Arming for Battle
It's early the next morning after Hangover Day, and the usual levels of trollish exuberance are once again visible. Feina is already up, elated to be back on her own two feet and not in a smelly, uncomfortable truck. She brings flowers for Sakura and Vash to wake them up, woven into thick, sweet smelling wreathes for their heads. Kawaii is looking uncommonly smart also, sporting a tiny collar of red and gold flowers. The delicious scent of food is drifting through the trollhome.
The few trolls in the common room are eating and chattering together mostly, coming and going as the mood strikes them. Katla is entertaining herself by feeding the upside-down bat, gently ruffling his fur, and giggling a lot. Kerry was up early, the trip and then the party having messed up his schedule rather badly. He smiles from his perch in the common room as Feina brings flowers for the others. Kerry chirrips as he samples the various bits of trollish breakfast and runs his fingers through Katla's hair, scratching behind her ears and sometimes reaching down with a wing to run it along her side. "Much better than trail food, yes?"
Katla grins, "Ja! Am careful too -- remembering not to feed hot-fast foods to breakables. You too cute to break."
Kerry snickers. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not all that upset by 'hot-fast', if I understand you correctly. I've eaten Zildjian's chili."
Katla giggles again -- she seems entirely delighted with Kerry -- then nods, "Sheel-chan make nice food, but not hot-fast. Just nice. Hot-fast for burning insides up to start long sleeps."
Sakura smiles at Feina when she brings in the flowers and sleepily thanks the kitsune. Deciding to take her cue from Feina, she puts on the dress that Larrikan gave her, partially out of a desire not to be in the flight-suit until she's had a chance to clean it.
Sakura yawns and stretches as she comes fully awake. She wanders over to where the wonderful food smell is coming from and licks her lips once. Feina beams at Sakura, pattering bouncily along with her, "It's a beautiful day the dew's still not melted yet do you like the good-luck wreath? your dress is so pretty I bet Larrikan got it for you right? you're so lucky! the fog's pulled back though it smells great out are you hungry?!"
Sakura smiles and loops her arm through Feina's. "It is a beautiful morning... thank you so much for the flowers, I adore them!" She blushes a little. "Yes, Larrikan got me the dress when he brought me to a Gather. I am hungry! I was drifting towards the food smells... like a siren's call, really." She grins.
Vash is only partly awake when Feina comes bounding in, sitting up with his hands on his knees and his head somewhere in between, collecting his thoughts while he waits for his brain to come up to full speed. It's several long moments before he realizes he's wearing a headdress by Maxfield Parrish. He straightens up a bit and yawns, "Hey, niña," and wanders off to pull on his T-shirt and shorts, still partly oblivious to what's on his head. It's not entirely clear whether or not that's by choice. Alfdis yawns lazily, letting one hand trail companionably along Vash's tail as he leaves the room... she grins at the energetic fox spirit. Gudrun is still curled up and contentedly asleep.
Vash wanders back into the main room, stretching and clothed, if not looking combat-ready just yet. He wanders back toward the trolls and pets Alfdis' ears gently, at least until the angle of his crouch sends a corner of his wreath slipping down over one eye. He pauses. I don't remember that being there. And how did I get my shirt on over it?
Alfdis awws! "Good luck wreath! Feina like you." She sits up a bit, gently nudging the wreath back onto his head, then wrapping Vash up in a huge, tight hug as she cheerfully nuzzles his cheek. "Mmm... smell food! Go eat, say hi to Hallifred... I bring Gudrun."
Vash smiles and hugs the troll back gingerly, and stands back up slowly. "All right. I'll save you a place." He wanders off in the direction of the breakfast-scent, following Sakura's lead. Breakfast. Best idea I've heard today.
Douglas's nose twitches and he takes in a deep inhale of the scent of good trollish food even before he's fully awake. He yawns largely, stretching languidly before pulling himself to sit upright. Scratching the sleep from his muscles in a lazy manner, he takes his time about actually standing up. Another twitch of his nose brings him more fully awake. Rrrrrr... we've been sharing the trolls' trail rations these past few days. I should probably warn the others about what they should or shouldn't eat. Oh, what was it that Annifred gave me that one time, seemed like something made from haberno, jalapeño, and tabasco... He stands, cricks his back a little, and simply takes his time with the feline stretching. Hmm... that reminds me... I haven't seen any trollish pets yet. I remember wondering just what kind of pets they had, after being called 'nice kitty...'
Behind Doug there's a protesting grumble, "Warm kitty... no leave yet!" Douglas blinkblinks, and glances over his shoulder... slowly. He hadn't realized that there'd been anyone else in the bed, as well. Behind Doug, comfortably sprawled on the bedding, is Thora. She yawns, baring huge under-tusks for a second, then grins sleepily, sniffing, "Mmm... breakfast?"
Douglas blinks a little bit. I most assuredly do not remember the previous day. I feel like I've gotten overdrawn at the memory bank... "Ah... yes, breakfast is served!" he says, chuckling softly.
Thora giggles at Douglas, then rises to her feet, happily scooping him up over one shoulder, "Ja, breakfast!" She pats his rump happily as she heads out for the common room. As people come wandering in (in various states of dress -- or undress, as the case may be), more steaming platefuls of food and mugs of hot drinks are handed to them. The air is pleasantly brisk, causing fur to stand up slightly and the trolls to sit close and companionably.
Douglas chuckles, and half turns to the doorway... when suddenly his world spins. He fights down a moment of panic, then realizes, after a moment, that Thora has him over her shoulder. He views this with both bemusement and stunned wonder. I'm of one of the largest uplift species, he thinks analytically, blinking at the stones, and most humans are somewhat smaller and lighter than me. And yet Thora just lifted me up bodily and tossed me over her shoulder... With a lightness to his voice, he asks, "So, ah, Thora, do the trolls keep any pets about the warrens?"
Feina practically glows with happiness at Sakura when the vixen takes her arm, bouncing exuberantly along next to her. Food is placed before them as they sit down at a table; Feina making sure Sakura sits in one of the few shafts of sunlight drifting into the room. The fur of the two foxes glows a bright, strikingly attractive scarlet in the morning light, garnering them several admiring looks from the trolls.
It's probably the cool, almost chill morning air flooding into the room that is the cause of the younger vixen sitting so very close to Sakura, however, as she inquires solicitously if Sakura is warm enough? She could put her arms around her, if she liked? Sakura smiles at Feina, as she pauses in her food. "Oh, thank you... no. I think I'm quite all right. The sun is warming me nicely."
Kerry files Katla's comment away for later, then watches amusedly as Feina bounces around Sakura. He sighs, distracted from the pleasant surroundings by a thought that's been bothering him more and more the closer they get to Drekaris. We need weapons. We've got one, and it's not even certain it will work. I wonder if the trolls have any bows I could use?
Thora laughs cheerfully, striding into the commons room with Doug slung over her shoulder, "Keep anyone that needs care, pretty-feets! You hungry?" Feina nods shyly to Sakura and starts her own breakfast then, although she's still sitting quite close. Food and drink is pressed on the Indigo's crew as they all appear at roughly the same time (Thora does considerately set Douglas down before trying to accept any food, fortunately), and Hallifred booms a cheerful greeting to the crew members, "Hey! Food, eat! Then tell what next for you, eh?"
Vash grins and takes a seat near to his crew, the flower wreath brilliant on his head, a bit of the morning sun having sufficed to wake him up completely. He gladly accepts the food set before him and nods to Hallifred, speaking quietly in between mouthfuls of breakfast. "South from here, Hallifred." Sakura, also crowned with flowers, seems quite happy to sit and eat in her little sunbeam, basking in the warmth. She watches and listens around her, chewing each bite thoughtfully. Who knows when she'll have this kind of food again?
Douglas blinks a bit at Thora's answer. That's... okay... and what does that mean? Heck, these are trolls, it means what she said... He smiles gratefully to Thora, and starts to dig into the breakfast, looking around for the other members of the crew. Ah, there's Captain, he looks all... well... maybe he's making a fashion statement. Pilot is looking much better, and eating, that's good. He was horribly under the weather the day before, and it's good to see him chipper and bright as ever, though I'd never admit that to him. Where is Doctor and our little friend? Ah, there they-
He almost, but not quite, drops his utensil (he never figured out what to rightly call it) into the meal, blinking at the two. The way the light catches their saffron fur, the glint of the early-morning amber of sunlight dancing upon and catching the highlights... Doug catches himself, and shakes his head quickly, digging into the meal with what he hopes is seen as cheerful abandon, rebuking himself guiltily. Grateful for Vash's comment, he nods quickly. "About four or five days' journey walking, I believe, Captain." Sakura almost seems to notice Douglas' eyes on her. She lifts her head from her downward glance at her plate and beams a smile at him.
Kerry skrees, "Next, we try to sneak up on you-know-who and swipe the you-know-what. Failing that... Hallifred, you wouldn't happen to have a bow lying around here that I could use, would you? Something for a trollish child?"
Douglas says quietly. "A set of crossbows would do nicely, as well..."
Alfdis settles next to Vash, gently bumping another troll away with her hip. He grins amiably and moves over, making room. She rubs one of the armadillo's ears gently as she settles the wreath more firmly on his head... then digs into her own breakfast with ruthless cheer. Vash grins lopsidedly and continues eating, reaching an arm back to gently rub the troll's back while he continues eating with the other hand. He seems determined not to let on that he's got a garland of flowers perched atop his head. He's the Captain, he's going to be dignified, damn it.
Hallifred frowns thoughtfully, drumming huge stony fingers on the wooden table with a noticeable rattle of plates and mugs until another troll puts a hand over his to get him to stop. He nods to the other troll, then turns back to the crewmates, "Remember now what you tell... hunting horn holder, metal bird, ja. Well... you not be leaving here until prepared -- will have no one saying Hallifred Trollhome not know proper guesting law!" He nods, looking satisfied, and digs into his breakfast with enthusiasm.
Douglas glances again towards Sakura, and sees her smiling to him. He smiles cheerfully towards her, waving a paw, even as the kitten is smacking him upside the head, inside. Silly, silly, silly, Doug, don't be thinking thoughts like that. Mr. Big Time Cougar Hero... wake up and smell the... the... He glances at the steaming mug nearby his plate. Well, now... just what the heck is it I'm supposed to be smelling, here? He has absolutely no answer for himself, so he shrugs a bit, taking a sip of the beverage as he diverts his attention to Hallifred's words. He tries to remember if Annifred told him anything about 'guesting law.' In particular, anything they should be doing in return...
Vash nods slowly. "I think I understand."
Breakfast is consumed rapaciously, some of the trolls lingering to chat amiably over hot drinks and others cleaning up efficiently, then heading out. Hallifred, once he's finished breakfast, will beckon the Indigo's crew over. Sakura takes Feina's hand and goes over to Hallifred when he beckons the crew over. She smiles and bows to him, "Good morning, Hallifred-san."
Feina beams at Sakura, almost skipping along next to her. Hallifred grins widely down at the two vixens, "Pretty foxies, ja. Shame so easy-break, eh? Very lovely." He sighs a bit gustily, then nods to the group, "Hokay, gots things you need have and learn. Need know what you know first though, eh?"
Kerry regretfully gives Katla a final scritch and spreads his wings before dropping down from the ceiling to sit on a stool near the big troll. "Mostly what we know is technology. We're not even sure what the guesting laws involve." Douglas taps his chin, as he finishes the hot drink. Whatever it is, it tastes good... His earlier faux pas (to himself, anyway) put behind him, he stands and stretches slightly, glad to get some good food into him. After that he moves towards Hallifred, making a note of what he might guess about guesting law to pass on to the others.
Hallifred tilts his huge head, looking faintly puzzled, then just smiles and shrugs, with a stony grinding noise, "Guesting law say help strangers, feed and clothe if need..." his eyes twinkle as he glances at the sleekly furred, nude cougar, "-so questing, living, loving continue all well and evil stay weak, and so when it you who weak, stronger is for friends. So... you quest for metal bird into bad places, will need help. Tell what you know? Sword, bow, club, hands, what?" Sakura looks around at her crewmates, a faint pink blush staining the insides of her ears. She knows more about fixing medical problems than creating them.
Douglas blinks quietly, wondering what Hallifred is grinning at in his direc- HOLY SHAMOLIE! Sakura keeps a relatively straight face and keeps her eyes on Hallifred, desperately trying not to embarrass the poor cougar any further.
Kerry spreads his wings out. "Swords and clubs don't work well for my kind. I did some archery at the Academy... it's been years, but I might be able to pick it up again." Katla slips silently up behind Kerry and nuzzles the top of his head, putting her arms around him carefully. If he doesn't seem to object she'll quickly and sort of neatly slide herself onto the stool, and him up onto her lap.
Douglas coughs, then thinks better of it, and discretely tries to not draw attention to himself, remaining as best as he can behind them-- no, that might not work, either... The cougar ends up drawing more notice to himself as he attempts to shuffle around discretely to find a point where he's not... visible. Before he can stop himself he blurts out, "We, ah, don't even know what technologies which we're used to are functional here. On Crossroads, I mean. Up until our journey here, we thought that we wouldn't be affected by even trucks, and I've worked with them before, here, at another warren, without any ill effect..."
Vash smiles, then, the irony of beginning a discussion of combat techniques while garlanded with flowers not lost on him. "Well... I know how to handle a club or a staff, and I can hold my own in a fistfight. Well... with people, anyway," he grins, "Maybe not a troll. Far as swords go, I can probably pick up and learn pretty quick. The only other weapon I'm handy with... well, I don't know if it still works."
Hallifred nods, looking pleased, "Got little toys humans use, ja, batty. Katla, fingers okay for crossbow?" Katla happily occupies herself with playing with Kerry's hand-fingers, contentedly taking far longer than is probably necessary... Kerry grins at Katla, letting himself be distracted for a moment before taking his hand back. He gives the troll-lady a quick wing-hug before turning his attention back to the discussion. Hallifred studies Douglas a bit curiously, obviously puzzled at why the cougar is apparently dodging around a bit, then nods, "Will do testing, pretty-feets, to see what works, ja." He beams toothily at Vash, "Good, good! Gots lots swords! Gots peoples to teach too if you needing! Can test weapons with you too, ja." He studies the silent vixens, then says more gently, "Am thinking should at least know how to hold dagger, ja, pretty foxies?"
Douglas stops moving around, and his ears droop briefly. 'Pretty-feets. Oh, Lord ha' mercy, how in the world...? Erf, no matter. Time enough to worry about that later... He nods quickly, stopping his shuffling around. "Thank you, sir. I'd like to help in whatever way possible, in the testing..." Sakura bobs her head up and down in agreement with Hallifred. Then I can protect myself...
Katla grins cheerfully back at Kerry, and when he looks back at the larger troll she mmms as she carefully nuzzles one ear. Then she straightens a bit, "Ja, Hallifred, think can hold fine. Might have trouble to cock though, can't tell... need to test further." She grins and lazily nuzzles one of the bat's ears again. Sakura's lips purse as she tries to maintain her composure. Apparently a little of Larrikan's sense of humor has imprinted on her and she's having just a little trouble with the innuendo in Katla's last statement.
After some discussion, Hallifred will stand up (bending his head only slightly so it doesn't brush the ceiling in the corners of the room), and lead the small group deeper down and within the troll home. Feina trots along happily with Sakura, and Katla will, if Kerry doesn't object, put him up on her shoulders, like she saw Zildjian do. Hallifred goes down several flights of stairs, and once simply jumps down a hole in the ground. Kawaii squeals indignantly, and Hallifred grins up at the group from the darkness where he waits at the bottom, looking up, "Anyone need hand?"
Katla grins and just hops down, giving Kerry a bit of a wing filling swoosh of wind as she does so. Kerry happily accepts Katla's offer, and scritches around her ears as they go, though he lets go as she jumps into the hole and floats down a little more gently on his wings. Katla blinks as Kerry lifts off, turning hastily to catch him -- then ooohs! happily as she sees he's okay.
Vash kneels down at the edge of the hole, pausing to get a feel if he can for where the bottom of the hole lies. He hms, and gauges the distance, "Ten... maybe fifteen feet." He glances up, "Sakura, Feina? You want a hand?"
Douglas blinks looking down into the hole down which Hallifred, and then Katla and Kerry, just jumped down into. "Well," he murmurs to the others, "-nothing ventured, nothing gained..." With little more than a hesitation, he clambers down into the hole, not letting himself fall unless he can actually see the bottom. Hallifred chuckles rumblingly, and pats Douglas' side as he slides down.
Douglas tries not to give a start as the troll pats his side. Remember, Doug, you're still... uhm, how did that Chuck's girlfriend in college put it, the Wiccan Doberman... 'sky-clad.' Erf... I feel chilly. He glances around at the darkness. Be grateful for small favors.
Sakura goes over to the edge of the hole... and after a moment's hesitation, makes her way as carefully down as she can. The trolls have never done anything to hurt her before, why would they start now? Feina grins and just jumps -- and for a moment shows the natural grace of her people as she bounces neatly off of Hallifred, spins, and lands lightly on her feet next to him. She beams up at Sakura, watching her come down more sedately... then blinks, and smacks one hand lightly on Hallifred's arm, "Hey! No share, remember? She's shy!" Hallifred glances down at the tiny vixen -- then hastily shifts his hands around to a slightly more proper positioning on Sakura, "Sorry. Forgetting for pretties." Sakura grins and blushes at Feina and Hallifred.
Kerry settles back on Katla's shoulder, ruffling her hair as he settles his wings back into their resting position. Katla grins, running one hand lightly and admiringly over Kerry's wings. Kawaii squeaks! Vash huhs. "Guess not." He shrugs and hops down into the dark, landing quietly on his feet off to one side.
Kawaii peers nervously over the edge of the hole, and squeals forlornly. Sakura looks up and frowns. She chews on her bottom lip, trying to come up with a way to get little Kawaii down here. Kerry chuckles at Kawaii and then whispers to Katla. "Someone better get the little fellow down."
Vash grins up at the shadow of the piglet, gesturing down. "Hey, niño. Jump down... I'll catch ya."
Kawaii looks very nervous... then takes a deep breath and disappears from the edge of the hole. A moment later there's a pattering noise -- then Kawaii, at a gallop, leaps into the hole at Vash, a horrified *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!* trailing after him! Vash blinks, once, then grins, holding his arms up-- Wow, I didn't think he'd do it!
Douglas blinks, wincing from Kawaii's squeal, and hopes that Vash catches the piglet. We'll never hear the end of it from Kawaii if he doesn't... Sakura puts her face in her paws, too afraid to watch as Kawaii comes sailing towards the ground.
Vash takes a step back, "Relax, niño, I gotcha, I- oof! ay, cagada!" The step back was not necessarily a good idea, as the piglet comes down at an awkward angle; which is to say, past the armadillo's arms and into his face. He stumbles, bobbling the catch, and sending the startled piglet on a new vector entirely. Right into the stony arms of Hallifred, who makes a loud, grating sound. Surprise or amusement, it's anyone's guess.
Hallifred grins, the piglet safely caught in his arms, but you wouldn't know it from the shrill, furious, and lengthy dissertation on Vash's ancestry that Kawaii is currently giving! Sakura looks on in horror as the pig bounces out of Vash's arms. She'd taken her paws away, thinking that when Vash told the pig to relax, she could relax too. She rushes over to Hallifred and, politely as she can, scoops the piglet up and cuddles him.
Vash stumbles back against the wall and blinks a few times, rubbing his nose. It's a bit more acquainted with the piglet than he'd wanted to be. "Any landing you can walk away from, hey niño?"
Douglas blinks, caught completely off-guard by the piglet's careening flight. He almost, but not quite, imagines what Kawaii is saying. "I think he's mildly pi- erm, irritated, Captain..."
Hallifred chuckles again, gently handing the piglet over, and Kawaii's tone abruptly changes, sniffling tragically in Sakura's arms about his loss of faith and shattered nerves. Feina, whose ears had gone straight up at Kawaii's first line of commentary, ooohs sympathetically, coming over to croon gently and reassuringly to the piglet as well, "There, there, poor little guy...!"
Katla, with Kerry comfortably draped across her head and shoulders, comes back with a gently hissing lantern, "He okay? We go now?" Hallifred grins and nods again.
Sakura kisses the top of the piglet's head and smiles at him. "No damage done, little Kawaii." She sets him down. Kawaii sniffles again a few times, staggering slightly as his trotters touch ground, tottering in a small, shaky circle -- then plompfing down on Sakura's foot with a gusty sigh. Whew... ground again.
Vash rrfs, straightening up a little. Yeah, that's fine, my nose is broken, pay no mind to the captain of the goddamn ship, I'll stoically carry on... "Yeah. Let's go, Hal."
Sakura just watches the piglet to make sure no damage is done, then turns to Vash. "Are you all right, Captain?"
Douglas grins quietly, as Kawaii seems to be perfectly all right, well enough to go from swearing a blue streak to being the indignant piglet. He steps beside Vash quietly as they follow Hallifred. "You all right, Captain?"
Vash grins and waves the rest of the crew on. "Heh. So much for my basketball career."
Kerry skrees, "I thought pigskins were footballs."
Vash smirks, "Under the circumstances, Kerry, I'd watch what I say to him... you could lose some digits."
Kerry grins at Vash. "You're probably right." He turns to Kawaii and says, "It's just a cliché. Nobody really uses any pig's skin for a game." Kawaii snorts indignantly at Kerry, then turns his nose up and ignores the impudent and inconsiderate bat. Hmf. He has better things to do with his time!
Hallifred grins commiseratingly at Vash, then turns and paces into the darkness, his huge bulk almost blocking all the light from Katla, just ahead of him with the lantern. They soon pause, and Hallifred pulls a curtain back to allow everyone to pass through into the stony room beyond. Douglas blinks, glancing to Sakura as they ask him the same thing at the same time, and grins quietly and sheepishly. But then he glances to Hallifred as he pulls back the curtain, and steps in cautiously...
The room is tall enough for Hallifred to stand comfortably, and dirt-floored. Aside from that, it glitters with metal. Metal everywhere... gem or metal decorated scabbards flash fire and reflect colorful light; long, gleaming blades on spears shine brightly; sharp-pointed morningstar heads and metal points in clubs glitter dully; bare swords hung on the wall or standing proudly on display ripple with reflected brightness. The room is filled with weaponry, of all types and kinds.
Kerry whistles to himself -- softly, but piercingly high-pitched. "Very impressive."
Douglas blinks, looking around the room. "Oh, my..."
Vash grins broadly, looking around, letting his eyes adjust to the dim light. "Chinga... I can dig this."
Sakura's jaw drops a little at this room. "Wow. The Aurora Group would have fits if they knew where we are."
Vash grins a little. "Nah. They'd be calling the Lawyer Horde and hitting Hal up with bribes post haste..."
Hallifred listens curiously, but doesn't say anything... just waves a hand towards the (relatively) little weapons. Katla sets the lantern on a huge, ceiling-tall cupboard, then opens it. Unstrung bows of myriad types, and quivers of associated arrows rest neatly within. The scent of clove oil permeates the room, causing Kawaii to sniff interestedly, his ears perking up. The very air itself seems to breathe a feeling of age and care.
Vash smiles. "Hallifred, this is really impressive. Are all trollish armories like this?" Kerry looks at the bows, wondering how these compare in pull to the fiberglass composite/compound ones he remembers from his days at Colorado Springs.
Hallifred chuckles grindingly, then shakes his head, "This small. Bigger on more traveling caravan ways. Use for trade. You want?"
Douglas blinks, looking to the walls. "Small?"
Vash isn't quite sure what to say. He hasn't gotten over his differing sense of value quite yet. "Want?" He shakes his head a moment to clear it. "Can you show us how to use some of this?"
Feina wanders around the room slowly, letting her fingers trail curiously and lightly over some of the weapons. She's apparently looking for something. Hallifred settles down cross-legged, out of the way, in the doorway, smiling, and nods to the cougar, "Ja, small room," then says to the armadillo, "Ja, sure! Be bad to give gift that bite -- need to take time, sword need to know you." With one huge hand he casually lifts the diminutive piglet into his lap, stroking gently and soothing away the few indignant squeaks he gets.
Douglas blinks to Hallifred again. "Er... how do you mean, sir? 'Sword need to know you,' that is..."
Hallifred muses for a moment, trying to figure out how to answer that... it's Katla who smiles and says, "Must be friend with sword, pretty feets!" Hallifred nods slowly, smiling and quietly stroking the piglet's tummy.
Douglas looks to Katla, frowning slightly at her words. Then he nods slowly. "I... think I understand..." It makes a weird sort of sense... no, it doesn't. I'm an engineer. You make something to so-and-so tolerances with such-and-such dimensions, and you have a four-stroke engine or a ballpeen hammer, and they work as expected. I never had to get to know the engine, or bond with the hammer. Maybe that's what did in Nippon here, after all...?
A slight, chilly breeze draws his attention quickly back to the room. Well, what to pick up, Doug. Not that you're any good with these things... He frowns, looking at a finely-wrought swept-hilt rapier with glittering quillions, and starts to reach inquisitively for it, his engineer's mind marveling at the inherent beauty of the forging of the weapon. But it's not the sword he sees; the strands of steel forming the hilt remind him of something, something bright like that, yet dark...
And then he remembers. The spider! The spider's web, glittering like the rapier's filigree hilt, catching the light behind it as it bore down upon him, and how all he held between it and utter desolation was his claws, his simple and yet no longer merely simple claws... the moment ends as soon as it begins, barely a single beat of his heart. Reluctantly, appreciating the weapon's craftsmanship, he draws back his hand, folding both behind his back, the very tips of his claws pricking faintly upon his palms, not quite comfortingly, not quite reassuringly... but still very much there. I think... I have what I need, right now.
Kerry skrees, "What, you've never learned to use a sword, Captain? They teach the human pilots how to handle the things at the Academy."
Vash mms softly, still looking over the weapons, "I was a bodyguard, Kerry... four feet of razored steel seems to make your average VP pretty nervous..." He muses, "And they didn't have much use for them in the Border Corps." He gingerly reaches up to touch one of the blades. Sakura stays fairly quiet, trusting that someone else will help her in this area...
Kerry skrees, "Can't imagine that would make anyone more nervous than a machine pistol, to be honest."
Vash grins faintly. "You didn't spend enough time with upper management. Heh... *I* made some of them nervous."
Kerry snorts. "True. I got the same reaction."
Feina finally brightens, then cautiously (and a bit awkwardly) lifts up something with both hands, looking at it carefully. She's holding a double-edged, longish dagger... or maybe a very short short-sword? It's about the right size for her though. Sakura looks at Vash, "Captain? Can you help me, please? I don't know where to begin..."
Vash looks up, and smiles. "Sakura? Certainly... why don't you find something you're comfortable holding."
Sakura looks around the room at the bladed weapons, drawn to those above anything else. She picks up a long dagger, like the one that Feina had and frowns, setting it back down. "Too light. Couldn't get a good swing going."
Kerry hmms and springs from Katla's shoulder to land by the vixens. "If it's too light for you, may I try it?"
Feina starts slightly, swinging the short sword awkwardly around in both hands... then realizes it's Kerry. She looks faintly embarrassed, hastily putting the blade down and clasping her hands behind her back, then intently watching the taller vixen. Sakura hands the long dagger to Kerry, hilt first, "Here you are, Kerry-san." Then she looks along the sword rack and picks up another sword -- a hand-and-a-half blade this time -- longer, wider, and heavier. She smiles a little and presents it to Vash, hilt first. "What about this one?"
Vash picks up the sword, and draws it carefully. He gives it a slow, experimental swing, and hefts it in his hand, feeling out the balance. "It's got a nice feel to it, Doctora... but it feels like it might be a little heavy for you." He turns it and presents the grip to her. "You try it... decide for yourself." He grins, "Gotta be friends with the sword, like Hallifred said."
Sakura tilts her head to the side, "I don't find it too heavy at all, Captain. In fact, it's quite comfortable." She takes a couple of experimental swings with it and grins at Vash. "Feels perfect to me, Sir."
Vash grins. "If you're comfortable with it... then go for it, Doctora." He resumes looking at the array of weapons. Has she been doing pull-ups when we weren't looking? That sword felt way too heavy for her... or am I just underestimating her? Interesting woman, Sakura...
Sakura smiles and presents the blade to Hallifred, "May I take this one, Hallifred-sama?"
Hallifred chuckles rumblingly again, still stroking Kawaii's tummy, "Pretty lady, will give for but a kiss, ja?"
Kerry hefts the dagger -- it's more of a short sword in comparison to his size. He takes an experimental swing, using both hands for control since he has fewer fingers than the thing was designed for, but stops short of a full swing. "That's about what I thought. The wings won't let me use something like this. A bow, on the other hand..." He puts the blade back in its cabinet and returns to the archery gear. He tells Katla, "I'm looking for something with around a 500 Newton pull..." The translator renders that to 45 pounds.
Katla grins at Kerry, then studies the bows for a moment or two with a critical eye. Finally she selects one, handing down a small crossbow to Kerry, "Try? Longer range."
Kerry nods to the troll. "Good point. Let's see if I can arm it." He looks at it closely, trying to figure out the mechanism. Katla crouches next to the bat, pointing things out to him and explaining... it's pretty basic, really -- about what Kerry expected. Kerry figures it out eventually, with a few hints from the grinning Katla. "Never used one like this before..." he grumbles. "But I can do it. Not too tough for my muscles."
Vash picks up a long sword, conspicuous by its lack of ornamentation, rather gleaming brightly with meticulous care. He draws it slowly, finding some modest inlay at the hilt, some skillful engravure. It's not an assuming weapon. He likes that.
As Doug glances around, hands behind him, the faint breeze brushes his fur lightly again, and out of the corner of his eye movement attracts him. It's a bit of... something broken or torn? -no, as he looks he can see it more clearly. Gold and maroon streamers, flowing proudly from a cleanly gleaming blade... ooh, Stanford's colors! -long, wide wooden shaft... I wonder if that would fit my hands comfortably? It looks large enough to do so -- and my claws wouldn't damage it... leaning in a rack of similar but less beautiful weapons.
Douglas tilts his head to the side a bit and pads over quietly to the rack, his hand automatically going to the bannered spear. Is it a spear? Uhm, a pike? Is this what one of those stupid rugby-cougars swore he'd stick my head on if I turned down the chance to join the rugby team a seventh time? He hefts up the polearm, looking along its length. It looks very nicely made... the blade is well-forged, probably by one of the best non-magical means that it could be made on Crossroads, I'd bet my slide rule on that... what the heck is it? There were how many polearm types in the Dangerous Journeys rulebook Michelle had? Twenty-six-odd types...
He glances around him to the others. His claws unforgotten, the weapon -- it's actually hard for him to think of it as that -- seems to fit his carriage well. "Uhm, Captain, Pilot... anyone, really," he asks sheepishly, "-just what is this thing?" He hefts the polearm slightly to indicate it, though it's hard not to notice that he's talking about the red-and-gold bannered weapon in his hands.
Sakura gets up on her tiptoes and plants a kiss on Hallifred's cheek. She smiles at him. Hallifred blinks, then sighs and smiles at Sakura's light kiss, his expression affectionately bemused. Katla looks up at Hallifred when Doug makes his bemused query -- then laughs softly at the blissfully lost look on the huge troll's face! She grins at Douglas, "Think is called um... nagee-nada? Idea come from Nippon."
Kerry looks intrigued at Katla's remark. "Naginata? We had them in our Nippon, too."
Douglas blinks to Katla and looks at the polearm again, nodding. "Naginata..." he repeats bemusedly. "Interesting name..." He looks to Hallifred. "Sir, if I may... er, make use of this?" He had, of course, in his musings missed the 'price' for Sakura's blade.
Hallifred seems quite lost, actually, completely missing Doug's question... probably because Feina just shyly tiptoed up, a small crossbow like Kerry's in her small hands -- and kissed the other cheek. He looks, in fact, quite contentedly dazed, just beaming at the two vixens. Katla giggles softly, and answers Doug instead, "Saw your look -- it call you. Cannot give you what already yours, silly pretty-feets!" Then Katla brightens at a sudden thought, then grins mischievously, "Ah... will give for kiss?" She leans hopefully towards the cougar, a big grin on her face.
Douglas blinks to Katla, and smiles softly. "I guess it did, at that. I... don't know if I'll ever get the hang of thi-" He blinks at Katla's sudden suggestion. "Ahh... I mean--" He mentally whacks himself. She's waiting, dummy! With a somewhat shy smile he leans forward, kissing Katla cheerfully and trying not to disappoint her for her offer.
Katla looks pleased as the cougar leans in to give her the kiss -- then she cheerfully wraps her arms around him in a tight hug and returns the favor with enthusiasm! Several purring seconds later she comes up for air, looking faintly smug, and releases Doug, "Mm, kiss for good luck, ja? -even if I not stony troll." She grins cheerfully.
Douglas urrfs! and tries to maintain his balance, hoping against hope that the naga... nagee... naginot... spear-like thing doesn't slip and whack someone -- though he's beyond complaining about the kiss. A little breathless and still sheepish, he grins quietly to Katla. "Th-thank you, Katla. It's definitely good luck." And we're definitely going to need it. Sakura grins at Douglas, once again caught off-guard.
Kerry grins to himself, having watched the exchanges, and doesn't wait to be asked. Once Douglas is done, he sweeps his wings to get back to his perch on Katla's shoulder and nuzzles her cheek. "Me, too?"
Katla brightens at Kerry's question, "Ja!" Her arms sweep up enthusiastically -- and then she remembers herself, and is careful and gentle with his wings... but unless Kerry protests he'll end up looking much like he's being dipped in a tango, with Katla's arms supporting him as she leans over him, enthusiastically kissing him as well. Kerry chirrips and doesn't object -- not that he's strong enough to in any event -- and tries to give a good account of himself if these kisses really do generate good luck. Katla finally sighs happily, coming up for air again -- although she'll keep holding Kerry close if he doesn't seem to mind!
Douglas blinks, then stifles soft laughter at the image. Sakura watches her crewmates with a faint blush on her face... Vash turns the blade in his hands, examining the blossoms worked into the pommel. He's seen these before... no, that's not entirely true. He's seen cheap imitations of these. Anyone who's played a video game in the last hundred years or so knows what these are... but there haven't been any on his home Earth since the war. "Sakura? Have you seen one of these lately?"
Sakura takes a look at the blade that Vash has in his hands... "Sir, that's a katana." Feina sidles shyly up to Sakura while she's watching... then, after a moment of hesitation, gives Sakura's cheek a quick, light peck of a kiss. Sakura blushes furiously at Feina's kiss. She wasn't expecting that... on the other hand, she doesn't look entirely displeased, either.
Vash nods, slightly distracted. "I know. It's beautiful." He looks up to Hallifred, "Hallifred...?"
Feina's ears are appeasingly well back, and her head ducked nervously sideways, as if she's not sure whether or not Sakura will be angry with her... she sighs in relief when the vixen doesn't snap at her. Her ears come up as she leans her chin on Sakura's shoulder and whispers happily, "Kiss to share ourselves, so steel comes not between us, yes?"
Sakura smiles at Feina and kisses her cheek in return. Feina blinks... then gets the same slightly dazed, blissful look Hallifred's only now shaking off. Sakura says offhandedly to the distracted Vash, "It's a family blade. It requires treatment with the highest honor and respect. If it is to be yours, no one else should touch it, not even the scabbard."
Hallifred blinks, realizing someone just said his name, and says articulately, "Uh?"
Douglas sort of catches Feina's reaction, glancing between her, Hallifred, and Sakura... and just quietly arches an eyebrow, thinking. Feina slides her arms around Sakura from behind in a close, intimate hug, closing her eyes and staying right where she is, with her chin on Sakura's shoulder. Sakura hugs the vixen that she's come to think of almost as a sister, smiling the whole while. Vash nods to the Doctor, not wanting to interrupt her and the other vixen. He turns back to the stony troll. "Hallifred... may I take this one? And do you mind a question?"
Hallifred grins a bit confusedly, "Uh... ja, ja, if it know you then you are for it, ja? Uh... what?"
Vash says, "If you don't mind my asking... where are you getting these Nipponese weapons?"
"Oh!" Hallifred looks relieved at finally getting the hang of this conversation, "Ja... we make, ja. We learn others how make, then we do."
Douglas blinks, looking up to Hallifred, the thread of his thought becoming lost for the moment. "Then... there was commerce, of some kind, between Nippon and here, even if a long time ago...?" He rebukes himself even as he says it. Of course there was, dummy! They know about Nippon, of course there was commerce between there and here! Yeesh!
Vash nods. "I see. This is excellent work. I haven't seen one like this."
Hallifred nods enthusiastically, "Ja, that we learn from little man from Nippon who flee great dying. They still have heart, can speak to heart, ja, not like ones make there now. Dadda's dadda learn it."
Vash tilts his head. "Great... dying?"
Kerry peers at the katana, careful not to touch it. "Watered steel?" He looks up at Hallifred, then back at Vash. "Their gods, remember?"
Hallifred sighs softly, and Katla sobers, stroking Kerry's wings gently, as the huge troll replies, "Ja. When tech eat hearts, kill all."
Vash nods softly. "So it wasn't just their gods. I see."
"Gods die, magic die."
Douglas shivers slightly. "'Great dying...'" he murmurs. "The passing of magic, I think. Nothing magical," including us, now, I imagine..."-can live in Nippon anymore, I think." He glances concernedly to Sakura. 'When tech eat hearts, kill all.' And where does that leave Douglas Percival, Engineer? Sakura is frowning a little at the fate of a land that she's never known, but still thinks of as "home." Part of her is glad that Nihon is not gone completely, but the other half of her mourns the part that obviously is gone.
Kerry skrees, "Just out of curiosity... how long ago was this Great Dying?"
Hallifred shakes his head, "Not know absolute. Long time gone. Take while... magic not want die, fight back. Very painful, gods tear up land and sea to live... but still die." He broods silently, then sighs, "Horn was there for while... horn destroy good, give only greed, pain, cruel."
Douglas' ears flicker. The horn... Again, the horn... Vash nods again. "We'll keep it from happening here, Hallifred. We'll make sure of it."
The evening meal finished, people tend to collect in the main hall to listen to one of the skalds sing a ballad and to relax in companionable closeness, or to talk and pass news, often until late in to the night. This is the time most trolls find to go off and work on their own projects, or to go have some private fun with others. Most of the trollhome isn't lit at night, so darkness and lanterns prevail, with lamps and a huge fire in the common room. Hallifred is there sitting by the fire with one of the younger trolls leaning quietly against him. She dozes, and he listens to all the conversation around him, apparently nearly endlessly patient as he listens to everything. Thus is it that he gathers his wisdom.
The darkness bothers Kerry not at all, his sonar-sense letting him navigate the corridors of the Trollhome with ease. He wanders back to the common room, searching for Hallifred or the bard... when he sees the chief he comes up and bows politely. "May I ask you something?"
Hallifred murmurs, "Ja, sure, Kerry." He looks down at the bat.
Kerry grins and scrambles up onto the table to be closer to eye-level. "I've been wondering about a lot of things since we got here. Zildjian doesn't know much of the history of Crossroads -- she's interested in languages -- or of the different people here. Would you mind if I asked you about them?"
Hallifred chuckles and says, "History? Ja, you ask. We see what I remember. You want go someplace quieter, maybe bring Katla? She like history, may remember better than me."
Kerry nods. "Whatever you wish, sir." He brightens at the mention of Katla. "Oh, really? Maybe that's why she kept asking about Earth."
"Ja, that sound like her," says Hallifred. He nudges the troll dozing against him and says gently, "Gyda? Wake up, Gyda." When she's sitting up on her own, and has given him a trollishly enthusiastic hug, he stands and stretches, fingertips brushing the beams of the high ceiling. He tells Kerry, "Stay here, ja?" and goes off in the crowd to see if he can find Katla.
Kerry grins at Gyda as Hallifred walks off. "Sorry to steal your pillow there."
Gyda grins, sharp trollish teeth glinting in the firelight, and says, "That okay. I find another; not be talked to sleep."
Kerry looks properly sympathetic, which for the trolls is apparently a hug and a grin. "How old is Hallifred anyway, if I may ask?"
Gyda carefully returns the bat's hug, marveling at his wings. She answers easily, "He older than me, and older than mother."
Kerry chuckles a bit. "And how many winters have you seen?" For a technical group, they're remarkably vague on timekeeping sometimes...
Gyda looks at Kerry and says, "Winters? I know winter, ja. Some very cold." Kerry just grins and gives up. He wraps a wing around Gyda and waits for Hallifred to return.
It's not long before Hallifred comes back, saying, "Katla come soon." The big troll is carrying a pitcher and three mugs. He gestures to the darkness of the hallway and says, "Follow, ja?" and leads the way off through a twisty maze of only occasionally lit corridors. Kerry says a quick goodbye to Gyda, hops down from the table and scurries -- there's no other word for it, really -- after Hallifred.
It's not long before the big troll leads the way to a private nook deep within the trollhome. It is curtained off from the corridor and not a terribly large space. A large and extremely sturdy bed fills one end, and a fireplace, probably shared by the cubicle on the other side and on a common flue, is on one wall. The other wall is filled with many books, stacked neatly in rough-hewn shelves. A large number of cushions collect as if in drifts in the corners of the room, generally away from the fire. Hallifred sets the pitcher and mugs down on a little reading table and gestures to Kerry, "Sit, ja? Let me make fire, little light." Kerry looks at the books with longing as he finds a spot. I've got to learn to read the language...
It's not long before the fire is lit, its light and heat making the little room a comfortable, calm, snug little place, deep within this warren of frenetic trolls. Hallifred leans back against the bed frame and puts his feet out close to the fire, arranging a handy pillow and saying, "So, questions, ja? Got all night now."
Kerry grins. "At least until everyone else falls asleep. How much history can we fit into a night...? I know of the trolls, the humans, the fox-folk, and a little of the drakes and lamia and sphinxes. What other folk are there?"
Hallifred chuckles and says, "That short list, Kerry. For long list only got night, not week. Close here, there all you say: Shy Folk, Fey court -- that another week all alone -- nomad barbarians, people of sky..." He rumbles on naming groups for several minutes.
Kerry holds up his hands in defeat after a while. "Oh, my. How many of those are we likely to meet between here and where we're going?"
Hallifred says, "Oh, you have little vixen guide, she lead fine. Probably not see many you not seen already. Maybe some fey-" Katla comes in, distracting him into looking over and saying, "Hiya, Katla, you come. Not sure you want talk, rather have fun with Orm. Good you here."
Kerry waves to Katla from his perch on the foot of Hallifred's bed. "Okay, that seems easy enough. Though I must admit to some curiosity about the people of the sky..."
Katla grins a huge, toothy grin, "Orm fun, ja, but not always got batties from far away to talk to!" She comes over and sits on the bed next to Kerry, "Hiya, Kerry!" She grins again, pausing to give him a close but gentle and considerate hug. "What want know? Most leave fliers alone. Filers perfectly happy to be let alone." Hallifred, apparently immune to Katla's exuberance (as it is the norm to him), says, "Trolls talk to some. Too hard to eat."
Kerry grins and drapes a wing companionably over Katla's shoulders while he listens. "What I suspect we'll really need to know, though, is anything you can tell us of the Horn. What does it look like? How big? What do the tales tell of its powers?"
Katla ohs, "Horn. Horn bad."
Kerry gives Katla a squeeze with his wing-arm. "I know it's bad, dear. But what exactly has it done in the past?"
Katla stretches out on her side on Hallifred's bed, flicking her tail over her leg back and forth, and casually reaching out to rub idly at Kerry's back. She says, "Horn cursed. Cause evil for whoever uses."
Kerry glances at Hallifred's stony form, before answering. "And even for those who merely hold it, I gather. But what does it look like?"
Hallifred says, "Maybe have drawing." He stands, a little ponderously, and goes over to the bookshelf, beginning to look at the spines of the books there. "Trolls kept horn, try to keep safe. Took many generation for horn to corrupt trolls, make hard and stony." Pulling something from the shelf, Hallifred turns towards the fire and flips through it carefully, saying, "It a horn. Carved from horn or bone. Legend say enchanted by mad wizard who want destroy world."
Katla murmurs, "C'mere, mmm?" to Kerry and pats the bed in front of her.
Kerry holds up a single claw and murmurs, "Just a moment, Katla... I want to see the picture first..." before he goes to look -- well, not over Hallifred's shoulder, but over his elbow perhaps. He shivers at the old troll's tale. "Does it truly have such power?"
Hallifred ahs, and finally finds something. Laying the 'book' flat on the floor, he reveals that it's more a folio of large pages not bound together, but rather merely stacked in the right order and held with a clip. He tilts the book to the light, showing Kerry a hand-drawn picture of a troll standing guard in front of a cave mouth. In the cave is an altar, and on the altar a horn. It looks like a human could easily hold it -- perhaps a little larger than a bugle. The drawing lacks a little detail, but shows some patterns etched in it, or something vaguely like that. He looks at Kerry and answers the question, "We not know. We not want try. Not able destroy. No fire, hammer, saw hurt it."
Kerry nods at the picture. "That doesn't sound like it would be easy to deal with. If we get our airship back, we would be able to carry the Horn to the moon, or even try to destroy it in the sun itself. Do you think this would be a good thing, or should we bring it back to the trolls?"
Hallifred sits down cross-legged in front of the folio and reads slowly from the prior page, "Horn captured with great loss from human Lord, who using it to capture and destroy villages, threaten all. Wizard made in fit of anger to destroy world, but not brave enough to do."
Katla continues the story, apparently from memory, "No one know if he give horn to man to blow for him, or if horn stolen, but horn went to man who used it. Not to destroy world, but to gain money. So horn go from man to man, eat them up inside, cause strife and anger and upset. Many human clans wiped out in warfare. Shy folk cursed by one holder, and many die before they agree to help holder."
Hallifred says in reply to Kerry's previous question, "If not know where is, how know who has? What if someone find? That why trolls not throw in ocean or volcano."
Kerry nods. "That is why I asked. Shall we bring it back to you? Your folk have kept the trust for ages... and I know better than to trust the humans on my Earth."
Hallifred sighs, "Horn hate trolls. Turn to stone. But trolls only ones strong enough to keep safe; put in mazes so even if find, still safe. Best return to trolls."
Kerry nods and gives Hallifred the full formal bow again. "As you wish."
Katla continues, "Myth say Horn's master lift curse on Shy Folk when they do as forced -- built him impregnable fortress. They not tell him it work both ways; he never get out either. Shy Folk sneaky, damn mad at him, so many dead."
Kerry chuckles wickedly. "I think I like these Shy Folk. What do they look like?"
Katla giggles, and gestures Kerry closer, saying, "I tell you." He grins and hops up beside Katla, draping a wing over her again. "You better, or I'll tickle."
Katla sits up cross-legged as well, and gently pulls Kerry into her lap. She runs her hands idly across him, demonstrating, "Shy Folk have pointed ears, ja, but smaller," as she softly caresses his ears. She giggles and runs careful, clawed fingertips across his shoulders and over his wing membranes, "No wings, but," she runs her hands up his chest, "-soft fur, ja." She giggles and pats his backside, adding, "And you not have fluffy tail like Shy Folk."
Kerry skrees, "Fluffy? Fluffy like the vixens, or fluffy like a bunny?"
Katla giggles, "Ja, vixens!"
Kerry grins and nuzzles Katla. "I can't help it if my tail isn't big and fluffy, or long like yours... So these shy folk look a bit like a forest animal? The way I look like a bat and the vixen looks like a fox?"
Katla laughs. "Ja, Kerry! Vixens is Shy Folk. Foxes shy, ja?" Her tail curls casually about the bat.
Kerry blinks as he realizes what he's being told. "Oh! Larrikan and Feina are Shy Folk. I was right... I do like them." He grumbles, "Probably my fault, too.... I taught our translators to call them kitsune instead."
Katla laughs some more and nuzzles Kerry back, very cheerfully rubbing against him. She's being gentle, but quite curious. She says, "Ja, Shy Folk, like Feina and Sakura."
Kerry doesn't go into the difference between the Shy Folk and an Uplifted Red Fox. "That's good to know. Okay... next question. This... I don't know if you call it a nation, or a realm, or what. This region is ruled by the Queen of the Fey, we've been told. What about the neighboring lands?"
Hallifred puts the folio away and murmurs, "Shy Folk closest to Fey. They sometime have strong magic." He settles again, unconcerned that Katla is persistently trying to undress Kerry, and answers the question, "Ya, this domain of Fey Queen. There lots people, all have different names to places..."
Katla nods, "Far south of here Ta-Mera, where sphinxes from, very old. Far east, land of sky-dragons, farther is United States of Nippon, where kill gods and eat magic."
Hallifred adds, "Across ocean in south -- Azteka. North is Iroquois Nation, constant fighting. Bats from Azetka rare escape fierce gods."
Katla nods, saying, "Ja. Not met bat before." She grins, adding, "Curious if bats fun, ja." So saying, she nuzzles Kerry again.
Kerry nods, intrigued. Bats? There are other Keero here. And in the hands of the God of the Smoking Mirror... awful thing to happen to us. Then he chuckles at Katla. "Bats fragile, Katla. Not sure how much fun that would be."
Katla mmms, "We be careful then, ja?"
Last modified: 2001-Jun-23 01:42:08
All material on this site is
Copyright © 2001-2022 Lou Erickson
unless specifically indicated on each document.
All Rights Reserved.
Administrated by Reality Fault Webmaster