Just across the Milk Run bridge from Stonebarrow, this flat, clear area has been set aside for travelers and merchants. Two freshwater wells are on site, along with a large map of the area and some bathroom facilities next to the swamp (where nobody will notice the smell). A sturdy corral is set up for Dromodons or other drays.
Night has fallen (without much of a crash. More of a squishy thump… ). Most of the gypsies have withdrawn to their wagons for the evening, but a few have lit a bonfire at the center of camp. The firelight ripples across the multicolored wagons, creating shadows and bursts of color that are almost dreamlike. Around the campfire, a few of the gypsy does and bucks (lapis whom normally keep to themselves so the Chalks don't try to grab them) are playing some light music. One of Liliana's dancers, a Rath'ani, dances playfully to the amusement and cheers of the small gathering. Natasha sits a bit off to the side. She watches the firelight, her expression detached and lost, as if she's there in body but not mind.
"Come on out, Axel," Parsley says to the now mostly-recovered half-demon, as she stands in the doorway of Lili's wagon (having taken Axel there earlier to rest). She's been busy: Axel is covered in scarves and bangles from Lili's collection, and the doe herself is wearing a dancer's costume. Surely the Eeee won't mind…
Olivia and Djivan walk into the camp from the direction of town. The Skeek has a large basket slung over one arm and is carrying one end of a wooden rod that is attached to a very long and menacing blade. The gypsy has a hold of the blade at the other end of the rod. "Hey, there's Natasha," she says to the Skreek and nods in her direction. "Let's go see if all this stuff is what she really needs… "
If Axel was bright before, now he's positively blazing. A tangle of flame colored scarves are tied to his arms, wings, legs, torso, and so on, all rippling in the evening wind. Further, the bonfire catches the glint on every bauble he's been setup with, so that he sparkles like flame scattered with gold dust.
Once outside, Axel flaps his wings a bit, causing the scarves to waft. "You look beautiful, Parsley. Like the setting sun," he says.
The Lapi milk-maid laughs and does a spin on one foot. "You really think so?" she asks once the bangles have stopped bouncing. "Maybe I can take dance lessons."
Well, Parsley must be making some sort of an impression asa couple of the bucks near the fire are watching her rather … intently.
The Skeek and Skreek make their way over to Natasha. But the Khatta doesn't seem to be remotely aware of them. She's just staring into the fire, breathing slowly and regularly.
Axel tries to spin on one foot, too, but his talons catch in the dirt and he nearly falls over. "Ooo," he complains, catching himself on the edge of Liliana's wagon. "No spinning. Not one foot. Maybe two." After righting himself, he offers to take Parsley's hand and lead her to the bonfire.
As they approach the Khatta, Olivia whispers to Djivan, "Um, just a second. She looks like she's meditating or something. Is it safe to disturb her?"
The doe takes Axel's hand and follows along. Spotting the bucks, she waves to them and tosses her head a bit to make her long, blond mutant head-hair flutter and sweep. "Oh, there's Olivia!" she also points out.
"Vell, I dunno," Djivan says. He walks around the Khatta in a slow circle. When the Khatta doesn't respond, he stands on his tiptoes and leans over her, peering into her face, upside down. "Eh, Madame Natasha?" he says quietly.
Natasha finally seems to register the presence of people. She blinks, then promptly falls backwards in reaction to having a rat face that close to her own. Of course, she takes Djivan down with her. There's a momentary commotion of squeaks…
"Oh my," Parsley says. "Is that your beau, Olivia?" she asks the Skeek.
The bucks whistle and call out to Parsley. One of them even tries to wave her over.
Since the Skreek still has one end of the blade clutched in his hand, Olivia is pulled right around in a circle with him! Fortunately, he and Natasha are clear of the sharp edge when they take their tumble, although Djivan's hurried release of it makes Olivia stumble to one side with a grunt. She looks over at Parsley belatedly. "Yeah, this is my terribly graceful boyfriend," she grumbles.
The doe offers a hand to Djivan, once he seems capable of taking it.
"Djivan," Natasha says tiredly and with a look to the Skreek she's now sitting on. "Do not do that. Vas it necessary to look over m' head?"
"Beau?" Axel's head tilts. "Looks like a Skreek, and a Khatta. In a mess." He flutters his wings again, then glances at the bucks calling out to Parsley. "He's waving to you, Parsley." Axel waves back, uncertainly.
The buck makes frantic waving motions as if trying to say 'No, no, not you!" to Axel.
Djivan takes the offered hand once he's free from being under the feline. "No, no' necessary, bu still fun," the Skreek insists. The Skreek then gets back to his feet with help from Parsley. "T'ank … hey, vou new to de tribe?" he asks her.
"Oh, I'll have to go talk to those boys in a moment, I guess," Parsley tells Axel, still grinning and back to her usual perkiness. "I'm Parsley Chalk, by the way," she tells Djivan. "Just visiting for the day, I guess! Do you think your Eeee friend will mind that I borrowed some of her clothes? I just wanted to try one of the earrings at first, and it sort of got out of control… "
Olivia now looks more closely at Parsley and Axel. She especially starts when she sees all of the scarves and bangles the bird-man is wearing. "Uh, just be careful with those, I'm sure Lili will want them back!"
"Vell, vou gots better curves den she does for de clothing," Djivan notes with a playful grin. "She prolly won' mind as long as you no damage anyt'ing. Vou learning to dance, den?"
"Out of control," Axel confirms, lifting his arms to showcase his array of bangles and ties. "Like the scarves, yes."
"I'm thinking about it," Parsley says, watching the dancer out of the corner of her eye. "I didn't know you had bucks in your troupe."
The now forgotten Khatta gets back to her own feet and dusts off her backside and knees. "It's nightfall already?" Natasha asks and looks skyward. "I must … ah, tis of no matter."
"Oh, yeah, ve do. Dey jus stay out of sight most o' de time in case de local warren tries t' grab dem. Er," Djivan says, then realizes he's talking to a local. "Uh, please don mention dem to anyone unless dey say it okay. It look like dey vant to meet vou."
"Ooo, are they for sale?" the Chalk doe whispers to the Skreek.
Olivia twitches an ear when she hears Natasha speak. "Oh, right, I almost forgot what we came here for!" Then she turns back to the Khatta. "Djivan and I brought you the items on your list! Well, we brought what we think were the items on your list. Since they were all in riddles, we're not entirely sure if these are the correct things or not!"
"Er, we don't sell members of de tribe," Djivan says quickly to Parsley.
"What about renting?" the doe asks next.
"Ah, so did you enjoy the little quest I presented vou?" Natasha says with a smile and finds her seat again.
"Vell, no normally. Vhat voul vou rent em for?" the Skreek asks.
"Maybe a few weeks," Parsley says.
Axel begins to look distracted, what with all the people going about and the large bonfire to occupy his attentions. He makes a point of trying to watch everything at once. His head turns, tilts, and swings around as he switches watching this for that, and then back again.
"Vhat for, tho?" Djivan asks.
Parsley blinks, then covers her muzzle to muffle her laugh, and brushes some hair from her eyes. "Oh… breeding of course. Do you know if they like to have lots of sex?"
Olivia puts her basket down and sits next to Natasha. "Well, uh, about that… " she says, scratching one cheek nervously. "We were wondering if, um, we had done something to make you mad lately? Because some of those riddles were hard! How come you put all the items into riddles, anyway? Why not just say directly what you wanted?"
"Lots of sex?" Axel asks, as he continues to try and watch everything at once. "Breeding? Kaw?"
Djivan blinks repeatedly. "Vell, dey are bucks. Considerin' ve coul' use some new supplies, vou coul' probably rent dem for a vhile vithout much complaint from dem. But, vou voul haf to talk to dem about dat. So, vou lookin' to have a kid?" he asks.
Natasha leans over and plucks a feather from Axel without asking. She holds it up in front of Olivia and asks simply, "Vhat is dis?"
"Who, me?" Parsley says, pointing her chest. "Oh no, I'm not allowed. Too many mutations," she explains. Turning to Axel, she says, "It's how you make babies, Axel."
"Vou voul' be allowed if vou belonged to dis tribe," Djivan says with a grin. Apparently recruiting is going both ways…
Olivia blinks for a few seconds, then replies, "It's one of Axel's wing-feathers. Why?"
"Dat all it is?" Natasha asks next.
"But then I wouldn't be a Chalk anymore," Parsley notes. "And I'd miss all my friends. Would you introduce me to your Lapis? And why are you carrying that big blade? Are you going to chop off somebody's head?"
"Is it like making carrot cake? Carrot cake is harder than carrots and … cake," Axel inquires, turning his full attention on Parsley now. So distracted is he, he doesn't even notice someone absconded with one of his feathers.
"Sure, I kin introduce you to dem," Djivan says. "Do vou vant to meet de does too?"
Olivia errrrs and scratches her cheek again. "Well, in it's current form, yes. But it could be other things if you modified it a bit. Like cutting the shaft of it to make a pen."
Parsley actually thinks about Axel's question for a moment, then says, "No, it isn't as hard as making carrot cake." To Djivan, she nods and says, "Oh, of course."
Natasha smiles. "Good. You looked beyond de obvious," the Khatta notes and rolls the feather between her fingertips. "Dat vas vhy dey were riddles. Do vou dream much, Miss Veaver?"
"Can we make babies some time?" Axel asks Parsley, head tilted. Then, suddenly, his eyes widen, and he flutters his wings agitatedly. "Oh. I remember now. Oh. That would … " He shrugs, then smiles. "Nevermind!"
"Well, I don't know if I can find someone for you that would work with, Axel," Parsley says.
"'Kay, I vill introduce vou to dem later," Djivan says. The Skreek then remembers the blade and he looks at it. "Dis? Oh, I don know vhy ve haf dat. But it vas awful to get. De stupid veaving machine try to make me a eunich, hmph!"
"You mean that's from… Number Four?" Parsley asks Djivan, taking several steps back.
"Uh, yeah, I t'ink dat vas vhat it vas called," Djivan agrees.
Axel makes a cluck-cluck-cluck, squawk, then shrugs again in response to Parsley's comment. Then, he takes a hand and tosses one of his streaming scarf ends in to the air. The bird-man grins as it flutters down then he does it again.
Olivia still isn't sure how looking beyond the obvious fits into all of this, but her thoughts take a sudden, different tack at the Khatta's next question. "Hmm. I think I daydream a lot more than I dream at night. Or at least, I remember my daydreams and not so much of my dreams at night."
"I heard the Weavers have to sacrifice a bunny to it every season," Parsley says. "At least, that's what Emmett said… "
"Uh, I no hear dat," Djivan says and looks to Olivia. "Ey, vou toss bunnies into dat loom thingie?"
"Vell, vith your night time dreams. Do they always make sense?" Natasha asks next.
Olivia quirks an eyebrow in the Skreek's direction. "Only when it moans too loudly," she says, then winks. To Natasha, she says, "Not often, no."
"Vell, if dreams no often make sense to vou, an vou are goin' into a dream of another … vou it no be a good idea to learn how to t'ink about de possible meanings of t'inks outside of de obvious?" Natasha asks the Skeek.
"Only vhen it moan too much, she say," Djivan recites to Parsley. "I hope she don feed me bunny vhen I moan too much."
Parsley giggles and pats Djivan on the shoulder. "I doubt she'd do that," the doe says. "And she's much too nice of a girl to be setting you up to be the next sacrifice, I'm sure."
Olivia stares at the Khatta for a minute, then her mouth makes a silent "oh!" She grins sheepishly. "All right, I think I understand that. Anyway, um, do you want to see what we brought?"
"I don' know 'bout dat. She regularly threatens me. Mostly after I tell a joke," the Skreek notes. The Skreek then decides to walk around and inspect Parsley more closely.
"But of course," Natasha says. She takes the feather she was idly playing with and tucks it behind her ear, in a tuft of fur.
The doe turns her head to try and keep an eye on Djivan, then grins at Axel's game and asks him, "Are you having fun, Axel? Maybe the Rath'ani girl can teach you to dance?"
"Vou don seem mutated," Djivan tells the doe after a bit of inspection.
"I've got long hair growing out of my head," Parsley says, pulling on a strand. "And my chest is developed even though I've never been pregnant. Plus I have a green birthmark."
Olivia reaches into her basket and pulls out a small wooden clock with a carved wooden face and hands. "I thought this would be the first item. A device that measures something that seems infinite for the young and all too limited for the old."
"I'd like that," Axel answers, abandoning his toss-the-scarf game. "I'm going now," he adds, then leans over to give Parsley a hug.
Parsley hugs back, and says, "Don't get your scarves dirty, or Lili will be cross with me. She looks like she might bite."
"Like I sai' vou don' seem mutated," Djivan reiterates and grins. "An Lili only bites those she like. She bit me once. Dat vas odd."
Natasha inspects the device and hmms. "Vell, I had expected vou to jus' get an hourglass. But, dis vork too," she says, "Vant to know vhat it is for?"
"Why would that be odd?" the Lapi asks. "You seem fairly clean. Or does Olivia scrub you down? I have to do that for Axel, because he's afraid of bathwater for some reason."
"Ever haf someone suck on vour neck? As in suck blood?" Djivan asks.
"Well… none that have broken the skin," Parsley says. "Some of the Kadies can get bitey, but I keep a chew stick handy for them… "
"She break skin. It feel funky, it does," Djivan says with a grin.
After the hug, Axel wanders off. He meanders through the crowd of gypsies until he finds the Rath'ani girl Parsley pointed out. "Hi," he greets her, bending over so he's more in line with her height.
Olivia grins wickedly at Natasha. "We can't use hourglasses to tell time at the Weaver's too many apprentices have broken them out of spite when they felt their shifts were too long! So the Kettenrads made these pretty indestructible wooden clocks for my aunt. But anyway, what will it be used for?"
"I guess it would," the doe admits, then smiles. "But at least she has smaller teeth than folks like us."
The girl stops dancing and stares at Axel for a bit, her jaw open and one held open more than the other. "Uh… " she says weakly, "Hi."
"Smaller in width, but dey just as long and very pointy," Djivan notes. He looks to Olivia who is engrossed in dealing with Natasha, then asks Parsley, "Vant to go meet dem now? Olivia busy."
"Sure!" Parsley says, and calls to Olivia, "I'm borrowing your boyfriend for a bit, okay? I promise not to break him."
"Will you teach me to dance? I have scarves, and bangles! But, no carrot cake. That's hard," Axel asks the girl. He points to his various scarves and bangles, then flutters his wings to make the scarves waft in the breeze he creates.
Olivia glances back at Parsley and Djivan. "Okay, I trust you. Just don't let him tell you any of his awful puns, okay? They'll just make your head hurt!"
"Hear that? No puns," Parsley says, wagging a finger at Djivan.
"Something to focus on," Natasha explains. "As de ritual starts to vork, time vill seem to slow down for dose involved. I foun' hourglasses and such make good focus points for people so dey don't notice everything going on aroun' dem and still know vhen it beginnin'. De reason time seem to slow down cuz in a dream, time work differently den in de real world."
"Oh, of course no'. No puns unless I face de punishing wrath o' de Lapi. I never buck de system, no. Vell, let's hop to it," Djivan says, grins widely, and offers his arm to Parsley.
The doe takes the Skreek's arm, and follows him around the bonfire.
Olivia nods as she considers this for a minute. "I'll keep that in mind." Then she indicates the large blade that she and Djivan dragged all the way from the Weaver's. "And that little monstrosity over there is what I thought might do for a fang from a local terror. Our Loom #4 is awfully terrifying, and that's a fact. It nearly took a bite out of Djivan!"
"Uh," the Rath'ani says, still apparently rather shocked by the appearance of this strange creature. She sticks out her hand in an attempt at a greeting and says, "Rawnie."
Natasha takes one look at the blade and she can't help but laugh. "Vell, dat is more den I expected. I used to t'inks like Naga fangs and such in answer to such questions," she says as she waves her hand over the blade, not touching it. "But, I do sense de fear people haf of dis thing. If vill vork. Now, vhy I asked for dis? De most powerful dreams are nightmares. It kin help strengthen de bridge."
Axel extends a taloned hand and takes Rawnie's. "Axel-Nadyenka, Flame of Federstadt," he greets the girl. Then, leaning forward, he smiles widely. "Don't be afraid!"
The two bucks put down their instruments and get to their feet as Djivan and Parsley approach. They walk over to her. The larger of the two nudges Djivan out of the way and slips his arm in place of the Skreek's. The other one goes to her other side and slides a hand around her waist. "Vell, look vhat came over," the first says. "Ah, de vision of beauty and allure. Ve are honored," says the second. Djivan just hmphs.
"Hello boys," Parsley says, smiling. "How are you enjoying your visit to our little town so far?"
As Axel leans in, the girl leans back. She lets out a terrified squeak! Of course, with his grip on her hand, it's not like she can go anywhere. So, her tail poofs to three times it's normal size.
Olivia looks a little more serious as she says, "Believe me, almost everyone in town knows about our Loom #4 and fears it, for good reason! So if you wanted good nightmare material, you certainly got it." She shudders a little, then turns back to her basket. From it she now pulls a small vial with some clear liquid in it. "Here's your falling water, taken straight from one of the waterwheels at the Mint Dam. I hope I got this one right! So what's it used for?"
"Oh, I say it jus' got a lot better," the first buck tells Parsley as he reaches with his free hand to play with one of her earring covered ears. "I'm Camlo, dat is Danior," the second says, "Ve're brothers."
The bird-man's smile falters, and he stumbles when the girl squeaks. Shaking it off, Axel leans back without releasing her hand, and studies the Rath'ani for a moment. Then, very carefully, he reaches over and pats her head consolingly. "I'm sorry if I frighten you. I try very hard. Try to be friendly but it doesn't work! No, no. Not my people, doesn't work." Then he sighs, dropping down to sit in front of her and frown.
"Ooo, brothers you say?" Parsley asks, teasingly. "Both bachelors?"
Natasha takes the vial and peers at it. "Ah, this vill vork nicely," she says approvingly. "I needed dis for mixing into the paints used to craft de ritual circle. Water which falls through de air of an area picks up traces of dat area's magic. It helps sync de ritual to de latent magic of the area."
"An proud of it," the two bucks answer in unison. Camlo moves in close until he's practically rubbing his side against Parsley's.
Parsley puts her free hand around Danior's waist, and asks, "Got all of your teeth? Any history of disease in your family?"
The Rath'ani's ears splay as her head is patted. She seems confused for a moment, then smiles. "Oh, vell, no harm done. Just don lean in like dat. Big t'ings close are creepy," she says and pats Axel's hand. Her tail de-poofs itself.
Olivia looks very interested at that. "Wow, really? I had no idea. But anyway, I'm glad that was the right item. Now as for this next one, this riddle was really hard to figure out! So forgive me if I'm wrong, but… " She pulls out an older pair of her aunt's winter gloves and gives them to the Khatta. "A skin which when empty, just lies there. When full, can point the way."
The two bucks look at each other, then laugh. "Vell, dat is an odd question," Danior says as he continues to play with her ear. And in the way brothers tend to be, they both smile at her in unison to indicate they do have all their teeth. "An our family no have any weird diseases, no," Camlo says. "Vell, except fer our uncle who caught dat weir' foot fungus."
"Oh, sorry then. I can't help being big," Axel apoligizes. He remains seating, patting the ground in front of himself for the Rath'ani to join him. "Parsley said that I might be able to learn to dance from you, so I came over."
"Well then," Parsley says, lowering her eyelashes, "would you two be interested in taking a little test with me and… some of my friends? I'd like to know which of you has the most stamina."
"No, dat be quite fine. I vanted a glove. I jus vanted vou to have to t'ink about it," Natasha says as she inspects the glove. "I haf to handle some ingredients I rather no use m' bare hand for. They tend to stain and burn a bit."
Djivan stifles a snort and clamps his hand over his muzzle.
"Really, vhat sort o' test? Danior asks. "Bah, no need for a test, I vill vin," Camlo claims.
"It's very nice test, I promise," Parsley says, and wiggles her hips in imitation of a Gypsy dancer, bumping both the bucks with them.
The Rath'ani sits down and curls her striped tail around herself, then rests her hands upon it. "Oh, dancin? I no de best teacher fer dat. Vou voul' vant to ask Liliana if you wanted a good teacher. I coul just maybe show some of de simpler moves," she admits.
The bucks both laugh, then look at each other abruptly. "T'ink dis is a trick by de local warren?" Danior asks Camlo. "Coul' be," Camlo remarks.
Olivia breathes a sigh of relief. "Okay, great! Then I'm glad I brought you a pair of my aunt's gloves, because they have a better chance of fitting you than any of mine would. All right, so that leaves-" And here, Olivia reaches into her basket and pulls out something wrapped in wads of cotton. When she unwraps it, it proves to be an egg. She merely looks at the gypsy quizzically for an explanation.
"Oh, not a trick," Parsley says. "Just a qualification test to see if your services are worth pursuing."
"That'd be nice," Axel says. "Can I dance around the bonfire? I like fire; we're alike, you know! I'm fire too." The bird-man reaches up and taps the space between his eyes.
"Don vorry, de yolk is no on vou," Natasha says playfully and picks up the egg. "De white of de egg makes a great binding material for spell paints. Plus, it is symbolically one of de beginnings of life, vhich is very powerful, vou know."
"Uhm you shouldn' dance too close to fire vhen vearin' stuff like dat," Rawnie says as she points to the scarves. "A stray ember coul' make vou go poof!"
Olivia grooooans at this and covers her face with her hands. "Did Djivan put you up to that pun?" she asks, her voice slightly muffled by her hands.
"I don know," Danior says and rolls his jaw thoughtfully. "De last warren ve vere near knock us out an lock us in a storage room. Ve had to sneak out," Camlo says. "Vhat is de test an vhere voul' it be held?"
"I don't poof! Fire is my friend, it's a part of my soul. The clothing … " Axel grabs at a blowing scarf which evades him several times and then shows it to Rawnie. " … Not so friendly with fire. Clover would be upset if it were burned. She'd get the bite. Better not; you're right."
Parsley looks around, then says, "Well, we could hold it in Liliana's wagon, I don't think she'd mind. And as for what… well, what do you think?"
"Actually, no. I be listenin' to de latent energy earlier. I t'ink ve be near a group 'o otters right now. De energy be a bit silly tonight," Natasha admits and smiles apologetically.
Danior hmms, then grins, "Vell, she prolly no mind, no. So, vhat is de test? An vill vou pe part of it?" The buck's hand slides from her ear and down her back to come to rest on her … tail.
"I can be, if you pass the initial parts," Parsley teases. "Think of me as… the prize for the winner."
"Ah, vell, vhat is de initial part so ve kin prepare?" Camlo asks with a playful grin.
"Oh, that is the easy part," Parsley says, and then begins removing the borrowed earrings and bangles, and eventually the entire skimpy outfit, handing the clothing and jewelry over to the bucks as she does so. "Just take this back to Liliana's wagon, and wait for me there. I'll be right back… "
Olivia lets her hands drop and taps the Khatta on the knee as sharply as she dares. "Now look, we already have one person here who makes awful puns, don't you start!" she pleads. Then she looks a bit more serious. "Well, now that you have all the things you need for the ritual, can you tell me a little more about what I'll need to do? Just so I'm a little more mentally prepared?"
The Rath'ani gives Axel one of those looks which says 'Did you fall on your head recently?'. She laughs and nods. "Ves, dat prolly no be a good idea to dance in dat near a fire. Only vhen vou get col' should you try dat." Her ears turn red, then she asks, "I sorry, bu', are vou a guy or girl? Usually only girls dance dis style."
The bucks watch with rapt interest as Parsley removes the borrowed outfits. The two divide it up between themselves and then bow to Parsley. "Ve avait vour command," they say, then make a hasty dash towards Liliana's wagon. Once they reach the door, they squabble and fight a bit before both end up inside.
Axel thinks about that a moment, then gives the Rath'ani an apologetic shrug. "I'm an Axel-Nadyenka," he replies.
Grinning at the bucks' eagerness, Parsley walks off towards the swamp, past the outhouses. After she's vanished, a distinct splash can be heard.
Rawnie sighs. She leans over and just pulls the waistband of Axel's pants. She leans over and looks inside. She sits back, ears red, and says, "Guy. I … think."
The bird-man watches as the girl looks down his pants, then he blinks at her remark. "Guy," he agrees, sounding uncertain. "Can I dance?"
"Vell, be prepared to see anything. It coul' be vorse den the short trip to see the spirit side of de worl. Anything might appear. An', vou must try and keep ahold of vour emotions. Strong emotions kin often affect a dream, causing other like emotions to gather towards it. So, if vou feel fear, fearful t'ings may flock to vou," Natasha tries to explain. "The best t'ing you can do is try to relax. Nothin' in a dream kin really hurt you unless you allow it to."
"I don' know. Kin vou dance?" Rawnie asks Axel.
"I don't know," Axel admits. "I can fly."
Djivan makes his way back to Olivia, clutching his gut and wheezing with laughter. "Dat vas de funniest t'ing I see in a long time. She had dem aroun' her finger, she did," he manages out between giggles.
"Kin I see vour feets?" Rawnie asks Axel and holds out her hands.
Axel shifts so he can pull his feet forward, then he extends one into Rawnie's hands. As far as feet go, Rawnie's seen the like of Axel's before on a Korv. "New feets," he explains.
Olivia thinks about her second, unexpected trip to the spirit realm and nods. She remembers that the necromancer wasn't able to hurt her once she just stood up to him. "All right, I'll do my best. I might be nervous, though, because I don't want to mess up the ritual and I'd really like to help Bravil. I hope a little nervousness will be all right as long as it doesn't get out of hand?"
There soon comes a series of splashes and giggles from the swamp. Apparently Parsley's swim was short, as she returns to the bonfire leading no less than six otter girls, just as wet and nude and smelling slightly swampy as the doe. She takes them to Lili's wagon, opens the door, and ushers them inside. "You know the drill," she tells the otters. "Short straws go first." After they've squeezed into the wagon, Parsley notices Djivan and blows him a kiss before going inside herself and closing the door.
"As long as you understand an kin recognize vour fears, vou vill be fine. Tho, I suspect Bravil' nightmares vill overshadow any of our fears," Natasha admits with a sigh. "I kin feel the chaos in him."
Djivan falls over and starts giggling again. "She evil!" he wheezes, "An I though Liliana coul' plot. But, vhoo!"
Rawnie runs her chin after inspecting Axel's feet. "Birdy feets no so good fer dancin'," she apologizes. "Dey usually jus' look like dey hoppin'.
Olivia looks sad and rests her chin in one hand, staring at the fire. She remembers that Bravil has always been patient and gentle with her, but always a bit shy and overly-careful, as if he might break her at any moment. "How long has he been like this?" she asks.
"As he is now? Vell, a couple days," Natasha notes. "Or did vou mean something else?"
"I can hop. Hopping is good," Axel insists, cheerily.
Olivia blinks and hurriedly clarifies, "No no, I meant how long he's been trapped in the nightmares and can't wake up. But that means he can't eat or drink, either, in that condition." She shudders, not happy at the prospect of Bravil starving to death while in the grip of awful dreams.
"But it no really dancin," Rawnie points out and stands up. "Dancin is movin' de hips, arms an body," she explains and then demonstrates as such, dancing and slinking around Axel, her hips rubbing along his shoulders and her tail snaking along his neck.
A few moments after closing the wagon door, Parsley reemerges, carrying her own clothes in a bundle as she goes to dry off next to the bonfire.
Axel seems amused by Rawnie's tail, running a hand along it as it slinks around him. "I have wings, can I move my wings? I have arms too!" He shows her that he does, indeed, have arms.
"A couple days. If he can' be woke in a week, vell, I don' t'ink he vill make it," Natasha says and looks skyward. "Kin really imagine him no bein' aroun."
"Only move vour vings if vou no gon' vhack someone vit' dem," Rawnie says and waggles her finger at Axel.
Djivan recovers enough of himself to go back over and sit down by Parsley. "No' going to join in der fun?" he asks her as she's drying out. Behind them, Liliana's wagon creaks slightly.
Olivia looks a little more resolute now. "Then we have to do what we can and hope for the best." She glances back over at Natasha. "When do you think the preparations for the ritual will be finished?"
"I'm not sure about that," Axel worries. "Parsley says I "whack" people a lot but I'm better now!"
"I kin be ready by tomorrow mid-day. The rest depends on vhen Morgan kin be ready," Natasha answers as she draws up one of her legs and wraps her hands around its knee. "I vish I knew more about his history. It voul give me more to expect. Bu' he never talk about his past. I never even hear of 'Von Ril' until today."
"Oh no, I wouldn't want to deprive one of the Oggtons," Parsley says, brushing her hair out with her fingers. "Besides, they'd never get to me. The otters just keep up the rotation until the men have passed out, then steal their clothes and tie them up. If they're clever enough to charm Liliana out of punishing them for the mess, then they'll pass the test."
Djivan snickers, "Dat evil.". And then the Skreek sobers up and asks, "You can't sleep wit dem, kin vou? Cuz of bein a mutant an likelyhood of pregnancy?"
Parsley nods. "I keep strictly to non-Lapi. Which is fine, I like making sure nobody feels too lonely or left out."
"Still, dat seem kinna sad to never be wit vour own kind," Djivan notes and rests his chin on his knee.
"Then perhaps if we look past the obvious in Bravil's dreams, we'll know more about him when we come out of this," Olivia says, with a ghost of a smile. "At any rate, just send Djivan to fetch me once the preparations are complete and Morgan is ready. I'd better get back to the Weaver's for now."
"Oh, I can still do things with Lapis," Parsley says. "There are lots of ways to have fun without… you know. But not many out-of-towners would know the skills. And there are a few of the bucks that are sterile too."
"Ve may learn t'ings he don vant us to know, though," Natasha says sadly, "Perhap' some secret shame. Still, I prefer him to be alive an mad at me, instead of gone. An ves, I send Djivan for vou vhen we can begin. I t'ink he vant to do it up at de castle for privacy.
"See? Vou kin go aroun' vhackin' people wit vour vings. Dat be considered rude," Rawnie says and nods in agreement to the observation Parsley gave Axel. "So, vhy do vou vant to dance, anyvay?"
"Ah, dat be good, den," Djivan says with a smile and tilts his head so he can watch Olivia for a bit. "Kin I ask vou a question, since people seems to talk to vou?"
"Ummm … " Axel tilts his head, then rubs his chin in thought. "I remember dancing. Dancing, during the seasons. Turn of the weather, turn of the crop; time to celebrate! They used to dance for me, and I danced with them." He then smiles sadly. "Not like this. That was another time and place."
"Of course," Parsley says, smiling to Djivan.
"Yeah, I think I'd prefer him alive and mad at me, too," Olivia agrees. Then she stands up and stretches. "Time I was on my way. I'll see you soon."
"Vhy does dat Amelia hate me?" Djivan asks.
"Good evening to vou, Miss Veaver," Natasha says with a smile and light wave to Olivia.
"You're from out of town," Parsley says, simply. "She probably thinks you'll steal Olivia away."
"An vhat voul' be wrong wit dat? Dis is a town, no' a prison," Djivan points out.
"She's very protective of her friends his all," Parsley says. "Plus you seem the pinchy type. She doesn't get along well with that sort of guy just ask Emmett!" The doe laughs, and then pulls Djivan in for a hug, getting bunny bosom water all over his face. "I like that kind though! They're interesting."
"Oh! Vou vant to dance wit vour heart," Rawnie says with a smile and sits down again. "Dat don' require lessons, silly. Vou just do vhat vou feel inside," she says and pokes the center of Axel's chest. "Dat be de joy of livin'. Dis sort o' dancin' is to help bring in money an trade."
"But my heart is in my chest," Axel sighs. "If I take it out I'll die."
"Ackpth!" Djivan says and flails his arms wildly when his face is devoured by bunny bust!
Olivia steps over to the Lapi and the Skreek just as Parsley pulls him into a tight hug. Her eyebrows threaten to vanish into her hairline. "A-HEM!" she clears her throat loudly.
"Vou don' take it out, vou listen to it," Rawnie says with an exhasperated sigh.
Parsley lets Djivan go, then gives Olivia the same hug!
Djivan starts wiping his face off and coughing. "Dat no' vhat it look like!" he claims.
"Oh." Axel stares at Rawnie for a long moment, his glowing eyes reflecting the bonfire in the dim light, until he finally asks, "Is that … a metaphor?"
Rawnie just stares at Axel. "Uh, ves," she answers simply, not wanting to confuse him even further. She almost said 'duh', but didn't want to explain the meaning of it…
Olivia splutters something incomprehensible as Parsley's hug devours her in the same manner! When she can finally get free, she splutters, wiping water from her face, "Okay, I guess that's one way of diffusing an awkward situation… But just remember: I freely admit that I'm a jealous girfriend and I don't share!"
"Ohh." Axel kaws a laugh, then reaches over and pats Rawnie's head again. "I remember metaphors now. Symbolism." He laughs again, then reaches over and tugs at the girl's tail. "I like your tail!"
"An I only really pinch 'er," Djivan insists. He proceeds to pinch Olivia's bum to prove it.
"Just so long as you loosen up a bit, Olivia," Parsley says. "You seem a lot happier with this fellow around at least."
Rawnie squeaks when her tail is tugged! "I like it too … attached to me," she says with a grin. She then takes it up and pafs Axel in the face with the tip.
In response, Olivia shakes bunny-bosom-water all over Djivan, soaking him again! Then she smiles more forgivingly at Parsley. "Isn't that why the otters are here? To be the loose ones so I don't have to?" she teases.
The creaking form Liliana's wagon seems to try to answer that question…
"Oh, they're just here because they like to make men go squeak," Parsley says.
Axel laughs again, reaching over to hug the tail tip. Then, he extends his wings out and wraps them around Rawnie as well!
Olivia glances back at Lili's wagon now, too, and grins. "I guess so. Anyway, I'm going home for the night. See you later!" She gives the Skreek a kiss before she wanders out of the camp.
"So, if ya buys a buck, how do yas keep em from running off?" Djivan seemingly has to ask Parsley. "Vou don like lock dem up, do vou?"
Before Olivia can leave, Djivan hugs and kisses her as well, saying, "Be careful. I see yas later."
Watching Axel's antics, Parsley notes, "It's a shame the Blacktail girls aren't as big as the boys… then I could match one up with Axel… Oh, the bucks? They can leave after they've made their contribution, so to speak. If they want to stay, then they'll stay and we won't have to worry. If we buy one though… hmm. Might lock him up a little… "
"I will. Don't keep Parsley up all night!" Olivia returns.
"Vou Lapis are sure odd," Djivan notes, "Us Skreeks don' go aroun buying each other."
"If I offered to buy you for my warren, you'd turn me down then?" Parsley asks. "G'night Olivia!"
Being wing-hugged elicits a rather loud squeak from Rawnie when she vanishes. A moment later a huge puff of fur sticks out the top of Axel's wings and through the cracks where the wings meet.
"Vhy voul' you buy a Skreek?" Djivan asks.
Olivia stops for a moment, just as she is about to start on the road back into town, and looks around. She could have sworn that she saw… She peers into all the nearby bushes, but there isn't anything around. At least, not anymore. "Hmmm," she murmurs to herself, as she starts walking again. "Better take Djivan's warning to heart, I guess… "
Parsley shrugs. "As a pet?"
"To keep Olivia in town?" Djivan asks with a smirk.
"Oh, she'd have to be the one selling you," the doe remarks with a smirk of her own. "If you're still any good by then. Or don't you like bunnies?" she asks, leaning into the Skreek and smiling wickedly.
"Are you having fun?" Axel asks Rawnie, now that they're a mess of puffed fur and wings.
"Haven' met a bunny I haven' generally liked," Djivan retorts wit a smirk. "An, remember, I vas tutored by Liliana, so, vell … " he adds and shakes his head. "So, I doubt Olviia voul sell me."
"I nearly soiled meself," comes a small squeak from the hidden Rawnie.
Parsley laughs, and leans back. "Just so long as you keep her happy then," she comments, and looks to Axel and his captive. "I'd better get all that stuff off of Axel. Maybe he's gotten his drying trick under control by now too… "
"Yah, before he scares Rawnie t'death," Djivan agrees with a nod. The wagin behind the two creaks loudly, so the rat leans back and yells at it, "Oh, knock it off, already. Yeesh!"
The doe glances to the wagon, and then whispers to Djivan, "Once the girls get all worked up, they may be on the prowl still after the bucks are worn out. You'd best hide in your wagon, just in case."
"Dey won' be tired by den?" Djivan asks, looking rather disbelieving.
"There are six of them to two of the bucks," Parsley notes. "Unless your boys are really good, they won't be very tired."
"Dat jus' three per. I though' vou Lapis coul handle many?" the Skreek asks and gets to his feet.
"Well, you don't think they'll just go around once do you?" Parsley asks.
"No, but isn't several times enough fer an otter?" Djivan asks
The doe giggles. "These are Oggtons… nothing is ever enough for them."
"Ah, I be goin' home, den," the Skreek says and makes a beeline for his wagon.
Parsley gets up and goes over to Axel. "Time to take the shinies back," she tells him.
"I have to say goodbye now, Rawnie. It was nice to meet you," Axel tells the entrapped girl. He releases his wings, then helps her stand as he gets up.
Rawnie is a puffed mess. "Uh, nice to meet you too," she says, sounding rather dazed.
Untying some of the scarves from Axel, Parsley says, "I'll bring these back into the wagon, you'd be better off waiting outside. And… have you practiced your fur drying trick at all?"
"No practice but I can try," Axel replies. He lets Parsley untie him, holding this or that limb up to help her out. "I like scarves. Can I have some scarves of my own?"
"I'm sure we can find some for you," Parsley says. "Olivia must have lots." She collects the scarves and bangles, and is at least a little drier now so that they don't get soaked. "I'll drop these off. Do you want to go back to Kalvin tonight?"
"Should I? I'm worried about these people and Miranda," Axel answers. He glances around the camp, then points to the bonfire. "I can sleep by the fire tonight."
"Okay, I'll stay here with you then," Parsley promises, then takes the bundle of scarves and bangles back to Lili's rocking wagon and tosses them inside the door. She returns to the bonfire, puts her clothes back on, has a seat next to Axel.
"You can sleep on my wings if you want to, Parsley. I'm just going to watch the fire a while. It reminds me of some things I want to remember," Axel tells Parsley, before sitting next to the doe.