Rites of the Spring Horn

Between the Prelude and the First Game

What has happened between your prelude and now

Each of you has been healed entirely of any damage you may have acquired. You were seen by a doctor, who evaluated your mental and physical state. The doctor cleared each of you by this morning to run around like a lark if you wish. Each of you has been given a room off on a courtyard in the freehold, some on the second, some on the first floor. These are the guest quarters of the freehold and a curious magic of the hallways means that you cannot meet strangers in the hallway, thus, although you may be aware that whoever sleeps in the room next door plays their guitar all morning, short of knocking on the door and being invited in by the stranger, you will not meet him or her by chance. You have been invited to eat your meals either in your room or in the common room as you please, but no one keeps tabs on your consumption, except your doctor before you were fully healed.

Hulda

Since you arrived nine days ago, you have had the opportunity to look around quite a bit. The freehold has an extensive library and there are several members who are not unlearned about myths and legends themselves, though you have discovered that you have to be careful about who you talk about with them. Nothing much has happened, though from your understanding several other changelings had come through the Hedge in the days preceding and following your arrival, and the freehold is full to bursting.

Blue

In the day since you got in, you’ve spent a lot of time recovering. That explosion had you in a pretty bad way, but the doctor started glowing and you could feel energy flowing towards you and you felt a lot better. You still had serious hurts that kept you in bed for the rest of the afternoon, but now at least there was a lot less stabbing pain. He says he’ll come back tomorrow morning. A young changeling who looks maybe 14 asks you what you need. Shortly, someone comes and evaluates the items you brought out and gives you the aforementioned answers. They also take a look at the manacles and necklace you are still wearing. They advise that the necklace seems to be the base of it al and that might not come off ever…but the rest should be possible. The necklace might do things…but keeper’s….they are so unpredictable. You have asked about your family, but not had a chance to sit up at a computer for it or make specific inquiries. The next morning the doctor comes and does the glowy thing and you are all better.

Marcella

In the days you have been here, you have spent some serious time in bed, but the doctor declared you all good yesterday. You have had a chance to investigate your family’s trajectory. Your brother has barely placed in regional competitions, when before he used to make it to nationals with ease. Your brother is mentioned as having a sister, though she is not named in the article you find. Your mother’s political career is doing great. You have the swords evaluated and make a weaponsmith’s day. He says that he will gladly take some time to test them magically shortly and get back to you.

Amy

In the three days that you have been out, you have not learned as much as you wished to, and on top of that, you are unfamiliar with this area, being so far from the London you remember. It has been quite an adjustment for you, as you are not used to your adult body, and have much to learn. You have been allowed to stay with those you escaped from the Hedge with, though some of them are doing worse than you, especially the girl who burned her finger and the one who is always sad. The Indian doll, whose name turns out to be Jayanti, is now assisting the freehold doctor. Your investigations into the current state of your family did not yield as much as you’d hope. The freehold’s two specialists are both busy—one is finishing a project and the other is out in the Hedge itself. A kindly older changeling offers to help you get as much information as you can, and shows you how to use the computers in the library. Remembering your old address, you find your old house on something called Google Maps, but it looks different—a new coat of paint and a patio have been installed since you left. The rosebushes are gone too. You get into contact with the Autumn Court about helping the hurt changeling you carried out of the head, but they inform you it will take quite some time and a great deal of effort to undo what was done to him.

Iris

After your arrival, the doctor declares you fit quite shortly. You tell the doctor that you know your address and you want to go home. The doctor asks you to wait a few minutes to get someone to help you with that. After about half an hour, Byron comes in and says, So, I hear you want to go home. Well, let me help with a bit of sneaking. Best to subtle about these things. The pair of you go to your home, where you sneak into the house and see no signs of mourning. You dash to your room to steal your rifle. As you sneak you hear….your voice calling, Hey, I’m home! Byron whispers, fetch, check. Now lets get out of here!" You return to the freehold. You spend the next few days lifting weights and practicing with your gun.

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Game 1: Fire's Commotion
In which 5 become 7

Summary

As each of you relax in your room, you hear a massive commotion in the courtyard. Two, no, three changeling women are escorted by Byron and two doctors into the courtyard. The star woman initially refuses medical attention until some magical anger control and calming words prevail. Some useful research is done in the library on stars, the Spanish Lady and current events. You are all summoned to the court and Byron tells you that you will be a group trained by each court for a season. The halls of the door open and the Spring Queen and her entourage are revealed.

Log

It is the morning of June 10, 2013 and each of you are in your respective rooms. You all hear a commotion coming from the courtyard. There is shouting and other noises coming from that direction. Marcella and Iris grab weapons on the way to the window, Hulda walks to the window, and Amy peaks around the edge of her window. Blue does his best to look out the window without getting out of bed.

At the gate of the courtyard, you see Byron, a doctor each of you recognize as the doctor who treated you and another wizened with doctor accoutrements, and two fae you have never seen before. One is spectacularly naked with pearlescent colors to her skin like the full moon. She is wearing…something red tied around her below the waist area that loops up to be tied artfully around her chest and neck. It looks curiously gorgeous. Next to her is another woman, wearing a gorgeous if slightly tattered ensemble in all the colors of the rainbow. Her hair, eyes and portions of her skin are jumping between red and orange colors. The nakedish one is pushing the doctors away and proceeding into the courtyard.

Most of you keep watching, but Marcella, sword in hand, heads downstairs to try to help. The doctors are not put off by the nakedish woman’s actions and continue to follow her. The unknown doctor puts a hand on her arm. She flings him off of her. The woman who changes colors is wearing a frown and waving her arms about at the nakedish one. Byron is talking quietly, a look of calm on his face as he addresses the nakedish woman. A woman who looks a little bit lost comes in the front gate behind the rest. She is wearing mostly gorgeous drapery that does little to conceal her immense beauty.

Iris carefully loads her rifle and takes the safety off just in case but continues to watch. Amy comes into full view in front of the window, instead of just peeking around the edge, and continues to watch. Hulda sneaks very stealthfully downstairs, her summoned darkness aiding her. Then, just as Marcella arrives in the courtyard, all of you hear a resounding “I have had enough!” and the naked changeling quite suddenly and dramatically is on fire. Or more specifically, her hair is on fire. Where before it was a deep blue black with subtle sparkles of stars, now it floated about her in a crackling aura, and the fire itself was all the blues and purples and silvery whites of an aurora. “I want explanations not doctors!” The well-dressed woman replies loudly, “You’re broken and you need fixing!!!! LET THEM HELP YOU!”

Iris puts the safety back on her gun, just as Marcella comes further into the courtyard and says, “Ladies, welcome to the freehold of Aachen. These people are here to help you.” Amy uses her sheet to fashion a baby-sling type thing, puts it on and puts the doll in it. Then she pelts downstairs to the courtyard. Hulda heads towards the edge of the courtyard, continuing to stay out of sight.

Upstairs, Caesar returns to his bed. He was in no shape to go down there and it looked like people were handling it. He’d lay in bed and listen to the scene continue.

The strange changeling with the flaming hair looks Marcella up and down, as if assessing her. Then, she says: “Whatsisname back there said something about Germany and Ack-hen or some such place.” She mangles the name of the city quite spectacularly. “I don’t need help, I need answers—why are we here, what is going on. Besides,” she says, gesturing to the truly spectacular bruises and bleeding cuts all over her body. “This is nothing.”

Marcella replies, “Yes, he’s correct, this is Aachen, Germany. I emerged from the Hedge far away from my home too, though it sounds like not as far as you. I don’t know why either.” As the nakedish woman has confirmed for her that this is indeed GERMANY and totally not home, she burns even brighter for about 10 seconds. The well-dressed woman complains, “AAAAH, don’t burn my cloth! I found you naked like a crazy person and covered the important bits and this is how you repay me?” “STARS DO NOT GENERALLY FIND THEMSELVES AT THE LIBERTY TO CLOTHE THEMSELVES,” the woman on fire responds loudly.

Meanwhile, Amy emerges from a doorway dressed in a nightgown, and with a child’s slightly damaged doll in a sling. She says quietly, “Hi. These people are good people. They’ll help you. Please calm down.” Marcella glances at Amy, then looks at the star woman, “As the young lady said, these people are good people, and they want to help. If there is a way to return you to your home, they will help you discover it.” Ignoring Marcella, the well-dressed woman says, “Well, Stars should learn how to be gracious and observe the proprieties! And not hurt other’s things!” She now lights up like a rainbow. The courtyard has its own little light show. Rainbow light and the blue/purple mixing together.

Unseen from the shadows,Hulda tries to calm the star-lady down. The star woman responds to the well-dressed woman, “Oh give over, you bloody self-important git,” Her hair flickers and goes out, returning to the dark sparkling blue black as her emotions calm suddenly. “Not that I have anywhere to return to,” she mumbles, heard by Blue, Amy and Iris.

The well-dressed woman huffs, but with an air of deliberation, the colors of her hair become blues and purples, still bright but quieter. “Pride is a very important quality for artists. Thank you for the compliment. Now, will you allow the doctors to help you? I would prefer their assistance at some point myself, but as I am not bleeding profusely…you come first.” The lonely woman catches up to the well-dressed woman and takes her hand.
The star woman makes a noise that is not precisely assent but is not precisely a refusal either. The doctors very slowly move in and carefully lead her away.

The rest of you watch or listen as Marcella walks up to the other two women and says, “Welcome to Aachen. Congratulations on making it through the Hedge.” The well-dressed woman, still holding the lonely woman’s hand, offers her other hand to Marcella. "Pleased to meet you and thanks for your welcome. I amZia, recently the Craftswoman of Ysiddra. My companion is my Muse."

Marcella shakes her hand and says, “My name is Marcella, also recently returned from Arcadia. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Zia.” She pauses, and looks at the Muse. “And what is your name, my lady?” The Muse courtesies and says, “My name is of no importance to one who bears the right of the sword.” Marcella looks down at the sword in her hand, then sheathes it and says, “My apologies, I didn’t mean to frighten you. I would be honored to learn you name, should you decide to share it.” The Muse replies quietly, “Your power does not diminish with its sheathing. I will keep my name and with it my own power. But I thank you for your apology.” Zia gives the Muse’s hand a pat. “Worry not, even I do not know her true name, only the usenames she chose for herself. I think both of us need the attention of the doctors.”

The fireworks over with, each of you disperse throughout the freehold. Marcella asks Byron about the three women in the courtyard. Byron informs Marcella that he followed protocol—they came stumbling through the Hedge just where you did like the hounds of Hell were on their tails, and that he had told them of the freehold, and that the star woman had been largely disagreeable and her and the well-dressed one had not ceased bickering since. He looks strained. Marcella and Amy get some food separately and return to their rooms.

The other three go to the library. Iris and Hulda separately investigate legends and myths of stars turning into people. Both of them find the stories about the Greek Constellations. Generally people/things were made stars either as reward or memorial, though a few are punished with it in some fashion. Neither of you find anything that reminds of you the very angry, firey woman in the courtyard. Hulda finds information about the Chinese myths of the stars, where most of the stars embody members of the Sun Court, thugh acquired in various ways. She does find a myth there about the Bird of the Dawn who became a constellation.

Blue researches current events since he was taken and the Spanish Lady. He catches up on current events. His research on the Lady doesn’t yield much, but he remembers that the gilded door had a picture of a woman with combs in her hair, and use that to wonder if potentially your Keeper might have modeled herself after a Spanish water Spirit with hints of the goddess Diana. The same sigil can be seen on your necklace that you find in a book with largely unrelated information otherwise.

At around 3pm, all of you are in your rooms. A changeling comes to your door, dressed in light blue and green with a badge of wings peppered with cherry blossoms, he or she bears gorgeous clothing. “Please put on these clothes. You have been summoned to the Hall of the Spring Court. The Queen of the Spring Court shall speak with you in a mere half-hour. Weapons are not allowed at the court.”

With varying degrees of efficiency, all of you put on your new clothes and allow the changeling to lead you to the great hall. ou haven’t been in this part of the freehold previously. There you see Zia and the nakedish woman from earlier, and the rest of the party. Everyone arrives more or less simultaneously. The nakedish woman is now wearing clothes and looking rather grumpy. Zia wears what she wore before, but now mended to its original brilliance. She has a red sash on before that you realize was what star lady was wearing.

charlottenburg.jpg

Marcella greets the two women from earlier, while Amy stands behind her. Hulda stands back and Iris hides behind her. Caesar stands with the crowd. The star woman mumbles a greeting, still rather grumpily. You realize that she is terribly uncomfortable in the finery she is wearing. Zia smiles at Marcella and says “A pleasure! I am curious as to the reason for our summons.” Marcella replies, “Yes, I am as well. I have been here nearly a week, but I haven’t been in this part of the freehold before.”

Zia replies to Marcella: “Most curious. Well, we shall meet the spring queen. I hope that she will be helpful.” Marcella sees Amy, and says, “Hello! I don’t think we’ve met before. My name is Marcella. Thank you for your help earlier.” Amy replies, “Hi! I’m Amy. I’ve only been here three days.” Marcella then says to Zia,“Yes, I have heard the freehold rulers are quite powerful. I hope she will be as well.”

Byron walks into the room and gestures to all of you to come to a painting in the hall. “Please come over here so that I can prepare you for your audience” As they follow Byron, Marcella says to Amy, “I’ve only been here five days, so not much longer than you! It’s nice to meet you though.” Amy smiles. “Nice to meet you too!” She walks over to the painting with the others.

The painting shows the transition of the seasons. “As you all know, you have been called to attend the Queen of the Spring Court. Recently there has been an excess of changelings coming through to Aachen and the surrounding areas, many who are not even from Germany, much less Aachen. This influx has continued for 3 seasons. To deal with this the courts decided to train groups of seven changelings, putting each group in the care of a court for one season. Each of you in the next year will have a chance to spend time with each court, to learn from each of them and this will help you make the choice as to what court you would like to stay in. Obviously, you may choose to go to another city if you wish, but we recommend staying in Aachen for at least a full season before you leave."

Byron explains, “It is currently Spring Court’s time, but that will be up quite shortly. The Spring Queen will ask you to take the freehold oath, give you some more information, introduce you to your Spring liaison, and ask you a few questions. After a short period of time, you will go into the care of the Summer Court in about 10-15 days.”

Caesar steps forward from the crowd to be the first to accept their offer. “I’ll accept the offer given by the Spring Court.” The rest of the group are not so eager and ask what the oath entails and requires them to do. Byron answers: “The freehold oath is very simple: by agreeing to aid the freehold and not reveal its location to anyone who could be considered a threat, you gain the resources of the freehold. As for helping the Courts, you will expected to do a variety of tasks, none too difficult, especially at first, to help you get a handle on what abilities Arcadia has left you with. THese tasks ensure the courts and freehold continue to run smoothly.”

Marcella considers, then asks, “Can we leave the freehold during this time, or travel elsewhere?” “Yes, you may leave the freehold. Changelings do not hold other changelings captive.” He is very firm on that last bit. “If you have responsibilities and abandon them, there will be consequences, but you are not a captive.” Each of you assent.

There is a quiet gurgling of water as a summons. The doors to the inner court open. Inside, you see a gathering of people, a young male changeling standing off to the side, and at the front of the room, on a raised dais, sits a throne made of a soft, springy wood, complete with small flowering branches of what look like magnolias or dogwood. On this throne sits a woman, a changeling. She appears to be made of flowers, namely cherry blossoms. Her skin had the texture of flower petals, and her hair was a cascade of cherry blossoms. Her eyes were a bright green, and between them and the dimples in her cheeks, her face sparkled with happiness when she smiled. Upon her head is a crown made of new vines and flower buds interwoven with each other, and she is dressed in a delicate gown of pale green.

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Hulda's thoughts on game 11/10
Hulda

After spending 9 days wandering around the freehold and sharing stories, or at least attempting to, the routine changed this morning. Three woman, one of whom is apparently a star, appeared from the Hedge. The star was angry and upset, and was refusing to let a doctor take care of her. At first, I just looked out the window, but as the star continued to get upset, I decided that the correct thing to do was head downstairs so that I could be helpful, if the opportunity arose.

After sneaking downstairs I continued to listen in, and decide to help by calming the star woman down. Meanwhile, Marciella and Amy walk out into the courtyard and start talking to the women. They all calm down and head off to the doctors.

Curious about the woman claiming to be a star, I head upstairs looking for information about stars. Mostly I found out stories I already knew, although the Chinese star myth was new and interesting.

After a few hours, I returned to my room and was thinking about the star when there was a knock on the door. A changeling entered, carrying beautiful clothes and directing me to head downstairs once dressed to meet the Queen. I put on my black dress with silver embroidery and head downstairs.

In a large entrance hall, Byron starts talking to a bunch of newly arrived changelings, including myself about meeting the Spring Queen, joining the freehold, and spending time help out the different courts. Without speaking, I agree to his terms, and then we are ushered in to see the Spring Queen.

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Marcella's Journal - Game 1 (11/10/13)

Though still reeling from the shock of returning to Earth only 2 years after she was taken when it felt like 12 or more, Marcella has come to appreciate and respect the fae of the Freehold of Aachen. They have taken care of her and those she brought out of the Hedge with her, and they seem willing to give help and guidance to any new changeling that makes it through the Hedge.

The morning of June 10th, Marcella hears shouting and a commotion from the courtyard below her window. She grabs her sword and runs to the window to see if anyone is in danger, and sees two strange women below, along with fae from the freehold. Unsure if these women pose a threat to Byron and the others, Marcella races downstairs in case they need backup.

When she arrives in the courtyard, Marcella quickly realizes that these are newly-escaped Changelings, and though one of them is very loud and angry, they don’t intend to harm Byron or the doctors. She tries to help calm them down. She is especially surprised to see that one of them isn’t even German – what is it with all of the Changelings emerging from the Hedge here in Aachen? She is also pleased to see another Changeling came downstairs to aid with the commotion. The well-dressed woman seems nice and reasonable, though perhaps a bit uptight. Marcella is a bit concerned for the quiet woman who can’t or won’t give her name, but probably some people return like that, and there’s not much to be done for her right now.

After eating and relaxing in her room, Marcella receives the summons to the Spring Court. She is pleased by the fancy outfit she is given – all bright colors, please and thank you. She’s had enough black and white to last her a lifetime.

Marcella hopes that this court meeting will be helpful, since these freehold Changelings have been so kind to them since they arrived. She is still torn about what to do next – on the one hand, she desperately wants to see her family in Berlin, but on the other, she knows things can never go back to how they were. She isn’t sure whether to hope for or dread an offer to remain here in Aachen.

Byron’s offer seems to be the best of both worlds: a place in the freehold, as well as the freedom to travel to Berlin if she finds the chance. She is looking forward to having something to do with her time, instead of sitting around and brooding about Changelings she can’t do any more to help or what she might find living with her family.

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Zia's Journal- 11-10-13
Stardust and Dramatics

It is hard to believe that I am out, that Brighid was not merely taunting me, sending me into a dream sleep, only to wake just as I begin to believe this is real. She has used my dreams to taunt me before, to punish or reward me or simply to assuage some unknown whim. But I cannot deny that this feels incredibly real. I do not think that she would have thought to create such a … character as der Stern. She was clearly well-made and well-chosen to be a star.

The way out of the Hedge was so long and hard. Without the Trusty Tool, I would never had made it through! I don’t want to go back, my heart and soul felt scraped more than my body. You would think der Stern would have a little more gratitude for being rescued out of that trap like that! But instead, the moment we were almost out of that horrible Hedge, she was bickering with me and with that poor man who was just trying to help us! I am unsure what she thinks she was accomplishing, except potentially turning a source of aid against us. Of course, should he or any of them turn on me, I will destroy all the objects they value. Brighid taught me the value of revenge.

That whole scene in the courtyard was ridiculous…she was practically naked, except for my noble efforts and the sacrifice of my sash, bleeding onto the paving stones and wouldn’t let a doctor touch her! The changeling Marcella with the ivory crown was kind to come and investigate. Perhaps if I stay here long, I make her a new crown or complimenting jewelry. I was so relieved when der Stern decided to accept medical attention.

It was a relief to get my hurts tended to and take a few hours to get myself and my clothing back up to snuff. The seamstress and laundress were so kind to allow me to use their facilities. The hot spring the seamstress had been kind enough to show her in the depths of the freehold had been fabulous.

I am concerned about this being a group thing… what exactly are we going to do? Will we be offered lessons or just do their dirty work for them? That sounds like a good way to die…Also…do no one but Marcella and der Stern talk? This might be a problem. However, I see much potential in recrafting the clothing and items of my compatriots. That at least shall be fun.

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Amy's Journal_Game 1_11-10-13

A lot of interesting things have happened since I escaped. Someone is helping me find my family. They said it might take awhile, but that’s ok; I can wait. I’m very good at being patient. I learned all about this neat thing called computers, and I found a picture of my old house. It’s been painted and it has a new porch. I don’t know if my parents live there anymore, but if they do maybe that means the True Fae kept it’s promise, and they have lots of money now. I bet they are so happy. I can just imagine them sitting on the porch and reading to each other.
I bet they miss me though. I’m so excited to see them again.
Nothing much happens here in the Freehold, but that’s ok. It’s fun just to be able to move when and how I want, and to say whatever I want. I like it here, even if I don’t always understand what other people are saying. I guess that’s because I’m in Germany. Germany! How did I end up here?
Today I saw some people yelling out in the courtyard. One of them was almost naked, which was weird. I was going to stay in my room and watch, but then the not-naked lady started yelling about the other one being broken and needing to be fixed, and I’m not sure why but I felt like I needed to go down there, so I did.
When I got down there there was a nice lady who had also gone down. She had a sword. It was so cool. I wonder if she’d let me use it some time. Anyway, we told the people that this was a nice place, and then they left with the doctors. One of them said she was a star, which I thought might be weird, but then I thought, why couldn’t a person be a star? Then I realized she probably just meant she’d been a star in Arcadia, and that was different.
Later, I was given a pretty dress and told it was time to meet a queen. I was so excited. The dress wasn’t a color I liked very much, but it didn’t have any ruffles so that was ok.
When I got to the meeting place, the nice lady, the naked lady (who wasn’t naked anymore), the naked lady’s friend and two other ladies and one man were all there. They were all dressed up too.
The nice lady from before told me here name is Marcella. I like her; she makes me feel safe and she asks good questions.
We were invited to join the freehold, and be a group. I guess the freehold is a place where a lot of people who’ve escaped from the Fae all help each other. That sounded good to me. They told me this wouldn’t stop me from going home when I found it, so I thought it sounded nice and I agreed.

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Blue's Experiences- 11-10-13
How things have been.

Injured both in body and in mind, Caesar was in no condition to assist in the morning’s craziness. For the past few days, and today, he rested. Apparently, a few more people had come and, outside, made some kind of scene; he would have helped calm them down, as Byron had for him, but there was like five others out there trying to do that. At least, the drama made for interesting background noise. Caesar laid in bed for most of their encounter and just listened; he picked up a few bits of interesting dialogue, but nothing too amazing.

Once all that calmed down, Caesar was feeling a bit better. No one came in today to check in on him, so he guessed that to be an “okay” to wander around a bit. Caesar found himself at the library, where he spent a few hours — missing breakfast from it — researching what he could of both the Lady and of the current events (well, not so current, more like what happened while he was in Arcadia). He found enough to give himself a general idea of the history, and found some interesting news on the Lady. Being successful in his research took his mind completely off of searching for his father — something he remembered right when it was time for him to return to his room. He would see what he could find on him, next.

Later that day, he was given notice that he was to go to a meeting with some kind of court. He was given some nice clothing for it, a white and black suit. Nothing too special, but it was nice for formal occasions. There were quite a few people at the meeting; they all seem acquainted, or enough so to talk to each other. Caesar kept to himself until they were told what this entire meeting was about. There were a lot of us, us changelings. This queen and apparently whomever came after her wanted some kind of team they could train. It was an opportunity. They’d help him, he’d help them a bit. Caesar rashly spoke before everyone else, stating his interest, only to feel like a fool immediately afterwards, hearing the logic-filled questions the others had. He was being too rash.

For now, he’d slink back into silence and hide within the crowd until he was positive this is what he wished.

Now, it was time to meet this queen.

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Fianna's Rant of the Week--November 10th, 2013

Dear Diary,

Journal Entry 1:

Some doctor-type at this place that I’ve ended up gave me this journal and a pen and told me that sometimes writing things down helps with the shock of a successful escape. And maybe it does, for some people, but most of those people don’t have to remember what it’s like to have fingers at all.

I any case, from what I’ve gathered, my mad dash through that evil, god-forsaken stretch of satanic shrubbery was not the most graceful of escapes. For one, I was starkers, but I could deal with that. It made the run through the thorns a bit uncomfortable, but what was I going to do? Go back? Then I had to go and step in that trap.

And then there was her. Whatsername. Zia.

She saved my bacon in those briars, I won’t deny that. She got me out of that trap and we got out of the Hedge together, but she acts like some fine, prancing lady more than someone who was locked up for the last few years. And the obsession with clothes! I never understood it, even before I ended up as a living star map in some mad Professor’s planetarium. Not much call for fashion sense on the streets of Glasgow.

In any case, I’m betting it’s going to take time to get used to how things are run here. Whatsisname from the cemetery brought us to this place, which is apparently called a ‘freehold.’ A safe gathering place for changelings, those of us who were stolen and made our way back through the Hedge.

I admit, I made a bit of a scene in the courtyard there. I’ve always been the sort of person to want all the information before allowing themselves to relax. It’s how I survived even before the Professor took me. So I may have neglected the fact that I was bleeding in a dozen places, and I may have been rude, and I may have panicked a couple. Don’t know precisely why I calmed down when I did, despite not getting all the information I wanted, but it’s probably for the best.

Gotta say, I like the set-up. The East Siders had nothing like this. Not that I plan on going back there. No point. For one, I’m apparently in Germany. Some city I can’t spell. Fortunately most people around here seem to speak English, so I’ll get by. I always do. Won’t use the same name, though. Doesn’t seem right. As far as everyone who cared is concerned—hah!—Blair Cameron is dead. I can take a more appropriate name. I think I know just the one.

Well, that’s it for now, journal. Apparently we get to see the hoity-toit who runs this place tonight. Sounds like a big to-do. I have to wear a dress; they delivered it to the room earlier.

And part of me feels like I should be annoyed about having to dress up at someone else’s pleasure, but I’d be lying if I said a small part of me wasn’t happy. I’ve never owned anything so nice in my entire life.

~Blair Cameron

~“Fianna”

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Iris' New Diary 11-10-13

Dear Diary…

This is how you’re supposed to start those things isn’t it?
I never tried writing down my life before, I guess I never thought it was interesting or important before, but considering what happened, even now I can’t quite believe it. Be it just to make sure I won’t forget any of it, especially considering that it’ll probably only get worse now that we have entered this contract, this is what happened so far:

Trekking through a maze of thorns, without knowing which way to go. I knew where I didn’t want to be, but that is just about it, if I were asked to find the way back to where I was held, I don’t think I could. I remember being in pain, it was as if the entire thing had been grown to tear the skin of any who might be brave enough to try and pass, I remember being covered in blood, but the blood and exhaustion I could deal with. I still shudder to remember the bees. As soon as they got to me, everything went dark and my memory is faded. I know I must have I been running again, I can still see the image when I got out and I remember Byron, but that is about it.

A graveyard. I had made it back to a graveyard, but I didn’t try to talk to anyone there but Byron. I suppose I could have, but everything happened so quickly. When I got to the safe house inside the hedge it was a very strange moment. They were just a little too friendly and I don’t think I trust them just yet, but there isn’t much I can do. I’m better off with than without them for the time being and with my place filled by some kind of fae abomination they call a fetch, I don’t have anywhere else to go. All I have from home now is my rifle and at the moment I’m even too weak to properly shoot her. I spent my time training, trying to build up the strength I lost and figuring out a bit more about this place. I wish I could just lie in bed and not wake up again sometimes, this strength training is mind numbingly boring, but I’m not ready to give up yet. For better or worse I still want to get back at them for what they have done to me.

We’ll see how that’s going to go.

Today was different though. I was scared at first, waking up and hearing shouting in front of the house, seeing those strange people. I tried to hide, of course and I had my old rifle, it still makes me feel better to hold her. I feel less weak, because that is what I know myself to be. Weak, scared and not at all ready yet. But I am not powerless and I will not let anyone take me easily again.

I waited, trying to find out what was going on, I thought they might be intruders, here to destroy the strange place I was in, but I wasn’t sure, so I waited. A good thing too in hindsight. Turned out the woman who was making all of that noise was like me and as I would later find out like a great many of us who had recently come through, she too was here to be healed and I guess stay until we would figure out what to do with the shattered remains of our lives. In a way I think she was worse off than me, at least I still know who I am and who I was, but for her? I’m not so sure. She kept calling herself a star, even when the others had managed to calm her down.

I tried finding out more, but didn’t get anything useful out of the library here. All I found out so far is that she is called Fianna and she seems to be scottish.

Before I even had time to have breakfast, something else happened, the reason why I am now writing this diary. Today I found out that there are more like me here, newly arrived, but I don’t know much about them. One man and a few more women or girls, you can see that they’re not quite normal anymore when you look closely, but I guess you could say the same about me. I don’t know much about them yet, but none of them seem too bad so far.

I had to dress up, formal clothes. Took me ten minutes to figure out how to tie a bow tie, but I was still surprised how well they seemed to know. I don’t like dresses, but the suit they gave me fit perfectly and I actually felt a little more confident inside of it. We were rushed to something called the court of the spring queen, where we learned what the price of our stay at the place inside the hedge would be. We are to complete missions for the courts, they tell us it won’t be anything we couldn’t do, but wouldn’t that be what they would tell us regardless or whether it is true? Still with the situation as it is, I don’t think I have much of a choice.. and I am in their debt.

We’ll just have to see what’s going to happen from here.

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Game 2: Vogelfrei

Summary

The group met the Spring Queen, made their introductions, and swore an oath of fealty to the freehold of Aachen. They were told they would be forming a party of seven that would help them learn about the freehold and decide which court they wished to join. They also met their guide from the Summer Court, Faron. They then retired to a banquet, where they learned about each other’s skills and decided on the name of their group, Vogelfrei. Faron then came in to tell them they had a mission to investigate disappearances near the cemetery where they all emerged from the Hedge.

Log
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The Spring Court Hall looks as the above, but with flowers everywhere in abundance. Like a green carpet, there stretches down the hall a slender path of freshly mown grass leading to the monarch on her throne of wood. Every decoration is flower and new life themed. In the floor tiles directly in front of the party are inlaid baby animals beckoning you into the room. But the decorations go beyond stone, ivory and paint. Real flowers twine the columns and the ceiling is entirely covered with moss. The room is full of greens, light pinks, purples, blues and yellows. The light in the room feels slightly green. The Spring Queen and her coterie at the end. There are an assortment of changelings standing to the side and on the second level, a good number of which have flowers in their seeming or on their person. Many are wearing pastel colors.

Caesar/Blue, Marcella, Hulda, Iris, Amy, Zia, and Fianna walk up to the Spring Queen, with Byron following and encouraging any stragglers. Fianna trips partway up the hall. Hulda is comparing what she’s seeing with stories she knows. Marcella is taking note of the organization of the Court and any political structures she can discern.

About 15 feet away from the Queen’s throne the simple mown grass carpet changes to grass which seems to grow in a cherry blossom pattern. Everyone stops and bows or curtsies as they feel appropriate, except Blue and Fianna. Zia looks disapprovingly at the two of them. Byron, to the side and forward of the group slightly, says, “Queen of the Rising Dawn, these changelings have chosen to band together against the fear of the Keeper and to better themselves.” Blue then bows.

The queen, smiling, leans forward slightly in her chair and says in a light, melodious voice, “Welcome to Freehold Heimdallszunft. I am Eostre, the Spring Queen. Please, tell me who would join the freehold I presently hold in my care.”

Blue says, “I am Ce—I am called Blue.”

The queen inclines her head, “It is a pleasure to meet you Blue. Are the manacles you still wear heavy?”

“I’ve grown accustomed to it; I can’t tell anymore,” Caesar answers.

The Queen replies to Blue, “I will make sure that the artisans at the freehold make every effort to remove them.”

“Such is not necessary, I thank you for the offer. If I may ask, what is it that we were summoned for?” says Blue.

Iris is fidgeting with her nails one one hand. “Iris, I talk to dead people,” she finally says.

She smiles warmly at Iris, “My dear, that is a most useful skill. The dead are a veritable font of information.” Iris smiles nervously, but doesn’t say anything more, instead she takes a look at the other courtiers.

“I am Marcella, and I thank you for your kindness and generosity in hosing us during this hour of need, your highness. I am happy to have the opportunity to begin to repay you and your freehold so soon,” says Marcella.

She then says to Marcella, “You are most welcome. It is good that you already understand debts, promises, and payment. This will serve you well.” Marcella gives another bow, but does not say anything.

Hulda inclines her head respectfully and says, “Hulda, I collect stories.”

She then looks to Hulda, “Ah stories, you may wish to speak with the Historian of the Freehold. He knows the stories of this court and more.” Hulda gives a shy smile of thanks.

Amy looks up from the ground to smile at the queen. “Hello, Your Majesty. I’m Amy. I used to have a longer name, but I can’t remember it.”

The Queen looks a little bit sadly at Amy. “A pleasure to meet you. I am sorry that True Fae took that from you.”

Zia politely waits for the others to be introduced and then says calmly and proudly, “I am Zia, Crafter of Rainbows. I welcome the opportunity to increase my craft.”

The Queen says, “A pleasure to meet you as well Zia, Crafter of Rainbows.”

Fianna rolls her eyes at Zia’s introduction before saying anything, but when she does speak, her accent is especially thick. “You can call me Fianna. It’s…appropriate,” she says. “I’m still just getting used to this ‘having limbs again thing.’”

The Queen smiles at Fianna, “I wish you luck with that endeavor.”

“Blue, you have been summoned to my court to learn more about your choices and to swear fealty to the freehold. As you may know, our fair city of Aachen has a problem and a blessing. For the past 3 seasons, for nine months, Aachen has experienced an influx of changelings, largely who had no connection to the city. As you can imagine, for our freehold and for the city which normally receives a mere trickle of new changelings, having up to twenty changelings fight their way through the Hedge was both concerning and wonderful. Although not every one of those changelings has stayed in Aachen, most have. As a freehold it is our duty to give each of you the basic tools to get back on your feet, but how could we find the resources to mentor twenty changelings per season? The Autumn Court put forth that the changelings be organized into groups of 7 and spend one season with each court, learning from them and gaining real world experience with the supervision of experienced changelings.

“We have chosen to offer each changeling training from each of the courts to give you time to learn about the world as it is and yourselves and get a leg up on skills. To facilitate this, you have been assigned to this group of seven, they will learn and grow with you. Although it is possible to change your group, we would prefer that you did not. It is also your choice to leave for another city or to stay in our city and not participate in the program. You have the choices your Keeper never gave you. However, we do not recommend it.

“Is each of you willing to enter into this training group?”

Iris and Hulda nod. Marcella says, “I would be honored to serve, Your Majesty.”

Amy says, “Um, I’d love to join, but can I go back to my family when I find them? Byron said I’d be able to leave.”

“You may if you wish, Amy, though be aware that most changelings never rejoin their families.”

“Ok then!”

“Must we swear fealty for this training if we will be working under different courts?” asks Blue.

“You must swear fealty to the freehold, not to me, Blue”

“Very well.”

Zia announces, “I am willing to join the training group. I will gladly ensure that each of us is outfitted properly.”

“Sure, why not. I wasn’t planning on going back to Glasgow anyway,” Fianna says.

“We thank you for your willingness. As you may know, it is common for our kind to govern ourselves in a rotating fashion. Each season is governed by a court who has made a compact with the spirit of that season. Each court has its own spirit, focus, goals. It is still spring for another week or two and I govern in this hall, which reflects the hope and energy and newness of Spring. But in a few days, 5 or 10 or 15, the first sign of Summer will appear and the Summer Court will take over. Each of you will one day join a Court, the court that matches your heart best.

“The oath we will ask you to swear however, is to the freehold.

“Our freehold is one of the most organized freeholds in Germany. Publicly we are a philanthropic organization that focuses on charity within Aachen, as well as various political and social causes. By swearing the pledge you will gain the advantages and resources of the freehold. You will not reveal to others the location of the freehold as a freehold, though as a charitable organization rather than a freehold, our location is naturally not secret. Is each of you ready to swear the oath?”

Everyone indicates agreement, though Iris starts shivering nervously. Zia stands up tall, “I will swear. I will swear and grow strong and one day, Brighid will suffer as I and my companions suffered.”

Fianna’s eyes sparkle, and she slams a fist into her opposite palm. “I could do with some good old-fashioned retribution right about now. You say this mutual aid thing works? I’m game.”

The Spring Queen rises, and opens her arms to them. An odd power rises in the hall, and all the courtiers fall silent. “Then, if you will, repeat after me:”

“I swear to bough and berry. I pledge to branch and bone. I stand here to make my vow before the force of man and myth alike. For one full turning of the year I bind myself to the faith and fraternity of the court of seasons. My eyes will see far and find that which would harm my compatriots. My arms will support the bodies of my comrade’s bodies, and my heart will shelter their hearts, and the freehold will flourish for it. I make this oath in the full knowledge that should I be forsworn, I become mud in the eyes of the Masked, and that no place on Earth or Arcadia will shelter them again. By Antlers and Mirror, and the Spear and Arrow, I so swear.”

Everyone swears the oath.

“Thank you for your oath. As a representative of the freehold, I accept your oath. We will keep our part of the oath and give you assistance and shelter as it is within our power,” the Queen says.

Everyone notices that Iris is swaying and looking very unwell. Blue takes particular notice towards Iris. “Is everything alright?” Iris is breathing very quickly but not particularly deeply now. Her hand has formed into a fist again. She nods, but everything is kind of spinning around her and she is trying to remain standing.

“Queen, you promised us assistance. Is there a doctor in your court? I think Iris is having a panic attack!” Blue calls.

Hulda goes over to Iris and says, “Do you think you should sit down? You seem unwell.”

Iris says, “I… I’m okay I just. Too many people.”

Hulda looks up at the Queen. “Your Majesty if there is nothing more you require of her, can Iris return to her room? She needs to rest.”

The Queen gestures over a doctor who had treated some of the party previously, and he takes Iris over to a corner of the hall and talks her down quietly for five minutes. Afterwards, she feels calmer. During this pause, the rest of the court is making quiet small talk while iris is being treated so as to not be pointedly paying attention to the treatment. Marcella, Amy, and Blue also makes small talk.

The Queen, sensing that Iris wants no more fuss made, simply continues the audience. “You will have liaisons from each court. Today your primary liaison from the Summer Court is here to greet you. Faron, if you will introduce yourself?”

A young man steps forward, looking no older than 19. He wears burnished red armor over a deep green tunic. His hair is golden, his eyes a rich blue-green that seem almost alight. Although mostly hidden by his hair, his ears are pointed. Most noticeably, his entire upper body his backlit by a golden aura.
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“I am Faron. As Her Highness said, I will be your… liaison, from the Summer Court.”

The Queen looks at him. “And Faron, why don’t you tell them a little bit about yourself…”

Faron glances at the Queen briefly before turning back to the group. “I have been a member of this freehold for 4 years. They will treat you well as long as you treat them well. It is my responsibility to assist you when necessary.”

Marcella says, “It’s nice to meet you, Faron. I look forward to working with you and learning more about this freehold.”

Amy says, “Me too.”

Zia says, “A pleasure.”

He nods slightly. “Welcome to Heimdahlszunft.”

The Queen says, “Now, all of you will partake in a meal together. Please use this meal to begin to get to know each other. You must also choose the name of your training group. When you have decided, just tell Byron and he will add your group to the log.”

The queen dismisses the party, and Byron leads them to a banquet hall to eat.
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As they walk over, Marcella asks Iris how she is feeling. A bit flustered, Iris says, “I’m alright, I just don’t like making promises to people… not ones like this anyway.”

“That’s completely reasonable, sorry you ended up in that situation.”

“Sorry about the scene back there,” Blue says.

“I just don’t trust them. I don’t really trust anyone, but I’m stuck here. I don’t look like myself and I’ve already been replaced anyway, so what choice did I have?” says Iris.

“Replaced?” Blue asks.

Iris sighs. “There is a fae thing in my place. Byron calls it a ‘fetch.’”

“I see … I’m sorry,” he replies.

Marcella shivers. “That’s awful, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Iris shrugs. “I’m not the only one am I? At least I still know my name.” She half smiles.

They arrive at the hall. Marcella chooses a seat and gestures for everyone to sit with her.

Blue sits and says, “I’m not sure, I haven’t had the chance to find out anything about my father.  He was old when I was abducted; that was fourteen years ago.” He pauses. “So we’re supposed to be some kind of team.  Whatever that means.  I guess it wouldn’t hurt to know what everyone’s good at.”

Iris sits next to Caesar. “I’m not really good at much of anything. I can shoot a rifle and talk to the dead. I like books and computers,” she mumbles embarrassedly.

Zia takes a seat across from Marcella. “I make things…just about anything. Though I expect I can’t make castles out here, not full size ones. I used rather more specific tools in Arcadia.” To Iris, “Oh, you can talk to the dead! That must be so interesting! You should ask them about the fashion of their day!”

Zia’s comment manages to shake Iris out of her embarrassment. “Why would I ask them about fashion?”

“Fashion is just so fascinating! Every era, every decade, every year ascribes to new styles. And those styles reflect the cuture!” Zia says with excitement.

Marcella listens intently to everyone, then says, “I’m pretty good with a sword, and I led an army of a sort back … in Arcadia.” Her voice is a bit hesitant when she mentions Arcadia, but she makes herself say it.

Amy speaks quietly, “That fetch thing sounds awful.  There’s a nice man looking for my family for me, but I haven’t found them yet.  I don’t really know what I can do to be useful.”

Hulda says, “I am a researcher and I collect stories, well fairy tales and myths before being captured.  I am good at staying hidden as well.”

“Well, hiding is far from my speciality, but some of my more notable work before I was taken was based on myths.” Zia says.

“Oh, like what? Hulda is intrigued.

Iris says, “I don’t think so… I don’t really like fashion. Hulda, that sounds amazing. I like stories… maybe I could collect them too. I could collect the stories of the dead…”

“Hi. I punch things,” Fianna says dryly from her end of the table.

Blue wonders what the courts could expect from their assorted talents and skills. “Interesting.”

“The series that won several national contests were a series of diadems, each reflecting a different myth,” Zia replies to Hulda. “I also created clothing to match them.”

Hulda says, “They sound beautiful.”

“Thank you. They were my fame and my downfall in the end. They were how Brighid found me.”

The group’s musings are interrupted by the entry of several changelings bearing platters of food. Anyone with a bit of culinary knowledge will notice that the food is all fresh and seasonal. There are tons of options, but some of the fare offered include dishes of white asparagus, pasta primavera with spring vegetables, baskets of fresh, hot bread with new butter, racks of roast lamb with a side of spring onions and carrots, mashed potatoes with garlic and scallions, braised sausages on a bed of spring vegetables, Cornish game hen, young pork with balsamic glaze, platters upon platters of fresh fruits and cheeses, and wine, beer, water, and farm-fresh milk as beverages. The food is set before the group on the tables, and the servers leave. The group start eating.

“So, we were supposed to determine a name for us, right?” Blue says.

“Yes, does anyone have ideas?” Marcella asks.

Iris shakes her head. “None,” Blue admits.

“Um … well, what does everybody like?” Amy asks.

Zia is eating delicately, a bit of each dish. “I propose, Crafters of Our Own Destiny.”

“Too long,” interjects Blue at the same time Amy says, “I like that!” Hearing Blue, she says, “Aww.”

“A bit long,” agrees Iris.

“Well then, what do you propose?” Zia asks, a bit huffily.

Marcella says, “I like the idea of shaping out own destiny though.”

“Hmmm there has got to be  a better way to say that though,” says Iris.

“Something around ‘free will,’ then?” says Blue.

“What about something out of legend, like ‘The Round Table’?” Marcella suggests, looking nostalgic.

Amy frowns, “Shouldn’t we have a round table if we’re going to call ourselves that?”

“The Round Table is entirely too…martial,” Zia protests.

“I do not know that we have the makes of a Round Table, but I like the idea of something out of myths or legends” Hulda says.

“Vogelfrei?” proposes Iris.

“I like Vogelfrei, that’s got a good ring to it,” says Marcella.

“Heh,” Caesar half-chuckles. "Fitting for where we are."

“What does it mean?” asks Amy.

“It means ‘free as a bird’ in German,” explains Blue.

“Ohhh, I like it,” says Amy.

“Do you not speak it?” asks Blue.

“No. It sounds cool.”

“Vogelfrei is interesting, although it does have a medieval connotation of being outlawed,” says Hulda.

“That is an acceptably poetic name I suppose,” Zia says.

“Well, we all are jail-birds, if you think about it,” says Blue.

“Being an outlaw sounds kind of neat,” says Amy.

“Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” says Fianna.

Hulda chuckles, “Yes, it does seem appropriate, as long as everyone is aware of the connotation.”

Marcella asks, “Is everyone agreed on Vogelfrei, then?” Everyone agrees. “Great, so we’re Vogelfrei! Great to be working with all of you other jail-birds,” she smiles.

“Vogelfrei.” Amy checks to make sure she can pronounce it, and gets it mostly right.

“May our Keepers never find us until we find them,” Zia says as a toast.

“Hear hear!” Marcella seconds.

Blue, Hulda, Iris and Amy toast. Fianna raises a glass of milk, then knocks back the entire thing. Amy takes a sip of wine, winces, and grabs a glass of milk instead.

“So what are your talents, Blue? I don’t think we’ve heard from you yet,” asks Marcella.

Blue whispers the message, “I listen, I learn” to Marcella using the whisperwisp blessing. Marcella can’t reply in kind, bus she says back in a low voice, “Listening and learning are essential skills for a group, that’s good to hear.”

“Um, Blue? What are you good at? You didn’t answer,” says Amy. “Do you not know either? I’d understand that. It’s so hard to remember … things …”

“Oh, haha. Um … I don’t really know yet. Unlike everyone else, my time in Arcadia, as the others are calling it, was … let’s call it uneventful,” he says.

“I didn’t do much either. Is that why everyone else knows what they’re good at? Did you all learn in Arcadia?” Amy asks.

Blue says, “That’d be my guess, at least. I didn’t learn a thing.”

Faron strides quickly into the room. He’s no longer in ceremonial armor. Instead he sports a black leather jacket over a deep green t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He still has his sword with him. “We have a mission.”

Blue turns to Faron. “What is it?”

Marcella sets down her food and drink, all business. “What’s the situation?”

“A mission?” Amy asks.

“Four people have gone missing or died within 3 miles of the Südfriedhof cemetary, where you all escaped the Hedge. We are being sent to investigate,” says Faron.

“Humans or changeling? Or something else?” asks Marcella.

“All humans,” he says.

“Two little girls were playing in front of their house with an empty baby carriage. A baby suddenly seemed to appear, and it rolled away as the girls followed it. When their mother came outside to get them, they were gone.

“An older man told his wife he was hearing things all day. The next morning he was gone. His wife never heard him leave.”

“I can see why Changelings are the ones investigating these disappearances, then,” says Marcella.

“Do we have anything to work with?  You think it might be…”  Blue cuts himself off.  

“A pawnshop owner received a mysterious call from a whispery voice asking him to pick up some WWII watches that night, because she was leaving town. He was found drowned in a nearby fountain. Apparently.”

“I saw things in the Hedge when I made my escape, they talked about hunting something or another. Do you think something like them might target humans as well?” says Blue.

“Maybe we’ll find my friends. I bet they could tell us what’s been happening,” says Amy.

Faron tenses. “What did those things look like, in the Hedge?” he asks Blue.

“Animals. Weird ones — they had sentience.” Amy looks at Blue with a look of plain confusion.

“Sentience? Did they speak to you?” asks Marcella.

Amy turns her look on Marcella. “Is that weird?”

“Not to me, no. I just happened to hear them,” says Blue. Obviously, this was weird for the others, who apparently didn’t have such an encounter. "Disappearances? Oh, they also all had these strange glowing eyes, if any of the reports detail that."

Marcella looks at Amy. “Yes, normal animals can’t speak any language that people understand.”

“My friends can,” says Amy.

“What friends are these?” asks Marcella.

“Your … friends?” says Fianna.

“The friends you’re hoping to find?” asks Blue.

“Yeah!  There were these foxes that helped me find the way out of the hedge.  They protected me from bad things,” says Amy.

Marcella gives Faron a concerned look.

“…One of the creatures I saw there was a fox,” says Blue.

Faron’s outright frowning now, which is his first real expression since you’ve met him. “These are just preliminary reports. We’re being sent to investigate, and we should leave soon.”

Amy continues, “And they told me about these neat fruit that do cool things.” She smiles. She’s looking forward to finding her friends again. Fianna’s eye twitches juuust slightly.

Faron asks if everyone is ready to go. Iris and Marcella say they would like to grab their weapons, and Amy, Fianna, Hulda, and Zia would like to change out of their court clothing.

Amy grabs her doll and slings him in a sheet, facing outward. Marcella grabs her ivory and bamboo swords, leaving the onyx sword behind his time.

Blue doesn’t change, and asks Faron if there is more information once the two of them are alone. Faron replies, “I’ve told you everything that I’ve been told.  And we need to resolve this quickly.”

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