Drawing Together The Tatters


The Freehold



It is a brisk Autumn night up on the streets, but down here it's a blistering winter cold. At least, around Chill Veronica it is, at any rate. She has a tendency to do that without thinking, and anyone who walks into her general vicinity might suddenly for a moment feel like they've eaten too much ice cream. She's sitting on a twisted metal bench, legs folded under herself as she turns an ornate sword over and over in her frosty hands.

Late, or at least it feels late to Eve. Off shift an hour ago, wandering the streets, she finally finds herself drawn to the place she never wants to go, but is always pulled to be at… the station. The gathering place. So many others here, safety in numbers and misery loving company. Not quite so chilly as Veronica, there is still a perpetuating air of mixed sorrow and pain around the woman as she descends the steps into the station, her steel toed boots echoing in a heavy brush on the floor. She smokes a cigarette mindlessly, sunken eyes staring warily at the room.

The low, ominous clang of boots on ladder-rungs rings out from above as a figure descends down one of the ladders leading up into the heighs; releasing the last rung, Wolfgang drops down a few feet to land on the main concourse of the freehold in a slight crouch before rising up to his full height, one hand lifting to brush back a clattering of shifting steel feathers from one shoulder, a mink's head upon a fur-wreathed sleeve snapping at him in futility as his arm moves past. The goat's head hood is pushed back, and both hands rake through long, stringy, curl-kinked hair before he turns to look out across the room, sharp eyes flickering over those outcasts and exiles from two worlds that've happened to come to this place of security this evening.

Grady lumbers into the Freehold on an heavy step from one of the entrances that lead off to the subway tunnels. The axe, too large for him, is in front. At the moment he is using not unlike a walking staff with the bladed edge up. His one good eye sways from side to side taking in the surroundings in a disconcerting way. His face sports a tusky grin, or perhaps that is just how his face looks when relaxed.
Evelyn turns her head as she sees others nearing, her eyes going a hint wide, studying each of them in silence as she finally heads over towards a bench…or somewhere close to sit. She moves with a sore exhaustion to her muscles and, finally, she just collapses down into being sttled there. she ashes her cigarette off to the side before returning it to her lips.

The pale woman and the… even paler woman are noted in that sweep of Wolfgang's gaze, though before he can say a word or move once more the heavy steps of the ogre draw his attention. A jerk of his jutting jaw upwards, a brief grunt emerging from flared nostrils as he greets in a low rumble of voice, "Underlord."

Grady snakes out a long, black tongue. It isn't unlike that of a Chow and it cleans one yellow tusk before snapping back. The ogre comes to a halt and finishes taking stock, his one good eye darting about rather than his body turning much. "And what to me wandering eye should appear… but change in the wind… a gathering of me peers." His odd sing-song cadence only emphasizes the fact that what he said rhymes. "Tis a happy day when a Freehold hosts so many at play." He leans forward a bit, both hands coming to rest on his axe-staff for the moment. "The Underlord approves." His eye is on Wolfgang now. "Ye clearly know who I am… who be ye?"

Veronica the White glances up casually, not particularly moved by the entrance of any of her fellow Lost. The Snowskin tilts her head politely. "Good evening," she says, with a singsong lilt to her voice. "I heard all sorts of things about the Hollow today, I thought I oughtta stop by and check it out. See if there was anything crazy happening."

Evelyn doesn't move or speak from her shadow side bench. She watches them all with those slightly too wide, sunken eyes, waiting for someone to explode for some reason or another. She keeps emotions free and silent from her features otherwise, just taking everything in through the misting smoke of her cigarette.

"Wolfgang." The name is a low rumble upon the man's lips as it's offered, that curiously-alive coat mostly still for now, save for beady eyes watching various of the trio and tiny teeth silently snapping here and there; one hand lifts, fingers tipped with splintering claws scratching under his jaw as he adds, "Of the Ashen Court, I suppose. I've kept to myself. Most of the time. I saw your proclaimation. Bold." A flicker of his gaze to Veronica, chin dipping in a slight nod, "Not down. You should be looking up."

Grady chortles and the sound ends in a sort of a belch. "Bold do ye say… tis only commonsense… that we gather and end the disarray." For the moment the monster's interest remains on Wolfgang. He doesn't ignore the other two but since they are quiet he doesn't address them. "But since you are here… my potential friend… my Court and peer… me proclamation is doing its work." His sing-song cadence continues and his New York-Irish accent roils in it. "We are well met this night it seems."

"What proclamation?" Veronica asks. She glances sidelong at Evelyn, and then reaches into the pocket of her leather pants for a cigarette of her very own. Lighting it (careful to keep her frost-hair away from the flame), she gives Grady a sort of up-and-down once-over. "I heard nothing of any proclamations."

Grady raises a meaty hand from the axe-staff and points toward a sign tacked on the wall in silent answer to the question. It says:

~Brethren of the Leaden Mirror, Courtiers of the Court of Fear and Ashe, Children of Autumn, lend me your ears. We should gather and know one another, share secrets and lore lost. Dangers untold beset us and all are in disarray. On this Samhuinn night I lay this proclamation, send forth this clarion call, join me at the Freehold both one and all. Let us sort our own matters and then too seek the other Courts. So mote it be.~

Gordygone Spleenripper, Underlord of New York.

And, as quietly as she came, Evelyn stands again. Her hands in the pockets of her uniform, her cigarette hanging out of the corner of her lips, she begins to fade back into the shadows. Up stairs. Away from discussions of power and boldness. She gives Veronica a single nod as she goes, but soon disappears to the streets of New York.

"Hah." A brief grin curves Wolfgang's lips, although it's far from a pleasant one; those teeth lupine in their separation and their sharpness, yellow-white gleaming in his jaw before he exhales a grunt with the smile's fading, glancing towards the sign there hung as the ogre points it out, "…to what cause?"
One hand lifts, scratching claws beneath his jaw again as dark eyes find Grady, one brow raising in silent inquiry.

Grady cocks his head slightly studying Wolfgang again with the one good eyes. The meaty hand comes back to rest as he leans on the axe-staff. "Survival and freedom me toothy friend… fer without good communication… both would soon end." He snakes out the tongue and cleans the other tusk. "While we are fractured and scattered to the wind… we canna tell when the Gentry kidnap us back to sin." He uncocks the head. "When we meet often… and proper as tradition demands… when we NOTICE when some go missing… and can begin a search of the lands." His eye darts to Veronica briefly and then back to Wolfgang. "That alone tis an important end… but there are others."

"I notice lots of things," Veronica says, setting her sword down beside her on the bench and taking a long drag from her cigarette. "It's sort of my job. I thought you Autumn folks spent more time with your noses in books than anything else."

"Tradition? Not here, not of late," Wolfgang observes in a slight grunt of breath, although it's hard to tell if he feels positively or negatively about that fact; pausing, a twitch of his lips revealing just a hint of tooth again as his gaze roams towards the cold lady, "Secrets and truths are not always written on paper."

Grady grunts in response to Wolfgang's comment. "Not of late… tis the problem… this domain has become second rate." He says it rhetorically rather than as an accusation. "Tis a chaos we canna afford." He also glances at Veronica. "Really? Do ye know a lot of Autumn folk then?" His eyes gleams. "Fer I heard the Winter folk have no courage to lend." He chortles. "I expect neither rumor tis true… or is it?"
"Nothin' wrong with books, dude, I'm just saying I didn't think you guys were much for socializing." Veronica shrugs, snowflakes shaking off her shoulders as she does so. "Winter's got plenty of courage, we're just sneaky about it, that's all."

Wolfgang's clawed fingers drop to absently stroke the pelt of a weasel stitched into his coat, the creature's head tugging and pushing against its bindings to rub against them as he listens to the pair; dropping silent for the moment, taciturn but watchful of the exchange.

Grady cocks his head at Veronica now. "So busy being sneaky that ye forget to do anything else I'll warrant." It also seems a rhetorical statement. "But fer ye information… o'maiden of cold… Autumn's children are quite social and bold. How else are we going to learn… secrets and magic… with which the Gentry to spurn?" He pauses and his eye shifts to Wolfgang although his head doesn't move. "Isn't that right brother?"
"Well, I'll believe it when I see some spurning, I guess." Veronica just sort of gestures around. "We're not doing too well lately, are we? And I can't say there's much to sneak around and look into these days, either. Not when most of us are dead."

"Mnm." A gutteral sound that could be taken for agreement with Grady's words from Wolfgang's throat at his query, before the words of the Winter courier bring his attention her way; nostrils flaring in a dismissive snort. "Us as well. But not all, not of yours. Red, and Apple, of Winter I saw tonight, when we spoke to the One Who Dances The Rooftops."

Grady takes his time to just listen for now.

"Not all, no. I just said most." Veronica blows a plume of smoke into the air. "I dunno, it's just a whole new world out there, you know?" This is about the vaguest statement one can make, but for Changelings it's one that seems to make sense.

"Not much of one," Wolfgang observes tersely, his head shaking ever so slightly, stringy locks rustling to his shoulders, "And the brambles are more dangerous than ever." A tilt, a flicker of his dark eyes to Grady, "Mnm. I will come to see the others."

Grady straightens a bit and looks over at Wolfgang directly. "Good… the sooner we all gather fer a chat… the sooner we can figure out where we are at." He pauses. "I think I have heard of you now that I have had time to ponder… you and some skirt run a shelter up yonder?"

"Well, I wish you luck in your chatting, then. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to poke around a bit more before I run some errands." Veronica rises, then, and tucks her sword into a sheathe at her belt. With a little wave and another long drag from her cigarette, she turns to go.

A slight nod to that, Wolfgang seeming to feel no need to answer the query any further than that. As Veronica rises, he lets his gaze trail appraisingly after her, rumbling in a low, deep growl, "Watch the rooftops."
Grady looks curious about that. "You said something about that before… a dancing woman… on the roof instead of the floor." He moves over and sits down bringing the axe haft across his knees. "It seems I've missed out on and adventure or two… care to bring an old Irishman up to speed before we are through?"

"No woman…" A turn as the snow-skin departs, Wolfgang's shaggy head shaking slowly, his tongue seeming loosened with her departure, gold flecks gleaming deep within the darkness of his eyes as he settles that gaze upon Grady, "…no, a man, though born of man or not, I cannot say. He listens to riddles that the gargoyles tell him, and calls them friend. He seeks his bird. Mad, perhaps. But madness can oft hide truth."

Grady seems to find this fascinating, at least best you can tell from his distorted features. "So he could be a bogie of the Hedge… a Changeling… or a lunatic…" he pauses… "But he can see us for what we are… for him the mask isn't thick?"

"It seems so," Wolfgang admits, dropping himself into a slight crouch near the ogre; arms draping over his shoulders, the goat's head of his coat dragging itself up to drape over his brow in its hood to stare at Grady with bloodied eyes, "A puzzle. The gargoyle gave us - he said - a riddle, although he left before hearing my answer."

Grady says "What was the riddle?"

Wolfgang's eyes close briefly, then flicker open as he recites in his growling voice, "Some believe it is cold, some believe it is hot. Some believe it is real, some believe it is not. No one has been there, but all of us are going there."

Grady snorts. "Hell. What a charming notion… as if Gods need fear damnation."

Wolfgang smiles his toothsome smile. "They, most of all."

Grady leans back against the wall, axe still on his knees. He changes the subject abruptly. "You and ye skirt have a nice setup on top… fearful runaways come to you… feeding ye fear quite a lot?" He licks his tusks. "Jes'as long as ye understand… them homeless vagrants when underground… are mine to command." He shrugs. "Them smart enough to leave the Underworld behind… well… then they are yours… and not mine."

A tilt of the hunterheart's head at that, golden flecks gleaming in dark eyes as he abides in considering silence for long moments. "Very well," he allows then with a flash of wolfish teeth, "If you will respect my territory… then I will yours, Underlord."

Grady nods. "Then we are in accord." He seems relaxed. "Don't think fer a minute I buy this notion that ye and the woman are helping them poor souls out of the goodness of ye hearts." He says it matter-of-factly. "Ye do it because much better when ye meals come delivered like Yule-time tarts." He chortles. "I wish I'd have thought of it." He shrugs. "But then again… I prefer me tunnels. Now to a side business… the sorted topic of coin…. what do ye have to barter… be it Token… secrets… or Contracts of yore?"

A noncommital shrug of one shoulder, the brass feathers of a Stymphalian rattling with the motion where they brush down from there, with Wolfgang's only comment to the first a rumbled— "I cannot speak for Red's motives." A hand lifts, knuckles rasping to his stubble as he regards the ogre with a thoughtful glint to his eyes, "I spoke to you already of the Gargoyle Lord; other secrets pass through my paws, from time to time. I walked more often in the Hedge, before its brambles… turned bloody iron. I know its doors, here and there, gates and passages. I've a nose for them. 'Tis been a long time since I could work the hides of the beasts there freely, however. Of contracts…" Another shrug, another rasp of metal, "…naught of consequence. A deal here and there, signed and bound, but nothing of great power. And yourself, Underlord?"

Grady is clearly working out your comments. "Knowledge of where there be doors to the Hedge be about the town… I would trade for that… with a smile not a frown." He chortles. "As to Contracts… I have found that them who say they know nothing of consequence tend to know much." He leaves it at that. "Me meself… I am a simple monster… versed in the magic of me kind… stronger than sin… more vicious than turned wine." His one green eye dances about you. "So too am I a smith… fer I've learned the trade secrets of Kobolds and dwarves… and am therefore rich."

"Hah." A low, growled chuckle, Wolfgang's head tilting in a slight, almost sideways nod to that as his dark eyes watch your one, "…metals and stones have never called me. Flesh and bone, sinew and fur, leather and skin, those are my art. And riches mean little to such as I. Useful, perhaps, but I have never hungered for them."

Grady nods. "Fair enough… and likely all too true… but some of their tricks would certainly profit you." He doesn't elaborate. "My particular interest this night tis Tokens of power.. or Promise Leaves… with a scent so sour." He pauses. "Though I must admit… I've an interest also… mild though it be… of the power to talk to the beasts… which they say Beasts hold in sway."

Wolfgang's head tilts in a slight nod to that, rumbling deep in his throat, "…'tis dangerous to seek such leaves now. To walk the Hedge alone may mean death, or worse… and tokens as well are scarce for the same reason. Perhaps the Leaden Mirror should turn its gaze there to clearing… safer ground for us to walk for such things we need."

Grady nods. "Exactly… which tis another reason I sent me clarion call… we have needs still beyond the Hedge… as much as it may gall." He frowns which makes his tusks seem bigger as his lips pull down. "Likewise we need to choose someone to wear our Crown… for the other Courts too will soon get this down. Mastery of this Freehold needs to be under our sway."

At that, a deep, growled chuckle emerges from Wolfgang's throat… and he pushes himself slowly up to his feet, head canting to one side, then the other with a subtle pop-crack of vertebrae. "It is too late for us this season," he observes in that hoarse, deep voice of his, "Let this time be one of organization, and let Winter claim their place. Or would you follow the Scarecrow's folly?"

Grady laughs. "Ye misunderstand boyo… but I can see why." He pauses. "Whether or not Scarecrow and his ilk vanished due to folly or Gentry filth…" He shrugs… "remains to be seen. But no… I have no desire for us to rule in perpetuity. We still need to choose the one who wears our Crown… and organize our Court from within… to handle our own matters about town." He pauses. "Besides… Winters, whether they choose a leader or not will not lead… as you know well. They will only wear a crown during the cold for ceremony." He looks dour. "Tis our Court alone… as has always been… which will lead by example… and by our cunning… the war win."

A tooth-baring smile tugs up at one side of Wolfgang's lips then. "You would not speak so bold," he growls low under his breath, arms folding 'cross his chest and both brows flickering upwards a touch, "If you had no intent to wear that crown of leaves upon your own brow, 'Underlord'…"

Grady looks thoughtful. He closes the one good eye as if in concentration. The one covered with milky film remains open and unmoving. "The thought has crossed me mind… but such a choice will be made by all inclined." He opens his good eye. "As I dinna use force and threat on me own Court." He says it matter-of-factly. "I would not wear it unless enough of you felt me right fer the job… tis only other Courts of fools that I rob." He continues to sit back against the wall relaxed. "In truth I dinna care who among us wears the crown fer now… only that we start to make our way to a choice. Problems will arise… and disputes will come… and fer that we need arbitration on the run."

A low rumble of consideration in the beast's throat, and then a brief, curt nod before he turns. "…then let the Ashen Court gather," he growls out, striding away with a sweep of his hands to either side, "An' see what comes of it. What few of us have survived the Scarecrow."

Grady nods and rises heavily and leans on his axe. "Well met then and gather we shall… now I will below… and let you head up and out."

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