Kicking the Puck Bucket

Kicking the Puck Bucket




A forest land lays decimated, blasted from some inferno. Threads of smoke from buried cinders still fester fire that blooms from time to time into another blaze. At night, the embers glow rose and cinnamon. When the wind gusts, it snows pieces of ash. Burnt branches and trunks stand like skeletons.

And yet the Hedge constantly adapts and evolves into new forms and life. Fast growing creepers climb up tree husks, roots digging deep into the dead wood, leeching what little life left. A pack of briarwolves have claimed the area as their own, their fur coats turned from a tawny brown to a chiaroscuro black and white. They slink among the de-leafed brambles of twigs, easily tracking their next meal across the ashen ground.

The twilight sky of the Hedge looms above, covered in smoke from the smouldering ash and husks of the forest. In the far distance above the skeletonal remains of trees are the silhouettes and outlines of skyscrapers from the real world.
The group has entered from a gateway in Central Park, crawling out from under a log in the Hedge. Around the log is a small clearing, with two exits. Chill recognizes the path to the left as the one he came along with Bob - down several fit is what looks like the skeletonal remains of what looks like a wolf with arm-length limbs. In the background, the whistle of a strong breeze sets twigs and brambles rustling.

Chill is leading the way at present, being the one who is showing the other two what's what. He doesn't look too happy for a man made of ice, not that men made of ice generally are the happy sort. He's got his axe resting on his shoulder as he walks the few feet towards the skeleton. A rib-bone is plucked from the ground and tucked into his belt for later use and he looks back briefly to the other two, tilting his head to motion them to move back in the direction of the right path.

Crispin pulls himself to his feet and shakes his long, dark main sending a shower of multi-colored leaves from it. Then he offers his right hand to help Lucy to her feet. "We should keep this log in sight."

Lucy takes the offered hand and stands, looking around cheerily. She has a small, mostly ornate dagger close at hand, and appears about as worried as one going to the park for a picnic. Giving Crispin a grin, she nods "Oh yes, a marker, like they teach the scouts."

The wind picks up, spiraling smoke and ash through the air. The skull of the briarwolf stares up at the three darkly. Around the Ogre, the air is frostes. Around the other two, the ground is covered in leaves. Worrisome if any were to try tracking the group. Then a howl in the far distance.

Chill perks up his ears. The howl is obvious. His expression, almost unreadable but what little there is, well, its perturbed. He motions to the others quickly, pointing at the ground. "Footprints were, uh, here. Find 'em and we can follow. I, uh, can't find them."

Crispin frowns and steps over. "What I want to know is how quickly you encountered these Briarwolves while following whomever brough the pie." He pauses. "The Gentry sometimes use them as hunting dogs."

Lucy shudders and looks thrilled, like someone hearing a ghost story around a campfire, "Briarwolves? I don't recall anyone mentioning those before we came. I thought we were just looking for this baker fellow?" She fingers her dagger and steps closer to the men, looking rather disturbed. "I've never been a dog person myself." She points down the path, "I…was that something there." She peers into the bushes nervously.

There is a responding howl, in the opposite direction, but closer. There is still time, but any who have dealt with briarwolves before know - they are quick and wily, especially on their own turf such as this.

Chill begins moving quickly in the direction Lucy pointed, not looking back to Crispin as he tightens his grip on his axe. "This way, uh, unless you want to get, uh, eaten." His tone is as hurried as his pace.

Crispin frowns. "They aren't always dogs dear lady." The statement is directed at Lucy. "I can tell you from first-hand experience they can be any mix of beasts. But they hunt in packs and hence their name." He looks dubious. "They clearly already know we entered. If we go further in to track… we will be fighting them." He draws his sword. "How many did you see before?" Crispin does follow the lead of Chill where Lucy points.

Lucy hurries after Chill, trying to stay between the men, since she's not particularly well armed. She notes in a fairly upbeat tone, "Oh really? I haven't had much experience with them myself, but I have heard tales. Glad to know I'm wiht two lovely gents who've got tales of them. Does bode well for our odds, I would think." She keeps an alert eye on the surroundings for all her idle banter.

As the group moves down the right path from the clearing with the gate, whatever Lucy saw makes another quick flash of pink movement, which is quickly followed by purple, then neon green. The colors stand out from the background, moving near the path in forward distance, zig zagging among the twigs and branches of the brambles.

As the group moves forward, the silhouettes of the real world begin to fade, but still within sight. The path begins to dip, sloping downwards, with the sound of water growing.

Chill stops suddenly, right in his tracks. His head tilts to the side, to make speaking to those behind him easier. "If we keep, uh, going, uh, we're gonna go, uh, deep. Won't be enough to get back, uh, outside without a fight." Then he does turn further, looking fully at both Crispin and Lucy. His tone is monotone, lacking warmth or emotion. "And you might die."

Crispin studies the other man briefly. "I'm glad you are so optimistic of your own survival." He glances at Lucy. "I'm for continuing because I don't think we can get back even NOW to the log without them being on us." He says it matter-of-factly. "But you are the lady here. Do you wish to continue forward or retreat?"

Lucy looks at you both with mild amusment in her look, though she's serious enough that the men need not worry about her ability to make the decision, "Well aren't you boys just the sweetest things. Don't you worry about li'l old me. Way I figure it, I already outlived myself, so I'm doing pretty good whatever else may happen."

The wind seems to die down as the group stands discussing. The giggling of water sounds louder, and then there is a squeak. Then more squeaking. The flashes of color cease.

As the wind picks, it blows the frost from Chill, the leaves from Crispin, and the blossoms from Lucy along the path behind them, along the way they came.

After the responses Chill turns perfunctorily and begins heading towards the squeaks at a quick pace. His eyes vicariously scan the footprints and he is sure to stay on the path. If anything, the ogre doesn't seem disturbed by the decision. Ever tighter are his knuckles on the shaft of his makeshift axe as he leads the way down the path.

Crispin follows with his sword out and out to the side in a prepatory position and the buckler protective in front of him.

Lucy walks between the two, quietly humming "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" under her breath. She manages to keep a cheery air about her, though her pretty little dagger is now out and held ready.

The path leads down to a sickly, discolored creek. It manages to burble over stones here and there, but there are parts that stand still, full of algea and other strange shapes. A few bugs zip about, but nothing like a fae swarm hopefully.

There is no more bright flashes of color or squeaks, as the creek flows through the little burnt vale. The path continues, across the other side of the creek and up a slope. The real world is still visible in the far distance for now.

Chill looks to the path, and then away from the path near the creek. A decision is quickly made and he steps off the path and begins following another way. There are light footprints, and that's where the ogre is going, even as the footprints merge with the creek of the water.

Crispin frowns but follows. "Around the world and back again… that's the sailor's way." It seems a more rhetorical statement. He clearly isn't pleased about leaving the path.

Lucy hesitates a moment, looking wishfully at the clearer path, but hurries to stay between the two men, "Are we sure this is the best way? I thought we were going for a picnic, to be honest. I didn't wear my…backwoods shoes." Though she sounds a bit uppity, she manages the terrain pretty well.

The group follows the creek. The twigs pull and tug more viciously at your clothing, threating to snag skin. The stones of the creek are sharp and edged - if you fell on them, there would quickly be blood in the thick sludge of water. There is a twist and turn, a climb over a rocky edge about four feet.

Above the rise is a small pond of still water. Lilies dot the surface - then watch one snap at and swallow a bug. On the far side is what looks like a small thatched hut. While there is no smoke from the chimney, the windows slats are open and the door is slightly ajar.

Well that's an easy choice. Chill heads directly towards the hut, stalking with violent intent in his every minor body-language. Light snow crunches under his feet but it quickly melts into the ground as he moves forward.

Crispin studies the hut and the surrounding area. "Well at least it is a place we can make a stand at. The tracks of the delivery person lead there? I hope that is what we are following."

Lucy nods and chuckles wryly, "Wouldn't it be something if…" She trails off, deciding not to voice the thought aloud, going back to humming show tunes instead.

There is some raunchy song being sang from within the hut, which stops at the approach of the group. From the window peers big blue eyes upon a cabbage patch kid face, except for two fleshy thick lips. The head sits on a long tall skinny neck. "My, my, the local swarm must be off blood hunting. And no run ins with the briarwolves - what is the neighborhood coming to?" He stares at each of the three for a beat. "How may Puck Bucket the delivery hob be of service? It has been a while since three Lost have come by. My abode is usually too deep and off into the brambles for most." And indeed, after following the creek then climbing up the rise and making it over to the hut, the real world view has been lost.

Chill doesn't let Puck Bucket say much more. There is no rage in the big ogre's voice as he raises the axe and goes for the swing. "One last delivery, Puck." Then there's a flurry of speed and Chill hurtles forward, and steps to the side, swinging his axe at the Hob through the window. The head of the axe falls diagonally, sheaving Puck from left shoulder to right underarm. There's no time for pain or fear in the former Mr. Bucket as the top part of his body slides to the ground, following soon by the crumpling of the rest of him.

Crispin frowns and his sword twitches and then sheathes in one fluid, instant movement. "Great." His voice is cold and his eyes flash red. "You dragged us out here into nowhere and KILLED the only thing we could have interrogated."

Lucy starts to say something to the hob, but stops short as Chill cleaves the create in two. She gasps yelling belatedly, "Oh don't! "She falls silent as Crispin tells the other man off.

The blood sprays through the air, hitting the pond. The water ripples out, and it seems like the lilies move closer. The blood missed Crispin and Lucy, who were standing behind Chill. The icy sheathed ogre has a bright red splatter across his chest. Then nothing. The wind in the distance, still blowing ash and smoke about. Quiet. Out in the middle of the Hedge.

With the blood still dripping from his axe, Chill turns to give Crispin a neutral appraisal. "I didn't, uh, make any promises. I, uh, led you here. If you want to, uh, be useful, uh, you could help me bake a pie." The big ogre hardly notices the blood spray on his shirt at this point as he turns to enter the hut and look for a kitchen area and supplies.

Crispin glares at Chill. His eyes continue to glow red and pulse. "It called itself the Delivery Hob… so we could have asked it who it made its deliveries for." His voice is soft but that doesn't cover the irritation in his voice. "And clearly IT knew the way to the Hollow to make the pie deliveries… so it COULD have shown us the way back." He looks back at the Hedge. "Now the smell of blood is in the air and a pack of damn Briarwolves between us and freedom."

Lucy looks at Chill curiously, then Crispin before heading into the hut without giving the dead hob another glance, "No use fuming about it, sugar. Lets just see what we can glean from this place and get on our way. Hopefully before those wolf things have a chance to get too curious, yes?" She begins to look around the rest of the hut, leaving the kitchen area to Chill as she examines shelves, drawers etc. She keeps her dagger out, but held loosely for the moment.

Inside the hut is one room. There is a cot with a dirty blanket and plant pilings for a pillow. A table in the middle where there was a sparse meal of moldy bread and algea water. Theres a small stove on the far side with crude cooking implements. It looks perfect for a pie baking. In fact, you could hollow out the rest of the large bread loaf to make it happen.

Puck Bucket's body lays sprawled by one of four windows. Something slinks up to the window sill, peers in, then disappears quickly. In the distance is finally another howl, but there seems to a closer noise that is growing over the sound of the pond falling into the creek - a buzzing.

Chill looks down, finally noticing the blood on his shirt. The ice-armor that once covered him melts away quickly, leaving the big ogre soaking wet. This is followed by removing his bloody shirt and using it to pick up the top-section of Puck Bucket. "I've got, uh, the blood on me. They'll follow me." Well that's certainly at least faux-heroic of the ogre. Not a moment is wasted as he prepares to leave at the fastest speed possible.

Crispin stares in the door watching the Ogre with a dubious look on his face. He keeps half an eye on the Hedge and pond unnerved by the buzzing and the situation. "Why are you making a pie?" The question is pointed.

Lucy glances over her shoulder in alarm and says quickly to Chill, "Don't you dare leave us, sir.I am sure Mr. Crispin here will do his best, but I do think you'd be rather rude to leave us stranded here with a pack of wolves like that." She doesn't seem to think that the creatures are very likely to follow Chill away, apparently.

Already the Hedge seems darker, the husks of burnt trees looming. As the buzzing cresendoes, a cloud of large bugs rise up over the pond's edge. They look like giant wasps - but with sinister harpy faces with long sharp teeth. Their stingers are curled and barbed, like the type of arrow that tears flesh when one pulls it out. They seem to be heading straight for the hut and the scent of blood.
Crispin suddenly blazes like a star light burning off of him with painful intensity. Either the insects used to the dark ashe of this part of the Hedge will turn from it or they will be drawn to it more. Time to find out which.

The Swarm surges forward, then rears back at Crispin's illuminated display in instinct. They pull back even further as the Bright One's brilliance plays off the pond's surface, buzzing at the far end of the pond. The radiance is bright enough to glow against the nearby smoky cloud cover. The buzz see saws back and forth.

Lucy squeels girlishly, but manages to make herself useful at the same time. She dashes around the hut, closing windows and blockading them with the heaviest thing at hand as quickly as she can.

Chill sets about closing up the other half, moving with all the speed he can muster. "Fire, uh, under the stove. Someone, uh, grab some."

Crispin backs up defensively on a quick step still blazing with light as he hears the window slates closing. Only when he is inside and he door slammed shut does his light dim to just a reddish aura about him.

As soon as Crispin is inside, the three in the hut are engulfed with a loud buzz of insect wings vibrating. All sides are surrounded, as the noise climbs upwards. The thatch roof starts shuttering as the swarm begins to crawl within and pick apart the thatch. The light coming through the chimney above the stove flutters with silhouettes as individual members of the swarm fly about.

Lucy grabs a loose piece of wood, a slat from a chair it looks like, and a few tufts of thatch that the creatures outside and loosened and hastily ties them together in a loose, rouch torch before shoving her masterpiece into the flames. She turns slowly once the straw has caught and looks nervously at the men, though she manages to keep her tone almost flippant as she asks "Anywhere in particular you boys want this?"

Chill reaches down and picks up a spar of wood as well. He wraps his bloody shirt around the end of it and jams it into the fire. "Uh, lure them inside, and, uh, then we can uh, run out and, uh, light the roof on fire!" Chill declares hurriedly.

Crispin looks annoyed. "Light the roof now from the inside… it will burn up first through the thatch. It might drive them off." He frowns. "Then we are going to have to run for it. If the Briarwolves weren't on our trail before they will be now."

The noise of the swarm eddies about the hut. One, then several members zip doown through the chimney. They buzz and circle, then head straight for the dead body parts of the hob.

Lucy whimpers and backs away from the buzzing swarm on the body, brandishing her makeshift torch in front of her nervously.

Chill opens the door and flings himself outside, hunched over as he holds his fire-stick in one hand, and carries his axe in the other with Puck's remains tucked under his arm. He definitely can't swing the axe at present.

Crispin stares with a mixture of disbelief and fury. "What the hell is he doing now?"

The swarm is crawling all over the outside of the hut, covering the walls and thatch roof. As soon as the door opens, they start pouring in. They buzz about Chill, staying away from the torch, but zinging in at his hind quarters and back, biting and stinging. They seem especially attracted to the remains of Puck Bucket that Chill is carrying.

Lucy lets out another girlish squeek as the bugs start invading the hut. She holds the torch up to the thatch as she moves quickly to the door, pausing only a few times to make sure the roof catches.

As Lucy touches her make-shift torch to the roof, it quickly bursts into flame. A good half of the swarm, crawling about the roof and attempting to eat its way in, ignites in a raucus of squeals and teeny screams.

Chill lets out a roar of annoyance, pain, and maybe even a little anger. Perhaps lowering his armor was a bad idea. Then he takes a few running steps and leaps… a long, long, long way. Clear across the teeny tiny pond.

Crispin rushes out of the hut himself taking in the situation. He glances at Lucy. "We are going to have to try and make it back out on our own it seems."

The swarm is squealing like one large living thing - but with a hundred vocal chords. It starts pulling back and grouping, circling around each other in a cloud off by the side of the pond. Then the cloud starts to dwindle as the swarm moves off for easier prey.

Lucy looks around, assessing the situation while still clutching her smouldering torch. She murmurs, her tone mildly annoyed, "So it seems."

Chill is already on the other side of the pond, out of earshot of the other Lost. He hugs the bloody torso to his chest and moves in the wrong direction, the direction away from Crispin and Lucy. He fades into the darkness as his torchlight grows smaller in the distance.

Crispin glows with a dim light and seems uninterested with the Ogre on the far side of the pond. He has used his ambience to study the ground and the Hedge and motions for Lucy to follow him and starts off as if he has an idea which way he is going.

Lucy follows gratefully, tossing her torch onto the burning hut as she hurries after Crispin. She shoots a glance over her shoulder at Chill's retreating form, looking a bit concerned.

Once back at the clearing, Crispin helps Lucy back through and under the log, then follows himself. Back to the relative safety of Central Park. And no idea if Chill made it out himself.

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