Layla is sitting at the large communal table, brooding over a cup of tea.
Rowan is busily rubbing one of the glasses, trying manfully to clean it. Behind the counter, too.
There is the sound of wheels squeaking regularly and crunching outside. A few moments after the sounds stop, the door pops open in advance of a moving, snow-covered mound. It stomps inside, nearly waddling in the sheer quantity of clothing it's wearing, shedding snow with every motion. It nudges the door shut again with some effort. "Dees da place fer food round hyar?" a muffled voice inquires from the depths.
Rowan puts the glass down, and rubs his hands on his pants. "Sure is," he says, cheerfully. "Got all sortsa good things, but it looks like you could do with something warm."
Layla looks up from her tea at the newcommer with interest.
"Varm, yah," the figure replies. Layers begin to peel off: a much-patched plaid wool cloak, a thick dirty-gold acrylic blanket with many holes in it, a vast navy blue trenchcoat that's missing its sleeves, a gray-brown terrycloth robe, a heavy, fairly stinky wool cardigan with "Jim" stitched on the left lapel in cheerful blue script, an enormous fur hat... at last, something recognizeable as human emerges: a middle-aged man with a leathery, well-lined brown face, thinning, greasy black hair to his shoulders, and features not so much chiseled as knocked out of rock with a sledgehammer. He grins, showing white teeth, one of which is broken in front. "Iz varm in hyar. Iz gut."
Indeed, the stove is busily emanating warmth from every orifice. Rowan pours some tea out into a mug, and offers it to the man. "Here y'go, and welcome. I'm Rowan, by the way. Not my diner, but I sort of take care of it, some of the time. Want something more sandwich-like, or something you can eat with a knife and fork, in terms of actual food?"
From afar, Rowan does a reflexive Corrupter check.
You paged Rowan with 'Nope.'.
Layla watches the exchange, silently.
The man takes the tea and wraps himself around it gratefully, humming as he inhales the steam. "Food iz gut, vit knife unt vork. I'z Henkar. I brang de junk." He jerks one misshapen thumb toward the window. His accent is... quite a mishmash for anyone with an ear for that sort of thing.
Sunshine, bundled up in winter clothes which seem to simply be extra layers of what she wears the rest of the year, steps inside, closing the door behind her and shaking the snow off her broad-brimmed floppy hat.
Layla breaks her silence. "Hello, Henkar, I am Layla. Welcome." She gives a small smile and wave to Sunshine as she enters.
Rowan immediately starts producing some pheasant with stuffing, and some salad, and slabs it onto a plate. "Man. You just missed Kem. I bet she'd love you. I mean. The junk, anyway." He raises his serving fork in salute to Sunshine, as she comes in.
She is a tall, willowy redhead with green eyes that curiously compliment her dark Mediterranean complexion. She has classicallyNear 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.
Sunny is probably not what most people think of when they think of sunshine. For one thing, she's dark. Her hair is a dark, mahogany brown and straight, cut to just above her shoulders and usually tied back loosely. Her skin is a paler brown, speaking of Amerindian, Indian, or Roma heritage, rather than African. She's dressed in the usual patchwork of whatever could be found, usually something skirt-like or tunic-like. She wears several pouches or bags of different sizes, and seems to have pockets sewn nearly everywhere. Her head is usually shaded by a wide-brimmed, somewhat floppy, straw hat, secured by a wide band of what looks like very soft fabric.
Sunshine waves to Rowan and Layla as she walks nearer the stove and begins removing layers down to a comfortable level for the inside of the diner. "Evening, Rowan, Layla. Is Sashenka about?"
Layla stands and moves to the window to get a better look outside. She obviously wants to ask him about his wares, but she does not wish to distirb his dinner. She waves instead to Sunshine, "Hello."
Henkar sweeps a low bow to Layla in a remarkably flashy manner. "Iz a rare pleazure to meet a voman of zuch beauty in zuch a forzaken playz. You are a vonder unt a delight to zeez old ayz." He straightens and looks around at Sunshine with a startled look, then smiles and sweeps her an equal bow. "Two beauties in zis playz! Zuch luck for old Henkar! Zuch joy for you, Rovan, to live here among zem!" He stands up and fumbles in copious pockets in his trousers. "I zpread ze luck! Hyar you go! Geeftz for ze lovely laydeez, unt a geeft for ze zerver of zuch gut-smelling food!" He doles out, for those willing to take them, small tchotchkes: a prettily gilded glass vial for Sunshine, a tiny bronze Bast statue for Layla, and a pocket compass for Rowan.
Rowan is certainly willing to take it, as he lays the man's dinner on the counter. "Huh," he says, vaguely admiring it. After a moment, he asks Sunshine, "You want some tea, ma'am?"
Kelsey pushes in with a puff of cold air and halts, startlement telegraphed loud and clear from both eyebrows. "Shalom melaicham," she says very drily.
Kelsey pages: speaking of misspelling. "Peace be with you,"but I'm sure t he second half is wrong. :)
Layla is charmed. She steps forward and takes the little statue from Henkar with a gracious "Thank you."
Sunshine eyes the peddler with a mix of amusement and wariness as she takes the small vial. "Thank you, Henkar." Turning to Rowan, she nods, "Tea, please, Rowan, and some stew if there is some. Is Sasha about?" She repeats the question, since it wasn't answered.
Rowan shakes his head. "She's up the mountain." That said, he puts the compass down gently, and starts serving up tea and the aforementioned stew.
Layla takes her statue closer to the stove so she can have a better look at it.
Henkar spins further around, tottering nigh-comically in his haste to see who has just come in. He is a middle-aged man with shoulder-length black hair, thinning significantly on top. His trousers have deep pockets, and he wears multiple layers of multi-colored sweaters -- an endless number, it seems. He strikes his forehead with his palm. "Zey fall off ze treez hyar? Perhapz I should live hyar forever?" He digs in his pocket, squints at Kelsey, then holds out another little tchotchke. "Iz for luck," he says with a broken-toothed smile.
You paged Layla with 'It's a very small -- like an inch and a half tall -- exquisitely detailed cat statue of Bast, complete with little tiny earrings in the kitty ears.'.
From afar, Layla is charmed.
Kelsey's whole face ripples with a widening grin, and she takes it with a soft, "Danke," looking at him appraisingly.
Sunshine settles herself at a table with a sigh. "Ah, well, another time then, I guess." She watches the peddler with more amusement and less wariness as time passes.
The small glass unicorn with the silvered horn sits neatly in Kelsey's palm as Henkar, seemingly satisfied, turns to his dinner and tucks into it post-haste, possibly afraid that yet another beautiful woman would walk in that he'd have to pause and rave about.
Rowan puts Sunshine's food and drink down in front of her, and then asks Kelsey, blithely ignorant of her trinket, "Want some tea?"
Kelsey shakes her head in amusement, but her expression has started to sober up as she examines the small unicorn. "Er--hm?" She looks up into Rowan's earnest face. "Fine, fine, as long as it doesn't have any onions in it."
You paged Kelsey with 'It's a lovely little piece, like one of the better things one finds at those mall kiosks where they sell glass animals. About two inches long.'.
Rowan says, "Check," as if what she said actually made sense, and gets her both some tea and some pheasant. With stuffing!
Sunshine smiles warmly at Rowan and begins eating, taking her time to enjoy the stew. "Thank you, Rowan. Evening, Kelsey. Join me?"
Kelsey smiles all around and seats herself opposite Sunshine, giving Rowan a "thanks" as he makes himself Sasha for the evening. But before she lays into the delectable-looking pheasant, she pauses to introduce herself with at least a hint of formality. "Kelsey Eisenmann at your service."
Henkar nods, chewing on his pheasant. "I'z Henkar. I brang de junk." He waves at the outdoors.
Kelsey sets the unicorn on the table between her and Sunshine. "Not all junk."
Rowan rests a hand on Kelsey's shoulders as he looks at the unicorn. Then he's off back to the counter, and again trying to clean that stubborn glass.
Layla settles back at the table with her old tea mug and new statue.
Sunshine sets her gilded vial next to the unicorn, arching an eyebrow at Rowan as the young man heads off. In a low voice, she asks Kelsey, "So, how have you been?"
It is the second day of week 3 of Inwint.
The moon phase is Waxing Crescent.
Kelsey gives Sunshine a thumb's up. "Oh, fine. My favorite time of year, when the snows are coming in." She grins faintly. "And no more weeding to do.How's things at the farm?"
Sunshine's smile thins slightly. "We're alright," she says quietly.
Kelsey cocks her head, eyes darting towards the peddler and back. "Just that? Is there something a few extra hands might be needed for?"
Rowan keeps polishing, though after a moment, he asks the junkman, "So... This your regular route?"
Henkar polishes off his food with speed and relish. He smacks his lips approvingly and grins at Rowan. "Iz gut food." He pats his belly and stretches. Apparently, he has warmed up sufficiently for now, as he peels off the red, white, and blue ski sweater that was on the outside, revealing a dusty blue cable knit underneath.
Sunshine shakes her head. "No, nothing like that." She eats her stew thoughtfully.
As Henkar adds the ski sweater to his heap of clothing, he comments to the air, "I come from ze north, but before zat, I come from ze zouth. Much of vat I carry come from ze drowned Bozton unt New Haven. Uzzer zings come from furzer zouth." He settles down onto a chair with his cup of tea, somewhere near Layla. "Ze people round hyar, ze are all full of ze ztoreez of ze mountain hyar. I zink zey remember all ze old ztoreez because zings happening hyar, no?" he inquires of the Strider, who seems unoccupied by conversation otherwise.
Kelsey gives up and digs into her dinner , eying the old man speculatively.
Rowan drifts around the counter again, and ends up leaning against it, still polishing (that glass is now sparkling), listening.
"Zey tell me zis ztory, it remind me of a ztory I hear a long time ago," Henkar goes on, sipping his tea. "I remember iz about zis playz." He sips again, thoughtfully.
Layla waves her hand around. "This is the Trail's end; stories end here. Stories begin here, too, if you wish to take the path in reverse."
Layla ponders further. "But we don't hear about those as much."
Sunshine chews slowly, the wariness returning to her eyes. After a moment or two, she says, "Tell us the story you heard a long time ago, please."
Rowan continues polishing. Perhaps someday, the glass will gleam just at the memory. He nods, in agreement, at Sunshine's request.
Henkar's eyes glitter and he smiles at Sunshine. "Zank you, I vill. You are viyz," he says to Layla. "Zey ztart hyar, zey end hyar, zey start all over hyar. Zis ztory, I hyar only ze end of one part in ze village to ze east. I hyar ze beginning of anudder part of it in ze village to ze north. I hyar ze start unt end of anudder part tventy yearz ago, at a campfire vith a man going to hiz death."
Rowan asks, looking at the glass, "Who was he?"
Henkar draws out a small leaf from a hidden pocket and puts it in his mouth to chew. "Zis man, he vas one of ze changerz... as, I zink zome of you are." His eyes flit lightly over the room, not settling at all upon Sunshine. "His name... his name he vould not tell me. He tell me his ztory inztead, for to tell his name too vould bring great dizhonor upon it. He vas a nobleman, though. Tall unt handzome, vith a great bearing zat told of great blood vithin him. His hair vas still golden and he vas not very old." Henkar chuckles. "Vell, not as old as me."
Rowan, determindly, says nothing, but continues to look fascinated.
Sunshine simply watches the old man as he tells his story and she eats her supper. The fact that his eyes skip her in conjunction with mention of shape-shifters doesn't go unnoticed.
"Zo, he zayz, 'I'm going to die where I am going, zo zomeone should know vat I know. I am ze last,' he zayz, shaking his head, 'and zomeone should know.' 'Know vat?' I ask. 'Zat I unt my kin failed our greatest qvest, unt zomeday, zomeone vill know. Unt zomeday, zomeone vill die for our lies.'" Henkar sips his tea and chews his leaf for a moment.
You paged Sunshine with 'Your eyes are sharp and you probably would have recognized that the leaf he's chewing is a coca leaf.'.
Rowan puts the glass carefully on the counter and then perches on it himself, one leg pulled up to his chin, the other dangling down toward the ground.
Sunshine pages: Thanks.
"Zo he zay, 'It vas in ze time after ze Sun come back, zose months ven ze changers chase ze vampires to ze death. I vas very young, vith my pack, unt ze elders ver short of hands, for ve vere few zen. Zo zey tell us to go out unt chayz ze vampire Faro. He iz old, zey zay, unt crafty, but you must not return until he iz dust. Unt zo, ve go forth unt track ze vampire Faro night unt day, for he has much lead on us, unt ve must travel hard. Unt he does vat only ze most desperate vampire does -- he goes into ze vilderness.'" Henkar nods, his mouth pulling to one side. "Unt ze man, he tell me zat ze vampire Faro goes north, unt north, unt north, zen vest, from Bozton. Into ze deep voods."
Layla nods quietly.
Rowan bares his teeth unconsciously. Old enmities.
Henkar pops another leaf into his mouth and chews. "Zis man, he is a Zentinel of Gaia, he tell me. Zey travel hard on zeir qvest, hunting high unt low for zis vampire. Zey vill not be eluded. Zey come to ze playz vere ze can zee ze great mountain." He points north, toward the massif of Katahdin. "Unt zey lose ze trail. Poof. Ze vampire Faro iz gone. Zey zearch. Zey zearch hard. Zey call upon ze zpirits of ze mountainz, unt zey find nossing. Nobody finds nossing. Zey zpend three years of zeir lives, zearching zis playz for ze vampire Faro. Zey don't find a sign zat he has gone beyond zis playz. Ze trail just ztopz. Hyar." He gestures north again. "At ze mountain."
Rowan is really trying not to bare his teeth. Actually, he's mostly succeeded. The tension's just gone into the rest of his body, instead.
Layla shifts in her chair.
Kelsey sits back in her chair. "I wonder if that's the horrible thing that threw a brick at raven-girl," she growls softly.
Sunshine's sharp eyes light on the leaf as the peddler pops another into his mouth, and her lips stiffen with disapproval. She eyes flicker briefly to Rowan, noticing the tension in the young Garou. Under her breath, she says, "Steady, Rowan."
Henkar cocks his head at Kelsey. "I do not know zis. But ze man, he zay, 'Unt vat happen next, ve have no excuse but zat ve vere tired unt frustrated unt perhaps ze Corrupter have zomesing to do vith it. One of us, he zay, ve have zearched for three years unt a day. Ve have found no trace of ze vampire Faro. Let us go home unt tell zem ve have killed him. Unt zat iz vat ve did. Unt ve took great honor for it.' I zay to him, 'But you are a Zentinel! You do not lie!' Unt he zay, 'I am a Zentinel, unt I did lie. Zo did ve all. But ve came back, for yearz, continuing ze zearch vile people zink ve are zearching for vision or uzzer zings like zat. Unt ve never find ze vampire Faro. But ve hyar uzzer zings.'"
Rowan's eyes flick to Sunshine, and while his tension doesn't recede, it also doesn't increase. And he does seem to have more of a handle on it. Barely.
Henkar leans forward, eyes glittering. "'Ve hyar zat ze reason ze vampire Faro come hyar iz zat zere iz a greater vampire hyar, hiding in deep caves under ze mountain. Zat he zeekz great power from zis vampire. Ve hyar zis unt vere afraid, zo we hunt for ze caves, but we never find zem.' I ask, 'Vere zere no caves, or vere zey just hidden?' He zay, 'Ze local people, zey zay zat long ago, zere vere caves, but zey are hidden now. Until ze mountain opens again. Zey never tell us ven zat going to be. Zo ve zearch, unt never find him, nor ze caves, nor ze greater vampire ze people zay iz zere.'"
Layla moves closer to the stove.
Sunshine's eyes narrow a little more. She's lived at Katahdin's base on and off for all her life. She's seen the Hive in action, but that does not make her eager to hear that there might be not one, but two vampires in caves under the mountain. If the peddler's tale can be trusted.
Rowan's eyes are stony, arms gripping his knee tightly.
"Even more, he zay, 'Ze caves, zey vere zere before ze vampire come. Zey zay. Zey have many tunnelz, zome lead... elzevere... zome hold great ztorez of weaponz unt magic zat ze first peoples leave zere. Unt uzzers leave zere. If ve get to tunnelz, ve can find zings zat vill kill ze vampire Faro dead, unt his master too. But ve never find. Unt ze uzzers, zey all die. Now I go to my death too. I vill die, but at least I have told zomeone of my shame.' Unt I zay, 'Perhapz he did die, stupidly, unt you did not lie.' He laugh unt zay, 'No. Ve vould have found zometing. A trayz. No. He go into ze ground, unt it svallow him whole. Unt zomeday, he come back from ze ground, unt people vill die for our lies unt our failure.' Unt zen, he get up, he shake my hand, unt he go off to fight in a great battle." Henkar sighs and shake his head. "I hear later zat in ze battle, no one come back."
Rowan grates, "Not dying if I can help it." There's a pause. "What were the other parts of this story of yours?"
Henkar raises an eyebrow at Rowan. "In ze village to ze east, zey talk of a man who come in ze night long ago unt command ze villagers to never speak of him to zose who zeek him. Zey do not, but zey tell zeir children, unt ze children live zere now. He vas tall unt dressed in rich ragz, unt he drink from three of zem. Zen he ask zem about ze mountain, unt ze caves. Ze tell him zat zere vas a playz of great power zere once, but it iz no more, unt zey have never seen caves, though zey have heard zere were zome. He vent avay, unt zey never spoke to zose who zought him, unt zey never zee him again."
Sunshine frowns, finishing her stew. She knows the village to the east, and the people who live there, although not well, since she left on her wanderings.
Henkar looks down at his filthy fingernails. "In ze village to ze north, three night ago, zey find a sheep vith no blood."
Rowan goes quite still. The entirety of his attention, mental and physical, is on this man. It's a hard thing to bear, this intense regard.
Sunshine's attention is a more subtle thing. Quietly, she asks, "This would be Pine Landing, or Sheepsgate?"
Henkar's eyes linger on Rowan a moment, then shift courteously to Sunshine. "Iz Sheepzgate." His eyes drop back to picking at his nails. "Zey zay now, ze mountain iz open, unt zey know zis from a great light zey zee months ago, during a great ztorm. Perhapz, zey zay, zere are caves."
Rowan grates, muscles protesting, "Perhaps."
Sunshine's glance flickers to the leaves the peddler has been chewing. "Pine Landing had not heard of this, when I visitted earlier in the season. Do you have proof of your tale, peddler?"
Henkar rises slowly, stretching. His knees crack, his elbows crack, his hips crack. He digs abstractedly in one pocket and drifts toward the "cash" box. "Ze ztrange news dig up interezting memoriez, no? Of ze tale of long ago? No, I do not. It was zomesing I hyar on ze road from a man who vas going to his death -- and vas perhaps zpinning a tale for ze fire. But perhapz you know a Zentinel who know of ze ztory of ze vampire Faro." He shrugs and deposits a spool of salvaged copper wire in the box. "I muzt be in Millinockett for tomorrow, zo I muzt go. Zere iz a man who claim he take me down river even though it vinter. I do not know vether to believe or not." He moves to his heap of clothing and begins reassembling himself. "Iz an interezting ztory, no?"
Sunshine mmms thoughtfully. "An interesting story indeed," she says quietly.
Rowan just says, "Yes." He seems to feel constrained to stay, at least until the man leaves, but he's quite clearly desperately wishing to be elsewhere.
Henkar reassembles his gear: the fur hat, the wood cardigan that once belonged to Jim, the terrycloth robe, the blue trenchcoat without sleeves, the dirty-gold, holey acrylic blanket, and, finally, the somewhat damp but persevering plaid wool cloak. "Zank you for ze food," he says hollowly from the depths of his clothing. "Blezzingz be upon you all, unt luck be vith you." The mound of fabric bends awkwardly somewhere near the middle. "Farevell, beautiful vomen! You have made all ze traveling vorthvile."
Sunshine rummages in her pockets for something, coming up with a pair of finely knitted mittens, which she offers to the peddler, asking, in exchange, for a few of the leaves he's been chewing.
Henkar bows in response to Sunshine's offer of mittens, and graciously (if awkwardly) doles out a few of his leaves to her. He shuffles to the door finally, somehow opens it, and waddles outside. After a moment, the squeak and crunch of the wheels start again, and a shadow passes one of the windows of the Diner. And then he is gone.
Sunshine tucks the leaves carefully into an inner pocket and begins reassembling her own outfit, layer by layer.
Rowan still doesn't move. Except to say, once the man has left, "Thank you, Sunshine."
Sunshine looks steadily at Rowan for a long moment before asking, "For what, child?" She settles her hat on her head and ties the scarf holding it in place under her chin.
Rowan doesn't shrug. He seems to be having trouble moving at all. "Anchoring the anchor, basically."
Sunshine's gentle smile lights her face as she pulls her last layer on. "You're welcome, then, Rowan." Without explaining further, she, too, disappears into the cold night.
As soon as Sunshine's gone, Rowan, too, is gone, without a backward glance at Layla. Out the door, into lupus, and running, as fast as possible.
You paged D'riana with 'Sunshine notices that there are no footprints in the fresh snow outside, though there are cart tracks that go down the road a short bit before they, too vanish.'.
From afar, D'riana eyes you. "Great. Dump that in my lap as I leave.:-)"
Long distance to D'riana: Weatherwax cackles.