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Dancing the Night Away!

    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.

Preparations for the gathering are moving along at a brisk pace, and the Silver Egg is busy, as are the other locals, with extra people coming in from the forest. The crew has been helping out where they can, mostly at Aykuh's requests. The day before the gathering, the dryad has given Sakura the task of making up a large number of braided ribbons. Larrikan offers to help, and assures Aykuh that he knows exactly what they need made. After going out to get the needed supplies -- ribbons and pins mostly -- the two foxes wind up sitting by the fire and braiding them together.

Larrikan leans in close to Sakura, patiently repeating how the ribbons go together. It's not difficult at all, and the vixen soon has it down pat, and they're able to sit and almost absently twine ribbons together. Sakura's tongue is stuck out a little in her concentration on braiding the ribbon, but she does watch Larrikan out of the corner of her eyes, ears flicking now and again. Kawaii is curled up against Sakura, his chin resting on her thigh if she doesn't protest, watching with interest. Larrikan says to Sakura, "I do hope you'll do me the honor of attending the gather with me, Sakura."

Sakura secures the one in her hands and turns her head to smile at Larrikan. "There's no one I'd rather go with, Larrikan... thank you..."

Larrikan smiles, "I'm glad-" but is interrupted by one of the people coming in from outside. Business has been brisk, so people coming and going hasn't been that notable, but when someone steps in and cries, "Larrikan!" it's quite another story. He looks over at the newcomer, startled and curious. Sakura also turns to look when Larrikan's name is called, obviously very curious...

The newcomer in question is a vixen, and she is wearing a large and well worn backpack and some of the light-but-tough native clothes in the natural greens and browns the foxes seem to like. She makes her way towards Sakura and Larrikan, grinning like an idiot, saying, "It's been ages!" Another tod fox follows her, also wearing a large backpack, and looking around himself curiously.

Sakura stands and bows to the newcomers, as she was taught to always do, straightening and smiling pleasantly at them. "Hello." Kawaii stands on the hearth as his headrest gets up and grunts in a friendly fashion at the newcomers. Then he sits back down, dog-like, just watching and waiting for his comfy-warm spot to return.

Larrikan smiles a little timidly, "Hello, Aedaith. It's nice to- *oof*!" and is again interrupted, this time by a vigorous hug from the new vixen. Not having taken off her backpack, and having leaned down to hug her friend, she's got him kind of pinned -- which he didn't seem to expect.

The other fox makes his way over as well, apparently unconcerned that his companion has just tried to smother someone. He smiles cheerfully at Sakura, then looks down, unfastening a strap or two from his backpack and shrugging out of it before he does anything else. Sakura motions at her newly emptied chair, "Please, take my seat..." She moves towards another chair a few down, but doesn't yet sit... Kawaii tilts his head curiously, sniff-sniff-sniffing at everyone. One triangular ear flops over an eye as he does so.

Aedaith manages to stand back up again, and steps back to unfasten and take off her own backpack. Larrikan takes the moment to catch a breath, and says, "Sakura, this is a friend of mine, who I haven't seen in at least a year. Her name is Aedaith..."

Sakura bows again to Aedaith, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Aedaith-sama."

The as-yet-unnamed fox says to Sakura, "Oh, no, that's not needed. Stay there with Larrikan." He smiles cheerfully at her as he drags a chair around for Aedaith and another for himself.

Sakura smiles at the other fox. "My thanks... I am Sakura, may I have the pleasure of your name?" Kawaii lowers his head slightly... then rises and steps over into Sakura's place. He stands there firmly, not moving, just watching people with his head a little lowered.

Having disentangled herself from her pack, Aedaith says, "It has been at least a year, yes." She grins and says, "Now that I won't fall over, give me a real hug, silly." Seeing no way (and not looking too hard for one) out of this, Larrikan does so. He doesn't seem surprised at all when her hug becomes quite friendly. Nor does the kiss she bestows on him bother her, even when she lingers at it.

Sakura's ear twitches.

The other fox smiles as he rather calmly watches Aedaith kiss Larrikan. He looks about to say something when she apparently finishes, and Larrikan says, "Aedaith, let me introduce you to my current lover, Sakura." The other, native vixen oohs appreciatively and steps forward to meet Sakura, saying, "It's always nice to meet a friend's lover." Having so said, Aedaith steps forward and gives Sakura a hug, too, snuggling up quite contentedly and nuzzling warmly at her neck.

Sakura smiles pleasantly at Aedaith. "My thanks..." then looks like she's not quite certain what to do for a moment, unused to this culture. She takes her cues from the other vixen though, and returns the hug. Kawaii's head raises a bit, and he sniff-sniffs curiously again... then he seems to relax, shrugging his shoulders and settling back down where he'd been curled up against Sakura previously.

Aedaith lets Sakura go after a moment, leaving an arm companionably around her. She says, "Larrikan, this is my current lover and travelling companion, Bandé." Larrikan smiles, and Bandé steps up to give him a hug -- not quite as close and lingering as Aedaith's but not far off, before he says, "Yes, we've met before." Larrikan chuckles, asking, "How is Ciara, anyway?"

Bandé says, "Last I saw her she was well. She went south with a fellow we met at a gather last summer." Larrikan says, "Not a surprise. She always liked it warmer." He then introduces, "Bandé, this is my friend Sakura." Bandé smiles and steps up to claim his own hug, kissing Sakura gently on the cheek and saying, "A pleasure to meet you, Sakura."

Sakura smiles at Bandé, then hugs the fox warmly. "The pleasure is all mine, Bandé-sama."

Bandé steps back a little and smiles at Sakura, saying, "Are you from around here, Sakura? You seem a little uncomfortable."

Sakura shakes her head, but smiles at him. "I'm not local, no. My apologies, my discomfort stems only from my unfamiliarity with the local culture... Larrikan has been very helpful, though..."

Aedith laughs and says, "Oh yes, Larrikan is very helpful." Bandé says, "Ah. Well, Aedaith can be a little overwhelming sometimes. We're just here for the gathering, and it is always nice to see old friends."

Larrikan ahems a little nervously and settles again, saying, "So, you won't be in town too long? Where have you been to?"

Kawaii's snort at Larrikan sounds, oddly... amused? Sakura finally sits back down again, introductions out of the way, and begins braiding the ribbons again as Larrikan has taught her while she listens to the conversation around her. Bandé also finally sits down, and begins talking of routes and trips to Larrikan, quite happily sharing the tale of their latest trips. Mostly it sounds like slow and irritating going, although Bandé doesn't seem to think so, and Larrikan is very curious -- almost wistful looking.

Kawaii puts his chin back on Sakura's thigh. His eyes go half-closed and he sighs contentedly, relaxing. Sakura scritches behind one of Kawaii's ears. Don't I wish that you could talk... I bet you'd have a story to share with me right now... Aedaith drags her chair over next to Sakura's and says, "So, how long have you and Larrikan been together? Is he taking good care of you?"

Sakura looks thoughtful a moment, "I suppose it hasn't been too long, but I've... sort of lost track of time, really." She smiles, "He is good to me, yes, and I do my best to return his care and affection." Kawaii grunts lazily, one eye opening for a moment.

Aedaith smiles and says, "I'm glad. He's a sweet fellow, and I know I enjoyed my time with him. If only he traveled. I'm glad I've found Bandé; he both travels and is a good lay." She mmms contentedly and beams happily at Bandé for a moment before she says, "I couldn't stay in one place so long, and Larrikan seems quite happy here near the university." She shakes her head, then adds, "Do you travel much? Will you be staying with Larrikan long? Where are you from?"

Sakura blushes to the tips of her ears at Aedaith's remark about Bandé's prowess in bed... she struggles for words for a moment... "I... I don't travel more than I have to. I'm not much of a risk-taker in ordinary circumstances... I would like to stay here for as long as I am able to... I like it here, very much." She smiles.

Aedaith oohs! and hugs Sakura happily again, only barely backing off of her when she's finished, so that she's practically sitting in her lap. She says, "That's so nice! It's certainly not like there aren't plenty of others who come through to keep things interesting, is there, mmm?" Her voice falls into to the quietly suggestive at the last.

Kawaii opens one eye again, and grunts a little more firmly when Aedaith seems to be trying to move in on his resting spot! Sakura smiles at Aedaith, trying her very best not to act as uncomfortable as she is with this intimate closeness. "Oh, I'm sure there'll be enough to keep things interesting, yes."

Bandé leans forward a little bit, and gestures idly at Sakura's feet, saying, "You have a lovely and intriguing form, I must say, Sakura. Where do you hail from, and is that common there?" He is curious, obviously on several levels, but much less assertive than Aedaith.

Aedith giggles a little and murmurs in Sakura's ear, "Have you found that place on Larrikan's back that makes him yip so happily? Or that way you can rub his leg, mmm?"

Larrikan blushes, and says, "Aed!"

Sakura says, "M-my home is quite far from here, Bandé-sama... and I don't know how to explain its location from this point... I'm sorry." She glances down at her feet. "We're... made... differently there..." She trails off into another furiously red blush at Aedaith's words...

Aedith looks both surprised at this reaction, and finally embarrassed herself. She says, "Oh, no, Sakura!" and gives her a hopefully-comforting hug, saying, "There's nothing wrong with that, not at all." Misreading Sakura's embarrassment as, "No," she adds, "I'll show you later, anyway. It's been ages since I've had a chance to play with Larrikan."

Sakura sputters a little at that. No demonstrations... tell me... while he's clothed... but no demonstrations! Bandé, who seems a little more tuned into Sakura's discomfort says, "Aedaith, I don't think that's what she meant. Let the poor girl alone."

Sakura blushes. "Thank you, Bandé-sama. Forgive my culture shock."

Aedaith leans back from Sakura and says, "Oh, I'm sorry! I... um..." and is now out of sorts herself, not quite understanding what is upsetting Sakura. Bandé reaches out and pulls Aedaith into his lap, saying, "I think she's uncomfortable with this discussion, Aed." He smiles across at Sakura and says, "She's just trying to make sure you're both happy, really."

Larrikan has no idea how to reconcile the situation either, apparently. He smiles timidly at Sakura and says to the other two foxes, "Uhm. So where are you travelling next?" in an apparent attempt to change the subject.

Sakura smiles at Aedaith and Bandé, "I can only hope that Larrikan is as happy as I am..." Kawaii grunts again and shifts his head, nuzzling partly under Sakura's leg and putting one foreleg over his ears. Small, amused snerks can be heard for a few seconds... Sakura claps a hand over her mouth to stop the giggles that Kawaii has just driven her to, eyes wide in mirth. "Silly piglet." Kawaii wriggles for a moment, also apparently struggling with giggles!

Bandé murmurs something to Aedaith quietly, and all anyone can head is, "...together very long..." and Aedaith says, "Oh, I'd never want to do that!" back to him. She murmurs to Bandé, now giving Sakura a better look from a little farther away, still seeming embarrassed. Finally Aedaith says to Sakura, "I hope we'll be able to get together while we're still in town," and smiles hopefully.

Kawaii finally manages to get his wriggling back under control, and sits up again to rest his head on Sakura's leg again... although his little eyes are still dancing with amusement! Sakura turns to Larrikan, one eyebrow raised. I have no idea what they mean by "get together" so I'll just let you handle this one. Larrikan looks a little relieved that Aedaith is backing off a little. Her last sentence makes him wince a little, and at Sakura's look he appears quite discomfited. He says, "Er. Um..." then is interrupted by Bandé saying, "I don't know if we'll have time." Bandé smiles at Sakura, adding, "Don't worry about it." Larrikan looks relieved. When Aedaith opens her mouth, her suggestion is suddenly replaced with a squeak! -and then a sheepish look at Bandé. She nods quietly.

Sakura throws an apologetic and friendly smile at Aedaith, apparently quite willing to completely forgive and forget her embarrassment. Larrikan moves over and slides his arm around Sakura, nuzzling her cheek reassuringly. Bandé says, trying to lighten the mood, "So, Larrikan's from around here and studying at the university. Aedaith and I are travelling. What brings you to these parts, Sakura?"

Sakura says, "I suppose it was a voyage of curiosity more than anything, Bandé-sama... it gets the better of me sometimes."

Bandé laughs, nodding, "That sounds normal as far as most of us vulpines go. Have you come far? How long are you staying?" Aedaith quiets, listening. Bandé's gentle rubbing of her ears to relax and distract her isn't hurting anything.

Sakura nods, "Oh yes, it was a very long voyage... but not one that I begrudge now, seeing what lay at the end of it." She grins and glances at Larrikan. "I hope to stay for quite some time..."

Bandé flags down a waiter and orders some drinks, and Aedaith moves back off of his lap and onto her own chair next to his. The male fox smiles and says, "Well, we've come down from the north..." and begins to talk about the peaceful and pleasant aspects of their latest trip, telling a calming and engaging story. Aedaith interrupts occasionally with other anecdotes, including telling Larrikan of some of his family to the north that they'd run into. She doesn't say anything upsetting except for one comment about Larrikan being much more fun than his brother. It's not entirely clear in what way she meant "fun." Sakura seems to relax quite a bit as Bandé speaks. She listens to his story, still braiding absently, though she is careful enough to check her work now and then.

Having finished their drinks and had a rest, Bandé finally says, "We've more to do today, Aed, and should keep moving." She nods and says, "Yes, we should," then stands and stretches.

Sakura stands when Aedaith stands and bows deeply to both of the other foxes, "It was a pleasure to have met you both..." Kawaii *snorks* startledly as Sakura stands, having dozed off for a moment.

Bandé also stands, and gives Larrikan a warm hug. He lithely steps in after Sakura's bow, and invades her personal space to give her a hug, although his hands politely don't wander and he doesn't nuzzle. It might be to distract her from the rather friendlier hug that Aedaith is sharing with Larrikan. Sakura returns Bandé's hug, purposely not looking over at Larrikan. She doesn't even want to know what they're up to.

Eventually, Aedaith bounces over and gives Sakura a brief but tight hug, and murmurs, "I'm sorry, Sakura. I didn't mean to embarrass you," in her ear. She steps back from Sakura, adding, "I hope we'll see you both again at the gathering!" as she beams cheerfully. Kawaii snorts amusedly, then crosses his front legs and rests his chin on his tiny trotters.

Larrikan gives Bandé a comfortable-looking hug, and murmurs something quiet to him. Bandé only nods in reply and says, "Yes, that would be nice indeed." He then hefts his pack and says, "Ready Aed?"

Sakura returns Aedaith's hug as well, "Forgiven, Aedaith. It wasn't your fault..." She smiles at the other vixen as she steps back.

Aedaith pulls her pack straps tight, and says, "Yep." With a cheerful wave, they make their exit.

Larrikan waves. Once they're gone he says to Sakura, "She can be a little overwhelming, can't she?" He adds with a lascivious grin, "A lot of fun though, if you take her up on her offer." He winks cheerfully at her.

Sakura very nearly falls into her chair. She grins at Larrikan. "She is a little, yes..." Kawaii snorts!

    The Gathering Clearing
    The gathering is held in a big clearing just outside town. There are a number of people who have set up booths selling food and drink on one side of the clearing, with a large number of plank tables and benches. On the other a stage has been built, with the space of the clearing between it and the food and drink stands. The afternoon is waning, and a ring of cheerfully bright lights on poles are being set up around the edge of the clearing. Others are hanging over the clearing with no visible means of support -- but there they stay, giving the whole area a warm and candlelit feel.

The gathering begins in the early afternoon, with people collecting at the big clearing all day. The crew has gathered there themselves, meeting up from several separate errands, by the simple expedient of finding Zildjian as one of the largest and most notable people there. Sakura looks around in child-like wonder at the gathering, "Wow..."

There are a lot of people here, most of them gleefully hugging and often kissing others that they haven't seen in months. Most of the population is humans, and there are many of them, all of whom seem happy, even those working the booths and keeping track of what's going on. There are lots of human children around, playing and chasing each other. The children look curiously at the uplifts, but giggle and run away if they're caught looking. Zildjian waves cheerfully from her higher vantage point, "Heya, y'all! C'mon 'n meet folks!"

Douglas looks around as well, once he reaches his crewmates. "It's quite the spectacle!" he admits. "I don't think there was this much variety of people even back home..." And while there's curiosity about us, it's not nearly the sort of thing we got back on Earth...

Blue waves back at Zildjian and pulls Vash over that way, fresh from the tailor's. She's looking very nice, as is Vash, both in dresses and blouses, hers in blue and white, his in green and yellow. Sakura waves to Zildjian. "Hello, Zildjian-san..." Larrikan walks along next to Sakura. He is wearing short pants, with long trailing ribbons around them, and has cheerfully woven ribbons into his hair. He offered to do the same for Sakura, who quite happily let Larrikan play with her hair and help her dress herself up appropriately. She slips her paw into Larrikan's and stands with the rest of the crew.

Kerry decides to make an Entrance, waiting until the crowds have started to gather, then launching himself from near the top of one of the trees at the edge of the clearing and gliding down to land gently by Zildjian and the others. "Nice dress, Vash."

Vash brushes his pilot off. "It's a kilt. You try jamming three-point-five feet of tail into some hose, you nocturnal squirrel."

Kerry grins. "Just kidding. It looks very Celtic." The bat hasn't actually bothered to get local clothing, mainly because he can't see the colors anyway and doesn't realize how drab he looks in comparison.

Zildjian shortens herself by the simple expedient of curling up on her tail, as Blue and Vash and the others arrive. She's dressed for partying herself, in a short, silky green top and something sparkly in her short hair. She happily hugs Blue, then Vash, "Mah, but don' you look nahce t'night, guys!" Then she grins and hugs Sakura too, then Larrikan. She laughs at the interplay between Kerry and Vash, her slanted golden eyes sparkling with happiness.

Vash smiles brightly and hugs Zildjian gently. "You're looking good yourself, Zil. For anyone in particular?"

Zildjian chuckles at Vash, "Nah, 'fraid not, t'night... but who knows, eh? Ah maht get lucky!" She grins mischievously, swaying slightly and happily back and forth on her tail and waving to folks as she speaks. She seems to know many of the people here. Kerry blinks at that comment from her, and decides he is not going to ask why a parthenogenetic construct would want to get lucky...

Vash grins, carefully curling an arm around Blue's waist. "Good luck, hey? Say, why don't you borrow my pilot awhile." He smirks, "He's a notorious wallflower..."

Zildjian grins wickedly at Vash, then tilts her head at Kerry, "Ah jus' maht at that, Vash!"

Vash snickers. "You do that. Be gentle, now."

Kerry skrees, "I am not a wallflower. There's just no other Keero here."

Annifred finally shows up, ambling over to hug Douglas in her usual backbreaking manner. She is wearing a long dark skirt of something vaguely shiny and thin, and white blouse with puffy sleeves. The white blouse seems common to all the trolls, the skirts about evenly matched with hose. Some are also wearing vests. Douglas embraces Annifred warmly, smiling to her. His own clothing is simple; a clean, white long-sleeve shirt, and dark trousers -- well, actually knickers, reaching down to his calves and leaving his digitigrade legs comfortably bared.

A couple of other trolls call out and then come over, saying, "Annifred! Look! Hallifred here!" and pointing excitedly back to where several trolls have had no problem claiming a table or three. She perks up (if possible) and says, "Ja?" Zildjian will happily hug trolls as well -- most of them seem to know her as well, and not be afraid of crushing her.

Douglas grins wanly. "You could try to find the drake." He blinks at Annifred's sudden interest. "Hallifred?"

Larrikan says, misunderstanding, "I think that Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow is supposed to be here, yes. As will the sphinx. Everybody comes to the gathering." Douglas glances to Larrikan, and reasons that it must be practice that lets the fox-folk man say the drakes name, and make it sound easy. Vash hmms softly to himself. Cat's here? Uh oh. Better keep my eyes open. She tackles me again and the results would be disastrous...

Zildjian says, "Ooh! Be nahce t'see 'em both agin!" She straightens a bit, looking around... then grins, sliding her tail gently up around Kerry's waist, "Ah know Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow was askin' 'bout you t'other day!"

Kerry grins. "She was, was she? Is she upset about me teaching the trolls to make an ultralight?"

Zildjian laughs hissingly, her head tossed back for a moment and her tail almost lifting Kerry off the ground, then adds, "Nah. She's thinkin' it's a psychological thing, that you're not flyin'... offends her sense of propriety, y'know?"

Sakura looks at Larrikan. "Do you know where the Drake will be, if she decides to... grace the event with her presence...? And can we get a table away from there?"

Larrikan shakes his head, "Don't know where she'll be. This is neutral ground, though. She won't hurt anyone."

Sakura nods and swallows, "Okay, then."

Vash grins a little. "Don't sweat it too much, Doctora... relax. Have a good time. We're gonna be busy soon enough."

Sakura smiles at Vash. "Thank you, Vash-san."

Music begins to come from the stage, drifting uncertainly through the night air, before the band finds tempo with each other, and settles into dance music. The crowd begins to filter towards the stage, those who want to dance sorting themselves out from those who want to talk. Away from the stage and near the tables the music isn't too loud to talk. Annifred grins toothily at Douglas, answering his previous question, "Grand-uncle Hallifred, from trollhome east-south of here. Old, wise troll." Just about the time Douglas might relax, she adds, "And lots fun, too." She asks, "Want meet?"

Douglas does indeed start to relax. Then he blinks in surprise, starting to not be quite so shocked by anything Annifred reveals about the trolls. "Ah... certainly, I'd be glad to!" His little voice in his head mewls a sigh, Can it get any more complex and confusing? Yes; now don't invite disaster.

Annifred says to the other trolls, "Go get Hallifred, ya? Tell him come meet new friend. If he not want come, tell him they find labyrinth. He come then." She grins at them, and they laugh and scamper off with boundless energy.

Douglas gets a little edgy. He still isn't entirely sure why what they did in the labyrinth is so important to the trolls, though he imagines that he's starting to learn. Maybe it's not so much as having a labyrinth as what the labyrinth might stand for. Maybe talking with Hallifred will help us to understand that more... Then he glances between the tables, and the dancing crowd, and smiles a little. Or maybe I'll just not worry about that or Drekaris or the horn, for just one night.

Vash hugs Blue gently with his one arm about her waist. "It's starting... would you do me the honor?"

Blue smiles, and says, "I'd enjoy that very much, Vash." She smiles and lets him lead her towards the dance floor. Vash also smiles broadly. He leads Blue out to the dance floor, takes her hand gingerly in his, takes a step back, then bows deeply.

Larrikan moves to stand behind Sakura, sliding his arms around her waist and resting his head on her shoulder as he murmurs, "Would you like to dance, lovely lady?"

Sakura curls her arms over Larrikan's and turns to smile up at him. "I'd love to, Larrikan." Larrikan leads Sakura to dance, smiling contentedly.

Kerry looks thoughtful at Zildjian's comment. "She may be right. I can't fly at home, but the rules are obviously different enough here to let her fly, and by our rules she wouldn't be able to."

Zildjian tilts her head curiously, her eyes level with Kerry's... she doesn't seem to have noticed yet that she's lifted him off the ground, in fact. "Why d'you say by our rules she couldn't, Kerr? She's pretty light... Ah c'n lift her almos' 'bout as easily as Ah c'n lift you, after all?" She considers, then adds, "Waaall... when she coils up nahce 'n tight, that is... otherwise she's kinda floppy." She grins at Annifred, "A new troll? Awright!"

Kerry grins at Zildjian. "Really? At her size? Hmm... maybe I'm just too heavy for my wings, then."

Zildjian giggles cheerfully at Kerry (a rather startling noise from someone her size!) and cheerfully suggests, "You could talk t'her an' see what she thinks, maybe? She's a nahce kid once she relaxes aroun' you!"

In the last rays of sunset there's a flicker of gold, emerald, and shadow overhead, as Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow comes gliding in over the clearing. She lands neatly in the top of a very sturdy tree to one side, then sinuously slides down the tree. Once landed she looks around, to see if she's frightened anyone and if she knows anyone. Kerry waves a wing in the drake's direction. "Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow! Over here!" Zildjian happily picks Kerry out of her tail and settles him on her shoulder, then rises up a few more feet, waving as well, "Heya! We'll be raht ovah!"

Sakura notes Schnel's landing, but manages by sheer force of will not to run screaming all the way back home. She just keep staring into Larrikan's eyes and dancing with him. Annifred grins, and takes Douglas by the hand, following the lamia. Douglas only *erps!* a little as Annifred takes hold of him, but goes along cheerfully with her.

The dances are starting off slowly, and often are folk or square dances, with much changing of partners. Not all of them are, though, so there is a nice mix of getting to spend a moment with someone new, and time dancing with a partner. Zildjian weaves neatly through the crowd, swaying back and forth between dances and dancers, occasionally pausing long enough to cheerfully swing a startled dance partner around for a moment, then continuing on. At her size, she doesn't seem to have any trouble at all with crowds, in fact.

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow has found a place to settle on the ground, just beyond the tables held by the trolls. The trolls seem happy to see her, and don't worry about anything like claws or flame. When Zil and the others come by, there's some cheerful distraction as all the trolls want to greet the lamia and Douglas, who knows all of them at least vaguely, and probably knows a couple better. There are only about fifteen trolls here, but it feels like a big group.

Zildjian gleefully hugs trolls, sometimes hugging more than one at once as they cluster around -- she just uses her tail as well! She's careful, however, to keep Kerry up on her shoulders and safe out of exuberant-troll reach. Kerry looks for Kerl and Jurgens in the group, waving to the trolls and also making sure he stays out of reach.

One of the trolls Douglas doesn't know is a little taller than most, and quite wide-shouldered. This is particularly notable because he seems to be older than most, having the hard, stony skin and lack of unneeded movements which set off the elder trolls from the younger. When Annifred sees him she calls, "Hey, Hal!" and hugs him happily. The difference between the younger trolls and the older is quite apparent when she does. Douglas blinks up at not only the size of the troll, but his broad shoulders and sheer size. How many generations ago did the trolls have the horn? he wonders. How many years in a trollish generation...?

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow finally meets Zildjian, and gives her a strange snake-greeting, a near full-body length hug, and says, "Hello, lamia. How are you?" Seeing the ensnared bat, she chuckles and adds, "Hello again, Kerry," to him.

Zildjian is obviously much shorter than Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow, but seeing the two of them partially entwined is a fascinating study in body types. Zildjian is far more sturdily build and thicker in diameter than the slender, almost willowy drake. She grins cheerfully at the drake, addressing her like a long-time friend, "Heya, pretty runt-who-ain't! Ah brought Kerry ovah. Even if it is psychological, which Ah'm not convinced of yet, Ah'm shoah he'd lahk some flyin' lessons from you."

Kerry nods to Schnel. "Hiya. Zil said you wanted to talk to me? What about?" Zildjian gently picks Kerry up off her shoulders, then places him on Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow's shoulders instead, so the longer drake can turn her head about and face him easily, and he's out of reach of large and enthusiastic individuals. Kerry chirrips. "I feel like a baby in a backpack."

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow chuckles, and says, "I'm sure you do. It's not easy being the little one, is it?" She seems quite sympathetic to this.

Kerry skrees, "I'm more or less used to it, but at home folks like Douglas are the largest ones around. This takes a little getting used to."

Zildjian grins and shrugs expressively, her entire torso seeming to roll sinuously for a second, "Waaall, at least we ain't stuffed you into a bag yet, eh?" She giggles again, "Take good care a' him now, a'right? He's a good frien'," then turns to greet the new troll.

Hallifred smiles and rumbles, "Annifred!" The hug interrupts them and he says, "How you, eh?" She grins happily, and says, "I good! Got new friend." At this she pulls Douglas over and introduces, "Douglas, this Hallifred. Hal, this Douglas. Douglas friend to trolls."

Douglas smiles and prepares himself for a hug to end all trollish hugs, This... is going to hurt, isn't it? and his mind-kitten waves baibai! to his vertebrae. "A pleasure to meet you, sir..."

Hallifred reaches out and gives Douglas the traditional greeting hug. Unlike many, he moderates his strength, hugging firmly and taking the cougar's measure. Setting him down, he asks, "You nice to niece?" He smiles -- a horribly befanged, stony smile -- at Douglas.

Douglas is a bit surprised at the relative gentleness of the hug, but he returns it cheerfully. "As best as I can, Sir, yes, I hope I am." Something about the troll -- he barely knows him, maybe it's the knowledge that he was perhaps a contemporary of the troll from the labyrinth -- makes Doug partly in awe of him.

Hallifred seems to like that response. He looks at Annifred and says, "Ja?" Annifred says, "They find labyrinth, Hal! Free keeper. Have map!" She says these thing seriously. The older troll looks respectfully at Douglas, rumbling, "Have map?"

Douglas blinks a bit. "Err... yes, Sir," he says quietly, suddenly realizing why humans so often adjust their collars when very nervous. "We... ah... that is... the troll, who... cared for the place... we, erm, helped him a bit and he... gave us a map..." He's still a little unsure as to the significance, but it'll come to him soon...

Annifred helpfully adds, "And Douglas fun, too. Nice fur, mmm," She grins. Douglas's ear tips stand at attention with Annifred's comment, and while they turn a really bright pink, he does manage a weak smile.

Zildjian rests a hand lightly on Douglas' shoulder, behind him, and smiles at the troll, "Douglas is being modest." She grins at Doug, "You realize trolls don't 'do' modesty... that they'll take literally your assertion that it was nothing?"

Douglas blinks as Zildjian approaches, looking up to her. "Er... they do? But... but I don't know how else... I mean." He blinks, then nods a little and takes a breath, looking back to Hal. "It was an honor to have helped him fix the labyrinth, Sir," he says quietly.

Zildjian nods approvingly, gently squeezing the shy cougar's shoulder, then slides sideways, "Annifred, y'wanna introduce me t'yer uncle?"

Hallifred nods down at the cougar and rumbles, "That very special thing, Douglas." Annifred says, "All Douglas' friends nice, too. They from another world! Must rescue their ship, been stolen. Met Huntsman, tell them get horn." She ohs! and says, "Ja! Uncle! This Zildjian! Lamia!" Douglas blinks at Annifred's rapid-fire summation of their quest and situation. Well... it's factual and to the point!

Dancing continues, with a big dance getting everyone to change partners. People seem happy to dance with the foxes, although occasionally someone leans a little close for Sakura's liking. Vash causes several girls to seem timid, but they relax just a little into the dance. It helps a lot that he can dance. Sakura is very polite and simply takes a half-step back when someone is too close for her comfort, but smiles at them, nonetheless...

Vash smiles brightly and lets everyone approach him at their own pace -- which is just how he approaches everyone else. He dances quite well and is perfectly happy to lead or to be led, as the situation warrants. He has a very light touch and a light step to match, for the most part putting people at their ease. Sakura seems to be less and less self-conscious as the dances continue. From the smile on her face, she's enjoying herself enormously... one of the dances has Bandé dancing with Sakura for a turn or four. He smiles brightly at her and is a perfect gentleman, saying, "Hello, Sakura."

Sakura smiles at Bandé. "Ah, so we do meet again... Hello, Bandé-sama. Have things been pleasant since we parted?"

Bandé chuckles, and says, "Yes, things are well. I hope we didn't upset you before... and I do hope we can part as friends, even if not lovers."

Sakura grins, "No. I'm not upset at all. I was just... caught off guard, really. I hope that we can be friends..."

Bandé smiles, and says, "I hope so too. That being considered, there's no reason for the honorific. I'm just a wandering storyteller-fox."

Sakura smiles and bobs her head, "Thank you, Bandé..."

Bandé smiles at Sakura. As the dance shifts partners again, he pauses to kiss the back of her hand, then adds, "Le me know if you change your mind about being lovers, too," and is whisked away by his next partner, who giggles at those words.

Sakura blushes, but has already been passed on to the next dance partner before she can say anything... so she just kind of... gapes in his general direction, before giggling and muttering an apology to her new dance partner.

This new set of partners sees Vash dancing with an energetic vixen that smiles and dances as close to the unusual form as she can, asking him, "You've come all the way from Azteka? Wow. You must have seen lots of things on the way."

Vash smiles gently and does his best to work around this imposition on his personal space, turning with this new partner once, then again, in the slow, formal arcs of the dance. "Well, we've come a long way, that's for sure... we've seen some pretty interesting sights along the way." At that he smiles again... although whether with bemusement at his words or in compliment to his partner isn't clear.

The vixen oohs and says, "I love traveling. There's always more interesting places to go!" and beams at the armadillo. It isn't too long before they too are separated by the dance.

The drake says to Kerry, "I haven't had a problem around here, but it wasn't always the case." She hisses some unspeakable emotion, then turns to words, saying, "Perhaps you'll see. My mother said she might show up."

Kerry shivers. "You said you were the runt. How big is your mother?"

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow smiles a toothy but unamused grin, "Well, it's normal to let the runts die if they're not large enough to take care of themselves. I survived by finding the university, which is, I suppose, taking care of myself." She adds, embarrassed, "I'm, ah... only a third my mother's size, and she's not that large."

Kerry nods to the drake. "Interesting. Our smaller folks actually can fly for longer, so we don't have any selection pressure the other way."

The drake looks curious, "What do you mean, selection pressure? Is that why you do not fly any more? -that you were pressured?" She looks a little indignant at that thought, and Kerry can smell a faint burning scent on her breath.

Kerry shakes his head, chirriping a bit ruefully. "I think this translator isn't working on technical terms. It's something we've learned at home... it's not pressure by anyone, it's just that, like in your case, small folks don't survive as often, so the next generation doesn't have as many small ones. We call it selection pressure."

Zildjian grins at Annifred's reaction, then looks a bit disconcerted as the huge stony troll bows respectfully, rumbling, "Great honor to meet lamia in person." She sways uncertainly for a moment, then hisses softly, "Umm... waall, Ah ain't from 'roun' heah, suh... y'don' need t'bow t'me!"

Kerry grins at Zildjian. "You told me that too, long ago. You're still canalized by your birthplace."

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow snorts faintly at Kerry's comment, then simply watches as he speaks to the lamia. Zildjian looks a bit confusedly at Kerry, torn between being polite to the troll and responding to the Keero, "Ah whut mah birthplace?" Then she compromises -- she slides forward and firmly hugs the troll, not letting him bow any more, then grins over her shoulder at the bat in mid-hug, "Ah was hatched, ole son, not canalized!"

Kerry snorts at Zildjian. "Your instincts are still Texan, dear."

Zildjian laughs, flickering her long, bifurcate tongue at Kerry, "Hey, Ah'm workin' on it!" The big troll looks impressed at the long tongue flickering past his face, raising one stony hand so that it touches lightly. Zil, of course, immediately flicks it back into her mouth, looking embarrassed, "Sorry, suh."

Hallifred seems a bit taken aback by the lamia's demand but is happy enough to comply. He looks back to his niece, and says, "Huntsman? Get horn? You mean, horn gone?" and looks quite surprised.

Kerry skrees, "Well, not gone, sir, but the current possessor is not someone who should have it. The Hunt themselves don't like it."

Douglas gulps a little, then nods quietly. "Yes," he says quietly. "The hunt is... on the move again." He doesn't know any better way to put it.

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow's tail taps lightly on Kerry's shoulder, "What is a tek-sun, please? Are they why you do not fly? Have you had a chance to talk to someone about this affliction, Kerry-small-not-flying-and-should?"

Kerry points a wingtip at Zildjian. "Texas is where she comes from on our world... about the same place as Azteka on yours. My nation is called the United States, and corresponds to the Iroquois Nation. As for not being able to fly... at home, the rules don't allow it. Here they might, but I'm not sure how to learn. We can fly as young kits, but when we get older it's too hard."

Hallifred asks, "Trolls not have horn any more?" He sits up a little taller, rumbling disbelievingly to Douglas, "I maybe not turn all stone? Maybe have babies that not stone?" Annifred nods enthusiastically in response.

Douglas blinks a little at the orientation of the questions. Give it a few moments to sink in, Doug... He nods quietly still. "No, the trolls don't have the horn. If turning to stone is what the horn did to you, then... maybe you won't turn into stone, and maybe your children won't. I... don't know for certain, though." Nor do I know what will happen to the humans...

Hallifred woohoos! loudly, causing startled looks from even the other trolls, and pulls Annifred and Douglas into a big and really tight hug. When he lets go, Annifred has to pause for breath, while the older troll rumbles joyfully, "That wonderful! So happy! Wait till I tell trollhome!" He settles back, beaming for several moments, until he realizes, "Oh, who has horn now? What happen to them?"

Douglas winces with the whooping laugh, and coughs as it finally sinks in. What do you expect, Doug? he thinks, not unkindly at all. The guy has been turning into stone for most if not all of his life. "Uhm... we don't really know. We think it's a human..." He considers the risks of saying Drekaris' name. Would it hurt what we're trying to do to let it be known that we're looking for him and the Alshain?

Annifred says, "Think humans have horn. Asshole Drekaris, near you trollhome, maybe have. Hunt stole Douglas' ship, need to get back. It that way too. They have tech find it." She nods, looking impressed by this. Douglas blinks, looking at Annifred. Wow... didn't know they had that little turn of phrase here! It doesn't even phase him that Annifred referred to it as 'his' ship; he's the engineer of the Alshain, after all! He nods in confirmation of what Annifred says to the troll.

The dance shifts again, giving Blue a chance to reclaim Vash, and Sakura a chance to reclaim Larrikan. This dance doesn't have partners changing, and gives people a moment to have a word with their regular partner, or just enjoy their company. Sakura seems to be more than happy to be back dancing with Larrikan... as much as she's enjoyed dancing with others, there's no one she'd rather dance with than him. She beams a smile up at him... Larrikan gives Sakura a little kiss, then says, "I hope Bandé was polite. I had a chance to talk to Aedaith, who is terribly embarrassed. I fear she doesn't quite understand what upset you." He adds cautiously, "I fear I wasn't as helpful as I could have been, either. I don't quite understand myself -- only that you were uncomfortable." He looks terribly embarrassed to say this, but seems to have decided that truth is best.

Sakura smiles and returns the kiss. "Bandé was the very image of a gentleman. As for that... well... it's just that in my culture... these things aren't discussed openly very often, even between friends. It threw me off a little... I'm sorry, I was just caught off-guard."

Vash mms softly, turning slowly with Blue, his arm curled loosely about her. He leans close to whisper softly. "Are you having a good time?"

Blue says, "Gathers are always good." She leans into the armadillo a little as the dance progresses, "I'm enjoying the dancing more than I usually do, though."

Vash's dark eyes are half-closed, his cheek brushing hers. He smiles slowly and lets her settle herself against him; he accepts the gentle pressure gladly. "Good," he says at last, "-so am I."

Hallifred says, "Where ship? Need go get, ja?" He is interrupted by another troll coming up, and a round of introductory hugs, but looks back to Douglas when they're done. He seems interested in this.

Douglas nods. "We've got some idea of where it is, yes." He briefly describes where it might be based on the triangulation, but tries not to go into too much detail about the how of it -- not that it's too complicated, but rather he doesn't want to disturb anyone else with the amount of technology they've brought into their world. "It's locked, but Drekaris is trying to break through the lock."

Hallifred says, "My trollhome near on to halfway there. You going to go get ship back? You want leave here with us, travel together in truck that far? Save you time get there."

Douglas blinks, his ears perking up visibly and attentively. "Truck? A truck? You have a truck? We might do that, sir, thank you for the offer! That will make the trip much easier!"

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow studies the little bat for several minutes, thinking, her large eyes shifting from Kerry to the cheerfully swaying lamia, who's absorbed in watching the dancing. Finally she hisses softly to Kerry, "Maybe you cannot fly because your tech has eaten all your magic. Have you tried cultivating your magic more?"

Kerry shakes his head. "That's just it. I don't know how. There's been no magic on our world for as long as we have records. Could you teach me?"

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow falls silent again for a long moment, thinking. Finally she says quietly, "I am a graduate student of mathematics and navigation, Kerry-small-and-should-be-flying... I do not think I am the person to ask about teaching magic." She looks a bit wistful, "I'm just a runt, not a great mage... but if you wish I will gladly take you flying... maybe that will help some?"

Kerry grins. "Even if it doesn't, I would be honored. I can fly down well enough, it's up that's the problem."

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow brightens, the burning scent leaving her breath, "Ah, that we can do! Let us go tomorrow then, yes, once the sun is up and we're buoyant again?"

Kerry looks a bit unenthusiastic about that. "You fly better in the daylight, Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow? I'm nocturnal. Still... I'm sure I can manage."

There is a black flicker, a shadow between the moon and the stars, followed by a quiet whoosh and whisper of air. Looking up, a dark, winged form circles over the clearing. A few of the people dancing look up in curiosity, saying, "Oooh..."

Sakura stops dancing and looks up. She looks back down at Larrikan, then up again... and the skin inside her ears goes a really nice shade of white... Vash blinks and looks up. He blinks again, "Blue? Did you see...?"

Blue looks up and says, "Yes. I don't know who it is, though." She smiles and doesn't seem worried, adding, "Always nice to have someone new come to a gather." Vash shrugs. If Blue's not worried, he's determined not to be either, unless given good reason. For right now he just wants to be close to her, and not worry about anything for a while. He makes a note, however, in the back of his mind to keep track of where Sakura is right now. He gets the impression she may not stay there long.

Douglas blinks and looks up quickly. "What in the...?" Oh, no... it can't be... not the drake's mom... Actually, I'd prefer it if it was her mom...!

Schnel'pkebaov'qkgard'dow looks puzzled, "Wait... don't you sink-" she pauses, looking up, then says a bit unnecessarily, "Oh. Mom's here." She sounds like she's not sure if that's good or bad.

Kerry looks up, tracking the large dragon with ultrasound. "Impressive."

Last modified: 2001-May-04 10:18:52

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