Rites of the Spring Horn

Marcella's game 13 journal

It finally occurs to Marcella how long she and Faron must have been sitting here, so she leads the way out of the room. At least Amy has already left and can’t make more kissing jokes. Someone really needs to teach that girl subtlety and tact. Marcella suspects Fianna is not up to that particular task.

She’s relieved to hear that both Zia and Caesar made good use of the time she and Faron were talking, and even Hulda went to the library to do some investigation. She also feels a little guilty she took that long in the first place – she shouldn’t have gotten caught up in their discussion like that.

She’s soon distracted from her frustration with herself by the information Caesar has gleaned about Whisper John. The more she hears about this situation, the more it smells like politicking, and somehow they’ve ended up in the middle of this mess. She’s seen enough pawns crushed in the games of the elite and powerful that she’s already wishing they’d never been given this mission, even before they go to see Armin Leadenfingers.

Leadenfingers turns out to be everything she was fearing: a stuffy bureaucrat whose belief in the system let him dismiss the hobs’ concerns about cheating out of hand. No wonder they’re so pissed, if this is the guy they first brought their complaints to, she thinks. If they bothered to bring their complaints to anyone before they started attacking, she amends. Though honestly, if Leadenfingers is representative of the attitude they would face at Court, she can see why they keep to themselves.

She’s also worried by the revelation that Leadenfingers already knew why the hobs were attacking travelers to the Arena. Why hadn’t that information made it into their briefing? It didn’t seem like Faron knew about it either, so had Leadenfingers just not bothered to pass the information on to the Queen? For the thousandth time, she wishes she knew more about the flow of information in the Court. Did he belong to some faction that opposed the current Queen, so he purposefully didn’t inform her? Or did she want independent verification of his information? Or was he just so caught up in his racism against the hobs that he didn’t think it was worth mentioning that they thought they had a reason for their attacks? Whatever the background to this situation, Marcella has a nagging feeling that their group (motley, whatever they want to call themselves) doesn’t have nearly enough information or power in this situation. She can all too easily foresee a future in which they are crushed between two maneuvering factions if they don’t walk a very fine line.

Marcella hesitates only slightly to bring the group back to her own room. After the conversation with Faron, she’s feeling a little hesitant to let any of them any closer, but it is really the logical choice. It’s not as though it’s truly her space, anyway. It’s just a bed the freehold is allowing her to use, for now. Remembered lifetimes of military training and discipline mean the space is just as clean as they day she arrived and leaned her swords in the corner, except for the few possessions she has acquired since then.

She is finally distracted from her worry about Leadenfingers and politicking when Faron starts to give them more information about how the monarchs are chosen. She still hasn’t seen more of Queen Kenna since the day they swore their allegiance, and she’s interested to learn how the Summer queen earned her position (since, as she has already acknowledged to herself, if she chooses a Court, it will certainly be Summer). It doesn’t surprise her to hear that combat is the typical method of defeating challengers, though it’s interesting to hear that it is also possible to use political bargaining to make challengers yield. She approves – that means the leader of the Court doesn’t have to be its strongest member. Great prowess in battle doesn’t always mean great prowess as a leader (though as a military commander, it certainly doesn’t hurt).

Once they meet up with the other group (who are acting a little strangely, but Marcella guesses it has something to do with the woman who insulted Amy), everyone returns to her room, and they make a plan of action for tomorrow. Marcella makes sure to insist they stay together – no point in opening that can of worms with Faron again until it’s actually necessary to split up.

Iris makes her worry once again with the suggestion that they take the information they need from Leadenfingers’ office. She understands that some people don’t think politically, but Iris’ continued disregard for the rules that allow them to remain here in safety are really starting to concern her.

To her surprise, when everyone disperses, Zia, Faron, and Iris linger. She tries to make a crack about setting up an appointment book, but it falls flat on its face when Faron looks offended and actually starts to leave. Jesus, skin made of paper, this one, she thinks to herself. How someone so guarded can still take things so personally is beyond her.

View
Game 13: Hobs, foxes, and ogres, oh my

Summary

The party splits into two groups. One group goes to the Hedge to question Geth’s ghost and see if Amy’s fox friends have information. The other group stays at the freehold to question Armin Leadenfingers, the current head of the Arena. The first group finds out that Geth believed he was killed unfairly, but didn’t know how, and that Geth believed John and his sponsor would do anything to preserve John’s winning streak. The second group finds out that Leadenfingers already knew what the hobs were upset about, but has written it off as being sore losers. They also discover that there are crystals in the arena which would have flashed red if an illegal contract had been used. After more discussion, the group decides that tomorrow they will investigate the judges of the match, the crystals at the Arena, and go talk to the chief of the hobs.

Log

In the Green Room, Fianna stands up. “Well, I suppose we better get a move on, see if we can talk to this ghostie. Kiddo, Iris, you up for a bit of a nature walk?”

Amy nods.

“Sure, I just hope I can get this right,” says Iris.

“Well, chances are we can nab one or two people with a pulse to talk to while you’re magicking your mojo on the hob fighter. DO we need anything, or are we good to go?” asks Fianna.

“I don’t think so. Amy?” says Iris.

“I’m ready.”

“Then let’s get walking. The field where we entered before is a ways away.” Fianna leads the way.

Iris shrugs. She still feels a bit uneasy, not wanting to disappoint anyone, but heads off as soon as the others do as well. She seems a bit gloomy as they walk.

After a while, Fianna pokes Iris. “Black dog on your shoulder?”

“I’m not feeling too good about all this. I like knowing what’s going in, but saying we’re in over our heads is probably an understatement. I have no idea how to get out of it, no life to go back to and no clue where this is going to end. Maybe I think too much, but…”

Amy looks over at Iris, “None of us have lives to get back to. That’s why we have to make new ones.”

“Hell, even if I wasn’t taken, I can’t say I’d have a place to go back to anyway,” admits Fianna.

“True. But we’re still in way over our heads with very little idea of how deep the water is,” says Iris.

Amy cocks her head, “What do you mean?”

“The whole seasons issue, the Hedge people and the Court, the Court itself… I have no idea who to trust, weird abilities probably messing with my mind and anyone could be lying to us,” Iris explains.

“No one can mess with your mind in the Freehold, Iris. We just learned the rules of hospitality, remember?” says Amy

“The dream thing is getting too close for comfort still.”

Amy sighs. “Just ‘cause I can do something doesn’t mean I’m gonna. If you’re worried people broke the oath, you can ask my friends when we get there. I bet they’d know.”

“I admit, without that particular rule, I’d be a lot warier…not that I’ve completely let down my guard—I think a healthy dose of skepticism is what keeps that place functioning, honestly,” says Fianna. “Maybe that what all these motley things are about. Trust a small amount of people so you can deal with the rest easier.”

“Yeah. I’m a lot less worried after learning that. Now I know they can’t send us back,” agrees Amy.

“True. It’s not just you, I just… I don’t know anymore and it’s coming a bit too fast. I’m more comfortable with fireballs than with dream stuff, weird as it may sound. The rules of hospitality do help; oathbreaking has consequences now. Maybe we should just get on with it. I’ll figure it out eventually.”

Amy nods, “They can’t send us back to Arcadia. I’m free now. I don’t trust them, but I don’t care very much about the rest.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Fianna pauses. “Maybe not. I might go up like a fancy Christmas pudding now.”

“Woah. Do you think it would hurt you?” asks Amy.

“I never thought about that. It must feel weird being part star,” ponders Iris.

Fianna’s face gets serious for a moment. “Well…yeah. Ever since I fell out of the sky—had a body again it’s been the oddest sensation. Imagine all the energy of a star—our sun, basically. Now imagine what that feels like confined inside the body of a skinny Glaswegian urchin who’s barely more than five feet tall. It’s….” she trails off.

Amy nods, “It’s weird for me too. Not for the same reason but… I’m so big now. Bigger than I expected, and MUCH bigger than I was.”

“I guess I don’t have too much to complain about. My family doesn’t recognize me, I’m taller and I look different, I talk to dead people, but that’s about it.”

Amy spins to Iris, startled, “You saw your family? Was it nice?” She gets a faraway look.

“There is someone else there now, who looks like I did. They don’t recognize me. I startled them, they probably think I’m insane.”

“I have a fetch too. I want to meet her, but they said that she might not even know she is a fetch,” says Amy.

“I most likely don’t have a fetch. No one except the bosses were going to miss me anyhow. Maybe my disappearance got them arrested. I hope so,” Fianna says cheerfully. “We’re almost there. Think you can get your foxes to talk, kiddo?”

Amy smiles, “Well, this deals with oathbreaking, right? I’m sure they’ll be glad to help.” She frowns, “Assuming the rules involve an oath of some sort. But it seems like they would.”

“They should know, in any case,” Fianna agrees. They arrive outside the brick building that is the entrance to the foxes’ domain. “Remind me where this gate is, again?”

Amy walks up to the gate. “Over here.” She performs the small ritual to open the gate. She opens the gate, and waits for the other two before stepping through.

Iris would have been equally at a loss, but she gladly follows, mentally preparing to use this new skill of hers.

Fianna steps through. “Make sure to reassure them we’re friendly, okay? I know they’re not fond of the rest of us.”

Iris steps through but not more than she needs to. She starts trying to summon their dead hob.
“Ok. I think we should wait for Iris to finish first, though.”

An eerie shimmer begins to coalesce in front of Iris. After a short period of time it begins to define itself in the shape of a phantasmal hob. Standing around 4.5 feet tall, he is covered in scars. He wears a tattered boiled leather jerkin and pants, and there are just empty holes where his eyes should be. The spirit stands there, staring at her.

“What happened the day you died?” Iris asks.

“I fought in the Arena. My opponent was Whisper John, the Court Darkling, whom I had fought twice before. Whisper John killed me by unfair means.” His voice echoes hollowly, and there is not will behind it…more like a recording on tape.

“How did he kill you?”

The spirit says nothing for several seconds, then repeats: “By unfair means."

Fianna whispers, “I think that means he doesn’t know.”

“Well if he doesn’t know, then he doesn’t know it was unfair, does he? He just thinks so.” Amy pouts.

“Who would want you dead?"

“Whisper John does not lose. Whisper John has backing. I was a threat. I kept winning.”

“Why might Whisper John be adamant not to lose?”

“Whisper John has a reputation. He is proud of it. Others are proud of it. He feels it gives him power. Over himself, over others. It gives him control. He fears the loss of that control.”

The spirit fades away.

“Interesting. I guess that’s something. Although I still don’t know about those others.” Iris looks around.

“So what did we get from that?” Fianna says. “Bullet points. One, he’s got a sponsor. Two, both he and that sponsor are invested in his continued winning streak. I can understand that. Unbeatables are huge draws for fighting arenas. More people want to challenge them, and the arena and the sponsor get to use them like advertisements.”

“I don’t think that’s it. I don’t think it’s just the Arena. I also think I could now testify via an oath that he was killed by unfair means. He said power over people… we need to find out more, but I don’t think trying this again will help. We need to find out who his sponsor is.”

“Could you testify that? He didn’t seem to know…” wonders Amy.

“Hopefully the other group will have luck figuring that out. It was mentioned that the sponsor was likely someone pretty high up. Snooping around the hoity-toits is like walking on coals,” says Fianna.

“He knew that it wasn’t supposed to happen,” Iris says to Amy. “Which is why I shouldn’t go anywhere near there, I’ll just stumble, fall and take everyone else with me.”

Amy is still doubtful, but decides to stay quiet about it for now. “Let’s go talk to Pinky and Ring.”

“Yes, let’s. Maybe they know more,” agrees Iris.

“Lead on, kiddo,” says Fianna. Amy leads on, pushing the doorbell when she gets there. Iris follows and waits.

“Helloooooooo?” calls a familiar voice from the other side.

“Hi! It’s Amy and two of the people I came with before. We’re investigating some possible cheating in the Arena, and I thought you might know something about it.” She looks through the berry-window smiling widely. “Also how is the money plan going?”

“Amy!” The door opens immediately to show a happily smiling Pinky. “How nice to see you. We have many plots for money. So many!” Pinky pauses. “Your companions may come in, but please keep an eye on them.”

Amy nods solemnly, “I will,” then breaks back into a smile. She enters, and the other two follow.

Pinky smiles. “Would you like refreshments? I am the only one here right now. Ring is out collecting things. Then you must say why you came by so soon after your last visit!”

“Yes, please,” Amy says. “We’re here on an important mission. We’re finding out if there was cheating in the Arena.”

CHEATING!” Pinky’s tail momentarily looks like a bottlebrush, then she runs into the area they remember as a sort of kitchen. There is angry clattering for a few minutes, and something that sounds like foxey grumbling. After a while Pinky returns in a bit of a huff with a platter of shortbread cookies and a pot of tea.

“Tell. Me. EVERYTHING.”

Amy nods. “Ok. So, we were asked to go find out why some hobs were attacking people on the way to the Arena, which seemed like a not very nice thing to do, but when we got there we found out it was because they thought someone had killed their champion by cheating! So then we talked to the dead champion, and he said he thought there was cheating too, but he couldn’t tell us how. So we’re trying to find out what really happened.”

“Oooooh!” says Pinky huffily. “We do not generally like the Arena…too many people cheating. Cheating on gambling, cheating in matches…but cheating that kills is bad bad BAD. If a person will kill to cheat they will do worse things. And competitors usually have to make a promise to fight honorably in these places.”

Amy nods, “That’s what I thought too. So you didn’t hear about any of this, then?”

“We have been staying inside for much of the last week. Planning the money things. We have not heard much of what is going on, and we do not pay attention to the Arena in general. Is the entire Hedge abuzz?”

“Seems like it. Well, I’ll let you know what we find out, when we find it out.” Amy says.

“Please do. Ring and I have…ways of making people talk.”

Amy looks at the other two, “Did you guys have anything to say?”

Fianna has half a cookie in her mouth. “…fanks for the snacks? And the info?” she mumbles.

Amy giggles, “Well, ok then. These are very good cookies.” She bites another.

“Be careful. I don’t think you’ll be attacked, but still,” warns Iris. She takes a cookie, but seems to be all right with leaving.

Fianna swallows her cookie, palms two more, and stands. “Well, we want to get this information back to the rest of our group as soon as possible. Thank you for your assistance, and your hospitality. We’ll let you know if anything develops.” She moves to leave.

Pinky looks up. “Oh, are you leaving so soon? I was going to explain the money plans….oh well! I can tell you all about it once they’ve happened, the next time you visit!”

Iris nods. “Thanks you very much, let’s hope we can avoid any more people dying.”

Amy hesitates. She wants to hear about the money plans. “Yeah, I guess you’ll have to tell me next time you visit. We do have to tell people what we learned from the ghost.” She kneels down and hugs Pinky. “I’ll be back soon.”

“Goodbye, Amy!”

“Bye!”

Once the three are back out in the Hedge, Fianna sighs. “I can’t tell if we learned too little or too much. We keep finding more questions that need answering.”

Iris nods. “Let’s head back.” Amy follow Iris and Fianna back. They arrive back at the Court, and return to the Green Room, which is still empty.

“I guess now we wait,” Fianna says, flopping into a chair. Amy sits on the floor.

“I somehow thought they’d be done by now. I wonder what they found,” wonders Iris.

“Well, if they found more than us, I won’t fault them for taking their time,” says Fianna.

“Mmm, true,” agrees Iris.

“Maybe they found the answer,” Amy contributes, hopefully.

“I’m beginning to think this is gonna require more than one answer,” says Fianna.

“I want to be done. I don’t like this job very much,” admits Amy.

“You and me both…I prefer more straightforward things. All the sneakiness surrounding this job doesn’t sit well with me,” agrees Fianna.

“Agreed. I like knowing where everything stands,” Iris chimes in.

They hear some grumbling outside and a very frail old Wizened woman creaks in the door. “Eh! Who are you all? You’re not part of the group I am teaching Fae Yoga too…are you?”

“Um..no. We were waiting for people…we can move…” Fianna’s brain refuses to process the existence of ‘Fae Yoga.’

Amy stands up. “Sorry, Ma’am.”

She looks Amy up and down. “Do those joints of yours work right dearie? Maybe some yoga would help.”

Amy looks down, and blushes. “Yestheydo.” She runs from the room.

Iris is petrified.

“No no, please stay until the group gets here, they are so often late or missing. It is like they don’t want to learn the secrets of the fae.” The old woman says. “Oh dear, I made the little one leave.”

Fianna grabs Iris’ wrist and runs after Amy.


Meanwhile, in the library just after Fianna’s group leaves, Hulda spends about half an hour researching hobs. She learns that the term hobgoblin refers to a variety of creatures in the Hedge, but goblin and hob often refer specifically to the more or less humanoid creatures that the group fought near the Arena. They tend to be selfish, manipulative, and independent. They run and man the Goblin Markets more than other hobgoblins. They tend to live singly or in small family units.


After Faron flees the Green Room, he and Marcella return to have a conversation there. Zia, having gone to ask about the contact’s location, approaches the door during Faron and Marcella’s conversation, hears a raised voice, and flees to chat with Maria some more.


Back in the recreation room, Caesar is still playing pool against a changeling he just met, Merv. Caesar is winning.

“Just luck,” Caesar shrugs. “Geth and John’s last one, until things started going south for the hob. Seemed evenly-matched, considering…”

“Well, now, I don’t know how evenly matched they really were! Hobs are not really meant for fighting, you know. John’s a Darkling, but one well suited to battle,” Merv says as he shoots again, not getting anything in.

“Aren’t they? Well, at the very least, they have the spirit for it. They’ve been getting aggressive in the Hedge.” Caesar takes a shot. “What makes John so well-suited for battle? Darklings don’t seem much like fighters.” Caesar makes a shot.

“You’re pretty good at this game, have you played it much? Darklings are not suited to battle based on mere brawn generally, you would know this yourself, but there are ways and contracts to make yourself appropriately powerful. Whisper John is also quite accomplished.” Merv says. He shoots and misses.

“Only a handful of times before, like I said before, purely luck,” Caesar assured, taking another shot. “Accomplished? I’ve never heard anything about his accomplishments.”

“Oh, he’s been the Champion of the Games several times, he rescued the freehold from the Rhine Banshee, is part of the motley that reinforced the shields of freehold, not to mention the number of specialized contracts he has learned.” Merv takes a shot and gets one in.

“Accomplished indeed,” Caesar agreed. Truth be told, he has no idea what any of that meant. Champion of the Games might suggest he won some tournament. Who were the Rhine Banshee? And the shields of freeholds? Were those people who defended the Courts? Like the members of Summer?

“I’m not familiar with any other freeholds; who are the Rhine Banshee?” Caesar takes another shot.

Merv smiles, “My apologies, you are fresh out of the Hedge! The Rhine Banshee was a changeling woman gone mad, but oomph, she was a powerful one. She was targeting the members of the freehold with families, especially human ones, scaring them until they died.”

“How noble. Why would — oh, it’s your shot, by the way — why would the hobs think he cheated, then? Perhaps from the use of his plentiful contracts, hmm? I wouldn’t imagine those being permitted in those games any more than these.”

Merv shoots and misses. “Oh there are contracts you can use in the Arena, and different games have different rules. The hobs are often sore losers though. They like the Arena since it gives them a place to sell their wares, but they have difficulty acknowledging that their race is just not likely to be well-suited for actual success at the one-on-one fights.”

“I see. How about when they have numbers on their side?”

“Well, that is a different matter. Hobs are not naturally inclined to fighting, but they are inclined to trickery. When you make deals with them, Caesar, be very careful. In the Arena there are a few games where you can have 4 against 1, for example and there, the hobs often win.” Merv takes a shot and misses.

Caesar nods. “I’ll let others deal the deals; I just want to watch the story unfold.” Caesar takes his final shot. The others could end up being in some serious danger; who knew how many hobs were in there? How many of them wanted vengeance?

Caesar wins the game. “It was a pleasure to play with you! Please, feel free to come back for another game. It’s hard when you first get out of the Hedge, but once you start making a life for yourself, it gets easier.” Merv says.

“With such kind people around, I surely hope it does. Good game,” Caesar nods and takes his leave. He plans to find the others who stayed behind.

Caesar heads for the green room. As he walks by the freehold office, Zia steps out into the hallway, “Hey, wait! Just come in here a minute. Strength in numbers,” she calls.

“Oh hey! I was looking for you all. Did you manage to find anything out?”

“Well, I know where Armin’s office is and his schedule for the next day or so. We can probably poke our way into his schedule in about half an hour. Do you know where Hulda is?” Zia asks.

“No idea, nor Marcella or Faron. Think we can find them soon enough?”

Zia says, “Marcella and Faron are in the Green Room, it is just Hulda we don’t know where she is. My guess is her room or the library”

“Which’s closer? Her room or the library?”

“The library.” Behind her, Maria nods.

“Let’s try there, then.”

“Excellent.” With a wave and a smile for Maria, they walk to the library. As they enter, they see Hulda hunched over a book. Caesar walks up to Hulda and taps on her shoulder as to get her attention.

Hulda looks up, “Hello. I was just doing some research to see what I could discover about the hobgoblins and the situation.”

“Excellent, why don’t we go back to the Green Room together for you to share the information?” Zia proposes.

Caesar nods and heads that way.

“Sure.” Hulda closes the book and puts it back, making note of where she found it and where in the book she was so she can come back and read more later.

The trio heads back to the Green Room. Just as they reach it, Marcella and Faron open the door.


After about half an hour, Marcella and Faron finally wrap up their discussion. Marcella stands and heads for the door, which she politely holds for Faron. As they go out and start looking around for the others, she says conversationally, “You keep calling us a motley. What does that mean?” She then notices the others and waves.

Caesar stands at the door and watches the two’s conversation.

Faron nods to them in brief acknowledgement before turning back to Marcella. “A motley’s just a term for a small group of changelings. Typically they have a pledge to officially declare themselves a motley, which I’m not sure you have, but…” he shrugs. “You’re a small group of changelings with common enough cause who have to work together for the foreseeable future. Close enough.”

“Huh, interesting.” Marcella turns to the rest of them. “Sorry for the delay. Has anyone discovered where we might find Armin?”

“Yes, I have. He will be in his office with no appointment in about 20 minutes,” Zia says.

“Found reason for why Armin may’ve wanted to sponsor John as well. Apparently beyond the Arena, he’s fairly popular,” adds Caesar.

Marcella smiles. “Thank you, Zia.” She looks thoughtful at Caesar’s statement. “How so?”

“Well, shall we sit in the Green Room for a few minutes and plan our approach?” Zia offers, looking at the open hallway.

“Good idea,” Marcella nods.

Everyone in the hallway goes in. Zia takes a seat at the table. Marcella sits facing Caesar and waits to see if he will elaborate now that they’re in private. Faron remains standing, going to lean against the wall. Marcella raises her eyebrows at Faron but doesn’t otherwise comment.

“Champion of the Games, saved a freehold from a thing called the Rhine Banshee, a part of some motley that increased — was told ‘reinforced’ — the shields for freeholds, apparently. Has quite a few titles,” Caesar finally answers, taking the seat he had when they first came to the room.

Hulda files this information away to be investigated further if she has a chance.

“Interesting, so he’s done quite a lot for the freehold. Do we know anything more about how he may have cheated?” asks Marcella.

“He’s known for his numerous contracts, and he’s a Darkling, not exactly the best for their fighting, but well enough in their deception. Illusion or any kind of contract might’ve helped him place a dagger where he might not’ve otherwise.”

“We think this Armin may know who John’s patron was, right?” Marcella glances at Faron for confirmation. Faron nods once at Marcella’s question and glance. “And the patron may have discouraged investigation into whether John cheated.”

“So, he could have cheated without anyone knowing? Though, I feel like there should be something to tell the judges if fighters are using contracts…” Zia said.

“Not just any contract is banned from use. Some are allowed, apparently, but I have no ideas of which,” says Caesar. “Is there any way to know if contracts are used? I wouldn’t know…”

“So we have a few things to talk to Armin about. First, let him know that the hobs believe Geth’s death was wrongful, and to ask whether there is any investigation. If not, to ask if there is any evidence available to prove whether or not the death was wrongful. And also to ask if he knows who John’s patron is,” sums up Marcella.

“I bet Armin would know if the judges can tell what contracts are in use,” Zia says.

“Yes, I think we can get more information about contracts when we ask about evidence,” agrees Marcella. Caesar nods.

“Hulda, did you learn anything useful in the library?” Zia asks.

“A little bit about hobs. How they are normally are selfish, manipulative and independent, which could be tying into this. They run the Goblin Market, and the normally live alone or in small family groups.”

“Can anyone else think of other questions we should be asking the head of the Arena?” Marcella looks around at everyone in the room, including Faron.

“None that comes to mind immediately,” says Caesar.

The group is ready to speak with Armin Leadenfingers. Zia flits down the hall and has Maria fill in the hole in his schedule with an appointment with Vogelfrei. “Well, then, shall we?” she asks, and leads the way to his office.

Caesar walks along, silent for the ride.

Marcella looks at Zia, impressed. “What did you give her, that she’s that helpful for you?”

Zia waits to answer until they are out of earshot of Maria. “I did my research, had the right offerings, knew what buttons to push, was genuine,” Zia replies.

Marcella mutters, “You’ll have to teach me your ways.”

Zia smiles, “Well, when we aren’t chasing murderers and poking our noses about in the Court, feel free to drop by.”

The group arrives at a very simple door with an incredibly ornate nameplate. ‘Armin Leadenfingers’ is engraved on a golden plate surrounded by swirls and representations of various weaponry.

“He’s expecting us, right?” Marcella confirms with Zia. “All of us?” Caesar adds to the confirmation.

“We are on his appointment calendar, if he has checked it, as Vogelfrei, and Maria should have called to announce us about 1 minute ago.”

“Ok, good.” Marcella knocks firmly.

A high pitched voice with a funny gravelly tone in it answers, “Enter if you must.” Marcella opens the door and leads the way in. Caesar follows behind.

The door opens on an Ogre covered in immaculately groomed white and brown hair wearing a suit. He is sitting behind a desk liberally covered in trophies and other glorified weapon paraphernalia.

Hulda stays in the back of the group and listens. Marcella walks forward towards the desk, making sure everyone has room to enter behind her. She gives a crisp military bow and says, “We are Vogelfrei, Mr. Leadenfingers. We have come to make a report about the situation with the hobs attacking those who wished to access the Arena.”

He raises an eyebrow elegantly, in a way that seems to somehow work with his rather awkward combed yeti-like appearance. “A report? I need no report from you. The queen will no doubt pass her information to me when she is ready,” he says. “Bad business, those hobs blocking access. Not sure why they had you all deal with it.”

Faron shifts slightly, but doesn’t say anything.

“We were also hoping to see if you could help our investigation. The investigation is not quite complete,” explains Caesar.

He sighs. “How can I assist you? As you can see, I am very busy dealing with the fallout of those hobs deciding arbitrarily that there was foul play. It is cutting into our profits, into the feasibility of running the Arena!”

Marcella nods at Caesar’s statement, and elaborates, “We hoped you might be able to clarify some details related to the hobs’ claims for us. You see, they are up in arms because they believe Whisper John used unfair means to defeat Geth the Giant.”

“Unfair means? Come now, they are merely upset that their weak champion was defeated,” he replies to Marcella. “Hobs are not meant for fighting. They, not Whisper John, are far more likely to trick someone in the Arena,” he continues.

“They seem to want proof about the fairness of the match. As newly-emerged changelings, we have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Arena, and we wanted to know whether any such evidence was available, which might be used to appease the hobs.”

“I was at the match, their chief was at the match, the judges were good judges, what more do they want?” he replies.

“Vengeance now, apparently,” says Caesar.

“We merely wanted to see if there was any form of record we could offer them. May I ask, how is it that the judges know whether an illegal contract has been used? Perhaps they could speak directly with one of the judges,” suggests Marcella.

“This is more than vengeance, this is a vendetta. If they have a problem with Whisper John, then they should speak to him, not hold up the entire operation,” he says. “The Arena’s fighting space is set to detect any illegal contracts. When this occurs, several imbedded crystals in the Arena flash red. There was no illegal contract use in that match,” he says.

Hulda checks to see whether he is lying when he says this, but as far as she can tell he is not.

“Please forgive my ignorance, but which contracts are actually permitted for use in the Arena?” asks Caesar.

“This depends upon the individual match. Certain matches, such as the one we are discussing, permitted contracts to assist with the actual fighting and to increase strength or quickness, but no area attacks, no directly affecting the opponent with a contract, no magical poisoning, no raining fish,” he answers.

Marcella nods with understanding. “That makes perfect sense. I believe we only have one more question for you.” She glances around for confirmation. Caesar and Faron nod.

“Ask,” he says.

“Are you able to tell us who Whisper John’s patron is?”

“Ah well, unfortunately no. Whisper John and his patron prefer to keep that private. Some patrons prefer it that way. Obviously, the judges know and I know to ensure that the patron never judges who she patronizes, but I can’t share that,” he says

Marcella nods again. “Of course, I understand. You have been more than generous with your time, Mr. Leadenfingers. Thank you very much, and good day to you.” She bows again, same crisp military bow.

Caesar nods silently. He said “she.” That was a start.

“Good day.” Before they even leave the office he picks up the phone, and dials, “Maria! Why did you schedule….” the door closes

“She,” Caesar mutters after the door closes.

Zia says, “Well, what next?”

Marcella silently nods at Caesar and glances around. “Zia, do you know if we still have the Green Room? If not, perhaps we can adjourn to one of our rooms.”

“I think the Green Room might be occupied shortly. Why don’t we go to one of our rooms?” she replies.

“Whatever works,” agrees Caesar.

“Sounds good.” Marcella hesitates only slightly before saying, “Why don’t we use my room? I think they are all the same size anyway.”

“Sounds good, let’s go,” Zia says. Marcella leads the way to her room. Everyone else follows. When they arrive, everyone can see it is a fairly sparse but quite clean room. Marcella has her sword bag in the corner. There’s one chair which she indicates someone can sit in, and she says, “Feel free to sit on the bed.” She remains standing.

Zia flops gracefully on the bed, leaving enough room for someone to sit on the foot. Hulda also sits on the bed. Faron goes to find a nice spot on the wall.

Zia raises her eyebrow, “Come on, one of you sit down. You’ll hurt our necks if you are stubborn and stand.”

“So, did anyone else catch that he already knew that the hobs thought that Whisper John had cheated? Wasn’t our mission to find out why the attacks were happening?” Marcella starts.

Caesar stands by the door. “Leadenfingers mentioned a ‘she,’ and we already know that it is someone in good standing in the Court,” Caesar begins.

“He wasn’t lying about there being no illegal contracts,” Hulda adds. “So if there is a common and obvious way to detect cheating, why do the hobs think he cheated? Are they just unable to accept the fact that their guy lost?”

“It wouldn’t be lying if /he/ wasn’t aware of the deception,” points out Caesar. “I think we need to speak with the judges.”

Marcella is pacing. "Yes, though Leadenfingers may have just been using a general “she,” I don’t know how gender-aware changeling society is." Caesar shrugs. “It’s possible the crystals were tampered with. We may need to return to the Arena to see,” she continues.

“That is a good idea Caesar, we should probably figure out where they are. It is already about 7pm though, so we might want to bother them tomorrow,” Zia offers.

“We can also see what the other group learned, see if that opens up any other avenues of investigation. Right now we have the judges, the crystals, and the hob chief,” Marcella summarizes. She’s still pacing.

“Faron, who sets our missions? Where do those orders come from, exactly?” Marcella stops pacing and turns to Faron, waiting for his answer.

“The queen and her advisors set the missions. Sometimes all of the monarchs might make such decisions together.”

“Are the advisors seasonal like the monarch?” wonders Caesar.

Marcella looks pained and pinches the bridge of her nose. “So either Leadenfingers didn’t bother to inform the queen of the complaints he heard from the hobs, or we were sent to independently verify those complaints.”

“Likely the former. Our mission was more concerning John than anything else,” says Caesar.

Marcella sighs. “Well, maybe the queen will have a direction she wants us to pursue once she’s reviewed our report. For now, I think Zia’s right, it’s too late to do much more investigation today.”

“The monarchs aren’t… strictly seasonal. You don’t stop being the monarch of your season just because your season isn’t ascendent. It just determines who holds primary responsibility for the freehold at the time,” Faron explains to Caesar.

“Eh? How are the monarchs actually determined then? Likewise with their advisors? Do they willingly step down?” asks Caesar.

“I believe monarchs are chosen differently in each Court. The Summer Queen has either defeated or been yielded to by everyone nominated within that Court for example. The Autumn, Winter, and Spring Courts still exist right now, they just don’t have control of the Court,” Zia explains.

“How are people nominated?” Marcella wonders, finally distracted from worrying about their mission.

“I don’t know, ask him,” Zia says. Marcella looks questioningly at Faron.

“Work up a reputation in the Court, I suppose? I’unno,” Caesar speculates with a shrug.

“For Summer, anyone can nominate anyone. Three nominations, as long as at least one of them is from a different motley, and you’re in the running. Then you work for it.”

“Anyone? Even from outside the Summer Court?” Zia asks.

“Work for it how?” wonders Marcella.

“By sponsoring people like Whisper John and putting on a show?” posits Caesar.

“That would only get you brownie points if people knew you were the sponsor, though,” Marcella points out.

Caesar nods, “Not everyone has to know, however.”

“No, you have to be nominated by other members of the Summer Court. It’s a Summer matter, after all.” Faron looks to Marcella. “Combat’s most popular. Politics works. Whatever gets your opponents to yield.”

“As interesting as this is, what we need to determine right now is next steps. We need to speak to the judges, the chief of the hobs and investigate the crystals. We know that Armin knew more than we expected him to know, but that as far as he knows, no illegal contracts were used.” Zia sums up.

“So, is it a tournament, or does this competition happen whenever there are candidates?” Marcella is curious despite herself, but then looks at Zia. “Right, sorry, I can ask about this later. Those all sound like areas we should investigate. We should check in with the other group, too, if they’re back yet.” She’s back to business.

“If they are back, they could be anywhere. We didn’t establish any meeting place that I re—the Green Room /was/ scheduled to be in use right now, right?” asks Caesar.

“It was reserved, whether anyone is actually there, I don’t know.” Zia says. “But yes, we could start by checking there. Tonight we could probably figure out where the judges are at least.”

“Since we didn’t have another meeting point set, that’s probably the place to wait then.” Marcella heads for the door. “This is why we need phones,” she mutters.

“We should set phones up sometime then…but I guess we all need to do things like find jobs and houses and things…” Zia responds to Marcella’s mutter. She follows Marcella to the Green Room.

Marcella sighs. “Yeah, at some point we definitely do.” Marcella asks Faron more about the nomination system on the way there.

“Technically the monarch can change at any time. The monarch him/herself, a group consisting of at least 60% of the Court, or the top 10 or so changelings in a Court can decide the monarch must defend their post. Summer Court in particular encourages some modicum of jostling for the crown during the Summer Games, but the current monarch will only get involved if it gets serious,” he answers

The two groups run into each other outside the Green Room. Zia asks, “So, is anyone in there? Can we use it?”

Amy is standing a bit of the way down the hallway, at the nearest junction, looking around bemusedly. Her face is still beat red.

“NO. NO ONE IS THERE WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT I AM VERY INTERESTED,” Fianna says.

Marcella looks confused by their fleeing from the room.

“Ooookay…then, why don’t we go back to Marcella’s room…” Zia says, edging away from Fianna.

Amy follows Zia, commenting, “And that No One is very rude.”

“Glad … you guys got back safe. Um. Yes, why don’t we go debrief,” says Marcella. She heads back towards her room.

“Sssure,” agrees Iris.

As everyone moves away from the room they hear, “Wait, wait, students don’t leave! Damn, they always leave…or die…”

“I thought no one was in there?” Zia asks as she continues to move away from the room.

“I am never forgetting to check a schedule again,” Fianna says as she fast walks away.

“Do you like Yoga?” Iris asks.

“Yoga is lots of fun! Quite relaxing too!” Zia replies.

“Well then you know where to go.”

“She asked if my joints work.” Amy frowns and fidgets.

“Of course they do! She was rude, Amy,” exclaims Zia.

Marcella glares back at the room on Amy’s behalf.

“Okay…that doesn’t explain Fianna’s…reaction…but let’s focus on our mission…” Zia continues.

They reach the room, and Zia sits on the bed in deference to the number of people there this time. Marcella invites everyone in again, tells them to sit wherever they want, and stands again. Faron goes to his spot on the nice comfy wall. Iris finds a corner.

Both groups share what they learned with each other.

“So, what are our avenues of investigation at this point?” Zia says

“Faron, do you have a guess as to when we’ll hear back from the queen?” Marcella asks.

“Probably a day. Tomorrow evening seems most likely,” he answers.

To Zia, Marcella says, “The judges, the Arena, and the chief. Two of those are in the Hedge, so we could do those one after the other. Maybe we should look for the judges first thing in the morning, then go to the Arena and chief from there?” Marcella suggests.

“Sounds reasonable,” Iris agrees.

“That sounds like a plan. Perhaps we should stay together unless the judges end up being very difficult to get to?” Zia says.

“Alternatively, we could wait to go to the Arena until we hear from the Queen. I agree we should stick together.” Marcella glances very quickly at Faron.

“I would like to stay together if we’re going to the Arena in particular – or to see the chief.” Marcella nods in agreement with Iris.

Faron nods once, heavily.

Amy nods in agreement. Going to see the Arena or the chief was very different from going to see the foxes.

“We had a nice chat with Geth the Giant’s ghost. Long story short, he knows he was killed and knows it involved foul play, but not the how. He also implied that both Whisper John and his sponsor are willing to preserve their winning streak at any cost,” Fianna summarizes.

“That’s ominous…” says Zia. Caesar nods in agreement.

“He also specifically said this winning streak gives John power over people,” says Iris.

“So, I can potentially get the information about the judges from Maria….or I suppose we could have asked Armin who the judges for that match were… or Faron, would your contact know that?” Zia aks.

Marcella sighs. “This whole thing is ominous.”

“Very. It makes me uncomfortable,” agrees Iris. Hulda nods in agreement. Amy sighs.

“Is there a record of Arena matches and who has served as a judge anywhere?” Marcella wonders.

“Yes, there is. One copy at the Arena, the other in Armin’s office. Harold might know too,” says Faron.

“Okay, would you mind asking him? If he doesn’t know, I suppose we can go to the Arena first. Frankly, I don’t want to arouse Leadenfingers’ suspicions of our investigation any more than we already have. He seemed upset enough to have to see us the first time.” Marcella scowls.

“Well since we’re going to the Arena anyway…” says Iris. “But it would be good to have the record before we meet the judges.”

Zia assumes Faron will help. “Okay, so tonight Faron will speak with Harold, maybe tomorrow if needed. Tomorrow we will head to the Arena and investigate crystals, judges if needed, and then talk to the hobs.”

“Any way we can get it from Armin’s office?” wonders Iris.

Marcella turns to Iris. “We are absolutely not burgling anyone remotely associated with the freehold.”

Amy frowns at Iris, “I don’t know if we should do that.”

“True,” concedes Iris.

“Yes, we have other avenues of access. Anyone have any more suggestions or anything to discuss?” Zia says. Caesar shakes his head.

“The timeline you outlined sounds good to me,” says Marcella. Amy, Hulda, and Fianna agree. Faron doesn’t respond. He’s frowning at the floor, thoughtfully.

“Great. Disperse! Have a good evening! Remember to sleep,” Zia says.

Marcella chuckles humorlessly at the sleep comment and sees everyone out who leaves on their own. Amy, Caesar, and Fianna leave. Hulda heads up to the library to do some research on the Arena and its history before going to bed. Zia stays sitting on the bed.

Iris throws a look at Faron. She’s suspicious and knows Faron is Summer Court, but she can’t find a good excuse to stay.

Marcella waits for the people who are left to say what they want. Zia is sitting on the bed just smiling, clearly kinda waiting for Faron to leave. Faron looks up at Marcella, finally. “I’ll be back later,” he says.

Marcella sighs. “Do I need to set up an appointment book or something?” she asks rhetorically.

“Never mind then.” Faron says, and starts to leave.

“No, feel free to come back, really,” Marcella says hastily to him. She looks a little chagrined.

“An appointment book? For what? I thought we were just friends, lingering in your room,” quips Zia.

Faron frowns thoughtfully again, nods, then leaves. Iris decides to sneak after Faron. Zia stays to have a conversation with Marcella behind closed doors.

View
Marcella's journal, game 12

When Faron leaves to get information, Marcella decides to start preparing herself for the event with Maria she just (foolishly) committed herself to. She figures Zia will know more than she does, since Zia has been getting around and making all kinds of contacts already. However, the rest of the team is entirely too gleeful about the situation for her taste. She hasn’t really thought about dating much since she got out. She’s not really sure how a relationship based on actual in-person interactions would work. And anyway, the memories of Sofia and Dante are still too painful to really let herself move on.

She does appreciate Caesar’s suggestions about how to turn this into an information-gathering opportunity, though. She’s glad there’s another person in addition to Zia who feels the urgent need for them to find as many sources of information as possible. Right now, she doesn’t feel like she has any view of the political landscape underneath this court, and they look to be getting themselves in the middle of the politicking anyway, given the information from Faron’s contact. She wants to get a view of the ground under their feet as soon as possible.

Marcella is a little reluctant to send a small group to the Hedge by themselves, but it’s a division of labor and time that makes sense, and she trusts Iris and Fianna to handle their areas of expertise if anything stumbles on them between the entrance and the foxes. (Those areas being rifle and all combat, respectively.) So she’s more than a little shocked that instead of offering up concrete objections, Faron leaves the room on them in such an abrupt manner. What the fuck just happened? I thought we had made progress on the talking idea. After seeing him standing there in the hall looking miserable, she assumes something about their discussion must have hit one of his mysterious potholes. Not that I want to pry, but for the safety of the team, I want to find out what’s going on with him. Not knowing yet what had set him off, she takes a skittish colt approach, not letting her exasperation show through.

View
Game 12: Everybody Talks

Summary

Faron talks to his contact, Harold, about who might have more information about the match between Whisper John and Geth the Giant, and why John might have killed Geth. Harold gives him the name Armin Leadenfingers, the Ogre currently in charge of the Arena. Meanwhile, the rest of the group discusses Marcella’s upcoming evening engagement with Maria and what their plan from here will be. Iris reveals she can summon and question a ghost as long as she is in the same dimension where the being died. When Faron returns, the group decides to split into a Hedge team, which will summon Geth’s ghost and see if Amy’s foxes know anything, and a Court team, which will go talk to Armin Leadenfingers. Faron abruptly leaves the room when this is decided. The others are confused. Marcella goes to talk to him, the Hedge team heads out, Zia leaves to ask Maria where to find Leadenfingers, Hulda goes to the library, and Caesar heads to the rec room to see if he can start forming contacts among other changelings.

Log

After meeting to discuss their strategy moving forward, the group is ready to move on to the next step: acquiring the necessary information.

Faron says, “I’ll be back,” and heads out the door.

“Zia, can I ask you something, as long as we’re waiting?” Marcella says.

Iris shifts. “I could probably ask Geth…”

Zia looks up a from a studied contemplation of her hair, watching it carefully shift between colors, “Sure!”

“We’d have to go back to the Arena, though, Iris. I’m not sure we have time,” says Marcella. Marcella gestures Zia over to a corner of the room. Zia follows Marcella to the corner.

“So … any chance you know what kind of dinner Maria might be going to in three days that she’d want an escort to?” Marcella asks slightly awkwardly.

“Maria? She is quite involved in Court politics, and in her position she and her sister meet everyone eventually. Are you going to escort her somewhere? Why?”

“Well, since she is so central to the freehold, I was hoping to get on her good side by doing her a favor. She asked me to escort her to a dinner, though, and I really don’t know what to expect.”

“Oh hoh, got yourself a date, now, have you?” Caesar interjects.

“Hmmm she is pretty…” muses Iris.

Marcella glares at Blue and Iris.

Amy turns around to face the conversation, “A date?”

Hulda is amused by the discussion but says nothing.

Marcella clears her throat loudly, “It’s not a date, thank you very much.”

Zia laughs, “Do you want it to be a date, Marcella? Maria probably wouldn’t mind if it was.”

Marcella sighs and facepalms. Amy looks confused.

Iris clears her throat. “If I could get into the Hedge I could ask Geth a question.”

Caesar chuckles slightly. “Any clue where she’s having you take her? If she’s familiar with Court politics, we might be able to learn a bit more,” Caesar states more seriously before turning to Iris. “Can you now?”

“If you don’t want it to be a date, Marcella, then you will be literally escorting her probably? You should look nice though, Maria and her sister appreciate appearances. Ooh, and if the opportunity arises to look intimidating, take it!” Zia says energetically.

Marcella gratefully turns towards Iris. “That’s good to know. So you don’t have to be in the Arena?”

“No… just in the same dimension, although it’s more difficult if they’re further away. I could technically summon anyone who died here in reality and ask them a question I guess, but not from the Hedge or Arcadia without being there myself.”

Marcella looks impressed. “That’s a pretty powerful ability. Good to know you have that.”

“That is a rather impressive ability. We can certainly make use of that!” Zia said

Reluctantly, Marcella turns back to Zia. “So, who’s her sister, anyway?”

“Oh, her sister works the night shift as the freehold’s secretary. There is someone awake who knows what is going on 24 hours a day,” Zia replied.

“I had to do something with my time…” Iris grins. “If I’m lucky I can open a gate to the underworld soon enough. No idea what I’d use it for, though.”

Hulda’s eyes widen. “Which one? There are so many different underworlds in legend…..I was trying to find one before……..”

“That is … just a little frightening. Contracts are pretty powerful, huh?” comments Marcella.

Caesar glances over. “Underworld? There are quite a few of them.”

“Yeah… any one I think… I’m not sure how it works yet,” Iris replies. “Anyway, does anyone else have ideas? We need to find out more about Whisper John and the Court.”

“I’m not sure there’s much else we can do until Faron gets back. If his contact has information, that would be a good place to start.” Marcella turns back to Zia. “Thanks for the information. I may come to you to … commission a suit or something, if we ever get paid.”

“Well, I’m hoping that Faron went to go get information, but who knows with him. We probably don’t have the political clout yet to talk to people who really know everything about it, but there has to be someone in the Court who actually manages the Arena. We could talk to him or her?” Zia says. She looks towards Marcella, “You can probably wear the outfit I made you for Summer. It is designed to adjust for fighting.”

“Maybe we could just observe? I’m sure somebody here is good at hiding and socializing – better than me, anyway,” Iris says.

Caesar nods in agreement with Zia. He really needed to get himself some contacts.

“I’m not really any good at hiding, but I can socialize. I don’t know who manages the Arena, though,” Marcella says.

“You could ask,” Iris suggests.

“I suppose Faron might know who manages the Arena? Or his contact?” Zia offers.

“That’s likely,” agrees Marcella.

“Let’s hope so,” says Caesar.

“Marcella here could ask Maria about it! Though she might come away from it owing her a little bit more than an escort,” Zia says.

Marcella rolls her eyes. “I’d like to avoid that, thanks.”

“Well,” Caesar starts, “it isn’t too impossible to trade information. We have come across some stuff that is trade-worthy.”

“What could we use in trade? We have given most of our information directly to the Court,” Zia asks.

“Would it be worth anything to her to know it before the Court reads it?” wonders Marcella.

“Eh, good point, I suppose,” agrees Caesar. He thinks a moment, then suggests, “Perhaps some item, say, how does she like fabrics, or some clothing?”

Zia thinks for a moment, “She does rather enjoy Hedgespun clothing. She and her sister try to outdo each other.”

“How readily available are Arcadian silks?” he asks.

“Huh, you know, I am not positive. I haven’t seen any Arcadian silks in the few weeks I have been here except the ones I brought out with me,” Zia says. “So, they can’t be that common.”

“So then I’ll assume they’re rare enough. Say … rare enough to get us whatever information we need from Maria?” Caesar asks with the faintest ghost of a smirk.

“Then they might be pretty rare. Don’t give them away too easily,” Marcella cautions.

“Oh, definitively not easily. We have to get our money’s worth. What if you were to offer it as an auction kind of thing between the two sisters while you’re escorting them: let them both tell you facts, trying to outdo each other. Make it a contest for them,” he suggests.

“Why don’t we wait and see if Faron can get the information first?” Zia offers.

“Hmm…that might be best,” Caesar concedes.

“Caesar, I like how you think,” Zia says.

Marcella smiles. “Definitely something we can keep in our back pocket.”

Caesar nods off the compliment. It was definitively an option, but a costly one. He’d need to find more material to use to gain information. “We really need to find more of our own contacts within the freehold, as well as outside of it. The more we investigate, the more obvious we’re left in the dark.” If none else’s, this would be his priority during the offtime.

Iris nods.

“Seriously,” Marcella agrees. “I think Faron may be … learning how to be a more useful mentor, but the more sources of information we have, the better.”

“I could help meet people,” offers Amy.

Zia smiles, “I am still in the process of acquiring further contacts within the freehold, but I expect in the next few months I should have a variety of contacts. I am quite good at people.”

“Heh. I’m terrible with people,” says Iris.

“Maybe there are more people from when I was before to explain what has changed? I asked the computer, but it’s kind of confusing sometimes,” says Amy.

“If Amy’s foxes haven’t been displaced yet, their captives — or whatever you wanna call them — could tell us some stuff, and the foxes themselves of the ongoings of the Hedge. Maybe they might know of what’s happening with the Arena. And its fine if we’re not all good with people. Just the sources pooled between all of us ought to suffice,” reassures Caesar.

“They might know, yes,” agrees Iris.

“I can ask the foxes things if we need them. They like me,” says Amy.

Caesar nods to Amy. “Helpful that’ll be, too. We might need to pay them a visit some time soon.”

“When we go, I can ask Geth while we’re at it,” Iris chimes in.

“It’s true, if they could tell someone was manipulating the Hedge when you escaped, they may be able to tell other things about the Hedge. It could be worth asking them,” Marcella agrees.

“More importantly, they probably aren’t involved in this business,” adds Iris.

“However, since we are currently here in the freehold, shouldn’t we try to get information from here before we head back into the Hedge?” asks Hulda.

“As long as the foxes don’t try to collect you, Amy, that is a good plan to use at some point,” Zia says.

“We will be, yeah, that’s exactly why I want to find some contacts here,” Caesar says to Hulda.

Amy sighs at Zia’s comment, then nods at Blue, “Good idea,” and heads towards the door.

“Amy, I think Faron’s meeting us back here. Why don’t we wait for him?” Marcella calls to her.

“Amy … where are you going?” Hulda asks.

She stop. “Oh, right. Ok. I was going to go meet people.”

“No, no, not right now. I meant a bit later,” clarifies Caesar.

“Faron might have some suggestions about who we should try and meet, so let’s wait for him first,” says Marcella.


Faron heads to the basement. The workshop he is heading to is at the end of the hallway, behind a door with his contact’s name on it.

Faron knocks on the door and calls out, “Harold?”

There is a pause, and some clattering, and the door opens a crack. He can see an eye peering through, roughly level with his chest. “Whatya want, Faron?” the voice says, vaguely crankily.

“I heard some interesting rumors about some events at the Arena. I was wondering if you’d clarify?”

“Gonna have to be more specific, kiddo,” the voice behind the door says. “At least, before I open the door and decide it’s worth letting you in.”

“I heard Whisper John’s been doing very well lately.”

There is a pause, and the door closes, then opens to reveal a crotchety mddle-aged Wizened. “Oh fine, come in. And close the door behind you. Otherwise some of my plant specimens will make a break for it.”

Faron does so.

Harold offhandedly gestures at a somewhat dumpy-looking chair and wanders back to a workbench covered in an incomprehensible tumble of materials. He begins tinkering with something, but continues talking. “I assume you’re here about that debacle that happened last week?”

Faron sits and leans forward. “I hadn’t realized it was that recent.”

“Well that’s what happens when you kill an entire races’ folk hero. Granted, hobs aren’t the most … motivated of creatures, but that was enough for them to mobilize that quickly. And Whisper John had shown up Geth twice before.”

“In contested matches?”

He can see Harold’s head nodding, even though he doesn’t turn to face Faron. “Yup. Both of them. And each time the hobs came away a little angrier. Whisper John occupies this strange and frustrating space where you KNOW he’s cheating when he does, but for some reason no one can find any proof of wrongdoing. And the Arena isn’t going to throw one of their best draws to the curb without hard and fast evidence. He’s like a whatchacallit in wrestling … a heel. People like to watch him be awful.”

“Awful enough to unnecessarily kill his opponent?”

“Wouldn’t put it past him. Have you met the guy? Absolutely obsessed with winning. And Geth the Giant was a legitimately good fighter; good enough to take Whisper John on head-to-head and make him REAL worried.”

“Does Whisper John have a patron, someone else who might be heavily invested in his success?”

Harold turns around, a curious bit of mechanical confusion in his hands. “All Arena regulars have patrons. It’s practically a requirement. Geth’s patron was the chief of the local hobs … why do you think there’s been such a to-do about the whole thing? Whisper John kept his patron fairly secret … All anyone outside the Arena committee seems to know is it’s some highly placed Court muckety-muck.”

“A Summer Court muckety-muck?”

“That’d be my guess. The other Courts don’t really concern themselves with the Arena too much … but for Summer, it’s where we hold our yearly Games.”

Faron nods. “Who’s the functionary for the committee currently?”

“An Ogre … been around forever. Been supporting the Arena almost as long, and isn’t secretive about it all. Name is Armin Leadenfingers. Now, is that all the questions you have, or can I go back to work?”

Faron smiles wryly. “Just one more. You’re an expert on the Arena. Would you say killing Geth was personal, or political?”

For once, Harold puts down his tinkering, and focuses his full attention on Faron. “For Whisper John, the possibility of not winning would be personal indeed. But if his patron was pulling the strings on this one, then who knows? Politics are a messy business, kiddo. It’s made murderers out of all kinds of people.”

Faron nods solemnly and stands. “Thank you, Harold.”

Harold turns away. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t go biting off more than you can chew, kiddo.”

“I’ll try.” He doesn’t sound sure at all, and leaves quietly.


Faron returns about two minutes after Amy got up to go meet people. He’s as emotive as usual.

Caesar nods to him. “Manage to find anything out?” he asks at the same time Zia asks, “Find out anything useful?”

“Maybe. At least I have another name.” He frowns. “And you might not be wrong about a conspiracy.”

“Wonderful,” sighs Marcella. “So, who’d you talk to? Or are they the type that would prefer not to be named?”

“Heh,” Caesar breathes, “a name’s always good to work with. Who’re we dealing with?”

“Harold? He’s got a workshop down in the basement. Not crazy about new people, and definitely hates groups.” He looks at Caesar. “There’s another person you might want to try to talk to. Armin Leadenfingers. He’s the functionary for the committee that runs the Arena right now.”

Caesar nods. “What kind of person is this Leadenfingers? Knowing what we’re dealing with never hurts.”

“Excellent. As Caesar says, it would be good to know what he’s like before we approach him,” agrees Marcella.

“No idea,” Faron says flatly.

“So should we ask people about him first, or just approach carefully?” wonders Iris.

“Shame. Know who would?” asks Caesar.

“Well, it was worth a try. Any more insight from your contact about why John killed Geth, and why the Court hasn’t done anything about it?” asks Marcella.

“Whisper John was a win-at-all cost type. Geth probably could have beaten him if it weren’t for his… dubious methods. But as for why the Court hasn’t done anything… he is a profitable draw to the Arena.” Faron pauses.

“So they know he cheated, and aren’t doing anything about it? This could be worse than I thought,” Marcella sighs.

“Well the question is if they know for sure that he cheated,” Zia adds.

Caesar wants to laugh. It was such a simple motivation. “Money? That’s the entire reason?”

“He very likely did, but they can’t prove it.” Faron seems really hesitant.

“But they’re not even trying?” Iris presses.

Marcella raises her eyebrows at Faron and waits to see if he’ll elaborate. Caesar waits for whatever else to be said. They weren’t being told everything. Typical.

“He has an influential patron. An anonymous, highly influential patron,” Faron finally says.

“Lovely,” says Hulda.

“Oh? Do we know who he or she or it is? Any ideas or clues?” Zia asks. “Those kinds of people are rarely truly anonymous.”

“But if no one can get to the Arena, won’t he not make any more money?” asks Amy.

“Any guesses as to what this patron would get from Geth’s death? Did Geth have a patron?” asks Marcella.

“What would happen if we could prove he cheated?” wonders Iris.

To Amy, Marcella says, “I think that’s why the Court had us investigate the attacks. They had no way to know this was how the goblins would react.”

Amy’s eyes go wide, “You think the WHOLE Court knows?”

“Yeah. Geth’s patron was the local hob chief,” Faron says to Marcella. “If the Summer Court wanted to start a conflict…” He blinks, and looks at Zia. “Harold didn’t know. Armin Leadenfingers might.”

“Why don’t we go talk to him then,” Zia proposed.

“It’s unlikely that the whole Court would know. Just those trying to use this for their own ends,” Hulda reassures Amy. Marcella nods in agreement with Zia and Hulda.

“What would be to gain from a conflict with the hobs? Or their elimination?” wonders Iris.

“I doubt it, but some definitely do,” Caesar says to Amy. “Now the Court knows that the hobs are violent, and may lash out. Could be something of a war if they don’t get the appeasement they want. We might see these people more proactive now than before.”

“Unless starting a conflict was what they wanted….” Hulda murmurs.

“What would people supporting the Arena gain from starting a conflict?” Zia asked. “Also, why were the hobs so well-armed?”

“What’s the current relationship like between the Court and the hobs?” Marcella wonders aloud. “Do the hobs hold resources some parts of the Court want to get hold of?”

“Maybe they have a wealthy patron?……uh….this is not making a lot of sense,” Hulda admits.

“I think hobs mostly control the goblin market. I don’t see the Court wanting those to melt away,” Zia said tentatively.

Amy looks confused, but says nothing.

“Goblin markets?” Caesar said with a frown, “Those are a thing? And, if they did have their economy, why weaponize for something so unrelated?” Amy nods agreement with Caesar’s question.

“A political motive is speculation at this point. Don’t make too many assumptions,” Faron cautions.

“It’s the Court, there has to be a political motive,” asserts Iris.

“It could be economical or personal…..” points out Hulda.

“Okay, well, what questions do we want to ask Mr. Leadenfingers?” Zia asks.

“Faron’s right that we shouldn’t assume what it is until we have more information, though. Should we go try and find Armin?” Marcella also tries to get them back on track.

“True, but there still has to be a motive and we’re not getting any closer, and this stupid oath prevents us from doing anything too obviously hostile,” Iris says.

“We can see if he can tell us anything about Whisper John’s patron,” Marcella suggests.

Iris does not seem happy. “I guess.” Amy backs away from Iris a bit.

Marcella raises an eyebrow at Iris. “This ‘stupid oath’ is also what allows us to stay here using the freehold’s resources and with the assurance they won’t actively harm us,” she points out.

Iris grumbles.

“Goblin markets are what it says on the tin. The hobs run markets with rare and interesting stuff,” Faron says to Caesar.

“We don’t need to be hostile. If its political power he’s wanting, I’m sure a bargain could be struck. Information on John and this entire situation is first and foremost.” Caesar says. He nods to Faron. “Great to know.”

“Or if he refuses to tell us about Whisper John’s patron, we could at least ask about who is particularly interested in the Arena,” Hulda suggests.

“And ask more people about the hobs and the Court,” adds Iris.

“Talking to the hob chief is also a good idea. Geth was a great hero to them. He’d know best what Geth’s death means to them,” Faron advises.

“I’d also like to know if there is any way to get hold of any more evidence about the events of Geth’s death,” adds Marcella.

“We can split into a couple sub-teams for now, then? There’s some things we need to cover and learn about here in the freehold, and the foxes and communication with Geth in the Hedge isn’t too bad an idea, either.” Caesar shrugs.

“I’d like to ask Geth, the more diplomatic people stay here and ask Armin, Amy is going to ask the foxes and… by the way I only have one question, what exactly should we ask him?” asks Iris.

“You two need someone who can fight,” Marcella says firmly to Iris. “Fianna?”

“Do as you like in the freehold. I wouldn’t advise going into the Hedge in smaller groups,” Faron cautions.

“Fianna and Marcella maybe?” suggests Iris.

“We should definitely go see the chief together, but the way to the foxes’ isn’t too dangerous. If possible, I’d like to meet this Armin,” Marcella says in response to both Faron and Iris.

“Sure, whatevs,” Fianna says.

“But if we’d like to send two fighters to the Hedge, I can go,” Marcella adds.

“I just need to take one step into the Hedge really…” Iris says.

Amy smiles. Fianna wouldn’t try to stop her from talking to her friends.

“Iris, I think we should ask Geth how Whisper John cheated, and if he can think of any proof we could provide of his cheating,” Marcella advises. “Maybe also if he has any knowledge about why John or his patron would want Geth dead, or what they have against Geth or the chief.”

“I’ll try,” Iris agrees.

“I think that the ghost and one of the Hedge teams can be combined? After all, Iris just needs to step into the Hedge, do her thing, then they can move onto the foxes and then the chief or the Hedge foxes,” Zia proposes.

“The foxes. Let’s go to the chief together, things might be less safe there,” Caesar says.

“Probably,” agrees Iris.

“Agreed,” says Marcella. “Let’s wait on the chief until we are together again.”

“In that case, right now we need a team to talk to Armin and a team to go to the Hedge,” says Zia.

“I can stay here….I don’t really like talking to people, but I am pretty good at telling if someone is lying to me, which might be relevant,” Hulda says.

“I’ll be staying in the freehold. In addition to talking to Armin, I’ll see about talking to some other people as well,” Caesar decides.

“So, right now, we have Amy, Iris, and Fianna going to the Hedge, and me, Hulda, Zia, and Caesar staying. Faron, do you want to stay in case you have insight on Court things?” Marcella asks.

“I really, really don’t recommend going into the Hedge in smaller groups,” Faron says again.

“Why not?” Asks Amy.

“Any reason in particular?” Marcella adds.

“I went into the Hedge just me and my teacher for days, Faron,” Zia says.

“Who was your teacher?” he asks Zia.

“Anya, one of the Court seamstresses,” she answers.

Faron gets a far-off look in his eyes. He leaves rather abruptly.

“…well,” says Caesar in the ensuing silence. “That was…uh…”

“Now I’m worried…” Iris says.

“That was….unexpected,” Hulda agrees.

“Huh,” says Amy. “Well, I guess we can go, then.”

Zia looks confused. “What did I say…”

Marcella sighs. “He was doing pretty well, too.”

“Which is why I’m worried.” That looked unnatural to Iris.

“Is there some problem between Anya and him?” wonders Caesar.

“Well, perhaps someone should go after him? Or we could ask the Court to get us a more … balanced mentor … but I don’t want to offend him,” Zia says. “I guess he could?” she says to Caesar. “She has a rather…acerbic wit.”

“Well, let’s go, then, I guess?” Marcella concludes. “Hedge team, stay on the path, don’t go anywhere besides to the foxes without backup. We’ll try not to piss off the Court while you’re gone.”

“Well, he didn’t give us any real reasons, so let’s go,” agrees Amy.

Marcella sighs. “I can see if I can go catch up to him, but if I can’t find him, let’s go see Armin.”

“Alright then..” Iris looks nervous.

“Point…now, to figure out where Armin is…Perhaps I will ask Maria…she owes me already,” Zia says.

“That would be much appreciated, Zia. Thank you.” Marcella leaves to see if she can catch Faron.

“When you do, make mention of Marcella having those Arcadian fabrics. Just enough to pique her interest,” Caesar says to Zia.

Zia smiles, “Will do,” and leaves the room.

Marcella walks down the hall and runs into Faron. Zia exits the room, sees Marcella and Faron, and slips past them to go talk to Maria.

Caesar also exits the room, wandering around without any reason. He needs to find out who would work for contacts. He heads for one of the communal spaces in the freehold.

Back in the room, Iris is glad she still has her rifle and hopes she won’t mess up her summon. The group going to the Hedge leaves, and Hulda heads to the library.


“Faron … what happened? Is everything okay?” Marcella asks him.

He’s leaning against the wall, face to the ceiling and eyes shut. Marcella leans up against the wall next to him and waits.

“Not here.” He sounds tired.

She nods. “Sure,” she says gently. “Where do you want to go?”

“Everywhere. But I can’t. Have they left yet?” He still sounds exhausted.

“They’re on their way out now, but I’m sure we could catch up to them if we need to. Is that what this is about?”

“I should, but I shouldn’t.” His eyes are still closed. “Not here.”

“You okay with letting them go for now, then? If so, let’s find somewhere to talk.”

Faron nods. Every muscle is so tight he’s vibrating. Marcella resists the urge to clasp his shoulder, and stands up, waiting for him to take the lead.

Faron pushes off the wall. “Is the Green Room empty?” They see Hulda leave. “That’ll work then.” Faron heads back towards the Green Room.


Caesar heads towards the gaming room on the second floor. As he enters, there are two fairest sitting by the window playing backgammon. One is tall, slender and treelike, the other whose movements as he moves the pieces are pointedly graceful. Nearby, there is a poker game going and a man who seems vaguely plasticicky sits reading a book. Games in the room include billiards, darts, a cabinet labeled games, two tables for playing games (one currently taken up by the poker team), and a foozball table.

Caesar approaches the one reading a book. “People don’t generally come here just to read. You play pool?”

The man looks up, “I was waiting for a friend to play a round of cards, but I’d be happy to play with you if you’d like. I’m Merv Parkesine, and you’re?”

“I’m called Blue here. Caesar Blue, Blue Caesar, just Caesar or just Blue. Whatever you will,” Caesar nods, offering a hand to help the man up. “A pleasure, Merv, if I may call you that.”

Merv takes his hand and stands. His hand feels hard and oddly smooth. “Of course, of course, now, shall we play?”

“Certainly.” Caesar does all the setting up for the billiards table and grabs a stick. “You wanna break?”

“My pleasure. Now, I don’t think you have been in here before, but no contracts while you’re playing, no funny stuff. Some nights we let that happen, but the pennycounters don’t like that because the room can get a bit trashed. Contracts and tempers and people having fun.” He breaks the triangle and gets one ball in, stripes.

“Hadn’t intended to, I prefer a good, honest game, personally. Yeah, new to this room and to the area, thought most of the people were. Looks like solids are mine.” Caesar tries to sink one, but it doesn’t go in.

“Hard luck, hard luck, Blue,” Merv says and takes a shot, but his doesn’t go in either.

Caesar wiggles his eyebrows in agreement. He goes for another shot. “So, you’re more of a cards guy?” he brings this guy’s friend back into the conversation. He gets one of Merv’s balls in.

“Eh, I play a bit of this, a bit of that, I have an affinity for games with plastic pieces, as I am you sure can imagine, but for some reason no one likes to play them with me. And you? What do you play?” Merv asks.

“Interesting affinity. And I’m more of a collector by heart; never really had time to play much as a kid. Barely know more than how to play. I like collecting secrets, information, that kind of thing. I make these stories in my head, things that people couldn’t imagine, or don’t fully know. It’s a dangerous game, if I learn something I’m not supposed to, but fun.”

Merv takes his shot and misses. He sighs. “Well, that’s a bit of a wash. Collecting secrets, making stories? Ah, darklings. Do be careful, the world is full of people who don’t want their secrets out.”

“Mm, for sure, its a beautiful story in my head, but so little of it is recited.” Caesar takes another shot, and gets two balls with one shot. “Seems we’re ’bout as matched as that Arena battle was,” Caesar alludes.

“Great shot! That Arena battle? Which one?” Merv asks as he takes his shot.

“Just luck,” Caesar shrugs. “Geth and John’s last one, until things started going south for the hob. Seemed evenly-matched, considering…”

View
Marcella's journal, game 11

Marcella isn’t sure what to expect from the freehold when they bring back the captive hobs, but they seem quite willing to take them off their hands. She’s relieved to hear that the queen will be looking for a report from them. It would be best for everyone involved if this could be resolved quickly.

As soon as that is settled, she seizes the opportunity to talk to Faron privately. Foremost on her mind is the question of why he is with their group at all, when he appears to actively wish he was elsewhere most of the time. Mostly what she gets from the conversation is that he’s a little prickly, and a lot bad at people. She’d wondered if the pawnshop assistant had been a fluke, but no, his people skills really did seem to be that poor. Great, just what we need, she thinks to herself. A socially challenged mentor. Because this job wasn’t hard enough already. Underneath it all, though, he does appear to genuinely care, maybe even in spite of himself. That’s something, at least.

Things don’t improve much when they go to find the others. Not sure where the others are, Marcella decides to check with the freehold administrator, thinking this might be a good opportunity to get to know the woman in person instead of by name only. However, the administrator is so uncooperative that she throws Marcella for a loop, and Marcella finds herself promising a favor for the information she wants. Pretty much as soon as that leaves her mouth, she regrets it. That was stupid. Well, maybe I can at least use this opportunity to get to know Maria better and make her more cooperative in the future. She’d like to learn more about that power of identification, for example.

The other silver lining is that Faron actually seems to put their conversation in practice and take the initiative to intervene and get Marcella out of the favor. She’s touched that he tries, but knows that once aired, her offer is binding. Hopefully this dinner thing isn’t too dangerous, politically or otherwise. I wonder if I’ll be a date, a bodyguard, or both?

Once they’re all together again, they start their report for the queen. Marcella is concerned by Iris’ continued inclination to do things that would antagonize the court. Sure, they might get their way this time if they withheld the feather in order to be included in a mission, but you could bet next time they wouldn’t be given any kind of responsibility of any kind. Definitely not the way to get people to trust us.

Marcella puts her takeaway from the conversation with Faron into practice and starts asking him about basic information she thinks most or all of the group doesn’t know yet. Better late than never, especially with Iris already considering actions that could break their oath to the freehold.

As they all start sharing stories about where they came from and their escape through the Hedge, Marcella gets a cold pit in her stomach. It almost sounds as though something (or someone) is deliberately sending them all here. Amy even missed her own time by decades. It isn’t reassuring to hear that, at least as far as Faron knows, no one in the court knows why this is happening, either. She still thinks it’s suspicious that the court is keeping them all here, though. Wouldn’t it be easier to spread them back all out to their hometown freeholds? What did this freehold need so many changelings for? Someone must know that answer.

View
Game 11: A Report for the Queen

Summary

The group turns over their prisoners to the freehold, and are asked to prepare a report summarizing the situation for the Queen. Some members of the group go change, and Marcella and Faron leave to have a private conversation. Zia easily gets a meeting room for the group, but it takes everyone else quite a while to rejoin there. Marcella ends up promising a favor to the freehold administrator. Once they meet back up, the group writes a report. Faron also gives the group more information about Whisper Jack, the rules of the freehold, and why it is that so many Changelings from all over the world are here in Aachen.

Log

The group returns to the courtyard of the freehold with their captive hobgoblins. In the van on their way back, Marcella says to the rest that it’s possible there’s someone high up in the courts who is covering something up, so they should be careful who in the freehold they ask for help.

Caesar tries to find any of the court members to look into seeking audience at their next assembly. Marcella marches a goblin towards the freehold, looking for Byron or a similar person with some amount of power at court to talk to. Iris tries to keep an eye on the hostages, and feels nervous. Amy lets the others take charge.

Fianna and Marcella march the hobs out of the van. The unconscious one is no longer out entirely, but still pretty out of it. Upon leaving the van, with them, the courtyard’s single guard (disguised as a doorman in case muggles should wander in somehow) sits up from their stool and shouts for the guards at the entry. Two of them come out. All three of them are heading towards the group fast.

Iris says, “Brace for impact.”

Marcella stops and waits for the guards. Fianna waits as well, since she knows better than to tangle with officials. No matter what, that is generally a Bad Idea.

Amy flinches back, but stays where she is. Zia leans against the van, curious to see how the freehold, so firmly against holding people against their will, interacts with captives.

Faron steps forward and holds up his hands. “It’s all right. They’re with us at the moment.”

When the guards reach the group, the woman dressed as a doorman asks “What happened?”

“We found two of the hobs who were attacking people on their way to the Arena. We brought them back for safekeeping while we investigate their claims against the court,” Marcella reports.

“They should probably talk about those to someone who knows what they’re talking about,” says Amy.

To the group, Iris says, “Wouldn’t want to be ambushed, but you’re right Amy. We need to start knowing more about our missions before we go in….”

The doorwoman guard says,“Hmm…well, we’ll take them off your hands and to the temporary holding rooms. Please prepare a report for the Summer Queen to determine how long they will be held or if further measures are required.”

“Understood, I appreciate your help,” Marcella replies. “Will we be allowed in to ask them further questions if necessary?”

The doorwoman looks at her carefully, “Most likely. Though, to be honest, there are better people in the court for asking questions I am sure. You may need to relay your questions.”

“I see, I appreciate your clarification.” Marcella bows and passes one of the hobs to the guard. Fianna also hands over her goblin.

Caesar nods, remaining as silent as he was during that short conversation and walks past. Amy follows him.

Zia steps forward from the van, and says, "Why don’t we all go prepare that report for the Summer Queen? I am sure we could use one of the meeting rooms.” Amy turns around.

Once the guards leave, Marcella turns to the group. “Yes, good idea. Why don’t any of us who need to change out of our battle clothes do so, and we can meet in a meeting room in about 15 minutes?”

Iris says, “We should watch the court. I don’t think we can trust them anyway, and some of them may be hiding something."

“Let’s have that conversation once we’re behind closed doors, Iris.” Marcella glances around the courtyard.

Zia looks down at herself, “I do not need to change. I am already armed for court battles. I will procure us a meeting room.”

“Thanks. Faron, can I have a word?” Marcella asks.

Amy looks down at her clothes, which are dirty from the fall she took earlier. “I’d better go change.”

Caesar says, “I’ll be going with Zia. No point in changing clothing, really.”

“I suppose someone’s gonna give me the stinkeye if I don’t change…” Fianna grumbles.

“I think my clothes are fine,” Iris says.

Faron and Marcella walk away and go inside. Amy and Fianna go to their rooms to change.

Zia, Caesar, and Iris walk into the freehold to the administrative office. Sitting at a desk is a gorgeous fairest, her fingers flying over a keyboard. Zia says, “Maria, how are you today?”

The fairest looks up, her fingers still flying over the keys, “Zia! I thought they sent your team out on a mission!” She looks her up and down, “Don’t you look fine. What can I do for you?”

Zia responds, “Any of the meeting rooms free for maybe an hour? We need to write a report for the queen.”

Caesar and Iris remain silent, letting Zia handle the conversation with this stranger.

Maria looks at the screen, clicks about. “Hmm…yes, the Green Room should be free for the rest of the day, I’ll put your group in. You should come see me when you’re done with the room.” Zia replies, “Thanks Maria! I’ll definitely keep you in the loop.” She blows her a kiss and flounces out of the room.

“Come on, you two. Iris, why don’t you tell the people changing their clothes where we are?” Zia asks.

Caesar complies with the woman’s order. To the Green Room they go! Iris follows. She doesn’t look happy, but goes off to search for everyone else.

Zia and Carlos walk to the Green Room. Inside the room is elegantly appointed, but filled with plants, freakishly healthy and colorful plants.


Fianna runs to her room and throws on something a little nicer than her street clothes. After changing, she leaves her room before stopping halfway down the hallway upon realizing she has no idea where she is supposed to go. She starts marching around random hallways opening the doors to public spaces at random trying to find people.


Iris knocks on Amy’s door first. Amy opens the door for Iris, and beams, “Oh, good. I just realized I didn’t know where to go.”

“Green room. Let’s look for Fianna. That’s why I was looking for you, I think I know where her room is, but I’m not sure.”

Amy smiles, “Ok. Let’s go find her!”

The two of them try Fianna’s room, but find it empty.

“Hmm…” Iris then heads vaguely in the direction of the green room, hoping to run into Fianna along the way. About halfway there they encounter another changeling, an Ogre, walking down the hallway.

Amy smiles, “Hi! Have you seen Fianna?”

The Ogre raises an eyebrow. “…who?”

Iris describes Fianna. “My friend, Fianna,” Amy clarifies helpfully.

“Oh…the angry little Telluric that came stomping through here. Sure. She was headed in that direction a couple minutes ago.” He points down the hall. “Take a right.”

“Thank you!” Amy dashes off down the hallway.

“Thanks!” Iris says, and follows.

They find Fianna a ways down the next hallway, standing in front of an open door, glowering and muttering about ‘this place being too big.’

“Fianna!” Amy exclaims.

“There you are! The others should be in the green room,” says Iris.

Fianna looks up, and her face gets less-grumpy. “Hey kiddo…you wouldn’t happen to know WHERE that is, would you?”

“I do actually…" Iris says.

“Iris is going to show us,” Amy explains.

“Good. Because I’ve walked in on two conversations and I think I found a rec room on the way here….none of which were green. Lead on.”

“You’ll have to show those to me later, it’s this way.” Iris starts walking to the green room. Amy giggles.

“No kidding. I saw foosball. I will annihilate whoever challenges me at foosball.” Fianna follows.

“It’s not too bad, I’m terrible at it though.” Iris smirks.

“That sounds fun,” Amy says. She gets a look like she’s just thought of something and then follows that up with, “The game, right?”

“After this we should totally have a party in the rec room. Grab some snacks, play some games…watch whatever passes as a good movie these days.”

“Yeah! That sounds like so much fun. We should do it. I could make cookies. I think I remember how to make cookies,” Amy says.

“Sounds good, this mission is giving me a headache already,” Iris adds.

They continue talking, and in a few minutes they reach the Green Room.


“Wonder what’s taking them so long,” Caesar says, while he and Zia are waiting, just for the sake of conversation.

Zia says, “Well…who knows if people actually stayed in their rooms. I do hope they aren’t trying to get information from Maria. She is…not helpful to people she doesn’t know or like.”

“She isn’t? Nice to know. How’d you get her to like you? You two seemed friendly enough.”

Zia smiles a little smile. “I’m good at facilitating people liking me when I want to be. She has quite a lovely personality when you get to know her and she did seem key to access to the freehold’s resources.”

The two of them hear a knock on the door. Zia calls, “Come on in!”

Amy bounces into the room, looking significantly more cheerful than she did this morning.

“I found Amy and Fianna, did Marcella get here already?” asks Iris.

“Nope, we’re still waiting for Faron and Marcella, where did they go?” Zia asks

“No idea, I think they went to talk or something,” says Iris.

“What are they talking about for so long?” wonders Amy.


About ten minutes after they left the courtyard, Marcella and Faron come to the area of the freehold where the meeting rooms are, without having changed. Not seeing any members of their group around, they head for the administrative office.

Maria is at the desk, fingers flying. Now the printer is printing, trying frantically to keep up with her.

Marcella knocks. “Afternoon, Maria. Do you know which room Vogelfrei are in right now?”

Maria continues typing, without even looking up. “Why should I tell you?”

Marcella is momentarily taken aback, then puts on a grin and says, “Because I’ll owe you a favor?”

Maria’s typing does not cease, but you see a smile come over her face. “A favor? Hmm…I always like favors. What kind of favors?”

Faron steps up. “Good day, Maria. Marcella is looking for the rest of her motley so that they can prepare a report for the Summer Queen.”

They see a flash go across Maria’s eyes, something perhaps not natural. “Faron, positive identification. Current liaison to Vogelfrei. Butt out of my conversation with Marcella,” she says, very calmly.

Marcella is proud of Faron for stepping up, but steps a bit in front of him to finish what she started. “If you need an errand run around the freehold or around town, I’m your woman. If you need protection on a particular occasion, I have my swords. Something on that level.”

“I have a dinner to attend in 3 days. The people attending it are, a little bit complicated. Escort me?” Maria asks, glancing up quickly.

Marcella bows gracefully. “It would be my honor.”

Maria looks at Marcella, taking in every aspect of her appearance. Marcella feels something a little odd, like she is being scanned. “Please state your name as you use in the freehold,” she requests.

“Marcella.” Marcella watches Maria closely, and notices a flash in her eyes when she feels funny.

Maria accepts her name. “Thanks! I’ll be in contact with you regarding the dinner. They are in the Green Room. Faron knows where that is.”

Marcella grins at Maria, not showing that she’s a little unnerved by the flashing eyes. “I look forward to hearing from you, my dear.”

Marcella looks to Faron to lead the way to the green room. “Yes, thank you Maria.” He heads towards the Green Room.

On their way there, Marcella asks Faron quietly, “Do you knows what her kith is? Is she even a changeling?”

“No idea what her kith is. I’m pretty sure she is a changeling though.” He frowns. “You’re not sparing in your favors.”

She sighs and looks rueful. “She caught me off guard. I didn’t know enough about what she does to offer something specific.”

“I suppose that will help you in the long run, especially starting out. And Maria is definitely someone you want on your good side. But you don’t have to exert yourself right away.”

“That’s what I was thinking. She may be more friendly after this based on the one favor.”

“Hmm.”

They arrive at the Green Room. Before they go in, Marcella says, “Specific questions, right?”

The two of them enter the room, and Iris looks relieved.

“Sorry we’re late, everyone,” Marcella apologizes.

“Were you kissing?” asks Amy.

“I think they were,” says Caesar.

Fianna cracks up and falls out of her chair, Zia giggles, and Marcella bursts out laughing.

Iris groans. “So what are we going to tell the queen?”

Zia comments, “That would make things interesting…”

Fianna climbs back into her chair. “Oh yeah. We definitely need to have a party.”

“No Amy, we just had something to talk about.” Marcella raises her eyebrow at Zia.

Faron looks distinctly uncomfortable.

“Oh. Ok,” Amy says.

“Maybe you should kiss him, I’d like to see that,” Iris adds.

“We’ll provide a report on the conflict, and ask the questions we all, no doubt, had from what the goblins disclosed. Make special effort to pay attention to the reactions of the court. There’s something we’re not being told, and I’m not sure if we were meant to be told,” Caesar brings the group back onto topic. Or tries to, at least.

“I was thinking that first we should pool our information.” Marcella looks at Faron. “First thing first. Faron, could you tell us what you know about Whisper Jack?”

“I’d like to find out more about the relations between court members as well,” Iris says.

Zia says under her breath, “We could play spin the bottle at the party, Fianna.”

“But either way I’d be wary of the court, just like I’d not at all be surprised if the intentions of the one who commandeers the hobgoblins aren’t what they say,” Iris continues.

“John. Whisper John. He’s a darkling from the Summer Court who’s been here for a long time. Loves and excels at the Arena, though he favors speed and trickery and somewhat questionable tactics. Questionable, but technically within the rules. He does have a history of contested matches. Including two with this Geth the Giant,” Faron explains. “Or three, I suppose, if you count the one that ended with his death.”

“FanTASTIC,” says Fianna.

“Have there been any rumors that you’ve heard around court that he won by foul play?” asks Marcella.

“So he did kill him?” asks Amy.

“Well, we always knew he killed him, Amy. The question is if it was by cheating,” says Marcella. “And then, if so, why the court hasn’t acknowledged it.”

“Well, no…” Amy frowns, “The goblins could have been lying about the whole thing. Or wrong.”

“Hm. Where can we find him? Also should I try and find Geth?” wonders Iris.

“I think before we get too into the new details, we should write the report of our actual encounter for the queen…” Zia proposes.

“Fair enough, Zia. Should we have one person write down a basic outline, and then we can all add other details as we see necessary?” proposes Marcella.

“So who writes the best?” asks Fianna.

Marcella looks at Zia.

“My handwriting is gorgeous of course,” Zia nods in acknowledgement of Marcella’s look.

“Then we have a volunteer,” says Iris. Fianna rolls her eyes.

Zia rummages quickly in the room. “Here we are!” She takes out a pen and paper.

The group decides to leave out specific mention of the feather they received from the hobgoblin. They leave the report purposefully vague, saying they have a method to get to the chief’s hideout, but not what it is. Iris doesn’t trust the freehold with the feather, thinking they might ambush the hobgoblins if there is something sinister going on. She would be in favor of demanding to go with the group that uses the feather by withholding it from the court, but the rest of the group doesn’t like this suggestion. They point out that everyone in the group has sworn an oath of loyalty to the freehold, and also don’t want to antagonize their benefactors.

“Would you mind doing the first draft then?” Marcella asks Zia. “In the meantime, Faron, I’m not sure everyone here has been told all the rules of the freehold before. Would you mind going through them with us?”

“The Freehold has special rules?" asks Amy.

“The rules of the freehold? Basic, and things that would often apply to many other Changelings. Never willingly aid or put yourself in a position to aid the forces of Arcadia and the True Fae. Sanctioned fighting is permitted between members of the freehold, but attacking or fighting one another outside of these legitimate settings is forbidden. This ties in to the Rule of Hospitality that applies elsewhere. Wherever a place is marked as going by those rules, you must honor all promises, refrain from unprovoked attacks. Within those spaces, you can claim sanctuary for at least one full day no questions asked, though you can be asked to leave at the end of that day.

“As for our freehold in particular… All members of the freehold must pay allegiance to the current ascendant season and pay a tithe of glamour to the reigning monarch. Freehold members have full use of the facilities and resources of the freehold, though they must deal independently with whomever is in charge of a particular section. And lastly, the freehold doesn’t hold anyone captive unless absolutely necessary. Even then, they would prefer quick adjudication and justice. You’ll find that applies to most Changelings everywhere.”

Marcella asks what the mark is that shows a place abides by the rules of hospitality.

Amy blinks, “Um… that last one.”

“Yeah…” says Iris.

“If that’s the case, how long can we anticipate the goblins to be held?” asks Caesar.

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” asks Amy.

“I would think that beings that attacked and killed people fall into the ‘absolutely necessary’ clause,” speculates Marcella.

In response to Marcella’s question about the rules of hospitality, Faron says, "There are many. But for the city of Aachen, it is a symbol of nine eyes.

“As for the goblins, debatable, but it could apply, yes. The freehold will hold them for few days at most, and ideally as brief a time as possible. Telling them what we know so that the matter can be addressed quickly is best.”

He frowns gently at Amy. “You never asked. I assumed someone would have told you already.”

“But you’re the only one we’ve been given to talk to, Faron. Who else would have told us?” asks Amy.

“Exactly,” says Iris.

“This is part of what Faron and I talked about earlier,” says Marcella. “He apparently didn’t realize how many things we didn’t know. From now on, he’s going to try and be more proactive about explaining, and we should feel free to ask more questions if there are things we don’t understand.”

Amy nods. Caesar remains silent for now, listening. Apparently there was more that he wasn’t aware of.

Zia sits in her chair, writing down an explanation of what happened in the Hedge.

“So, does anyone else have questions about the freehold or being a changeling in general, as long as we’re waiting?” Marcella prompts.

“Faron, why is the freehold taking care of us here? Why not just send us to our home towns. Surely the freehold is straining to train so many changelings and ensure that…incidents do not occur?” asks Zia.

“Especially since some of us aren’t even from this country,” Marcella adds.

It was a good point she posed. Caesar remains silent, listening.

“I don’t even speak German,” grumbles Fianna.

“I don’t either,” says Amy.

“We really should see to that,” Marcella murmurs.

“Because when you escaped, you came here. Regardless of where you’re from, you’re here now, and there’s a lot new Changelings have to adjust to. And giving you some sense of how to adjust and defend yourselves is the only decent thing to do. You’re welcome to leave, of course, but not every town and city has a freehold or large Changeling community to help you,” explains Faron.

“That’s very nice of you.” Amy doesn’t look entirely convinced.

Zia retorts, “I am quite sure that Vienna has a freehold. But, make no mistake, I do appreciate the support the freehold has given us. It just seem an inordinate strain on its resources.”

“I’d think there would be more adjusting because it’s a foreign town, personally, but … as far as that goes, it does seem nice of them.” Marcella also does not look convinced.

“Has anyone been investigating the why of the whole situation? Because the kid and Blue and I managed to cross part of an ocean to get here. You can’t tell me that’s usual,” Fianna interjects.

“And I SAW my family, too. Before the hedge closed on me,” Amy says. “So I also missed my time. The foxes said someone must be controlling it.”

“The Hedge being the Hedge was the only explanation I got,” Caesar says.

“Yes, I saw Berlin and an old playground I used to know, before the hedge closed on me as well,” Marcella says.

“Controlling time? Or the Hedge?” Fianna wonders. “Because I’m not sure which one is scarier.”

“Um… the hedge. I think the hedge sort of controls time though, so both, I guess,” says Amy. “But when I asked them why I couldn’t get home after the hedge closed they told me someone was probably controlling it, but they didn’t know who or why.”

“So, a force or a person or the hedge seems to have purposefully sent us to Aachen? Or at the very least, not to our homes… Is this happening anywhere else in the world?” Zia asks.

“Well, I’d be lying if I said I WANTED to be back in Glasgow…but it’s still kind of creepy, knowing someone’s possibly controlling where you go,” Fianna says.

“I haven’t heard any rumors of it happening elsewhere. As for why, and why Aachen, you’re not the only ones curious. But if someone does have that information, they aren’t sharing,” Faron says. “Time and space do work differently in the Hedge. And Arcadia, obviously. But someone or something controlling it to such a degree…” he trails off and stares at the ground.

“Do you know who made the decision within this freehold to keep all the new changelings here, and not send them to their home cities or towns?” asks Marcella.

“You’re not being kept!” He sounds just a little forceful. “I’m not lying when I say you’re welcome to leave at any time.”

Caesar sighs quietly. This was getting them nowhere.

“That’s all well and good, but how many newly-emerged changelings have the resources to travel across the country, much less to different countries? It would be an expense to send them, but it’s also an expense to keep them here,” Marcella points out.

“It is fine. We understand we could leave. But we also can’t really turn away the resources offered to us,” Zia replies.

Amy shrinks back into a corner.

“And that’s why,” Faron says.

“I have no way of knowing what the Vienna freehold could offer me, if they’ll support me. Here there is a system and it is hard to leave,” Zia continues.

Marcella notices Amy and sighs. “As Zia said, no one is ungrateful for the resources we have been given here. Without this freehold, we’d all be worse off.”

Amy raises her head and announces, “I want to stay.” More quietly, “There’s nothing for me anywhere else.”

Marcella moves to Amy and puts a hand on one shoulder, while Zia leans over and puts her hand gently on Amy’s other shoulder for a moment, and then sits up.

Amy flinches away from their hands, then looks surprised, and smiles at them hesitantly.

Zia smiles back. “You have us!” She flicks through a rainbow of colors and settles on blue and purple. Marcella smiles at Amy as well. Amy looks wide-eyed back at them both.

Zia says, “In any case, what do we to do next?”

“Well, turn in our report, of course. Do you have any sense of how long it will take until Kenna actually sees this, Faron?” Marcella asks. “And until then, does anyone have other contacts we may be able to get more information from?” Caesar shakes his head.

“It’s hard to say,” replies Faron. “Considering the hob guests, perhaps a day.”

“We should proceed with obtaining more information about how the freehold runs the arena. It is their responsibility to run it after all,” says Zia.

Marcella says, “That sounds like a good place to start. Any ideas who we should ask, then?"

“I might know someone who might be able to help. I can ask and see if he’d be willing to speak with you,” volunteers Faron.

“Thank you, Faron,” says Amy.

Marcella smiles brightly at Faron. “That would be great, thank you.”

View
Game 10: Interrogation Isn't Really Our Strong Suit

Summary:
The group makes quick work of the rest of the battle, then binds the one conscious goblin for questioning. After a painful round of vague answers and repetitive questions, they finally extract some information. The goblins were attacking travelers in retaliation for a wrong done to them in the arena. According to their captive, a goblin named Geth the Giant had been unfairly slain by a Summer court changeling named Whisper John.

Faron is unhelpfully, and a tad suspiciously, silent when the group looks to him for answers and clarification about these events.

To add to the strangeness, the goblins’ chief has apparently had contact with some strange anonymous benefactor who supplied the armor for their venture.

Uneasy and confused, the group decides to take their captives back to the court while they look for answers.

Log:
Continuing the fight, Marcella lunges forward and swings downwards across the chest and shoulders of the goblin that was uninjured. A wide gash open across his collarbone, and down across his ribs, right through his armor, and the goblin gives a shriek of pain. Dripping blood, he manages to stay standing.

Marcella then tries to position herself between the goblins and Amy.

Zia looks at the knife in her hand with a bit of disgust, discards the idea of actually closing with the enemy the way that Faron had taught her and throws the knife at the goblin Marcella hit.
The knife hits the injured goblin squarely in the shoulder Marcella has already injured, and sticks. The goblin shrieks in pain once more, and drops to one knee, but is still alive.

Hulda reaches into her bag and grabs out a jar with eyeballs. She takes one out and swallows it, casting murkblur on the other goblin.

The less injured goblin suddenly starts scrabbling at his eyes, turning in circles, and generally looking confused. He ceases paying attention to the group of changelings, too concerned about his suddenly absent vision.

Hulda discreetly fist pumps

With a desperate swipe, the goblin Marcella attacked manages to catch her leg with his knife.

Marcella grunts and looks mad.

Fianna pulls a star out of her hair, and flings it at the goblin that just attacked Marcella. The star hits the goblin in the chest, and he keels over.

Faron goes after the blinded goblin, asking the group, “Do you need any of them alive?” as he does so.

“I’d like them to stop attacking us, but being able to interrogate them would be useful” Iris replies.

Faron’s attack does serious damage, slicing the blinded goblin across the torso. But he is still clinging to consciousness.

Iris swallows and puts her gun in its face “What do we want to ask it?”

“Let’s tie him up first,” Marcella says.

“Does anyone have rope?” Iris asks.

“I don’t, but I could hold him down,” Marcella answers

“That would be great, I don’t want to get cut up”

Amy tries to summon rope from Fianna’s dreams, and mostly succeeds, but what she produces is not ‘rope’ persay. Instead, she gets a heavy, rusty length of chain. Amy looks as the chain in surprise for a brief moment , then holds it out to Marcella and Iris. “I found this.”

“… Well, I guess that will work,” Marcella responds.

“That’ll do. Great.” Iris stays in position, waiting for somebody to try and tie the goblin up, before moving her gun.

Marcella immediately grabs the chain and binds the conscious goblin.

“Um… that might not stay. The rope, I mean.” Amy belatedly warns.

“What do you mean? Is it going to break?” Caesar asks.

“Sometimes things stay, but more often they don’t.” Amy answers Caesar.

“Well then we’d best hurry up. Why were you attacking us?” Iris, being practical, begins the questioning.

“I’ll hold him down too, in case the rope goes away.” Marcella grabs hold of the goblin once more, making sure he will not escape.

The goblin is well and truly trussed. He struggles for a few seconds before relaxing. “Give me my sight back,” he wails.

Iris reiterates her desire for answers, “Tell us why you tried to kill us.”

Zia stands back from this scene. She wants no part of it and besides, she is wearing a very nice outfit. “Could someone get my knife for me?” she calls.

No one responds, distracted by the questioning.

Faron moves to stand near the unconscious goblin that is bleeding out on the ground.

The goblin whimpers. “If I spill….will you lift your blinding curse from me, and let me go?”

“If you don’t we could just kill you,” Iris responds.

Hulda walks over to Zia and whispers to her. “The blindness should wear off soon, but I can’t control exactly when. I thought someone should know, but I don’t want the goblin to know.”

Zia nods. “I will keep that in mind,” she says quietly.

FInally having a chance to inspect he goblins up close, everyone except Amy notices they have really great quality armor…but are practically wearing rags. They have hedgespun armor, but carrying only hedge daggers.

The goblin continues to whimper, the threat of death making him quiver in fear.

Iris inspects the armor more closely, and notices that it is fairly new; the goblins have little sores where they were clearly not used to its weight. She also notices that the armor is not fitted to them personally, but more of a one-size fits most hobgoblins.

Seeing that pure intimidation is not making much progress, Marcella tries a slightly different tact. “Why are you attacking innocent passers-by? Who put you up to this? If you give us names, we may let you go.”

The goblin squirms, but manages to look somehow indignant and affronted despite his injuries and his current predicament. “Well, what would you have us do? After what happened at the Arena, do you think we’d just it back and let it slide. I know things have always been a bit touch and go between our peoples, but that is crossing the line! And if you cannot respect us, then we can deny you access to the scene of the crime.”

Blue voices what the whole group is thinking, “What have our people done?”

Meanwhile, Faron rifles the unconscious body of the other goblin. He finds some food and a folded up flag with sigil of a purple goblinfruit stabbed through with a sword.

The goblin lets out a sharp bark of laughter. “You’re telling me it’s not the talk of the Courts? How very suspicious. All the Goblins and the Hobs of the local Hedge know what Whisper John did at the Arena that day, and we cannot accept it! If an agent of the Courts means to draw the blood of our people, then we shall do the same.”

Faron pockets all the things while listening.

Hulda looks at Faron and quietly says, “Whisper John?”

Iris and Marcella also look to Faron for answers, but none are forthcoming.

Fed up with the goblin, Caesar says, “Goblin, I’d strongly suggest that if you don’t want to die here you stop being so vague.”

The goblin shudders a bit

Faron continues to hold his silence, waiting to see what the goblin will say about matters.

The goblin seems to struggle with both the fear and some internal morality before caving. “Fine! I don’t know who you are that you don’t already know, or if the courts intentionally aren’t telling anyone, but Whisper John, that darling of a Summer Court Arena champion, is cold-blooded hob murderer. It was by his hand Geth the Giant was slain in front of all those spectators. As if we aren’t allowed our own champions! Well, we won’t stand for it!”

Marcella grits her teeth, really wishing they had more background information right about now. She looks at Faron again, expectantly, as does Amy.

“And we could maybe forgive that death…the Arena’s no stranger to it, but Whisper John was losing, and Whisper John took his victory and Geth the Giant’s life by foul deeds. And THAT we can’t forgive.”

“Was it a death match?” Faron asks.

Caesar glances at Faron almost half-surprised. Even Faron didn’t know all the details? That seemed odd.

“You don’t know either?” Amy asks, speaking for everyone.

“By what foul deed did this John kill Geth?” Caesar asks.

Amy thinks of something, “But wait, if you’re mad at changelings, why are you killing hedge beasts too?”

“The red lines had not been drawn in the sand, so no, it was not a sanctioned death-match. But neither was it to first blood, or anything of the sort. Should death have happened as a matter of course, that was acceptable. Things happen. But the judges overlooked Whisper John’s cheating, and the crowd cheered Geth the Giant’s death. And so until reparations have been made, no one gets to the Arena without paying in blood.”

Amy is confused. Why would all the crowd cheer if this was true. The hedge beasts weren’t part of the court, she had thought. And didn’t that mean the other goblins had cheered too? If it was only the court, why hurt the hedge beasts, but if not, and if the cheating was so obvious, why was everyone so happy about it? Were only these two goblins upset? Maybe the goblin was lying, or confused. Or maybe Geth had been a really bad person, so everyone was happy even though there was cheating… but these two liked him?

There were too many unknowns as it was now, but the mission, as it was stated, was complete. They had discovered why people were being attacked. Someone with more knowledge of the arena and of goblins — specifically this Geth character — would be essential if they wanted to act on what they had just discovered. Caesar could think of nothing else to ask the goblin.

Iris stands back. She can see the hobgoblin’s point, but can’t figure out how killing might help at all “Who gave you this armor?”

Seeing that the goblin did not truly answer the earlier question, Marcella reiterates it, “How did Whisper John cheat?”

Zia roots around in her bag for something. She pulls out a fairly low-strength rope, something she normally uses to hold pieces firmly in place while they dry. There isn’t a ton of it, but enough to bind one goblin’s hands if needed. “I have this if we need it,” she offers, kicking herself for not thinking of it sooner.

“Zia, could you bring it here?” Marcella is expecting the rope from Amy to disappear at any time.

“I don’t want to get blood on my shoes, but I suppose I could bring it over,” she says. She walks to Marcella, careful of any blood and tosses it to her. Then she backs up.

Marcella replaces the chain with the rope from Zia.

“All I know about the armor is that the chief got it from some benefactor. He wouldn’t say who. As for that cheating scum, he fought dirty. Trickery is fine, in the arena. but dirty fighting that allows you to slip a blade twixt your opponents ribs? Not so much.”

“The chief?” Iris asks for elaboration.

A chief… so maybe there was a specific group of goblins who were mad? That would make a bit more sense. It still didn’t explain why everyone else had been so happy, though. Amy remains confused, but silent, sensing that her confusion would not be helpful. Amy wonders if hobgoblins have dreams, and if he’s been dreaming about the incident. She could show everyone. But… she wasn’t supposed to look at people’s dreams. Wait… unless she asked. “Do you have dreams?”

The goblin is incredulous, “What sort of question is that? I thought you were interrogating me.”

“I am. I want to see what happened. Do you have dreams? If you do, can we look?”

“What? No, you may not look, or whatever. I’ve told you what you want to know, you don’t need to go rooting around in my head as well.”

“But I wanted to show everyone what happened at the arena… I wouldn’t look at anything else.” Amy persists, frustrated.

“Yeah no, kid. It’s kid, right? I can’t tell, I still can’t see, but my thoughts are my thoughts. Stay out.”

“Can you tell us about your chief though? Amy I’m sure we can find other people to ask about the arena” Iris tries to steer the conversation back onto track.

Amy sighs and steps back. That was her last idea.

“He’s the chief. He’s in charge. He makes the decisions. I don’t know what else you want to know.”

“How about his name?” Marcella quips.

Amy gasps. Faron had been quite clear that names were not a thing to be taken lightly.

“Chief.” The goblin cracks a sarcastic smirk.

Marcella twists his arms to a painful angle behind his back. “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“Your hearing must be going then.”

“Want the axe?” Caesar offers Marcella.

Marcella’s eyes narrow, but she doesn’t actually want to break this creature’s arm. “So who would we contact once we’ve discussed a proper recompense for the goblins with the court? Assuming we can verify your story, of course.”

Marcella grins at Blue. “Thanks, I think I’m good.”

Meanwhile, Faron has performed emergency care on the goblin who is bleeding out. He methodically checks the vitals, bandages and supports his injuries. The goblin is no longer bleeding out, but still unconscious.

“What reparations do you seek?” Faron asks the goblin as he finishes up with the unconscious one.

The goblin sighs. “Fine. Whatever. You know what? You’d actually have to talk to the chief about
that….he was at the arena that day. He’s the one you need to deal with.”

“Will we be permitted safe travel to speak with him?” Caesar queries.

“How are we supposed to talk to them, if you won’t tell us how to find them?” Iris appears to be getting fed up with all of the almost-but-not-quite informative answers.

“The chief is holed up in a Hollow about two miles from here, due east. There’s a feather in my left boot. Hold that up to anyone you run into on the way, and they’ll let you through. Just don’t expect tea and cookies when you get there.”

“Iris?” Marcella gestures at the goblin’s boot.

Iris takes the feather

“And what do we do with you in the meantime?” Faron asks. He’s looking at the goblin, but the question’s clearly for the motley.

“Sight would be nice,” the goblin drawls.

“If we leave him here, there’s not much he could do, chained or unchained. Taking him with us provides some level of security.” Iris is brutally practical about their options. “I would like to get more information, before we talk to the chief.”

“We could take him to the Arena or stash him in the van?” Zia offers.

“I think we need to return to the court before we go find his chief, and I don’t think we should let him free in the meantime.” Marcella offers.

Everyone agrees.

“So for now, looks like you’re coming with us.” She hauls the goblin to his feet, then looks at his unconscious companion. “Is that one well enough to move? We can’t leave him here alone.”

The group agrees that they need to talk to the court before taking any further action, so they take the bound goblins back to the van

“It’s not desirable, but the freehold can and will hold them for a few days. They won’t be killed immediately, at any rate.” Faron looks at the goblin. “Your friend here can be better treated at the freehold.”

Caesar nods and heads the way they had come from.

“I think Marcella is going to need bandages as well.” Iris points out.

“Yeah, no telling where that blade has been,” Fianna says.

The group troops back to the freehold without any issues and deposit the goblins into the court’s care.

View
Zia's Journal, 2-2-14
Fighting, Whoopee...

Dear Journal,

Fighting the goblins was really not fun at all. It was over rather fast and, I suppose our team overall did fairly well. I even was highly effective! for me at least. Fianna and Marcella are quite impressive fighters. Amy…tried? That counts. Maybe those of us who are less skilled at fighting should have a powwow about how we stand and what we can do without getting our clothes bloody. I will need to do something about throwing knives not coming back. I could get several of them…or I could make one that comes back? Perhaps with a barb to do some extra damage? I could keep the knife I have now for actual hand-to-hand fighting, but I’d like to avoid that.

I am uncomfortable with tying people up and asking them questions. And Marcella hurt him for information. There just has to be better ways to get answers, to get the truth. Torture is…wrong. Very very wrong. I was so distressed by the idea, I forgot I had rope of my own in my bag. I guess…I should get some new rope. Amy’s dream skill was useful. I don’t know that I want her in my dreams. I don’t want to talk to her about my dreams to give her a better chance of getting what she needs, but I acknowledge its usefulness. Certainly more useful than her fighting.

I am very curious about what is going on at the Arena. The goblins seem very certain that they are in the right and Whispering John cheated and killed one of their own. Why wouldn’t the court tell us about this event previously? Surely it is well known? Or are the people at the Arena keeping it quiet? And who is providing them with such good armor? There is more to this than just the death of a goblin champion.

Bye,

Zia

View
Marcella's journal - game 10

As she attacks the goblin, Marcella feels fierce satisfaction, the knowledge that she is doing what she was made to do. This is why people talk about becoming addicted, she thinks. And immediately on the heels of that, it would be so much easier if this could be my life. But that’s what I escaped from, and I am never going back. She has moment of dizzying vertigo, remember all those battle/games that happened in wooded areas like this one, before she snaps herself out of it. Just because this is the Hedge doesn’t mean that she’s back in Arcadia.

Someone (maybe Hulda?) pulls off a neat trick with a contract that blinds one of the goblins. We really need to talk about our various battle skills in addition to the martial ones. Add that to the list, along with training Amy to use her dream contract. They handily defeat the two hobs, and none of their party gets a scratch except her. This result sits just fine with Marcella. She barely notices the leg wound as she trusses the still-conscious goblin.

While Marcella does this, Iris takes charge of the interrogation. She’s angling for information they want, but Marcella silently resolves to try not to let Iris take this role in the future. She’s scaring the damn thing out of its hide. It won’t give us anything if it thinks we’ll kill it either way. Marcella, at least, has no intention of letting these two hobs die. (She approvingly notes that Faron is tending to the unconscious hob.) Rough them up a bit? Sure, they had been aiming to kill the group. But they didn’t deserve death until their motives were clear.

As the hob talkes about Geth the Giant and Whisper Jack, Marcella becomes increasingly frustrated that their guide from the Court has nothing to say. Mentor my ass. Why is he here if he’s not going to give us the information we need to complete our missions? From his questions, it sounds like Faron isn’t familiar with the particular match in question, but Marcella would dearly have loved more background about the Arena itself before this came up. She resolves to pull Faron aside the first chance she gets and have a chat about what it means to be a mentor. Whatever he thinks it is, he’s bad at it.

As to what the goblins themselves are saying, her suspicions have definitely been raised about the Court. Why wouldn’t anyone be talking about a match that was won by cheating? Moreover, their fine armor hasn’t escaped her notice. It’s clear they have a patron of some kind, someone above this chief they mentioned. Sounds like politicking to her, but she knows not to make assumptions until they have more facts.

View
Marcella's journal 1/26/14

After her conversation with Zia the previous night, Marcella is approaching this mission with new eyes. It can’t be enough to trust that the freehold or the courts have their best interests at heart, or that they are being given all the information they need for their missions. She needs to take a more proactive approach if she’s going to protect her people, whether from the outside world or from each other. She puts this resolve into action as soon as they get in the van with Faron. If he won’t be forthcoming with the information he has, she’ll just have to keep asking until she gets the answers she needs.

As they discuss the strengths of different members of the team, Marcella thinks she should have spent more time before now drilling them all as smaller units. It’s one thing to tell them to stick near someone who can navigate the hedge, and quite another to put those small teams into practice beforehand, giving them pre-arranged strategies. But, she has to remind herself again, not all of them even have fighting skills yet. These things will come in time.

Marcella’s guard is thrown up when Faron makes his announcement about how he has to observe them before he can interfere. Seriously? The freehold is sending out a green team with an observer who’s acting more like a test proctor than a mentor? What the hell are they being tested on? Faron himself doesn’t seem happy about it, but Marcella still wants to know where these orders are coming from, and why. If Faron even knows. Moreover, she has increasingly gotten the sense that Faron doesn’t even want to be here with them. She needs to get more information as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Marcella is unexpectedly touched when she asks Fianna to take their six, and the other fighter calls her “boss-lady.” The fact that Fianna trusts her enough to take her orders is a little unexpected, but definitely welcome. Fianna is the first member of their group she would choose to have her back in a fight, and it sounds as though the other may feel the same. Discovering that kind of personal trust, after Arcadia robbed her of so much she thought she could trust, leaves her momentarily speechless.

She also guiltily reminds herself that they, as a group, need to have a conversation about leadership soon. She has been taking charge more and more often, and feels comfortable leading, but she doesn’t want to step on any toes. All changelings, quite understandably, need more warning and say in the direction of their own lives than that.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.