Chaos at the Diner

Ursa Diner

You step onto a cracked but clean tile floor that was probably once red, but is now a faded salmon pink. A large, rectangular communal table seating about 10 takes up the middle of the floor, with mismatched smaller tables arranged near the large front windows. The long counter in front of the kitchen door sports plates of fragrant bread, cookies, and muffins and bowls of fresh wild fruits. A small, rattling fridge in the corner holds a selection of juices and cold spring water in reused
bottles and jars. Atop the refrigerator is a can for cash donations; next to it is a box for barter payments. Scrawled on the box in black marker are the words "Pay what you can, when you can."

Rennen scratches at the door of the diner, his mouth full of fresh-caught fish (with their heads neatly bitten off). When he's let in, Niska swoops in with him and graps one of the fish. A couple more fall on the floor. Niska does an acrobatic backflip and makes for the closing door...


From afar, Rennen votes you ram into it, just to keep Niska here in play. Chaos! <hoppity hop>

Higami makes no move to interdict bird, dog or fish, still standing near the counter with slightly furrowed brow, one hand half-raised as if preparing for the contingency of having to fend off the bird, or perhaps the dog, or perhaps the fish.

Niska paged Rennen with 'That was the plan, unless someone wants to intercept.'.

Rennen makes a furious lunge at the bird, instincts too hard-wired to remember his manners. He doesn't bite, but he does have quite a bark.

Sashenka makes a grab for the doorknob; whether she wants to let the bird out or close it in is unclear, because she slips on a fish and crashes into the wall, barely managing not to fall to the floor.

The raven makes it to the door just as it shuts with a soft *click*.
The bird rebounds audibly off the polished wood and continues its career in the opposite direction, narrowly avoiding the hound's snapping jaws. Its flight is a little wobbly as it skims past each window in turn, looking for an open one.

Higami watches the comedy of errors from his central vantage point. "You seem to be the kind that makes trouble by nature," he says in a slightly louder-than-usual, clear voice to the bird. "I sympathize."

Sashenka steadies herself, retrieving the fish she slipped on from the floor. It looks okay; she stepped only on the tail. She glares at Niska. "That raven looks awfully familiar," she grumbles under her breath, watching the bird from the corner of her eye as she picks up another fish. "Thank you, Rennen," she says to the dog. "These are lovely."

Rennen falls back to a defensive posture as the raven veers off, standing over his fish like they were something far more important and less smelly. He noses Sashenka's elbow somewhat apologetically.

Sashenka tentatively touches Rennen between the ears, chuckling softly. The sound, like its owner, is pleasingly full and rounded. "Don't worry, friend. This sort of thing seemes to happen whenever someone tries to bring me a gift of food."

Higami looks toward Sashenka and away from the bird. "The same raven, in all probability, that lived here for a day, brought in by Rowan." Rowan's name carries the tonal brand of respect.

Having determined that the windows are no good, either, the raven finally lands on one of the unoccupied tables and brazenly -- and surprisingly tidily, considering -- begins to devour the fish.

Layla steps into the diner.
Layla has arrived.
Layla scans the menu.

Niska paged Layla with 'Niska is standing on one of the tables, eating one of the fish Rennen brought in.'.

Layla hesitates at the threshold momentarily before entering the room.
Layla pages: Thanks. :)

Sashenka shakes her head, holding out her apron for Rennen to place the fish in. She deposits her own two there for an example. "I need to spend less time fishing and more time in the diner." She looks up as Layla comes in. "Oh, hello, Layla. Please excuse the mess." She nods her head toward the fish scales and blood on the floor.

Rennen's left ear swivels suspiciously towards the raven, but he accepts Sashenka's words with a deferential dip of the muzzle. He retrieves the rest of the fish and presents them to the proprietress with dignified solemnity.

Higami enters the kitchen. After a few moments, he is heard to ask, "Is there a mop somewhere about? I'm having trouble finding it."

Rennen peers at Higami. Once he's finished delivering up the fish, the dour canine begins to lick the floor slowly and methodically.

Sashenka straightens up, her apron full of fish. "Just a second, I'm on my way." She follows Higami to the kitchen and points out the broom closet. "Thanks." She spensds a few minutes rinsing the fish and placing them in the rickety old refrigerator.

Layla takes a seat at the communal table.

The raven peers down its beak at the dog licking the floor. "Quork?"

Higami emerges from the kitchen with mop in hand, and then, seeing the dog already at work, pauses in indecision. While thinking, he gives Layla an offhand salute with the mop and a congenial "Hello," and then seems to decide that matters are already well in hand. A nod to the dog, and back into the kitchen. When mop is back where he found it, he takes a seat
by the counter.

Rennen continues about his task, well, doggedly, ignoring most of the activity happening over his head. His ears tilt backwards against his head for a moment at the Raven's query, and he shoots the bird a withering glare.

Niska paged Sashenka with 'Is there a trash receptacle somewhere in sight?'.

Sashenka reemerges from the kitchen wearing a fresh apron. She walks over to Layla, ignoring the pesky bird. "Hi, Layla. Can I get you anything?"

Layla scans the menu.

Sashenka pages: Sure, at the corner where the counter meets the wall.

Layla scans the menu again. "The tarlets sound scrumptious. May I have one, if they are any left?"

Sashenka nods, smiling. "They are nice. I'll get you one." She pops into the kitchen, washing her hands again for good measure, and brings Layla a tartlet on a chipped cobalt-blue plate.

Rennen circles around and between people's feet diligently. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp.

Layla sits quietly for a moment, admiring the aestetics of a blackberry tartlet against a dark blue plate.

Higami strikes up a conversation with the raven. "You know," he says in what may strike those nearby as a somewhat pedantic fashion, "You'll get much more food if you switch your tactics to those that Rennen is using. By now you should know that we mean you no harm; and a life of brigandry is a far second to the security of friendship. I'm certain that some respect would get you a more regular supply of food, and the occasional shiny object." He seems quite serious, obviously assuming that the raven can understand every word.

Layla looks up from her plate and watches the exchange between the man and the raven with great amusement.

The raven looks up at Higami, bits of fish intestine trailing from one side of its bill. One foot braced on the carcass, it tears the entrails free and gulps them down, evidently too polite to speak with its mouth full. "Quork," it says after it has swallowed.

Higami nods. "I understand if you disagree. You have little reason to reevaluate your tactics, as you eat a perfectly good fish which you got by stealing. I also understand if it would be too much of a violation of your inner nature to live a life free from the thrill of delinquency. It's just something to think about." Higami's hand reaches up to the silver necklace he wears, turning it so that it flashes a tinkerbell of light onto the table beside the raven. "After all, it's not really any of my concern."

Rennen's ears twitch as he finishes his rounds. Only then does he circle around to the middle of the room to investigate the scents and surface appearances of its occupants. Higami receives a particularly puzzled glance.

The bird pauses its meal and stares at Higami's pendant. The raven makes a sound like fingernails drawn down the teeth of a comb.

Sashenka goes to the refrigerator, keeping an eye on the exchange between man and bird. She gets two bottles of cold water, setting one on the counter at Higami's elbow and one on Layla's table next to her plate. Retriving two more, she pours one into a bowl and puts it on the floor for Rennen, then opens a fourth for herself and sits down, taking a big

Having finished its stolen meal, the raven looks up and scans the room. Seemingly come to a decision, it launches itself from the table and flaps lazily across the dining area, the remains of its fish in its claws. The ragged skeleton it deposits neatly in the trash barrel at the end of the counter; something dark and squishy-looking is dropped into the barter box. Then the bird lands on top of the fridge, from which vantage point it continues to eye Higami and his... lovely... jewelry.

Rowan steps into the diner.
Rowan has arrived.

Higami removes the necklace, dangling the silver symbol from its black leather thong at the end of his finger. "This is silver," he says to the raven. "Silver does not stay this shiny for long. You would lose interest in it soon enough, if you took it. If you would like to try, however, be my guest."

The bird suddenly takes a keen interest in whatever Rennen is doing.

Sashenka watches the bird with a bemused expression. When the door opens, she stands up and steps toward it. "Hello," she says to Rowan. "Welcome. May I help you?"

The raven seems to recognize Rowan, and croaks something at him in what might be construed as a greeting.

Layla is sitting at the large communal table. She too is watching the exchange between the man and the raven, although she glances over at the newcomer's entrance.

Rowan, who is neither bleeding nor hyperventilating, gives Sashenka an interested look and says, "Imagine so, if you're Sasheknka?"

Sashenka grins. "The very same."

Higami replaces the necklace and looks over to Rowan. "Hello, Rowan," he says in a friendly manner.

Rowan says, with the appreciation of a true soup conoisseur, says, "Then I'd /love/ some soup. I'm Rowan, by the way. Somewhat new to the area. Pleased to meet you." He shoots a grin over towards Higami, as well, but primarily focuses on Sashkenka.

Rennen is not doing anything in particular except sniffing at people. Politely, he does this from where he's standing in the center of the room, rather than going over to examine shoes or private parts. Rowan receives a familiar soft whuff of greeting.

Sashenka smiles at Rowan. "Just a minute." She goes into the kitchen and clatters around for a few minutes.

Rennen's gaze fixes, finally, on Higami. The black beastie wanders over to the man's table and falls back on his haunches to observe.

This is a dusky, dark canine of a rather strange breed, the
colour of ash and cinders, perhaps four feet nose to tail and two feet
tall. Its left forepaw is white, but usually dirt-caked, and it bears a
few scars crisscrossing its back and the right side of its jaw. Its
weatherbeaten body is stretched and lean as a greyhound's, its legs graceful
and thin, and its muzzle narrow, long and elegantly tapered. However,
it's obviously not quite a hound, for its fluffy dark coat shags out
into a short ruff around the back of its head and shoulders, and its tail
is nearly as plump as a fox's, with a very dark tip. Perhaps a black
German Shepherd/racing hound mix?
Closer study (which is hard to come by) leaves viewers with the
disturbing feeling this is no domesticated creature, but a stealthy
predator. Alert, intent, watchful, with a steady probing gaze and an aloof
manner, this inobtrusive creature paces quietly and deliberately
through the shadows at the edge of the human world.

The raven observes everything from its perch on top of the fridge.

Rowan gives Rennen a curious look, but wanders over to Higami to say, "And a good evening to you. Presuming you think it so."

Rennen growls a question which certain people in the room should follow more or less: what on earth or beyond it is this Higami-creature?

Layla focuses her entire attention on Rennen. Her mouth wordlessly opens and closes.

Higami nods. "Of course, if we're really going to scrutinize the evening, it is neither good nor bad but merely itself, obviously. But the phrase itself is understood as a general wish of good fortune, which is how I interpret and use it. I engage in the humoring of illusion, if only for the sake of communication. As I expect you all do as well. And thank you for the water, Sashenka."

Sashenka returns with a steaming serving of pale green soup in a burgundy bowl, and sets it in front of Rowan with a napkin-wrapped bunch of silverware. "You caught the last of the cream of wild leek." She looks at Higami. "You know, after all the excitement I don't remember if you ordered anything. Can I get you something?"

Rowan tells Rennen, "Primarily, he's fascinating," and thanks Sashenka. After a pause to inhale the scent, he tells Higami, "Dunno. Don't really like empty formality, personally."

The raven, which had been staring fixedly at Rennen, turns to look at Higami, its beak slightly open. It makes a rough, raspberry-sounding noise in his direction.

Rennen's ears splay in bewilderment at Rowan's non-explanation. With a huff, he turns around and pads back to Layla to incline his muzzle gravely in about as friendly a greeting as the taciturn lupe ever gives anyone.

Higami gives a polite "Thank you." to Rowan after the comment regarding fascination.

Higami turns to Sashenka. "I didn't order anything, by the way, Sashenka. but I'd like to order your opinion on what you think this town should be named, if you have any of that in your mental refrigerator."

Layla gives Rennen a solemn nod of greeting.

Rowan explains further, in Rennen's general direction, "I believe he said he was human, at one point. I kinda lost the thread of conversation in all the talk of what he /wasn't/, though."

Sashenka's face brightens with a slow smile at Higami's extended metaphor. "Let me think about that one for a minute. I've never received an order of quite that sort before."

Rennen gives a dubious snort at Rowan's answer. He smells funny. To Layla, he indicates he is Strider half-moon. In the middle of his own introduction, the lupus scratches irritably behind an ear. Isn't it stuffy in here?

Layla is Strider half-moon, Lilith aspect, she tells Rennen.

Higami nods to Sashenka. "Please, take your time. I would also be interested in your opinion of what the town should be named," he says invitingly to Layla. "You know, of course, Rowan, that I'm interested in your opinion. And you also, Rennen. And you, also," he says to the raven. "And you might tell us your name. It would make things easier."

Layla ponders, "A name. Hmm. My name is Layla, but knowing that won't shed light on what the town's name should be." She askes Rennen, Funny? How so?

The raven seems to consider for a moment.

Rennen shakes himself out carelessly making his thoughts on the debate quite clear. It has a smell, a spirit, roads, places to live, and places to eat. We know where it is. Who cares what twolegs call it?

The raven croaks at Rennen, apparently expressing a negative opinion.

Rowan asks Higami, in an undoubtedly maddening fashion, "I dunno. You have an opinion?"

Sashenka chuckles at Rennen. "We could just call it This Place," she says, laughing.

Lumia steps into the diner.

Rennen sighs at Layla. He just smells odd, the half-moon repeats doggedly. I am going outside to breathe. Will you open the door?

Higami nods to Layla. "Did I forget to introduce myself to you, Layla? I apologize. My name is Higami Ryumaru." The light Japanese accent is there. Higami says Layla's name with a deeply respectful tone, as he says the names of most people, as if struggling to convey an honorific without actual sound. To Rowan, he says, "I am not native to this country, or this region, so good names don't come easily to mind. In Nippon, we would call this place something like Below-Katahdin, or perhaps just Katahdin." He pauses to take a drink. "I think a name like that would be fine, if it is what everyone wants," he says to Sashenka. He himself then gets up to open the door and stand to the side of it.

Lumia pushes open the door and peers inside, eyes widening at the number and variety of the clientel.

Rennen peers up at Higami suspiciously, and starts heading primly for the door. He doesn't make it. Lumia's appearance causes the lupe to halt in his tracks and peer upwards in puzzlement, nostrils flaring.

Rowan, who apparently had been doing it just to tease this time, tells Higami, "Me, I like... I dunno what I like. Katahdin Flats, maybe."

The raven makes a sound like 'Hhhhlatz", followed by the disapproving raspberry noise.

Lumia's eyes pass over some of the room's occupants, pause with a slight grin on Rowan and Higami, and seek out Sashenka from the crowd before the presence of the wolf directly in front of her captures her attention. She eyes Rennen with raised eyebrows for a minute, then politely holds the door for him.

Rowan asks, "You got a better idea, Mr. Negative?"

Sashenka looks to see what's bothering Rennen, and grins delightedly when she sees the new arrival. "Lumia! Come in! Is it mail day alreasy?"

Rennen seems quite baffled here, too, and his ears cant backwards in dismay. Horse? >Horse<? What next, Cow? Not quite believing his own senses, the black canine slinks out with a rather perfunctory tail-flick of thanks, anxious to get out of the human den where he can clear his nose and his head.

The raven makes a low, stony rasp, followed by a sound like bells mixed with water running over stones.

From afar, to Lumia, Sashenka, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Rennen doesn't want to leave, OOC, but Rennen's a wee bit claustrophobic.

From afar, to Lumia, Sashenka, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Rennen may come back in a bit, once he's had a swim in the lake or something. We'll see.

Rennen pushes open the door and walks out onto Main Street.

Rowan looks baffled. "Cathedral River?"

Sashenka pages to Lumia, Rennen, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla: Quick! Someone come up with a reason why we all must go outside! :)

From afar, to Sashenka, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Lumia offers an excuse for outside-going. :)

Niska pages to Lumia, Sashenka, Rowan, Higami, and Layla: Anyone have anything I could steal that would be worth chasing me for ?

Higami raises an eyebrow. "Cathedral? Have I missed something?" he asks Rowan.

Lumia watches the wolf go, then grins, shrugs, and comes inside, turning her attention back to Sasha. "Just back," she confirms. "From east. Nothing for you." She sounds apologetic. "Truck stuck," she adds, as an unimportant aside.

Sashenka's eyebrows lift in surprise. "Your truck got stuck? Where?"

Rowan shrugs at Higami. "The Raven sounded kinda church-esque. Maybe I misinterpreted." At Lumia's comment, he suddenly notices he's not noticed her, gives her a grin, and, just as suddenly, his grin fades. "Want help getting it started? I mean, need a push?"

Lumia jerks her thumb down the street. "Ways." She nods to Rowan. "Save me shifting. Thanks."

Sashenka nods. "I'll help too, if no one needs anything right away."

Rowan looks sadly at his soup, but says, "I can finish mine later. C'mon."

Higami's brow furrows lightly at Rowan's interpretation of the bird's noises, but he doesn't say anything, merely looking at the bird.

Sashenka smiles at Rowan. "I'll heat it back up wehn we get back, if you want."

Lumia beams at Sasha and turns and heads back out the door, allowing those who wish to follow to do so.

Lumia pushes open the door and walks out onto Main Street.

The raven makes a *tsk* noise at Rowan and Higami. "Quork," it says.

Higami warns the bird, "I am going to call you 'Quark' for the sake of reference, if you do not give me an alternative soon." Already standing by the door, he holds it open.

Sashenka looks inquiringly around the Diner, and deciding that nothing needs her immediate attention, follows Lumia out the door, nodding to Higami as she goes.

Rowan shrugs a little, in slight embarassment, and follows Lumia out.

You push open the well-oiled door and walk outside.
Main Street
This brick-paved, north-south street is in significantly better repair
than the roads leading into town. It's nearly impossible to tell what
color the original bricks were, or in what pattern they were laid, but
someone has made sure that no hole gaped too large without being plugged
with something. The roadbed is a patchwork of multicolored bricks,
chunks of cinderblock, and large, flat stones. The mere thought of riding a
vehicle over the resulting uneven swells is almost physically painful.
Most of the buildings along the street have not fared even this well.
In fact, it is clear that much of the brick in the road was scavenged
from the more ramshackle structures. Yet there are signs of life: a cafe
with a newly painted sign, a clean welcome mat on the library's
decrepit porch, a windowbox full of vivid flowers clinging to a crumbling
windowsill. The brick-paved road extends less than a quarter mile before
disappearing again into grass and chunks of decaying asphalt.
Obvious exits:
Ursa Diner Dock Farm Road LIbrary Post Office Katahdin Road Edge
of Town

Lumia steps out of the diner again, nods to Rennen, and heads up the road, trailing Diner occupants like tin cans behind a "Just Married" sign.

Rennen is stalking a rat over on the street, but loses his concentration as the throng emerges from the food-place. He turns and stares over his shoulder.

From afar, to Lumia, Sashenka, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Rennen is never gonna sneak in a bite of dinner at this rate! It's just like old times. :)

Rowan doesn't make nearly that much noise, generally, but is somewhat noticeable, certainly. Not noticing Rennen, he just follows Lumia, like a lost puppy.

The raven perches on the edge of a nearby roof.

Layla steps out of the diner carrying the remains of her tartlet. She sidles over to Rennen, drops her tartlet and keeps moving.

Lumia heads up the road as though leaving town. Just around the first bend, the mail truck (a by-now familiar sight to many, in sky blue with pink writing scrawled across it reading "Pony Express") has its back right wheel mired in mud up to the axle.

The raven flies to a perch nearer to Rennen and the dropped tart, watching to see if the canine notices it...

"Swerved to avoid a skunk," Lumia observes.

Sashenka trots down the street to catch up to Lumia and looks at the truck. "I'll ask Dusty to patch up that hole, Lumia, so this doesn't happen again. A few bricks should do it."

Rowan slides to a halt in mud, and nods. "Sensible. Skunk isn't gonna move, and it's not as if it's good luck t'do anythin' at all t'one." Considering the problem, he asks, "We all gonna put shoulders behind, then?"

Rennen's nose twitches at the smell of pastry, but he doesn't appear to be tempted. He gives Layla an apologetic dip of the tail, then settles back on his haunches to observe the others with a faint air of bemusement.

Lumia rubs her face. "Could get out the traces. Try pushing first?"

The raven does not offer its opinion of dead skunks, but you suspect it would be more... appreciative.

Higami loosens his necktie until it can be pulled off, and then stores it in a pants pocket.

Sashenka nods. "Let's go for it."

Rowan cracks a knuckle, and scrambles down to put a shoulder behind things, right near the wheel. Mmm. Soon-to-be-dirty-Rowans.

At the Rennen's apparent disinterest, the raven gracefully floats from the roofedge to the ground, where it starts picking at the discarded pastry. It seems almost to be teasing the canine, unconcerned by its nearness.

Sashenka crouches down and leans her considerable bulk against the truck's rear bumper.

Higami does not seem too eager to put his back to the truck, but does so when Rowan sets the example, not seeming averse to it once the clean, ironed, white shirt is pressed to the truck and keeping clean is a lost cause.

Rennen eloquently bares one fang at the raven to express his general opinion of thieves.

Lumia hauls a plank out from the passenger side of the truck and slides it under the stuck tire, bridging the way onto the road, before finding a niche for her own small shoulder and contributing a surprisingly powerful shove.

Sashenka takes a deep breath. "Everyone ready? Okay, one... two... three... push!"

Slowly, with dignity, unfretted, unhurried, as though it has more time than anyone present can imagine and really doesn't care whether movement happens this week or the next, or the week after that, the truck deigns to move. The slurping noises the mud makes as its prize is taken from it are indescribable.

Having finished the tart, the raven flies up to land on the roof of the truck.

Sashenka leans against the freed truck and wipes her brow with a meaty arm. "Well," she pants, "good... job... everyone."

Layla applauds from the side-lines. "Bravo!"

Rowan glares at the truck, and then grins, happily, at Sashenka. "Good way to meet people," he opines.

The raven calls loudly a couple of times, strutting along the roof of the truck as though it had somehow helped.

Rowan peers up at it dubiously.

"Well, I must be dead last in strength," Higami muses, looking at the freed truck. "But you never know just how much is needed." His expression as he views his mud-caked shoes and dirty shoes is not so much fussy or disappointed as somehow ironic, a half-cocked eyebrow and a sigh.

The bird quorks cheerfully at Rowan.

Lumia cocks her head back and regards the raven with good humor. Then, to everyone who helped, "Thanks."

Sashenka smiles around at everyone. "You're most welcome."

Rennen gives a short, curt bark, as if making up his mind about something. Rowan.

Rowan observes, "There is such a thing as soap in the world." His attention is drawn inexorably to Rennen, though. Starting that way, the better to see the lupus, he calls, "Yes?"

Rennen paces briskly towards the Spiral, ears alert. Are these all safe? He indicates the assembled and sweaty gathering with a sweep of the muzzle, nose wrinkling as it passes over Higami.

Lumia wipes her face, retrieves the now-muddy board, and tosses it back into the truck. "Expecting mail?" she asks the group at large.

Rowan considers the group, as he nears Rennen. He says something quietly to the lupus, crouching near him.

Higami removes his muddy shoes and socks, going barefoot. "Actually, there may be mail in there for me," he says.

Lumia nods to Higami. "Name again?" she asks, climbing into the truck.

Rennen glances northwards significantly. A place lies open. Gaia's own must gather soon.

Rennen delivers that brisk reminder and then steps away from Rowan again, as always slightly aloof from the human goings-on.

Higami says "Higami Ryumaru. The letter would be from overseas... Tibet, Nippon, Nepal, Morocco, Sri Lanka, or Israel. Or possibly Alaska.""

Sashenka looks at Higami, intrigued. "You know people from all those places?"

Dusty emerges from the woods to the south.

Higami nods to Sashenka. "An organization to which I belong, called the Seira Shingumi. We do research on world mythology and spirituality, and to that effect we do... extensive research."

Dusty strolls into view, staring at his feet and mumbling gently to himself. He is amongst the group before he looks up and realizes he is among a fair sized group. His look of deep concentration is immediately replaced with disorientation, then a little fright, then a smile. "uh,... hi."

There is a moment's silence inside the truck. Lumia's head emerges from the passenger side window, peering at Higami. "That's for you?" She seems respectful. She disappears again, then reappears, climbing out of the truck with a small package, the battered brown paper wrapping almost entirely covered in black writing of various sizes, handwritings, and
alphabets. It seems to be very heavy. She holds it out to Higami. "Came up from the south. New York, maybe. Looks like started Nepal."

Niska hops across the roof for a closer look.

Sashenka nods in response to Higami. "Sounds fascinating." Hearing Dusty's footsteps, she turns toward him, and her eyes light up. "Dusty!" She takes a step toward the boy.

Rennen starts drifting towards the bushes warily, as the boy shows up. The lupus never seems to stay out in the open, or among people, for long.

Lumia looks away from Higami and the package momentarily, as Dusty approaches. She favors him with an enormous smile, and doesn't bother speaking her obviously pleased greeting.

From afar, to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Rennen reminds herself sternly, yet again: I am -not- playing a social Strider. Man, this is hard. :)

From afar, to Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Lumia is seized with the urge to suddenly discover a letter for Rennen in the truck...

Higami nods. "Excellent." He takes the package. "Thank you very much. I have been waiting for this." He nearly drops the package at first, and then, holding it in both hands, remarks, "Heavy element." He turns to regard the new arrival. "So this is the famous Dusty," he says softly, almost but not quite to himself.

Dusty smiles at Sashenka and gives her a hug. "Sorry I've been gone a while. I've been..." Dusty pauses, then concludes, "doing stuff." He then gives a wave to the rest. "Hope everybody's doing well." He looks inquisitively at those he does not know in the group.

The raven croaks familiarly at Dusty.

Layla smiles and gives Dusty a little finger wave. "Hi, Dusty."

Rowan removes himself from his crouch and ambles toward the larger group. "Evening, Dusty. I'm Rowan. Yet Another New Person."

The bird continues to eye Higami's mysterious package from the roof of the truck.

Dusty examines Rowan with a careful eye, then offers his hand. "Hi, nice to meet you." He scans Rowans face, looking for something, then asks "Where you from?"

Higami holds the package up to the raven. "This is too heavy for you to steal," he remarks. "A simple question of weight ratios."

Rowan says, "Originally?" He waves a hand Eastwards. "Couple days walk thattaways. Lately, Charlotte. Got..." He trails off, still a little wary of the pull to this place, and it shows. "Drawn here. And I think we all of us should /talk/ about that which drew us. Protection. Gathering." He says this last quite audibly to everyone in general, only slightly diffidently.

The raven takes the opportunity to peck inquisitively at the paper.

Lumia turns wide eyes on Higami. "Never challenge a raven," she says, moved to complete sentences.

Lumia then catches what Rowan has just said and turns her head to look at him. She doesn't answer aloud, but she nods once, decisively.

Higami nods to Lumia. "You're right. More importantly, I should never tell another being its own limitations."

At Lumia's remark, the bird gets a sly look in its beady black eyes.

Rennen's ears splay from where he lurks at the edge of the road, crouching down by a sprawl of a flowerbed in front of one of the buildings. Apparently Rowan's powers of discretion receive mixed reviews from the Strider.

Long distance to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Niska, Higami, and Layla: Rowan /has/ none, Rennen. Get it right.

Dusty looks to his friends, then back to Rowan. His voice drops to a whisper. "The voices are strong here..."

Lumia is startled by Dusty's confidence. "Totems?"

Higami looks to Dusty and Rowan before turning and walking to the library.

Rowan says, blankly, "Voi --" and then cuts off, to give Lumia a hopeful look. Then he calls to Higami, "Leaving so soon?"

Higami calls behind, "Just storing this somewhere. I'm sorry."

Dusty face clouds with confusion, then clamps his mouth shut, a trace of worry passing through his eyes.

Higami steps onto the rotting porch, pulls the door open on silent hinges, and disappears inside.

The Raven attempts to follow Higami and his package.
Niska has left.

Rennen's ears twitch, and he scoots a little from his observation post to seek for Dusty's scent amidst the sea of town smells, people smells, and truck smell.

Rowan considers Dusty, then Lumia. Then asks Dusty, "'d you mean the call?"

Dusty catches a glimpse of the dog, then turns to get a better look. He pauses for a moment, thinking about something, then meekly offers a hand and says "here, doggie.."

Josh is approaching from Katahdin road, apparently in a pleasant mood for the day.

Dusty turns toward the newcomer. "Hi, Josh!", he beams. If he heard Rowan's question, he doesn't seem to show it. His hand is still slightly extended in the direction of the canine.

Lumia says, "Josh." It's not much of a greeting, but it sounds friendly.

Rowan decides, if he's not going to be filled with information right now, he can at least sit, and does so, on the mail truck's bumper. And then he waves at Josh, with a grin.

Sashenka waves as Josh approaches. "Hi!"

Rennen stares at Dusty with ears splayed. With a faint snort of amusement, he rises to his feet and takes the opportunity to investigate the youth who hears voices more closely. He pads towards the lad edgily, with the wary paces of a wild creature, hunkering down slightly as yet another stranger appears.

Josh winces, seeing the folks he knows around. "OUch," he mutters, coming closer. When he stops, a stray wind blows a lock of white-blond hair away from his face. "What did I miss?"

Sashenka pats the side of Lumia's truck. "The old Pony Express truck got stuck in the mud, and we all came out and exhibited excellent teamwork." She laughs. "The mail must go through!"

Josh's eyes graze the ground. "Sorry. If I'd'a known, I'd'a come running to help."

Rowan adds, "And Rennen reminded me of my duty," although in deference to the Strider's sensibilities, he doesn't expand further.

Dusty extends his hand a little further towards Rennen. He looks to the others, nodding his head towards the canine. "Is he new, too?"

"Remind me," Josh says in a sotto-vocce aside to Rowan, "To ask me what that is." He does a take, now, as he catches a familiar muzzle, and a name apparently attached to it. "Rennen," he asks, tongue tripping over the unfamiliar name. "You do have a name?"

Sashenka chuckles. "It's okay, Josh, we managed. Not that another pair of shoulders wouldn't have helped."

Lumia's eyes move from Rowan to the wolf. "Rennen?"

Rowan says, "Apparently, he's been here longer than I have, which to me means he's old." Josh gets a flicker of a grin. "Protecting certain things. Yes?"

Rennen lets the guesses flicker over his head with muzzle wrinkled. I have no name. That noise will do.

Rennen licks Dusty's finger's cautiously, testing his scent.

Josh pages to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Rowan, and Layla: Tastes like chicken!

Josh nods to the lupus Strider, then explains to Dusty, with a smile. "Rennen, I've met here, before we got the Call." Rowan gets a mock-hurt look. "What, you don't like my house?"

Dusty pages to Lumia, Sashenka, Rennen, Josh, Rowan, and Layla: By the way, Dusty would taste like a pretty dirty chicken, just so you know :)

From afar, to Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Josh, Rowan, and Layla, Lumia laughs.

From afar, to Lumia, Dusty, Rennen, Josh, and Rowan, Sashenka falls off her chair, giggling.

Rennen's ears slip backwards again at Dusty and he takes another look at the boy. Wrong, he complains, looking back at Rowan again. The boy smells wrong too.

Rowan's grin rises. It tilts slightly, more pronounced on one side. "Like your house fine. Been sleepin' there, haven't I? Just, I like protecting oher things even more." He stops, rather startled, to ask Rennen, "Wrong? Wrong how?"

Lumia grins down at the wolf, suggesting that she understands him rather better than he may expect.

Dusty looks quizzically at Rowan.

Rennen sneezes and steps backwards warily. Don't know. Odd. Maybe all the twolegs here smell strange, because there are so many Others.

Layla watches Rennen intently before nodding slightly.

Josh moves slowly. But, at the end of his trek, appears to be standing close to Dusty in that jump-in-front-if-Rennen-freaks kind of way. "He heard the call," is all the Kin states.

The small figure of a girl dressed in black bursts from the library at a full run, pelting full-speed up the road towards the mountain. She seems to be carry something small in one hand.

Sashenka watches Rennen's reaction to Dusty, frowning slightly.

Rennen seems discomfited again, clearly not used to dealing with groups, and lies down on the dusty road with an invisible wall of wariness around him. He stretches out low to the ground with legs extended. His ears and nose twitch towards the sound of beating footsteps.

Rowan remains whre he is, leaning aainst the truck, and tells Rennen, "Call's more important than people smelling wrong. Isn't it?"

Niska pages to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Josh, Rowan, Higami, and Layla: Unless somebody has really good reflexes, she's outta here. Any takers ?

Dusty eyes jump to the little girl, following her along her path. "Who was that?"

From afar, to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Niska, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Josh is not that fast. Not even with the crossbow, and that would make things really bad.

Dusty pages to Lumia, Sashenka, Rennen, Niska, Josh, Rowan, Higami, and Layla: Noticing, but not following.

From afar, to Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Niska, Josh, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Lumia's fast. But she doesn't have any motivation to be, at the moment...Higami? Want to yell "STOP THIEF" or anything?

Higami steps out of the library just as Dusty asks his question. He doesn't say anything, just watching.

Josh is snapped from his stance by Dusty's question. He looks, but doesn't see the figure from where he is. "Who?"

Sashenka pages to Lumia, Dusty, Rennen, Niska, Josh, Rowan, Higami, and Layla: Nope, not a reflexes kind o' gal.

Layla asks "Higami? What happened?"

Rowan stares at her as she flees. "I got no earthly idea."

Rennen decides it's as good an excuse as anything else to get away from prying eyes, and bursts from his repose as quickly as he lay down. He bolts off through the crowd--probably to Josh's alarm, at least--but seems intent on giving chase to the vanishing figure.

Higami's eyes are on the fleeing girl. "A little bit of knowledge lost, and a little bit gained."

The girl, whoever she is, disappears up the road, quickly vanishing into the trees.

From afar, to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Josh, Rowan, Higami, and Layla, Rennen is a Strider. What the hell. No special gifts, but I have 4 legs. :)

Niska moves north on Katahdin Road, leaving the center of town.Rennen moves north on Katahdin Road, leaving the center of town.

Lumia looks bemused. "Who?"

Dusty looks fearfully st the distance where the girl and now the dog have fled. "Uh, will the dog hurt the girl? Maybe we should follow..."

Layla shakes her head in the negative. "He's a good boy."

Sashenka watches the chase. "Was that the raven? If it was, I think she can take care of herself. Maybe Renne can recover Higami's.... whatsit."

Lumia considers Dusty seriously. "Want me to?"

Higami shakes his head. "That's all right. She's welcome to it. It's just an object."

Josh takes a step back, collecting his thoughts. "Raven?"

Sashenka contemplates Higami with new respect. "Well, all right then."

Rowan says, with a fairly good accent, "Quork."

Josh just shakes his head. "I'm getting too jaded, Rowan. I'm not much surprised."

Dusty turns to Lumia, and his face softens. "I dunno." His gaze turns towards Layla. "If he's really a good dog, then I guess not." His face clears as realization hits. "Particularly if the girl is the raven."

Lumia grins at Dusty companionably.

Rowan says, "Well, honest t'Gaia, I ain't never met a town like this. If you get jaded /here/, then I'm giving you up to the cynicism beast forever, Josh."

Dusty frowns. "I don't think I'll ever get use to this." He sighs.

Josh chuckles. "I never said I was a cynic. Just a lot of different folks hang around here."

Sashenka chuckles at Dusty, letting her hand rest on the boy's patched and grimy shoulder. "Trust me, before long you'll be talking to everything you see, just in case it might turn into a person and start talking to you."

Higami shakes his head. "Well, enough about that. It was a worthwhile learning experience for me, even if I'll have to apologize to my contacts in Nepal. For now," he says, turning to Dusty, "I might have a job for you, Dusty. My name is Higami Ryumaru, and I've heard that you are a fine craftsman. I need to build some simple objects in the near future.
Would you possibly be interested in doing a job? I'm sure I can make it worth your while."

Dusty nods. "Next thing you'll be telling me is that the dog..." Dusty stops, and his face grows red.

Sashenka turns away, stifling a laugh.... mostly successfully.

Rowan stars to say something, then stops abruptly.

Dusty shift to Higami, face still burning. "Uh, you've heard of me? Well, I do like to make things, if people want me to..." He scans Higami's face with a trace of wariness.

"Nice guy," Lumia says to Dusty, off-handedly. "Seems like, anyhow."

Rowan says, "Talks a lot, yeah, but nice guy."

With the assurance from Lumia, the wariness in Dusty's face fades. "What do you need me to make?"

Higami comments, "I think that you are wise to be suspicious, actually, Dusty. Of everybody and everything. But the task I had in mind was simple. I have the materials I need to construct a small wooden shrine... I even have tools. But it will take more than myself to build it. In any case, I'm not ready to build it quite yet... but I thought you might be interested in the job. I will ask again later."

Josh looks after the fleeing pair. "I wonder where they went." Higami gets a curious look. "Shrine? Buddhism -based, or non-religious?

Higami says "Shinto, actually. The 'native' religion of Japan."
Higami says "Nippon, as we call it."

Dusty eyes fill with excitement, eager to lend a helping hand. "Oh, yes, sir, I would love to help build a shrine for you. I love to build things. I could even design one for yo if you wanted. Or build whatever you liked. I'd love to, really."

Josh nods quietly, remembering. "The Chase still continues, and Amaterasu has not been caught yet."

Layla sends Josh a questioning look, but doesn't say anything.

Higami nods to Dusty. "Thank you, Dusty. I will ask again later." To Josh, he notes, "I think that she is doing the chasing, these days. She is still very unhappy."

Rowan listens in interest.

Josh hmmms. "After what happened, I wouldn't blame her for having a total mad-on."

Sashenka looks at Josh and Higami. "Amaterasu?"

Higami explains, "The goddess of the sun. The head of the pantheon of the gods, and the symbol of Nippon, my nation."

Rowan's eyes widen. "Ahhh."

Comprehension dawning, Sashenka nods. "I see. Yes, one would think she'd be none too happy."

Higami says "She has hidden away in her cave before, but recently she was trapped there, by the one we call Akuma, the Corruptor. Nippon has several thousand dieties. As the son of a great shrine priest, it was my duty to know all of them. A very, very complex story."

Lumia eyes Higami with interest, and then is taken by surprise by an enormous yawn.

Josh gives Higami an intrigued look, though doesn't say anything.

Sashenka says "Any story with thousands of characters sounds like a rough one to memorize." Catching Lumia's yawn, she puts an arm around the other woman's shoulders. "Sleepy? Maybe you shouldn't go on tonight. Were you planning to?"

Rowan mutters, "It's like herding cats."

The barefoot Higami's eyes have fallen to the mud puddle the truck was previously mired in, and he seems to ruminate on some thought lying inchoate in the mud. "Would anybody here object, or think that someone would object, to the Guild resources that I have here being put to the use of fixing the library and improving its collection?"

Rowan waves a finger. "As a representative of exactly no one, I would not object at all."

Higami says "You're a representative of yourself."

Josh interjects. "IS there a town council or anything? I barely live in town as it is."

Sashenka chuckles. "Well, there's Miss Alison."

Dusty beams at Higami. "Wow, that would be great. I did what I could before, and I think I've protected the books, but it isn't very nice in there. I couldn't afford to buy anything to fix it, so I made do with junk. Like I do with most stuff."

Lumia considers Higami. "Fred. Fred Lemish. Librarian. Remembered."

Rowan does something resembling a double take at Sashenka. "Who... Who /is/ Miss Alison?"

Josh eyes Sashenka sidelong. "Who?"

Rowan has evidently head the name before.

Higami nods. "I noticed your work, Dusty. I was very impressed. I'd just like to fix it so that there's no dampness in there to affect the books. I also have machines that play music that do not do well with water, or high or low temperatures, that I'd like to put in the library. And thank you, Lumia."

Sashenka shakes her head, trying to figure out how to explain. "I don't really know who Miss Alison is. She lives in that big old house out of town. People respect her, give her stuff, and you certainly don't contradict her... it's like..." she pauses.... "like everyone owes her a debt, but nobody knows what it is."

Lumia looks amused.

Rowan says, "Huh." After a moment of thought, he adds, "I got a message for her, I think. I'll have t'look her up."

"Okay, Rowan," Josh says. "Tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that's odd."

Higami doesn't say anything after the description of Miss Alison. For a change.

Lumia's arm rests around Sasha's waist and she listens to this discussion without looking up, her expression faintly asmused. To Sasha, between other people's comments, she says, "Stay. Deliver tomorrow, when the post office is open."

Sashenka grins at Lumia. "You're welcome, of course."

Dusty nods enthusiastically to Lumia. "Lots of room in the bedroom, plus a couple of extra cots."

Lumia smiles, nods, and releases Sasha. "Pull over," she says, explaining where she is going. But instead of climbing into the truck, she moves only a pace or so to Higami's side, and touches his arm lightly. She speaks to him quietly.

Rowan tells Josh, "It's very odd, I'm afraid, but what isn't, around here?"

Niska pages to Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Rennen, Josh, Rowan, and Higami: That was a blast, guys! I'm going to go crash now, but I can't wait to read the logs of what y'all have been doing... You don't see the raven or the mysterious girl again tonight.

Higami does not react to Lumia's whispered statement except to shift his weight from one foot to another.

Josh rubs a clean-shaven chin. "True. JUst...I dunno.'

Sashenka looks curiously at Josh. "Does it sound weird in a familiar way? I'd love some theories."

Josh thinks on that. "I can give a theory if I can meet Miss Allison."

Dusty frowns. "She's not very nice," he says with conviction.

Rowan explains, "Some seriously ugly old dude named Zebulon told me to tell her he remembered her." He adds, after a moment, "He disappeared, later."

Sashenka nods. "She comes into the diner sometimes and requests food. I'm sure you'll run into her sooner or later."

Rowan says, cheerfully, "Well, that gives me more reason to drink your soup."

Lumia looks amused, hesitates, and then simply grins at Higami and moves toward the driver's side of the truck. "Need to move," she says apologetically to those who are propped against it.

Rowan de-props himself immediately. "Sleep well?"

Sashenka steps away from the truck. "Well, I'll be glad to feed you anytime." She smiles, and her words are clearly heartfelt.

Lumia nods to Rowan as though agreeing with an obvious but pleasant statement. "Night," she says to her erstwhile rescuers. She climbs into the truck, shuts the door with a creak and a clang, and starts the engine with an odd assortment of whirrings, sputterings, and cracklings. In a moment, the truck is pulling off down the road, past the diner and the library, to pull over where it will be out of the way, all but lost in the unlit gloom of the streets.

Sashenka watches Lumia depart in the truck. "She's got a pretty good idea there. I'd better go clean up the kitchen before I get too tired to do it."

Rowan glances at Josh. "You crashing soon?"

Dusty stretches and looks about the group. "I think I'll head off to bed, too. Was nice to meet you, Higami and Rowan." Dusty smiles. "And really nice to see you again, Josh."

Josh flahses a grin. "You too, Dusty. All of you, in fact."

Higami nods, eyes smiling in agreement.

Sashenka says "Looks like everyone's turning in soon. Sleep well. If anyone needs a place to crash, the cot room's always available. Higami, Rowan, it was nice to meet you."

Rowan says, sincerely, "Yeah," and adds, "Heading off myself. Talk t'folks later. Gotta take a walk." At Sashenka's offer, he explains, "I use Josh's place. But thanks."

Sashenka nods. "All right. Sleep well." She turns and walks toward the diner and her attached home.

Dusty waves goodnight to all and wearily drags himself into the diner.

Higami looks up to the stars. "So many more stars here... It was nice to meet you, also, Sashenka."

Dusty pulls open the beautiful door and enters the Ursa Diner.

Higami begins wandering down to the dock in an unhurried fashion.

Sashenka pulls open the beautiful door and enters the Ursa Diner.

Josh nods, and explains. "I have a house by the lake. Can't miss it."

Higami steps onto the rotting porch, pulls the door open on silent hinges, and disappears inside.