Opening Night

Character Descriptions

The overcoat seems terribly out of place. Not quite a trench coat, it is thick, woolen and charcoal gray. The coat speaks of cold winters and icy winds that battered the cloth like hammers. Its shoulders stretch out like small planks, as if designed to hold decorations while the collar juts upward, tugged forward by wind and gravity. The coat is old and majestic, like an ancient sailing vessel setting into port.
A pity the person inside the coat is not as interesting.
Not that the gentlemen in the coat, Brett, is an unattractive creature. On the tall side, his slim and muscular is enveloped by the coat and the clothes he wears beneath it: a pair of worn boots, black trousers made from some kind of denim, and a black shirt decorated with ancient Nipponise characters. Short, wavy, obsidian-colored hair crowns his head and frames his sharp face.
The only features competing with his coat are his eyes. They beat the coat hands down. Brett's eyes, each the bright blue-gray a full moon hidden by mist, seem centuries old. Like an old book with an ornate lock across its pages, Brett's eyes seem to hold lifetimes worth of experience locked away, just waiting to be opened.
Dusty's a small boy, roughly 11 years of age, with a wiry frame and dishwater blond hair haphazardly chopped above his eyes. His head is typically bowed, and he rarely meets anyone's eyes; if you manage to capture a glimpse of his, you'll see they are a luminous blue. His manner is meek and quiet, but he maintains a wary attention to his surroundings. Dusty's clothes are a patchwork of incongruent items; the base of jeans and layers of dirty shirts has been repaired innumerable times with found objects. On his left shoulder is a patch of tin attatched with electrical wire, across his chest are several plastic lids stitched with yarn, he has vinyl duct material on one arm, and a thick layer of electrical tape hides the holes in his shoes. His scent envokes images of grimy workshops, metal works, and engine compartments.

There are pale scars scattered like stars over this woman's tanned arms. Her hair, grizzled and tarnished, seems to have a mind of its own despite an attempt to tame it with brush and water and leather thongs. It falls like a chain of iron from the nape of her neck to her waist, but leaves a halo of frizz around her head. Hazel eyes, set a little too close together for beauty, peer out over a twisted hawk-beak of a nose. Crow's feet dance around her eyes, and lines carve deeply into the flesh around her mouth and on her brow. Her clothes are utilitarian and unlovely, like her countenance. Browns and faded blues predominate the shapeless, sturdy garments that drape her limbs.

There is something about Josh that makes him look older than he actually is. The area around his eyes has a touch of darkness to them, made even more prominent by the sea-green pupils. His white-blond hair is starting to become unkempt, hanging to just below his ears on a smudges, though clean-shaven, face.%rHis clothes are rumpled, the bottom edges of his blue jeans and black sneakers showing more than the standard amount of road dust. The woven leather belt he wears is unraveled at the end, and a bit of white t-shirt is not tucked into the front of his pants. The white t-shirt is covered by a denim jacket, which is fading at the elbows. He carries a battered backpack over his left shoulder, and a crossbow hangs off of hsi belt on his right side, the left holding the bolt case.

A waifish young thing with large hazel eyes and rather stringy, dishwater hair. It's difficult to determine gender, but the short, tatty black skirt suggests a female. The rest of her clothes are mismatched, and not entirely appropriate to the weather.

She is a tall, willowy redhead with green eyes that curiously compliment her dark Mediterranean complexion. She has classically Near Eastern features.She speaks with a unplaceable accent - definately not the flat American accent, but otherwise unplaceable.She is wearing a long dark cotton dress with Indian embroidery.Copper jewelry colours her wrists.

Quintessentially a farm girl, Lumia is a short, stocky young woman in her mid twenties, with pale butter-colored hair braided back, a scattering of freckles across her nose, and tranquil good humor in her blue eyes. She tends to move slowly, speak slowly - with perhaps the faintest hint of generations-old Irish in her voice - grin often, and somehow seem unhurried even when she runs. She wears brown hemp overalls and a green cotton shirt and, at times, a battered straw hat to shade her pale skin from the sun.

A raven. Raven-sized, raven-colored.

Thin and lanky, almost gangly at her modest 5'5", Rahne has an almost childish quality to her form and features. Raggedly cut reddish-blonde hair hangs in stringy, unkempt and uneven locks about an impish face that hovers between youth and maturity. High cheekbones offset wide oval eyes of bright, unflinchingly pure emerald green and a frequent smile that adds to the rebellious look of her deeply tanned face.
Arms and legs that seem almost too long to go with her relatively short torso are accented by dark brown cut-off shorts and a raggedly cropped white t-shirt with a faded picture of kittens on its front. Her comparatively tiny feet are tucked into sandals of patterned canvas and velcro with worn black rubber soles. Inconsistant with this portrait of growing youth is the large, broad knife resting in a worn,tooled leather sheath at her side. A rope belt, threaded through the belt loops of her shorts four times, secures sheath and blade to her waist while a smaller leather strap pins the bottom to her right thigh. The leather bears the fading intricacies of celtic knotwork, a composition of light and dark growing dimmer with age. Around her neck, a thin gold chain dangles a small, heart-shaped pendant delicately between her collarbones.

This tall, lanky man's frame has been stripped down to the fundamentals of muscle, bone and sinew, and then shrouded in a swarthy skin of richest brown. His eyes possess a bottomless quality to them: a soulful depth that dances with shadows, twilight's penumbra. The rest of him -- dusty clothing; close-cropped, wiry, black hair; and rangy limbs -- becomes meaningless and forgotten. The black man's eyes serve as true windows to his soul.

The woman before you is nearly six feet tall, a massive but well-proportioned combination of soft, plump breasts and belly and rounded, muscular arms and legs. The roundness of her weathered brown face is sharpened by a slender hawk nose. Her dark eyes are attentive, compassionate, and just a bit mischievous; the wrinkled reminders of her laughter spread out from them like fertile river deltas. Deep smile lines bracket her wide mouth. She wears battered black moccasins, stretchy grey pants with grass stains at the knees, and a tunic-like black blouse with grey and white animals woven into the fabric. An oval locket of well-polished brass is pressed between her ample breasts. Her long, white-streaked cinnamon hair is braided with scraps of burgundy ribbon and loosely looped at the sides of her head; on her crown are small piles of braids reminiscent of rounded animal ears. She regards you with interest.


Main Street(#61R)
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

There is seated on an old water barrel, turned over. Close to one of the buildings, the young man sits, cross-legged, an open sketch pad in his lap. He eyes scan the street as he doodles idly on the pad.

Humming follows Rahne as she walks out of the library, glancing behind her at the less-than-ideal repository and holding a small book close to her chest with both arms. Looking down at the small thing, she opens its slightly faded cover and smiles at the words within.

Josh slumps, ever so slightly, as he looks down at something in his sketch pad. He almost stifles a frown, pushing white-blond hair back from his eyes. He flips the page, looking again for...something to occupy himself. The movement in front of the library catches him, and he smiles. He looks up, doing a quick tune by whistling.

The loud protest of the rig's airbreaks can be heard even at this distance, followed by a silent pause and then slow lub-dub of the engine's rev-up again. One of the rare long-haul hybrid vehicles that operate out here. -- A few minutes later the sillouette of a lone figure can be seen kicking up small puffs of dust with ever footstep. Rakkil, in due time, crests the ridge into town and moves onto the Main Street.

Rahne's head pops up from the pages at hand, eyes darting around before settling on the whistling's source. The smile on her face widens, and one hand abandons its hold on the book to wave cheerfully. The sounds in the distance turn her ear that way briefly, as she closes the book and turns her feet on a path towards Josh.

Josh waves back to Rahne, and is flipping to a new page in the pad as the noice sounds in the distance. The Kin unfolds his legs, dropping off the barrel with careful ease as Rahne approaches. "Hey," he beams towards the girl. "What's new?" As he asks the question, his eyes flicker in the direction of the earlier sounds, starting to focus on the silhouette.

Eos walks thoughtfully into town from the direction of the Farm. Her eyes are on the massive black clouds that are moving in rapidly, and the lightning forking among them.

Layla slowly winds her way over the uneven bricks in her older, battered motorcyle. The 'cycle is unusually quiet for its breed, but the keen-of-hearing note her approach from a distance. Behind the 'cycle is a small trailer.

Rahne tucks the book carefully into the hand still holding it and runs the other through her hair. "Not much, really. Borrowing a book from the library for a little while. How's things with you, mmm?" Her eyes glance upwards as they catch the flash of lightning, and her nose wrinkles slightly in response.

His clothes are quickly drenched with the summer storm's onslaught. The lightning provides periodic light enough to outline the dusky traveller's whipcord frame. Rakkil pauses just on 'that' side of the imaginary line that might seperate the township from 'no where particular'. He pulls off a floppy beige and sweatstained hat and scratches his head, allowing the rain to patter off his skull for just a second, before hurrying on to somewhere out of the elements.

Also looking up as the lightning flashes, and winces. "Right now," he says, getting slightly dejected, "I need a place to crash til the storm goes over. The lake...well, I took a shine to it," he continues with, looking sheepish. He moves over, motioning towards rahne to take a seat if she wants to.
Eos trots closer to Rahne and Josh as the first big drops catch up with Rakkil. "Come on, you two! Don't you know enough to get in out of the rain?" The galliard seems to be in good spirits, grinning broadly as she makes shooing motions at them.

Layla parks her 'cycle outside of the Post Office. Upon killing the engine, she dismounts, removes her helmet, and squints into the rain.

Rakkil repositions his hat atop his head, and his head pivots to allow him to stare at Eos for only the briefest of curious moments. Her suggestion is heeded, and he sets off in the gestured direction.

Rahne slings her backpack down and quickly stuffs the borrowed book into its depths, turning her head to grin at Eos and laugh. "Oh, I know, I know! I think the Diner looks like as good a place as any to escape a soaking." Resettling the pack onto her shoulders, she smiles to Josh and waves with one hand before heading towards the Diner. "Come on! I already had one bath today, I don't need another."

Eos continues her motion toward the Diner. "Good chow here, I hear," she comments cheerfully to Rakkil. "New in town?"

Josh chuckles softly, especially as the elder comes up to them. "All right, all right. I'll build the house another time," He responds with, turning as Eos addresses the new person. "And I can use a bite to eat."

You pull open the beautiful maple door. The small bell tied to the handle cracks against the wood, drowning out its own cheery jangle as you step inside.
Ursa Diner(#179RJ)
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."
Menu Board(#168)
Obvious exits:
Curtain Main Street Kitchen

Dusty nods. "I've heard the storms are even worse south,"

Eos steps into the diner.
Rakkil steps into the diner.
Rahne steps into the diner.

Dusty says "excuse me, sir..""

Dusty sits up and goes to a cubbord in the corner.

Sashenka looks up and steps back, surprised at having several people enter the diner at once.
"Hurricane season keeps the stormwatchers busy." Brett glances at the newcomers. "We've got to take the boats inland and---" He pauses, confused, not sure who the lady is addressing.

Josh steps into the diner.
Layla steps into the diner.

Eos runs a hand over her hair, grinning. "Goddess, I love rain. But I'm too old to sit out in it now."

Josh scans the menu.

Sashenka recovers and strolls toward the group, eyes widening as two more people follow. "Hello, I'm Sashenka. Can I help you?"

Dusty gets some towels from the cubboard and takes them to the new customers. "Um, excuse me, but would you folks like any towels? Its awful rainy out there..."

Eos scans the menu.

Layla shakes the rain out of her long red hair.

Josh looks outside, after he follows the others inside. He whistles, curious. "Wonder if it's hurricane season, again," he says, half-aloud. At Dusty's question, he shakes his head. "Maybe the others, but I'll manage."

Rahne shakes her dampened hair as she comes in and giggles happily. Hearing offer of a towel, she raises a hand and waves it enthusiastically. "I'd love one, thanks!"

Eos cheerfully borrows a towel. "Lovely, lovely. I'd love some vichyssoise and birch beer, if I could. Looks like the rain is giving you some customers." She returns the towel to Dusty after a cursory pat over her arms, face, and hair.

Sashenka grins. "It's been pretty quite since I got here. It's a pleasure to see such a crowd." She gestures toward the refrigerator. "The birch beer is in brown bottles; help yourself. Can I get anything for you folks while I'm in the kitchen?"

Rahne scans the menu.

Josh is heading towards the fridge, the idea of birch beer sounding all too good. As the question, he turns to Sashenka, again sheeping and quiet. "Um...the journeycake? Is there any left?"

Layla scans the menu.

Dusty says "The journeycake is my favorite."

Rakkil's brown eyes widen at the assault of sensations: the bakery scents, the conversations, the colors of the fresh paint. Once inside, his floppy hat is again removed and shoved into a pocket. He answers Sashenka's invitation while drying himself with one of Dusty's towels. "Hello," a pregnant pause while he scans over the menu. He catches himself staring at it, again, and returns to the diner's owner, blinking, "Thank you. Hello. -- You were recommended." His accent is noticable, but not debilitatingly intrusive.

Sashenka nods. "Everything's ready but the clam fritters, but I can have those ready in a flash."

Brett sets his knife and fork down, watching the newcomers get settled. Weaving his fingers together, he leans forward and rests his chin upon them, steadying his gaze.

Sashenka's dark eyes flash to Rakkil. "Recommended? That's wonderful. By who, if I may ask?"

Rahne scrubs her face with a towel and smiles happily, draping it over her hair and heading for the fridge, too. "Mmm, birch beer. I'm thirsty after looking at books."

Dusty giggles about the recommendation. "This is the only place to get food in town."

Layla moves towards the birch beer. She asks, with a winning smile, "May I have Journeycakes, too?"

Sashenka nods. "A vichyssoise and two journeycakes. Anything else?"

Josh looks down to the ground, saying "Yes please," to the propriotress. He takes a birch for himself, and chuckles at Dusty as well. "That good?"

One gangly arm rises from the side of the black man's body as Rakkil gestures towards Eos, "A fortuitious stranger."

Dusty says "Oh, yes. Sashenka lets me have as many as I like, but I pay for them by working on the patio.""

"Mmmm, fritters. I may have to try those too." Eos chooses one of the brown bottles and picks a chair at the table. She hangs her small rucksack off its back before sitting down. A quick bow toward Rakkil: "Actually, the folks up at the Farm suggested I give it a try, and recommended your food highly. I just passed it along."

Sashenka looks over at Eos, trying to recall if she's seen her before.

Brett counts the people in the room, eyes resting on them for a moment before moving to the next. "Seven and one," he murmurs, digging into a fritter. "Could be felicitious; could be in felicitous. Definately interesting."

Rakkil, now corrected, flashes a brilliant white-toothed smile at the proprietor. "I stand corrected." He nods his graditude to Eos, nonetheless.

Sashenka nods, satisfied. "That's lovely. Okay, I have a vicyssoise, two journeycakes, and two orders of clam fritters... Anything else?"

Josh pops open the top, sitting on one of the stools at the counter. He leans his back against the counter quietly, content to watch the people around him.

Rahne snags herself a bottle, smiling at Josh and rubbing the towel over her hair roughly. A table by the windows is claimed, and her pack slung at her feet as she plops down to sit. "I'm fine with this, thanks!"

Sashenka looks around at everyone, nods, and sways into the kitchen.
Sashenka steps around the counter and enters the kitchen.

Eos looks over at Brett. "You were talking about hurricanes when we came in, weren't you? Know anything about the hurricane season this year?'

Dusty gathers up discarded towels and dumps them behind the curtain.

Sashenka walks in from the kitchen.

Brett smiles. "Up in this part of the world, not really. Down south is another matter entirely. Though something tells me this year will be a little rougher than most." He taps his nose. "Nothing scientific, just the smell of the air."

Layla settles down at the large communial table. She props her head up on her hand, obviously tired, and opens her beer.

Rakkil, now that the initial flurry of activity of their arrival has subsided, and he has mopped some of the water from his frame, moves over to the refrigerator to retrive the recommended brew of the area. He clambers atop on of the barstools, and perches, content to just hang on to the bottle for the moment, leaving it unopened.

Sashenka reenters with a tray packed with loaded plates of food, and sets it down at the largest table. It includes an extra plate of jorneycake for Dusty. She sets a handfull of napkin-wrapped silverware bundles next to the tray.

Rahne has disconnected.

Dusty looks at the tray and, after careful counting, grabs the extra plate of Journeycake.

Josh gets up from his stool, meandering voer to the table laden with food. "Thanks, ma'am," he says, finding his own cake. He takes the food, standing by the others, listening.

Eos nods. "Yah, the sailors I came up the coast with said much the same thing, though it was a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd ask another old salt." She pops open her bottle and swigs like a pro.

Brett chuckles. "Glad to add another opinion to the pot."

Layla, without leaving her seat, reaches over the table for a journeycake.

Sashenka says "Can I get anyone anything else?"

Layla bites into her Journeycake. "Oh, these are dreamy," she says, with obvious relish.

Brett shakes his head. "No, thank you. The fritters were wonderful." He cleans off the edges of his mouth. "Though I was wondering if there was an inn around here..."

Rakkil opens the bottle of beer after a moment. It is curiosity that plays with the man's nose as he sniffs tenatively at the liquid inside. A frown, and he tips the bottle back to take a pull. When finished, he contemplates the bottle and repeats the procedure.

Sashenka lowers her eyes at the compliment. "Thanks." She looks up at Brett's question. "Not really, far as I know." She gestures toward the curtained door. "I keep a few cots back there for folks with nowhere else to stay. You're welcome to one."

The door opens and an elderly man, one of the locals, dressed in an old fedora and rain poncho, shuffles in. He raises his hat to Sashenka, walks over to a tray of muffins, meticulously removes two, drops a handful of coins in the box, and moves toward the door. Just before opening the door, he stops as if he's forgotten something and turns to Sashenka. "Yanni at the Farm says she'll be stoppin' by with a basket o' eggs when she comes in tomorra. If ya want anythin' else, you'll hafta ketch her." With that, he ducks his head to her briefly and departs.

Sashenka nods to the old man as he departs.

Josh shakes his head as Brett asks his question, and is about to answer when the old man enters, and leaves just as quickly. His eyes follow the man with a curious look.

Brett watches the advent of the fedora-wearing man with rapt fascination. Almost childlike glee, in fact. After he departs, Brett says to Sashenka, "Arigat--um, Thank you. I'm much obliged."

Dusty says "What are ya going to make with the eggs this time, Sasha?""

Sashenka nods to Brett. "I'm here to help." She sounds like she's said this many, many times. She looks down at Dusty's question, and her eyes light up as if she's playing a game she enjoys. "Well, I got that salmon I smoked last week, and a pile of sunchokes. How 'bout sunchoke-salmon hash with poached eggs on top?"

Rakkil forms a question of a single word, "Sunchokes?"

Layla sits up alertly at the mention of food.

Dusty grins. "Everything you make is super. But that sounds better than super."

Brett glances at Dusty. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, perhaps?"

Dusty smiles shyly. "yeah..."

Eos eats with practiced concentration, savoring every bite, every spoonful, every sip. Like someone who is used to being close to death all the time.

Josh hides his smile behind a bite of journeycake.

Sashenka smiles at Rakkil's question. "It's a tuber, a little like a potato. I use 'em in a lot of the same places. Some call 'em Jeruslame artichokes. They grow like crazy around here." She looks fondly at Dusty. "Well, that's what we'll have then, kiddo."

Rakkil's vivid expression twists in a way that suggests he's written a mental note and tucked it away for safekeeping. "I see. And you serve it with fish?"

Sashenka takes a long look at Rakkil. "Yes, sometimes. The vichyssoise is made from them too. I have a book with a picture of the plant they're from, if you'd like to see it. Teh flower looks something like a sunflower -- that's why "sunchoke.""

Layla pipes up, "I would like to see a picture."

"Perhaps I will taste them, first. Before I look at them. -- With some of this fish you speak of," Rakkil answers.

Sashenka looks around at the crowd, her expression joyous. "I won't have any of the hash until tomorrow. But I can get you some vichyssoise. I'll bring some with the book." She bustles back into the kitchen.

Sashenka steps around the counter and enters the kitchen.

Josh finishes off his small meal. As the discussiosn turns to plants and cooking, the Kin himself turns towards the window, watching the rain come down in torrents.

Brett neatens up his small eating area. He slips his hand into his coat and rummages around. "Ah," he breathes. "Here you are." A small notebook of some sort--weatherbeaten, stained, yet still usuable--slips from his coat's confines along with a battered pencil. Resting it on the table, he flips through the brown pages, and finds a blank one.

Sashenka walks in from the kitchen.

Rakkil did not really expect this answer, but fails to complain, at the moment. Polite silence settles over the dark man, as he chokes down the last of his beer.

Sashenka returns with a tattered brown book and a small bowl of soup.

Layla sits up at full attention.

Sashenka sets the bowl down before Rakkil and opens the book. The picture, hand drawn and carefully colored, shows a sunflower with a dark center. A size scale next to it indicates the stalk is about six feet tall.

Layla asks, "And the root is the ediable part?"

Brett closes his eyes for a moment. His features slacken, the shadows around his face deepening for a brief second. When his eyes snap open, his eyes fall on the young lady at the window table. Slowly, almost haltingly, he begins to sketch.

Sashenka nods to Layla. "The seeds are, too, but you'd be lucky to get any before the birds get 'em."

Rakkil fluidly hooks his feet under the barstool for balance and picks up the book with both hands, studying it with an intense gaze for about ten seconds. He returns it to its place on the counter. "Thank you. You say they are in this soup, as well?" Eyes go to the bowl, and then back to the woman, at an appropriate moment not to interrupt her conversation with Layla.

Sashenka smiles, nodding, and pushes her white-streaked hair behind her ears. "Yes. You can cook them like potatoes or eat them raw. They're sweeter than potatoes, though."

Dusty says "Sasha knows everything about the plants around here. She's amazing."

Layla eyes Sasha with renewed interest.

Sashenka chuckles, embarrassed, but doesn't deny it.

Dusty relaxes visibly, feeling comfortable with the collection of strangers. "So, where are you all from?"

Layla, with a small smile, shakes her head sadly. "All over."

Rakkil fills his mouth with a spoonful of the concoction within the bowl, bending over the bar to do so.

Layla glances at the window, and notices that the rain is letting up.

Brett lightly blows at the now completed sketch in his book, whisking away any stray grains of graphite.

Josh sees, out of the corner of his eye, someone who carries a similiar pasttime that he does. Placing the plate gently back on the tray, he ambles around the table to peek over brett's shoulder, curious as all get out.

Brett smiles softly as Josh appears at his shoulder. "It's still very rough. I'm quite out of practice."

A thread of song enters your consciousness, a wordless chant in a breathtakingly beautiful melody. It is the voice of a fairytale princess, a chorus of rare birds, a beloved murmuring endearments, an old woman chanting down the sun. It draws, it promises, it enchants you even though it is but a half-heard fragment of melody. It calls you out to hear more, towards the mountain in the North.

Dusty looks at Layla and smiles, "I was too... but now I'm from here."

Josh chuckles, bending down at the knees. "Nah. I like it-" he says, then stops cold. He cocks his head to the side, as if listening to something.

Sashenka, who had stood up to go to the fridge, pauses, cocking her head as if to listen to something.

Dusty looks up and confused.

Brett's hand suddenly jerks onto the next page and, of it's own volition, begins sketching a mountain. "Ah...," he says, watching his hand work. "Thought I'd forgotten this, too..."

Dusty whispers to Sasha "did you hear anything?"

Sashenka steps toward the door, looking simultaneously enchanted and perplexed. She looks back at Dusty's small voice, and answers quietly, "Yes."

When no one answers, immediately, or particularly directly, Rakkil takes the moment to do so, himself. But there is a pause in the introduction. He takes up a cloth to wipe his face, and asks Sashenka. "What does it cost, Missus?" A beat, "I had one of the birch beer and the bowl of soup."

If Josh has heard anything Brett has said, he doesn't show a reaction. His own actions are strange, as he pulls out, almost mechanically, a sketchpad of his own, and flies to a new clean page. His eyes glaze over, staring at the page as his hand moves of its own volition. After a few seconds, a sketch of a mountain appears on Josh's pad.

Sashenka blinks slowly at Rakkil, as if disturbed from a dream. "Ummm.... Whatever you feel like. It goes in there." She points at the cardboard box and turns back toward the door.

Dusty walks to a nearby window and looks outside, scanning for something.

Layla slips out of her chair and places a couple of crumpled bills into the basket. She moves closer to the door, taking care to to obscure anyone else's vision.

Eos jerks her head up sharply, looking north. Her eyes track back and forth sightlessly, as though she's trying to remember something.

Sashenka steps forward and opens the door. She turns her head slowly to look over her shoulder at the roomful of people. "Excuse me...." She steps outside.

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

Brett closes his own sketchbook and tucks it into his coat. "Well, can't ignore that, now can I?" he says to no one in particular. He rises and crosses to the cardbord box. Reaching into his pocket, he withdraws several items; a series of coins, some bills, and a small pocket knife. He deposits them inside the box, then hefts his bag over his shoulder.

Rakkil acknowledges the woman with a sharp dip of his chin, "Thank you." There is the clatter of coins and rustle of small bills as Rakkil deposits what he feels is fair, before heading outside into the humid post-storm afternoon.

Layla slips outside.

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

Brett spins on his heel, facing everyone in the room as he backs out the door. "Be seeing you," he says and salutes with an 'OK' sign of all things. "Very soon indeed."

Eos shuffles some stones and bits of metal out of her pocket and drops them into the box on her way outside.

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

Dusty slips behind the curtain and returns with a poncho over his small frame. "um, excuse me..."

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

Josh comes out of the Ursa Diner and steps onto Main Street.

Dusty comes out of the Ursa Diner and steps onto Main Street.

Dusty says "Sasha, which way do we go?"

Sashenka looks northward. "That way," she says softly, and puts a hand on Dusty's shoulder.

Brett slips his backpack on, tightening the straps. "Yes," he says, voice low. "Time to play the tones and see if anyone arrives..."

Rakkil's long legs have already begun 'eating' up the ground, north.

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

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

The song is louder out here, a fine beckoning melody from the North. The sky itself seems to be singing, and although now you can hear words to the song, it is impossible to characterize the voice, which is young and old and male and female and human and bird and a thousand other voices. Still, it seems to you that the song is calling, north, north, north.

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

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

Josh comes outside, moving to Eos' side. "Milady," he asks, tone going totally deferrent. "Any ideas?"

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

Eos looks over at Josh. "Not a one," she replies thoughtfully. "Except it's impolite to refuse an invitation, isn't it?" With a smile and a pat on Josh's shoulder, she moves north, after the others.
You leave the bulk of the town behind, moving north on Katahdin Road.

Katahdin Road
Like most of the roads in the area, this one is comprised of flat space and some asphalted gravel. The lowlands are taking back their own space: trees, shrubs, and weeds are dutifully cracking what little pavement there is left. Unlike the road south of town, this by-way is nearly unused and thus, is nearly unusable. Certainly an automobile would never make it through here, although a horsecart might -- and evidently has, to judge by the ruts. Some homesteads and small farms lurk along this road, hiding in the shadows of the forests. Ancient shacks, part of some long-gone resort or campground, huddle here and there under the assault of nature. Just visible through the trees to the west is the vast Lake Millinockett, a vista that opens up at the northernmost extreme of the road, where a dilapidated bridge crosses the Mud River just below its emergence from the lake.
On the far side of the bridge, the road peters out into a dirt trail, the pavement vanishing at last.
Obvious exits:
Katahdin Trail LAke Main Street

You cross the bridge and pass into the wilder areas, following a dirt trail.

Katahdin Trail
This trail, which varies from a narrow, nearly invisible, dirt track to a broad, flat space with detectable fragments of asphalt underfoot, rambles generally northward and upward for several miles. Through each break in the trees, the massif of Katahdin looms closer. The trees thicken, sightings of moose, deer, and other wildlife become more frequent, and signs of human habitation grow scarce. Occasionally, there are signs of a hermitage or homestead well off the trail, and the ruts in the track betray the occasional trip to town for market day.
To the South, the trail winds its way towards Katahdin Road, and to the North it becomes more and more uninhabited.
Obvious exits:
North Trail KAtahdin Road

Brett pauses, bending down and running his fingers along the broken asphalt. "And so the arrow flies..." Rising, he heads through the trail.

Fork in the Road(#204RJh)
You reach a fork in the road. There is nothing here of note, no landmarks or features -- not even a clearing -- that would suggest that this is a better or more logical place than any other for the path to split, yet split it does. The trees that march off into the close underbrush on all sides are the same trees you've been passing among for the last few miles, and they look to continue for at least the next mile or two, no matter which path you take from here.
Someone has set waystones roughly the size of breadloaves a few feet along each path. One of the three has two wavy lines painted on it, one has a pictogram of a house, and the third has an irregular outline almost certainly meant to represent the profile of a mountain. There's nothing to say that some joker hasn't switched the stones onto the wrong paths, though.
Obvious exits:
Northwest Fork Further North South Trail

Sashenka glances up at the raven perched overhead.

Niska glides lazily from one branch to another.

Brett pauses at the waystones, running his hand accross the one with wavy lines, as if memorizing the texture.

Sashenka looks down and heads north again.

Layla rounds a bend to the north and is lost from sight.

Niska gronks.
Niska rounds a bend to the north and is lost from sight.

Dusty looks after the raven, wondering if perhaps it knows something...

Brett laughs and says, "No bust of Pallas here, neh, Tengu-san?" He heads northwards.

Dusty rounds a bend to the north and is lost from sight.

You make your way through the thick of the forest. The trail at times seems little better than an animal track, but the occasional piece of broken asphalt still distinguishes the old road from the deer paths.

Roaring Brook(#87RJh)
The sound of water is everywhere here -- not the musical laughter one generally expects from brooks, but a constant white-noise roar that one more typically associates with waterfalls or large crowds.
The forest is opened here by a series of clearings of various sizes; underbrush has claimed most of them, with young trees and the forest proper not far behind. No one makes a home here now, but it's clear that people once did, as the collapsed hulks of clapboard huts poke their chimney bones up through matted creepers, and a curiously sparse meadow is in fact growing through a jigsaw of old tarmac. A roofless log building has fared better than the huts, its thick walls still chinked and stout-looking, but the blank holes of its windows and doors make it look eerily out-of-place amongst the ruins, like something that should have died long ago, but refused. Overall, the noise of the brook is jarringly loud and alive in this dead place.
To the northwest, a reassuringly new-looking plank bridge crosses the brook well above the high water line. Due west, a broadly beaten path strikes out uphill beside the brook's rocky bed. The trail toward town disappears into the trees to the south.
Obvious exits:
Over the Bridge South Trail Along the Brook

Brett emerges from the forest to the south.

Sashenka blinks and looks around her at the dead huts. She turns and takes a few steps back toward Dusty.

Dusty says "What is this place?"

Rakkil emerges from the forest to the south.

Niska gives three sharp croaks and swoops across a clearing to perch on the log building.

Sashenka shakes her head. "I don't...." she stops midsentence when the raven arrives.

Niska croaks, "Ut iss iss glace ?"

Josh emerges from the forest to the south.

Niska walks along the top of the wall, her strong black claws biting into the wood.

Brett closes his eyes, listening to the white noise symphny. A raven croak turns his head and he smiles. "Quoth the raven, 'What is this place?'"

The song is still louder, beckoning goldenly, calling irresistibly. It is like a chorus of bells, the wind in the treetops, no recognizable melody yet reminding you of all the beloved voices you have known.

Sashenka follows the raven with her bright, dark eyes.

Josh slows as he approaches the brook. "No clue."

Niska cackles. It's a not-unfriendly sound.

Niska croaks again, and takes off in a flurry of feathers. You can't hear it over the roar of the brook.
Niska crosses the Roaring and is lost in the trees.

Rakkil's pace increases. Longer strides carrying his gaunt frame at an even swifter pace. There is a sense of overwhelming curiosity in him, that caution has unleashed and let run free.

Rakkil crosses the Roaring and is lost in the trees.

Brett glances around. "Well," he says to himself in a low voice. "No lost college students. Good sign there." His eyes follow the raven and a smile cracks his face.

Brett crosses the Roaring and is lost in the trees.

Sashenka sets off over the bridge.

Layla follows.

Dusty crosses the Roaring and is lost in the trees.

To the West now, the song is beckoning you. It holds a promise of endless summer days, warm arms encircling you, running swift in the moonlight.

The first mile or so of this trail follows the Roaring Brook itself, and you quickly discover that its roar is largely due to the steep incline of its rocky bed. You are climbing into the lap of the mountain, and when you finally leave the Roaring behind, the boulder-strewn path through the trees only gets steeper.

Chimney Pond(#99RJh)
The massif of Katahdin to some suggests a great arc, like the curve of an embrace. It is fitting, then, that clutched to the mountain's heart is the jewel that is the Great Basin. After the long climb over the mountain's knees, or the path picked cautiously down its face, the Basin is an oasis of rest and rejuvenation. Thick grass and pine needles are gentle on feet grown used to gripping stone, and the ground which elsewhere presents itself at a variety of uncomfortable angles is here relaxed to the mildest of undulations. Sweet water runs in a handful of streams, and pools in the clear, pebbled depths of Chimney Pond itself. The Basin and the Pond are half a mile high, and the plants that grow here are suited to a more alpine environment -- quite different from the ones that grow further down the mountain, or in the forest or town. Their alienness lends the area a certain fey character; it is a land apart.
Several paths -- many animal, some clearly human-made -- meander through the area. A few of the more permanent-looking ones are marked with discreet wooden signposts, one of which has recently had an old shingle nailed beneath it, upon which someone has scrawled in wax crayon: "!! GROUND WASPS ---> !!"
Obvious exits:
Keep Ridge SAddle Trail Water Meadows Steep Trail Roaring Brook

Missed a little bit here... Niska is eating a blackbird. Apparently, Dusty was interested in it.

Niska eyes Dusty, wondering if he wants it.

Sashenka heels around toward the west, a steamship of a woman, and crosses the wetland.

Josh is walking with the others, making sure the others are all in sight.

Sashenka has arrived.

Dusty looks for the blackbird with the raven.

Niska blinks at Dusty and croaks. She still has the blackbird.

Brett pauses and examines the trails, touching his hand to the moist loam each time. "Ground wasps?" he says, reading the sign. "Well, thank you for the warning."

Niska makes an ominous buzzing sound, not unlike a swarm of wasps.

Sashenka pauses, reaches into the grass, and removes a small white flower. She tucks it behind her ear and looks around, a little dazed.

Dusty wearily sits down on the ground and takes out a flask of water. He downs a drink and looks about.

Niska swoops to a stone a few feet from Sashenka and stares at her ear. The bird cocks its head, as though looking for a better angle.

Brett settles by the brook, tilting his head at odd angles as if catching the wind in his ears. "Joseph would be disappointed. We're supposed to refuse the call at first..."

Sashenka eyes the bird, then retrieves the flower from her cinnamon-colored hair and holds it out for the bird to see. "It's only a starflower, Friend Raven."

Niska stares at Brett. "Hhhuze kkall ?"

Rakkil circles back to rejoin the others. "Refuse?" -- "What do you mean?"

Niskais distracted by the flower. She walks closer and eyes it suspiciously.

Sashenka turns the flower slowly before the raven's black button eye.

Dusty stares at the raven. "Can you understand us, raven?"

Brett smiles, "A long time ago, a scholar sat down and studied stories of epic journies, looking for their common roots. He said that, in most epic tales, the protagonist recieves a 'call to adventure' but refuses it at first..."

Niska seems to have decided the flower is uninteresting. She clacks her great black beak once and flies back to pick at her blackbird. If she heard Dusty, she gives no sign.

Josh leans against a tree, musing. "Is this the first call? I mean, we didn't end up here at random, I'm thinking."

"You believe this it the beginning of an adventure?" the African retorts with lyrical congeniality.

Sashenka cocks her head toward Brett. "And how many times are you supposed to go through this process before you just give up and start going?" She tucks the flower back in her hair.

Dusty says "I should have packed better if we are adventuring..."

Brett reaches into his pocket and withdraws a strip of beef jerkey. "It's certainly the beginning of something. Why not an adventure?" He chews on the strip. "You're supposed to refuse the call because you're still tied to your old life. Then the ties are severed and you're free to follow the call. The classic refusal is still, in my opinion. 'Alderan? I can't go to Alderan. Uncle Owen needs my help with the harvest...'"

Niska abruptly cackles.

Sashenka shakes her head. "My old life is pretty well behind me already..." She looks up at the bird's sudden noise.

Brett's eyes glimmer as the raven cackles. A smile sneaks its way accross his face.

Niska nonchalantly pulls feathers out of her blackbird.

The song slows, becomes more gentle and careful, with a strong rhythmic, rocking component. Come, come, come, it calls, come to me, beloved, beloved, beloved... The song is definitely coming from the direction of the Steep Trail.

Niska squawks and leaves her toy/lunch.

Niska flaps up the steep and rocky trail.

Layla hefts her shoulder bag and follows.

Brett finishes his snack. "Time to go." Dusting off his hands, he makes his way along the difficult trail.

Sashenka picks another starflower, holds it up to her nose, and sets off after the crow.

Lala sets to clambering up the steep and rocky trail.

Brett sets to clambering up the steep and rocky trail.

Sashenka sets to clambering up the steep and rocky trail.

Rakkil obviously misses Brett's reference, and with the subsequent humor that explodes from the others, he is set on gaurd. A flinch, and his eyes narrow critically. This time he does hesitate, "What do you think it is?"

Dusty bounces up and off.

You scramble, climb, and otherwise clamber up the steep, gravelled trail, knocking loose a number of small stones as you go.

Steep Trail
This narrow, gravel-strewn track twists and winds up toward the highest peak of the mountain at an angle that is painful to contemplate. The woods that carpet the mountainside are heavy, gloomy conifers, and so the trail is also thick with pine needles, making it more slippery than just the gravel could account for. The pines and firs leave the air full of their sharp tang no matter what the weather is like.
Obvious exits:
Chimney Pond Terrace

Lumia follows a path around the edge of the pond, making for a steep, gravel trail.

Rakkil follows a path around the edge of the pond, making for a steep, gravel trail.

Niska is standing on the ground up ahead. She's picking up pieces of gravel in her beak and dropping them to see how far they roll.

Rakkil quickly catches up with the group, now pensively silent as he trails behind a few yards distance. In stops and starts, he takes in the evirons, the view from the mountain, and then sprints forward to catch up.

Sashenka breathes in the piney air with relish, picks up a pine cone, and starts extracting the nuts.

Lumia lopes up the trail at a deceptive, ground-eating pace, hardly out of breath yet moving fast enough to seem to blur for a moment as she yanks herself to a halt. Her eyes skip and jump from person to person and tree to tree, trying to take in more than the eye can easily hold.

Niska says "Kkall! Kkall! Kkall!"

Josh frowns a little as he clambers up the steep trail. "They blew up Aldreaan, you know."

Niska cackles again.

Sashenka pauses, her fingers sticky with pine tar. "Where is Alderan? I've never heard of it."

Brett smiles and says to Brett. "I know." He pauses. "Alderan is a planet in a very old story. It was destroyed by the villans of the piece as a demonstration."

Niska starts a mini-landslide, and leaps into the air with a squawk.

Sashenka licks her sticky fingers. "Oh, I see." She looks up at the raven's landslide.

Niska, now perched on a handy branch, peers down at the steep trail and makes a distinct raspberry sound.

Dusty murmurs, "What is with that bird?"

Niska says "hhird, hhird."

Eos peers at the raven a touch myopically. "More to that bird than meets the eye, methinks."

Rakkil shares Dusty's skepticism with a delicate gesture, now looking back at the trail they have just climbed.

Brett collects a few pine needles together, weaving them into a very loose fan. "True," is all he adds to Eos' comment.

Niska chuckles and rubs the side of her beak on the branch.

Sashenka drops the pine cone, muttering "MUCH better roasted" under her breath.

Josh hehs, getting his bearings. "Speaking of which," he says, after Eos' comment about the raven. "I mean, I doubt just anyone can hear this song..."

Sashenka glances at Josh, raising a questioning eyebrow. "Mmmm?"

Dusty walks over to Lumia. "Hi, Lumia, did you hear the song too?"

Josh steps towards the trail. "Well, ma'am, I came up here in the first place, to the area I'm meanin', because of a few visions I had. I'm Kin, of the Dancers.'

Lumia's attention settles solidly on Dusty. "Yes." Her eyes slip over Dusty's shoulder to find Sashenka, and then return to the young man. "Strangers, too."

Niska gargles, "SsonggK!", and raps on the branch with her beak. A couple of needles drift down, to land in Lumia's hair.

The song changes, speeding up a little, calling more and more urgently. Come quickly, come quickly, it calls, begging in tones like the sky after a rainstorm. It is unmistakably coming from the Terrace.

Dusty scans the many strangers in this meadow. "Yes. We had a record crowd in the diner, and we all seemed to hear it..."

Layla scrambles upslope toward a promising flat area.

Sashenka's eyes follow Josh. "Pleased to meet you. I'm of the Mkonikan family." She pauses, seeming momentarily lost. "Umm, Nitakk-ita, from Solar, Connecticut."

Brett brushes pine needles from his coat and walks towards the terrace, focused on the song...

Josh blinks, once, as Sashenka announces her bloodline. "Nice to meet you, ma'am," he says, then hears the song. "And that's our cue," he says, heading off.

Josh scrambles upslope toward a promising flat area.

Sashenka's attention drifts away. "There it is again."

Niska cocks her head, peering after Layla and Brett.

Rakkil hangs back, taking his cue from the others, now. His earlier curiosity seems to have been overrun by some good sense.

Sashenka scrambles upslope toward a promising flat area.

Rakkil scrambles upslope toward a promising flat area.

Niska flies upslope toward a promising flat area.

You struggle upslope and abruptly reach a flat bit.

The trail peters out onto this apparently flat space set in the mountainside. Pine, fir, and other coniferous trees crowd in on all sides, interspersed with occasional groves of brighter maples, oaks, and ashes. A thin, nearly invisible tracery of animal trails entwine the tree trunks.
Obvious exits:
Animal Trail Steep Trail

Lumia struggles up the steep slope from the South Basin to the thankfully flat area of the Terrace.

Lala struggles up the steep slope from the South Basin to the thankfully flat area of the Terrace.

Brett stretches his arms, taking a deep breath. "Mmm. Firs. Always loved the smell of fir trees..."

Dusty struggles up the steep slope from the South Basin to the thankfully flat area of the Terrace.

Niska seems restless. She flies off into the trees, only to reappear a few minutes later.

Dusty once again removes his flask from his pouch and taks a drink. He says softly, "Anyone else want some water?"

Sashenka stops, breathless, next to Lumia. "You missed the party. All these people were at the Diner. At once." She grins.

Josh shrugs it off, but does accept Dusty's offer with a quiet smile. "Well, it started to rain..."

Eos is panting a little as she gets up the trail. "Out of... shape," she mutters to herself. "Gotta... start... runnin' aroun' again." The call of water attracts her attention. "You're... an... entirely sensible... young man," she tells Dusty, and extends her hand hopefully for the flask.

Gentle rain alleviates the summer's heat.
It is windy, and blowing from the north.

Niska makes a sound uncannily like a cash register ka-ching.

Sashenka accepts a drink from Dusty. "Thanks, kiddo. Needed that."

Brett shakes his head. "I'm fine, thank you." He pulls a flask of his own from his backpack. "I can share with anyone who needs a sip."

Lumia grins at Sashenka, then holds her hand out to Brett with raised eyebrows, not sure if the offer extends to strangers. "Yes?" As an afterthought, she says "Lumia," apparently referring to herself.

Dusty grins shlyly from all of the attention. "oh... I just like to help..."

Sashenka chuckles. "Yes. I actually needed the big table."

Brett places the flask in Lumia's hand. "Please. Help yourself."

Rakkil licks his lips as he crouches down to the ground. Long legs fold double, and he balances on his ankles. Studious, alert. The pose combines the keen excitement of Brett's adventure with the painful truth of Caution's wisdom.

Niska flies up to the top of a nearby conifer, out of sight.

Brett watches Rakkil for a moment, noting his pose and demenor. The flutter of raven wings catches his attention and he gazes upwards, watching their winged companion sail higher.

Lumia gives Sashenka an appreciatively big-eyed look before she takes a long sip of water. "Thank you," she tells Brett as she hands the flask back. She looks around, eyes light with pleasure and anticipation. "Been waiting," she confides.

Brett seals the flask and returns it to his pack. "For us?" he asks Lumia. "Or for the song?"

"For something," Lumia says, contentedly.

Rakkil doesn't so much rise as unfold. The cock of his head is just enough to facilitate eavesdropping on the exchange between Lumia and Brett, without positioning himself firmly within the conversation proper.

Sashenka nods in complete agreement with Lumia.

"You've found it." Brett leans against a tree and gazes out into the forest. "I've been looking, myself."

Several melodies, none of them the kind that will stay in the memory any longer than a dream, twine together in a rhythmic and urgent call. This way, come come come, they are calling, in a voice that changes from moment to moment but is always sweet as honey. The song rings from the Animal Trail.

Layla picks a trail, seemingly at random, and moves into the thick trees.

Lala picks a trail, seemingly at random, and moves into the thick trees.

Josh picks a trail, seemingly at random, and moves into the thick trees.

Sashenka smiles as the song comes again, and follows without question.

Dusty picks a trail, seemingly at random, and moves into the thick trees.

The trail peters out onto this apparently flat space set in the mountainside. Pine, fir, and other coniferous trees crowd in on all sides, interspersed with occasional groves of brighter maples, oaks, and ashes. A thin, nearly invisible tracery of animal trails entwine the tree trunks.
Obvious exits:
Animal Trail Steep Trail

You choose the clearest track and follow it into the woods.

The gloomy forest suddenly springs into a high-roofed, echoing cavern lined with massive, old-growth pillars. Although these trees are constantly swaying in the wind of the mountainside, very little breeze slips through them to touch the grasses and other undergrowth on the floor here. The branches sing constantly, sometimes louder, sometimes softer, but the sound of the wind rings through the vast space here at all times; it drowns out all but the sharpest noises or firmest voices. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the sense of silence in this place is profound.
The canopy, so thick that the sky is nearly invisible, stoops down into the mountainside as the southern end of the tree-lined cavern starts to reach up for the peak again. This shadowy niche seems deeper at a second glance than an inpenetrable wood might otherwise suggest.
Obvious exits:
NAve Animal Trail

Brett enters from the terrace area.

Lumia enters from the terrace area.

Niska enters from the terrace area.

Niska chitters to herself, sounding vaguely uncertain as she regards the cavern with one glittering eye.

Brett watches motes of sunlight play accross his hands as they peek through the tightly woven canopy. "Who needs stained glass," he murmurs.

Eos gapes upward at the trees for a long moment before saying, in a rather small voice, "Ye gods."
Niska clacks her beak, perhaps in agreement.

Rakkil's last footstep falls just short of the entrance to the uncanny cathedral in the woods. Unable to stop it, a lip rises into a snarl to reveal -- in a flash -- two canine teeth.

Sashenka walks slowly over to one of the largest trees and leans her bulk against it, settling in like a child snuggling up to her mother. She sighs contentedly.

Josh looks up from the trail as those in front of him stop. His just just flat-out drops in astonishment. "Holy-" he starts, then clamps his mouth shut, embarassed to profane a place like this."

Dusty tiptoes forward, as if sound would be an affront to such a place. He looks about himself in awe.

Brett glances over to Eos. "Goddess. Technically." He flashes a quick smile and walks around the natural cathedral. He pauses at one of the larger trees and rests his hand upon it, closing his eyes and turning his head, as if trying to percieve with something other than his normal senses.

Niska flaps to a branch -- one of the lower ones, out of the wind. She peers for a moment at Rakkil, then begins combing her beak through her glossy feathers.

Wide eyed, Lumia slips between the trees and, finding herself in the cathedral-like vault, stop still and closes her eyes, then opens them again. "Never seen this," she whispers. She sets one hand lightly on a tree trunk at her side, and cannot stop looking. To Josh, she nods, as though she thinks his aborted oath was a simple statement of fact.

The Raven's attention is met by an equal challenge from the lanky black man. But attention on the bird is short-lived; he closes his eyes, and steps into the grove.

Sashenka stares up at the incredible canopy, eyes wide. Her hand steals up to her locket, gripping it tightly for a moment before dropping to her side again.

The melodies, the voices beckon irresisibly from the Nave, calling with incredible strength, and promising... something utterly wonderful, completely magic.

Niska glides silently ahead.

Layla disappears into the deepest shadows of the nave.

Sashenka stirs, pushing slowly away from the tree, and walks toward the Nave.

Brett's eyes snap open and he moves, softly, into the nave.

Josh disappears into the deepest shadows of the nave.

Lala disappears into the deepest shadows of the nave.

Dusty disappears into the deepest shadows of the nave.

Rakkil disappears into the deepest shadows of the nave.

You enter the dark, silent alcove and discover that it is a short trail.

The canopy breaks, letting the sky and wind pour in. This open clearing, just below the treeline of mighty Katahdin, affords a view of the Knife Edge and the rising side of the Tableland on either hand, as they make their final climbs to the peak above. Sparse grasses, scrubby bushes, and thin saplings should only just eke out their existence here, but the grass is thick and lush, the bushes full of fruit. Yet the trees keep a respectful distance from the centerpiece of the clearing: a broad, clear pond of water, mirror-smooth except where it is fed by a graceful waterfall that apparently springs directly from the solid granite wall.
Behind the waterfall, a low cave entrance is barely visible, only a small arch breaking the surface of the water.
All That Glitters
Obvious exits:
CAVe CAThedral

Lumia enters from the thick, gloomy trees that mark the boundary of the cathedral.

The tiny old woman is singing, thousands of voices emerging from her small mouth and circling the Nave in an almost visible soaring chorus. When everyone has arrived the music slowly dies, each voice ending softly and seperately on a different note or half-note. Then she clears her throat with a harsh sound and smiles like the Sun rising in a cloud of rainbows, for all that her face is so wrinkled that her features are nearly lost. "Welcome." Her voice is unexpectedly deep and smoky, with a pleasant gravel running underneath it.

Sashenka simply stops in her tracks, staring.

All That Glitters
At first, this dark bent figure looks scarcely human, but the flash of black glittering eyes betrays sharp intelligence. A long mass of black hair liberally streaked with gray and dubiously adorned with leaves, twigs, burrs, and the occasional black feather streams down her back nearly to her knees. Her face is the color of teak, weathered and worn, with the broad cheekbones and forehead of the Inuit. Her clothing is a mess of multicolored rags, faded and worn, from which her hands emerge like two withered little roots. She is bent and obviously feeble, but her voice is amazingly deep and flexible when she speaks.

Layla closes her open mouth with a near-audible snap.

Niska gurgles softly from her perch on a boulder.

Brett halts, the vision of this place and the woman within it sapping his motor functions for a moment. Then, like a child remembering his manners, he dusts himself off, straightens his clothes, and bows from the waist.

Josh doesn't dust himself off, as he is just purely unable to move at the sight before him.

Dusty quietly moves behind the others, as he quivers in fear and wonder.

Eos' eyebrows just about reach her hairline.

Here, too, Rakkil would rather follow than lead. His earlier mistake is not repeated; reverence and silence are both observed. And his success can be meansured in how easily he fades from notice, hanging just at the edges of the others' perception.

Lumia enters the grove and slips from motion into stillness like day settling into night. Her eyes rest lightly, almost trustingly, on the figure of the old woman.

All That Glitters chuckles richly. "Well, well," she half-croaks, half-sings, "I didn't expect such a /large/ audience. And who might you all be?"

Niska gives several loud croaks, and one resounding "Kgonggg!"

All That Glitters cocks a bright black eye at the bird, and responds briefly, with a smile, "Kchar, aw!" before looking back at all the others.

Sashenka swallows and steps forward. "Sashenka Mkonikan, of the Solar Mkonikans. Pleased to meet you, ma'am."

Josh steps forward. Knight-like, he goes to one knee, his crossbow placed on the groudn in front of him. "Josh West. Kin to the Spiral Dancers."

Rich, depthless brown eyes study and note each of the others' introductions in turn. Rakkil shifts only fractionally, running long fingers through short wirey hair.

Brett combs his hair back with his fingers, then bows once more. "Brett Strange-Seeker, Fostern Crescent Moon of the Silicon Blaze, at your service."

Layla bobs a formal bow. "Layla Thalia Block, Fostern Hermit of the Striders."

Eos sweeps a deep, courtly bow. "Eos Spins-Dreams-in-the-Morning-Light. Galliard Crone of the Spiral Dancers."

Dusty doesn't move an inch from where he stands, hidden behind the others, staring at the ground. "Dusty," he murmurs almost inaudibly.

Lala, who's managed to remain unnoticed until now, cannot escape the calm gaze. She looks like she would back against a tree, if one was nearby. Instead, she goes alternately red, then white, and finally stammers, "L-lala." She swallows. "N-n-nobody." Her final word is nearly inaudible, "Ma'am."

Lumia's eyes flick from the old woman to the raven and back again, and a touch of a smile tugs at her mouth. "Lumia Cob," she says obediently. "Eiru Hills Farm." then, as an afterthought, "Connemara Halfling. Mail carrier."

All That Glitters acknowledges each introduction with a courteous nod and a piercing look from her bright, bright eyes. Her gaze finds its way to Rakkil, who has said nothing so far, and twinkles at him.

That summons proves too much for Rakkil to continue in silence, and respectfully he gives his introduction, "I am known as Rakkil Speeds the Word's Shard to the Silent Striders at the Sept of Lilith in Africa." His voice carries with it the undulating lyricism of the continent of his birth. As an afterthought, he adds, "I was sent for."

All That Glitters nods. "I know. I sent for you, I think. I sent for all of you," she adds, looking around the group.

Niska impudently demands, "Quork?" She ruffs out the shaggy feathers of her neck.

Josh finally looks up from the ground. "The visions?"

Brett simply tilts his head and listens.

Eos nods, her gaze turned inward. "The visions, the dreams, the pull. Yes, yes."

Dusty stands completely motionless, save for a few darting glances through the cathedral and back to the path from which he came.

Sashenka frowns slightly and her eyes sadden. She nods.

Lumia considers this claim thoughtfully, and then grins at the many-voiced woman. What form her call may have taken, or whether she believes in the call at all, she does not say.

The Spiral Dancer kinfolk speaks up, allowing Rakkil his opportunity to move back. Again his body folds, and he crouches down.

Lala hugs herself and says nothing, clearly hoping to be forgotten again.

Layla speaks up at last, "Why did you send for us?"

All That Glitters smiles again, a gentle, humorous, tender smile that creases all her wrinkles into deep folds. "I'm dying," she says, the smile creeping into her voice. "And there's that here which needs taking care of." She looks up at the raven but doesn't reply, except perhaps with her impossibly black eyes.

Josh asks, quiet voice almost straining to work, as if speaking now would profane this place, again. "You were the Warder?"

Lumia takes an inadvertant step forward at the old woman's announcement. "Don't," she says, and then stops and ducks her head, laughing at herself and the implausiblilty of her command. "Sorry," she murmurs.

Sashenka looks at the old, old woman carefully, appraisingly, and then gives a solemn nod. "What can we do for you?"

Rakkil focuses his attention tightly on Brett after All That Glitters reveals her announcement. It is with some force of will that he shifts his gaze back to the one that would appear to have brought this group together. He awaits an answer to Sashenka's question.

Dusty's tension slackens just a touch, as he peers through the cracks between the others. Dusty seems not to accept the finality in the old woman's words, but still does not speak.

Eos gives the old woman a look that suggests she is trying to see beyond the rather decrepit physical form before them.

Niska's head cocks as her black eyes peer from one face to the next. The raven makes a low, rattling, coughing sound as she paces the length of her perch, long claws clicking faintly against the stone.

All That Glitters has disconnected.
Josh pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, Brett, and Layla: Sooner than we thought.
All That Glitters has connected.
Rakkil pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Josh, Brett, and Layla: Oh, now that's just morbid! :)
Sashenka pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, Josh, Brett, and Layla: But funny.
Rakkil pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Josh, Brett, and Layla: Gallows Humor, certainly.
All That Glitters has reconnected.
Dusty pages to Lala, Lumia, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, Josh, Brett, and Layla: And I was looking foward to searching for loose change...
Josh pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, All That Glitters, Brett, and Layla: I wonder if there's any magic items?
You paged Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Rakkil, Josh, All That Glitters, Brett, and Layla with 'We're back. Whee. Sorry 'bout that. Kick Mindsping for us.'.
From afar, to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, Josh, All That Glitters, and Layla, Brett finds a Hackmaster +15!
From afar, to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Eos, Rakkil, All That Glitters, Brett, and Layla, Josh pockets the Pommel Stone for a later bribe.

Niska's head cocks as her black eyes peer from one face to the next. The raven makes a low, rattling, coughing sound as she paces the length of her perch, long claws clicking faintly against the stone.

All That Glitters laughs gently, her breath cawing in her throat. "I am the Keeper of this Place," she answers, cocking her head to one side to look up at the fading remnants of the sunset in the sky. "I and one other, and it is time for us to pass the duty on." She shifts a little and settles herself more comfortably on the ground, turning her head to pitch her voice towards the waterfall behind her. "Rusalka, love, you awake? We've got the guests we've been waiting for."

Josh's eyes, regardless of his own wishes, glance towards the waterfall.

Dusty strains to see what is happening through the wall of people behind which he has chose to position himself.

Eos folds herself gently into a patient crouch, as one might who was expecting a long discussion.

Brett glances over at the waterfall. He squints, finally noticing the cave's shadow beneath the streaming liquid.

Sashenka cocks her head, curious to see who or what may emerge.

The words that Brett uttered on the group's climb, or at least the echoes of them trouble Rakkil, and this discontent play out in the less-than graceful posing of the man's body, or the sharp looks he tosses towards speakers and finally the fall of water.

Rusalka surfaces in the water.

Silently, a woman emerges from the pond, wearing only her jeans. She moves to a hitherto unnoticed nook and slips into a t-shirt and sweater before stepping to the side of the old woman. She inclines her head to those gathered.

Rusalka is a woman of contradictions. First, it is impossible to judge her age. A complexion like highly polished oak contrasts with her iron-gray mane of hair. The strange, feral quality to her gaze contrasts with her ability to remain absolutely still. There are, on closer inspection, tiny crow's feet around her eyes, lines between her brows and around her mouth, and her skin looks thin and papery.
She does, however, wear sensible clothing for knocking about the woods: a plain white t-shirt, a grey wool sweater, and well-faded jeans. Her feet are bare.

Lumia stares at the new arrival in surprise.

Josh says nothing, inclining his own head in answer.

Brett returns Rusalka's nod with a fairly formal bow.

Niska looks from the newcomer, to the old woman, to each of the visitors, and starts arranging her feathers with her bill, in seeming unconcern.

Sashenka's eyes widen at Rusalka's entrance. She esponds to the nod with one of her own.

Dusty still can't see anything, but can't decide if that is a good or a bad thing.

Rakkil acknowledges the newcomer. He rises from the deep crouch to one that is aided by a worn walking stick.

All That Glitters takes a long careful breath, and in the silence of the Nave the faint rattling in her breathing can be heard. "We have taken care of this place for a long time, but it is time for me to pass on. It is a fitting thing, what I have done, for it is my kind who brought you the Sun long ago." And she smiles again.

"Who are you?" Rakkil asks directly.

Dusty's curiousity overpowers his fear, and he moves out into the open to catch a glimpse of the old ones.

Rusalka looks down and touches the old woman's hair with a fond smile, trailing her wrinkled hand down to the thin, frail shoulder.

Sashenka follows Rusalka's caressing hand, and a solemn smile touches her own lips.

Lumia smiles slowly at the touch and waits peacefully to be told what happens next.

Josh is still bowed, unmoving. He takes a shuddering breath, trying to stop himself from showing tears.

All That Glitters takes another careful breath. "I am All that Glitters, and I have guarded what is in this mountain for many years, with Rusalka here." She smiles up at the other woman so sweetly as to leave no doubt about their relationship. "And it is time, and the visions have come again, and although the mountain still sleeps, yet it may wake. And it is time for me to pass the riddle that is buried here into other hands, for when dawn comes my kin will eat the shell that speaks before you." As she says the last, she looks questioningly up at her lover, her black eyes fathomless.

Niska cleans her feathers and says nothing.

Rusalka nods, and kneels, laying her face against the old woman's shoulder. The observant may notice that her jaw muscles clench and she swallows, hard.

Rakkil exhales thoughtfully. He pulls downard on the stick with a motion that propels him to his full height. To Rusalka he states, "And you must stay."

Lumia, no longer smiling, shakes her head at Rakkil's words, already guessing, without knowing why, that it cannot happen as he says. Two tears, unshed, catch the last of the evening light.

Brett's eyes soften; not quite with sadness, though that is there, but as if the scene is very familar to him.

Josh puts a hand across his eyes.

Sashenka casts her eyes down, away from the intimacy of the scene before her.

All That Glitters rests one hand lightly on Rusalka's head, and gazes off beyond the group, into a distance only she can see. "And the visions will open a way, and the spirits attend your dreams, until at last the deep ones rise, and the end is fulfilled, to avert the wrath of the Sun. There is a great mystery buried here, but I cannot tell you of it, for that is not my nature." Her eyes focus back on the group, glittering with silent laughter.

Niska rawks and clicks impatiently, and rather rudely, if an animal can be rude. She fluffs the feathers of her throat and clacks her beak once, sharply.

Rusalka lifts her head in response to Rakkil's statement. "No, I will not stay." Her voice is touched with an accent that some might recognize as from across the seas. "I will watch my last sunrise." Her voice trembles slightly on the last word.

Rakkil's eyes, alone, ask the necessary follow-on question: Why? But without a voice to give the question wings, there is no need to answer, or even acknowledge the African's curiosity.

Layla stirs, but does not speaks.

Eos keeps her gaze level on a particularly interesting blade of grass. There is a slight tensing of her shoulders.

Sashenka sighs quietly, eyes on her moccasins.

Dusty trembles, not with fear or sadness, but with incomprehension.

All That Glitters gets slowly but surely to her feet. "Well, then," her black gaze rakes the crowd, suddenly sharp again. "I must go. Tonight. Now." She stops for breath, the says, "You have the responsibility for this sacred place." Although the sentence is an unequivolcal statement, she seems to be waiting for a response.

Layla says "Thank you for your faith in us. We will strive to preserve this place."

Josh looks up, now, as All That Glitters speaks, tears evident on his own face. at this point, he's only able to nod.

Rusalka rises alongside her lover with a grace that belies her apparent age. A tear finally escapes her control, a line of red trickling down her cheek.

Rakkil says "I was sent for," Rakkil repeats in low, rolling tones. His eyes cast towards the water now look at the old crone."

Eos looks up sharply as the old woman rises, then sighs quietly.

Brett clasps his hands together. Lowering his head and eyes, he murmurs something in a foreign tongue, like a prayer from a long distant age.

The tension becomes too much for Dusty, who scurries into a corner and buries his face in his hands.

Sashenka looks searchingly at each of the assembled group in turn, as if memorizing them, then turns back to the ancient pair. "You have my word."

Lala startles at Dusty's retreat, staring at him where he stands, then turning her pale face back to the pair by the water. She seems to just freeze there, like a doe caught by surprise, glazed and uncomprehending.

Niska's gaze follows the flight of a sparrow at the edge of the clearing, then she goes back to preening, as if none of this concerns her. Perhaps it doesn't.

Lumia scratches her ear. "Can't stay," she says slowly. "Mail." She looks uncomfortable and apologetic. "Keep coming back," she offers.

Brett glances around, senses open to drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of this one place. "So it begins..."

All That Glitters heaves a contented sigh. "Yes, for you it begins. As for me, I have my ending." She glances up at the crow and says quietly, "On the rocks at sunrise, my friend. Tell the others. There's not much meat left on this old bird, but it will be an honor to feed you." She looks back at Rusalka, and, leaning on her lover's arm, begins to totter slowly away.

Brett bows and says, "Sayonara, Giltters-sama."

Sashenka kneels and presses her hands into the lush grass as she watches the women depart.

Lumia's eyes move to Rusalka's face, and the tear that has stained it. "Blood," she says, surprised. Then, in belated understanding, "Ah. Last sunrise. First sunrise." And, very quietly, "Goodbye."

Josh, already kneeling, mirrors Sashenka's gesture, touching his forehead to the ground.

Dusty's curled body is racked with uncontrolable sobbing.

Niska leaves her stone perch to soar directly at the retreating couple. For the briefest moment, she alights on the tiny old woman's thin shoulder. Her feathered head brushes the woman's weathered cheek, then the raven is airborne again. She give three sharp calls, and vanishes into the trees.

Rusalka supports All That Glitters as they make their way into the woods. She glances back at the group, and for a second, her visage slips to that of a much younger woman. "You, hunter," she calls to Josh. "If you see this face again, slay it. I do not entirely trust my willpower."

Eos bows her head briefly, wiping her fingertips over her eyes. Then she watches the pair vanish into the woods.

Lala shakes her head, as if returning to her senses. Then she crouches beside Dusty. "St-stop it. S-s-stop!"

Brett slips his pack from his shoulders, settling it on the scrub grass. After a moment, he sits, legs crossed in a lotus position, facing the pool and the waterfall. Eyes clear, he watches Rusalka and All That Glitters depart.

Josh looks up as he's addressed. He sees the faded trail of blood-tears on her cheeks. he takes a breath. "As you wish," he says in affirmation.

Sashenka walks in a crouch to Dusty and places her hand on his shoulder. "Shhhh. Shhhh. It's okay." She hums softly to the miserable boy.

Lala retreats as Sashenka approaches.

Dusty quiets abruptly, and raises his tear-streaked face to look at Lala. and Sashenka "i...i...i'm sorry", he stammers, and raises himself to his feet.

Brett rocks back and forth, slowly, like grass in the wind. He seems to be chanting something in the same foreign language as before. A slow, rythmic chant.

All That Glitters raises a hand to the group. "You honor me with your sorrow, but I am old, very old, and it is time. That is the way of all things under the Sun. Farewell, and fare you well." She and her lover vanish slowly among the shadows of the trees.

All That Glitters leaves the clarity of the grove for the shadows of the cathedral.
Rusalka has left.

From afar, to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Weatherwax, Eos, and Josh, Brett says, "Just in case anyone can recongnze it, he's speaking Hebrew."
Josh pages to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Weatherwax, Eos, and Brett: The Mourner's Khaddish?
From afar, to Lala, Lumia, Dusty, Sashenka, Niska, Weatherwax, Eos, and Josh, Brett smiles, "Yes."

Sashenka rocks back on her heels, eyeing the boy. "Do you want to be alone for a while? That's okay."

Dusty struggling to control himself, stammers "yyyes... please...", and takes off into the darkness.

Dusty leaves the clarity of the grove for the shadows of the cathedral.

Josh stands up, reattaching the crossbow to his belt, and turns, just in time to see Dusty taking off. He saddens, expression going very soft. "Will he be all right?"

Sashenka stands as well, watching the boy go. "I think so. He's had it hard, I think. Poor kid. But he can take care of himself."

Lumia drifts to Sashenka's side. "Staying?" she asks, not just of the Nitakk-ita but seemingly of the group at large. "Or going?"

Sashenka looks out after Dusty, then back at Lumia. "I'm not sure. Not staying for long, I think. I'd like to be where Dusty can find me if he needs me."

Josh thinks about it, shaking his head. "I've thought about staying tonight here, but...I'd feel like I'm still intruding. I say let them have their final moments in peace."

Brett's voice trails off as he finishes his chant. Rising, he bows one last time to the cave, then turns towards the others. "I agree. The nave should be theirs tonight. I think I will be staying in the cathedral, though..."
Eos ratchets herself to her feet, straightening her back last, with a stifled groan. "They've gone away, and, well, someone needs to watch the caern." She stares after the couple. "I wish I knew more. Can't make a proper story without knowing more." She glances over at Brett. "That seems... appropriate. Do you mind company?"

Brett says, "Not at all." He bows to the others. "Dream well, everyone..."

Sashenka looks out again. "You too. Thank you."

Josh nods quietly. He edges towards the Cathdral, himself. Building can wait until tomorrow, anyway.

Brett leaves the clarity of the grove for the shadows of the cathedral.

Sashenka brushes at the grass stains on her knees. "Well, I guess I'll go back then. Lumia, are you headed back to town?"

Lumia nods to Eos. "Good to stay. Place will be frightened, grieving, lonely. Like a nightlight," she suggests, smiling again. "Little comforts." She turns to Sashenka and frowns a little, giving the question some thought. "Hate to leave. Left the truck in the road." She considers the two competing imperatives and decides. "I'll go down."

Sashenka nods. "We can go together, if you like." Her gaze includes Josh in the statement.

Josh thinks about that, and nods to the Nitakk-ita. "I will go with you, ma'am," he says.

Lumia turns away and looks around the grove. "Caern," she says wonderingly. And again, "Caern." She shakes her head, amazed. "Good news. This will be good news."

Sashenka smiles at the Perunka. "You can tell everyone."

Eos nods to everyone. "Well then," she says, with a certain finality that also suggests a beginning. She surveys the grove in the darkness. "Well then."

Announcement: Weatherwax announces "If anyone watches at dawn, they do, in fact, see a thin line of smoke rising from the Knife Edge.