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.
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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’?”
“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.
“Are they not under your protection?”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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]