\ Haven:Mist and Shadow Logs/A Good Run Of Bad Luck
Logs

A Good Run Of Bad Luck

A Good Run of Bad Luck: Chapter One

 

[Welcome to Chapter One of A Good Run of Bad Luck. I will be your SR for tonight. If you need to ask me questions, feel free to use STalk or Tells or Reply as you feel comfortable. I enjoy hearing how characters Think, Feel, and respond internally (Internal and Recall) to various situations, so please utilize those to better tailor the experience to your individual perspective. If I send a message that is all one color or noted with Private, that is for you only. Thank you for coming, and we will get under way in a moment...]

 

Lake Varsuthia could qualify as a small sea on Earth, but in Lauriea within the Fae Other, it could very well just be a pond by comparison. The weather is clear, the weather is a little warm for the end of summer. A gentle breeze helps tap that down a little bit. The entire lake seems to be enchanted to stay that way, relatively normal magic for beings that live out here. Most travelers that Path in or travel through the Nightmare tend to arrive at the western cove unless they have been to one of the estates surrounding the lake before and can visualize them better. As such, that is probably where the lucky party will land when they do arrive. A mirror has even been conveniently setup in a small nook there as if the surrounding folk understand how one might need it there.

 

Viktoriya's reflection shows in the mirror reflecting the natural, sun-lit surrounds for just a half-second before she arrives in front of it, the faintest remnants of ebon mists peeling back from her in wispy, tenebrous licks. She squints in the light, fishes her sunglasses out of her purse immediately and shrouds her blue eyes with them, and then shrugs out of her coat. She holds it awkwardly over her arm for a few moments before opting to just fold it lengthwise and fold it over a low-hanging branch.

 

Taking the path of the nightmare through the mirror, Tessie would wave at Viktoriya as she exit out of the mirror and look around or those who's arrived here as well.

 

Through the looking glass, Esperanza tugs likely on the bottom hem of her studded, hot-pink leather jacket as she gathers her bearings: of both place and company. Esperanza looks Tessie and Viktoriya over from to to scalp a couple times, the faces somewhat familiar and each earns a little up-nod before looking back into the mirror and seeing no one else readying to spring free, she blurts out to the pair with a light Spanish accent, "Where is Morada?"

 

"Oh, hey, babe," Viktoriya greets Tessie with clear recognition, and waits around for a little bit longer, not knowing who else might arrive. When Esperanza joins the pair she offers the other woman a brief little smile and a similar nod of her head, "Afternoon. I don't think we've met?" she verifies. "Viktoriya, and this is Tess," she motions over toward Tessie. "Who's.. Morada? Maybe she's still coming?"

 

"We have met." Tessie says to Viktoriya, looking over at Esperanza, Tessie would give her a smile, "Good evening once more, glad you are along on this one as well, I think." She grins.

 

"Morada - our height, purple hair, demanding puta with una cula flaca," Esperanza first describes to Viktoriya with a little gesture to show the persons' height she means to reference. As the heat begins to sink in, Esperanza works off her bright pink jacket and gestures to Tessie and confirms, "Si, it is good to see you again." While stuffing her jacket into her bag, Esperanza says to Viktoriya, "My name is Esperanza Maria de la Luz Pradrera-Santillan. It's good to meet you, Viktoriya."

 

No other person seems to be stepping through a shadowy bridge or stepping out of the mirror, so whoever this Morada is, she does not seem to be presenting themselves for this little adventure around the Lake. The waves of the lake lap against the shoreline, producing a semi-tranquil background symphony that is only occasionally marred by the screams, cries, and hostile noises from the forest and the lake itself. That leaves the three women in the cove and vague directions to Headley's estate, which is helpfully concise: Follow the lake north and east. Once introductions are finished, that may be the quickest way to get things moving.

 

Viktoriya mouths what's to her an utterly foreign word once or twice before just sort of shrugging and giving up on it, but the rest it seems is more than enough for her. She grins just a touch. "She's not.. so demanding," she defends the absent woman in question, "she just deserves a lot of things. But, no, I don't think she's coming, Esperanza," she has little difficulty with the Spanish name, and carries a bit of an accent herself; hers is Russian. "For some reason this Kipp does not like her very much, so it is probably best that she isn't coming along," she suggests, and then includes some further information that she deems important and relevant. "That's a really cute fucking outfit," she says to Esperanza, tone complimentary. "I /love/ the jacket. I thought it'd be colder, too, but, well..." she just sort of trails off with a shrug. From behind her sunglasses, she squints. "Well.. if nobody else is coming, we just.. head up the shore, right?"

 

"Right then, should we start this thing off?" Tessie says as she removes her jacket and roll up her sleeves. "I believe that we have a job here to do and to complete." Tessie look towards the north eastern direction as she start walking, "We should talk about how we want to go about this, to make it faster, and easier on all of us, any ideas that we want to run off each other?" She would look at Esperanza nad give a nod of approval, "It is nice not bad at all, I should hire you to build me a wardrobe."

 

The jacket in question doesn't seem to really fit into Esperanza's bag, despite Esperanza's best efforts and Esperanza starts pulling items out to make room for it, grinning in appreciation as she goes along, "Gracias, chickas!" To Viktoriya, Esperanza adds, "And I love your earrings, fabuloso," and Tessie earns, "And your colours are just perfecto." Not eager to waste time in her item-shuffling, Esperanza gestures for the others to lead on, "I think you both know more about what we are here for than me, si? I will let you all lead."

 

"I dunno, I mean.. let's just talk to the guy first, right?" Viktoriya supposes in response to Tessie's question. "Maybe it'd be as simple as just offering to hire him, though.. I sort of doubt it. But I don't know if there's much use in making plans before we really know what's going on." Her footwear isn't the *most* practical, but it's not a total nightmare when taken outside -- she makes do in the approach along the cool, clear lakeside, even if she'd have been better off perhaps following Tessie's lead. "..Goddess Astrid has a thing for dark hair, huh?" she remarks conversationally. "You're so sweet," she accepts Esperanza's compliment graciously while headed along, and continues to make idle conversation for the time being. "How do you know her, Lancha?"

 

The way around the lake should not be difficult to traverse, provided the group sticks to the area between the water and the tree line. The edge of the lake provides a view into the clear waters, though further out, shadowy shapes move in the depth. There are no signs warning of danger here, no public safety concerns in the least really. In a world like this, most people just presume, correctly, that everything visible (and especially the not visible) is dangerous in some fashion. The waves continue to roll against the shoreline, but the sun does not move in the least, consistently locked in a late afternoon, but not quite dusk setting.

 

"Fair." Tessie says to Viktoriya, "We should just look about and see what we might find with this person." Tessie glances around to keep note of there surroundings. She look between Esperanza and Viktoriya as they talk.

 

Left with the choice of holding jacket or vest, Esperanza follows along at an easy pace, her own footwear imperfect for a hike, but worn in enough to suggest the brunette is likely used to it. Esperanza grunts at the selection and eventually opts for stuffing the more practical vest back in and keeping her jacket out, draped over the bag to free an arm. Viktoriya's comment on the dark hair brings a quick laugh to Esperanza's lips, attention drifting to the treeline to listen for Tessie's answer. But when the other woman doesn't have one for Viktoriya, Esperanza looks back and asks with a quick start, "Oh, yo?" A hand to her chest. "I met her at a bar. Had some drinks. Lost a bet. And then stumbled across her castle on a walk one day. Y tu?"

 

"Ah, familiar," amusement lingers in Viktoriya's voice at this new information, and with a little flick of her wrist to motion over herself in turn, her answer is not too dissimilar from Esperanza's. "I met her at a bar. Had some drinks. Played pool and wound up getting her breakfast. And then a little while later.." she just sort of trails off, shrugs, and reaches up to tap at the collar encircling her neck, which despite the task she's made no efforts whatsoever to conceal. There is, surely, danger in the Other -- but she doesn't really seem to be on the lookout for it, unless she's a particularly subtle sort of scout. That, it seems, she leaves to Tessie. "..What about you, anyway, Tessie? I never asked, I don't think."

 

Before too much more in the way of conversation can be exchanged, something breaks the surface of the water. Something roughly the size of a bus, but in the form of a shark. The fish it is after is the size of a small boat, tossed into the air and snapped by the powerful jaws of the shark creature. The fish is torn into three pieces, two outside the mouth, one headed for the belly. A layer of red mist pervades the view of the lake for a few moments, and the ripples from the splash down cause the waves to kick higher, almost soaking Viktoriya's shoes in the process. If that were not enough of a suggestion to get moving, a low growl echoes from the tree line, like a predator has sighted in on the trio of women for its next meal.

 

"For me, well.." Tessie pause, "It's more of that I heard of her, called her and talked with her about the opportunity...and you know." Tessie tells Viktoriya, "I just needed a new place to crash at and well, the Court seemed the best place for me." She grins, "I am happy where i am at now, because of my decision." She would make sure she keep her footing right and try not to make so much noise as she walk alongside the two women. "Let's speed our footsteps up shall we?" Tessie suggests as she hurry along quickly. "Beasts seems to love blood so much around here."

 

A bit more attention is given to Viktoriya's collar, but Esperanza does her best to mitigate any obvious reaction to it though a laughed, "Morada has a thing for tall, dark haired women in bars." Esperanza's lips drawn into an easy grin as she settles to watch Tessie's answer and intermittently scope the treeline: squinting ahead at the estates they approach and eyeing the waters with a subtly wary eye. Just in time to see the monster broach the surface and send Esperanza jumping back a step with a bright, "DIOS MIO!"

 

"Vamonos, chicas! Vamonos!" Esperanza hastens the leaders.

 

Viktoriya dips her head a few times while listening to Tessie, and she's in the midst of grinning and making a wry sort of remark to Esperanza when the massive fish in the lake meets its end, "Don't worry, I won't tell her you think she's predicta--" she's cut off by that jump and shriek, and rather than finding a middle ground between Tessie's calm suggestion and Esperanza's panic, she instead veers off into a bright, startled laugh. "Oh, holy fuck..!" She jerks back, too, but not with nearly as much requisite fear as she probably should, giggling wildly. It is the response of a woman who has not yet had to face being torn in half by a predator. Still, Esperanza's fear seems to inspire her to action, and it's not as if she's exactly weighed down by much -- she starts to hurry off, and though she's hampered by her footwear, even hampered she's pretty fast.

 

Thankfully, true to the simplicity of the instructions given, the first and nearest estate around the northeastern edge of the Lake is in fact the destination, requiring only half an hour at walking speed, significantly less at fleeing from a bus-sized shark and unknown tree predator speed. The house itself is a rustic plantation style home with a farming field stretching out away from the lake to the north. There are dozens of humans going about their business around the house. Out in the field, a blue-haired teen is dancing about, playing a set of pan-pipes. A couple of the humans play musical instruments with him. The rest seem intent on tasks of manual labor, especially those tending the fields. No one interrupts the trio of women in their approach, so intent on their own tasks as they are.

 

"Hey, there's...fine then.." Tessie would mutter to herself, "I will not out pace you both then, just run...lazily." Tessie grins, "relax, though, you both will draw more attention by running so fast, it will...well probably chase us more, thus pick up pace but not outright run." Tessie would suggest keeping up with the two. "Oh look at the lovely men there." Tessie says off-handedly, "I wonder...." She would trail off.

 

Not heading Tessie's warnings, Esperanza bolts on after Viktoriya, having no apparent trouble keeping up, but not outpacing her by any stretch: her footwear are hardly much better suited for the task. Esperanza slows when they arrive at the estate, the relative safety, and now Tessie's advice about not attracting undue attention, set in; though how the three of them wouldn't stick out in their garish attire on this farmland is anyone's guess. "I figure we want the main house, right? Richest looking part?" A glance to the other women and Esperanza questions the lot, "Who gets to start doing the talking?"

 

Though Viktoriya has built up a bit of a sheen of perspiration from the not-quite-fleeing, she seems at home in the warmth she's built up here in what's coming up on the being the last bit of the Other's summer. She reaches up, giving her hair a shake, though misses a tiny bit of bramble in it -- she has a *lot* of hair. "I like talking," she decides in response to Esperanza, "though it's probably more than a little insulting to get addressed by a slave, I suppose," she reasons. "You're human, too, I take it? Tess," she suggests, pointing out toward the field, "he has blue hair, so he's probably been around a while, right? You wanna go dance with him and make friends and see what the deal is with this Kipp dude?" she suggests.

 

There is a ripple of tension from the nearest human slaves when Viktoriya mentions dancing, and several take a sharp inhalation of breath and give small shakes of their head as they continue with their work, like they are trying to suddenly distance themselves from the trio of new arrivals. At some point, the blue-haired youth finishes his song. The two humans providing accompaniment collapse from utter exhaustion. A keen observation of their fingers and lips would note marks of dehydration and extended performance with those musical instruments. To the point they are bleeding from their fingers and cracked lips. The blue-haired teen vanishes from the field and stands in front of the newcomers. "And what have we here, tribute?" he asks with a big grin and a sparkle of malicious intent in his blue eyes.

 

Tessie starts to say something to Viktoriya, but stops when the blue-haired one appeared in front of her, "No, not tribute, just here to discuss matters with...Kipp." She would stare at him for a moment giving him her eye examination up and down, "Not bad, not bad at all." She murmurs to herself, but loud enough to be heard. She would look at the other slaves and say, "Seems you know how to entertain yes?"

 

"Mostly," Esperanza answers Viktoriya's assumption of Esperanza's supernatural qualifications before the nearby slaves begin to murmur and mumble, quieting Esperanza's tone and spiking her attentions toward the ceasing music and suddenly-present blue-haired teen. She manages to keep her expletives under her breath this time to look the unfamiliar man over and takes a pace in if there is space for it, introducing their party as, "I am Esperanza Maria de la Luz Pradrera-Santillan, that there is Bajito," Esperanza gestures to Tessie, and that is Mascota," Esperanza gestures back to Viktoriya, "We are the Long Legged Ladies of Luck."

 

Esperanza's title for the impromptu trio earns a broad, wide grin from Viktoriya, and she gives her a confirming nod before turning to address the teen in her own right. "Apologies," Viktoriya lays her right hand against her breastbone, bowing her head and dipping into a polite, respectful curtsey, the hem of her dress plucked out with her left, "I already belong to the Summer Court. You have a lovely plantation, though," she compliments, "your slaves are very well-behaved, and such a beautiful area. As they say," she indicates the woman in question with a tilt of her head, "we're here to speak to the lord of estate, if he happens to be in. Terribly sorry if we're interrupting."

 

"Kipp Headley is my name. Luck is -my- Game. And I do enjoy entertaining new guests," the teenager replies to Tessie casually with a sharp glance toward Esperanza, gesturing about with his hands. A collective groan ripples through the human slaves as they all come to a suitable stopping point with their work. What follows can only be likened to a dark and twisted version of Aladdin's Genie Introduction Song, focused on Kipp with music and dance accompaniment by the well-worn and exhausted humans surrounding him.

 

The words cover all sorts of torture, torment, betrayal, luck and chance, and enslavement and such, and after three solid minutes of this deranged display, Kipp comes to a stop once more in front of the women with his arms up, surrounded by confetti and applause from the slaves. He strikes a proud pose, waiting for the women. He lets out a quiet pant and then he asks of the women, mostly focused on Viktoriya right then, "Summer Court? Is that who sent you? Who specifically?" His blue eyes track to each woman, noting symbols before lingering on Esperanza. He sniffs at her and grins a little.

 

Though certainly not expecting anything of the sort, Esperanza is quickly swept up into the grandeur and show of The teen's bombastic showmanship: her full lips drawn broad and amusement reigning supreme on her features. When it ends, Esperanza's hands are meeting in a charmed smirk and side-set golf-clap. The slaves' relative pleasure in having to participate does not seem to factor into Esperanza's entertainment value and a little sniff back at Kipp is followed by a subtle wink of her eye as she lets Viktoriya reply.

 

Looking around at Viktoriya and Esperanza, Tessie would cough a bit as she looks at Kipp, "Luck is your game, eh?" She asks, "How fun, tell me, what's your prize if someone played you at a game of luck hmm?" She gives him a winning smile and a lick of her lips.

 

In a way that's almost, if not outright, borderline sociopathic, Viktoriya breaks into a warm giggle that's perfectly at home in the breezy, summer air and early evening surroundings, going so far as to lock in a little bit of eye contact with one of the slaves who looks up at the sound, staring incomprehensibly at what appears to be one of his own kind delighting in the situation around them. Her back straight, she very politely applauds the few minutes' performance before dipping her head once more. "Princess Astrid Lokisdottir, my Lord Headley," she answers the question that seems posed to her given the direction of Kipp's focus on its asking, "whom, yes, we /know/ is not on the best terms with you right now, but.. any prolonged state like a feud is boring if left to go too long, so we were sent out here in hopes of finding something that suits all parties better."

 

Kipp regarrds Tessie for a long moment and then gestures at the now exhausted and collapsed dancers and musicians about him groaning in agony. "Don't tempt me, little girl," he tells her with a twitch of his left hand, like an addict suddenly eager for a fix. But Viktoriya's words bring that to an abrupt and solid stop.

 

"No. No," the blue-haired boy says, turning his back to the trio. "No, no, no, no no. She is a Cheater," he snarls then with the capital letter seething on his tongue. "She ruined a perfectly good Game of Inspiration," he states, holding up his hands, until a new figure emerges from the shore line and he squints at the man.

 

Esperanza's lips curl in amusement at first at Tessie and Kipp's interchange, but a more somberly sedate background curiosity is held through Viktoriya's explanation of their purpose and the blue-haired ma's reaction. When his soured response is broken by a gaze, Esperanza looks over her shoulder and spies Friedrich on the approach and leans over to her fellow long-legged-ladies to murmur, "Either of you know este hombre? Looks... Earthy."

 

Unarmed and unarmored, the newcomer's pathway takes him on a low-key, subtle route. Skirting along the shoreline, just at the edge of the forest, Friedrich makes his way gradually along the treeline -- though at a fairly quicker pace than those familiar with him might be used to seeing him at -- with his stance low and his movement quiet. Once he's caught sight of the group and not any of the hungry denizens of the world, he abandons the stealthy mannerisms and approaches casually. "Yeah, I'm known. Name's Fritz," he chirps back toward the taller gal and her compatriots. "Fashionably late as always." A quick uptick of his bearded chin is sent to both the trio of ladies and their conversational partner. "Pleasure."

 

Viktoriya takes a tiny half-step back to speak softly toward Esperanza, not really wont to interject, "Friend of ours and the Court's, Fritz," is her short-worded explanation, though it's accompanied by a lift of her hands. She uses them to make little index-finger horns up atop her head, wiggling her pointers for a moment.

 

"Let's come to some kind of understanding if that's possible." Tessie says to Kipp, "I believe it would be good if both parties would have a better understanding of what happened and what went wrong." She would finish with, "Besides, you said you love games, yes, and luck is your game, and you love playing." She gives him a grin again, "Maybe something that was done to you was wrong, could be fixed by chance?" Her eyes would be on Kipp, but she would murmur to Esperanza, "Yes, I know my favorite friend."

 

"Look, whatever she wants, I am not going to give it. I lost that Game to her, and it was embarrassing. As far as I am concerned, whatever trouble she is in now, it is exactly what she deserves," Kipp replies to Tessie, crossing his arms over his chest. He surveys the group assembled before him for a moment, taking the group as a whole in for a few moments. "None of you are worthy of my Games. But ... perhaps you are worthy of a Prank," he decides thoughtfully, heaving out a heavy sigh before scowling at them. "What does she need, so I can plan a suitable Prank?" Kipp asks the group then, still looking most displeased with the situation as it were.

 

"I had a cat named Fritz when I was little," Esperanza mentions in some fashion of greeting Friedrich, turning her attention back to Tessie's continued attempts to garner some compromise from the blue haired teen they are talking with. When potential terms are suggested, Esperanza interjects proudly with her Spanish accent rich in her mezzo-soprano, "I love pranks! And who could ever be better at pulling pranks than the Fearless Foursome right here, si?" Esperanza looks to her companions to attempt to drum up enthusiastic agreements from them.

 

"Losing one game," Viktoriya tries to reason with Kipp, her left hand brought up in a small wave toward Friedrich, "just means that winning the next one is that much sweeter. Where's the fun in lording winning over someone again and again? Eternally similar results are eternally boring," she points out. "Like Tess here says," she offers, "tell us about it if you think she really cheated and didn't just come up with something unsuspected, and I'm sure we can make things right. Or at least interesting." She glances back toward the other women and, now, Friedrich, adding yet another head of black hair to the coterie. "A Prank though, is it? What we need is luck. Someone's soured the Princess' odds unfairly, and we seek it rectified. So what's this.. Prank, you have in mind?" She goes along with Esperanza's reasoning so far.

 

After offering a lazy salute of two tattooed fingers off his brow to the trio, the newcomer joins up alongside the lot. Posture loose and relaxed, Friedrich hooks a thumb into his chain-weave belt, high on a cocked-out hip, and regards Kipp with his lips twisted in small, crooked smile to one side. Indicating him with a mild tilt of his head, he murmurs aside to the rest of the lot, "I like his style." To Kipp himself, his chin juts upward again, and he adds to the general consensus: "I'm so fuckin' down with pranks. Or games. Or anything along those lines."

 

"Oh, you will need to be fearless," the blue-haired teen assures Esperanza, but patiently awaits his answer to his question. "You can ask her about the Game. I am not going to retell the tale. She Cheated, and that is all there is to it," he tells Viktoriya, but then he shrugs his shoulders at them. Kipp does nod to Friedrich in acknowledgment. "Her Fortune has been soured? Hah! How marvelous. Very well. I will -consider- helping her with her luck if... You can stealthfully move one of Mabel Fairheight's golden apples from her tree to Erik Broadbeard's kitchen table," he decides fluidly, holding up his hand to ward off further objection.

 

"Mabel's estate is further up the coast," Kipp says with a gesture to the north and east. "Erik's estate is off to the south on the other side of the lake from hers. You need not return when done. I will know the task is complete," he says before vanishing back to the field to start up his pan-pipes again, much to the chagrin of the people on the ground that have to start fighting to stand back up and get to work, against their very wills.

 

"Well." Tessie says sighing, "I guess we have to do a job of stealthing." She laughs a bit and stretches. "Right a task for us that I have a feeling isn't going to be easy at all." Tessie says to the group, "And he didn't even want to listen to me and my offer, I am sad now."

 

Esperanza's attention falls a bit askance toward Friedrich loose grin turning toward a smirk as she regards the newcomer, but her focus is swiftly wrapped back up into Kipp's pranking details. When the Fae is on the departure, Esperanza's focus rounds to Tessie and the shorter woman earns a smirk of sympathy. "I am not the.. Most stealthy. But I am okay with a lockpick? If this Broadbeard's kitchen is inside."

 

"Well.. this might not be too bad," Viktoriya supposes upon looking back to the other three members of the obsidian-haired foursome. "Can any of you shapeshift? Tessie? That'd make things a lot easier, I think," the too-tall, too-curvy teen supposes. "I mean, I'm sure there's a.. a hitch, here, but I don't think we're going to find out what it is by asking nicely. There's also enough of us to do a distraction, I suspect, and.. honestly, Tess..." she trails off, shaking her head and pausing. "..It's probably best not to play a game with him. If whatever's happened to Goddess is so bad that this is the only guy who can solve the problem, he's probably not in the habit of losing games. Uh.. recently-illuminated circumstances notwithstanding, mind. And hey, Fritz," she very belatedly greets the lone man, late to arrive. "I'm.. decently light on my feet. And know a fractional sliver of Goddess' magic, too."

 

With his gaze shifting from the departing panflautist to the trio around him, Friedrich hitches one shoulder in a lopsided, easygoing shrug. "I mean, y'all DO have a career fuckin' burglar in your midst, so that kinda shakes out well in that regard," he reveals to Tessie and the rest. A quick flash of teeth is followed by a glance toward the taller gals, and he cants his head a smidge to one side. "So I guess the apple falls on me, if y'all wanna run lookout and interference." Another small shrug, this one involving both leatherclad shoulders. "Or, well, I'm open to suggestions."

 

"Oh, yeah, and that," Viktoriya weighs a hand toward Friedrich.

 

"I doubt it will be so easy that one man can manage it alone, but it is good to know that you will be very helpful, Fitz." Esperanza mentions first with her little smirk and renewed appreciation showing in her eyes while she takes the man's lead and goes to turn off her own phone as well. "Let us go there and talk on the way, si?" Esperanza suggests, gesturing toward the Mabel's referenced home. "I expect it will be guarded. Or else what is the point in the prank."

 

"I can help with distraction a bit, and also I can sneak as well." Tessie says to Friedrich and Esperanza and Viktoriya, Esperanza would get a grin from her however and she would shrug at Viktoriya, "It seem to be fun, either I win or lose, one way or another it wouldn't have harmed the Princess." She grins, "I would have had to handle whatever he had on the table, besides, I am usually very good at games." She would then grin at Friedrich, "Figures you would be a burgular." Tessie would smirk. "Main purpose is to make sure that the Princess get her luck though, so let's do this."

 

"Mmmn.. I suspect the prank is something on us," Viktoriya wagers whilst giving an agreeing dip of her head to Esperanza, starting to make her way off in said direction, "though Tess is right. Whatever happens to us is insignificant compared to her getting what she wants." At least, that's her viewpoint, even if it's perhaps a bit one-sided to be taken as something that's universally shared. "But regardless, yes. The first step in doing what we need to do is /seeing/ what we need to do, so let's go do that."

 

"Oh, I by no means meant I'm gonna do it alone. Ain't'cha seen Ocean's Eleven, or Twelve, or forty-seven or whatever it's at now? One guy tries that shit alone and he gets his dick chopped off in the backroom of the Luxor," Friedrich replies easily to Esperanza, waffling a hand in the air before himself. Easily, he starts off on the directed path, turning most of the way around to converse with the crew and strolling backwards. "I just meant the actual physical act of gettin' the apple itself probably best falls on my shoulders. The actual plan-plan, we can devise when see the place. And the second half, too."

 

The group has plenty of time to stand around and discuss what is going on, but that also keeps them exposed to the eerie workers and the pan-pipe playing teenager who is watching the group with a predatory stare. The path to Mabel's house is as relatively easy as it was to get to Kipp's house, though perhaps a bit longer. The water continues to ripple with the malevolent monstrosities beneath the surface, but no shows like the previous one are forthcoming yet. The growl from the trees resumes once the group has left the Headley estate. The group will have some planning time on the way. [Enter free discussion mode. SR will be taking a short break.]

 

"It's probably gonna make my teeth fall out when I touch it or something," Friedrich half-jokes, half-seriously-agrees with Viktoriya.

 

"..Maybe I should be the one touch it?" Viktoriya supposes to Friedrich.

 

Friedrich tilts his head for a half a beat, then just smiiirks at Viktoriya.

 

At the change of Friedrich's expression, Viktoriya draws her lips up into a slow, slow grin, and she offers him a quick wink. More seriously, she turns back to the others, continuing along the path. "So.. just to recap, that's a no on shapeshifting, right?"

 

Esperanza's grin follows behind Friedrich and Viktoriya's as they get to moving along the road and she dips her head some left and right before admitting to Viktoriya, "I am a wolf." Her brows lift subtly, "Does that count to what you are looking for?"

 

Initially, Viktoriya's lips just part and she gives a few slow nods of her head, left hand brought up in a conciliatory gesture - though not at Esperanza, and not really at anyone, frankly. It seems to be self-referential. "Well, maybe if you're a reaaally little wo--.. well, /actually/," she amends, head canted aside. "..Actually, that might be really useful. You could chase someone, that'd make a big fucking scene. You might get shot at with a couple of arrows, though, but.. we'd only need a distraction. What do you think about that, Tess? Fritz?"

 

"Ear-piercing howl at the right time can draw some attention if shit goes pearshape," Friedrich theorizes as his booted feet carry him along toward Fairheight's property, his lips drawing into a subtle, thoughtful purse. "Not really as easy as 'hawk grabs apple and flies the fuck away,' but..." The biker clucks his tongue mutedly, shoulders hitching. "Yeah, exactly," he agrees with Viktoriya's supposition, gesturing vaguely off in the distance. "Homeboy just said we need to stealthily do the apple shit, not get seen *OTHER*wise. Draw the gal away, sneaky Snicklefritz grabs the fruit..." There's a beat of a pause and a hitch in his step as he considers Esperanza up and down, and adds, "... supposing you can, y'know, get away. Safely. And all that."

 

[Pause here, take a break. Apparently Tessie got pulled into a fight...]

 

[Op is apparently broken. Continue posting again. We can work Tessie back in later... She probably got distracted blowing someone.]

 

"They might run after you, what with.. you know, dangerous, deadly wolf, and all, but.. I'm sure you're used to being chased, right?" Viktoriya adopts a coquettish tone in this supposition to Esperanza, accompanying it with a sly little grin. The expression and her gaze both linger for a little, but she eventually breaks them off. "We can probably only get away with that once, though, I think," she says to the group at large, "so maybe for the placing, as opposed to the stealing? Getting something in on a table unseen seems like the hardest bist, if you ask me. Well.. not knowing anything more about the situation, anyway."

 

"I am muy excellente at making a scene," Esperanza encourages of her part in this unfolding plan, nodding along with the suggestions of her fellows. The matter of the placing has Esperanza's brow drawn more knit and she shakes her head and gestures to Friedrich to says, "I think he is our golden ticket to putting something in where it wasn't. Just need an invite in under some false pretences, a little slight of hand, some reason to leave quickly?"

 

Dipping his head in agreement with Esperanza, Friedrich indicates toward Viktoriya, "Yeah, and if my dealings with, uh, a few certain fae over the years have taught me anything, it's that wording matter." The biker pockets his hands in his jacket, adding, "He said we gotta stealthfully move the apple to the table. Once it hits the tabletop, the job's done. Doesn't matter if he notices it immediately afterward. Once it's done, it's done. It's the letter, not the spirit, of the rule." A brief flash of pearly whites punctuates the statement. "And sleight of hand, I can do."

 

"For my part," Viktoriya nips into the corner of her lower lip and glances down over herself, "I could.. hmm. Well, I could probably snag the apple itself," she puts forward, "I can make myself look like I belong in the fields so long as I have a copy to go off of. Or, maybe better, make one of you look like you belong there, and then run other distracting interference for when that magic starts to wear off. We should save the wolf for the actual planting of the apple, and in that case you could.. I dunno, chase me or something, maybe?" she suggests to Esperanza. She nods a few times to Friedrich. "That said, he only agreed to *consider* helping," she points out, "so we should still try and make it satisfying."

 

The path to Mabel's Orchard takes about an hour, give or take, based on the slowest member of the assembled group really. The group comes up to the edge of the orchard, where they can see it. There is a red brick house off further to the east, with smoke coming out of the chimney. Though it is unlikely the group has been detected at this point, they are close enough where stealth may become necessary, meaning they should keep their voices down and try to be out of line of sight, but they can view the Orchard now, in all of its pristine glory. The proximity should make it easier to plan the Great, Golden Apple Heist of 2020. [Exit stage Northeast!]

 

Esperanza is careful to keep her voice down and her large frame out of sight while she inspects what she can of the orchard. She sweeps the grounds in search of guards, workers, or any other manner of beast or person that may be watching over the tree. Esperanza's nostrils are flaring and her angular eyes narrowed in focus as she asks quietly, "It might not be a bad idea to grab a couple apples. In case one gets lost or damaged trying to put it on the table. Depending on how difficult they are to grab."

 

Initially mutely, Viktoriya nods a couple of times toward Esperanza, and she seems to be doing much the same -- laying low, keeping concealed, and trying to scout things out to see just how exactly difficult it looks like it's going to be to purloin this auric fruit. "..Historically, pretty bad circumstances with golden apples," she whispers, quiet.

 

Hunkering down low and careful not to silhouette himself on the horizon, Friedrich observes the orchard at a distance as well. Eyes subtly squinted, he nods, quietly murmuring, "Yeah, not a bad idea. I think best choice here is wolf plus disguise as a worker, if there are any out there, plus me being as sneaky as I can while folks are distracted. Reconvene by the Lake after all is said and done." The man's lips purse thinly, thoughtfully.

 

"Disguise won't hold forever," Viktoriya whispers to Friedrich, "the illusion's.. short-lived. So it's best for me to set it on you /if/ you get caught, or if you need to go out into the wide, wide open." Much as Friedrich did earlier, the young-looking, hunkered-down girl digs her phone out and turns hers outright off rather than just flipping it to silent, squirreling it back away thereafter.

 

No humanoid life forms can be seen in the entire Orchard from where the group has hunkered down to observe the field. Not even a guard. But the Orchard is teeming with life, birds, bees, grass hoppers, and a plethora of other animals not exactly visible but presumably mixed in, ranging from insects to ground animals to snakes and spiders. There is an entire ecosystem within the Orchard before the team. Of course, all of these issues being discussed also pale in comparison to the insurmountable issue if anyone can even reach the tree with the golden apples: the lowest branch on it is over a hundred feet off the ground. And no branches below that means no golden apples within easy grabbing range.

 

Esperanza nods along with the shared suggestions, her full lips pursing thoughtfully before she turns back to her compatriots and then posits, "So.. can any of you.. fly? Or climb trees very well?" She glances down at her hands, attire and feet and says, "Wolves are no good in trees, and I am nothing special... Anyone bring rope? Or... we can fashion one out of our clothes like we are escaping a hotel window?"

 

Eyeballing the gargantuan tree dubiously at a distance, Friedrich murmurs mutedly, "I'm.. alright at climbing, but probably not that good, and I'd rather not fall to my death. Don't suppose anyone's a crackshot with a bow they also happened to bring along, or can, like... mance a bough down or something?" The man's lips purse a bit tighter, colour draining from them with the pressure as scritches his jawline.

 

"My gun could get one down, but my gun is also the antithesis of stealthy," Friedrich appends.

 

Viktoriya just sort of grimaces toward Esperanza, lifting up what are, in this situation, uselessly long-nailed hands. "No," she speaks softly, "I've.. never climbed a tree in my life. I've never even *tried* to climb a tree. Though.. mentioning rope makes me want to pack together a little adventuring backpack when we get back to Earth, for future times. I.. I don't have shit, though," she confesses. Friedrich, also, gets a shake of her head. "..The only magic I can do is ritual and illusory."

 

Looking a bit sheepish as she rejoins the group, Tessie would ponder, "Right, hi guys..." She says grinning, "Let's see, how about a shot at the tree to bring down the apple." She would suggest the most common reason, "Problem is getting that apple I am guessing so hmm...I could have my elemental fly over and pick it up after we have it drop." She would shrug, "That way we wouldn't be scene at all." She would lok over at Friedrich, "My thoughts exactly, I have a bow." She tells him, "Good at it too."

 

"Can.. can that little guy actually.. /get/ it?" Viktoriya asks Tessie, "Or is he gonna cook it? I.. I could probably summon something, now that you mention that," she taps at her cheek. "It'd take me a tiny bit, but.. yeah, I could bring something forth, I think. If we need something that isn't on fire, I mean."

 

Rifling though her bag in search of something to maybe help the matter, Esperanza comes up with, "I've got a glock.. but I am much better with rifles," Tessie's apparently-ready equipment arches Esperanza's brows and she nods encouragingly," If that can have enough power to shake a branch and drop the apple at that distance, let us go with that."

 

Friedrich looks between Tessie and Viktoriya, giving a hitch of his shoulders. "That sounds way better than any alternatives. I can still go snatch it once we drop it, if necessary, but yeah -- much better than me fumbling and snapping my own neck in the process of tryin' to get up there."

 

"It's ice or I can bring an lightning one...actually the lightning one might be more helpful..." Tessie would muse for a bit, "Yeah, we will go with summoning a lightning elemental that way it would have the fly speed and such." Tessie stretches and nod at Viktoriya "Yeah, I think I can summon one that would be able to handle that job..." She grins at Esperanza "Yeah, came prepared and such." She would give Friedrich a nod, "Ah Vik, the fire one that I summoned is one of the elementals I can summon." She tells the woman.

 

"Well.. in.. that case.." Viktoriya speaks slowly after giving an affirmative nod to Tessie, thereafter regarding her other two newly-made companions with a shrug, "I.. I mean, I don't have any qualms about being useless here. If we can get this done easily, I'm hardly going to complain about it."

 

As the group lingers and watches, nothing seems all that likely to change in the circumstances. A hundred foot shot with a bow is likely to be difficult. If not impossible. There are plenty of trees near the desired target though, under the boughs of the one bearing golden fruit. It might also occur to someone to point out lightning is rarely stealthy, given that it is a bright flash of light, often followed by ... thunder. Which is likely louder than the report from a gun.

 

"Would not a lightening elemental be anything but a stealthy one?" Esperanza questions Tessie with a furrow of her brow. She gestures over toward the trees, and mentions, "It would make so much light, si? Draw attention?" A little dip of her head and she leans in to keep asking, "I am not sure how these elementals go, but would it be silent like normal light, or would it be loud and cracking like thunder?"

 

Friedrich has nothing to add to the conversation at the moment, his attention split between the three others and the orchard as a whole.

 

"I'm pretty sure it'd be silent," Viktoriya thinks, "but.. you /are/ right about the light. Hmm. Shame none of us are attuned to the natural world to cajole animals into helping us." She continues to stare upward, scrutinizing the tall, tall branches. "I could obscure the light a little bit, but.. I dunno if I'm strong enough to obscure, like.. /lightning/, for an extended period of time. I feel like probably not."

 

"Loud." Tessie says as she pauses, "Ice then, that would probably be the most useful one here." She would say, "Forgot for a moment aboutthe thunder sound, meh, aah well, it would be slippery, aand plus I just remembered that I would need to move in a bit in order to get that shot, if it's about one hundred feet, I need to move in about ten feet, sneak in and then fire and then have my elemental over the apple that I am shooting at, that way I can have it pick it up and we can get away." Tessie tells the group. "Or either of you can do what you do best and I can hmm, try to have all this happen, first plan then." She grins, "Suggestions?"

 

"I.. I literally," Viktoriya shakes her head, "have.. nothing I can do here, except maybe cover our asses if we get caught. This is all you, babe. Ice is.. like, that's how some stuff falls off of trees in the first place, right?" the Los Angeles native squints, uncertain. "Like.. they freeze branches and stuff.. falls from them?"

 

"Well," Friedrich opines, gesturing with a sweep of an arm to the Orchard, "since it doesn't look like there's anyone OUT here, the main concern has shifted from not being seen to not being

 

heard,* as well as getting way too high off the ground to get it. So, in that case, maybe if we can get you to one of the other trees and up in the branches, you can take a shot from there with your bow?" One shoulder rises and falls in a small shrug. "Or we can try the zippy-zappy magic route. I'unno."

 

"Or that," Friedrich agrees toward Viktoriya's supposition.

 

Esperanza listens back and forth between the others and nods along, listening to the suggestions unfold and crop up until gesturing some toward Viktoriya and mentioning to Tessie, "I am with her in this, I do not see a lot that I can contribute other than some strong arms to help lift you into a shorter tree, Bajito."

 

"Or I can just have the elemental just fire at the tree as well." Tessie says, "It's distance is quite long as well." She would pause, "Do we have to take the apple back to him or just get it off the tree." She would look at the group, "I was a bit....occupied for a bit and can't quite remember what exactly he wanted." She blushes, "Anyways, I can have the elmental freeze basically the branch and it would eventually fall off."

 

"We gotta sneak the apple into a different place," Friedrich reminds Tessie. "And not get caught by either in the process."

 

"It's okay, babe," Viktoriya assures Tessie, "we all have our.. quirks," she supposes, and after Friedrich speaks she swipes over her lips with her tongue. "..Okay, well.. well, let's try this without magic first, then. How about we just get Tess up into a different tree and have her shoot, and we catch the apple ourselves? I mean, how hard can it be to catch an apple, right? She said she can almost reach, and there's other trees that we -can- climb. So just.. get her up and pass her her bow, yeah?"

 

"I am just thinking of ideas so that we don't have to get all close up and such." Tessie says to the group. She sigh, "Let's see...so we can fire the elemental shooting at the branch and getting it down, technically that's moving it from one spot to another, he didn't say we had to move it out of this location, just move it to a different spot, yes?" She smiles, "By the word, he wasn't spacific in his instructions, a different place he said, that could literally mean on the ground." She tells the group.

 

As options are considered and discarded, the group is left with ... surprisingly few ways to get the apple out of a tree. How many grand adventures have hit snags that simple bondage equipment could solve? So there they are, a sprawling Orchard between them and the golden apple tree. Then a hundred feet up to the nearest branch. Some of the fruits do hang down lower than 100 feet, but not much. The elemental will need to be essentially directly under the branch it is aiming at to make the shot. From a little ways up a different tree, a skilled archer could snipe down an apple with relatively little issue. And Kipp was -very- specific about where the golden apple needs to end up: On Erik Broadbeard's kitchen table.

 

"No, he was specific - into a differen't guy's house, on a table," Friedrich mentions sidelong. A nod is issued toward Viktoriya. "I think that sounds best, personally. And we can fall back on magic if need be."

 

"Thirty meters is a long way for something to fall," Esperanza points out then, seeming to agree with the general progression of low-magic endeavours through, "If Bajito clips it with her bow. We will want to make sure they are not smashed by hitting the ground - or us. I have a large blanket. We can three hold it to catch it like they do professional - like a net."

 

"This is good," Viktoriya is in emphatic agreement with Esperanza when the blanket gets mentioned. "How very cartoony! But.. that sounds real good, to me."

 

"Bet," Friedrich agrees.

 

Hesitantly, Tessie would give a nod slowly, "Ok, the group is in agreement, I will do it." She shrugs, "So how will we start this off?"

 

"We're just gonna get you up one of those other trees," Viktoriya lifts her left hand and motions over toward them, "and from there you can take your shot, so it's not so ridiculously far. We'll just get into position with the blanket underneath, and then.. well, then we'll worry about the rest afterward, yeah?"

 

Esperanza pulls her green winter blanket out of her bag, assuring its continued existence before adding, "And we will do all this as quietly as we can - and you will clip us three or five apples, so we can be sure we do not fail by losing one."

 

Nodding at the group, Tessie would grin at Friedrich "I believe it's your turn big man." She snickers as she look up at the trees, "Erm right, up there, and firing..." She trails off.

 

With a plan in mind, the group prepares to infiltrate Mabel's Orchard. Thankfully the lack of guards seems to make it that much easier, but given there is at least one Fae involved, it can always get complicated, and very dangerous, very quickly. Any member of the group moving in is doing so with as much stealth as possible, which for some of them may be more difficult than others. [Everyone just Showstat Stealth.]

 

Slowly taking point, Friedrich transitions from his spot with the group to head for the Orchard, keeping his body low and his movements near-silent as he beelines toward the nearest tree for potential cover.

 

Without Tessie in position, there's not much reason to head to the tree that's the main event just yet, and so consequently Viktoriya just waits in the brush with Esperanza, staying hunkered down and quiet.

 

Following behind Friedrich, Tessie would move as quietly as possible for herself, her eyes would look back at the other two, and make sure that they are good, and if she need to help, she would gesture for the two step where her and Friedrich is stepping.

 

Despite her best efforts, Esperanza is just not a creature skilled at subtlety. Were this a challenge of bombastity and showmanship, she might have a chance, but for now she seems to at least have some awareness of her relative lack of skill and keeps solidly at the back with Viktoriya, to assure they can get set up without her disturbance giving them away.

 

Gradually, Friedrich slides from tree to tree, using the trunks to obscure his potential silhouette in the dimly-lit copse. Once he approaches one of the taller of the trees near the base of the garantuan one bearing golden apples, he flits his attention back to Tessie and wordlessly gestures upward, before lacing tattoo-knuckled fingers together in preparation to help boost her.

 

As Friedrich and Tessie are heading toward the golden apple tree, a noise rings out across the whole Orchard. The back door to the house opened and shut, loudly slamming closed. Out walks a short-green-haired, green-eyed beautiful farmer, the likes of which could rival some porn stars vying for that same part. She is dressed in a sundress with a hat. And she proceeds toward the Orchard, specifically the nut tree section. She holds up a hand and beckons down several branches, so she can pick several handfuls and put them into a small basket. She collects nuts from several trees and then scans her orchard.

 

Climbing up, Tessie would balance on Friedrich's hand for a moment and climb up to one of the branches that would get her closer to the apples. She take a arrow out and knotch it to the bow, but doesn't shoot yet. She will take time to aim before firing, she would want to make sure that she get an apple or two, also she would wait for the other ladies to get underneath to catch the apples.

 

Viktoriya tenses, her body stiffening up anxiously at the sharp sound, and she jerks her head over to the sound. Finding its source, she eventually zeroes in on the green-haired fae woman, watches what she does with the trees, and sloooooowly looks up to the one posing the more immediate problem for her and her friends. She keeps herself low, guiding Esperanza down with her palm if necessary.

 

At the sound of that door banging shut, Friedrich reflexively and instantly freezes, waiting for an opportune moment -- namely, when that fae farmer's attention is anywhere but on him -- to lower himself prone in the grasses. Thankfully, in all black, he's dressed for the occasion and should, hopefully, be rendered nothing more than another blob of shadow as he inchworms himself further behind the trunk for further obfuscation.

 

Tessie would go still and blend into her surroundings, trying not to be seen by the woman, or girl. She would hold this until she moves away, and go back inside. Her breath catching a bit but she's as still as a statue right now.

 

Esperanza tries with all her might to settle down into the brush quietly at Viktoriya's guiding, gripping a hand around the crucifix at her neck to avoid letting it clang against anything as her keen eyes watch the green haired woman through the foliage.

 

The glamour farm girl takes a long moment to scan the Orchard, like she can sense something is off. She stays there with her basket for almost a minute. Then a bird chirps, and she holds up a hand. A remarkable looking bird with brilliant plumage lands on her finger and sings to her. She lets out a melodious laugh and heads back in to the house, letting the door slam once more, carrying the bird along with her into the house. [Showstat Perception, please.]

 

Aside from the remarkable look of the bird and the fact it looks nothing at all like any bird anyone present has seen on earth. The keen senses of the group allow everyone but Viktoriya to probably understand or identify that the bird was some form of shifter, whether by scent, smell, or sound. And that it is entirely possible said shifter witnessed Tessie and Friedrich moving into or around the Orchard!

 

Esperanza shifts when the door slams shut once more, poking her head out overtop the nearest brush in search of her fellow's eyes: looking to Friedrich and Tessie for some cue of what they want her to do.

 

For a long, long moment, Friedrich doesn't move from his position on the ground, but he does cant his head upward to look at Tessie, head tilting in silent query. After a long, pregnant pause, he eventually shifts to rise, casting a glance back toward Esperanza and Viktoriya with a small, helpless shrug accompanying. Still maintaining some semblance of stealth and tact, he gestures the two separated people closer as he remains crouched low in the grass, tree between himself and the door of the farmer's house.

 

Once the woman (and bird) are back inside, Viktoriya waits for Friedrich's lead and then gets back up from the dirt, hurrying forward toward the tree, in a skulk that's quick and low. She beckons to Esperanza then with a quick crook of her fingers, the fully-human girl pressing herself up against the large, tall-boughed tree for cover in the immediate moment.

 

Tessie would wait tell everyone gathered together and then gesture, as to say for what should we do next,

 

With Viktoriya and Friedrich's urging Esperanza shoots another wary look to the door, but reckless endangerment isn't a foreign concept to Esperanza and she is up trying to mimic Viktoriya's slinking stride as best she can, eyes peeling and nostrils flared in search of danger.

 

Wordlessly, Friedrich ticks his head toward the largest of the trees and pantomimes the shooting of a bow, with his gaze settled mainly on the farmhouse as he inches his way closer toward it -- warily scanning windows and the door as he creeps toward a position directly beneath whichever bough is nearest that holds the prized fruit they pursue.

 

The long silence that ensues after the woman goes back into the house with a bird feels like a short century or two, given the tension in the Orchard. Friedrich is scoping out the house, but seems to have given the signal to everyone else to continue with the Great, Golden Apple Heist of 2020. So ... The adventure continues.

 

Esperanza hauls her blanket out of her bag and tries to make a scooping gesture for Friedrich and Viktoriya to join as she unfurls the blanket and stretches her wide arm span over one side and visually invite Friedrich and Viktoriya to grab other corners to create and apple-saving net.

 

Nodding at Friedrich Tessie would take aim with the bow, as she moves close enough to hit the target, Tessie line up her shot, and get ready tofire as soon as she feels she can make the shot. She would move beside Friedrich and grin at him. She would fire as soon as she no she can hit the target. aiming for the part of the tree that wouldn't make a loud sound.

 

Peering upward toward the boughs holding the group's prize, Viktoriya takes hold of part of the blanket and makes use of her fairly long span of reach to fan it out, not fully taut but wide, and tries to ensure things are centred.

 

The motions coming from Friedrich are both furtive and hurried, and pantomime isn't his strong suit. Laying on his side on the hillock that the golden apple tree perches on, giving him some degree of defilade from the house, he gestures a vague hurrying motion, and barely speaks a quick set of instructions to the pair as he pulls the makeshift blanket-net wide alongside them: "If they come out, follow my lead." The man's gaze doesn't go for the apple above, but lingers on the house, warily watching.

 

Just as Tessie takes the shot, the group is caught out in the open by the sound of the door slamming shut once more. The arrow is already loosed. The trio are holding the blanket. There is no cover. There is no stealth. There are only heart beats that drag out in one of the longest 'oh shit' moments in recorded history.

 

The arrow slices the stem branch of one golden apple as it passes by and sails off to land who even knows where. The apple sways from the impact for a couple of heart beats. Then the twig snaps under the weight. The apple is falling.

 

Friedrich and anyone that glances over at the sound might get distracted by the fact a pink-haired and very naked man stepped out from the door. Aside from looking like he was sculpted by the gods, he then morphs into the pretty bird from before and takes wing.

 

Whether the door has open and shut again is of no consequence to Viktoriya -- once the apple's falling, the apple's falling, and in many respects it might be better just to catch it and beat a hasty getaway than it would be to try and embark on the whole process all over again. She just keeps her gaze turned upright, giving a bit of slack to the blanket to allow it to make a soft, giving net, and primes herself to move if she needs to adjust her position in order to catch it.

 

Esperanza's eyes are wide and her grip on the blanket fierce when the door slams back open: revealing two fae off and away. Esperanza looks to Friedrich briefly, but Viktoriya's apple-aligning sight reigns in Esperanza's upticking worry about the oncoming fae: they might get only the one chance at this. Best not let it smash to a thousand pieces.

 

Eyes on the ostentatious bird that starts to flutter off, Friedrich lets the apple's fall go unseen until just near the end, finally breaking his gaze when the bird-man is no longer in his sights and fixing them on the descending fruit. "Don't touch it," he whisper-hisses as it heads down toward their blanket-net, likewise adjusting as necessary to ensure its bounce and lack of explosion against the ground. If and when it's caught, he starts to bring his edge of the makeshift catcher to the others', essentially wrapping it in the blanket.

 

The apple is falling! The apple is falling! And thus, Viktoriya and Esperanza start trying to maneuver their blanket net to catch it. It looks like it is falling to the right. No, wait, too far. Back to the left. Now forward a little. No! Too far, back, back! It takes a little bit of dancing, but the golden apple falls right into the blanket.

 

Now the real panic of the situation can take hold! The group got seen by the pink-haired bird man that is flying away! But at least the group has an apple in the blanket. And that is worth at least two on the tree. But they should probably get the hell out of the Orchard before the farm girl comes out for more nuts... Specifically Friedrich's!

 

nods in rapid agreement with Friedrich's advice on the apple staying out of their hands and soon as the apple hits blanket, Esperanza is rushing in to help gete it bundled. And passes the blanket right over to one of her less-unstealthy compatriots before bolting back the way they came: stealth a lost cause for her, at least she can try to be fast about it.

 

Viktoriya takes Friedrich's advice, hurrying forward once the apple is captured within the soft, giving material of the blanket, gathering the two handfuls of cloth she has up and passing them into the biker's hairy, tattooed hands. "Let's get the fuck out," she hisses softly, not that there's really a need for stealth any longer. The bundle thusly rendered the lone man's responsibility, the second of the two tall, dark-haired women tries to make her escape.

 

One of Friedrich's arms goes up to give the silent, universal signal for 'let's get the fuck out of here': a finger outstretched upward, spun in a circle several times, and pointed back toward the shoreline.

 

With Friedrich holding the mission objective in a gloriously comfortable and warm blanket, the party breaks stealth to just am-scray out of the Orchard, booking more or less as fast as they can. Friedrich brings up the rear, ensuring the girls all manage to make it to the shoreline and further away from the estate before him. That leaves the group then with one quick stop over at Erik Broadbeard's estate then back to Earth with a successful operation under their belt!

 

[I think we may have lost Tessie again. Presume she is either following or off with Pinky.]

 

Once the group's securely escaped, Viktoriya can't really help herself; she has to inquire, even though she's relatively certain none of the others could have any particular insight. "So.. this apple /does/ something, right? I mean, surely? What do you suppose it is? Like, if you eat it? Something bad?" She eyes the blanketed bundle, and now that the sun's set she lets her blue eyes be shown -- she's not /that/ goth.

 

The sun has NOT set. The lake is permanently enchanted to be late afternoon. It is always bright and sunny at Lake Varsuthia! But the water is still alive with potential threats. The growling from the tree line is evident once more. And the group has a long trek around the lake to the southern side to visit Erik Broadbeard.

 

Regrouping at the shoreline, Esperanza is panting lightly from the run, but some apparent training has her doing decently well, despite a slight limp in her right leg after the extensive full-throttle excursion. Esperanza's sights are on the bundle of apple in the blanket as well and Esperanza muses, "Probably make you grow a dick, just to make it shrivel back off and spread gangrene all throughout your body."

 

Likewise, breaking his silent sentinel of the group's six only once Viktoriya has, Friedrich lets out a long, low breath and nods. "She knows," he confirms for the group, the blanket tucked securely under his arm. "They both do. They both know full well what we took and they let us do it, so either this thing's going to fucking blow up, or we're condemning the other guy to death by putting it in his house, or--or something." The man's expression is mildly soured, his eyes cut down at the bundle beneath his leatherclad armpit, but he doesn't stop - he continues on the route explained to them by Kipp, trekking tirelessly toward the destination laid out.

 

The trip around the lake is mostly uneventful save conversation and paranoia amongst the group. What does the apple do? Why would they let it go? How long is the fuse before it explodes? So many questions, so few answers forthcoming. While the group can chat it out for the moment, one thing is certainly clear... Whatever the apple does, the group is delivering it to Erik Broadbeard, and he is likely the intended target of said effects. Whatever they may be.

 

"See, that's what I think, too," Viktoriya weighs her hand toward Friedrich. "Like.. they saw us and just let us go? So whatever happens here, it's going to be funny, right? Do you think it's safe to hang around and watch to see what happens?" she supposes. "Reminding us not to touch it.. that was good thinking," she commends the seemingly temporarily bittered biker. "I.. doubt it's something that mundane," she reasons to Esperanza, "but I like where your head's at, in general. I can't believe we've never met before." That said, she perhaps learned her lesson on the way to the estate the first time -- she keeps her voice down when by the lakeside, so as not to attract any unwanted attention. "..We're doing the wolf bit, right? I'm gonna run around and get chased? Or just the wolf, and I back Fritz up with magic?"

 

"That, and Kipp said that 'he'd know when it was done,' so my money is on something fuckin' big and noticeable is gonna happen when we do it," Friedrich informs the group, shifting the parcel under his arm carefully as he treks on and on and on. "Wolf and you, I think, is probably the best route. I can break in and put it in, assuming he even comes out. But if we make a ruckus and he's, like, I dunno, dead asleep? Doesn't wanna come out to investigate? Homeboy could just sit there with a fuckin' shotgun pointed at his door. It's the plan for now, but we oughta recon a bit before we settle on it firm."

 

Esperanza grins mirthfully at Viktoriya and adds over, "I like how your mind is at, too," with her Spanish slightly marring her grammar. The suggestions are taken and ultimately Esperanza agrees with Friedrich's thoughts to say, "Si - we need to be sure that idea even makes any sense before we go and waste any hope of hiding."

 

When the group eventually comes across an estate on the southern side of the lake, well... Bit of a shock. Where the previous houses where nice, well kept, lots of stuff going on, Erik Broadbeard has a much different idea of how home should feel. Starting with heads on spikes. Human heads on spikes. At least a dozen. Another half dozen are hanging from trees and such by what looks like dried out intestines. The house is black. The windows are tinted. There is a motorized crank turning a human body over a bonfire in the front yard. Body parts liter the place, discarded arms, hands, fingers, whatever. Many of them in various states of rot and decay.

 

Viktoriya doesn't seem at /ease/ with the piked heads, but she presses on. She gives the severed, torn-about limbs dangling from rotting viscera *very* uncomfortable, wary gazes, though in the end moves past them. The mechanically spit-roasted body, though, that's what finally gets her to look away, and once she's done that she audibly gags, her eyes squeezing shut and her hand reaching up to clamp over her mouth. "Mmmmnph," she struggles to keep down a late lunch, and she remains quiet for a lengthy period on her part. "..O.. okay," she gets the word out quietly, "this.. this is.. uhh, it's.. better.. better than it looks," she struggles for optimism that doesn't quite make its way into the tone of her voice, "it.. it means that if a wolf's chasing a human.. we're just going to get watched for fun. So.. so.. you'll.. you'll have to tear me up a little. Can.. can you do that without.. without infecting me?" Still her eyes remain shut, hand returning to her mouth. "..Mmmnrp."

 

As the lawn decorations of their destination come into his augmented sight, and as the detail of what they are becomes clear at a distance, Friedrich's demeanor sours further and further, and the tension in his body ratchets up until his shoulders are wire-taut. The man is clearly, to at least some degree, used to corpses and the macabre; the expression that he wears is less one of disgust or nausea or even terror, and more one of... reluctant unease, of expectance, of girding himself against familiar horrors. A fair distance away from the house, he stops to fish his cigarettes out of his motorcycle jacket and jabs one between the thin-pressed line of his lips, ignites it with a Zippo, and starts burning it down at record speed. "Change of plan. He's probably not comin' out to rescue you," the biker supposes around the filter to Viktoriya. "He's gonna try to claim you for his own, if anything. She's gonna hafta drag you the fuck off."

 

The sheer number and creative display of heads has Esperanza straining and struggling to ignore the sight, her features drawn far from their conversational brightness and past their neutral terseness, Esperanza is scowling with her proverbial hackles raised and the whole of her frame wound with tension and ready to spring. Viktoriya's attempts to find the silver lining to this situation garners a stiff, reluctant nod from Esperanza before Friedrich's smoke looses, Esperanza's hand from a stiff hold across her chest, waving hastily at the encroaching smoke in distaste. "You still think it is the best idea? Tempt him with a new toy and pull her away into the forest where he can't get her?"

 

The group is not given the chance to survey and watch the place this time. Out steps Erik Broadbeard into the broad daylight. One might have expected a goth, given the housing and decor. He is a mountain of a man with a bright, fiery, red mane of hair and beard. The two distinct hair locations actually blend together, hence his presumed nickname of Broadbeard. His blue eyes scan his carrion fields, and he moves over to the crank-turning corpse to carve off a piece of meat that he then eats, slowly, like he is sampling it for flavor. He looks like he could literally bench press a Buick, and like he is somebody's well armed angry father. At least one of the corpses littering the yard would have to have been one of his daughter's suitors if she had any. On the plus side, he is not in the house. On the down side, getting around to check if there is a back way in may be all but impossible without traversing the very angry sounding forest.

 

"You don't want him to smell you," Viktoriya tells Friedrich /immediately/ once she hears the spark of his lighter, not having had her eyes open to see what he was doing until it was too late, "put it out...!" Her voice is hushed, urgent, and more than a little anxious. Slowly, she opens her eyes to narrowed slits, forcing herself to look over, for the moment, some of the heads in particular, looking to faces. Her muscles are visibly tense, jaw clenched when she's not speaking. There's a light, all-over tremble while she stares at one of those lifeless, mangled faces, withered from exposure and rot. It's always the eyes that are the first to go. She's still staring at it when that massive bulk of a man emerges, and her shuddering gets worse upon taking him -- and his slow, leisurely chewing -- in. "..You're gonna have to fuck me up and drag me off, yeah." She sounds exceedingly reluctant.

 

"He won't," Friedrich flatly assures Viktoriya at a very, very quiet volume, and continues pulling down the cigarette until it's nearly to the filter. Just as well, because the man himself strides out, and in turn Friedrich snubs the remainder of the smoke against his boot and leaves it crushed underfoot. Littering, even in offworld. For shame. More pressingly, his voice continuing its quiet consideration of the bulky Broadbeard consuming corpse relatively nearby, he murmurs, "Dunno if even THAT will be necessary. Just getting him to give chase will work. I just dunno if, y'know... you'll get away." A beat of a pause, and he hesitantly adds, "... any other ideas?"

 

Her voice low and discrete as she can be with the target now outdoors and churning Esperanza's stomach with his human meal, "I do not think chewing you up would be of any use other than to slow you down from getting to run away," Esperanza mentions to Viktoriya before she rolls her neck subtly and gulps back a strain of tension in her eyes. "Maybe. I should try to... Distract him alone. Get into the wood in this body, shift when he can't see me? Lead him on a goose chase while you get the apple inside?"

 

"I don't /want/ him to chase me, Fritz. We want him.. watching, and laughing, because he thinks it's funny for me to get torn apart by a wild fucking animal." Viktoriya blanches. She digs around in her purse, producing a small gun, which she checks for ammunition. "I figure.. fire off a shot or two for noise to get his attention, then start screaming and running, and start getting chased down and mm.. m-munched on," she struggles over the last little bit of that, reluctant to even voice it. "..You think that's what he'd do? Run you off to do it himself? I.. thought he'd probably view it as entertainment. How would you lure him off? I mean, what, just.. just the same way, right? I figure.. look at this mess, it's.. it's deterrant. That's why he leaves it."

 

Holding up a hand, Friedrich exhales deeply, extending the blanket-wrapped bundle in his other hand toward the pair. "Or," he epiphanizes, "I just yank him into a fucking dreamworld, he collapses in a fuckin' heap, and there's nobody here to wake him up, you guys do your fuckin' thing... bingo fuckin' bango."

 

Not exactly one to eagerly get torn apart by a violent wolf when it isn't strictly necessary, Viktoriya hinges on this new proposal of Friedrich's. "Does.. does that still count as stealthy, you think?"

 

"Did he see anyone put it there?" Friedrich wonders to Viktoriya.

 

Wordless, Viktoriya turns her hands up in a shrug, and looks to Esperanza.

 

Not seeming overly thrilled with Viktoriya's ideas for distraction, Esperanza is grimacing until Friedrich's idea comes around and Esperanza puts her two cents of, "I like Fitz's idea. I like it a lot more than trying to outrun a Fae ten times bigger than me." She looks back to eye the man and a shudder of disgust finally rolls down her back before she turns to point out, "They knew we took it at Mabel's. I think the point is they don't know WHO did it. They know its done."

 

Erik Broadbeard continues to putter about in his yard, gesturing at various remaining bits of human to control them into cleaning themselves up. A hand crawls over into a pile. An arm shoulder crawls itself over into the pile. A torn off jaw uses its tongue to push itself toward the pile. He seems to be quite particular about which pieces go into which piles, like he is sorting them based on some form of unknown criteria. He cuts off another piece of the roasting corpse and chews on it silently. He turns to start back toward the door. Given what he was just doing, it is highly likely that it is shielded against nightmare incursions and warded to prevent breaking and entering. There is not a lot of time here.

 

Pushing the blanket-wrapped bundle toward the pair, not caring who takes it, Friedrich already has a hand on the talon around his neck. "Dunno how long I'll hold him, so hurry. Godspeed, motherfuckers," he chirps, and with that, he's already stepped into the shroud of the nightmare.

 

" I can slow him down with my magic, actually." Tessie says to the group, "How doesthat sound, as you guys do what you need to do?"

 

Viktoriya reaches out to take the blanket, bringing it in close and looking, startled, toward the sound of Tessie's voice. "I, uh.. w.. uhh, just.. just hang back and cover us," she suggests, and poises herself to bolt for the home that's a whole different kind of nightmare in its own way.

 

Friedrich is off into the Nightmare. A few moments later... Erik Broadbeard's unconscious body falls face first into one of his piles of body parts. This is the opportunity that they need to get the apple into the house. Presuming no one else is in said house. What are the odds that a man with a lawn like that would have someone else in his house? It is not a big house, but a lover could share much of the same space. Given there is an unknown amount of time between Erik's face plant into the body parts and when he wakes up very, very angry, it would behoove anyone going into the house to do so with all due expedience.

 

Stripping herself of her footwear, expedience is exactly what Viktoriya launches forward with, booking it across the newly "cleaned" yard. She runs with the bundle held up close to her tall, curvy body, and free of her heels -- finally, it seems, she's decided there's a time to lose them -- she pads as quickly and as stealthily as she can up past the threshold and inside, on the hunt for the fabled kitchen table that she's expecting has something even worse than what's outside upon it.

 

The mountain of a man is down and Esperanza doesn't waste any time: she drops her bag at the rallying point and off she bolts as Viktoriya's backup, should it be needed. Stealth a known non-factor, Esperanza lingers back by the door, sniffing at the entrance in search of any other obvious signs of persons living in this creatively decorated abode.

 

Watching Viktoriya running towards the door, Tessie would nod and relax as she watches out for the man waking up. She look over at Esperanza and give a grin. She would be running beside Esperanza as she look around the area aiding her with her eyes as well.

 

In the scrounging search for the kitchen or dining room, Esperanza eventually lets out a distinctly un-subtle cry of exasperation, "Me cago en la hoista!" and finds Viktoriya to grab her arm and urges her fellow abode-scower-er, "Vamonos! Esta afuera!"

 

As seconds drag on into minutes the pair in the house are no closer to finding the kitchen table than they are putting the apple onto it. Esperanza yelling in Spanish does little to quell the situation. Tessie makes it to the door of the house, but the stench of death and decay is somehow WORSE inside the house than outside, however that is possible.

 

"I don't fucking speak Spanish..!" Viktoriya hisses, tone urgent and voice panicked, to Esperanza. "Help me look! Is it a book? A book CALLED that? Otherwise, w.. wh.. what, we're fucked! The body, maybe? Outside on the body? The corpse???" She looks, wide-eyed and anxious, toward Esperanza, having been in the midst of searching over the many, many books herself.

 

"Outside," Esperanza self-translates when Viktoriya struggles with Esperanza's native tongue, urging the younger, taller woman with a grip on her arm, "By his spit - there is a table, that is his kitchen!"

 

When Esperanza confirms more readily one of Viktoriya's two suppositions -- arguably, the more likely of the two, despite the fact that it wasn't the one /she/ was focused on -- the barefoot girl inside nods emphatically and lets herself be hurried out in a rush to, indeed, find the table and upend the blanket carefully upon it.

 

Thump, thump. Apple deposited on table. And a groan from Erik Broadbeard nearby in his pile of corpse parts. He is starting to wake up! While Friedrich no doubt tried to hold him as long as he could, it was likely only a matter of time before the more experienced necromancer got an upper hand in the dreamworld and managed to get out. Who knows exactly what happened, except for Friedrich. The girls can ask him later. It is probably time to FLEE! Perhaps into the Nightmare to find a door, given expediency is probably more necessary than Pathing can provide.

 

For his part, Friedrich is nowhere to be found, at this point, inside the nightmare or out.

 

"Right nightmare, let's get out of here." Tessie would say to the two girls, as she step inside and start making herway back to Haven. If they need any help she would aid them as well.

 

The apple dropped, Esperanza bolts back to her bag, but having no real experience with this nightmare jazz, just bolts out and away as quick as her legs can carry her: showing just a mild panic when her compatriots vanish around her.

 

Viktoriya hauls ass once she's left the apple, still-wobbling but secure, resting upon the gore-stained table. Her bare feet pad across horrifically wet ground, and she rushes to recover her shoes before, indeed, intending to slip off into the nightmare as she's oft wont to do when it comes time to escape -- she'll be damned, though, if she leaves behind something belonging to her to be tracked down with, so that footwear's a necessity. Resultingly, she finds herself running with Esperanza, and she stares incomprehendingly when the woman continues to run in the 'real' Other as opposed to its more umbral twin. "Wh, do you not..?!" She balks, and despite the toll it takes on her, yanks Esperanza into the nightmare with her.

 

Once everyone gets into the Nightmare and finds their respective doorways back to Haven... The curtain on this chapter falls. What happened with the Apple? What will befall Erik? Was the Apple good? Was it bad? There is no real way of knowing at this juncture. But the group was quite successful in procuring the apple and putting it onto Erik Broadbeard's kitchen table. Even if the kitchen was outdoors and used for cooking people.

 

Esperanza manages to get far enough away that it is unlikely Erik will pursue her, but without a nightmare charm, pathing, or a compass... She may be stuck in the Other. Dun dun dun! Darn. Viktoriya saves her at the last second... And everyone makes it back to Earth. Or where ever their Final Destination may be. [Thank you for flying SR Olaf Nightmare Pathways. If you give me a moment, I can finish up the Plot and see about getting rewards. STalk/Reply/Tell if you have something you desire...]

 

(:tableend:)