice with to continue your singing training in a more formal fashion.”

The two of them are talking quietly in the corner. The rest of the team can hear snatches of the conversation and have a general idea of the gist, but can’t hear complete sentences.

“There are not many highly-trained singers in this freehold who generally take on students, but we could see. In the meantime, you will need some other source of income,” Maria continues.

“What do you suggest?” Fianna asks flatly.

“You’d prefer to do things that don’t involve punching things, but theoretically, most jobs which involve punching things mean punching things quite infrequently. You could take one of the Court guard positions, or something in construction. We would not want you to use certain abilities while among the humans. You could be a courier, for instance.”

“Does Aachen have bike messengers?” Hank asks.

“I can’t ride bike,” Fianna says.

“I could show you!” Amy says excitedly.

Fianna stares at the floor, thinking.

“Does Aachen require busking permits?” Hank asks.

Maria cocks her head, and her eyes fuzz briefly with static in her pupils. “No, I don’t believe so,” she says. Amy stares at her in fascination, but decides it would be rude to ask questions.

“Would there be a possibility for me to do something like the Court guard positions and also maybe learn proper singing?” Fianna asks finally.

Amy leans over to Marcella. “Marcella, what’s busking?”

“That’s singing on the streets,” Marcella answers.

“Like when you’re happy?” Amy asks in confusion.

“No, like when people stand on the corner and people give them money,” Marcella clarifies.

“Ohh,” Amy says, understanding.

Maria says that Fianna getting a position like that could be arranged, and gives her an application for being a Court guard. “And here’s the information of the three people who might be willing to tutor you in singing.” Fianna takes it.

Hulda finishes reading the packet, which had the basics of good manners and ways to apply for jobs, how to act at an interview, what to do when you get the job, and other things like that. It’s a little more basic than the versions of this one would find in the human world, since it was assumed that some changelings may not yet have assimilated into the human world at all.

Hulda asks about proof of identity, papers, and all of that kind of thing, and says she had a fetch while she was gone. She would like to finish her PhD if possible. As far as she knows, her fetch hasn’t finished it.

Maria answers that there are a few people around the Court who can help them establish a new identity, or reclaim their previously identity from their fetch, but of course no one at the freehold could make that decision for them. If they work within the Court, they will be able to get by without those things, but she does recommend reaching out to someone about identity things. Either Hank or Marcella could introduce Hulda to Mariska Flickfinger.

“Moving on from there, does anyone have any questions about this packet?” Maria asks flatly. No one does. “You will also be able to access several other people in the freehold for help with more specific job things. They often do this workshop, but were not available.” Amy asks who, and is told one of the librarians and two others they have not heard of.

“Oh, he’s nice,” Amy says of the librarian.

“So, we’ve discussed jobs. In order to get an apartment, you must have a job. Much as we have loved to have you all around, it is time for you to move out on your own. Obviously it is your choice if you wish to live together or apart. That is a choice you will make as a group. My understanding is that Hulda has been doing research on this topic. If she would like to share with everyone her research?”

Hulda grabs her notes, and has made copies for everyone, including addresses and maps. They are all in English.

“So, um, here’s the places I found. They’re kind of all over the place. Some of them are more expensive than others, and some of them I like better than others. Some of them were kind of stuck up …” She then hands out a list of addresses and descriptions of houses and apartments with the following notes:

  • Large house, 5 bedroom 2.5 bath, 2 rooms that could be converted into bedrooms. Reasonably priced. Kitchen and big foyer thing as public rooms. 15 min bus ride from freehold
  • Large house 30-60 min commute to freehold, set back from road, yard, old rambling house, servant wing, 8 bedrooms 5 baths, better value
  • Large house long narrow row house with 4 bedrooms, 2 more convertible rooms and carriage house in the back with 2 bedrooms and own bath, no price listed, straight shot on bus for 10 mins, unsure about weekend transportation, 30 min walk
  • Apartment complex with 6 open apartments ranging from studio to 2 bedrooms costs more but more private 20 mins bus ride, 40 min walking
  • Higher end apartments condo style, 1-3 bedrooms currently have 2 buildings empty (2 bedroom with a 3 bedroom on top and a 2 bedroom with a 2 bedroom on top), snotty, 30 min bus ride
  • 30 min walk or 40 min bus ride older set of buildings, bottom apartment 4 bedrooms 2 full baths, access to gated yard, allowed to have pets, building next to it 3 apartments ranging from studio to 3 bedroom, less expensive, need upkeep, friendly, history from wwii, basement atrocities – removed but harder for them to rent out, priced to move
  • Lots of individual studios
  • Row houses where each level is a different apartment renting out basement (2 bedrooms), 1st (3 bedrooms) and 3rd floor (open concept, 2 small bedrooms), 15 mins from freehold

Maria says, “Hulda’s done some research, there’s a bank of computers. If you have any questions, one of you can come to my office.” She carefully arranges her papers in stacks, with a bunch of how-tos in front, then leaves.

Amy rushes over to the computers as soon as Maria leaves. She is researching being a bike courier.

Hulda goes up to a computer, pulls up her email, and sends an application to the archivist guy.

Hank pulls up Google Maps and plots out where each of the housing options are in relation to the freehold and each other.

Marcella starts pulling up housing listings and looking at pictures of each place.

Amy is muttering, “Still don’t speak German.”

Hank comes over and starts translating the German on the fly for her.

Fianna is quietly muttering and swearing at the Court guard application in the corner.

Marcella stands up after a few minutes and suggests that they talk about housing in a general sense before they look at specific listings. They have options anywhere from all living in a house together to separate apartments. “What are people interested in?”

“Previous address, the SKY,” Fianna growls at her application.

“No, Fianna,” Amy says sternly.

Hulda points out the part of the job packet that tells one not to say things like that on an application. Hank comes over and puts the housing packet on top of Fianna’s application.

Zia says that she’d like somewhere with a workshop.

“You need somewhere that allows pets, right?” Fianna asks Amy.

“Not all of them allow pets?” Amy asks, concerned, and starts looking at the housing packet.

Hank explains that some places don’t allow pets, and some ask for additional deposits, or other things. “Petey’s a good dog,” Amy says.

Only one listing specifically says it allows pets, but it is the listing that says it has previous ‘basement atrocities’ from the second world war. The other options would need to be specifically asked if they would allow pets.

Hank looks at Hulda’s notes. “Atrocities?”

“It’s haunted,” Hulda says.

“Iris would like that,” Amy says.

“Would she?” asks Hank.

“She’s always trying to see ghosts, right?” Amy says.

There is some debate about whether Iris always wants to see ghosts or not.

“Not all ghosts are friendly,” Hank says. “There have been …” Hank looks down at the sheet. “There were some bad things that happened in Germany.” He gives Zia a look that’s asking for help.

Zia explains the world wars to Amy very briefly – there were two big wars, and Germany was kind of against everyone. In particular, during the second one, in many cities, people were very horrible and killed people in a variety of horrible ways for bad reasons. (“Because they were different,” Hulda interjects.) Zia’s impression is that people were killed horribly in that basement during that time.

Marcella brings the conversation back to the larger question of whether they want to live together or not.

“That sounds fun,” Amy says. Hulda shrugs.

“If we end up living together, we’d need to make sure there’s sufficient space,” Zia says firmly.

“I’d prefer not to end up looking like Hugh Hefner,” Hank adds. Amy is confused, and is told that Hugh Hefner is an old man who lives with lots of pretty women, with whom he may or may not have sex. The suggestion comes up that it might be better to have nearby apartments than one big house, given how things might look for Hank to live with the rest of them.

They start talking about what they might all want out of a property. Marcella and Fianna don’t have any requirements. Hulda wants room for books. Zia wants a craft room with sunlight. Hank gives them all a look and starts listing actual requirements people might want – neighbors in the building, shared walls with loud neighbors, a yard for Petey …?

Zia suggests that they might want some privacy from humans, if they can afford it, since they might say things that humans would find strange to overhear.

Fianna suggests it might be preferable to have more space, if they can, since Fianna and Marcella might want practice space as well. Zia and Marcella both suggest that they should live as a group, since it sounds like that’s what everyone wants. They could come up with a story to explain Hank’s presence.

“You could be my dad!” Amy suggests.

Hank looks a little flabbergasted and says that isn’t exactly typical, for a man to live with his grown daughter and her friends, but Zia suggests that they could work something out that made it sound reasonable. She also suggests that they think about kitchens and bathrooms, and Hank requests his own bathroom.

After some discussion, the group thinks that the eight bedroom house and the carriage house sound the most promising of the single house options, and that it might also be worth considering the apartment options where they’d have the whole building. Hulda likes the haunted option, since it sounded like a good option, but others aren’t as excited about living in a haunted place. They decide they should visit some of these options and see what they think in person.

Hank points out that they will be noticeable (as a group of mostly foreigners) in the suburbs or edge of the city. Marcella says that since it is a university town that is less unusual, but Hank’s point is just that they will be more unusual if they are all in one building instead of multiple buildings in the same lot.

Marcella goes to Maria to ask how borrowing a van works, and what time Marcella will get out of work tomorrow. Maria confirms that someone in their group has a driver’s license (Hank does), then tells Marcella that her usual shift will be 7:30 – 1:30, so they can have the van after that.

Hulda makes appointments to see the houses the next afternoon. They have appointments to see the rambling eight bedroom house at 2:00, the haunted house at 3:30, and the row house at 5:00.

They load up in the van as soon as Marcella gets out of work the next day, and Hank drives them to the rambling house. There is a woman dressed very precisely and properly who looks very excited to see them outside.

From the outside, it looks like it’s in decent condition. It is very rambling – there are places where it has been added to, sections that have been knocked down, and a distinct narrow section that is clearly the servant’s wing. It has a nice yard, and they can’t see it very clearly from the road.

The woman walks up to Hulda when they arrive. “Hi, Hulda? My name is Ellen, and I’ll be showing you around the house.” Everyone introduces themselves.

Ellen gives them a tour. The house is truly massive. There are signs of moderate disrepair. No one has lived there in a while. There are a few issues to be fixed, but it’s very rescuable. Ellen tells them that if someone was living there, the owner would definitely make the needed repairs, and maybe even extra things the occupants requested if needed.

The house is set up so that the entire first floor (the original house) contains a decent-sized kitchen, a large living room, and a large dining room. The sides that have additions contain several bedrooms each, some of which have their own bathrooms. Upstairs gets a little confusing. There are three staircases, not all of which lead to the same floor, and other similar indication that this house has been renovated many times.

One thing of note is that to get up to one half of the attic, there is a separate staircase in the wainscoting, and up there is a big sunny space. There’s no bathroom up there, but in the past it has been used as a child’s bedroom.

Most of the bedrooms are in the main part of the house, but many more rooms could be converted if needed. Only one of the listed bedrooms is in the servant’s quarters, since those rooms are rather small, but it has a bathroom.

The yard in the back is fairly extensive, with trees blocking most of the views from neighbors, and a small stream. It is fairly overgrown.

Hulda asks about the owner’s policy on pets. Ellen says that she will have to check with the owner. She know’s he’s okay with small caged things, but she’ll have to ask about the dog. Hank asks about rent exchange for doing some of the repairs themselves, and Ellen says she’ll inquire.

Next, they head to the haunted house. The woman who meets them is a slightly frazzled building manager who enthusiastically shakes Hulda’s hand and is very excited that Hulda is still interested. The property is two row houses which are next to each other, sharing a courtyard, fenced off from the nearby row houses. The building manager lives on the top floor of the haunted building, but the rest is empty.

She is extremely enthusiastic and happy to see them, and takes them into the bottom apartment in the haunted building, which has four bedrooms and two baths. “Just so you know, there is a little history with this house, which is why the price is slightly reduced. But really, I’ve been living here for years, and I’ve never seen anything.”

It is a typical city house with a small entry way, a sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a half bath on the first floor, along with a master bedroom with its own bath. The next floor has two bedrooms which are decently sized, one looking to front and one to back. There is also a small storage room and another bathroom. Down in the basement there is lots of storage space with a bedroom, bathroom, and two unused room. There is laundry there as well.

Hank asks about the building’s ‘history.’ The manager says that during the second world war, this was one of the few buildings to survive being leveled. She looks rather uncomfortable to be talking about it. “According to legend, about 40 people were killed in this basement. According to the actual records we have, it was more like 8. So, it was probably somewhere in between. Supposedly other people have seen ghosts and other spooky things, but I never have.”

“Is what we’re seeing of the basement all of the basement?” he asks.

“All of the basement that’s accessible,” she agrees. He lets it go.

The courtyard is very much a city courtyard. Some of it is paved, and some of it is carefully manicured garden. There is a tiny piece of grassy yard.

The other building has three apartment. The top floor is a studio, with a third of the space set aside as an attic for the whole building. Most of the studio is bedroom, plus a small kitchen area and a full bath.

The first floor is the three bedroom apartment, which includes the basement of that building. On the entry floor, it has a small entryway, a sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a master suite, like the other building. The kitchen is a bit smaller, and the dining room is a bit bigger.

The basement here is a little darker, has two bedrooms and a bathroom, and also has an open space for storage. The apartment on the second floor has two bedrooms with a full bath, plus a kitchen and dining room.

The building manager knows the houses very well, and does the upkeep herself. She also has a full time job. There are fire stairs down the courtyard from the upper apartments. It would be possible to share space between the apartments if they wanted. In general, the manager seems nervous but fairly nice.

They know for sure that this property allows pets, and rent is quite affordable. They discuss that the studio could make a good craft room, or a good room for Hank. As they leave, the woman says she hopes they like the space, and seems very hopeful that they will call back.

The property is the row house with attached carriage house.

This is the closest option to the freehold (a straight shot on the bus, or only a 30 minute walk). When they get there, they see it is fairly large, but distinctly a row house, interior unit. The real estate agent introduces herself as Stephanie. She’s not nearly as excited to see them as the other agents.

It has a large front, and is a very nice house. It is not set back, and is directly on the street. When they go in, it leads directly into a large sitting room or public space. All the spaces in the house are long and narrow so that all rooms can have windows. There is another freeform space on this floor as well, plus a combined kitchen and dining space.

There is a lovely wood staircase up to the second floor, and then another floor above that. The second floor has three bedrooms. The one in the back is larger, with the bathroom next to it. There’s also a small storage room with no windows. Up another floor, there is one bedroom, another bath, and a large open space that is not walled off. In the basement, there is a lot of open space, plus two rooms with very small windows. These are not legally bedrooms, but could perhaps be used as such if needed.

The yard is fairly tamed, with a small vegetable patch in one corner. Past that there is more yard which is slightly wilder, and past that is the carriage house. It has a tiny finished attic, plus two bedrooms, its own bathroom, and a kitchen.

Hank asks about the neighborhood. Stephanie says it is very nice. They just built a new private school down the street, and there is good transportation. On one side, there’s an elderly couple who live on the first floor and rent out the other floors. On the other side is a large family with five children, all under 18.

Hank also asks about pets, and she says that would require a significant deposit. If there were any incidents with the pet, the landlord would evaluate whether they could keep the pet.

Hulda asks about the price, and she lists a number about 2.5 times what the rambling house would cost. In the end, the haunted option is only slightly less than the rambling house, because it would be so many units.

As soon as they get back in the van, everyone immediately agrees that they do not want to go with the last option. Amy likes the first one best. The biggest drawback they see with the first one is that it’s far from the freehold. The second one does have the advantage (and disadvantage) of being near humans. On the one hand, contact with humans is good, but they may have trouble hiding that they are changelings from the landlady. Hank is undecided, Hulda prefers the haunted house, and everyone else prefers the first house.

That evening, Hulda gets a call from Ellen, the agent who showed them the first house. She says the owner would definitely be okay with a dog if it was well-trained and the renters could put down a fairly decent deposit. The only condition is that when the dog is off the property, he must be leashed, since the neighborhood has had issues with dogs before. In regards to labor for rent, if it’s something they wanted for themselves, it would depend on if it were a thing that the owner felt would increase the value of the house. If it was a thing the owner would do anyway, they he would definitely count it towards their rent.

Given those answers, Hank also leans towards the rambling house, and they agree that that is the one they will go with.

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