Noppera-bo

Noppera-bo!

Setting

The Hollow - City Hall Station - NYC

Beneath the mean streets and nestled between the intestinal guts of the metropolis sprawls the Hollow - New York's last communal freehold. A large drainage junction gives the impression of an Escher-inspired cathedral nightmare. Rusty water dripping is a constant cacophony in the background, and mildew permeates the air. Ladder rungs and tubes disappear into the heights, barely illuminated by light falling through grates and man-holes wielded shut into dead ends. Several crumbling holes in a concrete wall lead into a forgotten looping subway track covered by awe inspiring arched ceilings with 'City Hall' at the apex. Stairs descend and ascend, connecting various levels and platforms. Patterns of flowers lace through cracked tiles of dusty blue and stained-yellow white, shadowed by ornate chandeliers. The vaulted skylights are darkened by dirt as if buried alive in a huge coffin.

The Lost gather here where their numbers might yet count for something, so few the place is full of emptiness. Entrances upside secured by wizened-crafted traps, ones to the Hedge with occulted keys. Like a nest of rats between the walls, small comforts are snatched from above. Steam pipes provide heat and cooking surfaces while electricity is split off from underground building cables for lighting. Useful trash is fished out of open storm drains. Among labyrinth passages' nooks and crannies, bedding is made of refuse mattresses, newspaper sheets, and swinging hammocks. Mesh grates are covered with paper and plastic or sheets hung, in an attempt for privacy. For all the dangers that the Lost of New York face, in the Hollow they can at least put their back to a wall and hope to catch their breath. Yet even here the presence of the Hedge stalks ever near, hungry and uncaring. Too often a forgotten corridor or locked metal door sprouts leaves around the edges and opens to an impassable barrier made of thorns and brambles.

Cast

Scene

"Right in there." Low-Key is just leading Carolyn to the room now where the large inactive boilers are that he and grue locked the girls into. He points them out before walking up to one, lightly banging on the door, "Still in there love?" He nods to Carolyn and shrugs, "People shouldn't get curious.

ST-Kitty rolled to all visible players: 5: 3 successes, 3 failed. (Verification code: meowmoewmeowmix)
There is silence from inside the boiler.

Carolyn follows along behind Low, her hands momentarily shoved into the pocket of her jacket. She tilts her head to the side, listening as he bangs on the wall. As silence reigns, she clears her throat. "Did that other fellow get hungry, y'think? Again."

"Only one way to find out, isn't there Carolyn." Low-Key's dulcet British tones seem more amused than anything at the silence, and he bangs on the bar that they stuck in to wedge the thing closed, hitting and shaking it loose for a moment before pulling it out. He steps back a little bit to the side, in case something nasty comes out, and opens the door wide.

Carolyn takes up a ready stance on the other side of the door, her eyes narrowed to peer into the darkness, her hands still stuck casually in her pockets. "Ollie ollie oxen free," she calls, quietly.

If by nasty you mean a… vaguely head-ish thing, with coagulated blood coating it and what looks to be a bit of a spinal column come flying out? Yeah. Something nasty comes out.

Low-Key watches the head come rolling out, and hrms. He looks it over, perhaps to examine if it was the head of the girl that poor Grue ate. Maybe some leftovers or something. Or which of the girls the head belongs to anyone, "Now now, is that anyway to be acting? I understand you've gone through a terrible shock love, but look at it from my point of view. I /could/ just leave you in there till you starve you know."

"What the fuck?" At least that breaks Carolyn's casual pose; her lips curl back from her teeth and she jumps back away from the thrown head. "Fuck. You guys killing each other in there?" Her eyes dart back and forth from Low to the interior of the boiler, her lips pressed tightly together in what may be disapproval.

ST-Kitty rolled to all visible players: 4: 0 successes, 4 failed. (Verification code: meowmoewmeowmix)

There is a hissing and growling sound from inside of the broiler, and then a clambering, and finally a head- though it has no features, none -sticks out. Small hands with too long fingers curling over the edge of the broiler. The thing tries to shove itself out of the broiler, but ends up landing upon it's head on the ground, feet still inside.

"There you are." Low shakes his head for a moment, shivering a bit at the sight of the head, and then he leans down. He moves to straddle the thing and grip it by the shoulders, trying to keep it pinned down, "Carolyn, a little help love? This is what the other one looked like. The one Grue ate. It looked like a Changeling, and then it turned into…this faceless thing." He taps it on the head, "Can you talk without a mouth love?"

Carolyn draws her knife, the motion so fast that the blade nearly seems to leap into her fingers of its own accord. At Low's words, she nods, coming to kneel by the thing's head and placing a hand on what…for lack of a better word…one must call its forehead, intending to pin its head to the ground. Her other hand raises the knife, and her eyes are like chips of obsidian. "I can always cut it one, if there's a problem. How about it, you?" The last directed down to the thing.

Now that one of them is out the other boiler starts to be banged on from inside. The little "girl" in there freaking out it seems. The one that Low-key startles hisses softly, and claws at the ground trying to get away.

"Hrm. Now. I'm not an expert by any means. But I really don't think these things are Changelings, whatever they are, eh Carolyn?" Low Key points out, as he holds down the one girl with Caroyln's help. "Anything that can come out of our imprisonment over there sane, and then be driven insane by a boring day in a boiler and one of their friends dying. Well." Low pats the thing's back with one hand as he keeps his weight on the small of it's back, "That just seems like weak sauce to me."

Carolyn considers, her head tilted thoughtfully to the side as the thing hisses and writhes beneath her hand. "Depends. /Could/ be broken pretty thoroughly by Them…but even the most messed up of us usually need to fuckin' breathe. Hey, you thing; if you think you're a Changeling, why don't you make a V with one of your hands, huh?" She lowers the knife towards its head, not that it could see her…even if it had eyes.

Carolyn rolled privately to ST-Kitty: Wits + Occult + 1 — Success=5 (Verification code: meowmoewmeowmix)

You paged Carolyn with 'It takes a few moments for you to remember them. But it /does/ come to you. They are Noppera-bo's, gobs that generally try and trick travels in the hedge off into the wrong path or into danger. They can take on any shape or form they want, they tend to take on the form that matches that of the victims they are trying to insinuate themselves into the group with. They travel in groups, often taking on the form of True Gentry or some other danger from afar, if the group or the the victim does not believe the noppera-bo that is with them, and continues on their path.'.

The Thing hisses and scrambles harder, trying to get away from Low-Key, and possibly the knife.

Low-Key rolled to all visible players: Wits + Occult — Success=2 (Verification code: meowmoewmeowmix)

You paged Low-Key with 'Unless they're some sort of really fucked up Wizened, it's pretty certain that they /aren't/ Changelings.'.

"I'm pretty bloody sure they ain't Changelings. And if they ain't Changelings. Then that means…" Low-Key produces his own knife, sliding the slender blade into his hand and tracing the point along The Thing's side, "That they mean bugger all to me. You ever seen anything like this Carolyn love?"

Carolyn leans forward to keep the thing's head pinned with her weight. The slight edge of consideration that she was treating it with, just in case it was some sort of truly screwed up Lost, is now gone, her fingertips digging into its head. She furrows her brow, her expression suddenly lighting up. "Oh, yeah. /Now/ I remember. Noppera-bo. The Hedge's version of a Judas goat, 'cept they travel in packs. The Hollow's probably a place they'd love to hang out, all those dead ends and twisted little passages. Should just kill 'em," she adds, casually, raising the knife in preperation for a strike.

"Nooooo…!" Comes the soft keening voice of the little thing, it claws at the ground and tries to get away, but really it's got no strength at all. It sobs, "Have information!"

"Just a second. It seems to have a spot of something to tell us. I've never heard of these Noppera-bo, but I do know what a Judas goat is, and I'm curious what all it's got to say Carolyn." Low presses the knife a little harder, right around where a kidney would be if the thing were human, "Go on, be a duckie and tell us what it is you came to tell us."

Carolyn snorts. "If you're feeling quiet all of a sudden, we've got two of you and we only need one." She grins that feral grin as she suggests, "I say, the one who gives the best information, we can make a deal with. The one that holds out gets shanked." She raises her voice enough that it might penetrate through the metal to the other boiler.

The Noppera-bo cries piteously, trying to crawl away from its captors. It whines, "Move away pointies! Then talk!"

Low-Key digs a slow and thin slice into the Noppera-Bo's side, opening a small gash along the side of it, not enough to do damage, but enough to hurt pretty badly, "I'm sorry love. You seem to have misunderstood the situation here. See, it looks like you're in what we call a 'weak negotiating position'. Whut that means is, we call the shots. I might give you some scraps off me table, and you say 'Thank you Mr. Low Key, mayn't I have some more?"

Carolyn anticipates that the creature's attempts to escape are going to intensify, after that slash, and so her grip tightens even further. "Talk, hob. I don't want to take you to pieces, but I will if you don't stop dicking around with us."

"No! Not until promise, /pledge/ not to kill Noppera-bo or Noppera-bo!" The Hob hisses out, screaming and wiggling in an attempt to get free, likely only to cut themselves more on the knife.

"If I like what you have to say, I probably won't kill you, I might consider it. A guy like me, can always use a Hob what owes him a little something and is a little bit afraid of him, yeah love? But you're going to have to start talking first see." He leans over, glancing to Carolyn, "Before I carve a face onto you."

Carolyn cocks her head to the side, and makes a low, thoughtful noise to herself. If the creature's pathetic struggles affect her, there's no mark of it on her dark green face. After a moment, she adds her agreement, "Same here. No point in pledging before you give us something to use, Hob. But…might could be a touch merciful, if it came to that." She moves her knife hand, and sheathes the blade again; from the hardness of her face, it's the only concession she's likely to make.

Down in the basements of the Hollow, there are a bewildering array of passages, discarded rooms, and thorn-choked tunnels. Normally, these are silent but for the dripping of water down the walls, but not on this Hallow's Eve. Voices echo from an abandoned boiler room, Changeling and other. Low-Key and Carolyn are crouched over a…thing, too small, with long, skinny fingers, and an utterly featureless head. It's already bleeding from one nasty gash, and the two Lost look perfectly willing to inflict more damage, as it cries. Something else occassionally batters at the walls of the other boiler.

Low-Key is crouched down with his knee in the thing's belly, a knife idly pricking at it's side where kidneys would be on a human. He and Carolyn seem to be debating with what to do with it, as it pleads for it's life. Seeing that the thing is taking to feeling piteous for itself, Low-Key looks up to Carolyn, wondering absently, "Do you know what a Judas Goat is love?"

Carolyn snorts. "No, Low, I just pull words out of my ass when describing stuff," she snaps, rolling her eyes. Then pauses. "Thinkin' about playing to the thing's natural talents, then?"

Grady lumbers into the Freehold on a heavy step. He walks using his axe, as tall as himself, almost like a staff. Pausing just inside the doorway he peers around with the one green eye and belches to announce his arrival.

"Hobs! Hobs going to attack, Noppera-bo knows where!" The featureless thing cries out, sobbing piteously between words.

Grady cocks his head to the side and snakes out a long, black tongue like that of a Chow. "Well now… what have we here… blood and violence in a Freehold dear?" It seems a more rhetorical question and the Irish accent only accents the fact what he says rhymes. "I think ye should stay ye hand… fer if yon beast has information… about a Hobgoblin battle plan."

Low-Key looks over to Grady for a moment. Absently, he pushes the knife into the thing a little more, shaking his head and looking down to the Noppera-bo. He only flashes an infuriating grin at Carolyn's eye-roll, before his british street accent offers out, looking at Grady this time, "A judas goat, is a goat what blends in with the other goats. It tells them 'Oh sure come on, we're going to get our jollies and have a time of it…' and when the other goats follow along with it's information, they're proper fucked."

Carolyn swerves on the balls of her feet, the knife sliding free into her hand in the wink of an eye. She looks up at the ogre, then over at Low. "Thought the British invasion was over in the sixties." A slight grin touches her lips, then she turns her attention back to the 'goat'. "Of course, with a properly trained little goat, that can go both ways."

Grady uncocks his head and smiles wide and tusky. It makes him look less friendly. "I dinna think ye heard me boyo dear… this tis a Freehold… and in it of violence none should fear." He puts his other hand on the axe haft leaning on it even more as a Staff. "Even bogies like that… unless it attacked you first?'

"No! Didn't attack! Didn't attack! Chompy killed Noppera-bo first! No reason! Just attack!" The thing cries.

"I'll tell you what, the next time one of the Gentry bangs on the door asking to take you home for a cup of tea, I'll point out to him that it's not a violent sort of place." Low sneers a bit at Grady as he chuckles, laugh amused at the rhyming man's opinion. "And you let me know if it works out for you. Or haven't you heard, this is New York, there's a war on." He nods to Carolyn then, "Exactly. So in this case, who is the goats? They trying to lead us down the garden path love, or looking to bugger these other Hobs by selling them out?" he looks down to the Noppera-bo, "Well what about it, is that why you came, trying and sell out your Hob buddies?"

Well, Grady's two cents catch the woman's attention again, and Carolyn turns to give Grady a flat, disbelieving stare. She adds her voice to Low-Key's, "Are you out of your fucking mind? At least one of our compadres has been eaten down to the /bones/ by something he was stupid enough to bring here, and now here are these things, in our only safe place. I sure as hell ain't gonna sit 'em down and offer them iced tea and chicken soup. Stay out of this if you're not going to be helpful, broadsides." The hob, she leaves to the man, for the moment, rising to her feet carefully, her eyes on Grady.

Low-Key rolled to all visible players, rerolling 9's: Wits + Subterfuge — Success=2 (Verification code: meowmoewmeowmix)

Grady seems bemused. "Yes… let's all behave like bogies now… toss out tradition and all know how." He continues to watch from just inside the door. "And soon Freeholds won't be safe at all… from bogies or Changelings… and True Fae will hold all in thrall." He belches again. "I suppose it dinna be any of my business… by all all means… continue…" He lumbers over looking for a place to sit and watch. It is hard to tell with his sing-song rhyming cadence just how much was real sarcasm or genuine commentary.

The Noppera-bo cries piteously still, trying to get away even now. It sobs, "Yes, yes! That's why Noppera-bo came! Hobgoblin attack! Hobgoblins kick Noppera-bo off of trods!"

You paged Low-Key with 'Seems to be telling the truth.'.

"There There." Low says quietly, the scar on his lip twisting as he makes an amused grin. He bends over and kisses the Noppera-bo on the cheek (carefully though) and pulls one knee up, relieving a bit of the weight on it, "Well, I have to say, I believe it. What do you think Carolyn? What's the order of the day, mercy or judgement? Shall we give it a tic to flip a coin?"

Carolyn tchs, tossing her head disdainfully. "Yeah. Maybe big man with the axe thinks we should just ask the hobs to nicely go home and stop bothering us," she snaps back, before turning her attention back to the hob and Low-Key. "It said that hobs were going to attack us. Do you believe /that/ part? If so, maybe this little goat will still be trusted enough to lead his fellows straight to the door /we/ want."

Grady grunts. "Just so ye know… dearheart… if'n ye kill that bogie here… then tis time for you and I to start." He leans back and lays the long axe across his knees. He still seems relaxed. "I say ye let it go. Then we can hold palaver… I'd hear some stories told."

The Noppera-bo sobs a bit more, but says nothing more.

Grady takes out a large wetstone as if to emphasize his odd rhyming comments and starts to sharpen the axe. His one good eyes never leaves the activity however. He now neither smiles nor frowns.

Low-Key looks at Grady for a moment, and for once the man seems stunned into silence. He blinks, and then offers in a shocked voice, expressing the sort of awe that children sometimes do when they first discover a new thing, "You are seriously fucking retarded aren't you? I mean, you are just completely out of your mind. That's so /interesting/." He seems to mean that genuinely, the interesting part, before looking down to Noppera-Bo, "Here's what we're going to do lovey, you're going to pledge….you understand?"

Carolyn gives a careless shrug in Grady's direction. "Bring it, one-eye. Any time, any place," she replies, in a cheerful sing-song. She resheathes her blade, and turns her head back towards Low-Key, curiosity winning over the urge to bait the ogre.

Grady continues to sharpen the axe apparently content to watch for now and wait.

The Noppera-bo nods its head, twice. It says, "Understand, understand."

"If you never come back to this place again, and never lead others here or give them information that might make them find it, and do me this favor of leading the Hobgoblins you speak of into our trap…" Low traces the knife right along where the lips would be on the Noppera-bo, if it were to have such a thing as a face, "Then I'll not only let you go, but send you on with my blessing, a rune that your harvest be bountiful. For the turning of 10 years let's each keep to our word, or may the other one strike us dead as easily as they would a babe."

Carolyn considers the pledge, then nods to herself. She crosses her arms over her chest and stands in a casual pose, waiting to see if the hob agrees.
The Noppera-bo hesitates for a moment and then nods its head a couple of times, "Okay, okay. Noppera-bo pledges. No come back, no bring others here, not for ten years."

Grady smiles again as he watches and waits. Something about the exchange amuses him. He puts away the wetstone and continues to wait.

"Okay. Now, you're going to bring those other Hobgoblins to Hell's Kitchen, you and your buddy. I don't care what you have to do to get them there. But you're going to bring them to Paddy's Meat Packing plant. And then you'll get your trods back, you understand, two for the price of one?" He steps off the Noppera-bo then, letting it up and looking to Carolyn, "The other one is all yours." He points to the other locked boiler, stepping back and glancing to Grady.

Noppera-bo's hands lift to its face, staring- maybe? -at Low-Key. It whines, "No! Can't go without Noppera-bo, hobs eat us! Need both Noppera-bo!"

Carolyn laughs, a short and humorless sound. "Well, ain't you just a gentleman. Simmer down, little thing, we got it in hand." She crosses over to the door of the boiler, and pulls it open. She steps briskly backwards, to be out of the way if the other Noppera-bo decides to charge. "Hey, Thing Two. Did you hear that? Leave, don't come back, and never give anyone else any way to find this place. Do that, and help us lead those others to Hell's Kitchen, and you can walk free…and, hell, I'll bless you, too. Bountiful harvest, and both of us faithful for ten years, or let our strikes find the other's heart as easily as a child finds a piece of candy in a pocket." A pause. "Or I can feed you to that crazy guy. Your choice."

"Noppera-bo pledge! No come back, no lead others here, not for ten years. Lead hobs to Hell's Kitchen!" The other one says, while the other one tries to slink toward the other boiler, reaching out for its.. uh, sibling.

Grady grunts. "If'n ye get the time… boyos dear… ye to look for me at the Subway station Greenwich near." He is looking at the Nopera-bo now. "We might be able to barter." He leaves it at that and looks back at Carolyn and Low-Key directly or as directly as he can with them spaced apart. "Now can yet let the vermin out… so we an our real business about?"

"Fi Fi fo fum. I smell the blood of an English pun?" Low suggests with a snicker, and nods, letting the Noppera-bo grip towards each other, watching them from the corner of his eye. He isn't stopping them from leaving if they want to, reaching into his pocket and removing a zippo, flicking it on and off thoughtfully."

Carolyn sighs, and steps back, getting out of the hobs way so that they can rejoin each other. She stalks back around to where Low-Key is and snorts at Grady. "Axe-man's more about protecting his business interests with Hedge-monkeys than he is about protecting the freehold. Big fucking surprise." She turns her head to bear her teeth at the Noppera-bo. "Get out, you two. And don't fuck with the Lost of NYC."

The hobs? They *flee*. Hand in hand the two featureless creatures clamper up and into the darkness. Leaving the Lost to their business.

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