Over the Hills and Far Away

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


They got to the castle door and turned towards the stables. Ilandra
struggling to maintain her dignity while wearing a fluffy dressing
gown. As they entered the stables, Ilandra stopped.

"Right, this is ridiculous, I need to get something on cos this
dressing gown is too revealing." She said, delving into her handbag and
pulling out a dress and some worn out shoes. "Now, we are going to need
a horse, cos there's no way you can carry that heavy bag all the time
without getting tired. Do we have any that are strong enough to carry
us and your bag?"

She put the dress on, using a saddling area for cover. She left the
dressing gown hung up on a hook, as she figured they wouldn't need a
fluffy dressing gown.


"Well, they've all been doing pretty much that for years now. The
war's taken it's toll in a lot of ways, and one of them is that there
aren't a lot of spare horses around any more", said Cain.

He began to walk alongside the stables. "Much as I doubt he'll
appreciate being ridden again so soon, we could always take mine."

Cain unbolted one of the stable doors, and stepped inside.


Ilandra watched in fascination as Cain brushed the huge brown horse
down. She had to withhold a gasp of surprise as it didn't step on his
feet. Tentatively she moved towards them.

"It won't tread on me, will it?" she asked, realising she always panicked this way when faced with horses.

"Of course he won't" said Cain patting the horse on the nose. Hearing
this, she moved towards the great beast and helped Cain brush it down
and saddle it, her fear subsiding as the horse didn't tread on her.


Once they were done, Cain led Ilandra and his horse out into the
courtyard and shut the stable door quietly behind them. He threw
his bag up behind the saddle and lashed it on, before springing easily
up into the saddle himself and offering his hand to Ilandra.

Ilandra followed him up without hesitation, keen to get away from the horse's feet.

Then, once they were finally ready, Cain reached around Ilandra to pat
his horse on the head. "Come on, Hawthorn," he said, shaking the
reins and sending them trotting off into the sunset.


As they left the castle grounds, Ilandra told Cain they were going
left. Then leaning back into his body, allowed the horse to take them
off on their next adventure.

After about twenty minutes, Ilandra was starting to get impatient so she turned around and could still see the castle.

"You know, I'm not sure left was the right way..." she said, "I can
still see the castle, at this rate we'll still be in Poppy lands when
your mum notices."


"Well, we're only a couple of miles away. We could go faster, if you like."

"Okay," said Ilandra, and Cain pulled his knees in and spurred Hawthorn into a canter.

Before another half hour had passed, they had crested a hill and ridden
down into the leafy valley beyond, the rise obscuring the tall spires
of Castle Poppy from view as night closed in around them.


As night descended and the stars came out, Ilandra wrapped Cain's arms
tighter around her shoulders in the hope of not obviously shivering.
She did so carefully, so as not to disturb the reins. Sighing she
wondered what would happen over the next few days.

"It's such a nice evening... I'm glad you're here." she told him, smiling contentedly.


Ilandra was not altogether successful in hiding her shivering.
Cain removed his coat and wrapped it around Ilandra, then began to
fumble around the bag behind him to find his cloak.

Cain hugged her more tightly, and their canter continued along the
bottom of the valley where their thin track was joined by a tiny river
that bubbled and gurgled and shone with the faint light of the crescent


After what seemed like an eternity of pretty night-time scenes, Ilandra
felt her eyelids droop slightly. She fought the sleepiness for a while,
but eventually felt compelled to regale the world with one of her most
copious yawns.

I know I'm going to fall off this terror machine... If I lean further into Cain, he'll stop me falling off.

Snuggling further into Cain's arms, she began to fall asleep.


As Ilandra fell deeper into dreams, memories came back,almost unbidden
of happier days. Days where she was not only a princess, but also a
treasured pet. She dreamt of all the times she'd fallen asleep in
Cain's arms, under the guise of "Fluffy" his pet cat, and been told all
about his day. She also remembered the feeling of belonging that she
had experienced.
Her dreams also led her to (her perception of) the future, where she
and Cain where allowed to run around her house doing whatever they
wanted without anyone around to shout at them for breaking the
All in all, Ilandra was happy, you could tell, she was purring quite
loudly in her sleep. She shifted position slightly and allowed her
dreams to take her wherever they wanted.


Ilandra shifted slightly, and her eyes flickered open. Before her
shone an eternity of stars, much brighter in Faerie than in other
worlds, framed by silhouetted branches of an old and tall tree.

After a brief moment to recalibrate her senses, she found herself lying
with her head and torso resting against Cain, who in turn was
half-sitting, half-lying against a thick clump of tree roots. The
horse was tied up near by, and from the former's stillness and the
latter's snoring, she figured both Cain and Hawthorn to be asleep.

A gentle breeze blew along the valley, rustling the leaves overhead and
continually shifting Ilandra's view of the blazing night sky.


She laid as still as possible for a few minutes before deciding the one
thing they needed the most was a small fire and marshmallows. She got
up, looked around to make sure there were no immediate threats and
wandered into the trees to pick up suitable firewood.

Having picked up some firewood, she returned to where she'd left Cain
and set up a small fire-shaped pile of wood. She started rubbing the
wood together and soon had a small fire. Looking back at her lover, she
smiled to herself and rummaged in her bag to produce a rather sizeable
bag of marshmallows.

Standing up and reaching as high as she could, she tried to break a
twig off the tree, but found she was too short. Cursing beneath her
breath she started to climb the tree, cursing a little louder each time
her dress snagged on a twig. Finding two suitable sticks for in case
Cain woke up, she climbed back down and sat beside the fire again.
Movement nearby startled her, but when she saw it was only Cain she
relaxed and proffered one of the two sticks she'd picked and some


Cain clamped his eyes shut against the bright light of the fire, and
kept them shut until the after-images faded. Then, slowly, giving
him chance to adjust to the brightness, he opened them and took a
marshmallow-endowed stick from Ilandra.

"Say, Ilandra," Cain said sleepily, "we'll be out of Poppy lands by
this time tomorrow. Did you plan on going... anywhere in
particular?" He kissed her lightly on the cheek, and idly turned
his marshmallow.


Ilandra smiled, her hand instinctively going to her cheek as she turned
red. She removed her marshmallow from the fire, and waved it a bit to
put the flame out then blew on it before she answered the question.

"Well, the way I figure it, if we go to anyone to get married secretly
it'll be the talk of Faerie how Honeysuckle sided with X to get married
and are therefore not neutral. So therefore, the only way we can do
this without too much backlash is to go to the High Council and ask
them nicely if they would mind officiating. Also, if we don't invite
_every_ house in Faerie, we'll get accused of siding with people." she
told him, looking thoughtfully into the fire. "I know it sounds like
I'm trying to put the wedding back, but it might endanger our lives if
we don't do it this way." She moved her hand from her cheek to the
collar he'd once so lovingly put around her neck and fidgeted
absent-mindedly with the bell.

"Also, I'll probably need tuition in politics if I'm to be a good
Duchess... I don't know very much at the moment." she told him, "I
considered asking your mother, but she'd gloat too much..."


"I'm not sure I'm exactly the world's greatest politician either; we both might need tuition when it comes to that.

"But the Council, are you sure? Obviously we have to invite
everybody, but asking a Councillor to officiate? Neither of us
are all that important in their grand plans; they probably barely care
about our marriage or our Houses..."


"Why not the Council?" she asked defiantly. "If we get one from each
side, they'll be sufficiently reassured that we wish to be neutral
rather than if we got a neutral person. A neutral person would be far
more challenging to find, I think, than to just go and ask nicely." she
looked at him, as if to gauge his response, and munched on her now cold

"I suppose so," said Cain. "As far as I know there's not been a
marriage even as important as ours since the war began, so we have
concerns over this that no-one's had to deal with before. And,
thinking about it, the Council's about the only place these days that
you'd find a Red and a White working together. Bar your hospital,
of course."

"Though that said, I could probably bribe Bartholomew and Dexter into
it. But it just seems more fitting for it to be done by Dukes." she
said. "You thought of those two before I did... And then you say you're
not the best politician, I barely know whose side you're on. Though
that said, I'm mostly looking forward to finding a suitable uniform for
you that doesn't look too much like a uniform... oh and bunny slippers
in your shoe size might be interesting to knit." they both laughed at
the suggestion of bunny slippers. When they stopped laughing Ilandra
changed the subject.

"I watched you sleep earlier, you looked really peaceful," she told
him, blushing slightly, "I hope you slept well... And I feel I need to
excuse my behaviour earlier, I don't normally drink that much."


"Hah, it's okay," said Cain, hugging Ilandra around her shoulders and
pulling her closer to him. "Not everybody has my brother's
alcohol tolerance!"

Having toasted it thoroughly, Cain ate his marshmallow then stared up
at the sky, trying to remember the stories for each of the
constellations of the Spring.


Ilandra relaxed into the hug. he doesn't burn the marshmallows like I do... wow!

She put another marshmallow on her stick.

"You know, if I hadn't always kept on insisting on running away from
home and camping in the Honeysuckle grounds, I'd have never learnt to
make fire and toast marshmallows like this..." she said, absently.
"Though that said, I was really happy that summer when you, Lysander
and Abel came along for one of my trips. That was really kind of you.
Especially the way I always used to react." she blushed bright red. "I
guess we all show fondness differently." she looked into his eyes "I
always wanted to apologise for that, but never really knew how to...
also, Abel insinuated you were upset that I was Fluffy... so I figured
I'd let you know something." she stretched across and kissed him.

"I'm all yours, Cain. I give myself to you until the end of time. All
my land and property are yours also, to do with as you wish..." she
told him, earnestly.


"Ours, Ilandra. Ours, to do with as we
wish. I... don't want you to feel like you have to give something
up to be with me." He paused. "That is, I mean, um...
Not that it's a bad thing to have to give up something to be with the
one you love, because, well, I guess I don't mind losing the stuff I'm
losing, but... You're in the best situation, where you don't have
to lose anything at all, so please just... use 'us' rather than 'you'
and 'me'..." said Cain, earnestly trying to put a point across but
failing horribly.


"us..." she said, slowly. "It feels strange saying that..."

"OK, well tomorrow we shall sort out where we stand in regards to our
allegiances and land and stuff. Right now, I'm happy here." she hugged
him. "I'm not so tired any more, we have two choices, either carry on
eating marshmallows wait til dawn and go to the council or get off your
mother's land and go back to mine, ours,
for hot cocoa. Either way, we should go to the council tomorrow...
Either way, when you see our room you are totally going to schiz!"

She intercepted Cain's marshmallow as he tried to eat it, holding it
between her lips teasingly for a few seconds before just eating it.


"Hot cocoa? You're bored of running away already, aren't you?"
asked Cain. "Still, I don't think that's going to be possible
tonight. We'll not have left Poppy lands for a good eight hours
of walking yet, and Hawthorn's not in any state to carry us any
more. For tonight, can we just enjoy being together under the


Ilandra looked offended at the suggestion.

"I'm not bored... but we only have a bag of marshmallows and a block of
fudge to stop us from starving. Our house can pick us up and deposit us
anywhere we want it to... there's no reason we can't pilfer some food
from the pantry and then carry on running away. Then there's the
problem of breakfast, I doubt you've ever had to forage for your
breakfast so it'd all be left to me... and I don't think I have any
frying pans in my bag." she told him. "Lying here under the stars,
however is a marvellous idea... even if surviving out in the open is
looking daunting. I suppose we could pose as low-ranking nobles and
hope that if we pass through any lands people don't assume we're
enemies... even if we do have a death-machine with us."

Having said her piece she rooted around in her bag and pulled out a
block of home-made fudge and offered it to Cain, still in it's muslin

"See? No healthy foods." she said, smiling a little. "Though, I'm not
sure you're healthy either..." she continued, giggling, as she pushed
him to the ground playfully.


Cain grabbed Ilandra's shoulder as he fell, and pulled her down with him.

"Hey, and whose fault is it we're out here?"

He grabbed her, and rolled over so that he was almost lying on top of her, supported only by his arms.

"You're not that healthy for me, either!" said Cain, smiling.


She giggled some more and tried to tickle him, but failed as he put up resistance.

"It's your fault we're out here, I merely suggested it, but you openly
encouraged it." she told him, playfully batting at his hands. "After
all, you're older than me, so you should be more responsible old man."

She rolled him over so he was underneath this time and tried to tickle him again, giggling the entire time.


Cain allowed himself to be tickled for a few seconds this time, before
grabbing Ilandra's arms and rolling again, pinning her to the ground.

"Yes, of course I should be the responsible one, Your Grace."


"I hate being a duchess..." Ilandra said, the mirth evaporating
slightly from her face. "But seeing as how you own me, it shouldn't
matter what I am..."

He looked slightly bemused at the suggestion of ownership.

"It's your collar I have round my neck..." she pointed out. "Take some
responsibility for your pet cat." and giggled again, pretending to
struggle as she talked.


Cain lowered himself gently down so that he was no longer supporting
himself with his arms, and ran one of his hands along the edge of
Ilandra's collar.

"Yeah," he sighed, and kissed her.

As he broke away, he raised himself up a little, and looked her in the eyes.

"I'm... I'm sorry for leaving you for so long."


"Well, I did miss hearing about your days..." she said, stretching up to kiss him. "Also, the quality of the food worsened..."


"I never did ask you, how on earth did you survive two years? It
can't have been easy getting by, hanging around a castle under enemy


"Well, lets just say no-one ever hurts the adorable little kitty that
insists on sleeping on the prince's bed." she said, smiling
enigmatically. "besides, i had to keep your stuff safe... So half the
time i was rearranging furniture and waiting at the foot of your bed..."
She shrugged as if it hadn't bothered her.
"anyway it's not like there was anyone around for them to kill... I
didn't mind too much that way... and if they got too close it's not
like i can't defend myself..." a look of concern flashed across her

"How did you get by on the road? Weren't you scared?" she asked.


"Scared of what?" asked Cain. "We stuck to the lands of Red
Houses, so it's not as if we were running from battles every day.
And weak as we are, we still have soldiers. It would have been a
stupid bandit group indeed who'd attack an entire House on the move.

"In fact, thinking about it, that did happen once or twice. They were very stupid though."


"I... I didn't know, I just assumed you'd all packed up and gone off to
war..." she said, "I saw lots of metal-reinforced death-machines and
figured that's what you were doing. So I resolved if I was gonna stay
behind I was at least going to make a name for myself... There's
probably brigades from House White Rose who'll probably shudder at the
memory of the psycho cat of House Poppy, not to mention the fact that
most of the opposition are convinced your Castle is haunted." she
laughed a little. "It was mostly entertaining... but I figured you'd be
in danger all the time and would probably come back a Duke or

She pulled him to the ground beside her.

"I was so scared you'd get hurt I had Grizzel keep an eye on you and
pick you up if you got even a tiny little scratch." she leant her head
on his shoulder. "Not that I need have bothered, if you weren't in that
much danger... did you fight all the bandits off on your own? That's
quite brave!"


"Well, I, er..." Cain began, blushing. "I might have done at one
point, whilst Nyano and most of the army were off looking for a spot to
camp in. Seems they were pretty skilful to evade the attentions
of the scouts. Not smart enough to run away from Abel and I,


"You're really brave! And I bet you're really strong and good at
fighting!" Ilandra gushed, not quite able to hide the admiration in her
voice. She stroked his neck bone, thoughtfully, pausing occasionally to
kiss his neck.

She smiled at him, "I guess you probably had a million girls tell you
how wonderful you were... so I'm glad you picked me. You really are
great... I bet the bandits probably wanted to run away when they saw
how awesome you were..."


"I think it was more the charging horse and drawn sword that did it,
but..." Cain sighed. "Anyway, we're home now, and I'm with
you, and that's all that matters."


"hmm..." Ilandra said, "it is important... If you hadn't come back... life would be very strange."

She fidgeted with a button on Cain's shirt, absent-mindedly twisting it and undoing it.

"I'm sure the bandits weren't just running from the horse..." she
fidgeted with another button, the first one having lost her interest,
then sighed deeply, clearly contented to be there.

"I have an idea for a really fun game! We could pretend like we're
peasants when we leave your land and deny all knowledge of who we are
until we decide to go back home, or get to the council." she looked
wistful, clearly enchanted by the idea of being just herself and not a


"Sounds like fun," said Cain. "We might have to wear somewhat
simpler and dirtier clothes, though. And muddy our faces, and
speak... commonly. Actually, I'm not entirely sure how to do


Ilandra surveyed her dress, it was quite torn and dirty. The
fabric wouldn't give her away as being slightly richer than the average
peasant, as it was cotton, but the deep pink might alert people on
close inspection.

"I don't think I need to change my dress too much, maybe fray the edges
a little more..." she said, thoughtfully. "You on the other hand...
you'll have to remove that dinner suit..." she blushed at the thought
of seeing him unclothed again. "Let's see what we have to work with..."
she brought his bag to him and rummaged around inside it, pulling out a
white cotton shirt with plain buttons. She set this aside and rummaged
again, this time not pulling anything out. She then rummaged in her own
bag and pulled out a pair of scissors.

"We'll have to chop those trousers up a little... not to mention
fraying the shirt sleeves at the ends, that shirt looks too new..." she
handed him the scissors and indicated roughly how long peasant trousers
tended to be. Then, developing claws on one hand set to fraying the
shirt sleeves.

After she'd done that, she looked over him, and handed him the frayed shirt.

"I'll help you with that shirt if you like..." she said, smiling shyly.


"Well, um, okay," Cain said, smiling shyly.

"I hope this works, though. I mean, you could probably pass, but
I'm just not particularly... peasanty. I've never had the same
kind of relationship with subjects as you've had, but I kind of wish I


She smiled, while undoing his buttons.

"If I can make you look like a squire at least then you can pretend I'm
your maid... so you'll have to get used to me fussing over you..." she
told him, laying a small kiss on his solar plexus.

"Failing that, you could just not talk and I'll do all the negotiating
with other peasants, then you can bail us out if there's any barons or
knights getting angry at us." She'd reached the last button, but
couldn't bring herself to remove the shirt... so she wrapped her arms
around him and snuggled up to him.

"I only get along with our peasants because they are few, so I have
them over for dinner most nights... it keeps cook occupied and the
peasants tend to work even harder on the fields during the day.
Sometimes we even play board games if the weather is inclement, but
it's only because otherwise I'd get lonely. I'll keep the habit of
having them around if I can get away with it... otherwise I'll just
drop food parcels round their houses. Besides, it's useful to get along
with one's peasants... how else do you get rid of clothes that no
longer fit?"


"I always thought that you got seamstresses to alter them, but
still... It might be a little strange for a squire to have a
maid, so there'll need to be some excuse - either that our Knight gave
you to my keeping, or that we're all that remain of his
household. We'll have to pretend to be from somewhere obscure and
far away, so that no-one can dispute our claims..."


"But where is there that's obscure and far away?" she asked, perplexed.
"I guess you could be a knight, you have the... er... the... body for
it..." she turned a cute shade of pink.

"Er... sorry, it wasn't meant to sound like that... I could try again..." she told somewhere around his waist...


"It's okay," said Cain, rather a shade of crimson himself. When
Ilandra finally looked up, Cain hugged her tightly and rolled, sending
both of them spinning together across the ground.

By the time they stopped against a tree and relaxed their embrace, both of them were laughing hysterically.


Ilandra stopped laughing and kissed him, slowly and deeply, putting all
her emotions into it. When she pulled away, she looked into his eyes.

"At your service, sir Knight" she said, giggling. "We'll have to think up names for each other..."

She kissed him again, feeling herself get lost in his arms...


"Mmm, there'll be time for that in the morning," said Cain, and continued the kiss.


"I can't wait..." murmured Ilandra, running her hands softly down his
back. Then caressing his lower back, she rejoined the kiss, allowing
her hands to take themselves wherever they felt right.

"I love you." she murmured the next time the kiss allowed a break.


OC: This week's episode was brought to you by the letters N and C, and the number 17! Goodbye, kids!


A solitary cockerel crowed in the distance as the first tendrils of
light crept across the hills. Yet there was no stirring in the
forest glade where two young lovers slept in each others' embrace.

Half an hour later, as the sunlight finally made it through the trees
to illuminate the ground below, they were still fast asleep. It
took still an hour more, until their horse was sufficiently worried
that he started nuzzling the two faeries, before Ilandra finally
returned to the world.

Ilandra ()

The first thing Ilandra noticed as she woke up was the horse, nuzzling
the two of them. As she took stock of the situation, panic took over
and she let out a scream before jumping up and running up the tree
behind her, in cat form.

From her vantage point on the branch she could see she'd left her dress behind in the panic.

great, now the death machine is going to eat my favourite dress! Oh god, it's going to eat Cain!!! What do I do? What do I do?

She watched in abject terror as the horse didn't in fact eat Cain or
her dress, then started feeling really dumb as she realised this was
probably some evil trick. She resolved to stay up the tree until she
either knew what was going on or was told the death machine horse wouldn't eat her.


Awakened by the dual sensory inputs of Ilandra's scream and Hawthorn
licking his face, Cain woke up in quite the state of confusion.
He sat up, pushing the horse's head away, and looked around with
increasing panic as he could not find Ilandra.

Worried that he could not see his fiancÈe, Cain stood and hit his head
on a low branch of the tree that they had slept under. He was
greeted with a shower of leaves and a surprised yowl.

At last he looked up and noticed Ilandra, and his worry melted into a smile.

"Ilandra?" he asked. "Why are you all the way up there?"


"It was trying to eat me!" she said, her voice betraying the fear she
was feeling. "I'll come down, but you have to promise that death
machine isn't going to eat me."


"Death machine? Eat you?" Cain asked. He patted Hawthorn on
the head, and offered him a sugar lump that had somehow appeared in his

"Ilandra dear, Hawthorn wouldn't hurt a fly!"


"You promise?" she asked, still unsure. He nodded.

"Can you pass me my dress please, and look away." she asked, tail twitching slightly. mind you, is it proper to ask him to look away in light of recent events? "well... ok, you can look if you really want... but can I please have a dress?"


"Um... Sure," said Cain, picking the dress up from the ground. He
threw it up onto the low branch on which Ilandra was perched, then
turned away to blush furiously at some point in the far distance.


Taking the dress, she ran up to a higher branch where she morphed back
into human form and put it on, then climbed towards the edge of the
branch and jumped down to the ground landing about a foot or so away
from Cain.

"Right, I'm ready. What's the plan? Also, thinking of names, how's
Gerald?" she asked, looking around for her bag to eat some more
marshmallows. Having found the bag, she offered Cain a marshmallow.


"Mmmf," Cain said with a mouthful of marshmallow. "Gerald? I gueff."

Cain swallowed.

"I didn't have a plan, though. I figured you did..."

Ilandra shook her head.

"Right, well, um... To be honest, I'm not really very good at
plans. Since neither of us have one, why don't we just keep
riding until we find somewhere we like?"


"That's an excellent plan!" she said. "Also, we'll probably have to
move quite fast, otherwise your mum will catch up with us and eat us
for being bad."


"It's alright," said Cain, "we'll be outside of Poppy lands soon
enough. My mother's got enough to worry about without trying to
chase after us as well."

Sensing Ilandra's nervousness to approach Hawthorn, Cain saddled and
mounted the horse before hauling Ilandra up into the saddle in front of
him. Then, with a cuddle from the couple and a snort from the
horse they were off again, following the remainder of the valley up
toward the West.


As they started riding off, Ilandra snuggled into Cain's arms.

While he's here, nothing can hurt me... I ought to protect him like he protects me.

"Caaaain?" she asked. He murmured a response so she continued. "If
you're gonna be Gerald, I need to change my name to something more
mundane... kinda like maybe Mavis... but if you know of a name you'd
prefer let me know." She snuggled up to the crook of his arm, kissing
the inside of the elbow joint.


"Mavis?" Cain asked. "Dear Ilandra, where do you get such names from? Still, if you like, Mavis it is."

Around mid-morning, the valley in which they had been travelling
rapidly steepened, and their trot almost became a climb. The
ground got steadily more rocky, and after a while they found the
river's source as it emerged from an outcrop of stone in the hillside.

They reached the top just as the sun disappeared behind a thick
cloud. The sky had been becoming more overcast all morning, and
now as they stood atop the hill and looked down at the next valley
spread out beneath them, the air began to smell strongly of rain.

Whilst the top of the hill was windswept and bare, the forest that had
featured strongly in the last valley persisted in the next one, bar a
few clearings. In one of these, faintly visible at a couple of
hours' riding distance, stood what seemed to be a solitary
cottage. No smoke curled from its chimney, and nothing stirred in
the valley but the tops of trees blown by the strengthening wind.


Ilandra's head was beginning to pound and the world was looking
altogether too bright for her liking. Even the threat of rain served
little to alleviate the oppressive feeling of her headache. She groaned
slightly as an errant ray of light caught her eye.

"I think I need a new skull... this one's altogether too small for
me..." she said quietly, biting back the urge to hide under Cain's
cloak. She covered her eyes as a temporary measure and hoped for the
best. "Also, I don't really like mavis... it sounds old, like grizzel


"Oh, you poor thing!" exclaimed Cain. "You must've drunk so much
last night, and we haven't had a drop of water since. Come on,
let's get to that house as quickly as we can, and hope they have a

So saying, Cain spurred Hawthorn into a canter, and they raced down into the valley.

"It's not as if Gerald's a particularly young name either!" said Cain,
raising his voice against the wind. "Still, what's normal and
young? Sarah? Janet? Rachel?"

Just as he finished his question, the world jarred for a second as if
space and time were knocked out of alignment by a sledgehammer to the
skull, disorienting Cain and not at all helping Ilandra's
hangover. Hawthorn slowed, clearly nervous about going further.

"What in all of Faerie was that?" exclaimed Cain. He
thought for a moment. "I think this is one of the borders of
Poppy lands; I remember that much. But I've never felt that before. I wonder where we are..."


As the world lurched, Ilandra's headache worsened. Unable to bear the
increased pain, her body did the only thing it could think of.

She felt herself falling away from the relative safety of the horse,
and then upon hitting the ground vomited in a very unladylike way.
Reverting back to the relative safety of cat form, she decided sleep
would be a good plan... now if only she could persuade her stomach that
vomiting more would be a bad idea.

I'm staying here, til the world stops spinning... oh gods it's far too bright... and I feel so sick...


Cain jumped down from Hawthorn, ran to Ilandra and stroked her back until the she stopped being sick.

"Come on," he said, trying to coax her back onto the horse.
"We'll find out what that was all about later. For now, let's get
you to that cottage so you can drink some water and lie down."


"mm staying here." she groaned. "here doesn't throw me off huge things and cause too much pain... here's good..."

She put a paw over her eyes.

"you can go to the cottage... but please avenge my death..." so saying she allowed herself to fall asleep.


"Your death?" Cain sighed. "Ilandra, you're not
dying. It's just a hangover. And I'm not leaving you here."

Taking advantage of Ilandra's cat-like size and weight, Cain lifted her
up and placed her gently in one of the side-pockets of Hawthorn's
saddle. Then he climbed up himself, and they set off towards the
cottage again.

It took well over an hour for them to finally reach the clearing in
which the cottage sat, by which point the weather had turned decidedly
wet. The air was thick with drizzle, the kind that infiltrates
your clothes without you noticing until you're suddenly soaked through.

In the mist that the drizzle kicked up, visibility was low. Thus,
it was quite a surprise when they finally came across the cottage
itself looming out of the mist.

Cain reined in his horse, but stayed in the saddle. He poked the feline bundle behind him.

"Er, Ilandra," he said.

Ilandra rolled over, muttering. "Five more minutes, Lysander, I'm comfy now."

Cain poked again.

"Ilandra. You might want to take a look at this."

She opened an eye. Before her, rising out of the greyness, stood
the very sme cottage they had spied from atop the hill. Just as
they had expected, it was a normal and quite inviting cottage. Or
would have been, had the whole thing not been made of gingerbread.


She climbed gingerly out of the saddle bag, morphing back to her fae form (looking a lot paler and sicklier than usual).

"Gingerbread... mmmm... gingerbread..." she said, moving towards it. "Wait, why do i get a bad feeling about this?"

Rolls for hearth wisdom plus wits, losing two dice for being hungover... so... two dice then... ok, three successes

"We might not wanna go near this cottage... it feels wrong. Kinda like
that legend about the kids." she told him. "Anyways, I'm feeling a
little better... sorry for worrying you... shall we get moving?"

She climbed back onto the horse in front of him, where she stole some of his cloak to keep herself warm.

"I think I might still be dying, just a lot less painfully now..." she
said. "Though that said, if it's a hangover, Abel told me about
those... you get them when Regara sits on your head while you sleep,


"When... Regara..." Cain paused. "That Abel, I'll have words with him when we get home."

"But still," he continued, "even if you don't want to take shelter inside, let's at least find the well and get you some water."

"No, I don't think we should go to the well," said Ilandra. "If the legend is true, then the witch will come and eat us!"

Cain thought for a moment.

"There's no witch alive whom I'd let lay a finger on you," said Cain. "But if you insist - and if you're sure you'd prefer to carry on than fetch water...?"


Ilandra nodded.

"Yeah, I'll just snooze it off here..." she snuggled a little bit
further into his arms. "You're really warm... hope you don't mind..."

She wrapped her arms around his arm and leant her head on his bicep then gave out a contented sigh.

"Also, you shouldn't be too hard on Abel... I think at the time I
probably caught him off guard... he was complaining of a hangover to
lysander..." she mused, "I had to ask what it was..."


"It's okay," said Cain. "I understand. Come on, let's get moving!"

Cain dug his heels in, and Hawthorn began to trot, then canter, then gallop, forward into the rain-soaked forest.

Deep in the darkness of a nearby bush, two sets of beady eyes watched them leave...


From her resting place in Cain's arms, Ilandra half dozed half watched the world go by.

After a while curiosity got the better of her and she asked "Cain, is
it true you didn't mean to give me that record when you did? Cos I was
told you only did it cos the guys told you it was a good idea to give
me... you don't really have to answer, but it's been bugging me..."

She wasn't entirely sure she was ready for the answer, but she had to
know if it had just been her brother trying to push them together...
she snuggled into his cloak a little more, glad she was able to spend
so much time with her fiancÈ.


"That record? What on earth are you-" began Cain, before he
realised what she meant. "What, when you were eleven?
'Didn't mean to give it to you'? Really, what are you talking
about? It was ages ago, it was your birthday, I gave you a
present, you liked it. Or at least you seemed to. Did you
not, after all?"


"Well, the song was quite... suggestive and stuff... and it seemed to
put your brother and mine into hysterics... and then the maid said it
was them that chose it and told you to give it to me..." she said,
blushing slightly. "I tried to approach you to thank you properly at
the time, but I wasn't sure if you had heard it."

She looked down at the ground, fidgeting with a bit of Hawthorn's mane and blushing furiously.

"If you haven't heard the song, I'll play it to you some time... I think the player Gustafssen made still works..."

(the song was Wham- I'm your man)


"Suggestive? Of what?" Cain asked. "Besides, surely the important thing is whether you liked it or not..."


Ilandra looked up at Cain, her cheeks still bright red.

"It doesn't matter, I loved it... I'm sorry." she reached a hand up to
stroke his cheek. "Just, that day I thought you meant something by it,
and Lysander said you were too old for someone like me and that I
should concentrate on my studies. I guess I was a little confused at
the time."

She morphed into a cat to turn in the saddle and morphed back to fae form, this time facing him and wrapped her arms around him.

"I think we should stop soon and get you some breakfast..."


"Meant something by it? I, er, just meant for the present to make you happy. Um, sorry..."

"Right, breakfast, yes," continued Cain. "Not that I can see very
far in this rain, but it didn't look like there was anything like a
village up ahead. Unless you've got any more food in that bag of
yours, I'm not sure what we'd be able to eat in a place like this."


Ilandra picked the bag up and rummaged in it, pulling out the lump of fudge.

"Well, it's either this or marshmallows... I helped make this fudge, so
it'll be nice..." she handed the lump to him. "I'm not really hungry,
so you can have it..." she said, her stomach belying her last
sentence... so she reached into the bag and pulled out some

"I'm sorry too... I shouldn't have brought such irrelevant stuff up." she said, eating a marshmallow.


"It's okay," said Cain, breaking off some fudge and handing the rest
back to Ilandra. "You can say anything you like, I don't mind."

He paused for a moment, chomping on fudge as Hawthorn walked forwards
into the thickening rain. "Do you want to stop, or shall we keep
on going?"


"We can stop here if you like... but it's all soggy... are there no
little pubs in this area where we can at least mooch by a fireplace and
have hot drinks..." she said, "Cos you're a lot wetter than I am, so if
we stop I'd have to build you some kind of shelter or you'll catch a
nasty cold."


"Well, I didn't see one," said Cain. "The last time we could see
very far at all was at the top of the last hill, and all we saw from
there was that gingerbread cottage. Assuming you don't want to go
back there, we're either going to have to carry on, or try and shelter
underneath a really thick clump of trees."

Cain looked around, his heart sinking. It had been raining for
long enough that trees were no longer shelter. Rather, they had
become merely implements for channelling water as effectively as
possible onto the head of anyone standing under them.


"Well, I'm not going to be too worried either way... how's your cloak
holding up against the wet?" she asked, noticing the wetness of his

"It's holding up well enough." he answered.

She dragged his coat out of her bag and put it on.

"Right, with your coat on, I shouldn't have to shelter under your
cloak... though I'll miss the hug..." she said. "It shouldn't take
forever to find a pub... and until then we have fudge, marshmallows and
each other's company... and it's not like we haven't got a constant
supply of drink falling on our heads..."


"Yeah," said Cain, wrapping his cloak tightly around him as Ilandra pulled away. "I hope we reach somewhere soon..."

Cain and Ilandra gritted their teeth and rode onwards, while all the time the rain worsened still further.

By the time half an hour had passed, the visibility was so low that
they could barely make out the trees either side of the track that they
were attempting to follow. And yet they had still not seen any
other building, nor even sign of life, since the cottage...


"Right!" Ilandra declared. "I'm getting sick of this whole riding in
the rain malarkey... we can barely see the path now. I say we stop and
I'll sort some kind of shelter out... least then we can snuggle."


"Halt!" came a shout from beside the track, the voice's owner still
masked by the rain. As if the point needed emphasising, an arrow
whistled through the air a foot or so in front of Hawthorn's
head. The horse stopped, gracefully, as if making the point that
he was only choosing to stop because he felt like it, and could just as well have carried on.

A voice, deep and gruff, seemed to echo inside Ilandra's head as if she
had been spoken to without the need for such contrivances as mouths and
ears - which was more-or-less the case.

"Shall I?" asked the voice.

"Not yet," whispered Cain, who presumably had heard it too.

The man who had fired the arrow, and who had another notched, stepped
forward so that Ilandra and Cain could make out his form as a slightly
detailed shadow in the mist. He was stocky but not tall, his
shape matching well the voice they'd heard. On his signal, three
more people stood forward, blocking the path. They, too, held
back so that their faces could not easily be made out.

"'Oo goes thar?" asked the gruff voice again. "An' why ye
travellin' this road? Answer hones'ly, our bows a' trained
'gainst yer 'eads!"


"We're... um... we're no' important, just two normal, ordinary people
wandering about... and we're lost." Ilandra declared, trying her very
best to sound common. "You wouldn't happen to know where the nearest
pub is, would you?"


"Neares' pub?" asked one of the other men. "Why, tha's-"

The first man to have spoken elbowed the other sharply in the ribs.

"Ahem," coughed the presumably authoritarian figure. "You ain't from round 'ere, are ye? Where're ye from?"


"We're from a long way away... we were sent to find Honeysuckle land to
get some medicine for our baron, but well... we got lost." she said,
allowing herself to fall deeper into the lie. "Anyway, we haven't had
any chance to rest for quite some time and we'd appreciate a warm


"Ooh ar, I don't know'a any Honeysu'le lan' near 'ere though. You
must be not 'alf lost, this is Hy'cinth land. No' tha' tha'
matters much ri' now."

"Still," he continued, "le's 'ave a look at yer."

He man stepped forward, lowering his bow. His friends didn't
move, and continued giving the impression that they were very much

The man who approached them was middle-aged, with shaggy red hair that
merged into his moustache and beard. Though, as his silhouette
had belied, he was not the tallest of men the width that he had
instead, which seemed comprised entirely of muscle, more than made up
for it.

He peered up at Ilandra and Cain with piercing blue eyes, half shut against the rain.

Looking them over, the man saw little more than two dishevelled
figures, a bag which might have contained their only possessions, and
an old farm horse that both of them rode for lack of money to buy

"Roight," said the man, signalling his friends. "You two come wi'
us. It ain't tha' close, but ye'll 'ave a fire before tonight."


Ilandra perked up at the thought of a fire.

"Ok," she said. not that we have much choice either way...

Nervously, she squeezed Cain's hand and twisted her signet ring around
so it would appear to be a thin band of metal rather than the large
band of metal it normally appeared to be.

Best hide my ring in my bag as soon as I can, really...


Cain squeezed Ilandra's hand in return, them both silently expressing their fear to each other.

Their would-be ambushers formed up, two in front of and two behind the
horse - presumably to keep the riders in some form of captive mentality
- and they began to move.


The day had worn on into early afternoon by the time Ilandra and Cain's
journey consisted of anything other than being escorted through
rain-drenched forest. Sadly it was not the weather that changed,
but the landscape. The forest thinned, very slowly, and the land
started to rise until after perhaps two hours they reached end of the
valley. Spread out before them was what once was undoubtedly
good, productive farmland. Now, however, most of the fields were
burned and empty; some were still smoking in places. Hedgerows
lay decimated, and paths torn up by the passage of troops.

Amidst this destruction lay a village, just as damaged as the land
around it. Where once it may have nestled between rolling fields,
now it just huddled.

It was towards this village, and eventually towards one of the more cohesive houses, that Ilandra and Cain were led.

As they approached the house, the man who appeared the leader strode ahead and knocked upon the door.

"South-East patrol returned, sir!" the man barked. "Two other folk we found on the road!"

"Roight, send 'em in," came a voice from inside that was simultaneously both commanding and ancient.

The leader of the group that had escorted them through the forest turned, and approached their horse.

"You 'eard the man," he said. "Go on insoide. Don' worry, nowt bad's gonna 'appen."


Tentatively, Ilandra slid from the saddle, allowing herself to be
caught and helped down by Cain. Pulling her bag on and wrapping his
coat tighter around her body she grabbed Cain's hand, resisting all
urges to kitten up and hide in his cloak at the same time.

The couple walked in through the door.

I hope nothing bad does happen...


Inside, the house was thick with dust and dimly lit through
blanket-covered windows. At one end of the gloom sat a short,
heavily bearded old man, on what could well have been the village's
only remaining chair. His eyes, though, shone with an intensity
of a much younger man. In fact, so bright - and orange - were
they, that they seemed to be all the light sources that the room

His arm, with attached hand and beckoning finger, reached out towards Ilandra and Cain though the dusty air.

"Come closer, you," the old man said, "an' le's 'ave a look a' yer."


Ilandra edged a little closer, her face adopting a nervous expression.

I bet he's just like Grizzel and he's gonna tell me off for breaking a vase somewhere...

She fidgeted a little with a bit of Cain's coat as the bright orange
eyes focused on her, and subconsciously braced herself for a telling


The old man's eyes caught Ilandra's for a brief moment, before his gaze
flicked up and down her. He repeated the same procedure with
Cain, then glanced back and forth between them a few times.

"Roight," he said, quieter and slightly more suspiciously than before. "Now who be ye, and how comes it you're 'ere?"


Ilandra cleared her throat a little before answering in her best peasant accent.

"We're just or'nery people on our way to find the Honeysuckle lan's
so's we can get med'cine for our baron cos 'is kid's ill." she said,
elaborating on her previous lie. "This 'ere's Gerald, 'e don't talk
much." she said indicating Cain.

Roll manipulation + subterfuge and got 4 successes.


"For yer Baron?" the old man asked. "Tha's quoite the ded'cation,
ain't it, Miss..." He stopped, clearly waiting for Ilandra to
fill in her name.


"Kate," she finished for him. "...i''s not tha' much dedication really,
'e's allus took good care of us. Speshly when our Betsy stopped
producing milk."

She wandered back and hugged Cain.

"Besides, 'e said if we do this right we ge' to be together."


"Ge' ta be t'gether?" the old man asked. "Hahaha, why'd ye need
his p'mission? Yer yer own people, ya' can be t'gether if ye


Ilandra looked a little uneasy at the last remark the old man had made.

"I''s a little complica'ed there..." she said. "But basically, we need
to go through a lot of trouble to stay together." she looked down at
the ground, sadly, not realizing she'd begun to slip out of her peasant
accent half way through the last sentence.


"A lot'a trouble?" asked the man, his eyes narrowing.
"Nonsense! You's t'gether here, ain't ya? If ye want ta be
t'gether, ya can stay here. Nobody gonna' touch you here!"


Ilandra's eyes widened at the prospect of getting to stay by Cain's side til they got bored and wandered off.

well, it'll only be for a little while, right?

"Really? We can stay here?" she asked, like a little child just handed
a massive bar of candy and told it can keep it. "Tha' would be
amazin'!" she could barely contain her glee at the prospect of keeping
the 'candy bar'. "We'll help ou' in t'fields an' all mister!"


"Well, you'd 'ave ta pull your weight 'round 'ere," the man said,
glancing at Cain for a moment before returning to Ilandra. "You
too, Miss. We're on our own out 'ere now, nowt ta look after
us. Well, you musta' seen the fields on the way 'ere.
T'ain't much left of 'em, so we's got a lotta' work ta do."

The man coughed, started to choke, then thumped himself in the chest until he could breathe again.

"Roight then. Wi' this rain, there's no sense startin' today, so
you'll stay 'ere for now. Mi name's Jebodiah, you already met me'
son Jake. The rest'a us you'll meet in th' evenin', and ya' can
start work on the fields t'morrer while one'a us build ya a place ta'


Seeing Jebadiah coughing, Ilandra absent-mindedly rooted around in her
bag and pulled out a little cotton bag of herbs and handed them to him.

"Take some of these, they're good fer colds." she said, handing them to him. "Yeh'll be better in no time after."


Jebodiah gingerly took the pouch from Ilandra, opened it, and peered
inside. His gaze slowly rose to meet hers. If it were
possible, his eyes seemed even wider and more shining than normal.

"You... know about herbs?" he asked.


"A little, I'm afraid I'm not good wi' serious stuff but if i''s
something minor like a cold or a tummy bug I'm ok." she said, not fully
aware of the significance of this knowledge.

"Roihgt, roight," said Jebodiah. "Yes, well, Oi've... Oi've
got a bit of an errand to run," he said, standing up and hobbling his
way towards the door. "You two hold tight here, an' Oi'll be back
afore long."

As he left the room Ilandra pulled Cain down to her height and kissed him.

"How much do you know about farming, my dear?" she asked, wrapping her arms around him.

"Er, well..." Cain said, "I've, um, seen farmers at work. You
know, doing... Things. In fields, with horses and um,

Ilandra's heart melted a lot and she had to stop herself from ruffling his hair and calling him adorable...

"Don't worry, I'll try and teach you the basics... hopefully they'll
have a working plough in which case all you have to do is guide the d-
horse in a straight line..." she said. "I keep forgetting how little
you spent outside... good thing you've got me then..." giggling a
little she buried her face in his chest and tightened the hug.


"Roight, sorry Oi took so long!" said Jebodiah as he returned, 10
minutes or so later. "Kate, would ya come wi' me? Yer man
can come too, if 'e loikes."

Ilandra and Cain followed the old man from his house and along the
village's only track-like street. The few inhabitants that showed
their faces all stared intently at Ilandra, with one part suspicion to
three parts wonder.

At the far end of the village, some way separated from the other
buildings, stood a house that bar its position was indistinguishable
from the others. It was to this house that Jebodiah led them.

The smell hit them before they had even gone within ten feet of the
front door. A very distinct smell that was no stranger to any of
the three.

When the old man opened the front door and led them in, the sight
before them was as shocking as it was unsurprising. The house was
one large room, in which lay eight straw mattresses. All but one
was occupied with peasants in varying stages of consciousness and
coherence, all suffering from battle wounds, most of them suffering
more from the after-effects of lack of treatment than from the injuries


Ilandra's brain snapped straight into nurse-mode and she rooted in her
bag for her overalls. Having found them she put them on and turned to

"Where's the nearest well? I'm going to need water for these men." she
half demanded, half asked. He answered her and she told them both to
get her at least two buckets of fresh water.

Cracking her knuckles she set about looking at the first man who had
quite deep sword wounds which looked like they were in dire need of
being cleaned and bandaged. She sighed and pulled out her only other
dress which she proceeded to cut into strips using her scissors.

"So much for a change of clothes when we reach our destination. I guess
I'll have to borrow another shirt." she said to herself as she cut the
dress into strips. "I wonder if these people even know that we exist to
help them too. Well, I'll just have to do my best and hope..." and if any of them get any worse I'll have to take the risk and get more help for them...

The man seemed to hear her and moaned as he tried to turn towards her.

"Stay still, sir. It'll only get worse... I'm going to get those wounds
cleaned out for you and then I'll bandage you up. You'll see, you'll be
good as new in no time." she told him, patting his hand and smiling
sweetly at him in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. "Is there
anything you need? I can get my partner to get it for you if you
like... he'll be back soon."


"Water..." the man gasped, and right on cue Cain and Jebodiah crashed through the door carrying two buckets each.

The wounded man's forehead was burning hot, and was sweating
profusely. Casting her eyes around the room, Ilandra noticed a
number of the patients in a similar condition, most of whom were
tossing and turning in restless sleep.

OC: Int + Medicine, difficulty 5, gogogo


Roll int + medicine 1 success

Ilandra grabbed one of the buckets and started looking around for a
glass for the guy. Then she thought better of it and expanded her
search to make it a glass each for the patients.

"Can I keep Gerald here to help?" she asked Jebodiah. "I don't know how
skilled anyone else is and at the moment it looks like the men just
need their wounds cleaned and cold compresses. We also need some kind
of drinking thing, a flagon perhaps, for each man. So I'd be grateful
for that." she handed Cain some strips of what could still be
identified as one of her favourite dresses. "Dip these in water and
stick them on the foreheads of each patient."

She then dipped a strip of dress in the bucket and handed it to the man she'd been sitting next to.

"It's not a cup of water, but it'll have to do for now... I can't give
you the whole bucket after all." she told him, trying to keep her voice
as lighthearted as possible. "However, if you give me a few minutes I
can get you a cup or something and you can drink from that."

"Righty, is there a pub or something nearby where I might be able to
bribe the landlord into lending me some flagons?" she asked Jebodiah,
no longer caring whether she kept up the peasant accent or not.

hell, the way I see it our house is apparently the closest to
peasanty that they'll still invite to parties and our peasants speak
like i do...


The injured man in front of Ilandra smiled weakly when the subject of water was mentioned.

"Pub, yeah," said Jebodiah. "We's go' a pub 'right. Ain't
got a lan'lord no more, tho'. If ya need Gerald 'ere, Oi'll run
an' ge' ya flag'ns or sommat."

Jebodiah, true to his word, left the house at a run, leaving Ilandra
and Cain alone for a moment with seven patients in varying states of,
well, death.

Barely a minute later, a flustered and drenched Jebodiah clattered
through the door again, five badly-made but serviceable jugs and
tankards in each hand. He put them down on the patient's bed and
bent double, breathing heavily.

"Here y- wheeze are, Kate."


Seeing the old man so flustered, Ilandra thanked him and ushered him to a chair.

"You'd better rest so that you don't get ill..." she told him, then
half-filled a flagon with water and handed it to the first patient.

She asked him if he had any wounds between his belly and knee. He nodded. Plucking up some extra resolve she called Cain over.

"He, er, you'll have to clean and bandage a few of the wounds for
me..." she told him, pinkening slightly. Then turning to the man,
"Right, Gerald here will deal with those wounds. So, erm, I'm going to
see if I can't find some kind of curtain or something... Don't worry
though, he's very gentle..."

In a mild panic, Ilandra looked around in search of cloths which could
be made into some kind of screen. She found one in the corner and
picked up a broom. She went over to the bed and hitched the fabric on a
jutting nail then tied the other end around the broom and stuck the
broom bristles up in the corner of the bed between the mattress and
frame. With her rudimentary screen set up, she picked up a few clean
strips of dress and a bucket of water and moved on to the next man.

"Hello, are you thirsty?" she asked, grabbing a flagon and half filling
it with water. She put the flagon down by the bed and took a cursory
glance at his torso which was criss-crossed with sword wounds. Dipping
a strip of fabric into the water she started on the biggest gouge,
ensuring that the dirt drained out of the cut. When most of the cuts
were clean she started bandaging them with strips of dress. "Well, that
should keep you going for a little while... let's see how your fever's
doing..." she put her hand to his forehead which was quite warm. "Ok,
I'm probably going to be needing a lot of feverfew, huh?" she said to
herself. "That can wait till tomorrow, for now I should just make sure
the cuts are clean."

So saying she moved on to the next patient where she repeated the
procedures. Every once in a while sending Jebodiah or Cain out for a
fresh bucket of water.

OC: i would bother including that she cleans every
man's chest wounds and leaves the waist to knee bit to Cain but it'll
take forever to post...

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