(2018-01-14) Into The Hedge
Into the Hedge
Summary: An expedition into the Hedge leads to some strange discoveries. Crowns get worn, and a new Changeling makes his first appearance.
Date: IC Date (2018-01-14)
Related: None
Player Characters: Eddie, Grayson, Gwen, Jack, Liska, Lucas, Tyla, Velvet

Everyone for one reason or another met up at the Sit N Spin for whatever reason, but the same group of Lost has pretty much been gathering there recently. It's a good starting point. Someone mentions again about going into the Hedge, and someone else suggests actually going in rather than talking about it. Tyla says she knows a place, or at least she used to before everyone forgot all the important things. The group travels to her farmhouse, which isn't all that far from the Sit N Spin, just down the road to the east a little.

She leads the group to the backyard. it's full of life - as much as it can be in the winter anyway. It's mostly green except for one large and very dead tree near the back of the property. It looks like at one point it was a large and vibrant tree, but now it's just a hollow shell. Most likely the tree was struck by lightning, and burned from the inside as the edges are scorched black.

Entering the tree takes the group to what was once likely a hollow. Once full of life and cozy it is now dead and withering, a literal whole in the ground. There is a true opening to the Hedge itself on the other side, although calling it an opening is generous and the group had better be very cozy with each other, as there isn't much room, and no where to go.

The Hedge, normally wild and chaotic, is even more so. No visible trods at least in this area, no animal paths. It's all vines, and branches, and bushes. Blood and dark ichor ooze and drip off of everything in here. The darkness is oppressive and soul crushing, palpable. The Hedge normally isn't a good place to be at the best of times - This is as far from the best as times as it could be. Somehow everything is alive, and dead and the same time. A nearly impenetrable wall denying all access in.

Liska shivers at the feeling of being watched, looking around at the thick mess of hedge they find themselves in. "What happened here..?" He whispers, seemingly talking to the Hedge itself. Bemused, apparently, by the sheer level to which the oppressiveness has reached.

"You and me both, brother," Eddie says to the dead tree, finally working up his nerve to step through the gate, second to last one through. He managed to go through before Tyla, but that's the best he could manage. Now that he's there he's trying to keep it together, maybe remembering that the Hedge is psychoactive, but it's obviously that: trying. His wings still twitch, every once in a while. The crown is tucked up somewhere under his coat, wrapped in handkerchiefs. "You feel that?" he asks, looking up.

"Yes." The words are creaking, hollow from behind the plague doctor's mask of bone worn by Doctor Lucas Ambrose, one gloved hand clasping the pewter pistol's grip of the cane that he walks with, the dark red sheen of its wood like blood in the dim light. Eyes of glass regard the scene of death before him, his head raising and then turning slowly to one side and the other. "This is death," he states calmly, quietly, "Not the restful death of winter, the death before spring's rebirth. This is… something else, and something worse. And something is watching us, yes."

Jack enters the gate first. Or maybe he's last. He isn't really paying attention enough to know what order he's in. But he's got a guitar strapped to his back and a katana in his hand, ready for the travails and sorrows of the Winter Hedge. Azazel is ready too, his eyes flicking about, straight razor clutched in his tiny hand. He holds it at the ready, as though about to give the world's closest shave at a moment's notice.

"I's glad I d-didn't check out my hollow by myself. I d-don't think I'm going to get any hedgefruit from here. What d-do we d-do now? Find another way in? I g-guess this isn't normal?"

As if to add to the oppressive nature of the surroundings, a cool for slowly drifts in, yet the feeling of being watched lingers.

Tyla stays in the back as much as possible.

"I might be able to get us in …" Liska muses as he surveys the hedge. "But I don't know how well it would work. I've never seen it like this before. I can try, anyway, or we can look for another way."

"You sure?" Eddie asks Tyla, "Some of this looks pretty good." He cracks a weak grin. Trying. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little flashlight, looks to the Autumns for confirmation before he risks clicking it on. "Little out of practice, but I guess we should collect some of this," he gestures at the whole gruesome scene, "so you guys can do your thing with it, yeah?"

The flashlight beam is weak and blinks on and off as if the batteries are dying.

"I don't see any roads, no paths… Tyla, were there trods here when last you remember?" The base of Lucas's cane is used to carefully prod at a twisted trunk that seems to be oozing blood, his glass-eyed gaze considering the result before looking back across the tangle of darkness, the beak of his mask giving a single ominous click together. "Mnm. Is the whole of the Hedge in the area like this, or is this a… local phenomenon?"

Jack looks… disappointed at the state of the Hedge. Azazel, well. He looks monkey. The razor is flipped closed and the little monkey climbs higher on Jack's shoulder to peer over the area. Jack just shakes his head in disgust, no clever words or quips.

The trunk spurts and oozes something that could be blood, or maybe oil? Oily blood think and stinking on Lucas' shoe but otherwise that particular tree doesn't do anything else.

"It wasn't like this before n-no." Tyla says with a shake of her head. "And I d-don't know what a trod is, but this is n-nothing like anything I've seen before when I was here before. So if a trod should b-be here now, it isn't." Tyla say solemnly. "M-maybe it's only h-here?" She asks, large, dark eyes looking around.

The tree spurts again, shooting a fine mist of the oily blood on anyone in the front. The smell is nearly vomit inducing.

Liska makes a very unhappy sound at the mist of blood, vulpine ears laying back against his head. "Well, there's only one way to find out." He says, reaching out with his will to attempt to open the way.

Eddie shakes his flashlight, cursing. He checks the batteries, jiggles them around. No good. Must be a Hedge thing. When the tree starts bleeding he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. A weird little smile comes across his face and his whole body seems to relax a little. Then he notices what he's doing and shakes it off, clearing his throat. "If there's still a Hollow back there anywhere, I might be able to do something, actually. The cuckoo trick."

Lucas "Lovely." A deadpan comment from Lucas at the reaction of the tree. "Some sort of corruption has seeped into the very soil here… by which I mean something very powerful has laid claim to this part of the Hedge. Something strong enough to impose its own nature upon the thorns…" He pauses, "…and from the look of it, something very unpleasant." He cocks his head, birdlike, at Eddie, "An excellent thought. If the Hollow still exists as an extant area, that could work."

The tree branches in front of the group crack and snap, breaking their way out of place, the vines slowly retract, shift. It's an opening of sorts, not quite a path, but passable if the group sticks together. The way ahead doesn't open very far, but it does open, spreading out from around Liska. People can probably walk along in pairs, but the vines and branches will still tug at their clothing. Passable, depending on hour determined the group is.

"This used to be a lot easier." Liska makes a face at the result. "Of course, I suppose it is silly to say such things when it's been such a long time. Still, we can go futher in now if we wish."

Jack, for his part… has a sword. A sword that he's not using to slash at branches at all. Instead he is careful in his movements, working to ensure that his reinforced suit isn't torn or ripped by the vicious thorns. Clothes are expensive. "Slow and steady wins the race, baby. Let's turtle this and see where it goes."

"Not exactly a yellow brick road, is it?" Eddie asks, aiming his flickering flashlight down the new path. He reaches his free hand into his coat to check for something, the crown or a gun or probably both. He breathes in the stink of the place to steady his nerves, moves to follow. He can't help but observing, though: "If it opens itself, you've got to figure it can close itself back up."

Looks like the Autumn's have come prepared. Velvet also has a weapon with her, a large bow with a quiver of bolts at her hip. Granted, as tightly squeezed as tey all are together, it's going to be hard to get a shot off if it becomes a need. Still, the woman isn't going to be caught ill-prepared again. She strides along, towards the back of the group. "No, it certainly isn't. And yet, flying monkeys wouldn't surprise me."

Lucas's cane thumps softly against the tangled roots as he steps forward, the bony reach of the bare branches rasping over the leather of his heavy coat and smearing it with unpleasant 'sap'. It isn't the worst that the Doctor has had stain his coat before. "Do not allow it to frighten you," his voice echoes from behind the bony beak of his mask, "This is psychological warfare as much as anything. Our enemy does not wish us to be thinking rationally… but remember. We have all seen worse than this." That is, perhaps, not encouraging, but that's Autumn for you…

Gwen is heading up toward the end of the party. Dressed in leather armor and carrying with her a glock, and … a sword? Yes. A sword. She doesn't really look like she can use it, but the gladius is strapped to her back nonetheless. The hilt of it sticking from underneath her coppery hair.

"That's easier said than d-done." Tyla says quietly. She has no weapons, the monkey is probably way better at her in combat. So she sticks close to someone. Preferably someone with a weapon, but not so close that she gets in the way. "I have my b-bone?" She offers, trying to reassure herself more than anything.

As the vines and trees part, the fog feels a little less dense, it's slightly warmer, the odor not quiet so bad as the group moves along.

"Oh, it certainly could close on its own." Liska agrees, not seeming troubled by the idea. "The Hedge is always stronger than our will, after all. Still, it seems like perhaps that unpleasantness was localized."

The only thing that doesn't change is the feeling of thousands of eyes, watching the group. That if anything intensifies, a little.
"You know me, Doc:" Eddie says, his wings twitching nervously again, "Fearless." He grunts at Liska's observation. "I don't know, I don't think I'd mind if the whole thing was walled up. Kind of a happy thought, this mess," he waves a hand, as much as he can in the limited space, "stretching all the way back for Them to deal with."

Jack keeps moving forward, forward. In true Summer fashion he is not focused on the rear at all. Azazel clings to his ear for safety, uttering soft little curses when Jack leans too close to the brambles and risks getting the monkey snagged. He's unusually stoic, for a change. A little less talk a little more action.

Lucas breathes out a chuckle that sounds like a click-click-click within his mask as he steps through and into the Hedge beyond. "It is not that the Hedge is stronger than our will. It is merely that there is more of it than there is of us… but I digress," he muses, cane swinging beside him with every step, "This is not Their place either, Eddie. In a very real way, it is ours."

"You have bones?" Velvet wonders of Tyla as she mentions it. The woman doesn't mind doing a half-protective hover of the other woman as she keeps her bow in hand, ready to go if the time comes. She's otherwise mostly quiet, eyes narrowed as she stares out over the group and then towards the overgrowth. Lucas' comment gets a little tick of brow. "Well, I think it is it's own at this point. We need to do a little something to start reclaiming it, yes?"

"Uuuuuuh." comes Gwen's voice from the back, "Uuuuuuh. Hey, uh, Eddiers and Scary One… The, uh, path behind us?" She blue-skinned doll points behinds herself, brandishing her glock at… er a bunch of overgrown rambles and vines. Where there should be a path.

"Called it," Eddie says, instantly, though he doesn't seem to enjoy it. Much.

"Well we all have b-bones." Tyla explains, trying to smile, but really not really doing a good effort of it. "B-but… it c-can heal people. If we really n-need it. N-not as g-good as fruit but it will d-do if we absolutely n-need it." She looks back at the vines closing in and just moves closer to the group in general. "D-do we keep going?" She asks quietly.

The feeling of being watched intensifies, and the group hears the faint baying of hounds off in the distance. Ahead of the group.

"It's like we have a bubble around us." Liska muses. "I think … we're fine to keep going. If we turn around, I imagine the bubble will reopen the way." And then there's the baying, and his ears flatten. "/Were/ fine to keep going. I'm not so sure now."

Azazel leans in and whispers something in Jack's ear and the man tenses, gripping his sword tighter. "Sorry, boss man." Jack says back to his companion as he… continues forward. Towards the baying. The monkey mutters more soft curses but doesn't let go of Jack, giving the man's ear a twist in protest.

"Ah. So you did, Eddie." Lucas considers the missing gate for a moment, and then lifts the cane; twisting the head of it with a /click/ as he depresses a particular catch, and drawing a blade of wrought iron from within. Donum Terroris is the name engraved upon the blade as he raises it in hand, the rest of the cane carried in his other. "Well. This will be an eventful walk, I suspect."

"Stay back," Eddie warns Tyla. A gun blooms at the end of his hand, like a magician producing a rose. He tries to twist himself into a position where he won't be shooting anyone in the back if he has to fire it. He growls with frustration. It won't be easy, in a space this tight, maybe not even possible.

"Smart ass." The affection is thick and Velvet glances towrds Tyle with amusement. Of course, the look is quick to fade at the sounds of hounds not too far off from where they are, causing one of those long ears to twitch in that direction. She starts to nudge herself towards the edge of the group, angling her shot so that she won't accidentally hit anyone else. Her chin lifts, nostrils flaring as she tries to pinpoint where it's coming from. "I can try to wither the hedge around us so that we can see better, but I'm not sure it'll be enough."

Azazel grows more animated, twisting Jack's ear harder and pointing back the way the group came. Jack yowls quietly and tries to thump Azazel with his thumb and forefinger. "I don't care if you feel the gate back there, boss man. I'm not turning around!"

Gwen shifts on her feet a moment, and turns to walk sort of backward. So she can keep an eye on the hedge behind them. A hand reaches back and rather awkwardly (it is NOT COOL at ALL) she pulls her gladius from her back sheath. It catches on her braid at first, but she manages to get it free with some yanking. "Ouch." She complains. Still the roman short sword is held in one hand, glock in the other.

As the group continues on, the bubble around them stays pretty much even around the group. They move forward slowly, and slowly the branches and vines retract. Slowly the branches and vines gather behind the group. It is a tight fit, and an errant arm or piece of clothing catches one of the vines, it spurts that inky, smelly mess all over anyone close by. The fog, though lighter sticks to the skin, and that feeling of eyes watching intensifies. The sound of the hounds is getting closer but it's still a good ways off.

There is also something crashing through the Hedge. It's impossible to tell just how big whatever it is, is coming at the group as the sound of the crashing echoes and intensifies.

"That's what I've been doing, but it seems very limited in scope." Liska tells Velvet, at her talk of making them some room. He hasn't drawn a weapon, and does not appear to have one. He is, however, watching the direction of the sound intently.

Gwen tromps along, coming to a stop when she hears the crashing. A frown is given and she scurries to make sure she's not left behind, asking in a too loud whisper of Azazel (not Jack), "Do you hear that too? Am I hearing things?"

It's time. Time for Jack to make his quip, to say something cool, and heroic. To inspire everyone. He opens his mouth to speak and… "Uh… shit. The gate is still back there." Jack says to himself, or maybe the others. He doesn't sound quite so sure of the situation now. Azazel opens his mouth to speak, face animated like he's about to start yelling but… his features fall and he shrugs, little palms up as his fuzzy chin nods in sad agreement.

There's a sigh, Velvet's nose scrunching up with a flicker of annoyance. "That's what I was afraid of," she informs Liska when he speaks on the limited scope of the power. "Kind of wishing that I had my umbrella again. Might help us shove through a little bit faster. Also, I could pop it off in the face of whatever is coming." Her shoulders roll back in defiance. "But I suppose I'll have to settle for shooting it in the face." She tsks.

It's not very big, one person, if he can said to be even a person in the distance. Dressed in some sort of white, nearly see through clothes, comes barreling towards the group. Or those clothes were once white, now they are mostly filthy and covered in whatever filth and ooze this place is made out of. As the creature or man gets closer, you can see large terrified eyes staring straight at you. He runs a hand across his face to clear crap from his eyes, never looking back, and then trips, tumbling to the ground. Scrambling to get back up, and struggling, he manages it, looking as tired as can be. Like he will fall at any second, but is only held up by force of will. He looks like he'd rather being going in a different direction, not back, not forward, but maybe to the sides or any other direction. Yet he continues to scramble towards the group at as full a speed as he can manage. The ones with weapons, all of them.

"Don't worry, you look better with short hair," Eddie quips at Gwen. He's just doing it for practice. His heart doesn't really seem to be in it. He takes a moment, breathes in, and his pupils dilate. It's a hell of show. He drops the gun to his side: "Don't shoot! It's a guy!"

"Yes, it is still b-back there. Just c-covered right now." Tyla agrees trying to stay away from the branches, and possibly Gwen. "If we c-can go back, we c-can." She pauses hearing the crashing and the proclamation it's a guy and adds. "Maybe we should g-go back?" Not really sure how much she is supposed to trust some being chased in the Hedge. Plus the dogs sound like even though they are far off, they are still getting closer.

Jack… well. Jack runs full force at the guy. Right in the direction of the running man and… should the man not stop he runs past him. Towards the sound of the baying hounds and other nastiness going on. Azazel is cursing softly and clinging to Jack's shoulder, his legs in the air like a cape as he clings on for dear life to his idiot friend.

"Curious." A cock of Lucas's head to one side comes with the word, his steps ending as eyes of warped glass regard the man that's chargiing down the pathway, the tip of the blade lowering - but not by much. "We are, by all rights, a terrifying group to a stranger's eyes. And yet whatever's behind the man…" A dark little chuckle, clicking beneath the mask, "…is more so than we are."

"Fear." It rolls off of Velvet's tongue as if someone were sniffing at their favorite bottle of wine. The edges of her lips curl as she spots the wide-eyed look on the man's face. It takes a second for her to snap out of it and realize that Jack isn't stopping. Lucas' words have her glancing in his direction, that dark smile touching her lips again. "Isn't it exciting?" The little rumble bubbles up from inside her throat as she starts to take off after Jack. "Damn Summers, can't let them have all the fun." If nothing else, atleast he's making a little path of fury for her to follow behind.

"Uuuuuuh." says Gwen, sniffing a little bit. A glare is given toward Eddie, and she reaches back to make sure her braid hasn't been completely severed… Nope still there! …mostly. Then there's a new person! She squints a little bit, but holds bother weapons (awkwardly) out.

Jack isn't going to get very far, even though that part of the Hedge was just crashed through, it's closing up and repairing itself behind the man. Much faster than the bubble around Liska.

D'oh. Jack barely manages to stop in time to not run into the brambles headlong… and only because a certain monkey is twisting his ear with all its might. He skids to a stop almost comically, face to face with a wall of winter hedge. "Oh come on!" Jack growls out in frustration, taking a whack at it with his sword a couple times testingly.

"So maybe let's take a cue from him." Eddie takes a step back, nearly stumbling into Velvet as she moves forward. He gives the back of her head a mean look as she charges forward, growls something obscene under his breath, and then braces himself in place with the gun pointed forward again.

The man's pale skin is covered in cuts and bruises where his skin can actually be seen. It's apparent as he gets closer. He's filthy, bedraggled and a multitude of emotions cross his features. Fear and confusion taking the forefront. It's also clear he's clutching something to his breast as if it's the dearest thing in the world to him. It's really his only possession by the looks of things. Then it becomes clear as Jack charges forward that he is not running towards the group, he is running towards Jack for some inexplicable reason. The only problem is, he's not stopping or slowing down. His size compared to Jack though is laughable. If he means to bowl the man over, it's going to end poorly, especially with Jack coming the other way. Yet, he races towards him, eyes widening more, if that's even possible.

The Hedge spurts it's black and smelly liquid on Jack, Azazel, and the man in a fine, stinky mist.

What happens when a monkey runs into a brick wall? You get a broken monkey. What happens when a brick wall runs into a monkey? Jack is about to find out. He skids to a stop, hacking and whacking and chopping that mea… hedge. Only when his vision is blurred and he's coughing up a fit does he stagger back, Azazel -screeching- in rage and giving Jack a good punch to the head before he jumps off his shoulder and tries to skitter back to the group, his little arms flailing and rubbing at his eyes as he careens dangerous close to the brambles in his attempts at retreat.

"Quiet." There's the sound of a smile in Lucas's voice, even though it can't be seen. Perhaps there's something in the set of that bird's skull of a mask that suggests it. "We shall have to inquire what it is inspires him to such… desperate terror." The tails of rats lazily writhe from beneath the hem of his coat as he steps forward, watching the man charging Jack with that bird-like tilt of his head.

Gwen is… is not going to get in on that action. No. She takes several steps to the left and make certain she's well out of the way of having a man knocked into her, should the New One end up knocking over Jack.

Tyla stays near the back herself, peeking out and around curiously at whoever is in front of her as the baying of the hounds continue to get closer. "Maybe we c-could, um, go back? Maybe?" She's not doing well with the whole not being scared.

The vines near Jack and the man wither a little bit, but if anything it causes them to spread even more mist on the two men. It's not really effective for making a path that way, and they grow back rather quickly.

Meanwhile it sounds like the hounds have no issues with navigating the Hedge, and keep getting closer.

Should they all be running away? Oh, there isn't a doubt in Velvet's mind that that's the case. But Jack is charging ahead, and she's not going to let him be stupid alone. It's always more fun with company. Plus, she kind of wants to see what's so scary, even if that is a dumb idea. But Jack is suddenly preoccupied with the hacking and slashing of the plants around him. She stops to a halt a few feet away, eyes narrowing. The scent of apples fills the air around her, leaves in orange and red drifting in the air around her as she focuses on the plants. "I think we'd better listen to the monkey, Jack."

With the vines withering a bit… and the increase in mist Jack just curses again, dropping his sword-arm to his side. "Oh to hell with it!" He exclaims, his misted face a mask of frustration. "Damnit! Damnit damnit damnit!" Jack shouts at the top of his lungs. Still, he's turning away from the direction the man came and beginning to mope back towards the group. Defeated.

Then the young man is blind, suddenly blind. His legs simply carrying on in the direction he was heading, hat being Jack. Not seeing anything even as he scrapes at his face, he crashes hard into Jack. Full force. No idea of the impact he has on Jack, he goes tumbling and crashing to the ground hard. His only concern, the thing he has in his hands. That stays his, caring nothing for trying to stop his fall to the ground, only that. It's metal, by the gleam. One eye opens, partially seeing, and it moves rapidly, trying to find Jack in a panic, in the mess and darkness, through a clouded gaze. Then he holds it aloft, the thing in his hands, towards Jack. A crown of iron decorated with Ruby spears. Confusion and fear still present, like he has no idea why he's doing what he's doing. He grips it as tightly as he can, and it seems apparent this is for Jack and no one else. His chest rises and falls, but otherwise he makes no movements to stand, maybe he can't anymore, maybe that last blow has taken all the fight out of him.

"Start back that way, see if it'll open back up," Eddie suggests to Tyla, keeping in front of the Touched and behind everyone else but maybe Gwen. He keeps his eyes and his gun pointed ahead, spots the crown. Summer Crown. "Oh, thank God."

"Perhaps…" Lucas trails off as that bundle is finally brought into view and thrust into the air, and behind those lenses of warped glass his eyes widen. "The Iron Crown," he breathes out, a hiss of breath through the beak, "Jack! Take it, and take him, and" He whirls, autumn leaves spraying through the air with the motion and thrusting the iron blade in his hand in the direction they'd come, "we need to get /out/ of here."

Tyla moves to the back of the ground, and then forward to where she knows the Hedge Gate is. Nothing happens to the wall of vines and branches. She gets close enough to touch it, but doesn't. "N-nope. N-nothing." She says sadly.

When Liska takes a step back though, the vines and branches start to retreat, opening up a way back home… and the ones near the front of the group seem to swell and close up making everything more miserable and oppressive. "N-now it is!" She exclaims, a little too happily.

"C'mon, then, doctor's orders!" Eddie doesn't need any further encouragement. He turns to retreat, only pausing to check over his shoulder and make sure the rest of the Lost are following them.

Bow be damned. It's slung back over a shoulder as Velvet moves towards the man that's dropped to the ground. "Take the crown," she tells Jack. "Then help me get this guy up. We can't just leave him here." She nods towards Lucas who had the same idea. She reaches a hand down towards the man to try to help pull and steady him back to his feet. "Maybe if you put it on it'll repel things the way the winter one did?" she suggests through her teeth as she tries to get the guy off the ground.

Jack wipes some of the… well. Whatever it is from his eyes, looking blearly at the group. He takes hold of the crown though, slapping it right on his head almost as soon as his fingers touch it. It's instinctive. You see food, you eat it. You see a crown? You put it on. So that's what he does. Crown on, one hand reaching for the man to heft him up if anyone plans to help him because there's no way Jack's gonna be able to do it on his own. Azazel is dancing from foot to foot nearby, screeching and rubbing at the vile goop in a frenzy.

Oh look! There's an archway RIGHT THERE! Gwen … or something. Gwen has peeled off from the group and ducked through an archway caused from brambles and is gone. How long as she been gone? Was anyone paying attention?

Eddie freezes in place when Jack puts on the crown. He thought he wanted to keep running, but his body has different ideas. His hand drops the flashlight, moves shakingly toward his coat. He manages to close his eyes, bring his shaking hand into a fist, and shake off whatever this is with a gasp. Then he looks at Jack again, and listens to the hounds, and he looks at Azazel and says: "God damn you," and he reaches into his coat of his own stupid free will and grabs the crown and shoves it on his head hard enough to hurt, still wrapped in blue handkerchiefs.

The crown is taken by the man Grayson wanted it to go to. Whatever mission he had is complete. That's when terror and panic strike again. When strangers with weapons come into view, just like the ones from before. Closer inspection of him makes it clear he's very injured, his own blood mixing with the filth, the hedge or maybe other forces have taken a giant toll on him. He starts kicking and clawing at Velvet and anyone else who comes near him with whatever strength he can muster, attempting weakly to scramble both away from them and back up. This is the look of a cornered animal. Head turns every which way, looking for an escape, any escape as he manages to get himself up to a sitting positon. Adrenaline, fight or flight. He's about to bolt again, if he can.

The hedge around them suddenly goes still as first Jack and then Eddie puts on their coronets. And then both of the coronet's adornments begin to glow. The crimson spears on Jack's, and the onyx arrow's a strange dark light on Eddie's. And then light shoots out and upward, in all directions from both men.


And the hedge suddenly withdraws. Vines, brambles, thorns, vegetation…

It all is suddenly very, very, very open.

And in the distance the sounds of screaming birds and flapping wings.

Tyla blinks and winces at the sudden brightness and turns away from the suddenly very bright men. "The G-gate is there!" Tyla points back where they came from, she takes a tentative step forward, but stops herself and looks back, wincing again like she's suffering a migraine and a really bad hangover. "C-can we g-go now? Eddie…d-do the thing Liska's vision said and g-get rid of the b-birds and let's just g-go!"

"Ooooooooooh yeah!" Jack cries out, raising his katana in the air in his fist like he's some kind of action hero. LIke he's about to go all Thundercats, ho! But instead he's using the other arm and, with Velvet's help, drag Grayson towards the hedge gate. The kick to the groin complicates matters. He's doing that waddle men do with their knees together and feet apart, eyes brimming with tears. Azazel is scampering towards the gate ahead of the group, screeching like a monkey possessed.

A laugh rings out. It's hollow, echoing, a laugh of triumph within the bony mask worn by Lucas Ambrose. As the crowns settle upon their proper brows, as the light burns into the skies. "The sesaons turn, and pull us away from the eyes of our foes… you cannot keep the wheel from turning," he creaks out, eyes of glass raising to the exposed skies lit by the crowns' light as the cries of birds begin to echo through the Hedge. "But yes," he says flatly, "Tyla's quite correct. We need to /move/, your highnesses-in-exile, before our enemy is upon us."

Eddie stares numbly up, where the lights went. He didn't really get to see them. They came out of the top of his head. For a second he's slack jawed and, for once, speechless. His hand rubs absently at the crown. Then everyone's yelling, and he snaps out of it. "Right! The thing! I'll do the thing! How do I do the thing?" He tries to figure it out, in a hurry, on his way back to the gate.

The fear is intoxicating, and Velvet is doing her best to not make it obvious that she's rather enjoying the man's struggle. But between her and Jack, lets be honest, it's mostly Jack, they manage to get the man up and on his feet. "We're getting you safe," is all she can tell him as they start making their way back to the others. "Just put it on your damn head, Eddie! Embrace your Wintery deliciousness!"

"How should I know?" Tyla calls back once she sees people are moving towards the Gate, she's heading that way as well. "I d-don't have visions, and I'll n-never wear a c-crown!" She adds a little more snarkier than usual. first dogs and now more birds. Why does it always have to be more birds?

He simply doesn't have the strength to fight off one of them, and especially two. That doesn't stop Grayson from trying. Kicking and struggling and fighting with such meager strength that it has little impact as he's pulled up by Velvet and Jack. His mouth looks like it opens to scream too, but nothing comes out save for a small croak from his throat. Too dry to make anything more. Eventually he just tires himself out, his ordeal finally catching up with him. He has nothing left, resigned to his fate that these men and women are leading him to. His head slumps and he steps slowly and weakly along as they take him. Barely able to stand anymore, he wouldn't have made it far anyway.

The sound of shrieking gets louder… but there is that gate RIGHT there…

Jack is on top of the world! Sure, he's covered in… something. Something gross. And he's waddling like he's got some bowel trouble or something thanks to that kick but he's dragging the man, he's dragging him with one hand and waving his katana before him with the other. His mouth opens to spout some kingly goodness but nothing comes out. Just a lame, lame little croaking sound. Azazel? He's at the gate. Waiting. Waving to everyone and jumping up and down.

"It's not working!" Eddie announces, after a few seconds pumping the crown full of glamour and twisting it around on his head like the nob on a radio dial. He shoves the pistol into his coat pocket with complete disregard for good safety practices and grabs the damn thing with both hands and presses it into his scalp, screwing his face up, and—

To the south a gathering of black and white birds with blood dripping from their wings appears upon the horizon. …not far, or perhaps fast. They come close enough that blood splatters onto the cheeks of those gathered, only to be knocked back as a blast of cold air emanates from Eddie.

Several are knocked clean from the sky, while others are merely pushed backward and regain their … wing-ing? Their sky-footing, and start forward again..

But it does buy precious time to allow all to get to the gate.

That iron blade is slide back into its cane in a smooth motion, turned with a click that secures it once more as a cane. Lucas turns from the sight of the birds blasted away from winter's chill, striding towards the gate with a rustling crunch as if he were walking upon dry leaves. "I would tell you that you shouldn't be afraid," he comments calmly to the man being dragged along by Velvet and Jack, "But fear is a very healthy emotion. However, I can assure you that we are rescuing you." Says the man draped in black leather and whose face is obscured by a terrifying bird's skull mask.

"Come, Eddie. That won't keep them forever."

Assuming she can, Tyla will go through first, with no shame. She has no weapons or any sort of powers that can fight off the birds, but hopefully she can find something on the other side she can use. Hopefully everyone will follow. "It's t-true. These g-guys are far less scary than whatever is following you or the birds!" And with a tiny smile of encouragement she tries to go through the gate.

"Jack, cover the retreat. Lucas, help me get him through the door. We're going to have to check him out once we get through the gate. He's all sorts of messed up." With help, she's trying to get the man through the gate next, following after. Multicolored eyes settle on Tyla and it looks like Velvet is actually offended by the woman's last comment. "Hey!"

Jack doesn't do whatever it was Eddie did. he's too busy with the dragging and the sword carrying and the groin-based trauma to focus on it. He's shoving Grayson ahead though, towards the gate, trying to hurry the man out… though he's probably going to be the last one out as he shouts at Eddie. "The hell did you do that?!?" He calls out to Eddie in impotent wonder. Azazel? He's still waiting by the gate. For all his hurrying to get away the monkey is waiting for Jack.

Eddie doesn't need to be told twice. He takes off running, full tilt. His running stance is kind of bad, needing to keep one hand on the coronet to make sure it doesn't bounce off, but it'll do the job. He never even looks back.

Grayson is woefully unaware of most things going on. He's partially being dragged along like some sort of prisoner. Birds flapping wintery blasts from crowns, he doesn't look up to see it. That's what colours his posture: defeat. He's pushed along and he keeps the best pace he can, the ones his captors have set for him. Towards the Gate and god knows whatever is on the other side.

| Yard - Farmhouse - The Flower Garden - East of PA |

Even when coming up the dirt road that leads onto the property, the rolling hills that can be seen in the background are easily viewed. It's a fairly open space that this farmhouse, greenhouses and shop sit upon, the area just outside of the city, yet feeling as though it were hours away. Sitting back along the property is the farmhouse, the windows sparkling whenever sunlight hits against them and the wrap-around porch offering an inviting place for people to sit and enjoy the view. Several tall trees are spaced around the house, their branches stretching out so that shade is offered over it, serving as homes to birds and wildlife that can be heard during the day. What used to be the garage has been converted into the florists shop, the door usually left open on the days where the weather allows it. Buckets of flowers and ready-made bouquets sit on either side of the door, waiting for people to sort through them.

There's not much grass visible in the front yard, instead replaced with gardens to either side of the driveway, the blooms of flowers vibrant during the warmer months. The garden on the right side is strictly flowers and flowering shrugs, lilacs and rosebushes easily visible, their scents mingling together. Flowers are clumped together, the various blooms changing with the months, yet all of them looking well-tended.

To the left of the driveway is a vegetable garden, each row neatly planted, the plants that flourish looking healthy and rather large. The leafy greens of carrot tops and lettuce take up one area, along with tall tomato plants, the fruit that hangs from it varying from greens to reds. Tall stalks of corn can be seen, as well, along with sunflowers, their heads turned toward the sunlight, their seeds offered up as feed for the various birds that visit the yard. The foot of the garden has been planted with lush herbs, their smells mixing together, growing together in an almost wild look.

Further to the right are several greenhouses that take up a fair portion of space, the doors always kept closed to care for the plantlife that is inside, the stages of life varying from newly grown sprouts to blooming flowers. Slightly behind the greenhouses there is an old barn, it's kept in decent condition; painted the same color as the house and it's trim.

The backyard is fenced in with a six foot tall fence, painted the same color as the trimmings on the house. A gate opens up into the well maintained back yard. There is a small patio with a barbecue, an above ground pool, with an attached jaccuzzi.

As the gate closes once more, Lucas regards it with glass eyes… and then he reaches out one gloved hand, clapping it to Eddie's shoulder. Which the man may find surprising. "Well done, Eddie," he says, stepping away then, "Tyla, if you can… ah, help with our new friend, I think he's rather traumatized. I have to— " He pauses, "— consult some things, after this." And with that, he walks towards the street, cane moving like a third leg with each stride. "There are two more crowns. Keep an eye out for them."

As soon as it becomes apparent that the birds aren't following behind she just makes a beeline for the jaccuzzi. She's peelings off clothing as she goes until she's down to her totally non matching underwear and bra. She's turning it on, and opening cabinets - one has towels, one has booze. She just grabs a bottle of Vodka. Oh, and she places a severed bone on one of the counters, within reach when she starts to climb in. But then Lucas is asking for her to help, and suddenly there is a short, faetouched darkling standing in front of Grayson in her underwear, offering him the bottle of vodka. "Hi. Um… Welcome to me home."

Jack's wearing his fancy new crown. Azazel is here, too. Filthy but alive. Jack gives a flick of his sword to send some goop flying from the blade before he lowers it to face the ground. "Told you it was a Crown." Jack remarks to Eddie, letting go of Grayson and throwing Eddie the cheesiest thumbs up he can manage. Azazel groans and shakes his head.

Eddie comes through the gate in a run, then turns to watch what's coming through after him. When it's not birds he doubles over, gasping for air. He smokes too much to run that hard. He looks up as Lucas touches his shoulder. He's surprised, alright. It takes him a second to process. He smiles, weakly, then nods. "Yeah. Eyes open. You bet." Then he goes and finds a tree to lean against and rubs the crown still sitting on his head and looks like someone ate his dog. He doesn't even notice Tyla stripping down.

Through the gate, Velvet manages to keep a hold on Grayson, helping him through. "Not much further to go and then you can rest." Once they reach a point where the grass is soft enough, Velvet helps Grayson back down into it so that he doesn't have to struggle to stay upright. She unslings the compound bow on her back and sets it to the side so that she can kneel next to the man. She blinks up at Tyla and the Vodka, her head tilting. "Do you have another of those first aid kits? Drinking might end up causing him more trouble with the state that he's in. But I can see to the wounds, anyway." She glances back towards Jack and Eddie, rolling her eyes at the first but offering a proud look towards the second. "Told you you could do it, you dumby."

And he doesn't, stay upright. The moment Grayson is released, he slumps the ground. Curls into a ball, hefting his knees to his chest and wrapping arms around them. Waiting, wait for what, he's not sure. He's still filthy, but now in this place, one can see how wounded he is. Battered and broken by who knows what, he looks like a punching bag. That doesn't even begin to describe the cuts over top of those, most likely from running through the Hedge and several falls, and possibly more. Eyes blink, but he barely raises his head to Tyla. He doesn't speak, he just looks terrified, and yes, tears stream down his cheeks. Not many, he might not have that in him, either. He attempts to speak. His voice doesn't have the strength and so, his second attempt is a little more forceful, all his strength. To Tyla or to Velvet, it's unclear. "What would you have of me, Mistress?" A familiar saying.

"Hooray me." Eddie doesn't sound very enthusiastic. But there's a smile, almost invisible, tugging at the corner of one lip. He leans there against his tree and learns how to breathe again. Once he can he fumbles into his gore-stained coat for a cigarette. It comes out bent, because he's clumsy now, and stained, because he's covered in rotting plant blood. He smokes it anyway. When Grayson speaks he winces and shakes his head. "Oh, Christ."

"Well if you are going to stay here." Tyla says evenly, with surprisingly no stutter as she kneels down next to the man and takes a swig from the bottle. "In my home, then first you will have a nice long bath, you will have your wounds treated, and then you will get some food in you. That is all I require for the evening." But she's not exactly as confidant as she sounds and she takes another swing before looking over at Eddie. "Are you g-going to k-keep your crown wrapped up? D-do I need to call you your Highness n-now or something? K-King Eddie?"

Oh Christ indeed. "He's fresh out," Velvet mutters with a strain between her brows. Don't take advantage, don't take advantage. The mantra plays in her head as she studies Grayson. "The hot tub is going to be too hot for you to soak in. We'll have to get you washed up by hand. You just lay there and try to relax." She hops up and starts to move around, gathering whatever she can find that will make suitale rags and a bucket. She grabs some of the hot tub water and starts to make her way back, settling it next to the man. She very carefully reaches out for him, trying to guide his chin to force him to look at her. "I know that this is scary. But we will take care of you. Right now, I need you to sit up as best you can, lean against me if you have to. Some of this will hurt, but in the end you will feel better." Her tone is firm.

When Tyla speaks to him as she does, Grayson focuses a little more on her. Clearly, the Mistress of this realm. Her home. He nods at her 'commands'. Though confusion once again mars his face. "Yes, Mistress." It's weak and feeble, but it comes out, his head nodding like a broken fulcrum. The talk of Kings surrounding him and reaching his twitching ears is probably not helping matters. Unsure of what to do, to complete Tyla's instructions, he listens to Velvet, like she's some sort of second in command, and thus lies there. Velvet's touch shakes him, sends a shudder through his body, and he reflexively tries to put a hand up to deflect the blow that never comes. Eyes rise to meet hers and he nods again, as emphatically as he can manage. He pushes himself up with a groan, clearly in pain. He doesn't use her for help, at all. He wraps arms around himself, which probably doesn't help, but otherwise doesn't move. He just watches Velvet, like a mouse watching a wolf.

Eddie reaches up for the crown and takes it off and looks at it. He didn't even notice he still had it wrapped up. He turns it over in his hands, then laughs. He doubles over again. There's a little hysteria to it. "Kid, you can call me anything you want," he says, stripping away the handkerchiefs and using the clean end of one to wipe under his eyes, "as long as it isn't that." He stands back up under his own power again and finally notices that Tyla is half naked and decides not to say anything about it, though it's clearly a near thing. He goes to make a drink, watching Velvet and Grayson out of the corner of his eye. "I don't guess you know the antlion trick?"

"We're n-not g-going to hurt you." Tyla agrees, trying to keep her voice calm while she's still not slurring. "You have a lot g-going on right now, but we'll help g-get you through it." She smiles and with her free hand reaches back and grabs the bone. If anyone were to look at it carefully, they might noticed it's punctured on either side, small blood trails coming from the holes. It's almost as if maybe it was caught in a trap? She smiles reassuringly down at Grayson and gently taps his arm with the bone. It's difficult to tell, given how covered in blood he is, but soon all of Grayson's cuts and bruises disappear. It's easy to notice on Tyla however since she is half naked and very, very pale - cuts, gashes and bruises start to appear on her skin. She winces, tries to keep her smile and takes a very large swig of vodka before she sets aside the bone again. "M'not a kid! I'm going to be thirty in May. I old!" she wails as she crawl into the hot tub, trying not to wince, and just chug more vodka. "Also, there's a bathroom in the house, but that works too." Tyla gives a little, already drunken shrug.

"Damnit, woman." Velvet growls that towards Tyla as the woman takes on Grayson's wounds for herself. "You only just healed up after the birds the other day." Still, it does make it a lot easier for her to clean the man up. She dips the rags the water before starting to get to work on Grayson's outer layer of grime. "A bathroom is good too." All of Velvet's touches are gentle as she washes the man, looking at the house and then back to him. "Would you like to go inside? We can clean you up where it's warmer? Are you cold?" Her head tilts so that she can grin at Eddie. "Might have to call you Kind just to piss you off, now."

"Thirty years isn't so much. Not even enough time to grow a talipot flower, or to build the pyramids. It takes me that long sometimes just to get out of bed in the morning." Eddie drinks his drink and rubs his throat and makes another one. He drinks that, too. He keeps watching, still out of the corner of his eye. "I guess I could make it an order, but that'd kind of ruin the point. I've got to go wash up, and sleep, for about thirty years. You going to be okay with him?" He looks directly at Velvet. "He's just a baby. Be nice. I trust you." He makes it sound like a terminal condition.

Grayson looks horrified when the woman he calls Mistress takes the wounds from him. Horrified and astonished. Apparently he's never seen anything like that. His eyes stay pinned to her, first her gaze and then her wounds. It starts a bit of a panic again. He rocks a little in his seat. Eyes follow her all the way to the hot tub. Worry set in for her. He's hurt her, even if not really. He whispers after her. "I can help, Mistress." Another shudder as Velvet starts to clean him off. He doesn't say anything more though, he just watches Tyla as if he's just done something horrible and should be punished. It's all very overwhelming for him.

"I c-can take it. It's not so bad." Tyla says taking another swig and sinking down more in the tub. "There's spare bedrooms in the house. Big farm house. If you c-can't make it back to the Laundromat. You c-can still stay there too if you need to." Tyla says to Eddie, taking another drink, clearly in pain but trying to relax. And the Grayson's words and tone sink in, and she pales a little, if possible. She tries to smile sweetly as she turns her dark eyes to him. "You didn't hurt me. It was the bone that did it and I chose it, okay. You need to think about yourself and let Velvet clean you up, and we'll get some food in you, okay? I just needed an excuse to get drunk. It's all me." She tries to reassure him.

"I think he might actually be able to help," Velvet says as she continues to dip the rags, and clean off all the filth surrounding the man. "There's a Springliness about him." She finishes with his back, dumping the dirty water before moving to get some more clean. She makes it back towards him and settles in front of him this time. "That's Tyla," she explains. "That's Eddie over there, and I'm Velvet. Do you remember your name?" She reaches out for his arm, trying to peel it out and away from his body so that she can start cleaning the front of him. "I'll be extra nice, promise," she offers towards Eddie with a smirk. "I'm a delightful person, you know that." Yeah okay.

Eddie gives Grayson a half-hearted wave, like he doesn't expect the Wizened to really notice he's there. "Thanks," he says to Tyla, then frowns, noticing her wounds. He strips off his coat so he looks less like a crime scene and drops it on the ground and starts heading for the house. On the way there he says to Velvet, "Keep an eye on her, too." He goes inside and closes the door and nobody sees him for a few hours, probably.

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