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Back into the Egg Again

    Swan Lake
    A wide, calm lake nestled amongst the closely encircling trees, with a wide beach of small pebbles. Wildlife abounds in the thickly grown-up shoreline, and in the lake itself.

Dawn breaks in a clear sky, the rest of the night being unremarkable. Sakura wakes up and starts packing up her bedroll, checking for the pebble once out of a sense of paranoia... Vash wakes up from where he'd fallen asleep on the shoreline. He stands slowly, brushing the moist sand from his jumpsuit. "Beautiful, as always."

Douglas is awakened by Sakura's movements, blinking once, then squinting his eyes closed against the bright light, then slowly opens them again, pulling himself up and Y A W N I N G rather largely. Sakura takes the unremarkable black stone in her paw... sighs in relief and puts it away in its secure spot again. Kerry pats the tunic pocket where he put his stone... yeah, still there. Douglas blinks, and pats his pockets quickly... before he finds the small, round stone, and lets out a sigh of breath. Vash stands and stretches, yawning softly. He realizes he's still holding his... it's been in his palm since the swanmay gave it to him. Warm now... but just a little black stone. As far as he can tell. He zips it into an inside pocket of his jumpsuit. Kerry rouses and frowns. "We all fell asleep? No harm done here, I suppose."

Sakura says, "Are we going back today?"

Douglas stands, ensuring again that the pebble is in his pocket, and secured, before rolling up his bedroll. "We should at least start back. It'll be a few days' journey back."

Vash says, "I think we should. The sooner we have translators, the sooner we can address our other problems."

Kerry skrees, "Got that right." He breaks into song for a moment again... something about "North... to Alaska!"

Douglas glances -- only glances -- at Kerry, then shakes his head as he turns back to the road. "Makes me almost glad I didn't get the program in college that taught me that."

The trail to the ravine leads a different way on this side, and to a bridge over the river. Sakura looks around at the bridge when they reach it, and comments, "Pity this wasn't on the map."

Vash frowns, crossing the bridge. "Wonder how we missed that."

Kerry skrees, "Hmmm. I suspect it can't be found from the other side."

Douglas says, "I think we weren't meant to find the bridge, actually. If this is anything at all like a routine quest. Considering there may be a routine quest..."

Vash says, "A routine quest is going to the corner and buying milk, Douglas... I think this is different."

Kerry skrees, "That's not a quest, that's an errand."

Vash says, "My point exactly." Kerry shrugs and continues walking.

The rest of the walk through the woods is equally easy and it is early afternoon on the third day when the walking spacers reach town again. Vash looks around, unshouldering his pack. "So... shall we head back to the tavern? We can unload and talk to Zildjian about this. And," he grins, "I'm starving."

Kerry skrees, "Something other than preserved beef, toast, and catching my own garnish would be a treat, yes."

Sakura says, "I couldn't agree more, Sir..." Douglas nods enthusiastically.

Vash says, "Well then, away we go."


    The Silver Egg
    Stepping through the tall, wide doorway into the oak tree, you see a very organically shaped room -- elliptical, high-ceilinged, and well lit with strategically placed mirrors and wall-mounted skylights. The tables and seats are all sturdy and wooden, apparently growing from the smooth wooden ground. A fire crackles warmly in a truly huge stone hearth set directly opposite the front door, set into one wooden wall, and warming benches inside the wide, mosaic-tiled fireplace welcome chilly travelers. The walls have a deceptive shimmer to them; the angle at which they're viewed sometimes makes them look to be just wood, other times swirling with decorative, naturalistic patterns. A glossy, wood-topped bar (with a tall door behind it) extends across one narrow side of the ellipse, and a sort of trapdoor lies at the other end of the ellipse. The delicious scent of cooking food drifts lazily through the room.

It is after the lunch rush, but there are still people on hand in the tavern. Aykuh is tending bar and talking quietly to Hotspur, who seems quietly pleased by this. When the crew enters, both of them notice. Hotspur gestures them over, and Aykuh steps back in to the trunk, vanishing for a moment or three. Sakura walks over towards where Hotspur motioned. "Hello, Hotspur!"

Douglas relaxes as they enter the door, waving towards Hotspur and Aykuh as they enter. The Minotaur rumbles something in the native tongue to Sakura, and smiles at the party. Vash nods, holding his pack by the straps, "Hey, Hotspur. Como estas?" He doesn't precisely expect the minotaur to know colloquial Spanish... but it's the thought that counts, he supposes.

Kerry skrees, "We made it! Hi, Hotspur! Where is having the glass beer?"

Sakura smiles at Hotspur, "It was an adventure, and not without its... 'moments'... but we were successful in the end!"

Aykuh steps out of the wall by the bar, smiling. There's a loud rustling from over by the trapdoor, followed by a heavy thump, as of something landing -- and then the trapdoor pops violently open as Zildjian almost rockets out of it, "They did?! They are?! Whoohoooo, they are!" She scoops up the closest party member in a huge and exuberant hug, "Damn it's good t'see y'all back safe 'n sound -- how are y'all?!"

Vash half-turns, "Hey, Zildjian, it's good toOOOF!" And promptly vanishes under enthusiastic coils -- WHUMP!

Douglas smiles widely. "Hello, Zil! Yes, we're back!"

Sakura says, "Hello, Zildjian-san!"

Zildjian oopses at Vash's startled 'oof!' and puts him down carefully, embarrassedly dusting off his back, even though he doesn't really need it, "Uh... sorry 'bout that... uh, so! How are y'all? Wanna drink, Vashti?" She whisks over to, and up and over, the bar, hastily (and somewhat sheepishly) pulling out mugs for everyone.

Vash coughs. "...drink, please," he croaks.

Douglas blinks, looking at the crushed Vash. "Ah... are you all right, Captain?"

Zildjian tries to cover her sudden giggle with a cough, "Ah, raht, raht! Here y'all are... have a drink on me, eh?"

Kerry chirrips. "Tsk, tsk. Trying to steal my girlfriend, Captain?"

Sakura says, "A drink would be most welcome, Zildjian-san... "

Vash coughs. "Not now, Kerry. I think I blew a stitch."

Zildjian gives Kerry a startled look -- then laughs aloud delightedly! She grins broadly at the tiny bat, "Wha'! Kerry, darlin'... Ah din' know you cared!"

Vash nods. "Yeah." He raises his glass. "Thanks, Zil."

Douglas smiles, raising his own mug. "Yes, thank you, Zil. It was quite a... quest!"

Zildjian grins, pushing mugs over to Aykuh and Hotspur, although the oak maiden's drink has a rather murky greenish tinge to it, then pulls a drink for herself too. She leans her elbows on the bar, beaming happily, her bifurcate tongue flickering on occasion, "Awraaaht! So, tell us all about it!"

Kerry grins. "Hmmm... here?" He looks around the room. "One incident I think we should discuss in private sometime."

Zildjian raises a curious eyebrow at Kerry, but nods, "Shoah. Y'all wanna go into the back room then t'talk about it?"

Sakura says, "I believe I can sum up my trip quite quickly. I don't like spiders and I have a developing soft spot for trolls... and swanmays are-" she sighs wistfully, "...beautiful..." Douglas nods quietly in agreement to Sakura when she mentions spiders. Vash doesn't say anything about spiders. But for some reason he reaches up and rubs the back of his head in between drinks.

Zildjian smiles at Sakura, murmuring quietly to the side to Hotspur and Aykuh... they listen interestedly, and Hotspur smiles (a bit startling -- who'd have thought minotaurs had such big, sharp looking teeth?) at the small fox woman. Sakura smiles at Hotspur, polite as ever even if she has no idea what just happened around her. Kerry skrees, "Probably a good idea. I want to hear your take on something before we set it out for general consumption... and there may be other translators around." Douglas blinks, glancing to Kerry... then he nods quietly. I wonder what, specifically, he's talking about.

Zildjian nods, then slides smoothly and sinuously, with a soft rustling, over the bar. She opens the door to the backroom, calling something to Hotspur as the others file into the room under her arm at the door... then she follows them in, closing the door behind them. Sakura stands behind one of the seats in the room, waiting until everyone else has sat before she does. Vash slings his backpack over one shoulder, and carries his drink in with him. Nothing, at this point, will part him and his beer, short of a midsized armed conflict. Douglas himself is waiting for Sakura to sit after walking in, his free hand folded neatly behind his back, occasionally sipping quietly from the mug. Zildjian slides into a comfortable pile of coils by the table, then leans her elbows on it again, beaming happily, "Awraht, y'all... lunch comin' soon. Now... spill! What happened?"

Sakura looks over at Douglas and giggles, "Douglas-san... one of us has to sit first..."

Kerry follows along with his own drink, and finds his usual spot in the rafters. When everyone is gathered in the back room, he starts. "First night is the weird part. We all had dreams of some sort. Mine and Vash's were exceptionally odd."

Douglas looks to Sakura, then grins, and bows slightly. "After you, Doctor..."

Sakura grins and takes her seat, "Thank you."

Douglas looks to Kerry, then nods. "And Sakura's and mine... well..." He sort of trails off at that.

Sakura nods, "Spider... Large and mean spirited." Zildjian nods, looking interested and listening carefully.

Douglas deadpans, "Very large. 'House-spider' starts to sound appropriate."

Vash has a long pull at his beer. "Mine was at least talking sense, Kerry. Go first... it'll take less time to do mine."

Kerry skrees, "I think yours comes before mine, actually. The sphinx was gone when I got to the meadow."

Zildjian grins, "Wahl, one at a time helps, y'know."

Vash shakes his head. "I don't think they were the same meadow, Kerry... she told me that he'd left her there and would be back later."

A moment later Zildjian looks around at the silence, then grins, "Someone's gotta talk first!"

Kerry skrees, "Well, it doesn't matter much who goes first. The common thread appears to be each of us waking up alone and tracking the others. I found an empty meadow, a fire trap, and a disembodied voice that accused me of being an Azteca spy trying to steal his secrets and prevent his grand plan."

Zildjian gives Kerry a startled look, "Ahh... run that bah me again, shugah?"

Douglas says, "You said something about a... a coalition of some kind, Pilot?"

Kerry nods. "I was trying to track them, and when I reached a clearing, I found myself surrounded by fire. A voice... male human frequency range, it was... accused me of being an Azteca spy, made comments about 'your inter-realm coalition cannot defeat me', and comments about stealing his secrets. I'd recognize the voice again, I'm sure. And... I escaped in my dream when a swan gave me a flight feather. I still have it, and it works, after a fashion... increases my glide ratio by quite a margin." Kerry pulls the feather out of his tunic to show the lamia.

Zildjian looks more and more surprised as Kerry talks... and by the end of his commentary she's looking worried too. She gently accepts the feather in her slender golden fingers, studying it thoughtfully for a moment before handing it back. "That... kinda worries me, Kerry... maybe we should have y'all talk to a Dreamwalker at th'University..." She glances around, her slitted golden eyes concerned, "Did alla y'all have this kinda uhh... kinda almost prophetic kinda dream?"

Vash says, "Douglas, Sakura... why don't you tell her yours." He doesn't look up. He's staring into the dregs of his beer, evidently having been recently struck by a thought.

Douglas glances to Sakura. "Doctor? Do you wish to go first...?"

Sakura says, "I certainly hope that mine wasn't prophetic. I was away from the others and trying to track them. I found Douglas-san, entangled in a spider's web. The spider was huge... huge... I attacked it, hoping to help Douglas-san... but it trapped me and killed me..."

Zildjian winces slightly at Sakura's story, then straightens, bowing her head slightly to the vixen, "I'm sorry, Sakura-san, that yours was so painful. Hopefully the dream will reveal only good news for you, neh?"

Sakura says, "It couldn't be worse news than that, I think... I'm optimistic."

Zildjian smiles at Sakura, "Good point," then looks back at the others, "So... who's next?"

Douglas glances around to Vash. The captain seems rather intent on his mug, so he clears his throat slightly. "Well, er..." He sighs, setting his mug down. "My own dream. I woke up; everyone was gone. But I saw fox footprints around the Doctor's bedroll. I followed them, and I came to a clearing. The Doctor was there, in the web of the aforementioned giant spider, and... well, it was a dream after all, and I imagine that it being a dream... anyway, I pulled her free, then when the spider chased us, I... erm... I must have been extremely foolish... because I then turned around to face down the spider." He fidgets slightly; his claws seem to extend and retract slightly, and he not so subtly glances down at them, before folding his paws together.

Zildjian looks not so much as if she thought Doug's action was foolish... as very curious, "So... li'l Kerry was th'only one t'get somethin'?"

Douglas glances to Zildjian, then down to his claws, opening his mouth... then closing it. How the heck would I explain it? he wonders. I can't... Zildjian eyes Douglas with intent curiosity... but when he doesn't say anything she doesn't push. Vash straightens a little bit, tossing back what remains of his drink.

Kerry skrees, "Anything tangible, yes. Vashti got some information too, though."

Douglas glances up at Zil. Well, at the rather large lamia staring intently at him... it's enough to intimidate anyone. He sighs and looks down again. "I think..." he says hesitantly, "that... whomever it was... did something to my claws..."

Zildjian tilts her head slightly, watching curiously, "Lahk what, Doug?"

Douglas takes in a breath. "I... don't really know. In my dream I felt... it's hard to explain. But when I turned around to take on the spider... I honestly felt like I could... and when I woke up... it just... seemed like my claws were... different... somehow. Erm... more, er, natural... or a bit better than natural... I'm sorry, I don't really know how to explain it better than that."

Kerry turns to look intently at the big cougar. "Let's see."

Zildjian listens carefully... then nods slowly, "Ah think Ah know whatcha mean, Doug... lahk... lahk fo' th'first tahm y'really belonged someplace? Lahk it was natural to be what y'are?"

Douglas glances at Kerry -- no, he's not nearly as intimidating as Zil, but it's close enough -- and wordlessly Doug lays his paw, palm up on the table. He flexes his fingers slightly, and the gleaming, sharp curves emerge from his fingertips. He nods quietly to the lamia. "Yes..." Then he blinks, and looks to her, nodding enthusiastically. "Yes, that's it exactly! I've... I've felt that way ever since we came here, but that night... in that dream... it seemed like..." He blinks, then says dryly, "Like the most natural thing for me to do was to throw myself at a house-sized eating machine. If that's my natural instinct..."

Vash continues to study the tabletop, listening, taking the time to process this. He seems rather withdrawn suddenly. Zildjian nods solemnly at Doug, "Fo' y'friends, yeah."

Douglas smiles quietly, glancing to Zildjian. "For them, of course. It's just... it was more than that, though. I felt not only that it was the right thing to do, but... that I could actually take on this thing... and win."

Zildjian just nods quietly again, turning her gaze to study Doug's claws, which seem completely natural. If anything, they seem completely healthy and strong, but completely natural. She finally looks up... at Vash, "An' yoah's?"

Douglas notes Zildjian's gaze upon his claws. "Er, well..." he says meekly, "-they seemed to be different. At the time, at least. When I woke up. I think..." Kerry peers closely at Doug's hand, but doesn't really notice anything unusual... they're in exceptionally good condition, perhaps.

Vash looks up. "Mine? Hmm... I just helped someone out of a bind, that's all..."

Zildjian grins at Vash, "Uh-huuuuh..." She sounds frankly disbelieving.

Douglas blinks, looking at Vash, and wondering why he isn't elaborating. Vash looks into the bottom of his glass again. "There was a brazier left in the clearing... and an animal there. Well... no. Not an animal. A sphinx. Someone had chained her to the brazier, and left the key hanging where they knew she'd never get at it."

Zildjian starts slightly, leaning to stare curiously at Vash, "A... sphinx?! A real one? Damn... that's a real magical creature fo' y'dream... Ah think we def'nitely gotta get y'all t'a Dreamwalker once y'all can talk to 'em!" She adds, "What happened?!"

Vash smirks a little. "Heh. Yeah. I never knew they were stacked like that." He shakes his head. "I said I needed to cross the clearing; she said she had to eat me. Which asks the mutual question why... I explained myself, and she told me about the one that left her there... for some reason I think whoever chained her is the one that threatened Kerry. We made a deal. I cut her loose; she didn't eat me." Vash grins. "Got a bit too excited, though... got friendly with me."

Kerry hums under his breath... "Dre-eam Weaver..."

Vash says, "More to the point, she knocked my ass out."

Zildjian looks a bit dubious as Vash talks... but can't suppress a snicker at his last comment, "Okay, that's a sphinx... they're kinda... powerful biiiig... somethin' as big as a sphinx would bowl even me over if'n they worked at it."

Vash says, "I don't think she meant to. She seemed... pretty happy."

Zildjian grins dryly, "Most thin's are happy, when ya free 'em."

Vash says, "Regardless... that's the end of it. I don't know if it's prophetic or not. I did what I thought needed to be done."

Zildjian hms, musing as she sips from her mug... then nods, "Wahl, sounds lahk y'all had very quest-oriented dreams. If'n y'all got th'pebble, then Ah think y'all are set! Wanna take a break t'naht, and go t'the university tomorra?"

Kerry skrees, "Dreamwalkers, eh? We definitely need to get these translators on line."

Douglas says, "Zil, if I may ask... what is a Dreamwalker?"

Sakura nods at Zildjian. "I could definitely use a break for the evening..."

Vash says, "Yeah. That's not a bad idea."

Douglas nods in agreement. "A break sounds like a wonderful thing, actually..."

Kerry skrees, "After a week on the road? Definitely. Even I feel like a shower."

Zildjian nods to Kerry in assent, then turns to Douglas, pushing her short, thick hair back. She seems... almost bemused, or embarrassed, "Uhh... waall, y'all noticed yet how some a' th'things that shouldn't work heah... do?"

Douglas nods slowly. "Uhm... somewhat, yes...?"

Vash says, "I'm not sure I know what you mean."

Zildjian says, "Ah know it sounds kinda... dumb... but uhh... waall, a Dreamwalker is someone who c'n umm... go into y'all's heads, or dreams, or somethin' lahk that... an' translate 'em. Umm... an'... waall, they're accurate. They ain't quacks." The big lamia rubs her head again, grinning a little sheepishly, "Umm... maybe y'all should jus' wait 'n see... it's kinda hard t'explain."

Douglas blinks. "You mean... rummage about in my brain? Right... though, it might not be a bad idea..." Then again, I'm not sure I'm too amenable to that idea...

Kerry skrees, "Seems reasonable. The rules aren't the same here as at home. Can they go after an old dream, or do they need to be keyed in to a current one?"

Zildjian looks at Kerry, "Er... Ah think they've got real strict rules on goin' int'a folks' heads. Ah think usually they prefer holdin' y'all's hand and listenin' t'y'all talking about th'dream?"

Kerry skrees, "Ah. This isn't too intrusive, then. De nada."

Zildjian nods, "Nope, not a'tall... goin' int'a folks' heads ain't much fun fo' them either, Ah think."

Kerry grins. "All those skeletons in the closets..."




Last modified: 2001-Dec-03 01:33:23

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