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The Last Guest
This is an in-character game thread from Changeling: In Love and War. (This page is not Creative Commons licenced.)
Akane could mostly see the Mists, and the vague outline of a road
through the ever-changing scenery. For infinite potential, they
certainly didn't look like much. She didn't feel it was a particularly
auspicious homecoming, but she figured that after a century of
gallivanting in the human world, undertaken to escape a war in Faerie
only to wind up running from several more banal ones, your relatives
had the right to wonder what had happened to you.
Besides, it just isn't -fun- anymore, she admitted to herself. When
your carefully cultivated image and your treasured hat are the objects
of ridicule, and the most fascinating job in the world turns into being
a glorified delivery girl for court summonses, there's no -point-.
Maybe if all the technology makes it interesting again, sometime.
Until then, she'd tied up all the loose ends on her current cases,
stuck a large "Gone Fishing-Indefinitely" sign on her office door and
left a relevant message on her answering machine, and headed to Faerie.
She knew she'd been away a long time. She figured the lack of postcards
probably meant she'd been written off as a lost cause, so she was
carrying several large tubs of Ben and Jerry's with her - one way to
placate a large quantity of disapproving relatives might be to assuage
the ever-present ice cream addiction of the resident Princess.
With a sigh, she adjusted the collar on her trenchcoat, pulled her
favourite hat down a bit further, blew a few stray wisps of red hair
away from her eyes. What would Philip Marlowe do?
she wondered. He'd have a smoke, probably, and everything would fall
into place. But then, whilst cigarettes were easily available, family
was far more complex solving than solving a mystery - and Philip
Marlowe wasn't Fae.
The Mists parted....
((OOC: Woot, I am in! Fi~nally~! :D))
As the mists faded out in front of her, in behind her, and down into
the ground, Akane found herself at the edge of a forest and looking up
towards the hill on which stood the Honeysuckles'... cottage.
While it retained all the attributes that those back in the human world
would doubtless describe as either "quaint" or "picturesque", it and
the land around it lacked much of other important things like
"bustling". And also "town".
The whole place, in fact, was a lot quieter and a lot emptier than Akane remembered.
Akane blinked to herself in confusion. It looks like they just packed up and moved away. Did the war head this way, I wonder?
Either way, she wasn't going to find out standing at the edge of the
forest, but there might be some clue as to what happened in the house.
But what if the armies did come here, and there are soldiers or bandits hiding out inside the house? her mind immediately offered.
She took stock of the situation. The approach to the cottage from the
woods did not offer as much cover as she would like, but she figured
that being armed and able to fight back outweighed whatever advantage
she might get in terms of stealth by sneaking up in fox shape.
She shouldered the backpack containing the ice cream in its insulated
bag and headed up the hill as quickly and quietly as possible, eyes
constantly scanning her surroundings for signs of life, or any
indication as to where the Honeysuckles and their people had
Akane proceded, warily but unimpeded towards the cottage. Even up
until the point she reached the door, she heard not a sound that did
not originate in the trees or the sky.
Quietly pushing open the unlocked door, Akane stepped inside and let
the somewhat confusing mash of spacetime unfold into the foyer around
her. Alone in the room that was several times the size that the
entire building appeared from the outside, she let her gaze drift about
the more obvious abnormalities. Those being, in approximate order
of unexpectedness, the portrait of the heads of the house, and a gilded
invitation on the desk in front of her.
The portrait, which once contained the smiling faces of the old Duke
and Duchess Honeysuckle, now contained a picture of an older but
none-the-less recognisable Princess Ilandra; shown characteristically
attempting to grab a passing butterfly with no thought whatsoever to
the composition of the picture.
The invitation, on the other had, was as formal as they come. It read, in handwriting unknown,
"To my most esteemed friends, nobles of House Honeysuckle,
You are cordially invited to a reception tonight, at Castle Poppy, held
on account of our long-delayed homecoming. All are invited!
Awaiting the honour of your arrival,
Duchess Regara of House Poppy"
She stared. Princess Ilandra. Duchess Ilandra. But the succession was always determined by primogeniture. But she was Duchess Ilandra. Which made her the eldest surviving heir to the House. Which made her...
My aunt and uncle are gone. Lysander is gone. And my cousin Ilandra is the Duchess.
That thought hit her harder than the London bombings she had crossed
the Atlantic to escape. She'd left the war behind her, but others
hadn't. She'd lived with the humans for a century, but it hadn't been
that much time in Faerie by comparison. And Ilandra was the Duchess.
What about the town? Had the war taken them too? Or was it the war? If it had been anything darker, then Ilandra might be in danger...
She's just a kid! No, she wouldn't be anymore, would she, Akane admitted to herself. She'll do very well. For one, all she needs to do to maintain the House neutrality is to not take anything very seriously.
The only thing she remembered her cousin taking seriously was Cain.
Whether or not this had changed, it would serve her well as a facade.
If the House was this deserted, then the losses surely extended beyond the Duke and Duchess...the old
Duke and Duchess...and Lysander. Ilandra would need all the help she
could get. And Akane wasn't really a family person, but she had cared
about her cousin.
Where was Ilandra anyway? Akane frowned at the invitation. With the Poppies, maybe? At least, if the invitation had been left here, that probably meant there were no threats in the house. No overt ones anyway.
So. First, to see who was left. Then, to find Ilandra. After that,
they'd probably need to go to this reception. And hopefully at some
point along the line she'd gain some idea of what the hell was going
((OOC: sleepy post! will look it over tomorrow. not much in the way of literary merits, but should be enough to be going on))
As Akane lifted her eyes from the invitation, the lurking butler drew up alongside her.
"Ah, Miss Akane," he said, his mouth adressing her whilst his brain was
clearly about other business. "I'm sure you'll be wanting to pay
a visit to the Duchess - she's currently in attendance at Castle
Poppy. Some form of celebration, I'm led to..."
He slowed, stuttered and stopped, and turned to face her.
"Miss Akane? Oh, my, where have you been? We've
all been so worried... Please, sit, relax," he said, ushering her
in the direction of a drawing room. "Please, let me take your
Akane whirled, hand moving to the gun holstered beneath her coat, then relaxed at the sight of the butler. Looks
like it's not occupied territory here after all. That's good. Aside
from whatever resulted in the town being gone and Ilandra being
Duchess, that is... She could amost hear parts of her brain that she was fairly sure she had a use for spluttering and grinding to a halt.
"Yes, I think sitting down would be a good idea right about now," she
acknowledged, and let the butler usher her into a chair. "Make sure the
ice cream is kept cold, I'll be taking it to Ilandra. I've been with
the humans. It was interesting, at times. How long have I been gone? I
kind of lost track of the timestreams, I was having fun."
"It's been years. We assumed you'd fallen in the war, or Banality had taken you."
"I'm sorry I worried everyone," she said sheepishly, finding it politic
not to add that she hadn't wanted to stick out her neck for either of the Roses, thankyouverymuch. "...Erm, yes, everyone. Where is everyone?" she asked through her shock.
"Why, everyone's..." the Butler struggled. "Ilandra's staying at
the Poppies', the medical staff are about their business, I'm here with
you, and, um... Well, that's where everyone is."
"Oh," said Akane faintly. "Which is to say, we're everyone? Then what
happened to...everybody else?" The part of her brain which analysed
data and was attempting to make sense of the information she was being
given informed her that this meant she was one of the last living
nobles of House Honeysuckle.
"I know this must be hard for you and I'm sorry to distress you," she
said, trying to juggle empathy and mental turmoil. "But I need to know.
How...how did it happen?"
"Casualties of war, miss," the butler said. "I suppose if you
came here directly you've not noticed, but these lands are not as
happy, nor as populous, as they were not so long ago."
"Oh, hell," her shoulders slumped. "Don't tell me they...no, of course
they did, and it was the Red Roses' side if Ilandra's with the Poppies.
What were they thinking? We've always been neutral, we don't have the
manpower to fight a war, we train healers, not soldiers!" She noted
that her voice had risen and if she did't calm down she'd probably be
spending more time in Hysteria than she had in Mundania. Lysander, you idiot, she thought. If you hadn't gotten yourself killed I'd kill you myself. Or sick Grizzel on you. Dammit, dammit... At least Ilandra's okay....
Obviously she was not dealing with this very well, nevermind the fact
that she could not really be expected to. Obviously she could not
afford to break down, which meant Plan B: she needed to keep herself
busy. With that decision made, she flew out of her chair.
"I have to go. I'm sorry," she said, "I need to...see Ilandra. If the
diagnosis was 'missing, presumed killed or banal' then I should
probably correct the assumption as soon as possible."
"Head east through the woods!" the butler called after Akane as she bolted from the cottage door.
Sprinting across the grass, Akane headed an approximation of East and
quickly found a wide open track that led into a sparsely decorated
forest. At least, a forest that started off sparse. With
every hasty step Akane took, the vegetation grew thicker and the trees
intertwined overhead, until the foliage gave itself up darkness and the
path to mist.
A dozen paces and a jump later, the darkness and the mist unfolded from
around her as quickly as they had encroached, leaving her standing only
a short distance across open ground from the imposing stone of Castle
Poppy; today more alive with flags and pennants than she ever
remembered it being.
Akane made her way to the gate. Unsurprisingly, there was a guard
there, although he was fidgeting in a manner that suggested he'd
probably rather be somewhere more interesting.
"Excuse me," she addressed the man. "I'm Akane. Lady Akane of House
Honeysuckle," she amended, remembering belatedly that one did did not
usually walk into a House's keep without having business there, and
she'd run off in such a hurry that she'd forgotten to pick up the
invitation. Still, she'd dealt with the humans' bureauracy, so this
shouldn't be too hard by comparison... "I'm here to see the Duchess
"Tha Duchess Ilandra?" the guard asked in his finest Westcountry.
"But the Duchess Poppy is corlled... Oh, wait, Ilandra? Oi
did hear somethin' 'bout an..."
The guardsman looked vacant for a moment, as though transfixed by some wondrous sight on the other side of Akane's head.
"Well, oi'm sure as you know more about it all than me. You'd
best go on in, I'm sure tha party'll be startin' afore long."
That said, his face took on a sort of fixed worried expression, as if
he wasn't quite sure if he'd done the right thing, but was even less
sure about whether he should correct himself...
She felt like laughing, but didn't bother to explain to the man that it was the Duchess Honeysuckle
she was there to see - it looked like his brain was straining enough,
so she simply walked in, looking for any trace of Ilandra's presence
or, failing that, someone who could help Akane find her.
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