Strangers at the Farm

The rustling seems to be descending the central trunk of the tree.

Bryce snickers at little, as though getting Justin to use the word 'Sleepers' was some kind of small victory. He looks good and ready to rebutt Justin's logic when the Mage poses his question. He, too, stops and looks around. "Uh, a farm?" He spies Simon and points him out. "Who'sat?"

Simon leans his head against the trunk of the tree, lacing his fingers behind his head and resting his elbows on the rough bark as well. Fortunately for him, he's on the opposite side from the noisemaker.

Justin's eyes go unfocused for a moment. "Oh. The farm! Right." Refocusing, he looks at Simon, and swats Bryce's hand down. "Don't point. And I don't know. Hey there," he calls to Simon.

"Hi!" calls the tree cheerfully.

Bryce glares in a non-malicious manner at Justin when the Mage swats his hand, but keeps his peace on the matter, instead turning his attention to looking friendly at the strange. He peers at the tree suspiciously when it speaks with a suspiciously familiar voice. "The tree is talking, Justin."

Simon startles at the nearby voice and only then notices the two strangers. Keeping a hand on the Oak as if it were capable of protecting him, he asks, "Who're you?"

Justin gets twice the responses he expected from the vicinity of the tree. "Justin," he replies cheerfully, "from town. This is Bryce, likewise from town, and don't listen to him if he tells you he fell out of the sky."

Bryce waves cheerfully at Simon. "It's true though. I /did/ fall out of the sky."

"S'true," says the voice from the tree. "I was there. Very dramatic." A small form appears from the denser foliage to perch on one of the lower limbs. "Hey, guys." The figure waves cheerfully to Simon, despite not knowing him at all.

Simon looks suspiciously at both young men. "You can't be from Town," he states positively. "You're both too young. Townfolk're all old." He glances warily at the small form, though he's obviously either not sufficiently nervous to move away from it or sufficiently sensible to want something at his back.

Justin shakes his head. "We're not natives. We're blow-ins. Hi, Dali." He grins up at the perched nunda and resumes approaching the tree.

A figure comes ambling down the road from town, shadily visible in the twilight. It is Rex, dragging along in an attitude of exhaustion. The wind blows his long hair dramatically over his left shoulder, and somewhat over his face, but his eyes are fixed on the road before him. He walks without determination -- possibly, he is just out for a stroll -- and seems lost in thought. His sword is slung over his back, with the strap pulled tight across his bare chest.

About 16, if you had to guess and had your guessing shoes on, this young man is wiry, neither tall nor short for his age, and the color of bittersweet chocolate. His hair is tightly curled and rather very short, no more than a centimeter of soft 'wool' covering his scalp. His eyes are even darker than his skin, verging on black.
Simon is dressed in simple denim jeans, a woven shirt (short-sleeved), and a leather vest that looks like it might have been handed down from before the Long Night. He wears sandals on his feet, when he bothers wearing shoes at all.

This young man has a definite Native American cast to his features. Black, sharply defined eyebrows and high cheekbones frame eyes the brown-black color of richly brewed coffee. A prominent, straight nose set above expressive lips complete his dark-skinned face. Those lips are often quirked into a smile of one variety or another, and his eyes regard the world around him with unending curiosity. He's also frequently brushing his thick black hair out of his eyes. It's straight, from those Native American genes, and is just long enough to get in the way without being long enough to tie back. Fortunately for him, he often wears a brown broad-brimmed round-topped hat to help keep it at bay.
He's not especially tall, about five and a half feet, but with the way he carries himself, he doesn't give the impression of being short. His build is the wiry one of youth, and that of someone who is in shape from exercise that comes from doing physical work. His physique is often hidden by baggy clothes and a brightly-colored woven poncho straight out of an old Western. His pants are a dusty gold-grey color and have a great many pockets on them. Tall green hiking boots are on his feet. A tooled leather gunbelt hangs from his hips, though the pistol in it is an automatic instead of a six-shooter.
Bryce pages the room: Bryce notes to everyone that Bryce is still minus his hat and poncho.

There's something of the air of a gentleman scholar about this fellow, despite the obvious fact that he's been on the road for some time. He's not much over average height, although he's sturdy and long-legged. He has the kind of broad build that will all too easily run to fat, but currently his wandering life keeps him trim. His features are handsome in a pleasant and gentle kind of way; a knockout, he is not. Long, dark and wavy brown hair is worn loose, its length reaching a few inches past his shoulders. A short, neatly trimmed beard is the same dark color, and makes him look older than he probably actually is. His eyes are a considerably lighter brown, almost honey-colored, and he wears spectacles: delicately filagreed gold-wire frames with slim lenses, so obviously expensive that it's a wonder he still has them. The classic signs of a scribe show themselves on his large and dexterous hands: ink stains, and a callus on the ring finger of his right hand.
He's dressed in clothes that are plain and tough, meant to wear well on the road. Loose gray trousers, a long brown vest with many pockets, and a billowy-sleeved shirt left undyed. His boots are smooth reddish-brown leather, laced tightly, and like his glasses, obviously very high quality. A tightly woven gray hooded cloak is worn over all when it's raining or cold.
Carried or resting against his foot is a big black nylon rucksack just brimming with pockets, and stuffed quite full. He also either carries or has close to hand a staff, as tall as he is, carved out of dark red wood with an interesting lumpy texture, like driftwood.

He is a youth verging upon manhood and his lean frame is just filling out with muscle. A shining ebony mane trails in a loose ponytail down the smooth line of his spine and a lock of it drops into one dark eye. His skin is as flawless as the bronze it resembles and shows not the least inclination toward hirsuteness. Leather leggings provide the base for ancient armor plates to protect his lower body: black plastic thigh and shinguards, and a black plastic and metal codpiece. His upper body is usually shirtless, except in the most extreme weather or temperatures, but when he does wear something, it is an ancient, battered black leather jacket.
His prized possession, worn either across his back or at his right hip: a shining sword with golden hilt clad in a tooled leather scabbard.

Bryce nods in agreement with Justin, then grins up at Dali and waves at her, too.

At last a somewhat familiar figure appears amongst the strangers invading his home. Simon calls out, or rather almost yelps, "Rex!" as he backs slowly away from Justin.

Rex's head snaps up sharply at the sound of his name and he peers through the gathering gloom. His face brightens as he recognizes the caller, and then he scowls briefly at the two new folks who seem to be intimidating Simon. He steps off the road and trots toward the quartet. "Hey, Simon," he booms in a voice the carries nicely.

Justin halts as Simon backs away, looking faintly annoyed. "We won't hurt you, lad. Didn't mean to trouble you." His spine stiffens when Rex...speaks, and he turns with eyebrows raised. His eyes widen when he gets a look at the owner of that voice.

Bryce is very cheerful about his intimidation if that is indeed what he's doing. He turns to the new arrival, though his normal grin is interrupted by a quiet whistle of appreciation. He elbows Justin lightly. "Get a load of this guy," he says almost under his breath, then quiets to watch the man's approach.

Simon breaks from the tree to dash over to Rex, as Rex is closer than the houses. "Do you know them, Rex?" He's clearly nervous. Afer all, the unknown around here has been known to decimate entire villages. Against that, the wards haven't brought the adults boiling out of the houses, so complete panic isn't called for. Yet.

The Kin lays his right hand on Simon's shoulder and smiles at Justin and Bryce. "Hi, fellas. You new in town? Ain't seen you -- but then, I've been a touch busy these days. I'm Rex."

Justin leans a little on his staff, returning Rex's smile. "Fairly new, aye. I'm Justin and this is Bryce. We didn't mean to frighten the lad."

Bryce shakes his head, doing his best to be non-threatening. His grin is back in place, and for all it's enthusiasm, it's quite genuine. Amusement at the whole situation sparkles in his eyes, though.

Simon sidles a step closer to Rex, dubious though the Kin's protection may be. "I'm Simon," he offers. "Why are you here?" Tact? What's that?

Dali tucks her feet up underneath her on the oak branch, a position that ought to be difficult if not impossible to maintain, but her balance seems undisturbed. "Sorry, kiddo. Guess we kind'f all popped up at once. I'm Dali, and I'm just generally a trespassin' kind of person. Nice to meet you."

"Unintentional, I promise," Justin says with a wry smile. "We were having a...discussion, and kept walking, and here we are."

New Moon Farm, Front Circle(#152RJ)
You are standing underneath the spreading branches of an oak tree which is probably at least two hundred years old. Around the tree are several half-earthed houses, with stone and glass fronts and roofs of green turf. Beside front doors, roses, morning-glories, wisteria, and grapevines are all planted, and more plants can be seen through the wide front windows of each cottage. Dogs sleep peacefully in the shade or bounce up to inspect any arrivals, and cats stalk gracefully by on their
own business. Off in the distance, you can see the edges of planted fields, a duckpond, and fenced grazing land. (there are views here)
Obvious exits:
Guest House Nearest Barn Track to Farm Road

Bryce nods again in agreement with Justin. "Good argument," is all he says.\

Rex's eyes slide to Dali, and he inclines his head to her briefly. One eyebrow raises and he refocuses on Bryce, then glances aside at Justin. "Well, roads tend to lead folks places, after all." He cocks his head. "Folks who turn up here don't very often end up bein' just... normal... these days. I'm Oroszlan Kin." He raises his eyebrows inquisitively at the other two.

Miklos approaches over the fields, vaguely from the direction of the woods. Seeing the group of people, he pauses, then continues to walk closer. Upon noticing Simon, he waves to attract his attention.

Simon tentatively slips his arm around Rex's waist, because he's right there and all. "Mostly incomers aren't just normal folks, though. There weren't many Shifters and others till recently." He glances towards the houses. Still no adults. He relaxes somewhat further. Miklos's wave succeeds in catching his eye, and he waves in return.

Safi decends from the track across the hill and enters New Moon Farm.
Safi has arrived.

Unruly black hair, long enough to nearly reach the girl's waist, falls in tangles around a gypsy's face. Both the shade of the girl's skin and the cast of her features speak of a Mediterranean heritage: her nose is a little long, her cheekbones high, her complexion a mild olivine tan. Her eyes are not dark, but a peculiar shade of hazel-green. She is of a middling height for a woman, perhaps five and a half feet, lithe and lean, all whipcord muscle with barely an ounce of softness. She wears a simple tunic of undyed, soft-tanned deerskin: a single hide with a hole in the center for the neck, belted at the waist with some sort of woven fiber; it hangs in a ragged, uneven fall that barely covers her thighs.

Dali says blithely, "The mountain's just makin' a collection, that's all."

Justin scratches his beard in a vaguely embarrassed fashion. "Mm, well, that's true enough. I'm an...alchemist, myself." He gives Bryce a penetrating 'now YOU go' look.

Safi walks cautiously, carefully down the road--hiding for a long time by one of the gateposts, and then cutting across to the pond.

Bryce opens his mouth and closes it a few times. "I'm uh, not anything all that special, really," he says at last. "Except maybe for where I came from, which is kind of a long story." He regards Rex with open curiosity. "If you don't mind me asking, Mister Rex, what's a...Oroszlan kin?"

The white-haired young man approaches cautiously, circling around the unknown people in order to stand next to the two young men that he *does* know. He's carrying a very short recurve bow under one arm, and his small pack over his back. He stands a little behind Rex, as the larger of the two and thus the better shelter.

Simon's curiosity begins to overcome his fear of the unknown. "How can you be not anything special, and also have fallen out of the sky?" he knows to know. "Hi, Miki," he says with a wide smile to the white-haired beauty.

Rex straightens his back and lifts his chin. His dark gaze is entirely fixed on Bryce now and his smile melted away at Bryce's denial of being "anything all that special." He stretches his neck slowly, bending his head to the left until a small, audible pop sounds. His right arm hooks around Simon's shoulders as he bends his head slowly to the right, getting a similar small pop. "Nothin' special, eh? You smell special." He glances aside at Dali again, then back to Bryce. "Oroszlan. Lion shifters. M'mother is Alpha of the Pride of Mississippi, an' my sister's one of the Pride's best seers."

Justin, impressed, says, "That's exotic." Almost as exotic, in fact, as the pale beauty who comes up behind Rex. He blinks at Miklos, looking at him, then at Rex, then back at Miklos, and is completely at a loss for anything to say.

Bryce's eyebrows go up at Rex's explanation. "Lion-shifters, eh?" he says, sounding impressed and just a /tad/ nervous now. Then he finds himself staring at Miklos in much the same fashion as Justin. He blinks a few times and regains his concentration. "Uh, and what do you mean about me 'smelling' special, Mister?" he asks, openly curious again.

Safi deserts her hiding place by the duck pond to pace closer, her bare feet silent. She watches the white-haired man as she approaches, and she slowly comes toward Justin's shoulder.

Simon gets something of a silly grin as he notes the dumbfounded looks on the intruders' faces at the sight of Miki. The appearance of yet another stranger puts him back on the defensive, though.

Dali lifts one of her feet, examines the sole of it, sniffs it, and sets it down again, going back to watching the mini-drama in the making below.

Sensing the tension in the air, Miki falls back a pace, with a reassuring greeting smile to Simon as he does so. His gaze flicks warily from face to face, finally resting on the distant newcomer; the sight of yet another stranger causes him to pull his head up in a startled gesture that knocks some of his hair over his eyes.

Dali pages the room: Just to be clear, Dali is seated on a low branch of a big oak tree , close enough to where all this is happening to be a part of the group, and is fully in view. She's probably not more than eight feet from the ground.

Justin glances over his shoulder, but doesn't have a smile for Safi as usual. Instead he gestures to her to stay where she is, behind him, and to be quiet.

Safi stops like an animal brought to heel--and in fact, she looks fairly close to one, with her hair falling wild around her face and shoulders and her aboriginal attire.

The Kin rolls his left shoulder slowly backwards, eliciting yet another tiny pop from his spine. "Look," Rex says evenly, suprisingly not being distracted either by the boy behind him or the woman in front of him, "there's no good can come from lying. There's a lot of folks as wishes this town, this farm, this whole place ill, and if you lie about yourself, it ain't a good sign. I can tell you're a shifter, and a cat. Now, why're you lying?"

Dali sits up, sharply, in a way which ought to catpult her from her perch but does not. A slow delighted grin is creeping over her features.

Simon frowns faintly, looking intently at Bryce. Under his breath, he wonders, "How can you tell?" He glances towards the half-earthed houses again, then goes back to watching Bryce. His arm tightens around Rex's waist before he forces himself to let go, giving the Lion Kin a little more room to move.

Though he wasn't really moving before, Bryce freezes where he is so that he may as well be a statue rooted to the spot. Like a hunting cat who was caught in the act, the complete and utter stillness last only for a second before he goes into I Meant To Do That mode. He relaxes again and chuckles, looking around at everyone present, nodding politely at Safi before turning back to Rex. "That's quite a thing to say to a stranger, Mister," he says, setting his hands on his hips (right hand on the butt of his gun). "I just wonder what makes you say that."

"Careful, kitten," Dali murmurs warningly.

Justin stares at Bryce, with an expression like he's doing calculus in his head, but not coming up with the answers he expects. "That's two," he mutters under his breath. "But... but... You -jerk-." He says that loudly to Bryce, and with feeling, his brows coming together in a scowl. "Get your hand off that damn gun." He takes half a step back and grips his staff. "It doesn't work anyway, -remember-?"

"Simon," murmurs Miki, but the rest of the sentence is too low for anyone else to hear.

Safi blinks, her attention shifting to Bryce warily. "No shoot-eeng," she says softly, in her oddly accented voice.

Rex is very tall. He doesn't always come off that way, but right now, he is Very Tall, standing foursquare to Bryce, hands loose at his sides now that Simon has stepped behind him. His eyes narrow and the muscles in his jaw tense. "I ain't wrong," he says in a slow, low, growling drawl. "You reek of cat. I can smell the Mother on you. I can see the edges of your other shape around you." He continues to watch Bryce's face. "I been shot before. It hurts, but I bet I -- or someone else here -- could kill ya before you got a second shot off. Now. Whyn't you just tell the truth?"

Simon winces at the mention of being shot and edges towards the half-earther houses. He glances at Miklos, then at the nearest house, then back. A blind idiot could tell that he's thinking about making a break for the house.

Bryce blinks at Justin, then Rex, then looks down at his gun and his hand on it. He looks embarrassed suddenly. "Awh, it don't work anyway," he mutters sheepishly. "Didn't mean to scare you, Mister, it's just where I rest my hand sometimes." He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, looking around at everyone looking at him again. Then he laughs. He laughs a loud, genuinely laugh. "Well god/damn/! How am I supposed to keep a secret power a secret if people can just see it plain as day? I guess Grandpa and the other folks didn't have that in mind when they made me." His tension is all but gone, replaced by a rather hopeful good cheer. He turns not to Rex now, but to Justin. "Progenitors, man. Life Science. I was just a normal kid, but they changed my genetic structure. Reworked it so I could change like the shifters do."

Miki nods, barely, to Simon. Then he steps out from behind Rex, raises his hands in the air, and gives a piercing whistle. A cloud of katydids and grasshoppers leap out of the grass and converge on him (and, incidentally, on everyone near him).

Simon jumps at the piercing whistle, and then makes a dash for the nearest of the half-earthed houses. Once he's off, he doesn't look back until he's at the door and knocking.

Safi darts a glance to Justin, and her hands open and close by her sides, nervously. She watches him almost as closely as Bryce, searching for cues.

"I don't think s--" Dali begins, before the whistle, and the katydids. She stops short, staring at the insect-plagued Miklos. Then she drops to the ground, landing lightly on her feet.

With an astounding amount of self-control, Rex does not draw his sword. He does spring sideways in a way that may remind people of a startled housecat, and lands having turned ninety degrees to face Miki, the cloud of bouncing bugs, and the visitors.

Dali pages the room: Miklos, are they on everyone, or more on you and Rex, less on those further away?
You paged the room: 'Um, they're heading for me, but since they're coming from every direction...'.
Rex pages the room: Rex thinks that they're certainly in heaviest concentration around Miki, Rex, and Bryce.

Justin, surprised as the cloud of insects swarms up at Miklos' command, draws a breath as if to speak, then lets it out unspoken. What was he expecting, flesh-eating locusts? He brushes the insects off with a grimace, at least those in immediate reach, and he eyes Bryce. "That's bullshit, my friend." Plucking an enthusiastic grasshopper off his sleeve and tossing it away, he repeats darkly, "Bullshit. No mage on earth can make you the Changing Breed."

Safi blinks, glancing to the whistle and the bugs. A bright smile comes to her lips, and then fades slightly as her attention turns to Justin. "Is possible, I t'ink. And he no lie."

Bryce also jumps at the whistle, then gets further freaked out by the cloud of insects. He flails at them in agitation. "What the fuck?" he mutters, then starts stalking away, back towards the road and away from the bugs. And away from everyone else for that matter.

Simon bangs on the door of the house until it opens. A paler face than Simon's shows briefly in the opening before the boy slips inside. Sensitive ears might detect noises usually associated with people getting hurriedly ready to meet a threat.
Simon pages the room: And with that, I abandon you all to your imaginations.;-)

"You've got the touch of the Mother on you," Rex bellows, following Bryce -- although somewhat delicately dancing through the mess of grasshoppers around Miki and gently plucking one large green insect from a tangle of his hair. "No one created you but Her. No Mage could leave *that* on you."

Dali shakes herself all over to rid herself of her share of insect life, and steps over to Rex's side. "He's a cub, my friend," she says softly. "A big clumsy cub with huge paws and too much energy. Don't take him wrong." Sound familiar? Dali's expression betrays no humor at Rex's expense, only caution.

Miklos says something under his breath, and the insects cease to congregate. He looks at the grasshoppers clinging to his clothing and grimaces. He shudders and shakes them off violently, shivering like an aspen tree in a storm.

"Oy -gevalt-," Justin swears, and stalks after the wayward feline types, muttering under his breath. The insect life parts before him like the Red Sea.

Torn, Safi looks from Miklos to the stalking-off people. Her attention returns to the white-haired young man, and she tips her head slightly, her expression curious. "Why you do that? If you do not want, why did you call zem?" She takes a cautious step closer, watching him carefully, willing to stop should he seem alarmed.

Bryce, once he gets away from the bugs, rounds back on Justin. "And what would you know about what Science can do?" he says, suddenly angry. "Grandpa knew what he was doing. The Technocracy had the genetic map of the Shifters a long time ago," he says now to Rex, and calming down visibly as he does so. He goes on, sounding more and more reasonable. "How do you /know/ for sure that that /mark/ you keep talking about ain't some kind of genetic flag that just got duplicated in me?"

Miki takes another step back from the altercation, still shaking all over in an attempt to rid himself of overly-friendly insects. The question catches his attention and he turns to look at the woman with the odd accent. "To keep him safe," he says, waving a hand towards the house Simon vanished into. He plucks a few katydids from his hair, shivering. "I wanted to distract people. My brother, he told me never to trust a man who carries a gun. So I do not."

Rex glances aside at Dali, apparently unsure whether he's being chastised or not, but Bryce's question is too much for him. He flashes into unexpected anger. "I just *know* it ain't some science crap. It's magic. It's the Goddess." His shoulders shake, and he snarls, "Yes, the Mages did shit to bring the Perunka back years ago. But all they could was *breed* them until one came back. I don't know whether those first returns had the Touch on them or not, 'cause I wasn't there. Bein' a Shifter is *more* than just genetics or science. Shifters are fuckin' holy warriors!" The tendons in Rex's throat strain under the force of his fury. "How DARE you try to attribute THAT to a fuckin' MAGE?"

Miklos pages the room: Miklos goes OOC for a moment. "Rex, that's not... tactful."

Still a few steps behind Rex, Justin can't help but hear and wince at -that- one. He elects to ignore it, though, as well as Bryce's first challenge to him. "Bryce, he's right. It's simply not possible, not for any mage living in -this- realm. They didn't make you. I'll swear on it."

Moving fast, now, Dali slips between Rex and Bryce, and grabs a handful of clothing in each hand, Bryce in her left, Rex in her right. "*Quiet,*" she says in a voice which is not so much loud as /heavy/. For all that she is tiny between the two athletic boys, her spine is straight, her expression fierce, and there is nothing small about her presence. "Both of you be /still/. /Now/."

Safi winces slightly at the raised voices. She takes a breath, and seems to calm a bit as Dali steps in. "It is okay, now?"

Bryce is shaking his head at everyone as if they just don't understand. It's clear he wants to respond to Rex's anger with his own, but he's rather forceably keeping his calm. "Look, I don't know doubt you know your deal, Mister," he says in a strained voice that's meant to placate, somehow. "But I think I'm just something that never happened before--" He breaks off when Dali grabs him. "Let me go, Miss Dali," he says quietly and with no small amount of anger. "I don't wanna hurt no one. It's just a misunderstanding. But I don't appreciate bein' handled like this, so let. Me. Go. Please."

Miki looks at at the dark-haired woman, confused (perhaps as to why she is choosing to address him). "I do not know." He continues to move backwards from the scene, his steps still tense although his face is so calm as to be nearly expressionless.

Rex freezes as Dali grabs the leather strap across his chest. Everything seems to go out of him -- or, possibly, to some deep place far inside -- and he drops to one knee as if he'd been poleaxed, bowing his head. He somehow manages to emit a brief, thin kitten whine, one that's full of terror and apology... lots of apology.

Miklos stares. He stops right where he is and his eyes widen.

Safi stops as soon as it is evident Miklos is retreating. She does not pursue him, but watches with a guileless curiosity. Will he go?

Justin watches this display of shifter society, and Bryce's utter obliviousness to it, with a sort of queasy fascination. From his expression, he's already feeling sympathy pain for Bryce in anticipation of when Dali kicks his ass.

Dali nods once to Rex and lets go of him immediately. She turns a blazing look on Bryce. "I said be quiet. You think your grandpa would be proud to see you insultin' a man on his own land? You think you're representin' your family well tonight? I know you think you're tellin' the truth, an' so does Rex here, and as soon as you pull your head out of whatever dark place you stuck it an' apologize to these people for creatin' a scene, the two of you can talk it over /reasonable/-like, and figure out just where the misunderstandin' is. Between the two of you, you've just scared a buncha people, sent one kid runnin' to his home when he had more right to be here than any of us, and damned near ruined a beautiful evenin'. I'll let you go exactly as soon as I'm sure you're safe to be let off your leash."

Bryce can grasp some aspect of this strange scene, at least, and he forces himself to relax a bit. "I'm sorry to have caused a scene, Miss Dali," he says sincerely, though all the anger hasn't left him yet. "I'd never have told a one of you about what I could do if I could help it, since I'm only supposed to change if it's life or death, and none of you people ever done me any harm." He looks away at the grass, then looks back at Dali, a smile creeping back onto his face. "It kinda unsettles a person to have their deepest, darkest secrets uncovered like they were nothin'."

Miki breathes again, watching this. He glances sideways at the dark-haired woman and gives her a little quirk of a smile with the corner of his mouth - perhaps his way of commenting on the safety of the situation?

Rex slowly gets to his feet again, backing away from Dali with his head still bowed. "I am deeply sorry to have troubled you with my anger, m'ltosago azonyom." He bows and touches his forehead with the heels of both hands. "My life is in your hands." He straightens up again and steps back to the Oak, putting his back to the bark and leaning there, gazing down at his feet.

Dali gives Bryce a long gauging look, then nods and lets him go. In fact, she quirks a half-smile at him, and pats his shoulder once. "Yeah, I bet it is," she says. Then she turns to Rex, unaccustomedly sober. "That's a lot more'n I need, kitten," she says gently. "You save that for your own folks, if they ask for it. I asked you to stop, you stopped, everything's fine. All right?" Her voice is like a soft, nudging paw, patting at the boy, though she doesn't actually move toward him at all. She watches him attentively, ready to smile at him if he will raise his eyes.

Safi nods quickly to Miklos, and offers him a reassuring, guileless smile. "Everything is better, now." The smile fades a bit into a look of worry, as her attention returns to Bryce and Dali. "Except Bryce..."

Justin takes in a deep breath. That was a little more drama than he was looking for, this evening. He eyes Bryce as if he would very much like to have a long talk of his own with him.

Miklos gazes at Safi solemnly for a moment, and then turns his attention back to the scene at hand. He takes a few steps towards Rex, his movements hesitant and unsure.

Bryce takes a step back from Dali with a nods of thanks, then looks around at everyone again. "I know what you all think," he says, eyes lingering on Justin a moment longer than anyone else. "And from where you're coming from it's right. But I'm telling you that you can't /know/ what it was like where I came from. I don't mean to talk down to any of you, but none of you know Science like I do, or know what my Grandpa and his friends are capable. Now I can agree to disagree with you, that's fine, but I'd prefer not to argue about it." He sounds as though he's trying to placate people who might not be out to lynch him, but perhaps give him a lot of very stern lectures.

The Kin fails to raise his eyes. He murmurs in a subdued voice, "Yes, ma'am," and pushes off from the tree. "I'll just... move along to the Forge now, ma'am. If that's all right." At Bryce's words, the muscles of Rex's back tense, but his face is utterly blank of reaction. He then glances aside at Miki's motion, and gives the other boy a half-hearted smile and a small, encouraging extension of an open hand.

Safi looks between the two, Rex and Miklos, a touch of concern in her eyes. "It is all right now?" she asks.

Clearly taking this for an invitation, Miki goes up to Rex and takes his hand. The short bow, forgotten during this entire drama, is still tucked under his other arm.

"It's okay, Safi." Justin reassures the wild girl, although since Bryce's last monologue, he's become visibly depressed.

Dali nods. "Get some rest, kitten." She turns back to Bryce and gives him a mild look. "Let's let these boys get gone, and maybe the rest of us should be headin' back into town, all right?"

Bryce nods mutely at Dali. Seeing the reactions of the people around him, what cheer he'd been able to muster fades a notch. He turns and starts heading back towards the town.

Rex closes his big hand on Miki's with surprised delight in his eyes, and he seems to almost not notice Dali's words. Almost. His half-hearted smile wavers briefly, but after a moment, it blossoms into a full-blown grin, and he jerks his head sideways in a "let's get out of here" move. Without a word, he turns toward the Forge.

Dali turns and begins to climb the hill, heading towards the gateposts and Farm Road.
Justin turns and begins to climb the hill, heading towards the gateposts and Farm Road.
Bryce turns and begins to climb the hill, heading towards the gateposts and Farm Road.

Miklos turns to follow Rex, although his gaze still lingers, curiously still, on the strangers.

One corner of Safi's mouth turns upward in a wistful half-smile. She says nothing, but watches the white-haired one and Rex go together, standing still for some time.

Rex leads Miki across the road and onto a path that twines through trees toward the Forge, still silent, his shoulders remaining tense.

Rex leads Miki into the unpopulated Forge and turns to him. "I'm sorry about all that. I guess I have a temper. And he's a stupid ass. But thanks for helping Simon out."

Miklos shivers and runs his fingers through his hair, as if to make sure there are no more grasshoppers in it. "It was little enough. When something like that happens, all I think of is how to get away, you know." He looks up at Rex. "You were very fierce," he states, half-admiringly, and half-perhaps-fearfully.

Rex rubs the back of his neck, a little embarrassed. "Just, er, just angry, really. I mean, he was lyin'. And we've got a lot of people around from the Hive who'd be glad enough to sneak in and spy on us... or kill folk." He meets Miki's gaze and smiles crookedly.

Miki smiles shyly. "That sounds like a great trouble," he says, sitting down on a bale of hay. "Next to you, I am not a warrior." The word seems to make him recall that he is carrying the bow, and he gets up to place it and his bag carefully against the wall of the barn before returning to his seat. "How did you know he was lying?"

"I can... smell shifters," Rex says slowly. "It's something I've been able to do since I was little. And I've learned that I can see, a little, the shape. Sorta behind the person, sometimes like it's in front of them. I don't know how else to describe it." He rakes his hair back with his fingers and sighs. "I ain't a warrior, Miki, though you're kind to say so. I just... bluff real well. After the one time I fought anyone... well, I didn't feel so good. And that wasn't just the bullet hole in my leg."

The other boy's gaze rests on Rex for a long moment. "I think that happens to everyone," Miki says finally. "Even warriors."

Rex shrugs, a little despairingly. "I suppose." He looks back to Miki. "Well, anyway. I'm sorry you had to see that little scene."

Miki checks his cuffs and shakes a dilatory katydid out of one of them. "I am not sorry," he says softly.

A quick check of the ends of the heavy black mane reveals a couple of small brown grasshoppers who are glad of the opportunity to get free of their prison. Rex glances aside from this task to Miki. "Um. Really? I, uh, thought you were going to, you know, leave there for a while."

Miki looks down. "Ah, well, so did I. How did you get a bullet hole in your leg?" he asks, running his fingers through his hair again, just to be sure. "If you do not mind telling."

"Oh, that," Rex says, rubbing his right thigh. "Some of the folks here were taken by the Hive people. So a bunch of us went in after 'em. Fortunately, they didn't expect us, and didn't know who we had with us. Big ol' Nitakk-Ita who was really damn pissed off. Mostly, I didn't have to fight at all. She took care of everything. But near the end, I got, um, careless, and one of the Hive Kin or something shot me. They hadda carry me out. Sasha kept tellin' me how lucky I was it didn't hit anything vital, 'cause we had a really long drive to get home."

His eyes wide, Miki listens avidly. "That is... very exciting," he says, finally. "Were your friends okay?"

Rex nods. "Yeah. Pretty much. I mean, they were, you know, tortured. And stuff. They were kinda messed up, but they're pretty much okay now." He sits down on the bale next to Miki and looks over at him. "It was pretty nasty."

Miki's gaze slides away from Rex again. "It sounds very... nasty," he says slowly, looking thoughtfully at the Forge tools. "But it is good that you got them back."

Rex nods and sighs. "Yeah." He sits silently for a moment, then stretches -- clasping his hands together and extending his arms over his head, pressing them backward, then letting his hands slip apart and bringing them down to the haybale. He leans back on them, looking up at the ceiling.

Miki looks up at the ceiling-- as if something interesting might be up there-- but then sighs and looks back down at the Forge. He seems content to let a silence fall.

Rex lets his gaze fall back down onto Miki's back. After a moment, he reaches out, says, "Hold still a sec," and flicks something small off the small of Miki's back with his fingertips.

Miklos sighs again, a deeper and more hearty sigh this time, and shrugs his jacket off. He shakes it vigorously to rid it of any further hitchhikers and then drapes it over his knees. "I don't like grasshoppers, much," he confesses, looking over his shoulder at Rex.

"Could tell." Rex smiles, then, a little hesitantly, lays his hand over Miki's closest hand.

Miki looks a little startled, but doesn't move the hand away. "I could not think of another single thing," he confesses, looking down at his shoes. "Besides, they come quickly."

Rex squeezes his hand lightly. "'Sbetter than bees," he says, a little quirk to the corner of his smile. "Or horseflies."

With a soft, quick laugh, Miki leans back on his hands, so that he and Rex are even. "I was frozen, not foolish," he points out. "I didn't want everyone to get stung! Besides, the beehives were too far away for them to hear me anyway."

Rex leans his head to the side to regard Miki. "Yah. You're talented as hell. I wish I could do half the cool things you do." He looks at Miki from under half-lowered lids.

Miki shakes his head. "No, it's only a *little* magic, you know. And pelting people with bugs is not very... um, heroic?" A sly smile tugs at one corner of his mouth and he lets his gaze slide over to meet Rex's.

Rex laughs very softly and leans over inevitably. He hesitates a moment just inches from Miki's lips, watching the other boy's eyes carefully for reaction.

Miki pauses for a long moment, looking up into Rex's eyes, before catching his breath and dropping his gaze. Although he does not actually move, his whole body seems to sway forward infinitesimally, nevertheless.

Rex leans the rest of the way, pressing his lips to Miki's softly, then tilting his head and deepening the kiss.

Miki makes a soft, surprised sound, and leans against Rex. He rests one hand lightly on Rex's shoulder for balance.

Rex reaches out and wraps one muscular arm around Miki's waist, pulling the other boy against his broad chest. He holds him there tightly, breathing fast and his support arm trembling slightly.