This is an in-character game thread from Changeling: In Love and War. (This page is not Creative Commons licenced.)

Storyteller

As Cain and Ilandra rode Hawthorn away from the former Hyacinth Castle
across the field of poppies, the landscape shifted around them.
Afternoon sunlight became overcast, the poppies faded into grass, and
ahead of them a cottage stood alone on the slope of a hill.

They had, through the traditional geographical implausibility, arrived in Honeysuckle kingdom.


Ilandra

"Right, and now we get provisions..." Ilandra said, leaping from Hawthorn's back and running into the cottage.

She let herself in and ran up the stairs, pausing briefly to remove her
worn out slippers, to get herself a change of clothing. Barely paying
attention to Cain entering, she slowed and entered her room where she
flung the wardrobe open.

"Ah, home already your Grace?" came the disinterested voice of her
butler. "I see your dress hasn't survived whatever you've been doing in
your absence. And hello, Prince Cain. I believe you'll find Ilandra in
there, disorganising the room. I suppose you'd better make yourself at
home, really."

Ilandra looked over at the butler, holding a dress up to herself. There
were three more at her feet, with four pairs of shoes on top of them.

"Cain, if you don't have any coats that don't have poppies on them then
I can lend you a coat from Lysander's wardrobe..." she told him.


Storyteller

"Um... If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not wear
Lysander's clothes. Are we expecting to have to disguise
ourselves again?"


Ilandra

"Well, you never know." she said, shrugging. "I just don't want you to get hurt while we're out there..."

She ducked behind a screen and changed into her new dress.

"We ought to pick up supplies so we don't need to find any villages any
time soon." she told him, wandering out into the hallway.


Storyteller

"Right. Yes," said Cain vaguely, following Ilandra.
"Couldn't your butler fetch things? Er... How long are we
going to be away for this time, anyway?"


Ilandra

"He could... but then I'd have to tell him how long we plan to be gone
for..." she replied, checking the coast was clear. "...and truth be
told, I haven't decided yet! I did however come up with an idea... What
if WE did some detective work and figured out stuff about the black
roses?"

Having seen the coast was clear, she dragged Cain down the stairs and
into the kitchen without giving him a chance to reply. Before he could
string a thought together she told him her newest plan.

"Besides, I figured if we got your mother a boyfriend she'd stop
bugging us for a date and we could relax..." she finished, reaching
into a cupboard and grabbing biscuits.


Storyteller

"Black Roses? A boyfriend?" Cain asked as he proffered his bag to
Ilandra to fill. "What's going on? I'm confused.
Besides, I'm not sure there is a man out there who would live up to my mother's standards."


Ilandra

"Right. The plan is that we investigate the black roses cos Akane
mentioned that she wanted to do so at your mother's big party and then
got caught up in all this mess." she told him, filling his bag with
sweets. Having emptied out the sweet jars she moved onto the next
cupboard which she duly emptied of fudge and marshmallows.
"Anyway, it's not like the guy HAS to measure up to any standards...
she only mentioned two criteria for her next suitor. All we have to do
is find one who is richer and more powerful than her and she'll be
happy." She jumped down from the worktop, having exhausted her sweet
supply. "So we'll start with the Chrysanthemums and move on from
there..."


Storyteller

"Chrysanthemums? But... isn't there already a Duchess
Chrysanthemum? And a Prince and a Princess, for that
matter? I think splitting them up might take a little more than
"my mum might want to marry you, but she doesn't know it yet".


Ilandra

Ilandra looked a little dismayed by the information.

"Well, we could always ask them about the black roses and see what we find out..." she said. "Or we could try House Pansy..."


Storyteller

"I suppose we could, yes. Though we'd have to be pretty
subtle... Wait, Pansy? You remember Duke Pansy,
right? I'm not sure he and my mother would really... work."


Ilandra

"No... I don't think I've seen him..." Ilandra thought it over, leading
Cain out through the back door of the kitchens. "Which one's Duke
Pansy?"


Storyteller

"You know - huge guy, big beard, wears plate mail to the dinner
table? I can't see the two of them getting on. Well, I can
see my mother regarding civilising him as a kind of project, but I
can't see how we'd make him spend any time at all with her."


Ilandra

A smile broke out on her face.

"Oooh a project!" she cooed. "Well, we can't possibly pass up the chance for such an interesting project..."

They wandered through an alley to find Hawthorn exactly where Cain had left him.

"Well come on then, we have a beardy man to see!" she told him, waiting for him to mount up.


Storyteller

"Yeah. Yeah, sure," sighed Cain. "What could possibly go wrong?"


Ilandra

"Oh come now, dearest, why are you acting like it's a bad idea?" she
said, jumping onto the horse in front of him. "Hawthorn, please tell
him it's a great idea!"


Storyteller

"I go wherever he goes," said Hawthorn. "Just try not to get too
close to a battle. There are armies out there much bigger than
you. He will be at the front of a big one."


Ilandra

"Huh? He's in battle? Well, I guess I could put on the Field Medic kit
and go find him..." she said, musing. Reaching into her bag, she pulled
out two boxes, one was a little box with Honeysuckle patterns on it and
the other had yellow flowers pressed into it. She handed the smaller
one to Cain. "Could you keep hold of this, I'll let you know when
you'll need it."


Storyteller

"Right," said Cain, putting the box into Hawthorn's saddlebags.
"So, you're really serious about trying to find Pansy? I,
um... Last I heard, the main contested land was Birch. If
we're going to find him anywhere, it's probably there..."


Ilandra

"OK." Ilandra practically chirped. "I haven't yet had a chance to try this thing out..." She patted the box.
"Hmm, Birch... Birch... Oh, that's end of the lane and turn... I think
left." she muttered thoughtfully. "Well, I think it is and I'm the
Duchess, so it's end of the lane and turn left now."


Storyteller

"Well, er... If you say so, I suppose it is."

Together they rode down the lane, turned left, and continued on as the rutted track faded into forest.

Minutes past, and a kind of mist descended as the trees became thicker
and thicker. Before very long, plagued by low branches, the two
of them had to dismount and lead Hawthorn across increasingly bumpy
terrain. A feeling swept over them, slowly and subtly first, but
gradually picking up until it was unavoidable.

A sensation of cold, of deep, and of old. They had entered the duchy of House Birch.


Ilandra

Ilandra shuddered at the feeling.

"Well, it looks like we're here..." she said, injecting cheer into her voice. "Best find the Duke then..."

They walked on in the woods for a while until the trees began to clear.

Ilandra turned to Cain.

"Are we walking or riding?" she asked, tangling her fingers in his.


Storyteller

They rode, once the trees had sufficiently thinned, and before long
they found themselves on a dirt track that wound its way out of the
forest and onto heathland punctuated with gorse bushes. The sun
was weak, here, even though it still felt like Spring.

Mist closed around them up on the high ground, and it was some time -
possibly minutes, possibly hours - before they could see anything but
ten feet around them.

When at last the land declined, they rode down onto a wide plain.
Hills stretched away from them to the left and right, but ahead, below
them... Below them there camped an army the like of which
they had never seen. Thousands, tens of thousands of men and
women scurried about their business. As they watched, tents and
pavilions were erected, temporary defences dug, wood collected and
cooking-fires lit. No fewer than a thousand horses and
accompanying wagons stood around waiting to be directed.

Cain and Ilandra stood, eyes wide and mouths agape. Down on the
plains stood perhaps ten times the entire population of House Poppy,
but there were no civilians here.

Their stunned contemplation was broken by a thunk noise distressingly close to them. Hawthorn snorted, but did not rear. He'd seen worse.

Ilandra and Cain barely had chance to consider the arrow sticking out
of the ground a few feet in front of them, when a group of four men
emerged from behind bushes. They all wore green and brown, though
what few insignia they bore were embroidered in red.

"Stay where you are!" barked one of them. "Name yourselves!"


Ilandra

Ilandra pulled out a white handkerchief from her pocket.

"I am Ilandra of House Honeysuckle and this is Prince Cain, he is
accompanying me on my journey." she told them, only realising after
she'd said it that she hadn't mentioned which house he was from.

Oh well, it's not like he can't set them straight...


Storyteller

Cain coughed. "Er... That's Duchess Ilandra of House Honeysuckle, and Prince Cain of House Poppy," he said, making sure his signet ring was very clearly visible.

The leader of the group looked back and forth at the two of them, then
nodded. The three peasant soldiers who stood around him relaxed.

"Your Grace, Your Highness," the Sergeant said, bowing to Ilandra first and then Cain. "How may I help you?"


Ilandra

Ilandra waved her hands dismissively.

"Seriously, you can just call me Ilandra... I don't mind." she said.
"We're kinda looking for Duke Pansy... Have you nice lads seen him?"


Storyteller

"Pansy? You're about twenty miles too far South, your Grace,"
said the soldier. He had a brief moment of worry, and turned to
Cain.

"We can tell her Grace-" he questioned, before Cain interrupted him with a nod.

The soldier resumed talking to Ilandra.

"Pansies and Red Rose Second Division are further north, proceeding
east along the southern extent of the foothills. We rendezvous
with them at noon tomorrow and continue east to engage the Whites
sometime after that. I don't know exactly when, but I would
imagine they plan for it to be in the morning, two days hence."


Ilandra

"OK, do you think they'll let us tag along then?" she asked Cain. He nodded.

"Could we tag along with you please?" she asked the soldiers.


Storyteller

"With the army? I would imagine so."

He turned to the others. "Shara, take 'em down to camp. Let the Baron know."

"Sir," replied Shara, revealing herself to be, in actual fact,
female. With the dimming light along with the soldiers' bulky
clothes and muddy faces, it was quite hard to tell.

"Follow me," she said, and led Ilandra and Cain on down the track.

When they turned around to check behind them, all traces of the Sergeant and his two other soldiers had disappeared.


Ilandra

Ilandra's grip on Cain's arm tightened slightly, indicating she was nervous.

"So, my way into Birch was a little off the mark..." she mumbled.
"...but it's OK, we found your allies. How're you doing, Hawthorn?"


Storyteller

"Well," said Hawthorn. "We are among allies now. This is better than not being so."

The scout Shara led them down the hill and through the already
substantial camp, weaving between tents of all shapes and sizes.
No-one spoke to them or interrupted their passage, and the vast
majority of the soldiers they passed were too busy to give them even a
second glance. Well-trained, then.

After a while they reached a large white pavilion tent, with two guards
outside. Cain and Ilandra dismounted, staying a few yards back,
while Shara spoke to them. One nodded, and disappeared inside the
tent for a moment. Shara bowed to the visitors before melting off
into the evening gloom.

A few minutes later, the guard re-emerged from the tent and signalled
for them to come inside. With a click of his fingers, he summoned
a much scruffier-looking soldier to take care of Hawthorn.

Inside the tent, paraffin lamps lit banners and paintings that hung
from all the walls. So decorated was the place that one quickly
forgot that one was inside a tent at all. On a large wooden
chair, it too extensively decorated, sat a rather large man wearing
chainmail.

"Goot evening, Duchess, Prince," he said in a rather booming
voice. "I am ze Baron von Richtoven, nephew ov Duke David ov ze
House ov ze Red Rose and Commandant of ze Third Divison. To vat
do I owe ze pleasure ov your company so far from home?"


Ilandra

Ilandra looked around in fascination, only barely realising that she'd just been addressed.

"Oh, er... Well... I was planning on checking that the troops are all
happy with the service they've received from the Honeysuckle hospital.
Admissions have been at an all-time high recently and I thought I'd
check..." she said.


Storyteller

"I am not in ze least bit surprised, I am afraid," said the
Baron. "Viz ze tide having turned somewhat and ze Reds now on ze
offensive again, zere vill be ze inevitable casualties as ve gain more
land.

"Und you?" he asked, turning to Cain.

"I am engaged to marry Ilandra," he said. "Since she insists on going to the most dangerous of places, I go with her."

"A sensible plan," said the Baron. "Vell zen, iz zere any vay in vich I might assist you both?"


Ilandra

"I wanted to meet Duke Pansy." Ilandra said. "It seemed as good an idea as any..."


Storyteller

"Pansy, eh?" The Baron looked a little confused, but assumed that the woman must have her reasons.

"Are you going to tell him to stop killing so many people, perhaps?" he
asked, and chuckled. "Vell, you are almost in ze right
place. Ve meet viz his army tomorrow at about midday. If
you do not mind marching vis us tomorrow, I am sure we can deliver ze
two of you intact. I vould advise you against ze alternative; zis
land iz contested and it vould not be a good idea for two unarmed
people to be vandering around on zeir own.

"Be varned, zo. Ve march to var. Once ve rendezvous vis our
allies, ve vill be around a day's march from ze White forces.
Vatever business you have viz Duke Pansy - or viz any of us - I advize
you do it qvickly and stay far away from any fighting. Duke Pansy
himself takes a very... direct approach to combat.

"Furzermore," he said, turning exclusively to Ilandra, "I advize you to
take extra care for ze sake of your House. If you vish to remain
Neutral for very long, I would suggest you let as few people az
possible see you travelling viz us."


Ilandra

"You're quite right. Erm... see after seeing Duke Pansy my plan was to
find the two Rose dukes and ask a favour..." she said, fidgeting with
her sleeves. "So I don't mind marching with you and I can take some
steps towards not being seen by the other side."


Storyteller

"Both Rose Dukes?" the Baron asked. "Vell, I suppose zat
would ensure you appeared somevat neutral. I am not sure ze
Whites vill accept you qvite so easily as ve. Particularly not
viz ze Prince here in tow."


Ilandra

"Yes, I can see how he might be a bit of a problem..." she said, mock
seriously. "I had thought about that and that's why I was sort of
planning my next excursion without him." She dropped her voice. "Though
I hadn't told him that yet..."


Storyteller

"Anyway," said Cain, "we can talk about that later. For now,
Baron, if we could request a bed for the night, or at least somewhere
to put our bags for the moment?"

"Certainly," von Richtoven said. "Guard!"

One of the guards to his tent came inside, and saluted. "Sir!"

"Which Captain leads your brigade?"

"Jameson, Sir."

"Tell him he's bunking with the lieutenants tonight. Take these two with you, they're taking his tent for now."

"Sir!" he said, saluting again. He turned to Ilandra and Cain. "If you would follow me, please?"


Ilandra

Ilandra took off her signet ring and put it into her pocket then followed behind Cain and the guard.

"Do you think the Captain will mind?" she asked Cain.


Storyteller

"You're velcome to return here during ze evening, should you feel
yourselves bored!" the Baron called after them as they followed the
guard out into the twilight.

"Probably not," Cain said to Ilandra once they were outside.
"They day after tomorrow he will doubtless lead a charge against who
knows many enemy soldiers. I'm sure sleeping arrangements are the
last thing on his mind."


Ilandra

"Oh OK. By the way, what did you do with the little box I gave you?" she asked. "It is completely safe, right?"


Storyteller

"It's in Hawthorn's saddlebags," said Cain. "I'm sure the old boy
won't let anyone take it. I'll fetch it once we get to... oh."

Where the guard and the two following him had expected to find a tent,
there was instead a pile of bags, poles and miscellaneous weaponry.

"Ah," said the guard, turning to address Ilandra and Cain. "Must still be on fortification duty. Not to worry."

He pointed at the first two ordinary soldiers to walk past.

"You two!"

"Sir?"

"You, go find Cap Jameson. Should be on the north-east
ditch. Tell him he's bunking with the Lieutenants tonight,
Richtoven's orders. You, get the rest of your squad together,
take a tent from the pile and put it up where I'm standing.
Understood?"

"Yes sir!" they both shouted, saluting, before rushing off about their duties.

"Shouldn't have to keep you waiting too long," said the guard to
Ilandra and Cain. "If you wanted to fetch your things from your
horse, now would probably be the time. I can take you there, if
you like."


Ilandra

Ilandra blushed a little.

"That would be splendid, thank you!" she said. "Besides, I'll feel a little bad if we don't at least check he's alright."


Storyteller

The three of them made their way across the camp to an area set apart
from the tents. Here, hefty wooden stakes had been hammered into
the ground, and from each one six or seven ropes tethered the same
number of horses to the spot. This makeshift stable stretched for
hundreds of yards and uncountably many horses.

They had to ask one of the stable hands in the end, and were eventually
led to where Hawthorn stood munching grass next to a group of much less
intelligent-looking horses. He looked up and snorted as Cain and
Ilandra approached.

Cain made a deliberate act of putting his hand on the horse's side as
he unpacked the bags, telling him silently what their plans were.

"It's still here," said Cain out loud, having found the box. "Should we take it with us?"


Ilandra

"Yes." Ilandra said, looking slightly panicky at the sheer number of
horses nearby. "I'd feel a lot happier knowing you have it with you at
all times... not that I don't trust Hawthorn..."

She gave the other horses a nervous look.

"Cain, could we go soon? The other death machines look like they might
trample me..." she said, her voice shaking in fear. She practically ran
over to Hawthorn, then upon reaching him she stroked his neck. "Sorry,
just they're huge... and you already promised you wouldn't tread on
me..."


Storyteller

"I understand," said Hawthorn in his strange voice-in-your-head way.

The three of them made their way back across camp, Cain and the guard
carrying the majority of the baggage. Cain kept the box, still
unopened, in his pocket.

By the time they had reached their original spot, a tent had been
erected and was glowing by candlelight from the inside. The
soldier that had originally been given the task stood in front of it.

"Permission to return to work, sir?" he asked the guard, as the three arrived.

"Granted."

"Thank you, sir!"

The guard stepped inside the tent first, putting his share of the
equipment down carefully in one corner. Once Cain and Ilandra
were inside and similarly offloaded, he turned to speak to them.

"I should return to my post now," he said. "As the General said,
you are welcome in his tent should you find yourselves with nothing to
do. If you find me still on duty, I would be happy to introduce
you to anyone else with whom you wish to speak. Is there anything
else you wish me to help you with before I leave?"


Ilandra

"No, thank you so much for all your help though!" she said, bobbing
slightly in a curtsey. "I think we'll stick around here for a while
though... unless Cain wants to do anything?"

She looked up at him for direction.


Storyteller

Weariness had begun to show clearly in Cain's eyes from the moment they stepped inside the tent.

"No," he said with a sigh. "Not particularly. When was the
last time we had a good night's sleep?" He thought. "About
six weeks ago for me, I think."


Ilandra

"A good night's sleep?" she said, thoughtfully. "About two years ago,
before your mother announced that you were all going off on a big
expedition..."

Seeing the look of guilt on his face she smiled.

"Seriously, I slept pretty well the other night..." she told him more seriously. "but you need sleep so I'll stay with you."


Storyteller

"Well then, though I'm sure we'll have to apologise to the Baron in the
morning..." Cain muttered, taking his boots off next to one of the two
camp beds. "Ouch. Gods, how long have I been wearing these
for? Right. That'll do."

With that, he almost toppled over backwards onto the bed.


Ilandra

Ilandra gently tucked him in, melting into her feline form and curling
up at his feet in the way she always used to. Before long she fell
asleep, not paying attention to anything going on outside the tent.