The Battle: Part the Last of the Battle for the Mountain

This wide clearing in the forest is fenced all around by tall, imposing pines, but there are a variety of trees, both deciduous and coniferous, scattered at the edges within that fence. At the center is an immense beech tree, its voluptuous bole at least as wide as a human is tall. Clearly, the area has been decorated for the event. Many of the trees have burst into precipituous bloom; similarly, wildflowers and bulb flowers of all descriptions have created a riot of color at the feet of the trees. But over all this spring lushness lies a layer of ice that catches the silver light of Luna and shivers it into a million points of sharp brilliance.
Sunshine has arrived.
Jack has arrived.
Rowan has arrived.
Ruth has arrived.
Layla has arrived.
Gerard has arrived.
Kelsey has arrived.
Derrick has arrived.
Kem has arrived.
Watersinger has arrived.

As all of you enter the glade, it seems perfectly empty. Then a collection of other people enters from between the trees on the other side, looking about them with the half-dazed curiosity. One of them slips on the icy ground and curses with vehemence.

The glade, so empty at first, nearly explodes with sudden, seething movement. There is too much to look at - obvious lords and ladies in fine brocades; tumbling acrobats with strangle distorted limbs; twiggy children running hand in hand with foxes and other, furrier creatures with sharper teeth; a half-sized motorcyle gang in apparent black leather and tiny spikes; several graceful yet towering tree-like figures; and countless more beings of every description. At the center of the clearing, a faun dressed in a white shirt and black tie calls desperately for order through a curiously curled bullhorn.

Sunshine hesitates near the back of the crowd of townsfolk, reluctance in every feature, every movement of her body.

Layla holds herself tall as she steps into the glade. A satchel can be seen under the bulge of a large shawl that she clasps about her shoulder. The frozen ground crunches beneath her feet.

Watersinger stays close by Kelsey's side. Fight Winter! she growls softly up at her.

Jack simply takes a few steps further into the clearing, looking over the assembled party, and then the chaos of colour, sound, shapes and size, before them all. It's impossible to prevent a slight quirking of his mouth, upwards, as he murmurs, "Well I'll be damned..."

Ruth is ready for the sound and color, but nevertheless she starts when it erupts around her, steps back and sets her feet firm against the icy ground. For a moment, her face lengthened, her body oddly larger, her hands drawn together and fused, she looks as odd as some of the things gathered there in the clearing. Then she snorts, shakes her head, and looks to the people around her, those opposite, on the other side of the clearing.

Derrick, at some point, emerged from the woods, in lupus, and sticks quite close to Watersinger.

Rowan, meanwhile, is in homid, rather close to Kelsey, and peering around intently. He's trying not to look as if he's a country bumpkin come to the city for the first time.

Kelsey stops still and simply gapes at the troupes and assorted fae, plans and questions and concerns momentarily derailed by the sight of so many bewildering creatures in one place at the same time. Evidently she never attended raves.

Among the folk on the opposite side of the clearing lurk a few unfortunately familiar faces. Argent, a strangely youthful man with sleek black hair and a silver left arm, pauses to consider the mortal inhabitants of the glade with a quirked smile. Zebulon, an ancient man of dissipated appearance, slinks along beside him and cackles. The others cluster around their leader, including a young teenage boy of noble bearing and grim mien.

"Ohh--" Gerard whispers on an indrawn breath. For one tiny moment, all his fear and all his sense are in abeyance, and he can only shiver in the ungodly beauty and weirdness of the moment. "C'est manifique," he whispers longingly. He reaches out a hand to brace himself against a tree trunk, and finds a stranger there instead. That snaps his fear for his well-loved skin back into place, and he hunches his shoulders, and buries his hands in his pockets.

Sunshine's eyes pick out Argent from the crowd opposite. For a moment, a deep hatred burns in the Healers eyes, and then she covers them with her hands, draped in the strand of tiny beads.

At one end of the clearing, under a canopy of snow over pine boughs, sits the Snow Queen on her icy throne. Around her the beings of her Court attend her respectfully. At the other end of the clearing, the Spring Queen reclines upon a grassy mound while attendants wave flowering branches delicately over her head. In the center of the grove the faun is still shouting desperately for order, barely heard over the excited tumult.

Rowan takes a breath, and then another. He looks just slightly overstimulated. "Kels," he manages to mutter, "Let's go parley with the bad seeds, before that goat gets his head on straight."

Jack slowly wanders a few steps towards Kelsey and Rowan, murmuring, "See anyone familiar we should be watching out for?" His eyes are still on the riot about them.

Kem pauses for a moment, gawping at the sight. Then her scientific detachment returns and she swings various lenses into place before her eyes, twiddling and rotating. She makes a few idle noises of interest.

Kelsey reaches for Rowan's hand, words momentarily deserting her. At his suggestion, she comes to her senses enough to nod meekly, although even the glimpse of Argent is obviously enough to make her blanch. She doesn't answer Watersinger's insistent demands, following Rowan's lead as if in a trance.

Ruth looks towards Rowan, eyes wide, alert. She steps along the frozen ground towards him, never looks or slips, though icy plants crunch beneath her boots. She nods to him, glances towards Watersinger and Kelsey.

Jack watches the two walk off, and then simply shrugs, planting his feet and folding his arms. Waiting for the Players to make their moves.

From the trees, the Lord of Autumn stalks forward to stand behind the faun, deep-set eyes smoldering as he surveys the wildly teeming throng. "SILENCE," he says, not so much a command as an absolute statement of fact, and silence descends. Here and there, a bird-person titters, or a tree rustles words to its neighbor. Once, a tiny motorcycle engine revs and then stops abruptly, its little biker looking deeply embarassed. Gradually, even these disturbances fade away. The Lord stares forbiddingly at the occupants of the clearing, and then nods to the faun.

Rowan points out Argent and Zebulon, giving them names, to Jack, and then takes a deep breath. "Right," he mutters, and gives Kelsey's hand a squeeze; he's just about to move when the Lord speaks. And he stops dead.

Kem turns her goggles and viewing activities upon the Autumn Lord. Something in one of her pockets goes, "dwingledwingledwingle," until she slaps it and it goes quiet with an affronted grumble.

The faun clears its throat nervously and sweeps one hand back over its curly hair and little horns. A scroll is produced by a agitated little reedy being and handed to the faun, who begins to read:

"Whereas the Queen of Winter does not wish to give up dominion of the mountain at the appointed time, due to alleged interference from the Spring Court during her reign; Whereas the Spring Queen denies these allegations and insists upon the recessional of the Winter Court; Whereas the Lord of Autumn has agreed to mediate the dispute; Whereas the dispute has been decided for this day, the eighth full of Luna since the last Dancing night; Whereas it has been agreed to settle this matter by the traditional means, the Battle of Mortals; we are gathered here this day." The faun pauses and takes a deep breath.

A tall, dark woman steps up behind Argent and bows her head to whisper to him briefly. Argent nods and glances aside at a bandy-legged man with an axe and a gleaming bald pate, who returns his glance with a brief nod. A woman in her twenties who looks very much like the teenager steps up next to him and lays a hand on his shoulder. The other three are men, and they are clustered together a few feet from Argent's group, scowling darkly upon the whole assembly.

Hesitantly, Rowan makes a small gesture for attention. It is not, however, a very strenous gesture, and it is easily missed.

Ruth stuffs her hands into her pockets, her red and black hair a halo about her face, her mouth drawn into a firm line. She's watching the faun, but Rowan's gesture catches her wide-eyed, equine attention. Her eyes drift towards him.

Jack simply clenches and eases his fists, over again. Now that the enemy has a name and a face... It's frustrating for them to be so close, yet out of reach.

Sunshine stays towards the back of the crowd. She's a noncombatant, but here under orders nonetheless.

Kelsey tries to look anywhere but at Argent, which is easier than usual with all the unearthly (and somewhat disturbing) beauty elsewhere. Her eyes do keep skipping back to him, however. Rowan has only her divided attention.

Gerard skulks. There's no other word for it. He even skulks morosely. Deep in his pockets, his hands are moving, but not to any apparent purpose.

The faun clears its throat again. A giggle arises from somewhere in the crowd, which is promptly, not to say literally, quashed by a tall rocky individual with cherry blossoms decorating its massive head. The faun continues:

"Whereas the choosing of the game players has been accomplished via the fall of the knucklebones, I will therefore read the lists of the Participants. Chosen by luck and the Winter Court are the following:
Philip Tempest
Archie Axeman"

Kem blinks at the sound of her own name, and briefly attempts to look around her own goggles in astonishment before remembering that they're attached to her face.

Rowan flicks a glance at Kelsey, surprised. Then he sidles over to Gerard and mutters something under his breath to him.

Jack lowers his head, frowning. Under his breath he mutters, "We were just pooled."

Argent stares intently at the faun for a moment before laughing silently.

Hatred flickers briefly in Sunshine's eyes again as she catches sight of Argent, Argent-the-enemy, laughing.

Rowan whispers urgently to Argent, "/You're/ gonna have to explain to your side, about stuff. About stupidity, and about my side throwing the game."

Kelsey's expression turns outraged. "We gave our word to fight for /spring/!" she snaps, turning towards the Autumn Lord beseechingly. But looking him full in the face is enough to make her stammer and drop her eyes.

The faun takes a deep breath and plunges into the next list.

"Chosen by luck and the Spring Court are the following:
Marika Ezust
Jan Ezust

Rowan's head swivels up, and he takes a somewhat deliberate step away from Gerard again before he says, "I /did/. For spring. My /word/ -matters-."

"But..." Sunshine doesn't quite manage to articulate a protest before her eyes unfocus slightly. She closes her eyes and is still for a long moment.

It's better that Ruth has never met Argent, the hive's folk. She stands where she's set herself, her hands stuffed in her pockets, her even countenance drawing down towards a frown. Still, until she turns her head sharp to look at Kelsey and Rowan.

A high, squeaky giggle sounds from a branch above Rowan's head, where a small, nut-brown boy with huge black eyes and a mouse's tail perches. "Spring is driving us from our home!" his sweet voice calls. "You said you'd help me stay!"

The faun pauses, wipes his brow, and concludes in a rush, "Therefore, as the knucklebones were acclaimed fair, let this allotment of players be agreed upon by the Spring and Winter Courts. Let the game be played in earnest of our purpose. So declares the Lord of Autumn, as emissary for Our Lady."

Jack just shakes his head wearily. "Lose, then, Rageboy," he murmurs softly-- adding under his breath, "And try not to get hurt doing it." He closes his hands again, but in such as way as to make his knuckles crack. "Oh well."

Rowan's attention drifts toward the mouse boy. "Well. Fuck," he eventually says.

"You said you would fight for me," says a clear, cold little voice. A slender girl dressed in gray rags leans on the arm of a buxom sappling with dogwood flowers in her hair. "And I say, fight for Winter. It will be more interesting that way."

Ruth steps closer to Rowan, close enough to whisper, which she does.

Argent makes a quick gesture to Bane with his human hand, and gathers part of his group with a look. Then he and the three glowering men pick their way toward the Winter Queen for a half dozen strides. Then Argent stops and offers her a deep, graceful bow. "It will be my pleasure to join your side, my lady," he purrs.

Lord of Autumn lifts his hands for silence, and the chatter subsides again. "Queen of the Winter Court. Queen of the Spring Court. Let this struggle, bound into mortal flesh and mortal word begin."

The Snow Queen inclines her head graciously towards Argent and his little group.

Watersinger, for her part, seems rather fiercely content to be fighting for Spring. Water's winter-cage will break, she asserts to Jack, her nearby teammate. Water will be free in warmtime.

Spring Queen gestures languidly her acceptance of the Autumn Lord's words.

Rowan gives Ruth a quick nod, and then tugs on Kelsey's hand. He moves swiftly toward the Winter Queen and bows low to her, in the Japanese style he's apparently picked up from Higami. He gives Argent a witheringly polite smile.

Sunshine hesitantly wakes and joins the group making its way towards the Spring Queen. She gives the Spring Queen a graceful curtsy, although nothing can make her look content to be among the combatants.

"The players! The players!" goes up a merry shout, and the center of the clearing is suddenly emptied. A rush of lithe young people in horns and hooves and fluttering leaves rush into the crowd to herd the tardy players towards their respective sides with snapping ribbons and laughter.

Gerard is starting to shiver, now. "What does eet mean?" he whispers. "I cannot--me--wiss zem--" His eyes seek out Rowan, Ruth, Sunshine, anyone he knows.

Bane, the very tall woman who stood next to Argent, leads her little group a ways toward Spring's side and stops there with a short, perfectly synchronized group bow.

More than reluctantly, Derrick pads to the Snow Queen's side.

Ruth follows Rowan, her long-legged stride carrying her quick, across the clearing, to where she stands. She dips her head to the Snow Queen, then looks out towards Spring.

Layla gives a bow to the Spring Queen that sends her skirts fluttering in elegant cascades.

Sunshine gives Gerard a faint smile. The expression has very little of reassurance in it, but it's eye contact, at the least.

Watersinger's demeanor falls from eager to mortified as she watches Derrick trot away to the Snow Queen's side. Brother...? she manages to faintly growl.

Kelsey swallows and steps away from Rowan, stalking towards Argent and Bane, her chin raised high. "We need to talk," she says tightly.

Gerard takes a step toward Spring, and then another. He finshes just behind Sunshine's shoulder, shivering, pale, and miserable. After a moment, though, a change comes over him. His chin lifts, his jaw sets, and he sweeps the most magnificent of bows to the Queen who was so unlucky as to win his aid. Gerard the performer is breathing fast, but there is a glint in the back of his eyes.

Jack follows Gerard, with a thoughtful expression on his face. He bows to the Spring Queen, as the frenchman does, then puts a hand on Gerard's shoulder. "Make your challenge a game, if you can..."

Kem seems to realize that she's tardy and moves distractedly toward Winter's side, palming something from a pocket on her thigh and fitting it to the palm of her other hand.

"Oh, Belle Dame Sans Merci," Gerard says, voice pitched to carry. "We may...we may take a moment to consult wiss each ozzer? Je vous en prie, I beg of you. For zat--for zat our fight may more glorious--for you."

In the little entourage surrounding the Lady of Winter are the Birch Twins, sitting on a pile of velvets and obviously high in the favor of the Lady. They smile at the group of people assembled before her throne, but say nothing. The Lady herself nods most graciously, acknowedging the bows directed towards her, and says in a clear sweet voice, "My players. Choose from yourselves your representative, to meet in the field with the representative of the Spring Court, and decide the terms of the battle. Remember your own strengths and weaknesses when you set the bounds of your game. Act with honor and integrity, for you are the representatives of the Seelie Court."

You paged the room: 'I beg you all, for the love you bear me, please do not suggest a riddle game. Anything but that! Even Crinos morris-dancing is better than that! Thank you. This has been an OOC request from one of your gms. :)'.
Rowan pages the room: Jesus Christ, no.
Lord of Autumn pages the room: Lord of Autumn regrets that Her Majesty made mention of the Crinos Morris Dancing, as that reduces the likelihood that it will occur. His Lordship would be pleased to be so entertained.
Sunshine pages the room: Sunshine dies laughing, thus sparing herself the possibility of actually having to attempt combat.
Snow Queen pages the room: Snow Queen begs his lordship to remember that not all of our players are capable of that form, alas, which is why she made bold to mention it.
Lord of Autumn pages the room: Lord of Autumn takes leave to mention to her majesty that in all morris dancing, there is a position for a Fool, a part well suited to unchanging mortals. His Lordship then heeds his own demands for silence and composure.

The Spring Queen bends up from her reclining position like a tulip reaching for the sun and extends her arms in a motherly offering of remote embrace to her combatants, including them in a broad, brilliant smile, but aiming that smile particularly at Gerard for just a moment, piercing as a March wind. "Choose your representative, my pets," she says, her voice light as a May breeze. "And for that, you may confer." She rests her weight upon her arms then, watching the group hungrily. "That representative shall meet with the Winter Court's representative to decide the terms of battle. There will be many rewards for a good contest, recall. You are representatives of an Unseelie Court, so behave with your best cunning and wisdom."

Kem snaps aside her visual array so that she can consider her teammates more closely.

Argent bows once more to the Snow Queen and turns a handsome, though not entirely pleasant, smile upon Kelsey and Rowan and the other townsfolk. "Well, we meet again in circumstances I certainly never foresaw."

Jack looks about himself, taking in the rest of the party. "So," he says, flatly. "Anyone got any non-lethal ideas that we might toss over there? I'm a big fan of gambling, myself."

Ruth rocks on her heels, her chin dipping as a smile starts to return to her, sharpens the crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. She draws a bandana from one of her pockets, catches her hair back with it. Gerard's seen it. It usually carries her Icehouse set. A talisman, perhaps, here and now. She watches Kelsey and Argent, a brow drawing up.

Kelsey keeps her eyes fixed on Argent, trying to let hatred keep her fixed on her orders. She opens her mouth, shuts it, and opens it again. "Playing as pets to these nobles," she ventures finally, words two-edged. "Our... argument... cannot be decided here, since each of us seems to be scattered on both sides. Their rules are clear. We have only to..." she struggles for words, mindful of royalty staring down at them... "/entertain/ them for the evening."

Sunshine sighs quietly. "A dance, perhaps," she offers uncertainly.

Rowan, still with that overly-polite smile, says, "Yeah, ain't this grand. Look-- something like capture the /flag/, or /competetive dancing/, a gigantic game of /dice/ or something?" And then he adds something urgently under his breath.

Kelsey pages: Keksey adds in clumsy dreamspeech, "And /not/ let winter be here year round. Let the spring team choose the challenge."

Zebulon cackles at Jack. "Value your skin, do ye?" the old man wheezes, loosing a miasma of foul odor upon all and sundry on the Spring side.

Layla holds her ground and waits.

Watersinger does not seem to be able to wrench her attention away from Derrick's form at the opposite camp. She takes a single step in his direction before stopping dead in her tracks and turning, slowly, back to the Spring Team. Water, she growls.

Jack blanches at the stench, and sends a baleful glare at Zebulon. "Value my friends' skins, actually." He tilts his head to Sunshine. "How many here can perform, then? I'm not too bad with a song...?"

Sunshine glances at Zebulon, recoiling from the smell. "Not enough, I fear..."

Gerard swallows hard and then steps into the middle of the group. "Somesing beautiful or clever, to honor our patron," he suggests aloud, and then, in the softest of undertones, with his back to the queen in a vain hope of evading her notice, "We must neizzer of us win or lose, but only play so well zat by sunset zey will zemselves dispair of our resolving anysing for zem." He issues this confident-sounding assertion, looks up to see Bane beside him, and almost recoils. He licks his lips and says, pleading, "Eef not - we will be here again. And again and again and again, n'est-ce pas? I--I do not /want/ to be zeir fighters every time zey quarrel or are bored."

Argent eyes Rowan and nods shortly, then smiles at Kelsey. "Agreed. I have no wish to go claw to claw with my own folk. Especially not Zebulon," he adds, a vague prayerful tone entering his voice.

Kelsey looks towards Watersinger and back to Jack, nodding significantly.

Layla plays with the copper bangles that decorate her wrist. "I can dance. I can throw dice."

Derrick, it is quite clear, is exceedingly distressed to be where he is; he lopes briefly toward Watersinger, says something to her 'under his breath', and then lopes back where he was, the lines of his body practically growling aloud.

Jan Ezust, the teenager, bows briefly to Gerard. "Your suggestion has merit, sir." Then he bows to Sunshine and Jack. "And yours. I believe that Marika and I can contribute something toward such a thing."

Rowan mutters, "Dancing. Oh, sure, I'm /great/ at it." Anyone who's actually paying attention would be able to tell this is, perhaps, the farthest thing from the truth imaginable.

Kem looks up from whatever it is that she's got in her hand. "Magic show?"

Sunshine looks hesitantly at the teenager from the Hive, everything about her posture expressing uncertainty. "Do you know... Do you know the old Virginia Reel?"

Kelsey seems to gather herself, then looks into Argent's eyes again, letting her expression soften. "Let Rowan be our representative. We are all in agreement... on this one thing only... and it would be fair recompense for the game you played with us last time, to yield us a throw tonight." She adds, taking a step closer to him, "Please."

Jack shoots Kelsey a look of mild relief, then looks back to his own 'Team'. He says - quite lowly - to them, "I have... a rather..." His mouth twists sourly. "Unnatural luck with most games of chance. Makes it difficult to play for money in most towns. No cheating, either. If we were to knock out other team members in elimination-style contest..."

Derrick's message to Watersinger, whatever it is, does not have seemed to calm her one little bit. Her hackles bristle briefly, her ears flat against her skull, and she whines wordlessly at her brother's retreating form. Hesitantly, she returns to the gathering. Spring /must/ win, she insists to her teammates. Winter must go away! Water must be free.

Layla smiles grimmly at Jack's words and waits for her teammate to continue.

"A dance, perhaps? Eet does not matter eef we are good, so long as we are entertaining." Gerard wipes the back of his hand across his mouth. Then, as Jack speaks, "M'sieur, wouldeet not be better to choose what we are not good at?" He nods to Sunshine. "Like zat, whatever eet is."

Jack shakes his head slightly, murmuring, "I wonder if they've ever seen a crinos dance..."

Rowan eyes Kelsey in some dismay.

Sunshine looks down at Watersinger, murmuring quietly.

Gerard starts to smile, in a glinting, panicked, adrenaline-high way. "We could change ze rules ech time."

Argent gazes down into Kelsey's eyes, a small smile dancing around the edges of his mouth. "Why don't we play this like the Neighbors would, Miss Eisenmann? Give me a kiss and I'll let your boy have the job."

Rowan's hands immediately, and apparently of their own accord, curl into fists, but his smile stays right where it is.

Jan Ezust shakes his head sadly at Sunshine. "But I learn... quickly, madame," he says carefully, glancing aside at Zebulon.

Sunshine sighs softly. "I don't know if there's time, if they'd believe it was a contest..."

Kelsey manages to suppress a shudder, although she does half-close her eyes. Evidently she half expected the request. "If you insist," she murmurs faintly.

Gerard runs his tongue over his lips. "All zat matters is zat zey enjoy zemselves."

Jack's lip curls as he watches the display in the Winter camp. "That girl," he mutters under his breath, and returns his attention to his own.

Argent's smile broadens, and he steps forward, carefully taking Kelsey in his arms. His silver arm twines coldly at her waist, while his living hand grips the back of her head with a gentle, controlled power. He gives every evidence of enjoying himself vastly and being entirely in control as he lowers his lips to hers. His dark eyes watch Rowan's face even as he takes his sweet time kissing Kelsey.

The Winter court breaks into polite applause.

Ruth's eyes have turned to watch the gathered host, the fey folk amidst the trees, on the ground, a riot of hue and shade. She takes a long, slow breath. Certainly, she can see Kelsey at the edge of her vision. Her smile's gone.

Kelsey stands on tiptoe -- there's a moment's hesitation before she meets Argent's lips, which he probably prolongs. She is simply pliant and unprotesting. When he releases her, she steps back blushing redly and avoiding the gazes of any of her friends.

An irrevrent voice from the back of the Winter crowd calls out, "Go for the gusto, mate!"

Lord of Autumn claps his hands together three times, the sounds echoing like breaking branches through the clearing. "Are the representatives ready?" he demands.

Perhaps his motivation is wrong. But after Argent is done kissing Kelsey -- and Rowan merely stands there, watching them, that smile still there -- he moves, and taps Argent on the shoulder. "Pardon me," he murmurs, with some irony, "But may I have this dance?" And then he puts an arm around Kelsey's shoulders, eventually travelling up to the back of her neck, and kisses her, ignoring her flush, ignoring everything but how he feels for her. He is controlled, he is loving, and he is very, very thorough. Once he moves backwards, /he/ is flushed, but for an entirely different reason than Kelsey. He raises his head. "Why yes. Yes, I am."

The Spring Queen watches the kiss for a moment, then looks at her own group expectantly. When nothing similar occurs, she points at Layla. "You. You're the representative. Now, isn't that nice, now that it's all decided? Shoo, off to discuss then."

The Winter court applauds again at Rowan's action, and there is some whispering and consultation behind sleeves and fans.

Layla takes a long, sweeping bow to the Spring Queen, again sending her skirts aswirling. She turns dramatically and marches to the center of the Clearing to meet the Winter Court's representative.

Ruth cants her head at the second kiss, then smiles. Her teeth are bright and even against her skin, against the ice that shrouds the forest. She chuckles, a low, quiet whicker, looks toward the Autumn Lord.

Argent relinquishes Kelsey to Rowan with good grace and stands, looking upon them like a benificent uncle.

Rowan tries very hard not to shoot any sort of look at all at Argent, as he, too, heads for the center.

Spring Queen looks expectant as her Court's representative reaches the middle. A huddle of handmaidens at her feet, all of them decked in different spring flowers, giggle and point at Rowan and Kelsey's antics.

Layla says in a quiet undertone to Rowan, once he reaches the center of the Clearing, "Hey, Rowan. Are we certain we want to dance?"

Kelsey slumps against Rowan, whatever Argent just did to her leaving her far too dazed to respond properly, but she finds a bit more of a smile by the end of it. She certainly stays attached to his arm when he's finished. "So, um," she says finally. "What are we doing?"

Three slender sprites dressed in red feathers scurry into the center of the ring. "Sorry, sorry," they say as they pick Kelsey up and pull her back towards the Winter court. "One representative for each side! Sorry, sorry!"

Rowan says quietly to Layla, "It seems like the best way to..." he pauses. "Accomplish what we want. So yeah." Then he bows to the Autumn Lord, again that low Japanese bow. "My Lord? What is your pleasure?"

Lord of Autumn considers Rowan and Layla gravely. "Are you resolved on the form and manner of the contest?"

Rowan says, in that 'I am not sure I have the right to be talking to this majestic person' voice, "Yessir. Dancing." Then he looks at Layla. "Which /type/ of dancing?"

Layla continues in a quiet voice, "Any type of dancing the participant chooses." Despite her best intentions, her voice rises in a question at the end.

Several fae in the crowd start pushing and shoving forward. "Please pardon me." "'Scuze me, musician coming through!" "Where the hell did I leave my crumhorn?" "Your pardon sir, you are sitting on my cymbals." "Are all the drummers here?" "Electric guitar coming through! Clear the way!"

After a moment, Rowan nods. Then he turns toward the Lord of Autumn, carefully not looking at him in the face. "Is that acceptable to you, my Lord? And with your people the judges?"

Kem looks up from whatever analysis she's doing. "DANCING?" she exclaims, looking at her teammates wildly.

Lord of Autumn's eyes rest on Layla for a moment, as though waiting to be quite sure she has finished. When nothing more ensues, he nods. "So be it," he declaims. "The lowful ordering of steps, the individual's unadjudicated choice of laws. It is a meet contest for the seelie and unseelie courts. Let the battle commence."

Derrick shifts up and whispers something to Kem.
"Dancing," Ruth says. She grins at Kem.

The faun scurries about through the crowd, apparently choosing judges.

"I learned a sailor's 'ornpipe once," Gerard says, almost wistfully.

Watersinger will dance for Spring, she growls, somewhat grimly.

Layla takes a long, low bow to the Lord of Autumn and returns to her side. "Okay. Who's first?"

Sunshine shivers. "The dancing will undoubtedly get more frantic as time passes, and I'm not... good at that."

The faun pauses under a tree and shouts up into it. "Mouse! I know you're up there! Come and be a judge!"

Jack crouches down by Watersinger and murmurs to her.

Kem gives Derrick a pale, horrified look and seems to be nigh-apoplectic of a sudden. She throws a rictus grin at Ruth, then looks back at Derrick. "We are?" she says in a high, strained voice. "How nice! When do we start?"

Layla nods. "Sunshine, are you comfortable going first?"

A spring, a hop, a bound, and the mouse-like child from the treetops lights at the faun's side with a winning smile. His tail twitches behind him excitedly. "Me? Oh, /thank/ you."

Layla looks to the center of the Clearing. "Or are we all dancing at once?" She muses.

Derrick tells Kem, studiedly casual, "Oh, 'round about now, ma'am."

A hasty pavilion is being erected for the judges. A twiggy naked girl with dirt and flowers in her hair sits down regally in it. The harassed faun returns to the center and says to the representatives, "You may toss to see which team must go first or you may choose to dance... interactively," he says, a little out of breath.

Gerard shows his teeth in a slightly manic grin. "All at once, madmoiselle. And be sure to critique everyone else according to ze rules which only you know."

Sunshine nods shortly to Layla. She sweeps another curtsy to the Spring Queen, and then paces gracefully towards the center.

Immediately, Rowan says, "Interactively. All at once."

A burst of protest comes from the assembling musicians. A deer-boy with a drum and huge brown eyes wails, "But what music are we to *play?*"

Layla follows Sunshine's lead and heads to the center of the Clearing. She begins to stretch, showing off the elegant, long lines of her body.

Sunshine smiles at the deer-boy, very gently. "Whatever you like, child."

Ruth looks towards Rowan and grins. She rubs the palms of her hands together. "All of them, obviously," she says.

Derrick calls, with a gleam in his eye, "Whatever you please!"

Kelsey stares at the naked girl, then tears her eyes away and glances around to make sure she knows where Argent is, out of the corner of her eye. "I don't suppose you fairies know 'N Synch?" she asks, trying to put a brave face on things.

The faun frantically runs around, choosing more judges.

The Spring Queen calls out, "Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! Shall the judges tap out the worst and leave the best for last then?"

Layla, her stretches complete, paces to the edge of the Clearing and drops her shawl. She returns hastily to the Clearing at the Queen's command to better listen to the band tune up.

Rowan shrugs. "Yes, ma'am?" he eventually says, and heads back to Kelsey.

Argent moves toward the center, gesturing to his men to follow and nodding to Bane. He strips off his shirt, revealing a well-scarred back, muscular chest, and the smooth joining of his silver arm to his torso.

Finally, several more judges are chosen and marked by green and white ribbons. The dancing place is marked out with wands and more ribbon in the center of the clearing, and the grass is carefully smoothed and picked over by a host of tiny pixies. After some disorder from the crowd - the motorcycle "gang" is yelling "Play Wild Mountain Thyme!" to the muscicians - and nervous breakdowns on the part of the musicians - the deer-boy bolts and has to be forcibly brought back by two spriggans holding firmly onto his velvety antlers - the scene is finally ready. The musicians pick up their insturments, and an expectant hush drops over the crowd.

Gerard stares at the swirling motion around him, then hums something to himself, and begins moving his feet back and forth in a way which is to dancing like mumbling under your breath is to singing.

Jan Ezust and his cousin Marika move in from Spring's side, following Bane and the newly appeared Maggot, a ragged grey wolf creature. Zebulon is hitching up his drawers and tightening his suspenders.

Sunshine begins to dance even before the musicians are in place. Her back straight, her arms held gracefully at her sides, her dance begins from a quiet center, slow, graceful movement spreading like ripples from a tossed stone.

Rowan doesn't strip anything off yet, though he does shuck off his vest. He grabs Kelsey's hand again, and grins at her, surprisingly bouyany. "Ready to have three left feet?"

Derrick, meanwhile, has shifted to crinos. And is beginning to sway.

Kelsey nearly falls over when Rowan snags her, and grins crookedly back. "Already do," she murmurs. "Don't tell." She blinks as he shifts, and then, with a toss of her head, changes to join him.

Watersinger watches Sunshine begin her dance for a few moments, and then closes her own eyes, brushing her nose to the cold ground. Her muscles tense briefly.

The musicians start playing. At least seven different songs are being played, but somehow in perfect, weird harmony. Just the sound of the music might be enough to make anyone long to dance.

Layla closes her eyes and sways to the music. She lets the beat take over her body bit by slender bit. First her fingertips begin to pick up the rhythm, then her knees pick up the beat. She quietly lets the music dance through her body as she sways in place.

Derrick begins to hum, in fact. To Wild Mountain Thyme, which may or may not be something anyone is playing. His swaying is just slightly off the rhythm of the music.

Rowan, meanwhile, grabs Kelsey's other hand and lurches off into a careening swirl, apparently trying to swing Kelsey around.

Gerard slowly steps out, bemused and pleased. His feet pick up confidence, and he begins to dance the Sailor's Hornpipe as he remembers it from at least ten years previous. His hands remain in his pockets at first, and then emerge with three brightly colored beanbags.

Phillip Tempest, a singularly unpleasant-looking man on the side of Winter, starts to bob his head. Then to tap his foot. Finally, he begins to stamp around in a circle to all the beats and no beat in particular. This man has No Rhythm.

Some of the people in the crowd begin to clap in time - in one of the times - with the music.

Mouse Boy hops up onto a chair to see better, and watches with bright-eyed fascination, nibbling absent-mindedly on his judge's ribbon.

Kem appears to be frozen in place for now, her face rigid in a grin.

Kelsey lets herself be whirled. The music certainly helps. She's no skilled dancer, as she warned Rowan before, but the wild insanity of the evening has well and truly taken her out of herself. She begins to move, in fits and starts, with the arrogant exuberance of someone who has no idea how to waltz and will brazenly polka instead.

Ruth lets her hands swing free as she walks towards the center of the clearing. Long-limbed and tall, a certain grace in her step. The music washes over her, a peculiar harmony, but she neither moves her arms to its beat, nor sway her hips. She does begin to change, though, her body reaching up and up, dark and twisting, hide and shadow, her hands stretching out into hooves. The horse arches her neck, looking down at the world about her, then lets her hooves lower with a thump. She shakes her head, then trots along the icy grass to prance in a circle about Gerard.

Gerard spots Kem, and dances toward her, tossing the beanbags up in a rapid circle. "Beautiful, madame!" he calls to the rigid woman. "Manifique! Never 'ave I seen eet done so well."

Sunshine's dance is not ungraceful, but it's also not nearly as graceful as the originals she's mimicking. Wherever she learned Far Eastern dancing, she did not stay for full course of instruction.

Since Rowan is evidently trying to square dance, they make something of a couple. An enthusiastic one, to be certain, but not, it must be said, at all graceful.

Derrick keeps swaying. Keeps humming. And somehow -- this must take concentration -- his swaying matches none of the beats that are currently being played.

A three-foot-high crone - one of the judges, by her ribbon, sways from foot to foot at the edge of the dancing area. "Go on! Dance! Dance, my darlings! Put your back into it!" she calls out, tossing her white hair.

Maggot starts to trot about the glade, occasionally going into a shoulder roll, giving out little yips, yowls, and eerie hums that sound like they're coming from a totally inhuman or unwolflike throat.

Eshu's Daughter takes the words of the crone to heart, crunching ice beneath her hooves, prancing in a circle though Gerard has passed her. She doesn't seem to notice at all.

Layla opens her eyes and takes a cue from Sunshine: she adds a Middle Eastern shimmy to her step and begins to dance in earnest, picking out Middle Eastern beats when she can, improvising steps when she can't.

Bloody Breath and Chiaroscuro, Hive Garou evidently by their rather deformed crinos forms, begin to slam into each other with vigor.

Kelsey may be heard panting some words that almost fit the music, or would do, if the music weren't entrancing in its subtlety. Hers most certainly is not. "...sing rickety, tickety, tin..."

Watersinger has danced in the Spring many, many times in her three and a half decades as a Feral galliard, and the Winter as well. This is a Spring dance, beginning low and tense, as if she is bound by invisible cords. Her bucking and shaking of the cords becomes a moving in circles, upwards, faster and faster. One by one, the chains on her limbs come loose, and she begins to dance more freely. Along with her freedom comes physical change, until at last, as Winter loses its grasping hold and wild Spring triumphs in the language of the dance, she bursts free of her wolf's body into the war-form, long, muscular limbs grasping at the sky through the branches above.

The musical harmony is marred briefly by a goblin with a tuba larger than he is. However, a band of vengeful winged tiny folk descends upon him and routs him from the field, gaining grateful glances from the other earnest, sweating musicians.

Marika and Jan take up each others hands and begin some sort of folk dance which appears to have an Eastern European flavor. They occasionally make calls to each other in some language as they skip, hop, and otherwise move around each other.

Derrick suddenly bursts to his feet, and begins somersaulting around. He's likely, at this rate, to run into someone. Especially given as he's got his eyes closed.

The pixies in black leather are doing a sort of wild war-dance at the edge of the contest area, tossing little swords into the air and catching them. The excitement seems to the contaigious, for more and more of the "audience" are joining in, with wild abandon.

Argent kicks off his boots at last and then rises en pointe. Without the least amount of stretching, he begins a vigorous and startlingly expert ballet that takes him around the field without much visible effort. He sails and hangs in the air like Nureyev, defying gravity at almost all times.
The little twiggy girl who was one of the first judges picked leaps into the ring and dances little circles around Sunshine, obviously trying to learn her Middle Eastern style of dancing.

Kem's frozen grimace breaks on Gerard's call. "What???" she asks helplessly as he reels past.

Zebulon steps out, hitches his thumbs in his belt, and begins to clog. His big old clodhoppers very nearly make the noise they ought to on the ice.

Kelsey demonstrates two left feet in earnest as she and Rowan spiral past Argent. It's as if she left her eyes behind for a moment and had to run back to catch them. It's up to Rowan to keep her from falling flat on her nose as she stumbles.

The tall brown horse clears quite a space for herself, thrown deeply enough into her circular, prancing step that she never sees the wolf tumbling towards her, larger than life. She whinnies as she's bowled over, hooves slipping on the icy ground. Upended, she crashes down to the ground, quite nearly atop Derrick.

A cheer rises from the audience.

Since Rowan was just about to 'accidentally' toss Kelsey away anyway, this just makes it far simpler, as he loses his grip on her hands -- it must be the sweat, mustn't it? -- and goes tumbling to the ground, limbs akimbo. He's up again in an instant, offering her a hand up.

Sunshine can't help but smile at the little twiggy girl, Fae or not. She slows the pace of her dance a little, not that it ever matched the beat to begin with. When Eshu's Daughter crashes to the ground, the Healer falters.

Bane seems to have found a Latin beat in the music somewhere. Her hips are suggesting whole new dimensions of sex lurking somewhere in that massive body.

Derrick scrabbles out from mostly-under Ruth. He scrambles to his feet, trying not to wince, and then asks her, gutterally, "OK?"

Gerard beams at Kem. "I only weesh I could do my 'alf so well," he says earnestly. And one after another, he tosses the beanbags lightly at Kem's chest, watching them bounce off with apparent satisfaction. He breaks out of his dance to scoot in and scoop them up, kissing his fingertips and winking broadly as he does so. "Now I 'ave seen perfection," he says. "Please keep eet up as long as you are able." He tucks the beanbags away again and picks up the dance, starting to sweat a bit now, his dark hair clinging to his brow as he moves away, heading this time toward Rowan and Kelsey.

Kem stares after Gerard with wild, baffled eyes. "...Able?" she echoes faintly.

More than a dozen winged folk join hands a few feet over the dancers, and then break apart and start performing an intricate reel.

Kelsey plunks down on her butt and sits for a moment, then bursts into a laugh at herself, right through the music. The fall seems to bring her to her senses somewhat. She scrambles to her feet, dancing and hopping just out of reach of Rowan's hands, eyes twinkling. The backpedalling means Gerard will catch her quite offguard, unless, of course, she careens into him first.

Archie Axeman begins to dance lovingly with his axe, crooning to it in a very bad imitation of ancient Frank Sinatra records.

Four dark hooves trace through the air, askew, describing different circles. There are shards of ice in her mane and tail, her long stomach pointing incongruously towards the sky. What an unseemly state for a horse to be in. Eshu's Daughter whinnies again, a loud, harsh sound, then rolls to her hooves, catching her footing beneath her before she clatters up, crunching ice beneath her. She shakes her head, snorts, a dark eye fixed on Derrick.

Rowan breaks into a grin, and dances a little jig, as he heads after Kelsey. He's not, it must be said, very good at it. He manages, just barely, not to trip, windmilling almost in time to the music as he saves himself.

Even the harassed little faun is being brought into the festivities, as he is bodily picked up and swung around by a tall, voluptuous woman in the gray of a beech tree. She swings him around until his white shirt half unbuttons and threatens to fly off.

Watersinger's form makes a journey from crinos to homid as her dance continues. The smaller human limbs are more able to express ideas in curves and more subtle spins. Her dance never leaves the ground, and seems to be almost an exact opposite to Argent's own airy, skillful measure, earth-based and irrepressibly Wyld by comparison. It is primal, deeply so, but can still speak, and it speaks of bonds and cages being broken by the warm sun.

As apologetically as a Crinos can, Derrick says, "Wasn't watching." Then he shrugs expressively at her, in the 'we'll talk later' family of shrugs, and starts somersaulting again. This time, it would seem he's headed for Argent. Perhaps by accident.

Into her dance, Layla works in elements of Spring. She raises her arms above her head and opens them, embracing Spring's warmth. She sways in the warm breeze. Her fingers twich from shoulder high and higher, searching for the welcoming Spring rays. As she turns her head to welcome in the sun, her feet crunch on the frozen ground.

Gerard comes to a halt near Rowan and Kelsey - narrowly avoiding Kelsey, in fact - and watches them solemnly for a moment. "Monsieur," he says respectfully, "Someday, per'aps, you weell teach me." He nods soberly to himself, deeply impressed.

Most of the audience is up and dancing now; only the most dignified of nobles are remaining in their seats, but even they are leaning forward eagerly. The ribbons which demarcated the contest ground are joyfully danced down, or taken for panache by some of the sprites.

Bane works her way over to Layla, where she slithers around her in a hot, earthy moves that would put the Lambada to shame.

Sunshine returns to her dance as Eshu's Daughter gets to her feet, smiling hesitantly at the twiggy girl as she picks up the graceful sensuality of the Eastern dance.

Rowan gives Gerard a florid little bow. "It would be my pleasure, m'sieur." His pronunciation is excruciating. Then he grabs at /Gerard's/ hand, and at Kelsey's. The intent -- a triangle of whirlers -- is clear.

Marika claps time for Jan as he drops into a crouch and begins to kick out his feet before him, one at a time, perfectly balanced.

Kelsey spins around and peers at Gerard in some confusion before she mouths, "Oh, right." She sketches a more courtly bow than one would expect of an 'N Synch fan, then grabs Rowan's hand again and starts humming "ring around the rosie".

A careering circle dance of tiny pixies crashes into Argent's head, and explodes in a whirl of tiny giggles.

Gerard takes Kelsey's hand with alacrity, completing the triangle.

Eshu's Daughter dips her head down low, lifts a foreleg in response to the wolf-in-crinos. Then with a toss of her mane, she starts to prance across the clearing. Her neck arches, her tail's up, and no, she can't dance, thank you very much. Somehow she manages to step her way amongst some of the fey dancers, a vast presence, compared to the smaller folk.

Layla carries on staunchly, apparantly ignoring Bane.

Argent reels as the pixies strike him, and he sprawls sideways out of his latest leap, slamming into a tree with the sound of cracking bones. After just a moment of sliding to the ground, he shifts up into crinos and continues his ballet... although its nature is somewhat altered.

Another, human-sized, crone prances about on the edge of the dance ground, picking up her musty black skirt to display skinny legs adorned in black and white striped socks. Her tuneless song is surprisingly audible: "Knees up, Mother Brown!"

Rowan, who is somehow in control of this triad, manages to whirl to the rhythm of three different songs in succession. Just as he's starting to pant, his grip again lets go -- Oh, such a pity, a thousand apologies! -- and he tumbles to the ground, doing a backwards somersault into a crouch.

Zebulon continues to batter away at the ice steadily with his feet, the only part of his body apparently moving being his legs from the knees down.

The circle dance that exploded on Argent's head comes together again and lands on Eshu's Daughter's broad back, where they proceed to dance with vigor.

As Argent begins his dance again, a fiercer version of what it once was, Derrick slams into him from behind, at the fullest speed one /can/ slam, while somersaulting.

Kelsey manages to shout "we all fall DOWN!" as Rowan lets go, before she's skidding on ice and trying her best not to rip a hole in the knee of her pants. Down she goes, indeed.

The Snow Queen stands up, and extends her hand to her chosen consort, a lord dressed in pale gray. Together, they lead her court into the dance.

A long line of goblins somersault through the wild dance.

Argent staggers this time, but doesn't fall or collide with anything. Instead, with a mad, toothy grin, he seizes hold of Derrick's wrists and begins to spin with him, lifting him bodily if he must.

Sunshine manages to stay out of the collisions, for now, a faint clear space around her and the twiggy girl imitating her movements. Although her repetoire of steps is decidedly limitted, she makes good use of them, not repeating them in any obvious pattern.

Watersinger's dance grows wilder and wylder, finally casting aside all vestiges of rhythm and beat in favor of the raw power of the gestures themselves. With no rules left, no bonds at all holding her, her dance seems about to reach its climax of beautiful chaos, when she pauses, briefly, her eyes seeking out Derrick in the mass.

Derrick, in fact, lets himself be spun. The image of a crinos whirling, straight out horizontal, is... fairly unique.

There's something impish about the long lines of the horse's face, her large brown eyes dance beneath thick lashes. Thus adorned with winged folk, she starts her dance again. Her forelegs draw up high, her hooves dart down to crunch the ice beneath. Step, step, prance. She whisks her tail, not far now from where Sunshine's dancing, at least.

The twiggy girl dancing with Sunshine extends her little brown hands and tosses her dirty hair.

The Spring Queen's eyes flash joyously at the chaos in the glade. She finally can bear no more and leaps to her feet, followed by her handmaidens, and the entirety of the Spring Court descends into the dance.

The madly careering music provided by the musicians reaches new and frantic heights.

Gerard goes tumbling over and over, head over heels, panting with laughter. He springs up, and calls, "M'sieur, per'aps you need another form?"

Kelsey locks eyes with Rowan, and then shifts (no, for real, this time) into crinos, saying just before she changes, "Oh, M'nsieur Delacroix, how could we be so clumsy? Allow us to apologize..." The toothy grin that swallows her words is probably not reassuring.

It's only a brief horizontal moment before Derrick yelps in pain and shifts into homid.

Argent releases Derrick, traveling at some velocity, toward the Winter Court's side of things.

Rowan meets Kelsey's eyes, and suddenly grins. "Yeah!" he calls, to Gerard. "And Alley oop, huh?" He, too, shifts into crinos; "Apology," is his one word.

The little faun tears off his shirt and tie and leaps madly through the crowd, jumping, for the sheer joy of it, over Derrick as he flies by.

Bloody Breath and Chiaroscuro are both frothing red now, and their collisions are accompanied by the surprisingly musical sound of bones breaking in rhythm.

Gerard's eyes widen as Rowan takes him at his word. He licks his breath, drunken exhiliaration warring with his none-so-insignificant urge for self-preservation.

Kem finds herself swept up by the miniature motorcycle gang, although her feet have begun to move of their own accord.

The homid Derrick thumps to the ground in front of the Snow Queen's dance. He scrambles up onto his feet, bows to her, and scuttles off somewhere else, seeking out Watersinger's form in the chaos.

Kelsey scoops Gerard up from behind in a furry, enthusiastic bear hug-- well, a little more gently than that-- and swings him into the air like a child. The whoop is probably the closest equivalent she can manage to upsie-daisy.

Eshu's Daughter is something like a tall ship amongst the crashing waves of the dance, the cacaphony of winter and spring meeting. Her passengers are carried along as she prances, high steps, towards Sunshine and the dirty-haired girl. She snorts, whinnies, bright and enthusiastic now.

Rowan, who for once doesn't want to intimidate Gerard at all, shrugs minutely at him, and then calls, ~Voice! Send him to me!~ He's only a few feet away.

Gerard's small whimper is blessedly lost in the bright clash of music and revelry, but he is laughing at the same time, and does not make any move to struggle at his sudden removal from his friend, the ground.

Archie and his Axe foxtrot past Kelsey and she hears, faintly over the din, "Onnnnn-leeeeeee youuuuuuuuuuuu..."

Sunshine curtsies deeply to Eshu's Daughter and her passengers, and begins to dance with the Perunka, as much a human and equine can dance together.

Voice-of-Accord is at least somewhat careful as she joyfully swings and lets go, sending Gerard towards Rowan's waiting hands. ~Up up and away like a beautiful... whatever...~

Lord of Autumn stands aloof, perhaps the last of the Fae to hold apart from the compulsion of the music. He broods over the chaos, turns his dark and smoldering eyes to the judges, who have so far forgotten themselves as to be indistinguishable from the other revelers. "Judges," he says, his resonant voice becoming yet another note of the dance. "My lords and ladies--" he tries again. "Shall we commence tapping out the bad dancers--?" he tries to suggest.

Eshu's Daughter arches her neck as she dips her head, a low equine bow. Her broad muzzle nearly touches her knees, her mane looks wind-tossed when she lifts her head up. She starts to prance again, at first in place, then sidelong, her tail high, flowing out behind her in coarse streams. Her hooves crunch-crunch at the ice, her head turned to just keep the healer in view.

An enormous, beautiful, centaur woman appears out of nowhere, shakes back her white hair, and grabs the Lord of Autumn's hands. "Dance!" she whinneys, "Dance, you old fogey, dance!"

Never let it be said that Rowan is a bad catcher, as he eases Gerard's flight as best he can. Then he suggests, ~Go long, Voice!~

"Dans le jardin d'mon pere--" Gerard's voice echoes wildly above the crowd, and then cuts off with an oof. "One moment, m'sieur," he pants to Rowan, and tucks himself into a surprisingly compact ball.

Watersinger's dance gains new energy, and even a small measure of control, as Derrick comes near. Her smile cannot hide her relief at seeing him safe, and she dances in a circle around him, holding her arms out to him.

Sunshine imitates the Perunka's prancing sidesteps surprisingly well, following the equine dance as if, like the Eastern dance she did earlier, this is something she's at least vaguely familiar with.

A large and obviously drunken satyr crashes through the crowded Spring Court, howling something about "Drawed a mustache on yer picture..." Several voices squeal as he hits a particularly sour note and grapes fall randomly over the dancers.

Voice-of-Accord is again distracted by the events in the vicinity, and is skittering to get well out of the way as Archie sails by. Well, long it is. She turns around from her covert retreat and holds up her hands, jumping up and down in place so as to fake some semblence of dancing.

Eshu's Daughter laughs in the equine fashion, lifts her head at the sound of the centaur's voice. Dance! Dance! Her hooves break the ice beneath her, her prancing steps a steady beat now. She's drunk on the energy of this shape, her eyes wide, the bright creatures on her back like a cloak, forgotten.

The Spring Queen seems to have forgotten herself entirely as she whirls over to Layla, Bane, and the vicinity of Sunshine and Eshu's Daughter. Her handmaidens surround them in wild abandon, even as the Queen herself hitches up her skirts to match steps and shimmies with the Middle Eastern dancers.

In fact, Derrick's right wrist is somewhat red, but he dances in place, rotating with Watersinger, grabbing her hands as he goes.

Layla moves aside to give room to the Spring Queen to dance.

The Dancer, who does not tuck Gerard under his arm like a football, instead throws him, as gently as possible, toward the jumping Kelsey, calling, ~10 points if you get him!~

Phillip Tempest responds in a surprisingly amiable fashion to the suggestions of the fae around him and performs the Little Teapot dance.

Lord of Autumn cannot even make a convincing display of reluctance. He gathers the Centaur to his arms, kisses her firmly upon the lips, and dances her off with an authority no human-shaped individual should over anything so formidable.

A tower of goblins whirls unsteadily by, the top one dancing cheek to cheek with a blushing apple-blossom maiden.

Voice-of-Accord plants both feet solidly, the arrogant toss of her head as Rowan challenges her belying the care she takes in making sure the unfortunate human does not in fact sour his friendly relationship with the ground. ~Of *course* I'll catch him!~ she yells back, the declaration ending with an oof as Gerard lands in the basket she's made with her arms.

Sunshine shakes her head, and her hair falls loose from its braid, undoubtedly helped by some of the smaller fae. The brown waterfall is streaked with thin silver threads, much like the mud of the clearing streaked with the remnants of ice. She smiles at Eshu's Daughter as they dance, though her dance holds none of the authority of the Lord of Autumn's dance with his equine companion.

The Winter Court dances like a stormy wind, lightly as snowflakes, like a blizzard whirling, beautiful and deadly. At the front of it, the Snow Queen stretches out her hands to the Spring Queen as the Courts pass by in the dance.

More than a little wobbly, Gerard the Flying Frenchman says dizzily, "I love my love wiss an f because she ees fuzzy. One more srow, madmoiselle, per'aps and zen a respite if you please."

Rowan jogs closer to Kelsey.

Bane picks out a likely-looking handmaiden and tries her Salsa moves on her. The crocus-girl giggles and sidles up against her. Their rapidly degenerating soft-core dance vanishes into a pinwheeling wall of pixies.

Two little goblin girls take a place in front of Sunshine, jigging with preternatural speed.

Watersinger's dancing slows as she takes Derrick's hands in her own, and she quickly notices the state of his wrist. She looks at him pointedly, eyes wide and creased, and clearly wondering if he is all right. Her concentration on her dancing begins to break.

Voice-of-Accord rocks Gerard gently in her arms, spinning around a few times while bobbing on her toes. She glances down at him along the length of her muzzle to make sure all his parts are intact before lobbing him gently back at Rowan.

Eshu's Daughter dips her head again, the closest she can manage to a smile amidst the dance, her tail a pennant behind her, her mane tumbled down over her brow. For a moment her eyes are level with the goblin children, though she probably scents them more than sees them. She whinnies. There's gray at her muzzle, a few strands here and there through her mane. The scars banded about her legs twist and turn with her oddly-light step.

The Spring Court dances like waving stems, tumbling petals dropping from the trees, raindrops blown on the wind. The Spring Queen whirls and her gown sheds white and pink blossoms over the mud-tracked remains of the ice. She catches hands with the Snow Queen and her laugh bubbles over as they whip away through the faerie circus of their mingled courts.

One of the goblin girls leaps lightly onto the Perunka's back, dancing with the pixies who find the broad back such an ideal dance floor.

Rowan catches him gently, and then, looking for all the world like a football running back -- albeit a football running back almost dancing to a rhythm -- Rowan tucks Gerard under his arm, and sticks the other arm out in front of him. He runs full speed for the covey of musicians, breaking off right in front of them to do a wild little victory dance.

Derrick shrugs expressively at Watersinger, as he dances. He doesn't /look/ to be in excessive pain;, in fact, he seems wildly exhillerated.

A girl covered in the white and pink blossoms of wild roses - obviously a trailing handmaiden of Spring - spins past Layla, singing wistfully, "This rose is our destiny..."

Several of the musicians perk up and play a triumphal march just for Rowan.

Sunshine imitates Ruth's head bob, her hair swirling about her shoulders. Then she tosses her head back, prancing as if she had hooves instead of feet, and indeed what touches the ground must be inferred, since even in the midst of the dnce, her skirts hide her legs, their movement only telegraphed by the swirling fabric.

Layla plucks blossoms out of the air as she twirls in circles.

Argent crashes into Maggot, then arcs over him in a twisting somersault, then leaps lightly over the pair of moshpit wannabes, pausing for a moment to spin en pointe on Bloody Breath's occiput before flipping off into the mob.

Suddenly several notes of a horn break through the music. The musicians stop mid-note; the dancers freeze in their tracks. Through the woods in the East, the first red light of dawn is appearing.

Spring Queen pages the room: You all fall to the ground, deeply asleep.

Layla crashes to the ground, soundly asleep.

Eshu's Daughter has no skirts about her legs, but she prances in slower counterpoint to the healer's quick movement. She lifts her head, eyes bright, then with a rush and clatter crumples to the ground asleep.

Rowan is in the midst of preening to the triumphal march before he falls over, on top of Gerard.

Voice-of-Accord stops in mid-crow at Rowan's victory, and with a rather surprised expression-- if her eyebrows were around, they'd be flatlining -- she topples backwards in an undignified tangle of limbs and tail.

Sunshine crumples to the ground, graceful even as she falls.

The various members of the Hive topple, sprawl, and tumble to the ground in their locations. Argent does not, sadly, end up atop Kelsey.

Gerard remains curled into a ball, soundly asleep in Rowan's furry armpit.

Kem flops over like a stunned ox. About as gracefully too.

Snow Queen paged the room: 'And an hour or so later, you all wake up. The Hive people are gone, and you are in a familiar clearing a little way up Katahdin road from the town. There is no beech tree, no extravagant blossoms, no ice storm - just a muddy morning, warm with the promise of spring. And a great many footprints in the mud. Later this spring, a truly magnificent ring - nearly thirty yards across - of white-spotted red mushrooms will take over that spot.'.

Rowan is not good at mornings. Not even mornings after he's been dancing. (Or perhaps just playing football.) He blinks, and then groans. But he doesn't sit up.

Kem does. Sit up, that is. Then she immediately reclines again and begins fumbling in pockets, apparently seeking pain medication.

Gerard stirs in his sleep and rolls over, unwittingly kicking Rowan in the ribs.

This gets Rowan to roll over -- not, happily, so that he can be more firmly on top of Gerard, but so that he can move away from him. But he remains recumbant.

Voice-of-Accord is neither last nor first to awaken, but when she does so, it's with a horrible start. She scrambles to her feet in groggy defensiveness, claws out, like a cat with a hangover.

Sunshine, on the other hand, is very nearly the last to stir, lying in a crumpled, exhausted heap.

Kelsey's start gets Rowan sitting up in an instinctive instant. "Whoa," he says to her, quietly.

Layla sits up, yawns broadly, and begins to stretch.

Watersinger half-opens her eyes, once, but seeing only her brother lying there, she quickly falls back to sleep, with no notion that the dance has been anything but a dream.

"...maman?" Gerard murmurs, and then his eyes snap open. "God's shit," he says, stunned by recollection.

There's something vaguely incongruous about the way Eshu's Daughter rests, her head turned, her hooves curled to the side. This is something not often seen with horses, though those familiar with them would know that, in the quietest hours, they do sleep like this. She snorts as she wakes up, opens her eyes. A moment passes, and then with the thump of muddy hooves, she's standing.

Kem mutters, "Foot bone's connected to the... leg bone. Leg bone's connected to the... knee bone." Then she sighs. "Knee bone's not connected to nothin' no more. Wonder if I've got that flare gun on me."

Voice-of-Accord's hackles slowly ebb as she regains coherency, and she smooths her hands over the fur on the sides of her muzzle in a familiar gesture. ~Mothers and Little Unicorns,~ she mutters, trying to collect herself. ~Did we win?~ she venutures, staring around at the ground, and then, ruefully, at her cacked and muddy fur.

Derrick turns over in his sleep and continues to lie floppily entwined with his packmate.

Eshu's Daughter whisks her tail behind her, brushing her legs as she lowers her muzzle to touch Sunshine's shoulder. She makes a low sound, a thoroughly equine whicker.

Sunshine stirs at the touch, blinking gummy eyes. She murmurs, "Luc?" then cuts off as she realizes where she is. Yawning, she gathers herself together and sits up.

"I have," Rowan says, still in that quiet tone, "No earthly idea." He pauses. "But it smells... different."

Eshu's Daughter lifts her head high as the healer stirs. A hoof thumps on the soft earth as she turns her head to take in the fullness of the clearing, the muddy folk scattered about. She nickers, low and pleased with what she sees.

Gerard finally drags himself upright, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand.

Voice-of-Accord starts setting about the laborious task of grooming the half-dried mud out of her coat, apparently to settle herself. Then she freezes and turns rapidly in place, apparently trying to count heads.

Muirin enters the clearing, looking with vast surprise and then obvious approval at all the people heaped on the ground. "So you do sleep for warmth!" she says, delightedly. "But you should stay closer together."

Sunshine runs her hands through her tangled hair, stiff from sleeping, however briefly, on the cold ground. She gives Muirin an odd look as she tries to braid her hair again.

Kem sits up slowly. "Yeah," she says to Muirin, her customary silly smile making a wan reappearance in this situation, "we don't do it very often, so we're not good at it."

Muirin spots Kem when she speaks and runs over to her. She kneels down on the ground to hug her... friend, then leans back, wrinkling her nose. "Where have you been?" she demands. "You smell of..."

"...Dancing?" finishes Kem with an echo of last night's rictus grin making a reappearance.

Watersinger finally rouses herself as people begin talking and stomping and other living-being things. She stretches right out of human form and into lupus, finishing in a great, toothy yawn. She waits a few moments, furry mass leaning up against Derrick, before licking him in the face several times.

Muirin blinks at Kem, obviously confused. "How can you smell of dancing? Dancing smells no different from running or from..."

Voice-of-Accord stares at the new arrival with some trepidation, apparently fearing for a split second that she's another of the fae, before placing the distinctive features.

That wakes Derrick right up, and he makes a half-protesting sound that's chock full of pleased amusement. Eventually, he sits up, and manages, somehow, to hug his packmate, while she's still licking him.

Eshu's Daughter shakes her long head, tossing bits of mud from her mane, shakes in a sort of awkward equine fashion and snorts. Mud. She turns her ears towards Muirin as the woman arrives, lifts her long head. She whickers a low greeting.

Kem's eyes go wide for a moment and says, hastily, "Right, right, how could I forget? Could you help me up? I hurt my feet some last night..."

Gerard runs a hand through his hair and eyes Voice-of-Accord and Rowan, then scans the rest of the clearing dazedly before looking back at his dance partners. "Good morning," he says hoarsely, testing his voice. "I take eet zat we survived?"

Sunshine sighs as she levers herself to her feet, patting her myriad pockets as if checking to be sure that she hasn't lost anything, though it's not clear that she'd be able to find anything if she had.

Watersinger cannot return the hug in lupus form, but she continues licking, at his ear, actually, as she is hugged, her tail moving happily. Home? she suggests. Sister maybe hunting for Watersinger and Brother. Watersinger had a fun dream, but one bad thing in it; Watersinger couldn't dance with Brother. Had to dance alone. Brother and Watersinger had to stand apart. Watersinger didn't like that. But all gone now.

Muirin flares her nostrils and leans back a little. "But where were you?" she persists. "It's not safe to play with the Deep Ones!"

Voice-of-Accord gives up on the mud and shifts back down to something familiar and comfortable, even if she will have to wash her clothes later. "I think we're all here and okay," she says a bit shakily. "What a night."

Derrick admits, "I had that same dream. Didn't like it a /bit/. But... it's all gone now." He ruffles Watersinger's fur, and then shifts into lupus, agreeing, Little Mother.

Kem nods painfully. "I know, I know. It was a terrible accident. Never happen again. I know their scan wavelengths now, so when I see *that*, I'll turn tail and zoom the other way, believe me!"

Rowan tells Gerard, as he flops back down with a groan, "That depends on your definition of survived. I don't think my /back/ did too well."

Muirin puts her head on one side and sighs. "I understand you, even if I don't understand your words," she says resignedly. "Come home now?"

Gerard's eyes widen suddenly. He jerks to his feet and moves across the clearing at an unlikely clip for someone so recently and poorly awakened, to catch at Muirin's arm. "Madmoiselle!" he says. "Please - 'ow long were we away?"

Eshu's Daughter thumps her way along the muddy earth to stand alongside Gerard, the others gathered near him. A dark brown eye glances towards Kelsey, then with a certain dignified ceremony she lowers her long head, snuffles at Gerard's muddy hair.

Muirin looks aside at Gerard, directing her puzzlement at him for a moment. "I think you were in the Diner last night," she says, with the air of someone trying out a sentence from a phrasebook in an unknown language.

"Oh, *yes*, indeed," Kem says, levering herself up stiffly and then gripping Muirin's shoulder for support. "Ta, all. It was... well, fun isn't *really* the word, but... unreal."

Kelsey stumbles over next to Rowan and drops down beside him, propping her chin on her knees. "Well, parts of that were fun," she drawls diffidently.

Gerard sags with relief, then turns with a start to find a horse in his hair. "Mon dieu!" he says, staring wildly into Eshu's Daughter's long face.

Sunshine shakes her head vaguely at the Mage and her Companion before wandering slowly towards the group.

Rowan reaches out to lightly run a finger over one of Kelsey's hands. "Yeah. Parts of it." He adds, distractedly, "Bye, Kem."

Eshu's Daughter whickers, her breath thick with the scent of grass and apples, her muzzle looming large in Gerard's view. She snuffles the top of the fellow's head, amiably, whisks her tail.

Muirin turns her attention back to Kem. "You have hurt your foot," she states. Then she ducks her head, dives (there is really no other word for it) under Kem, and emerges with Kem slung over her back and hips. She starts to walk off towards the lake, where the Turtletop is moored.

Watersinger struggles up, sniffing the ground. Friends here, she notes. Will see friends again soon. She begins to trot out of the clearing, slowing to note: Watersinger smells Spring.

Kem eeps as she's slung and the last the little group hears of her, she's saying, "Uh, Muirin? Muirin? I can walk, Muirin. Really. If the crew sees me like this, they'll..."

Muirin goes home.
Kem goes home.

Gerard crab-walks back a step or too. "Zere was a horse--" he says, remembering. "Zere--eet was--" He stops, brows drawing together. "/Rooss/?" he demands incredulously. "Madmoiselle la artiste?"

Derrick says, in tones of great satisfaction, Me too. And follows Watersinger into the woods, brushing by Gerard as he goes. Perhaps it's a farewell.

Kelsey looks after them dazedly and drops her head again. "Wow," is about all she's up for at this point.

Eshu's Daughter lifts a foreleg, a dark muddy hoof curled, lowers her head in a bow. Her large, liquid-brown eyes are bright, amused.

Sunshine rubs her eyes, once each, and looks at Gerard. "What's the matter, Gerard?" she asks wonderingly.

Rowan understates, "He's new to all of us types."

Gerard's mouth twitches into something not unlike a smile. "Nossing," he says, wondering at himself even as he answers. "Nossing at all." He closes his eyes, inhales deeply, and lets the breath go as he opens his eyes again. "I am learning," he says ruefully. "A leetle faster zan I expected, hien?" He stands up again and inclines his head to Eshu's Daughter. Then he drifts back toward Rowan and Kelsey.

Sunshine chuckles, though gently. "I see," she says, equally gently. "Learning is always a good thing."

Eshu's Daughter raises her head, sets her hoof down with a thump. She wheels in place, turning slowly to show the length of her long body, as if to demonstrate that, yes, there is a horse standing there. Her tail whisks, once.

Kelsey's expression eases as Ruth flaunts her stuff, and she's smiling by the time Gerard wanders over. "We all were learning. Gah."

Watersinger goes home.

Rowan says, with an actual genuine smile directed at Gerard, "We all /are/ learning."

Eshu's Daughter dips her head in a rather emphatic equine nod, whickers agreement as well.

"Oh, no, madmoiselle," Gerard says without turning his head. "Not always." But he doesn't seem in the mood to follow the arguement now. Finding himself in the center of the clearing, he turns around, slowly, to survey the aftermath. His eyes crinkle up in a smile at Rowan and Kelsey, and gleam admiringly at Eshu's Daughter's length. He looks at Sunshine, perhaps acknowledging that his cynicism may have been misplaced. Then he sweeps a bow to the group as a whole and says, wearily but with great panache, "Ladies and gentlemen, I must sank you for a *lovely* evening."

Sunshine graces Gerard with a curtsy. "May we not have to repeat it any time soon," she says sincerely.

Rowan says, wholeheartedly, "And an amen to /that/."

Eshu's Daughter 's ears skew as she nickers, low, then turns her long head, tossing her mane. A few more clods of mud fly away from her. Ain't that the truth.

Sunshine smiles wearily at Eshu's Daughter. "Shall we get that from your mane before it dries, my friend?"

Kelsey waves a hand at Gerard, muttering, "Don't mention it," and settles back against Rowan's side.

Eshu's Daughter doesn't really need to turn her head, though she does, catching Sunshine within the measure of a dark eye. She nods again, dipping her head, and paws at the ground with a forehoof.

Sunshine puts a hand on Eshu's Daughter's shoulder. "Can you carry me back to the Farm, or are you too tired?"

Rowan leans contentedly against Kelsey, mostly silent.

Eshu's Daughter is a rather large, muddy mess. She yawns, stretching her neck out, then settles herself in place, glances towards the healer. I'll carry you.

You paged the room: 'And thank you all! I wasn't planning to end that way, but once you all started dancing there was no hope of keeping the Lords and Ladies out of it!'.
Rowan pages the room: Rowan grins. Thankee, captain.
Eshu's Daughter pages the room: Eshu's Daughter grins a whole lot.
Sunshine pages the room: Sunshine chuckles. "At least there was no noticeable bloodshed..."
Layla pages: Thank you!
Spring Queen pages the room: Spring Queen thanks you all as well. I think we can call *this* a successful story. :)
Snow Queen pages the room: Snow Queen hopes so... :}
Lord of Autumn pages the room: Lord of Autumn sanks you all very much, eet 'as been wonderful to arbitrate for you.