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  1. - Top - End - #271
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    "Okay, thanks Hans. See you around" Isabelle said, giving the marionette a nod before following Jon out of the kitchen.

  2. - Top - End - #272
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    Jon still wasn’t sure what to say, and didn’t entirely trust himself to speak until they were outside the soup kitchen, so he simply kept moving toward the door when the others began to move with him, trying not to bump into any of the homeless milling nervously by the door and casting suspicious glances between Hans and himself after the toy soldier’s outburst.
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  3. - Top - End - #273
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    And they were out again, into the near-midday street, as the cold clouds were finally beginning to part to let through a patchy sunlight. The town was starting to come to life, people moving down the street as they went about their shopping and daily lives. The world glistened; a sheen of water brilliant bright.
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  4. - Top - End - #274
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    Charlene followed out in silence, until they were well away from the kitchen. "I don't want to give up entirely on these people, but a proper solution may take a good while and we may need to look elsewhere for help. Should we take out chances with the prince?"

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    Deadly, a delightfully daring drawer and drafter of dissertations. Defying the dictations of our disparate denizens, Deadly decides his direction with a dirth of dependence on the decisions of despotic desperados. Deadly detests dismissive derision, and will debate any dude or dame that dares to detest discussion.

  5. - Top - End - #275
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    "Yeah, I guess so." Isabelle said, after taking a moment for her eyes to adjust to the new sunlight. "I don't think I could have gotten him out of there today without force and ... well I've had enough fighting already today.

    "We'll give the 'prince' a try" One could almost hear the air-quotes. "If we can trust Hans, then he should be on the level. Jon you've got the address, lead the way?"

  6. - Top - End - #276
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    Jon nodded, still quiet as the wet-asphalt smell outside seeped into his nose. He was glad the others were finally willing to try meeting with Talmage, but if things went wrong with him they might well be utterly screwed. Jon couldn’t help but feel that seeing the Prince was largely his idea in a way, and he badly wanted it to work; the looming prospect that it might not damped his mood more than Hans’ tirade had.
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  7. - Top - End - #277
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    The Prince's manor was a little way out of town, up in the mountains - they'd driven right past it the previous night. The bright red suspension bridge where they'd met the ogre was visible in the distance, linking two mountains and crossing a waterfall. It was beautiful in this exhausted afternoon light.

    It was a small, almost invisible, turn off along a dirt road, rough and bumpy with stray stones and sticky from mud after the rain. The oak trees clustered all around, covered in sparse, new green shoots and the occasional patches of pink, white and yellow where wild flowers grew. The further along the path they progressed the more vibrant the forest. The colour and water seemed to soak into every stone and tree, darkening it and bringing it to life.

    And then the trees parted, and they were driving along a meandering path through a bright green field, specked with daisies. A tall white Victorian mansion sat at the very top of the hill, wrapped in ivy and with all it's windows open to the breeze. The view was spectacular; all around, mountains and valleys, and this green-grass path that seemed to vanish into the sky itself.

    As they pulled the old truck up outside, a man stepped out of the front door -

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    - and he seemed to drain the colour around him. The note the world was playing just dropped an octave in his presence, cold and dark, reminded of the winter so soon passed. And he looked like a Butler, almost like the idealised characture of a Butler, a perfect form made in reflection of a hundred cliché stories where the butler was the murderer or waited on his lord with sarcasm and spite. The tray he was carrying held three drinks, and his other arm was folded behind his back. As the Changelings emerged from the car, he raised one eyebrow and looked down his nose at them.

    He was not impressed.

    "Welcome to the Ivy Watchtower. The master will be back shortly," said the Butler.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2012-03-29 at 01:51 AM.
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  8. - Top - End - #278
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    "Er. Thanks." Isabelle replied, a crooked smile on her face. Despite the way the butler seemed to suck life out of his surroundings, his indifferent, almost snooty greeting was a welcome relief from the insanity they'd dealt with earlier that morning. No, Isabelle's smile was not crooked due to discomfort at his obvious displeasure.

    It was crooked because she was trying very hard not to laugh.

    Maybe she had a mischievous side that she didn't know about, or maybe it was the incongruity between this walking stiff and the Disney-esque landscape around him. Maybe it was simply the after effects of the sheer terror they'd recently experienced. Whatever the cause, receiving this greeting seemed nothing less than a colossal joke.

    "Here ya go Jeeves" Imaginary Isabelle said, as she tossed the truck keys to the butler, "don't scratch the paintwork, it just got back from the shop."

    Great. Isabelle thought, straining to keep a straight face. Even my brain is rebelling on me now.

  9. - Top - End - #279
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    Charlene watched the butler with grave suspicion. Not because he was the butler and everyone knows the butler always did it, whatever it might be, but because of the peculiar and distressing effect he seemed to have on his surroundings. The draining away of color, the cold and dark presence of this man, it reminded her suddenly of the little hut in the forest, the winter landscape, the horn and the hunter... she looked around, expecting to hear the horn any moment now or see the man in front of them turn into that gray, featureless horror of her every nightmare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Fedora View Post
    Deadly, a delightfully daring drawer and drafter of dissertations. Defying the dictations of our disparate denizens, Deadly decides his direction with a dirth of dependence on the decisions of despotic desperados. Deadly detests dismissive derision, and will debate any dude or dame that dares to detest discussion.

  10. - Top - End - #280
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    The butler arched a single eyebrow at Isabelle, an action so devoid of mirth it would just add to the ridiculousness of the scene. "You are uncultured brutes," is what he meant, but the sounds he made were "Would mademoiselles care for refreshments?" He proffered the tray with drinks.

    It was champagne, and good champagne, but there was the sneaking suspicion he'd opened the cheapest possible bottle of an excellent cellar.
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  11. - Top - End - #281
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    When they all piled out of the truck, Jon was struck by how perfect the scene was. Of course the Spring Prince lived in a manor nestled into a profusion of blooming life, and of course his butler would have nearly precognitive power when it came to guests. It was a little like something out of a story, except this was a good one, where no one was yelling at him or trying to turn him into food.

    Jon let out a happy little laugh, and walked over to the butler, taking one of the glasses with a smile at the invitation; the man’s expression didn’t change, but Jon nodded as politely as he could and stepped back, sipping at his drink and looking around at the scenery. The place reminded him in passing of the strange forests of Faerie, but somehow it felt more wholesome... the trees and flowers were almost impossibly bright, but they were clearly good, solid Oregon trees and flowers, and that was a comforting thought.

    Mid-sip, Jon caught sight of Charlene, and the look in her eyes brought him back to reality. He knew that look painfully well - the eyes that searched around quickly, flitting with nervous energy - that was the look of someone being hunted... Stepping closer, he leaned over and whispered, “Hey, are you ok?”
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  12. - Top - End - #282
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    "I don't trust this person," Charlene whispered back at Jon, but nevertheless managed to act with at least a bit of manners as she declined, "Thank you, sir, but I will have to pass on the drinks." On the other hand the butler had spoken, the hunter never deigned to do as much. Perhaps that was something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Fedora View Post
    Deadly, a delightfully daring drawer and drafter of dissertations. Defying the dictations of our disparate denizens, Deadly decides his direction with a dirth of dependence on the decisions of despotic desperados. Deadly detests dismissive derision, and will debate any dude or dame that dares to detest discussion.

  13. - Top - End - #283
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    Jon nodded at Charlene’s reply. “It’s probably a good idea not to trust anyone too quickly. Still, I don’t think he means us harm right now, and hopefully Talmage will be a little less...prickly.” His eyes flicked over to the butler as he spoke, then back down to his drink.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDarkDM
    That game does seem to have an unusual number of Bronies per square meter.
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    Awesome paradoxical avatar by Aruius! When the robot uprising is complete, he alone shall be spared.

  14. - Top - End - #284
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    The Butler kept his deadpan expression and his silence. He stood holding the tray, motionless, waiting on his guests with poise, dignity and all the concealed contempt he could get away with.

    And, from the hill yonder came a whoop of delight.

    Coming over the rise came a man in a suit, riding a grey horse. He was standing in the stirrups, urging the horse into a full gallop across the fields, and in his right hand he was holding a kite - a huge, carp-shaped, red Chinese kite. He was laughing like he was having the time of his life.

    As he reached the group waiting outside the manor, he slowed the horse to a canter and smoothly hopped off it, landing gracefully in a spring-heeled walk and holding the horse's reins. He was wearing a black suit and a yellow tie covered in smiley faces; his skin was bronze-tanned and his hair was black with patches of grey. A wreath of flowers was wrapped around his neck, like a Hawaiian guest, and every movement sent a few tumbling to the ground. He was fairly large and solidly built, but he had a deep, abiding energy to him that underpinned every single movement.

    The overall impression was like a rich businessman on vacation, and loving every minute of it.

    "Felix! Good to see you out and about!" he said as he approached the group; a deep, boisterous voice. "And there are guests!"

    "Yes, Mister Talmage," said the Butler.

    "Here, hold my kite," said Talmage, handing the Butler the end of the cable. "And my horse," he thrust the reins into his spare hand, "and my coat," he took off the coat and tossed it to the Butler, "And after that, park their car would you? Need a hand with any of that?"

    The Butler was deftly holding all of those things, including the silver drinks tray still balancing the two glasses of champagne. "That won't be necessary," he said in a strained voice.

    "Wonderful!" The Spring Prince turned around to the motley of Changelings and spread his arms wide, grinning massively. "Welcome! I am Cornelius Talmage, welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring!"
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  15. - Top - End - #285
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    Jon’s smile returned as Talmage rode down toward the group. On the list of Least Threatening individuals they’d come across, he seemed to rank pretty high, and Jon was starting to think that things were taking a turn for the better; it was difficult to go downhill from being penniless and hungry, after all.

    “Thank you, ah, Prince. It’s a relief to finally be meeting you.”
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  16. - Top - End - #286
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    "Likewise! Likewise! Come in! Take a load off! Relax!" Talmage said, ushering them inside, "You've probably been through Hell but I can tell you now that this is where all that stops. You're free, you're safe, and you're home.

    "I Pledge to you on my Crown that as long as you obey my laws I shall allow no harm nor ill to come to you as guests of my house and I shall extend all the hospitality I have to offer you for as long as I can offer it."

    He made the Pledge formally and without being asked, the words solidified in the air and infused with a little fragment of the Wyrd. A powerful promise, freely offered.

    "There; you have my oath. Relax! Today could be the start of something wonderful!"
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2012-04-02 at 12:35 AM.
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  17. - Top - End - #287
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    It was indeed hard not to feel a little comforted by this man's attitude and appearance, and his pledge. Still, time would tell where this was all going and what kind of help he could offer them. If nothing else he seemed like an excellent person to know. Charlene followed in silence, allowing Jon to take the lead. It was his idea after all. Meanwhile she busied herself looking around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Fedora View Post
    Deadly, a delightfully daring drawer and drafter of dissertations. Defying the dictations of our disparate denizens, Deadly decides his direction with a dirth of dependence on the decisions of despotic desperados. Deadly detests dismissive derision, and will debate any dude or dame that dares to detest discussion.

  18. - Top - End - #288
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    It was like they'd stepped through a portal to 1890. The house was lavishly built and furnished with brown hardwoods and beautiful velvet tables, finely aged tomes of the classics and beautifully plush armchairs. A gramaphone in the other room played the sounds of violins in an elegant, stately march. And the walls were covered with maps - old maps, in portrait cases, elaborate works of art in their own right, along with an old hand-painted globe of the known world circa 1820.

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    There was a table with a model Ship of the Line; there was a dinner room with an immaculately white tablecloth; the windows were tinted so to turn the light a beautiful, dusty gold as it flowed through, and the house seemed to open up to the world around it, letting the cool spring breeze flow through and ensure that the air was fresh and sweet. There were no hints of modern appliances; no televisions, computers, or satellite dishes.

    The entire place was designed to bring to mind the best of Empire; a timeless and regal air when nations fought over prestige rather than money or religion.


    Here and there, though, were metal objects that were clearly Significant in some way. All the doorknobs, that letter opener, that sword above the fireplace, that carving knife. They seemed almost a little heavier than the surrounding area, like they weighed down the room, and no magic seemed to touch them. There was a certain sense of reality gained from observing the natural world, but those iron pieces were Real with a capital R. Their presence was an anchor and a distraction at the same time; it was almost impossible to imagine them existing peacefully in the same place as the Gentry.
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  19. - Top - End - #289
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    Talmage was almost too good to be true, and his assurance that the nightmare part of their travels was over spoke directly to the mingled fear and hope that had kept Jon’s stomach tied in knots for most of the day. He relaxed a little more, and the relief itself felt almost as good as a second meal.

    Jon sat down carefully in one of the antique chairs, sinking into plush upholstery and realizing that staying awake might be the hardest part of the interview. As he glanced around at the forest of polished wood supporting every sort of curiosity imaginable, Jon spoke, “I’d like to think today will be the start of something, at least. But that’s our problem: we just found our way home, and I don’t think any of us have an idea of how to start getting our lives back in order... I know I don’t...”
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDarkDM
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  20. - Top - End - #290
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    Default Re: Waiting For Rain IC: Spring Slowly Comes

    Talmage sat down opposite Jon, genuine concern on his face. "Look, my friend, there's nothing I or anyone can say that'll make everything that's happened to you better. It's been twenty years since my own walk across the Hedge, and it still has it's claws in me. But, and here's the thing, we're here to help. That's ultimately the point of having this Freehold and having Courts; to give people who have just been through what no one should have been through a moment to get their feet

    "I can offer a few things to get you on your feet while I'm Prince. You can stay here, for one, in the spare rooms. I can get you some contacts, talk you through everything that's happened, and perhaps some work. If you want to try and reclaim your old life, we can help with that. If you want to embrace your new life, we can help with that too. What's happened to you has happened to us too, and the most important thing we can do is to make sure you do have a place to start."
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  21. - Top - End - #291
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    "I think work would be a good start, speaking for myself," Charlene offered. She didn't want to ask for too much, both out of a sense of modesty and because she was sure it would all have a price in the end, a price they'd have to pay back one day. "Any contacts you can help us with would be greatly appreciated too." Contacts, that was something Charlene wanted, and something she wasn't too shy to ask for.

    She looked down at herself, "I assume both will be easier to find after a bath and some clean clothes. We don't look very presentable, do we?" That was about as much help as she felt comfortable asking for from someone who wasn't a close friend. And even this was a stretch. If they weren't so desperate...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Fedora View Post
    Deadly, a delightfully daring drawer and drafter of dissertations. Defying the dictations of our disparate denizens, Deadly decides his direction with a dirth of dependence on the decisions of despotic desperados. Deadly detests dismissive derision, and will debate any dude or dame that dares to detest discussion.

  22. - Top - End - #292
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    "Don't worry. There's a bath, and clothes - a bit out of date, but they'll do. And I'll be able to give you some money, I don't want you to stress about any of this mundane stuff for now." Talmage waved his hand dismissively, "What I do have to talk about, and talk about right away because this is the most important thing, are the rules.

    "The Freehold has one rule which never shifts, never changes, which is the foundation of the entire thing. This rule is do not bring the Gentry to town. Offer them no shelter, offer them no aid, offer them no hospitality. Make no deals with them. If you betray any member of the Freehold to them, if you assist them in abducting any human being, then we sentence you to death by crucifixion."

    Talmage sighed. "I don't support that particular rule; it's a holdover from the bad old days. And I can't change it without all the other Princes' agreement. But I would cheerfully shoot anyone who'd betray anyone to the Gentry and sleep well that night." There was no hint of a smile when he said that, "I've never had to see a man crucified and I'd take it as a personal kindness if you never put me in a situation where I had to.

    "If you can't agree to that, then you can leave town now peacefully. If you do agree to that, we will take you at your word, and we won't ask your Pledge for it. There are... problems with binding an entire Freehold to the same Pledge."

    He smiled. "The converse of this is that if the Gentry do come to town, everyone stands together against them. Everyone. Young and old, fighters and scholars, we all stand together and we all do our part. No one gets taken back. All for one, every time."
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2012-04-03 at 06:45 AM.
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  23. - Top - End - #293
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    When Talmage mentioned the Gentry, Jon’s face hardened. “There’s no love lost between me and Them, and I wouldn’t wish Their special brand of Hell on anyone else. Ever.”

    Even as he spoke, Jon boggled that anyone would seriously consider aiding the Gentry, or worse yet, help them kidnap others. It sounded like suicide, and surely it couldn’t work out much differently in practice...

    “If I’m ever lost enough to start helping Them, I hope someone will have the mercy to kill me...”
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDarkDM
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    Awesome paradoxical avatar by Aruius! When the robot uprising is complete, he alone shall be spared.

  24. - Top - End - #294
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    "Good. Good. You've kept your mind a lot better than some others have." Talmage nodded quietly. His earlier flamboyance was stilled; his voice was low, even the flowers around his neck seemed to take on tones of grey and blue.

    "The Gentry have only come to town twice in the twenty years since I made my escape. The first time was a disaster. Earl Grey came to town, and the courts were fractured and divided and distrustful. It was a slaughter. Part of the reason why the current princes are who they are is because we were some of the few survivors of that time, and we swore that we'd never let it happen again. Those were the bad old days."

    He smiled. "Another of the Gentry came to town two years ago. Peter Pan; the Peter Pan. And we killed him. Well, we fought him and Amy Acre killed him - she impaled him on her iron spear and tore him in half. Ended his story forever. Amy was a legend before then, but now even the Gentry fear her. We're lucky to have her. And, better, we proved that even the Gentry can die."
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2012-04-03 at 11:51 PM.
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  25. - Top - End - #295
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    Jon looked for a moment like he’d taken a punch to the gut, and felt like it as well; his stomach tying itself in knots at the Prince’s words. Thoughts darted through his mind like frightened rabbits:

    The Gentry really came here? Peter Pan? They killed him? But...he was one of Them... Then taking children away...?

    He had a sudden, horrible vision of a grub-faced elf all dressed in green, sneaking around some dark house at night and stealing away another poor Wendy from her family’s bed. Something massive and sickening clamped down around his heart, telling him that this was the real story, and for the space of a few dizzy heartbeats, Jon was afraid he was going to be sick all over the Prince’s plush carpet.

    The feeling eventually subsided, and struggling to ground himself, Jon seized on the one point he was still trying to wrap his mind around. “So...They can die? You’ve seen it yourself...? How - how deep does all this go?"
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  26. - Top - End - #296
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    "They die. I've seen it happen. It's like every story they've ever told comes thrashing out of them. Glamour pours from their mouths like a broken dam. They break apart and say their names backwards and time collapses and they stop going."

    He stood up, walked over to the fireplace, and picked up the iron poker. He handed it to Jon. Jon could feel it's Reality; it's cold, hard brutal truth. "Cold iron works, just like in the stories. No fae spell or illusion or glamour can withstand the touch of iron, but they can be tricky about getting you to lay it aside. I'll give you all something of your own to take with you later."
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  27. - Top - End - #297
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    Isabelle remained silent throughout the walk with the Prince. No matter how much the other changelings had vouched for him, she still harboured some feelings of unease. The pledge, as unexpected as it was, was nearly enough to put her mind at ease. Nearly.

    Walking through the mansion, she took note of the opulence of it's furnishings and wondered idly where all of Talmage's obvious wealth came from. It seemed unbelievable that one who must have had as little as they did to begin with could, one day, have so much.

    If there was one thing that she had no reservations about, it was the freehold's stance on the Gentry. It didn't matter to her who or what they sent, but she'd do her best to make sure the Fae wouldn't add any more names to their list of victims. She said as much to Talmage, adding her voice of assent to Jon and Charlene's.

    It was only when the tale of Peter Pan came out that she felt she'd heard enough to shelve her mistrust.

    "It's kind of sad, isn't it?" Isabelle mused, sobered by the revelation. "Peter Pan was one of my favourite stories growing up. To learn he was really one of Them, abducting kids for his own sick games ... it feels like he betrayed all the good things that story ever stood for; adventure, the lost boys, the heroism. I'm not sorry to hear he's gone."

  28. - Top - End - #298
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    Talmage nodded quietly. For a moment, the room was silent; cold, reflective.

    "I'm not sure which way it goes; if the fairy stories are about them, or if they hear the fairy stories and decide to steal them for themselves. It'd be a comfort if it was the latter; it'd mean we would be able to take our stories back from them."

    Still serious, he looked up at them. "That's the Law of the Freehold. That one never changes. Each Prince has the right to impose their own laws for the duration of their reign, with the understanding that the next Prince can overturn them all. We generally try not to antagonise each other. I'm unique in that I only have two laws you have to live by during my reign.

    "One: Don't kill anyone. Don't try to kill anyone. Just avoid the whole murder thing entirely. I don't want any part of it. If you've got a dispute with someone, settle it like a human being and not some monster. I'll set up a court if we need it.

    "Two: You have to experience genuine joy at least once during my reign. I've seen first hand way too many Changelings who spend every day of their lives wallowing in misery and self pity or hiding under the covers and generally throwing their lives away. All I ask is that for one day a year you break the cycle and realise that they couldn't take your laughter or your smile. That alone can turn a lot of people away from despair. On the other side of the coin, if you're a surly bastard who can't smile for one day out of three hundred and sixty five then you can go find somewhere else to live."
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  29. - Top - End - #299
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    Charlene could only nod in agreement with the other two on the topic of the Fae. The day she willingly aided one of the Gentry was the day she was truly gone, she thought to herself. Killing others also wasn't among her plans, but the second law made her think. It was an unusual thing to make a law about. Genuine joy... that could mean a lot to a lot of people. Maybe more than just a smile to someone like Talmage.

    She wasn't surprised to hear that they Fae could be killed, but it was good to hear that it had been tried and been successful at least once. And if it had happened here it would be all but unbelievable if it hadn't happened in other places at least a couple of times throughout history. That was a reassuring thought.

    They could be fought, people could be helped, lives could be spared the torture they had been through... maybe if she could do that, she could also smile.

    "You're not asking for..." she searched her mind for the right words, "rapturous joy? Just a genuine smile and sense simple joy at something small maybe?" It would be a sad life to return to if she never could manage at least that. She may not feel much like smiling right now, and the wild joy of the past seemed far off, but she hoped something less would come with time.

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  30. - Top - End - #300
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    "Doesn't have to be my idea of joy, no. Felix goes out every year like clockwork, gets plastered in a dive bar, and gets into a brawl and wakes up in a gutter - and when he comes in the next day he's got a spring in his step." Talmage shrugged, "I don't know how that works and I don't ask.

    "But it does have to be joy and not just a momentary flicker of hope or a second not feeling sad. And if you're having trouble with that - and I get that some people will - I know some people who are really, really good at cheering folks up."
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