Outside Over There

The Captured Wolf-Blooded/The Museum of the Soul's Skein

Blood could not help herself. Looking into those cages, she saw herself. Abused. Starving. A plaything for someone more powerful. A woman, a man and two children. Barely dressed and pleading through the bars for someone, anyone, to help them. She could smell the blood of the wolf from them, even if they didn’t know it. These were her people. Caged and sold like animals.

Her skin itched with rage, a fever that seemed to explode from every cell in her. Within seconds, she was in Gauru form, tearing at one of the cage doors. Snarling. Slashing.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the little man that ran the shop yelling at her to stop. It had all the weight and whine of a buzzing insect as far as she was concerned. If he was very very lucky, he’d fucking make it out of this with his guts intact.

Joseph, having followed Blood to talk to her more about this fake ID problem of hers (and pawn her off on Guido back at The Doll House), was taken aback by the sight. Blood was a hurricane of claws, having only moderate luck at shredding the cage steel. Fuck it, he figured. He’d never been a fan of these kind of stalls to begin with. He slipped past Blood in her frenzy and looked over one of the child cages. He might not be able to smash them the same way… but a decent appraisal of the design showed a fairly exploitable flaw. The hinges.

Opening his Gladstone bag, Joseph removed a fairly decent wedging tool. And started work on popping them apart.

Mick came in not long after. Seeing the situation, and Blood’s ferocity over these prisoners, Mick casually walked over and put his bladefingers to the man’s cage. The bars were reinforced, making it tough to simply slice through.

The little man, aghast at all of this sabotage, scurried out of the tent to find Market Security. Or more specifically Mr. Pinch. Jenn, Mr. Wild and Draca were still discussing with Mr. Pinch the actions of the vendor who stabbed Draca when the slave trader demanded Mr. Pinch and his Blunderbore guards see to the fracas at his tent.

Blood and Joseph managed to free two of the four imprisoned wolf-blooded. Terrified, they fled into the Hedge.

Mr. Pinch, after witnessing Blood’s rampage, demanded of Jenn to rein in her companions. Jenn physically moved her person between Joseph (and Mick) and the cages, asking them not to burn this particular bridge. The mission demanded they work with this Goblin Market. Once Joseph and Mick had been convinced, Jenn had to do the same with Blood.

Once Jenn had calmed Blood down a little, telling her they’d find a way to free these wolfblooded, the insane frenzy quieted down at last. The slave trader demanded satisfaction and Jenn promised him she would return them to the market. And so the group set out to recover the two escaped slaves, uncomfortable deep in their stomachs at the task set upon them.

While searching, Joseph stumbled upon a place that resembled an abandoned amusement park or aquarium. As he delved closer into it, he realized that part of its exhibits featured items or images from his own life.

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Billy Birch/ The Goblin Market Fiasco

Having emerged from Hotel Seraphim with rooms of their own, the group takes care of business in the real world.

Mick, as he promised, takes Charlotte out for a nice dinner and a film. Draca checks in with her adoptive parents. Blood checks in with her grandma and then tries to locate Joseph about a possible fake ID. Mr Wild visits Julie Winters. And Jenn contacts Peter, updating him on their status. He directs her to gather the group and visit the Winter Trove on 63rd Street.

Jenn manages to contact Mick and Joseph, who meet her at the Winter Trove. There they are given their first assignment and two tokens. One of the tokens, a simple woodcarving knife, is meant for their first key contact, Billy Birch. The other is to be traded at the Goblin Market for a Glimpsing Mirror. Jenn attempts to find Mr Wild and Blood and begin their excursion into the Hedge.

Blood is visited by her father. Who tells her that she should look to the wolf-blooded. That something nefarious is afoot. Blood then returns to her dorm room at Snow Lion apartments. Jenn contacts her and arranges for the group to meet her there. Once there, Jenn finds Blood’s roommate entertaining friends (who flirt with Mr Wild, Joseph and Mick). With her necessary gear now in hand, Blood leaves with the motley.

The group enters the Hedge and sets off to find Billy Birch. Eventually they find a barren wasteland with only the whipping of the wind to accompany them. Billy Birch soon appears. They cordially offer him the woodcarving knife and the towering tree-man is very much taken with it. Jenn asks him what information he can give them about setting up stations in the Hedge or about directing them to the powers-that-be in the area. He tells her of The Tender, a charlatan in her world. And of Lady Ambrosia, said to be a True Fae that was cast out and now lives in the Hedge.

Armed with this new information, Jenn decides to lead the group to the Goblin Market for the other task: trading out a token for the Glimpsing Mirror. The motley splits up to look for something useful. Jenn encounters a vendor who specializes in memory trading. Draca encounters a weapon vendor who seems to recognize him, calling him by his Amaranthine Battlefield rank of general. When Draca approaches the man, he is stabbed and cursed at. Draca, of course, trucks no quarter with this man and draws her sword. This draws the attention of the market’s head of security, Mr. Pinch. After questioning them both, Mr. Pinch determines that the weapon vendor has broken the rules of the market and must provide the available group with tokens from his stand. Jenn is seemingly the only one who needs anything and so she picks up The Pocketwatch of Immaculate Timekeeping.

Meanwhile, in her own wanderings, Blood happens upon a tent of caged humans. Upon closer inspection, she discovers they are in fact wolf-blooded. At this discovery, she loses herself and begins attacking the cages and the vendor that owns them.

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The Hotel Seraphim

Blood and Draca stepped outside the restaurant, each determined to bash humility into the other. In full view of others waiting for a table, Blood swung. She cracked Draca across the jaw, sending the young girl’s head back a bit. After the first strike settled across Draca, she gathered her bearings and quickly stepped into Blood’s space, double-tapping her. A blow to Blood’s ribs and one to her face, sending her reeling back. The little changeling girl didn’t deal a shit ton of damage. But jesus christ, she was fast.

Inside, Mick grumbled at the food. What kind of fucking people ate fish that was never cooked? Was a fire too damn hard to find in China?

Peter and Jenn meanwhile discussed the group’s first assignment. Handing her a note with directions to a storage facility just outside of Boulder, Peter explained that their first task would be retrieving a critical token and then setting up their base of operations in Mr. Wild’s Hotel Seraphim.

Julie Winters got a call and excused herself. Outside Joseph sat back and watched Draca & Blood punch it out, certain that he’d be needed at some point and anxious to get Blood delivered to Guido for her stripper job. Mr. Wild just brooded on his soup and said nothing. Mick sneered at the sushi and asked if anything good was in this place. “Do you like fried chicken?” Peter asked him. “Sure. Who doesn’t?” Mick answered. “Then you should order the chicken tempura.” What the hell, Mick figured, that sounds close enough to edible.

Julie returned with a frantic look. She explained to Mr. Wild that one of his recent rescue cases, a young girl named Panthera, was at the Hotel Seraphim and potentially under attack by briarwolves. Mr. Wild wasted no time. He stood up from the table and said his goodbyes. When Peter asked where he was going, he gruffly answered “Danger” and left Sushi Zanmai with Julie.

Once outside, Mr. Wild interrupted Draca and Blood’s punch-up by situating his large bulk between them. He asked Draca for her help and, never waiting for the answer, turned to make his way down Broadway.

Joseph, noticing the determined hurry, asked Mr. Wild what was wrong. “Danger” he said again and hustled across the street. “I’ll help!” Joseph said, following suit.

Peter shrugged and figured: “Well… I guess now’s as good a time as any to acquaint everyone with Hotel Seraphim.” He invited Mick to come see, told him he could take his chicken with him in a go-box and he and Jenn scurried out the door.

Mick didn’t lag far behind.

They all arrived near Broadway and Arapahoe, under the bridge and near the creek path. Mr. Wild quickly leaned in to the painted wolf mural on the bridge wall and kissed it, opening the gateway to his Hollow. Julie and Peter stayed behind while the motley entered for the first time.

Inside they could hear the faint screams for help from a young girl. Running full tilt to the screams, Blood and Joseph got there first. Blood shifted into Urshul form and tackled one of the assailing briarwolves, tumbling with it into a wall. Joseph whipped out one of his scalpels and tried to slide, action-star-stylee, under one to gut its stomach. Sadly, he skid only a few feet in front of it, dust billowing around him.

Mr. Wild and Jenn followed. Jenn drew her gun and tried to fire but missed. Mr Wild stormed the one nearest Panthera but before he could swipe at it, Mick jumped in and began cutting into it with his knife fingers.

Blood bit down hard on her briarwolf’s throat and crushed it completely, a gurgle of blood its only death rattle. While Mick was battling hers, Draca stepped in, drew her sword and sliced the last briarwolf’s arm off at the elbow. Then finished it off with a sword blow to the neck, decapitating it completely.

With the invasion quelled, Mr. Wild saw to Panthera. When he was certain she was unharmed, he looked to the others. Joseph asked how the attack had happened and Mr. Wild, in his own monosyllabic way, made it clear that he was one changeling, handling the upkeep and wards for a rather large Hollow. He insisted that he needed help maintaining the place.

Joseph was the first to ask about available rooms, preferably one isolated and away from the gang. Mr Wild led him upstairs to a small apartment on the roof. When he opened the door to the apartment, nothing stood behind it but brick and mortar. But when he closed that same door and offered Joseph to re-open it, a snug little cloister appeared. This was the way Hotel Seraphim worked. Mr. Wild had to introduce new occupants to it formally before they could rest there.

Meanwhile Panthera had found Draca, who was outside the hotel looking out warily into the Hedge. She insisted that her brother, Aslan, was still around and wanted Draca’s help finding him. Draca sought out Mr. Wild, who picked up sounds coming from the room Panthera and her brother shared. Sure enough, the boy had been hiding in the closet. Panthera wasted no time giving her a brother an earful.

Everyone else had wandered through the hotel, trying to pick the place up as best they could. Mick was cleaning the kitchen area. Blood was tossing large bits of debris and rubble into the Hedge. Jenn was looking the place over. Mr. Wild was seeing to it that Joseph was given cleaning utensils. And Draca was exploring as well.

After cleaning the kitchen of vegetation, Mick sought out Mr. Wild, looking for a permanent place to crash. He lead Mick downstairs to the boiler room which, like it had for Joseph, first opened into a brick wall and then eventually into a decent little basement apartment, near the pipes and stove. This suited Mick just fine.

Draca meanwhile was checking out the kitchen sink. When she turned the tap, only a thick green ooze spewed out. Disturbed by this, she asked Mr. Wild what could be done. He shrugged and went down into the boiler room. They looked the pipes over and decided, fuck it, we haven’t the first clue what’s needed to fix them.

Trudging upstairs with Mick and Draca, Mr Wild ran into Blood. Tired from all her labors, she asked Mr. Wild if there was a way out. She wanted to go home and see to her grandmother. He nodded and opened the main Hollow entrance in the courtyard. She thanked him and made her way out. With the gate to the mortal world open now, everyone congregated in the courtyard.

Peter, oddly enough, had been waiting outside the Hollow the whole time. He slipped in as Blood slipped out and greeted Jenn. He wanted to make sure everyone had settled in to the hotel and if anyone was ready for the next step in their mission. After getting a consensus, Jenn agreed. Draca, with no interest in wasting time in the mortal world than she wanted to, said she wanted to stay.

And so Bulwark Expedition stepped out of the Hollow, set to begin their first adventure.

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Sushi Beginnings

Be warned. Initial character exposition is rarely ever pretty.

Our intrepid Jenn Argent, formerly of the Rescuers, finds herself still coming to terms with the scattering of the group and the death of Eden Blu. She spends her time mostly in her library work and her underground newsletter, content enough that her riskier days are over.

Until the Winter King, Peter Boreas, rings her. Meeting over Chinese food, he asks about the newsletter. She nearly denies it at first, fearful she’ll be exposed. But his approach betrays his awareness, with no tone of anger or frustration. He is instead curious if she would be open to criticizing Summer Court and thus keep it on its heels in her paper. He insists that she take whatever editorial steps she feels are necessary while keeping the freehold’s internal conflicts from spinning out of control. To this she agrees.

He then extends an even larger request. He needs someone from Winter Court to lead an expedition force into the Hedge. The intent? To establish a freehold presence in the Hedge, secure diplomatic relations with the various areas of the Thorns and scout out possible outpost locations. To this she also agrees and asks for a list of recommended people.

In the shadowy office of an industrial district, we are introduced to Mick Sticker, a Razorhands/Mirrorskin Darkling and button man for his fetch Boss Donovan. After scaring Boss Donovan out of a few bucks and retiring to a local dive bar, Mick’s soon summoned by the Autumn Queen’s bodyguard.

Once there in the presence of the Autumn Queen, Mick’s instructions are brief but dire. He is to join Peter’s Bulwark Expedition team immediately and recover any tokens Autumn Court might utilize. He agrees to this arrangement and is told to meet with the others of the group at Sushi Zanmai that evening.

Joseph Soma, also formerly of the old motley, is dealing with past horrors in his own way; by slowing drinking himself into an opiate oblivion. Now a sawbones for the Westie Mob, Boss Donovan’s criminal enterprise, Joseph is left with only his stuporous state and occasional calls to the Spring Queen to keep him company. After examining the mob’s cathouse ladies and picking up the money due him, he dopes himself into a deep sleep and awakens hours later. Bleary-eyed he decides to have the scissors he stole from the Gardener weeks ago forged into scalpels. A short trip to the Pearl Street Underground and, for the sum of his cathouse profits, he has the scalpel he needs.

Somewhere past the flapping tents and hocked wares of the local Goblin Market, we find Mr. Wild, a dumb but generous creature that resembles Ludo from the movie Labyrinth. After bargaining a fair trade with a corrupt little hobgoblin, he returns to his ‘home’ in Boulder underneath a local bridge. There he finds a note from his ensorcelled friend Julie, a social worker who’s been working with Mr. Wild to rescue kids from the Hedge. He meets her at her office and is given an offer to join an expeditionary group, funded by the Winter King, that might result in child rescue operations. This suits Mr. Wild just fine. While Mr. Wild opts for getting their on foot (being terrified of cars), Julie drives to Sushi Zanmai.

On Diagonal Highway, fifteen year old Tetsu Draca is being driven by her foster mom to her weekly kendo class. Usually dour and sullen, the girl’s only highlight of her life are these evening. More at home in the Wyrd than in the mortal realm, Draca has spent nearly all of her life in Arcadia, taken at three years old and forced to endlessly fight on the plains of the Amarantine Battlefield. Having escaped to the mortal world, she was discovered by Mr. Wild and Julie and placed with her foster family, the Knutzes. While she will admit it to no one, Draca aches with a unsatiable desire to return to the Faerie world. She’s miserable here. Training under her teacher is the closest she can get anymore to the visceral delight of the battlefield.

Inside the pitch black dojo, she is confronted by an attacker and knocks him down. He is revealed to be her kendo teacher, a blind Beast kith swordsman with all the features of a boar, and her Court Grand Master: Mr. Zato Ino. Over tea he inquires as to her emotional state, knowing her alienation and isolation all to well. She confesses all of this and more and wishes very much for a life back on the battlefield.

After chastising her a little for not being as brave in peace as she can be in war, he extends an invite to Bulwark Expedition from Peter Boreas, under the condition that it will not interfere with her life inside the Knutz family. This is wonderful and extraordinary news and she accepts the offer without a moment’s pause. Tea ceremoniously ends and training begins. Once finished, they take the bus into Boulder from his dojo in Longmont, fearful they will not make the rendezvous in time.

Jenn, at home, is sent a dossier on Blood Moon Rising, Draca, Mr. Wild and Mick Sticker.

Eighteen year old Lola Iron Crow is just leaving her noon day class at Naropa when she gets a call. Max Roman, alpha of Silver Syndicate and boss to her own pack alpha, requests a meet up with her. At Applebee’s they discuss her recent bailout from jail from yet another barfight. Max puts her on notice. Unless she serves as his liaison to Peter’s Bulwark Expedition, she’ll soon find herself out of Boulder and the scholarship from Argentum Corporation dried up. Blood reluctantly agrees to this task. Grumbling all the while, she visits with her grandmother.

Her quiet time with her granny is soon interrupted by a call from Jenn Argent. Blood hangs up twice on Jenn, convinced it’s some telemarketer or weirdo. Already exasperated, Jenn contacts Max Roman, who informs her that he’s on his way to pick up Blood for the arranged rendezvous. Jenn, never informed of this meeting, gets a call from Peter. He’s running late but is on his way to pick her up.

It’s while wandering Pearl Street that Joseph gets an odd call. The Spring Queen demands that he attend the Bulwalk Expedition meet-up as her representative. With nothing else to really do, he decides to head that way.

Mick arrives first and has a difficult time with the seating arrangments (“Where are the chairs?”). Blood and Mr. Wild arrive (with Julie behind) soon after him. While Blood tries to get some booze out of the waitress and Mick Sticker determined not to sit on the floor, Draca and Master Ino arrive. Peter and Jenn follow suit. Drinks and food are ordered while Peter initiates the introductions. He informs them of the expedition’s intent and that each of them will be given sashes emblematic of the freehold.

By the end of the night Draca and Blood have met their match in one another and a confrontation has started outside the restaurant.

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