In the News
A recent upswing in mental health disturbances in Haven has been blamed on contaminated fish stocks being served in several local restaurants. Residents have been assured that all contaminated stocks have now been thrown out and are urged to report anyone acting strangely to Blackfield institute for the duration of their affliction.
Seers and signs both point to an attempted ritual being the source of the recent mental disturbance which has brought aspects of the dreamworld into the minds of many, making them lose their identity.
The ritual seems to be a twisted version of a spell intended to 'expel demons or bad thoughts' and originated at 106 Rosewood Drive, known residence of Andrastia Smith.
Andrastia herself was among the first patients admitted to the clinic in the aftermath of the ritual, but with notably different symptoms. Instead of expressing one altered personality she has been expressing multiple, regularly shifting personalities.
Whatever is keeping the magic alive in Haven, the source is undoubtedly buried somewhere inside the dreamchild's psyche.
At the Blackfield Mental Clinic
Andrastia is in the middle of arguing with some orderlies. "I am Agent Jones with the FBI, if you just call my supervisor at Langley he'll be sure to explain everything! This is a clear violation of the federal guidelines on the processing of suspects!" She debates, one of the orderlies turns with an exasperated look to Schmidt. "The HSD brought her in, she was apparently accusing some people of stealing her space ship."
"Space..." Schmidt trails off, her brows coming together as she looks back off toward Andrastia, then to the orderly who spoke. "I... Thank you. She's been with us before, but we thought we'd remedied the, ah... The issue." She turns her swirled brown eyes back to Andrastia and asks her, "Agent Jones, was it? And not Lady Andrastia Tae'Llidori?"
There's a faint shift across Andrastia's expression as she steps towards Schmidt, gripping the front of her lab coat in one fist as she looks the other woman up and down with an open sneer. "If Yahweh things this shithole will keep me, he's got another fucking thing coming. We'll see how God likes it when he's the one stuck in a hole for a million years. Now show me how to get out of this ridiculous before I beat you to death with your own kneecaps." She demands.
"Get her off of me, guys." Schmidt requests of the nearby orderlies with a certain melancholy to her voice and expression, leaning away from Andrastia and her gripping fist so as not to be caught in the crossfire of the sure violence that Andrastia and the orderlies are capable of inflicting on one another. "Don't worry, Andy," she promises. "I'll find out what's going on. I'll fix it."
Andrastia is wrestled back away from Schmidt and glances between the orderlies. "Hey guys, hey, calm down now, how would you like to make some easy credits?" She offers. "I got a line on a job up past Neptune, rich boy cruise, no risk, no fuss, just an easy payday." She offers. "You spring me from here and I'll let you have 20 percent... alright 25, but that's my final offer." She bargains.
"Hang on to her, I'll be right back." Schmidt assures the orderlies, pacing off, rubbing the underside of one of her eyes and moving a little more quickly than might be necessary.
"Can you guys... bring her along?" Schmidt hopes of the orderlies, a small plastic cup in hand with an oversized pill rattling around in it. "Downstairs? I've already got a diagnosis in order, so I need to examine her in Operating 3."
"Look my daddy is very wealthy." Andrastia explains to the Orderlies as they bustle her along after Schmidt, "I'm sure if you just call him he can sort this whole thing out." She blinks and peers around. "Yes I'm an Agent, Badge number 72814, where are you taking me? This is a violation of the criminal code, I should be given access to legal counsel!"
"Here, Andy, have a seat on the bed. I've got a pill for you." Schmidt advises Andrastia, smiling a bit and pulling up a rolling chair herself, letting out a long and low breath, nodding to the orderlies to 'assist' Andrastia should she protest the suggestion. "We're going home."
"Look bitch." Andrastia starts with a sneer. "I'm not interested in your pill, or your home, or any of this shit." She states bluntly. "But if you get rid of the goons and start being helpful I can make it worth your while." She states, eying Schmidt up openly and lasciviously. "A couple of thousand years in Hell without much for entertainment and you learn how to do things to a person, how to do things that will make you scream and moan and then beg for me to hurt you just a -little- bit more." She promises darkly.
"You eat that pill for me, baby," Schmidt promises Andrastia in a sultry lull, hyperbolically looking her up and down, making sure the other woman knows that she's ogling her. "You can hurt me for as many millenia as you want." She finishes that sentence with an exaggerated arch of her back and a more subtle shudder.
"Sex is for dead heads." Andrastia claims dismissively, "Nobody does that shit anymore." She adds before popping the pill into her mouth. "This better be a good trip though, I hate flying with a hangover."
"Thanks, Agent." Schmidt mutters sullenly, cutting her eyes to the orderlies present and then back to Andrastia, rubbing her forehead with the tips of her fingers, thumb in her temple. She scoots the brainwashing apparatus out of the way, unhooking the helmet from it and connecting it to a more archaic seeming device. "That's a sleeping pill. I'm going to... monitor your trek through your subconscious." she conjures, settling the thing onto Andrastia's head.
"It's Gold, as in, Andrastia Gold, as in, daughter of Charles Gold, the billionaire." Andrastia asserts as if this is all supposed to mean something important to the others. "So unless you want to get su-" She breaks off into a yawn, blinking a few times. "Unless you want to get sued by lawyers who make more in an hou-" She yawns again. "An hour you shou-" And then she's slumping over asleep.
"Good night, Andrastia." Schmidt sighs, nodding to the orderlies. "You guys can go. I got it from here." She powers on the device connected to the helmet, watching the screen on it with a pensive look. After a moment, she takes the other helmet, the one that comes with the device, and tucks it onto her own head. "Let's see what's going on with you..."
The screen flickers to life with an ever-shifting background of locations, a collection of Andrastia's stand around debating in each of them, "We need to come up with some sort of system." A Eurasian version says, "Or else we're never going to get anything done." An Angel with violet gold wings narrows her eyes. "Fine, I'll take the weekdays, you can share the weekends between you."
Schmidt watches the screen intently, holding her helmet tight to her head with her hands. "Come on, Andy... Let me in." she mutters, half to herself, half to the sleeping woman next to her, and half to the collection of women on the screen. She narrows her eyes, trying to will herself, either the woman in the lab coat, or the willow dryad clad in leaves, into the screen with them, through the wire running from her helmet to the machine. "Let's go, Hanni."
A few seconds later Schmidt shifts into the image on the screen, walking through large shadowy trees towards a small glade in which the gathering of Andrastia's is arguing.
Schmidt pauses at the edge of the glade, the woman in the lab coat peeking around the edge of the tree, the mossy-haired, bark-skinned adolescent glaring down petulantly from the canopy. Due Schmidt's waking state, the dryad seems to be more inanimate, less static. Her form ephemerally flickers, but persists, camoflauged well enough. The woman in the lab coat looks from Andrastia to Andrastia, counting. Considering.
There seem to be four of Andrastia in total, a professionally dressed woman with an FBI badge on her belt, an Angel with violet and gold wings in what looks like a Nazi SS uniform, A slightly Asiantic Andrastia in a tight black jumpsuit with some sort of black laser pistol at her thigh and a Eurasian Andrastia in casual street clothes but with violet eyes. "Shouldn't we find somewhere to stash this first?" Asks the Andrastia in a jumpsuit, nudging something in the center of them with her boot which looks like a tied up woman.
On the screen, Schmidt leeeeeans out from her spot behind the tree, trying to get a better look at the object that Jumpsuit Andy's pushing forward with her boot, Hanni the Dryad leeeeaning out, but not enough to unbalance herself, on her branch, trying to get the view from above. "Bunch of humans," the petulant dryad complains, baring her razor-sharp fangs in a sneer. "Not Andrastia at all!" -- In the real world, Schmidt's nose starts to bleed, her jaw clenched in determination.
As Schmidt leans out she gets a better look at what's laying between all the Andrastia's it's a person, it's definitely a person in white clothing, it's Andrastia. Very recognizable from her time at the Clinic as Andrastia. But just as it probably starts to dawn on Schmidt that it's the human shape of Andrastia there's a voice from behind her. "You don't belong here." It says before an Elvish knife slips up to rest at the base of the Doctor's throat.
"Neither do they," Schmidt tries to reason, on reaction and instinct, her eyes immediately flashing wide, as she tips her forehead in just the barest way, so as not to nick herself on the Elven Andrastia's knife, toward the clearing. "This is your forest, isn't it?" she wonders, nervously. In the trees above, Hanni looks down at the commotion and brightens visibly at the sight of what is, to her at least, the true Andrastia. Her attention leaves the humans in the clearing, and she waves, whether she can be seen or not.
"It is." Andrastia affirms from behind her. "I put this whole party together, the pink was spending less and less time here, abandoning her people for the comforts and people of your dirty world." She explains, "We decided to do something about that." She adds before she shoves Schmidt's back and pushes her forwards into the glade, drawing the attention of the others. "I found her skulking about, I'll take care of this, you lot go stash the pink somewhere safe in case more come looking." She instructs and the others stop there squabbling long enough to do as she requests. "Put her in my ship." Insists the Captain, "I can fly her far away from here."
The woman, Schmidt, stumbles forward, at a loss for words or what to do, landing on her hands and one knee, looking up wide-eyed at the group of Andrastias, a certain terror falling over her body language and her countenance. "No... Andrastia." She murmurs, pleading, almost to herself, or the circle, or the woman on the bed in the real world across from her. Hanni, on the other hand, bears no such fear. "My lady?!" She demands in disgust, "Working with humans?!" She leaps down in a rage, landing nimbly and baring her predator's teeth at the gathering, the doctor's form now the one flickering, the woman's eyelids in the real world drooping, blood dripping off of her chin at this point. She turns to the Elven Andrastia. "I must insist you banish them all!!"
"Be calm Hanni." Andrastia states from behind Schmidt as the group start to carry the human Andrastia off. "This is an opportunity for you too, it is a strange world, full of dirt and humans, but I am sure you will make the best of it." She promises. "But you're going to have to stay here." She tells the Doctor and then that knife comes up suddenly, the hilt cracking against the Good Doctor's head. Suddenly the screen flickers and dies, the machine going into some sort of failure mode as Hanni wakes up in Schmidt's body and Andrastia slumbers on.
Schmidt comes to, yanking her helmet off and hucking it across the room, "Augh!" She shrieks, her voice higher than normal. "I'm being accosted!" she protests in declaration, trying to wriggle from the 'bonds' of her lab coat, "Filthy orcs, you won't have me this time!" She falls out of the rolling chair, inching across the floor, struggling and wriggling and thrashing all about. "Blast and damnation! Miserable humans!" Once she's finally out of her lab coat, she flings it against the wall and leaps to her feet, glaring around in rage. Upon spotting Andrastia lying on the table, she squeaks out a strangled, "My lady!"
Andrastia is unfortunately still in the thrall of the sleeping drugs she was given earlier and is not very responsive to Schmidt's cries, just continuing on sleeping. In the corridor outside two orderlies can vaguely be heard arguing over something to do with one claiming to be a Centaur and asking where his other two legs went.
Schmidt tries to scamper forth on hands and feet, but finds her arms and legs to be different, unaccomodating lengths to be doing that, and instead staggers and stumbles to the door, throwing herself against it with a grunt, and then glaring around as it refuses to open. She examines it for a couple of moments, testing the knob with a pull, and then a push. It takes her another thirty seconds to try twisting it. Once she's got it open, she laughs, "Ha! Stupid humans! Your devices won't keep me!"
Some time later, a group gathers to end the madness.
As Nova approaches, and even as the others discuss the idea of torturing orcs, Andy sleeps on with no noticeable change in her demeanour, though her eyes seem to be moving rapidly beneath closed lids.
Hannah scampers over to the sleeping woman, skidding to a stop on her knees. "Ah, my Lady!"
"I do not favor men as a general rule, Fair Rose," Vakhtang replies to Briar with a glance over at Dalton. "But his hair is rather nice, yes. I think he probably keeps it in good shape with seal grease." Glancing over at the sleeping Andrastia, he looks unsure what to do. After all, this isn't a problem you can solve with an axe or sword. Most likely. Keen eyes on Nova, he watches with interest.
"Harper, I think she's caught in dreams. I don't know this kind of... it's really not my speciality but... I think we need to go into the dreaming and free her." Though Nova's assertion is first addressed to Harper, they soon turn to catch the others as well. "We need to wake her from the trap of her dreams."
Nova adds after, specifically to Hannah, "She is otherwise healthy, no harm has come to her body."
"Perhaps Dondarrion the younger could kiss her. Like in the stories." Briar suggests helpfully as she too moves forward and peers down at the sleeping woman from a spot not too far back from Nova. Her words draw a nod and she adds, "Or that might work too."
Harper bites down on her lip and looks at Nova, seeming to trust in her assessment, "that could be very well-- I'm afraid I know little about the dreamworld nor have I ever been," she says quietly to her. "We need to do something though,--," she murmurs glancing around before looking back at Nova, "I trust your judgement-- I'll help however I can."
Hannah brings her palm across Andrastia's face in a sharp smack, no remorse of it due the woman's round ears, commanding her, "Awaken, my sister! The vile sorceress has split you into six, and five of them human! We must thrust you all back together-- As an elf, of course."
"There is often some hidden seed of truth in the old tales." Dalton muses with a glance toward Briar, before his eyes shift down to the form of the sleeping woman.
"Hey, I've never done this either. I have a lot of problems when it comes to sleep." Nova admits, and turns her attention to watch Hannah's probably futile efforts at abusing Andrastia awake, though she settles back on her heels, then heavily down on her rump with a bit of a wince as clumsiness and weariness dulls the grace of her movements.
SMACK! Hannah's hand strikes true, snapping the poor sleeping beauty's head to the side and leaving a brief palm print. She slumps, falls to the ground, and carries on sleeping with a bit of drool now in the dirt.
"That can't be safe," the scout protests warily, watching Nova and the others as he fidgets near a tree. "What if you all get trapped? We really did try everything." He looks over towards Nova with a furrow of his brow. "I'm going to stay here and watch you. But if you start acting weird in your sleep, I'm waking you up."
"Caught in dreams? I...do not know anything of that," Vakhtang murmurs in confusion to Nova and Harper. "But...whatever I must do, I will do. Not sure..what I can do..." Watching Hannah's hand smack Andrastia around, he blinks in surprise. "No, do not smack the Lady about like that, you will mar her fair skin....oh, no look at that," he sighs.
"Hey, you imposter!" Hannah sourly accuses. "Return my lady to me or face the wrath of my vicious mongoose!"
Harper lets out a quiet breath and looks at Nova, "then you know how to get in--?," she asks her, looking blank when it comes to an answer, chewing on her lip. "If they've tried everything though--, this is probably worth a shot if everything else has been tried, I imagine?," she knits her brows together looking unsure.
Harper cannot help but quirk a brow at the mention of the mongoose.
"Okay. I could... use a nap. I'm so tired." Nova admits, and leans back against the tree trunk as she settles herself, weary gaze finding Harper, the only other one of the group that seems to be herself, even if that self might be out of her league. She addresses the pair, Harper and the scout. "I'll go in. If anything happens to me, contact Arvin. Let him know. Seven-one-two, four-two-two-eight. Tell him Al is okay and to find him too."
Harper moves over to Nova, crouching at her side and looks at her, "are you sure you want to go in alone?," she asks her. "I will watch over you-- that I promise you," she says with quiet sincerity. "If -anything- seems off I will send for help," she confirms, chewing on her lip hesitantly.
"If there is some danger, we can hardly allow you to face it alone." Dalton says to Nova planting the end of his makeshift spear into the dirt by his feet.
"How do we rescue her?" Hannah questions, squinting down at the woman. "The /real/ Andrastia, mind!"
"Ain't nothin' gets done until someone does it." Nova wearily quips to Harper, and rests her head back against the tree trunk. "I don't even know if I should go in... I'm going to try to go in whole. Maybe I won't lose myself that way." She lifts a hand to wave off Dalton's words, looking less afraid than exhausted. "Promise me you won't kill Skell. Just incapacitate him and capture him. But he must be left alive. Watch for him. Watch over us."
"Knight Commander Nova, you seem too tired to do this by yourself. Allow us to assist you. Just...tell us what to do. Command me, Lady," Vakhtang requests Nova, axe dangling from his hand. "Surely there must be something I can do. Even if I do not know how. And yes, Skell will only be incapacitated."
"I give my word as a gentleman, Knight Commander." Dalton promises Nova after some consideration.
"Barbarian," Hannah commands, "Whack me with your axe! the helve, if you will!"
Nova kisses her fingertips and waves a peace sign at the assembled before she possibly winks out of existance, as the Nightmare washes over her. Unless someone has dream sight or has drunk Mandrake tea, she will have appeared to have vanished, with a bluish glow from the stones dangling from her heavy earrings.
Vakhtang raises an eyebrow at Hannah, but nods with a grunt. "Of course, Champion of the Woods." With a swift, overhanded motion, he brings the flat of the axe's head down upon Hannah's crown in a swift and efficient manner with a wince.
Harper watches Nova quietly, undoubtedly unknown to her, but seems more focused on the sleeping woman than the battle cries and commitments of others. She chews on her lip, a hand pressed against her stomach as she breathes in looking ill and out of sorts.
Briar lowers herself down into a kneel on the ground adjacent to the tree on which the woman sleeps. She brings hands together in her lap, quietly watching on over things as they unfold.
THAT ISN'T THE HELVE BUT OKAY. Hannah crumples.
Slowly fading into the dream, Hannah looks around, curiously rubbing her head. "Yeeowtch."
As Nova enters the Nightmare, she rises from her seat with an effort. She hasn't been in this place often, it's always strange to her. Her body has changed too, subtly as if an overlay becoming slightly more delicate, with the seeming of fae and a pair of deep, twilight blue eyes. Astral flowers spill over the vegetative mantle that wraps her. She seems less concerned with herself than finding one of the doorways she's seen before in such jaunts. Something about the doors has her hesitate, though whenever they are encountered, she does not enter first but peeks past to ascertain the one matching the description the others had given to their world.
Although not cognizant of the fact that he has dream sight, Vakhtang keeps watch over Nova since he actually does, not noticing much strange about it. His amber eyes keep a close watch on the sleeping woman, watching as Hannah collapses. "Ah. A bit much."
Harper blinks her eyes wide as Hannah crumples to the ground and she lets out a low breath, shaking her head slightly. She fidgets with her necklace, wrapping the chain around a finger as she waits. Her eyes scan around the forest and bounce from person to person, her dark brows scrunching together.
Vakhtang glances at Briar nervously, "All will be good with the Knight Commander, yes?" Polishing his axe more out of nervous habit, the rogue needles his lower lip.
"..is she dead?" Dalton wonders of the Dryad, eyes widening as the creature crumples to the ground. He steps closer to her crumbled form and places a hand in front of her mouth, searching for the telltale signs of breath.
However, Hannah, inexplicably, perhaps due to some lasting bond, falls right into Andrastia's shifting realm. "My lady?" she anxiously wonders.
Andrastia Smith is here. Here in the Nightmare, yet something about her is doubly strange: where most appear to be awake in their dreams, acting as normal, the athletic brunette looks to be asleep, even here. Her eyes are closed and she's curled up, indecipherable whispers surrounding her head. It's not long before Hannah plunges in, and Nova perhaps may follow. Moments later, the Nightmare shifts. Andy is gone, and suddenly instead the two intrepid dreamers are trapped inside a prison cell.
"Fuck me," Nova complains, as she looks around herself, "This always happens to me, I shit you not." And yet, while she's in here, she turns to study Hannah with her intensely-hued, though tired gaze, and tests, "Hannah or Hanni?"
"Hey! What a lousy way to treat the protector of the forest!" Hannah complains, fully the willow dryad in this place, a creature barely four feet tall, at most fifty pounds. Her mosslike hair hangs nearly to her ankles, and she's covered only by a tiny smattering of leaves, a testament to some past oak pollination.
"Less talking," comes the voice of an annoyed-sounding baritone. Into view appears a well-dressed man in a suit, wearing sunglasses -- sunglasses, yes, sunglasses, although he stands indoors, in a prison compound. He furrows his brow at Hannah and Nova, staring them down through the bars. "Unless you want to join your friend in Solitary. She's being kept there indefinitely."
Here, Nova seems herself and yet not herself at all, altered by both the truth of her nature escaping the confines of her flesh, and the nature of whatever world imprisons them quite literally, at this point, in the seeming depths of Andrastia's mind. As the man arrives to shush him, she leans in, talking him up through the bars with a slant toward general bullshittery. "Aw, c'mon you wouldn't do that to us? We've been good, haven't we? And if you're really nice, we'll be -real good- to you."
Amber eyes remain fixed on Nova and Hannah before glancing up at the scout, "They're there still. Sleeping. Beyond that, I cannot tell," Vakhtang murmurs quietly in his rough voice, nodding at Briar. "I hope so too. I miss our forest, I miss being able to kill orcs, not taking them alive. I miss...many things," the dusky rogue expresses with a rattling sigh.
"Yo ho!" Hannah clamors, getting up and stomping her feet as she tromps in a circle around the cell. "In the dark forest, there's a fell power! Oh, at the top of the black tower!" It's clear she's singing some bawdy treefolk song. "Well the sorceress has a washed out cunt and puny tits, and maybe that's why she's so pissed! Oh, at the top of the Black Tower!"
Slowly the man's dark, opaque sunglasses come away from his eyes, and he cracks his dry, scaly lips in a wide and toothy grin as he beholds Nova lewdly. "I like your style," he replies to her. "Tell you what, you let me spend half an hour with you and your friend here, I might let you go." He turns and frowns down at Hannah, seeming far less interested in her. "Gonna need to find something to seal that crazy mouth of hers, though." His hands move down to his belt in clear indication, adjusting it with a grunt as he eyes her. "You show me a good time, you go, no one's the wiser. FBI Agent Jones has ordered us to keep Andy in Solitary indefinitely. Don't come back for her."
"FBI you say? Are you sure those were their orders? Andy's no threat to anyone, you can trust me." Nova's voice lowers to a more velvety pitch, as if hiding her words from the younger woman stomping in circles around the cell. Her eyes slide toward Hannah, and back to the man at the cells. "How about just me, baby? It'll be planet shattering. And I'll tell Congressman Black to give you a cushier job. It'll be wonderful..." A sing-song thread laces her words as she murmurs them, giving them a haunting air despite the lowness of her near-whisper. Her hand eases from the cell to fondle the G-Man's tie suggestively. "You'll see."
"Ha! Yeah, put that little rodent in between my fangs, I dare you!" Hannah cackles, flashing her wickedly sharp fangs in a big, predatory grin. But something strikes her. "This Andy," she asks, more calmly, more persuasive, "What are her ears like?" She flicks a look Nova and makes a face. "You want to rut NOW? Humans! Make it quick!"
The agent sucks in a breath of ear as Nova speaks to him, staring intently into her eyes. That little rodent of his -- and little it is -- already seems to be on the rise beneath his trouser, though he turns and eyes Hannah dubiously. "Her ears?" he asks her. "What do you want to know about her ears? They're ears." His hand fumbles with a key in his pocket, hastily unlocking the door of the cell and pulling it open. His tie remains held through the bars.
Grumbling, Hannah flops onto the floor petulantly, an eternal pre-teen with all the attitude that comes with it.
When the distracted agent bends to fumble with the door, Nova takes the moment to play with his tie, until it's a noose and she's ramming the knot into his throat with all the strength and kirk-fu she can muster, trying to strangle him with his own tie.
Startled, the agent suddenly starts to choke, which kills his little rodent very quickly. He flails towards Nova through the bars, scowling as his face turns red. One hand reaches into the pocket for his gun, which he aims towards her with a click.
Nova keeps yanking away at the man's tie with her knuckles but suddenly changes direction as she uses his distraction to her advantage, falling back under her own dead weight and with a lurch to pull him roughly into the bars. She doesn't intend to let him shoot if she can help it.
There's a loud bang as the man fires off a shot into the wall near Nova's head, just before his own slams into the bars. He slumps down onto the ground, unconscious, the keys in his hand.
"A terrible hammer!" Hannah comments tauntingly o the agent's gun. "No weight to it at all!" She gets off of the floor and scampers over to watch Nova unhelpfully.
"Aieeee!" Hannah squeaks when the agent fires, flinging herself to the floor again. "A magic hammer, I ought to have known! "
Paint chips explode as the bullet whizzes by her, so close it burns a trail into her trouser leg, though its velocity sends it deforming as it finds a home in the cement walls of the prison. takes the gun and tucks it into her waistband, beneath the curtain of the flowers winking in and out of existence, ephemeral here. She ties the guard up with his own tie and pulls him into the cell, retrieving the keys then. "Hannah." Nova calls for Hannah and lets down her free hand for the younger fae to take to help her up. "Hanni. We must find Andrastia. Come. Keep quiet and alert, yeah? Maybe stuff his mouth with something."
No further guards can be seen outside the cell, and no other cells are occupied. There's a long, long corridor leading to a very distant door of heavy steel, much more secure than the cell which Hannah and Nova were sharing. There's only one small window at the very top of it, barred, but just beyond, a strange black mist seems to be shifting, cloaking whatever's within.
"But he's a human," Hannah reasons, pulling her strange, mirror-polished scalpel out and making to just slice his throat with it, unless she's stopped.
"Hanni! Don't kill him. We don't know what will happen. Just gag him so he can't scream when he wakes and draw attention." Nova insists to the young dryad in the cell with her. "We do as little damage as we need. If we see another one, I'll let you kick them repeatedly in the head, okay?"
Demeanor shifting to a feral grin, Hannah finds that compromise agreeable, and stands up, finding some old prisoner's crusty sock to jam in the guard's mouth. "Okay, let's rescue Andrastia!"
Nova seems totally okay with Hannah jamming the sock in the guard's mouth and she gives the younger woman a thumbs up before absconding and shutting the door closed behind her with a soft clang. Despite their triumph, she quiets her demeanor and herself to slink down the hall toward the door at the end of it, trying to be as stealthy as she can manage, especially with a young fae behind her.
Nova's own smile is razor sharp when it comes, the game of it all provoking a smile that is far less warm than those of her waking world.
Hannah and Nova have no difficulty making it to the end of the hallway, while the unconscious man with the sock in his mouth sleeps on fitfully -- a common theme today, it seems. A voice can be heard just beyond, one which sounds vaguely like Andrastia's own. "I need you to keep this on lockdown," she says in a stern, tense voice, her accent distinctly American. "We only have fifty minutes left to keep this shit-show from falling apart. You can manage that, right?"
"That almost sounds like the real Andrastia," Hannah lowly murmurs, looking sullen at the thought of another imposter. "Should we break in and kill the false Andrastias with the magic hammer, Lady Nova?"
Nova lifts her finger to her lips, though she answers Hannah in a velvety murmur devoid of the suggestiveness used earlier on the guard, "We break in and see what we see. I am just unsure of what killing her may do to her own mind. We must free her, not destroy her."
"We need only free my elven lady," Hannah opines. "The fakes can rot!" She raises a tiny hand and then draws it quickly into a fist. "We can slay them, and the real Andrastia will live on!"
Nova attempts to open the door as subtly as she can with the key and stealth
The door creaks open as Nova slides the key into the lock, but then is flung. There sleeps Andrastia smith, curled up on a Spartan cot, but another woman is in the room with her. Dark-haired and dark-eyed, she wears a flak-jacket labelled 'FBI' and is holding a Block. As she points it up at the pair, ready to shoot and on high alert, suddenly the room is pulled from view, turning to black. "Fifty minutes," comes her voice before she disappears. "Or everything comes crashing down."
This is not a cell of Solitary confinement, nor a prison at all. Hannah and Nova both feel much lighter, and when they look around, they note tall steel plates surrounding them, wide and spacious, with a narrow staircase leading up. Large crates are stacked high in every corner. This is a cargo-hold, but not of a ship. Not even of a plane. A view from the left shows the vast expanse of space beyond.
The magnetized tread of her boots seems to keep her from floating off and Nova scrambles, with difficulty to the view port which she peers out of after clomping up the wall with a spill of gilded laughter. She crouches on the wall if the lack of gravity allows, staring outside with a rather undignified grin on her face.
Hannah, a slight brown xenomorph, only five feet tall and perhaps a hundred pounds, with long, tangled green hair, looks around with a troubled gaze. "I don't trust this," she remarks tonelessly. "We're clearly on a ship, but whose? I pray not a slaver."
"It's space! It's -space-!" Nova excitedly chatters to Hannah through her suit, looking well. Her elfin features in the nightmare lend themselves to a grey or some other alien, though her expressions are fully human. "This is so amazing! It's... Look! No gravity!"
Nova scrunches her eyes shut as glee washes from her features, and circles down the drain of sobriety. "Hanni. We need to find her. We need to find her and get out of here. Where are we?"
Fortunately for Hannah and Nova both, gravity systems are in good condition and allow them both to walk at ease, despite the sensation of lightness. Unfortunately for Hannah and Nova both, the same cannot be said for other, more vital systems. A loud, blaring beep starts to ring through their ears, over and over again, and a red light flashes above. "Oxygen systems failing. Oxygen systems failing. Please evacuate the cargo hold immediately," says an entirely too-calm, pleasant female voice. Another one, more human, then sounds over a speaker.
"I see you've found your way on board the Duchess," she says, vaguely resembling Andrastia's own voice, but something is just slightly off. "I'll see you off of it soon enough." There's a loud creak, and then the door to the stairwell slams shut.
Nova kicks into high gear as the warning comes on, and she searches for a control panel double-time. She fumbles along the walls, studying them. "Hannah, help me look for a panel or a box, please? Anything that can house a security system."
"Yes, of course space, but where in space?" Hannah wonders thoughtfully. "A poor ship if the gravity catalyzers are down or missing. And if you didn't notice, we /are/ a slave ra--" She pauses at the sound of the voice, turning.
"Did you think you could come on board MY ship and free MY prisoner?" the feminine voice taunts. "I'm Captain Nightstar. It'll be your last mistake." While she states this over the radio, the loud and flashing red alarm lighting up the cargo hold in a flashing panic, Nova however is fast on her way to working the control panel, which her keen eyes easily spot.
Enabling the oxygen is a simple task, just a few simple taps. Breaking into anything else is a little harder, but Nova can manage it. From there she may note access to the ship's log, and a map of the ship itself. Captain Nightstar is presently on the bridge, but there isn't any sign of a prisoner being kept on board.
"I found her. Gotcha." The air around Nova and Hannah suddenly becomes easier to breath. Her fingers manipulate the controls and oddly, now that the immediate danger has passed, she seems to be relaxing into the work. Her mouth pulls into a parted lip smile as her deft fingers, apparently used to such work on such ships, find the necessary controls to manipulate the environment.
"Hannah, this is amazing!" Nova crows to Hannah as she attempts to bend the ship to her will.
"A strange handle, but I'll accept it." Hannah acquiesces, watching the space between the captain and Nova. "I warn you, captain, I have been enhanced to release a deadly neurotoxic gas when threatened."
"What are you doing now?" comes the voice of Captain Nightstar over the radio, once the alarm has died down. "I warn you. You continue messing with my Duchess, I'm willing to ditch the cargo and send you both into space." Nonetheless, Hannah's warning does give the voice pause. When it returns, she sounds panicked. "Stop that!" The alarm restarts, and a red light flashes just beyond the door to the cargo hold, but not here -- here, Hannah and Nova can breathe normally. Abruptly, the door slams back open.
"Let's go." Nova does one more thing at her console, however.
Once this is handled, Nova moves to join Hannah and she upnods the opening door. "Let's go raid the bridge."
"Or the brig, perhaps, if it is a slave we seek to release." Hannah adds as a suggestion.
The familiar and all-too-calm voice, which does not at all match Captain Nightstar's, continues to blare out through the speakers above the cargo hold. "Oxygen levels failing. Please evacuate the ship immediately. Oxygen levels failing. Please evacuate the ship immediately." The constant flash of red light paints the walls with every heartbeat, alarm making it hard to hear one's own thoughts. The bridge is a short jog over a crosshatch of steel floors, leading to an even bigger, wider view of space from above.
"It sounded like her. The captain of this ship." Nova relates to Hannah as she paranoidly peers down the corridor past the cargo hold. "She's on the bridge. We could split up, but I'm afraid we'll get split up in the next world if we're sent to one. Let's put the captain in shackles, and then check the brig? Actually..." She unfurls a staying finger and retreats to the control panel, and tries to access the ship and prisoner logs.
With a little bit of brute-force and finesse, Nova is able to access the prisoner logs. There's only one recent prisoner listed, a woman by the name of 'Andrastia Smith' -- she was recently shipped off to a small nearby planet by the name of Chicago.
"The bridge!" Nova gasps and moves to join Hannah once more, urging her on as she herself makes for the open door and the bridge down the corridor.
"I am not made for combat, but assassination," Hannah notifies Nova with a frown. "Unfortunately we have already been discovered." She does start a path toward the bridge, however, at Nova's urging.
Nova attempts to breach the bridge door, relating in a wheeze as the air gets thin, "Open... sesame."
When Nova and Hannah arrive at the bridge, they hear a softly oathed, 'Shit', a scramble, and then the doors slam shut. While Nova is able to reopen them once more, by the time she does, that pirate captain is gone, and the air is getting increasingly hard to swallow. Before them sprawls the beautiful yet empty view, the black, while red light continues to flash against the large steel window-frame.
"Were it only that we were augmented with plasma torches," Hannah comments uselessly, eyeing the door. "Though we could possibly activate the emergency door protocols, if the ship's standard-made."
Nova makes for the ship controls.
"Oxygen levels will fail in forty minutes," announces the calm, pleasant voice of the ship's AI. "Madness will descend before death." The controls are wide and ripe for the taking in front of Nova and Hannah, although all of them are now flashing with this dire alert. "Please evacuate the ship immediately."
Nova has no difficulty programming a course to the nearby planet of Chicago. At the speed this ship is capable of going, they can get there even in minutes, but will burn their entire supply of fuel doing so.
"The captain has perhaps escaped through means of a wormhole, rather than through space," Hannah advises Nova calmly, watching her.
Nova settles herself into the captain's chair, commandeering the dying space vessel with a hawkish expression. The ship starts a slow burn as it turns beneath herself and Hannah, hurtling through space to parts kinda-known. "Buckle up, Hannah. We're headed to Chicago."
"I'm not aware of that planet, but I am young yet." Hannah advises, moving to literally buckle herself in at the first officer's console. "Divert power from weapon systems to oxygen synthesizers."
"That's where Andrastia may also be. There was a slave on board, they offloaded her there according to the logs." Nova relates to Hannah as she pilots the ship, growing a little groggy from the slow thinning of the air supply, though it's not as bad as hurtling down the hall. "If we have to find the wormhole... we'll do that too, okay?" She bobs a nod at Hannah, urgency of earlier touched with sluggishness.
And hurtle they do. "Oxygen levels will expire in thirty-five minutes," announces the calm, pleasant AI's voice once more. "Madness will descend before death. Please --" She never makes it to the end of that sentence before the ship goes crashing into the small black planet's atmosphere. Both of them will surely die. This is the end.
Except, of course, it's not. Breaking apart into a million pieces and erupting into a fiery inferno, Nova and Hannah both manage to climb to their feet, finding themselves not in an early grave, but in Chicago. The Chicago. A tall black tower looms above this decrepit city, the smog-filled air thick with malaise.
Nova coughs as a lungful of polluted air is inhaled deeply upon their arrival, her blue eyes horrifically wide. "F-fuck."
"Direct all oxygen to bridge, and AGGHUU-" and Hannah is gone, replaced by...
Fractured Hannah is nothing like any of the other Hannahs, a tall and leggy blonde dressed in a black mini dress, a terrier poking out of her leather purse.
"Andy, you bitch!" Hannah calls, petulant, at least, as Hanni. "Bring that civilian back, before I call Waster away from business to exert his force! "
Hannah shares every Hannah's penchant for lying, at least.
Here, Nova is much like herself in the other dreams, albeit less flowery. Her alterations are not as drastic, though she is attired in a sleek suit, ready for business. In an interesting twist, she wears a black tie of her own. It's unclear if she's supposed to be Waster though she cracks her knuckles, letting Hannah take the lead here. The filthy air continues to provoke the occasional cough.
In front of the tall black tower stands Andrastia Gold, an attractive and well-dressed woman who is at present not really using these feats to her advantage. Instead, she's using force, looming over poor Dalton as a beam of lightning crackles from her hands. "I can't let you past me," she shouts. "You have less than thirty minutes to get to Andy Smith. Give up!"
This is where Dalton finds himself when he's finally made his way to Andrastia through the Nightmare: Chicago, 2027. A smog-choked, terrible-looking city with an oppressive air.
"Afraid we can't do that, ma'am." Nova replies to this mirror of Andrastia in a considering tone, despite the weariness that has returned to paint her features. She pats around her midsection at the suit..
"You low-life, D Class bitch!" Hannah confidently calls, insulting Andrastia with impunity. "Get down from there and hand over the Civ, you sparking waif!"
Any relief Dalton may have felt at somehow managing to find Hannah and Nova through the nightmare quickly leaves him as he finds himself staring up at this particular version of Andrastia, with lightning crackling betwixt her fingers. "Lady Andrastia?" He queries with some confusion.
"Andy isn't a civ," Andrastia Gold shouts in reply. "She's keeping all of us hostage here, don't you see? This place is collapsing. We're all going mad." She looks down at Dalton with confusion when he calls her 'Lady' -- and then flicks her wrist to send a beam of crackling violet lightning firing straight at him.
"Let her go! We'll take her, release you from her grip!" Nova echoes Hannah, a little less roughly, spinning the words out to Andrastia, even as lightning crackles and sparks at Dalton. "You don't have to do this!"
"Nova, shield!" Hannah quickly orders, taking off her heels and starting to head toward Dalton and Andrastia. "Yeah, that's Gold, all right! Class-E can't fight empowered, has to fire on Civs!"
Hanni really shines through in Fractured Hannah's personality.
"More blasted sorcery?!" Dalton cries out in anger and fear, raising his shitty little piece of wood to try and somehow protect himself from the attack.
Unfortunately for Dalton, the shitty little piece of wood does little to hinder that violet lightning, though it at least protects him from the direct brunt of the blast. He's sent flying backwards towards Hannah and Nova, mercifully unburned, but the superhero stands firm. Unlike Captain Andrastia Nightstar and Agent Andrastia Jones, she doesn't look to be going down without a fight.
Hannah sets her purse, dog and all, on the sidewalk, stomping up toward Gold, immaculately confident despite being completely powerless.
Nova follows in Hannah's wake, trying to trigger her 'shields' lifting out what might be some sort of alternate-tech device from the inside pocket of her natty business suit. It's probably not a shield. It looks more like a low-grade milspec explosive device in this world. She steps over Dalton when she gets to him, though her gaze dips to sweep him briefly. It coolly returns to Andrastia, "Let's rethink things, shall we?" Henchman of Hannah, she plays along, not quite arming it, though her thumb hovers near the detonation switch.
"Hey, cunt!" Hannah yells up at her. "You think you're in control here? You think shooting your jolts at me is gonna stop God-Andy from bringing your reality crashing down on your thick dome!? "
Thrown backwards by the force of the attack, Dalton rolls head over heels several times before coming a stop in a cloud of dust. A low groan eminates from the young man as he pushes himself up onto all fours, spitting a glob of dirt from his mouth. "Seven hells.." He complains, shaking his head. He rises back up to his feet slowly, some small scratches on his body from the splinters of wood that had no doubt struck him. "Come, Lady. A sword, please." He mutters under his breath in a quiet prayer as his eyes returned back to Andrastia.
Nova has no swords, sadly. Dressed in a sleekly-tailored business dress suit with a tie, she only has an explosive device.
"Turn back," Andrastia Gold fumes back to Hannah. "There's nothing you can do to stop me." Her attention completely on the leggy blonde socialite at this point, she fails entirely to notice what Nova's doing with that device. Dalton's comment has her narrowing her eyes.
"You don't think so!?" Hannah demands, throwing her arms out in a classic come-at-me. "You want me to call Waster away from burning hellfire across Oceania to come and settle this for me!? You don't think his wife is more important than ruling Tasmania? You think it'll take him more than five minutes to get here!?"
Dalton glances around the ground nearby, as if he expected to find a sword at any minute, "And my luck has failed me." He looks toward Hannah as she shouts, most of the alien words lost upon him. Reaching into his labcoat he pulls out a small knife, tutting lightly as he inspects it. The young man brushes himself down before beginning to walk toward Andrastia yet again, circling to the opposite side to Hannah.
Dalton unsheathes his stiletto folding knife.
"That's a woman's jacket," Hannah asides to Dalton disparagingly.
Nova snickers like a good yes-woman at Hannah's observation to Dalton, though her own 'weapon' is still held high. Her approach continues, pausing a short distance away from Andrastia.
"Five minutes," Andrastia repeats after Hannah, a hint of fear in her eyes. "I'll let you past in twenty minutes -- how's that?" She looks towards Nova's bomb, but doesn't yet seem worried, crackling hands still raised.
Dalton spares a quick glance down at his clothing, "I did not choose this apparel." He comments dryly. His mouth shifts into a firm line as his eyes return to Andrastia, before darting toward Hannah, waiting to see what she does next.
"Hey, Gold. Catch!" Nova lobs the explosive directly at Andrastia after depressing the arming switch and dives for Hannah, and by way of her, Dalton, attempting to shield the younger woman from the brunt of the blast when and if it happens. Perhaps she banks on reflex but she just ends up close and the device goes whipping for the woman. Seconds seem to tick by.
It's a good throw, and Andrastia does, in fact, catch the landmine being lobbed at her. She's quick to respond, a flare of purple lightning lashing out towards Nova in retaliation. This would certainly and grievously wound the woman if it weren't taking place in the Nightmare, but even if this reality is not real, it at the very least hurts. As the impact of the blast fades, she shouts. Both Dalton and Hannah are sent tumbling back, but it's the superhero who takes the full brunt of the attack, blown rolling away onto the ground. The way to the tower is clear.
Nova smolders and twitches, suit actually still smoking in a few places as she spasms on the ground with the sharp and sudden taser jolt of lightning. Yes, it certainly looks like it smarts, though after the aftershocks die down, Nova takes a moment to stare up at the foul sky, smoke rising from her burnt suit to join the rest of the pollution. She gives a couple weak coughs as she lays there on the ground.
"Slut," Hannah conjures as a random, thoughtless insult as she peels herself off of the concrete. "Lucky my phone's in my purse..."
"Lead the way, Nove." Hannah mutters, staggering to her feet.
"Oof!" Dalton exclaims as he is thrown back, any thoughts of attempting to shield Nova from the attack leaving his mind as his feet left the ground.
"Damnable magic." Dalton complains with a low groan, pulling himself back up from the concrete and shaking his head.
Andrastia Gold lies unconscious on the pavement, injured from fragments of the blast. She doesn't move, much like her Haven counterpart, yet still, it appears the princess is in another castle.
Taking a breather, it is Hannah's words that seem to rouse the electrified woman into rousing, which Nova does, rather gingerly. With a sway on her feet, she collects herself and gives her lightly smoldering black jacket a tug. A sleeve unravels at its seam to the shoulder. She seems not to notice as she questions Dalton, "All right. Good to walk?"
"It takes more than some foul tricks to defeat a Dondarrion." Dalton replies to Nova with a confident growl, reaching up to brush some dirt from his face. His eyes linger on Nova's smouldering jacket for a moment, "And you, Knight Commander?"
Nova brushes away the question, though her flippant wave causes her to stagger a step. "We must get inside the tower. Gather Hanni and follow me." She pivots unsteadily and begins to march toward the tower doors.
Nova indicates Hannah to Dalton before moving off.
"Of course." Dalton replies to Nova, his eyes remaining on her for a moment longer after she staggers before he moves to assist Hannah.
The doors to the tower prise easily open, but inside it the air is even worse than the city's. Once they're inside, what greats them is a fiery, desolate wasteland that does not look like Chicago at all, not even Fractured Chicago. They stand on a thin ledge, a man in a military uniform regarding them coolly before he shuts the door behind them. "About time," the man says in a deep, thick voice as he regards the trio from beneath his helmet. "Di'Lucifurge is guarding something in the volcano, I think you know what it is. You better get to it."
Nova salutes the man in the military uniform, likely wearing one similar to his. "Yes, sir. Right away, sir!" Uncertain eyes crawl the landscape, as she takes a moment to familiarize herself with their new environment.
Nova and the others stand in Hell. No, literally -- this is Hell. All seven of them. Bubbling lava flows below, the air choked with black fumes. Along the ledge is a reinforced tunnel, covered in a desert camo-blanket to shield out the smoke. The volcano is very hard to miss, and this, apparently, is the only safe way to get there.
Dalton looks back the way they came before looking back out to the wasteland before them, his eyebrows raising slowly. He takes a sharp breath, and chokes on it, coughing several times before managing to calm himself.
Once stock is taken, Nova begins to lead Dalton's and Hannah's way toward the tunnel, thumbs tucked under her backpack straps. She plods along the ledge, following the path where it leads them. She too seems to have difficulty breathing here, and her breath shudders from her with a touch of wheeze. Exhaustion has begun to take its toll on her and her footsteps flag from time to time. Uncharacteristically, she remains more silent in this world, almost taciturn.
As they make their way along the path a side-long glance is directed toward Nova. "Would you have me carry your bag, Knight Commander?" Dalton queries, his voice somewhat hoarse from the fumes in the air. "Andrastia can't be far now," Hannah mutters darkly, following, a simple imp for the time being.
Through the tunnel the trio goes, finding their way to the very depths of the volcano. Gunfire can be heard at every turn, just outside, and the roar of an old plane engine buzzes overhead. "Less than twenty minutes to find her," a voice crackles over Nova's radio, audible to Hannah and Dalton as well. It's the military commander's, whose uniform Nova shares. "Or everything comes crashing down." And there she is, descending from the smoke-wreathed sky amid the roaring spitfires. She looks to be headed their way, but there's a small cave just along the fiery edge.
"Yes." Nova replies simply to Dalton, though there is a buzzing tonality to her words, warped by the strange, choking air. She struggles for a moment as she struggles out of the heavy burden weighing her down and hoists it to the man. It seems heavy for its size, though it is made of the same material as the rest of their gear. A grim nod is bobbed to Hannah. Spying Andrastia, she urges her own team to meet her despite her own faltering steps.
"Go, go, go!" Nova spurs her team of Hannah and Dalton as the sound of military ordinance and the drone of planes fills the thick and superheated air around them, pointing out their prize.
Dalton reaches out to grab the backpack from Nova, swinging it over his shoulders and attempting to adjust the straps. He bounces up and down on his feet as he walks, testing the weight, "Is that a Drag-" He begins to query of the strange sound before moving to follow Nova's command.
"Ah, fuck!" Hannah spits, her forked tongue dancing between her fangs as she darts along toward the cave.
An angel, to be specific. Another beam of purple-black descends from her palm as the group rush into the cave, striking the rocks nearby and sending them tumbling into the fire. It's not lightning this time, but certainly something unpleasant; they narrowly escape into the cave, where finally, at long last, they see a familiar face.
Lady Andrastia Tae'Llidori stands there with her bow, watching the opposite wall with interest. Behind her is another figure, bound to a chair, but this female can't quite be made out. The stench of Hell fades from their senses.
"Andrastia!" Nova calls out as the trio rushes into the cave into a new tableaux, unable to help herself though there's a creak to her words and her rushing is more of a controlled lurch. She seems to be upright by a tenuous thread and yet, the thread still manages to hold the woman together in the company of Hannah and Dalton. By reflex, her gaze flicks to the opposite wall to see what the woman with the bow is watching.
The dryad returned, Hannah squeaks out a relieved, "My Lady!" and starts a happy scamper toward the elven woman.
Dalton shrugs the backpack from his shoulders, gripping it by both straps in his left hand. His ash-grey eyes shift toward the opposite wall as well.
The Lady turns to face the trio, and smiles politely at Hannah as the dryad scampers towards her. She crosses the cave with echoing steps, and when she does so, is no longer blocking the view of the woman behind her, the woman bound to the chair. There sits Andrastia Smith, gagged with her brown hair falling around her face, her golden-green eyes unseen. "So you found us," says the Elf, her back to the captive. "You are very brave, very clever."
Nova's tired gaze turns briefly to the captive as Hannah's lady faces her, the scampering dryad, and Dalton. Her regard soon returns to the speaker's approach, though she recoils, nostrils flaring.
Nova thinks; "I don't know if I can fight Hannah. But how is this possible? Can she have snared herself in her own mind? I need to ask the others... when I return. If I return. We have to free the girl."
"Quick, my lady, slay her that we might be free of the final imposter! And we'll be able to take back the forest!" Hannah requests, wrapping an arm around one of Andrastia's leg in a brief hug before turning to face Nova and Dalton. "Do not interfere, humans, it's for the best!"
For his part, Dalton spares only the briefest of glances toward the captive woman before his attention returns to Hannah and Andrastia. He spares a side-glance toward Nova, "Knight Commander?" He queries. The young man doesn't wait for a response however as he starts to walk toward the pair in front of him.
Hannah unsheathes her scalpel.
"Hanni." Nova slowly relates to the Hannah, the small fae, settling back on her heels. "There is a great illusion at play here. This isn't your lady. It only appears to be here. The girl in the chair is your true mistress, your Lady Andrastia. This is all some fell cave elf trick, some twist of reality. Some... evil. Surely you can feel it." Once more her own fae blood comes through, and though she is wan and haggard, she struggles to hold herself up with eroded grace.
One of the elven woman's arms comes down to rest on Hannah's shoulder, facing Nova. Even with all of this praise, her voice has a notable sorrow to it, contrasting her proud physique. "There is a great trick at play," she confirms to Nova. "You have come a long way, and I am touched. But this person you are trying to save, she is not real. She was born from us, from me. She has stolen our lives and wastes them in your world. By what right do you claim authority to restore her to life at our expense?"
"We will slay her," Hannah declares, holding her scalpel aloft, "And return to the forest! And lady Andrastia can save us all from the Sorceress, instead of gallivanting through these silly fantasies!"
"You shall not." Dalton promises Hannah, hefting the backpack like a shield, testing it's weight. He circles the small knife in his right hand. Dalton shoots a quick glance over his shoulder toward Nova, attempting to catch her eye and nodding lightly. His attention returns to the Dryad, as he attempts to circle around she and Andrastia slowly, keeping a fair distance.
"She is real. She is as real as anything in my world. And by taking her you've... changed more than her. You've stolen my friends, you've stolen... their lives. Innocent people are being harmed in my world because of this trick. People who love each other are being turned against each other. People I love. Please don't do this." Nova's gambit apparently unsuccessful, she merely slumps down, looking as exhausted as she feels though her hands clasp before her in humility. "I beg of you. Go back to your world, take Hanni, take this warrior, take me if you want. But let them all go. The others said you were wise, that elves were noble beings. But this... this is not nobility." Her focus is entirely on Lady Andrastia now, and she gazes upward from her pitiable seat on the floor.
"And what of my world?" Lady Andrastia asks. "Her world? His world?" She looks pointedly down to Hannah, then to Dalton, though her gaze does not linger on him long. It focuses in on Nova, and she steps towards the Samaritan, hands clasped behind her back. "You have warred through many to come here. Boarded the Duchess, broken through FBI prison, assaulted Andrastia Gold. You will not be saving a life if you restore her." The sadness fills her eyes as she searches the other woman's. "You will be choosing one of many, over them all."
"You hush your fat mouth, human!" Hannah squeaks in a rage when Nova trods on Andrastia's nobility. "Your world is the mirage, and the Dark Forest is reality, I'm sorry to say!"
"It was your elvish magics that dragged us away from our home, was it not?" Dalton accuses the Lady Andrastia, his eyes darting back over toward Nova momentarily. "Release your hostage that we may return." He demands of Andrastia.
"They will live on in your world. Or in these other worlds, shedding their skins and taking up new ones. You too. But your world poisons ours, as well. This ritual has twisted so many. Your world -is- real, but so is ours. This isn't right. It isn't just. You say I am selfish, but saving one, I save many. Giving her to us, you save the many you've already inflicted with this cruelty. You will live, all of them will live if you release her." Nova reasons with the Lady from her lowered vantage, hands still clasped as if in prayer. "I can only speak to the loftier parts of yourself. Look within your heart, this is the case. And even if you disregard what I say, if your people remain, you doom them. Our world is not like your world."
"Their world is terrible," Hannah agrees, unknowingly hurting her own cause, perhaps. "Rubbish! The trees are unclimbable, the squirrels can't be caught, they forced me to wear a clothing!"
In answer to Nova, the elven lady turns to gaze again at the opposite wall, observing something that isn't there to be observed. "I am sorry," she concedes. "You are noble, for a human, and your heart is great. But I cannot allow Andy Smith to shut us out any longer." Eyes upon the wall, she quietly adds, "In five minutes all of this will be over. She will be gone from your reach." She speaks briefly to Dalton, without looking his way. "You are as mighty as I have always known, Dondarrion. Yet the Dark Forest will continue without you."
"Then we shall have time to spare, Lady Andrastia." Dalton muses to the elven lady, beginning to creep toward Andy Smith yet again. He takes small side-steps, his eyes remaining on Andrastia. "We may yet return.." He suggests, "Leave the Knight Commander to her world, and return to defend our own."
"What if she takes you in, instead?" Nova's words tumble from Nova, insisting harriedly and haggardly, "What if we find another way? There is always another way. These people have not hurt you. How many innocents must die? I understand wearing the guilt of outliving those around me, over and over. But what good is it? You have twisted good and honorable men and women into orcs and set them upon us. How many acts of evil will it take to twist you like the ones Hanni told me of? I have protected your people as best I could, in my world. But they will not have that protection. They will die inglorious deaths in ignorance of our ways." She reiterates with deep certainty to Andrastia, the standing, "Our world is -not- like your world. Its dangers are different. Its magic is different. You will not be able to hear the trees. Ask Hanni. Ask Hanni about the houses. Or Sir Marcus about the... crossbows. Or Fenrix about the automobiles that hurtle down the streets."
Nova rattles off like a litany, "Ask Davit about the phone he didn't know how to use so he smashed it up. Ask them all about how much they like the new home you have chosen for them."
Nova's words certainly look like they're starting to get to the elf, who regards her aside with uncertainty. Just when she does, the cave gives a shudder, chips of stone clattering to the ground. "I don't wish to hurt one such as you," she says to her. "Andy's mind will collapse in two minutes. You must leave, all three of you. Or you will collapse with her."
"We cannot defend the forest without My Lady Andrastia!" Hannah snaps at Dalton. "We must keep her, and slay the other!" And to Nova, she promises, "No human is innocent. Especi--" She turns to Andrastia at her words. "I won't abandon you, my Lady!"
"Let us take her." Nova attempts to climb to her feet, aching muscles pushing her as she clumsily attempts to rise on numb muscles that falter. The shuddering of the cave brings her back to her knees. "Let the others come with me. You will survive this, if she will. I promise you. All of them will." Once more she struggles up, lifting her voice over the rumbling.
"If she stays here, she is no better than the Sorceress herself! Using fell magics to invade another land!" Dalton rebukes Hannah, his eyes narrowing toward the Dryad and elvin lady. "Hanni may be right. You are needed in Lusternia, in the Dark Forest. Let this woman free to her own world, and let us three return home."
But Lady Andrastia does not move to untie the woman, nor does she yet reply. She seems to be thinking about it -- thinking about it for a very long time. A loud crash echoes from the ceiling as the cave starts to collapse, and those who may be paying close attention to the ticking of time may realise her warning is now down to 1 minute.
As Lady Andrastia considers, Nova just moves for her target, grabbing the girl in the chair and the chair with her. This is really her last bit of strength, and it may not be enough to shift Andrastia Smith. But there's not much time left, and certainly no time for thought and consideration or pesky affairs like more warning. What will be, will be and the fae-like woman does the best with others of her ilk to cut the strings of destiny with the peculiar scissors of faeborn chaos.
"Hey!" Hannah protests, leaping onto Nova's side and sinking what must be a hundred razor sharp fangs into her arm while the woman is distracted with the prisoner version of Andrastia.
"Damn it!" Dalton curses, springing into action. He darts toward Hannah and Nova, swinging the backpack with him and tossing it at Hannah. With the Dryad hopefully distracted, he swings his knife at the bindings tying Andy Smith down, attempting to cut her loose.
Hannah isn't alone in her efforts. When Dalton and Nova rush to attack the dryad and free Andy Smith, the elven lady too sprigs into action. A lightning buckler flashes on her arm, which she uses to butt the Samaritan's head with, but it's far too late. Andrastia Smith is free, and as the cave collapses on the group, so too does the dream. She drops into a crouch, sweeping Dalton's leg. When he hits the ground, it isn't in the cave -- it's in reality.
Teeth hurt, in dreams, or in real life, as if their positions are roughly similar, Hannah's teeth are still biting into her arms, and as they flicker into existance in the real world, Nova screams in pain.
Hannah isn't alone in her efforts. When Dalton and Nova rush to attack the dryad and free Andy Smith, the elven lady too sprigs into action. A lightning buckler flashes on her arm, which she uses to butt the Samaritan's head with, but it's far too late. Andrastia Smith is free, and as the cave collapses on the group, so too does the dream. She drops into a crouch, sweeping Dalton's leg. When he hits the ground, it isn't in the cave -- it's in reality.