News and Planning

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

At one of the tables smack in the middle of the small common room, Lucas sits nursing a mug of tea gone cold and poring over the esoteric-looking scratchings that cover the fronts and backs of a sheaf of rough hemp paper. An emptied plate and a bent fork have been shoved out of the way at the far side of the tabletop.

Kelsey emerges from the kitchen with a pot, a tray, and some cups. Smiling, she pours up a new mug, sets it by the burly man, and holds a hand out for the more venerable brew. "What is that stuff, anyway?" she queries.

Layla smiles at Kelsey and picks up a mug. "Mind if I pour myself a cup?" she asks.

Ruth is near the front window, her long legs stretched out beneath a table, her rough-woven poncho draped over the back of her chair. There are pencils and pens scattered about on the table afore her, her well-thumbed sketchbook. She draws a hand through her tightly-curled hair, glances over at Lucas and Kelsey.

Kelsey spreads a hand towrds the tray. "Never just one cup in this establishment. Go ahead."

Ruth curls a leg up, props her book on it. This page is a hodgepodge, from the looks of it, could be anything at a distance. She quirks a corner of her mouth up. "Someone left all the cups out on the floor a few days back."

Ruth pages the room: That would have been Leafcutter. :)

Layla pours herself a cup and settles in at the table.

The smith looks up, blinking, at his benefactor, then his gaze flicks to the fresh curl of steam. "Ooh," he sighs appreciatively, in an almost purr-like rumble. One large, perpetually soot-stained hand engulfs the new mug. "Thanks!" He brings the cup halfway to his lips before he is distracted by something on the page in front of him and sets it down again. He squints hard at the paper, then shuffles through the stack to pull a seemingly identical one from near the bottom. "Hey, take a look at that!" he orders Kelsey, pointing to a particular squiggle. "Does that look like the alchemical symbol for arsenic to you?"

Kelsey props a hand on the edge of the table and leans over his beefy arm obediently. "That, or the person was falling asleep in class." She smiles sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Lucas, I never really got the rune stuff down."

Layla probably wouldn't recognize alchemy if it bit her, yet she sidles behind Kelsey for a glimspe of the paper all the same.

Ruth turns her dark brows up, murmurs. "That had better not be ingredients for the brew there." She aims a broad frown at her sketchbook, then slides it down onto the tabletop.

The long-absent form of Jack stalks through the Diner doorway, looking very different indeed. If it weren't for that distinct black mop of hair and the ever-present quirk to his lips and shine in his eyes, the Sentinel might even be unrecognizable. Though the weapons across his back haven't disappeared, at least... Grimier, with a few scars that at least appear to be cosmetic, across his chest and arm, the Garou seems to hae lost most of his former clothing, too. The boots are intact (they look like they've probably survived bomb blasts), and the jeans have a couple new tears. The real difference is a poncho made of animal skins - a variety of different species of animal pelts patchwork into the one warm-looking covering that seems thick enough to have many layers. He doesn't speak, upon entering, but just smiles at the Diner-dwellers and surveys the room.

Curiousity wars with manners, and manners win again. Layla grabs an empty mug, pours a cup of tea, and slides it down the table towards Jack in a strange manner of greeting.

Lucas shakes his head and leans back from the table, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Ugh. Why couldn't these geezers learn to *write*?" He notices the new mug again and reaches for it, only to be distracted again by the opening door. "Hullo, then," he says, and the greeting has something of an interrogative to it.

The tall ragabash grins lopsidedly at Layla, looking rather pleased at the hospitality, and scoops up the tea. "Hi!" he announces cheerfully, sipping at the brew, and pausing for a few moments to savour it with some deep breaths. Ahh. Civilization.

Kelsey backs away to give the Strider more room to peer. She's a Strider. She knows these things. She turns and glances over her shoulder at Jack and bobs her head. "Back, Jack? Good grief, you could've told me you needed a new coat!" she teases.

Ruth glances at Jack on the way to the table. Along the way her frown finds its way to a small smile. "Arsenic?"

"I lost my shirt, too," Jack notes, lifting the poncho to reveal a naked chest for a few seconds. "And not in as pleasant a manner as I usually do, either. If you could whip something up in maybe a cream or white with some nice, soft, yet hard-wearing material, I'd be /most/ appreciative..." He sips at the tea again, and reaches under the poncho, searching around under a self-tailored fold for... a small draw-string pouch, which he tosses onto the table before Lucas. It rattles, when it hits.

Lucas shakes his head at Ruth. "Or Vervain. The Mother only knows. Just when Ah think Ah've got a handle on this, mah eyes start to cross and Ah realize Ah've completely misread some obscure marginalia that changes the meaning of the whole formula." He is reaching for the mug of tea again when Jack's pouch hits the table in front of him. He raises his eyebrows at Jack s he takes up the little bag and begins to undo the drawstring.

Ruth glances at the page, sidelong, draws a hand over to single out a line of symbols. "I'd say that's copper," she murmurs. She folds herself onto a battered chair, nearby. "I've seen writing like that, but I can't say I know it."

Kelsey starts at the sound, already half-lost in the contemplation of cotton canvas.

In the pouch... Teeth. Lots, and lots of teeth. In quite a variety of shapes and sizes, or states of decay. The ragabash shrugs and sips on his tea, eyeing Layla thoughtfully. "Just to prove I didn't run away and join the circus, or anything. And you might like to know about some things going on, these days. Events been happening at our lil' hive. Some that even I can't figure out."

You paged Layla with 'You notice that Teresa's ghost, which has gotten more substantial over the past several months, shows a certain amount of both interest in and fear of Jack. (She's still unable -- or possibly unwilling -- to speak.)'.

Lucas pours some of the contents of the pouch into one hand. "Yowza. You've been busy, Jack."
Lucas says "What have you found out?"

The Sentinel replies wryly in a low tone, "There's only so many times you can sing Kumbaya by a campfire before you get bored." He wets his lips, mentally compiling the things he has to report. This could be long.

Kelsey grimaces, trying to identify the species, or at least form, he pulled them from.

Layla gives Jack a dark look. To Lucas, she asks, "May I see them a moment? Casting them on the table will do."

Lucas obligingly rolls the handfull of to a bare patch of table, as if he were rolling dice, or casting bones. He regards the resulting configuration thoughtfully.

Ruth looks at the scattered pile of teeth, mildly. "I think I may have missed the campfire songs. Was that after our neighbors decided to cancel spring, or before the tree dragon?"

Layla stares off into space, apparently at nothing. She lets her long, thin fingers coast over the teeth, feeling the air above them.

You paged Layla with 'Teresa draws back from the teeth initially, then leans forward to peer at them more closely. She appears distressed, but morbidly curious nonetheless.'.

Those looking at the teeth realize, after a moment, that they have fallen into a spiral shape.

Apparently finished with her task, Layla sits back in her chair and looks at the teeth, perplexed. To Lucas she says, "Thank you."

Kelsey says something fairly vehement in Yiddish and lunges forward to slam a fist against the tableleg, hard.

Jack frowns slightly, at the attention the props are receiving, and grunts mildly, "That's not so surprising. I got 'em from the bad guys on patrol I managed to get the drop on. And the odd guard or two on supplies. Been trying to make myself a pain in the ass, but it got tricky, real quick. Had to mostly just watch, these days. Now... recent events. Things've taken some pretty slimy turns. In the good news, they lost one of their best fighters, apparently. A guy named Gustav, seemed to have done something treacherous. Madness spirits - which is their main bitch, I'm thinking, gathered around the hive in... I don't know. I lost count, there were so many of the fuckers. But they grabbed this Gustav guy and tossed him to them. Wasn't pretty."

The teeth roll around at the jarring the table receives. They shift together into something resembling a lightning bolt.

At Kelsey's outburst, Lucas' as-yet undrunk mug of tea, moved to the edge of the table to be out of the way of the scattered teeth, topples off and clatters to the floor, spilling the rapidly-cooling tea in an enormous blotch.

Ruth doesn't look up, sharp, until Kelsey raps her fist against the table. She rocks back on her seat, watches as the teeth dance about-- then snorts as the mug clatters down. "Right," she murmurs.

Lucas scoops up his papers before something untoward happens to them.

Kelsey colors slightly at her own outburst and heads to the kitchen to fetch a towel. "Sorry," she mutters. She gives the new configuration a parting glare.

Jack clears his throat, watching Kelsey darkly. And then eyeing the Strider woman again, before briefly glancing at the teeth. "I'd like them back, please. They tend not to upset people in a pouch."

Layla smiles and waves her hand dimissively, offering no resistance to having the teeth put away.

"Well," Lucas says conversationally, stuffing his papers under one arm and freeing his hands to scrape the teeth back into their bag, "it seems we are being paid attention by *someone*." As he hands the bag back to Jack, he looks inquiringly at Layla.

Layla rests her head in her hands and looks back at Lucas.

Jack grunts, "Well. Argent knows I'm watching now, anyway. I'm pretty sure of it. Cocky bastard. But even if he's been staging things for me to watch, I'm pretty sure some mystics ought to be able to make something out of the things I've seen. I mean... the killing of Gustav wasn't some simple execution. They reached into his gut and pulled out some sort of stone, before they tossed him into the Umbra. They had some sort of ritual or something that allowed them to hurl him into a pond that formed some sort of gateway to where the nasties were. Things like... what that stone may have been and what it was doing in Gustav's gut before they 'fired' him might ring a bell with someone."

Kelsey returns wordlessly and begins tidying up. The tea-stain unfortunately doesn't take long, but she pours a few new mugs, arranges them in a neat line, and proceeds to circle quietly around the room straightening chairs and tables while she listens.

Lowly, Jack adds thoughtfully, "And the fact that the guy who took it then swallowed it..."

Layla blinks at Jack's words and lets her fingers soundlessly tap against the tabletop.

Lucas cocks his head thoughtfully at Jack's description. "Huh. Nah, no specific bells. That they recycled it argues for some kind of general-purpose magical whatsit, rather than something specific to this Gustav guy, but I haven't heard anything like it described before."

Ruth unfolds herself from the chair, strides over to her table where she gathers a few pencils, her sketchbook before she sets back down where she'd been. She pulls a leg up, sets her book on her lap. "By nature I'd think they enjoyed deceit, but even if someone's lying to you, you can learn something from what they say wrong." She starts at one corner of a page, sketchy lines, nothing specific yet. She nods to Lucas, as well.

Layla finally shakes her head in the negative and says with a sigh, "I've not heard anything similar involving a stone, either."

The Sentinel shrugs apologetically. "Didn't see much more than that. Stone may have been black, but it was also coated in gore, so... you know." His mouth twists ruefully. "Would've been nice to get closer, but... madness spirits. Tangled with them once about two, three months back, woke up cowering in some burrow a week later." The young man's words and tone are light, but there's a certain grimness in his eyes, and set to his jaw as he mentions the encounter.

Kelsey continues to ghost about. "Question is whether they all have the fetish, or just that guy. I'd guess the latter, or it wouldn't have needed to be passed on."

"Unless having two just has twice the effect," Jack points out glumly.

Lucas says "Could be a limited number, but either way, they keep them to themselves, and may have done for as long as they've been there. And believe me," he adds, "If the good guys within a couple hundred miles of here had anything to tell about such a thing, Ah'd have heard it."

Jack clears his throat uncomfortably. "But anyway," he notes with forced cheerfulness. "That was the /good/ news." He sips at his tea, quietly.

"So," Lucas states blandly, acquiring a fresh mug of tea. "Ah reckon Ah'm gonna go find us something we can use to help us root out these bastards and their nasty old mojo." He takes a sip, and without looking up from the rim of the mug, inquires calmly, "Anyone want in?"

Lucas says "Although Ah reckon we should hear the bad news first, eh?""

Layla braces herself, and waits.

Ruth 's eyes and attention drift more fully to the sketchbook in her lap, scribbly lines resolving into a rounded stone with a mug perched atop it, little whisps of steam, nothing stylized about either. A corner of her mouth quirks up.

Kelsey snags a mug and takes a seat, staring mutely over the rim.

Smiling warmly at Lucas for allowing the extended floor-time, Jack shrugs and notes reflectively, "Well, it /could/ be good news, in a way... if you tilt your head and squint funny." Putting his tea down and loping over to find himself a piece of fruit - an apple's the first thing to reach - Jack says, "About a week ago, there was a big procession of townspeople into the Hive. A ceremony of some sort. All the villagers were in black, and solemn. And in front, were a small group of teenagers, all in white. A few hours later, there was a cheer I could hear even from outside, which must've been /huge/ inside, and then all the villagers came pouring out. Got my hopes up at first, that, but the hive's still there, and that fucker Argent, too, and in control. So. I figure... since only /one/ boy in white came out... and he was all badly knocked around, I figure it was some kind of test. The villagers were certainly happy when the kid came out, anyway. Mr. Silver-arm badass had a few words with the kid, that I managed to catch, afterwards, when people'd cleaned him up. I'm not sure, but he /might/ even have had claw-wounds."

Lucas looks around at the folks who've been here longer than he. "Is this something they do regularly?"

Layla shakes her head in the negative.

Kelsey grimaces. "Not that I've heard, though we may have missed the last party." She looks towards Layla. "The other children..." she adds softly.

"Then whatever it is can't be good." Lucas looks at Jack. "Did any of the other kids come out?"

"If it is, they've been pretty slack for the last six months or so," Jack murmurs wryly. He pauses. "Actually. A few other kids might've had the same thing said to 'em as the guy I watched. I mean... others came out, but they had to be carried, and the villagers doing the hefting scattered 'em all over. But yeah... Argent talked to the one I was near, and he said... Ahh fuckit. Anyone mind a vision?" The Sentinel casts about the group, looking for any objections to the use of a mind-gift.

Ruth sketches the outlines of a long head near the mug, equine and familiar, though still undone. "They use human folk for fodder, right?" She reaches up, rubs the bridge of her nose. "Might be a rite to see who is worth fighting for them."

Lucas has no objections.

Kelsey sets the cup down on the nearest table. "I'd better just get the summary later," she says evenly.

Layla offers no objections, either.

Ruth glances over towards Jack, pulls her shoulders up in a shrug.

Jack frowns slightly at Kelsey, eyeing her darkly before nodding to the others. "Right," he murmrus, and his brow furrows a little more deeply as he concentrates.

You paged Lucas, Jack, Ruth, and Layla with 'An image forms in your minds, dark and hazy around the edges. Two figures, one a teenager wrapped in a blanket, the other a lean, dark man with a silver arm, face one another next to a stream in mostly coniferous woods. The boy is staring into space. Argent (clearly Argent), kneels and takes the boy by the shoulders. He leans close and says clearly, "Jan. Jan Ezust." The boy blinks, then his eyes focus on Argent. Argent spends several minutes speaking to the boy in a low voice, in a language that sounds related to Russian. He has to say the boy's name several times during the course of this to draw his attention back. Finally, Argent says, in English, "You will do my line credit at the Great Dance. I know you will. Now go home and sleep in your nightmares. Your work guarding the Armory begins in the morning." Argent then melts into his dark wolf form -- with its bizarre silver foreleg -- looks directly at you, then vanishes into the underbrush. The boy slowly staggers to his feet and starts to pick his staring way back toward the town.'.

Layla pages: We know that name! Jan Ezust. Eve's daddy?

As the image fades, Jack waves a hand from his perch and crunches into the apple. With a mouth full of food he mutters, "Someone else can summarize," as he watches Kelsey.

Kelsey keeps her eyes on Lucas' face, expression tightlipped.

"The boy's name was -- is -- Jan Ezust," Lucas begins.

Layla pages: Is Teresa reacting at all to Jan's name?

Ruth's hands still as the vision curls around her, stir again as it fades. She glances towards Lucas.

A flash of recognition crosses Kelsey's features. "So he's still alive," she murmurs.

Lucas says "He was pretty dazed," the smith continues, his blue gaze focussed inward, on images still fresh in his mind's eye. "Argent spoke to him in some Slavic-sounding language, then told him he would do Argent's line credit at something called the 'Great Dance', and that his gaurd duties at the Armory started in the morning.""

Lucas glances at Kelsey. "You've met this one?"

The Sentinel watches the others darkly, now. "I had time to think on it. Maybe that's his new name, or maybe they only picked kids with similar bloodlines as the Prince of Evil, there. If others survived and got the same speech, there might be multiple folks 'guarding the Armory', possibly 'in their nightmares', or whatever. I haven't had a chance to see the wonderkids in action, and I didn't go chasing Big Evil, either." He gives a soft snort to indicate what he thinks of that particular brand of suicidal stupidity. "But an Armory's an Armory... Just a thought for you people to consider."

Jack adds quietly and quite pointedly towards Kelsey. "If you heard the language, you think maybe you could pick it? You having..." He trails off, and just waits for the answer.

"What's this 'you people', Jack?" Lucas inquires with deceptive lightness.

"I think so," she tells Lucas, before Jack's question falls after. She opens and shuts her mouth, giving Lucas a grateful glance.

Lucas awaits an answer -- to either of his queries.

You paged Layla with 'Jan was a friend of Teresa's, the one who told her to go to Haven. A cousin of hers, probably. Eve's daddy is Argent (and her granddaddy too).'.
You paged Layla with 'Teresa turns toward Lucas after a long moment, then looks away quickly.'.

Ruth remains silent, though the cant of her head suggests she's listening. The sketch has filled in a bit now, enough to show the horse is Lucas in his equine guise, eyeing a too-small mug.

Jack just arches in eyebrow in mild curiosity at the question, allowing silence to stretch on a little longer before replying. "You seem to be the one in charge, making decisions. I'm doing my thing. Happy meeting in the middle every now and then, but... the arrangement suits me fine for the moment." He takes another innocent bite of his apple, from his little perch.

You paged Kelsey with 'Jan was the boy who came to town with Argent's "gift" for Josh.'.
Kelsey pages: Oh, right.
You paged Kelsey with 'He also told Teresa to go to Haven.'.

Kelsey cuts in grimly, "The boy came here once to deliver something to Josh from Argent."

You paged Lucas and Layla with 'You both catch enough words to guess that Argent was talking to the boy about some rite of passage. Something about joining the rest of the adults.'.

"A whole has the theoretical capacity to be greater than the sum of its parts," Lucas replies mildly, his eyes on Jack. "That's the foundation of any kind of power -- steel, magic, Hive, Kumi. If you want to be more than you are, you must choose to become a part of something greater -- and to make that something greater by your addition." He turns his attemtion back to Kelsey. "Oh yeah, Ah remember hearing about that. Loyal little git, wasn't he?"

Jack narrows his eyes - resisting the immature urge to roll them - and looks sideways as he chews. "No gratitude," he mutters under his breath.
The Sentinel's tone is light-hearted, and obviously jest.

Layla says hesitantly, "It sounded like Silver was talking to the the boy about some rite of passage? Something about joining the rest of the adults?" She shakes her head, trying to clear her mind.

Kelsey gives Jack an opaque look and leans back in her chair. "Well, kin serve as much as any of the changers," she tells Sadie, voice strained. "We value them too."

Jack doesn't look at the others, when he adds, "Gaia knows I've had to kill a few ordinary humans in Hive service, too."

"Ah'd assume there's more 'Rite' to this particular rite of passage than we'd prefer to think," Lucas observes grimly. "Your Jan may not be the same creature at all the next time you meet him."

Battered wood creaks as Ruth settles back in her chair. "Less enlightened than practical, I would think." She glances at Jack, then looks down at her sketchbook. A draft horse looks back at her. "There aren't any ordinary humans. And anyone who could live with the hive on their back is going to have something in them that's tough. That doesn't have to be sharp teeth."

"So this is the first Ah've heard about an Armory," says Lucas. "Anyone have any ideas where that might be, or what might be in it? Ah know some of you have been in and out of there."

Kelsey looks down. "No. I only saw the lab and the cells," she says quietly. "However, I can at least sketch you a map of the way in."

Chewing on his apple, Jack mutters darkly, "They die easier, and they're not very clever. Semantics. 'Ordinary' will do." He might as well be muttering to himself, for the pitching of his words. A little louder - audible, even - Jack asks, "Anyone mind if I find a bed for a few hours? I haven't slept on one for months."

You paged Ruth with 'Your sketch shifts and moves briefly, shaking its mane. It tilts its head, as if trying to peer out the edge of the page toward the conversation. After a moment, it looks at you with big, yellow owl eyes, then settles back into being just a sketch.'.

"Sure," Lucas says to Kelsey. "But that's not where Ah'm going. Not yet, anyway; not without some more firepower." He looks at the top sheet of his stack of papers, without really seeing it. "Ah'm going to Battle Plain, to find us some of the old stuff. The stuff I'm not good enough to make for us yet."

Kelsey looks over at Jack. "We'll catch up on measurements later," she says faintly.

Ruth snorts, abruptly, nostrils flaring out, her face gaining the edges of long, equine lines. She sets her hand, firmly, on her half-finished sketch, then coughs and is human again. "Uh-huh," she says.

Kelsey's the object of Jack's suddenly thoughtful attention for a few moments, as he smiles slightly and nods... then the Battle Plain is measured. If the Sentinel were in a lupine form, his ears would've perked up visibly. They possibly do, even now, though the expression on his face is a vague curiosity. "Battle Plain, huh?"

Kelsey straightens in her chair. "What do you need and who do you want with you?" she asks, cutting to the chase.

Ruth draws her hand away from the sketch, reaches up to tug her fingers through her hair. "Someone is certainly interested in what we're not quite talking about," she murmurs, a rusty edge to her warm alto. "Right." She looks up.

Lucas nods to Jack. "Ah've spent just about every day since the last Moot walking all over the Northeast, hunting and digging and summoning and pestering, and Ah think I've got solid leads some some items Ah think might help us. Ah'm taking Arslag and the Kin and Ah'm gonna see what Ah can turn up." He grins at Kelsey. "Ah could stand some company, it's true. Plus there're undoubtedly folks looking for these same doodads that aren't as nice as me, and may not understand that we need 'em."

Jack gives a tight smile, in a 'no kidding' expression of sympathy.

"I'll go," Ruth says. She closes the sketchbook, though it remains perched on her lap, taps the pencil's hind end on the battered cover.

Kelsey smiles faintly at his phrasing, but her expression is troubled again. "Ruth? What happened there? You okay?"

Ruth glances across the table at Kelsey. "I can't say anything I've drawn has moved on its own before."

Layla asks gently, "Will you show us?"

Jack's eyes slowly shift upwards to regard the ceiling. "Oh, say..." he murmurs quietly. "I've investigated every angle of the Hive that I've been able to get close to, and know the surrounding woods like the back of my hand, now... but, uh... I never thought to check out /here/. No-one set up any wards around this place, by any chance, did they?"

Ruth quirks a brow up, then turns the book open to the half-wrought sketch, a draft horse staring at a rather small mug. She twists it about so the sketch faces out, towards the others. "It isn't finished," she says, mildly.

Layla answers Jack's question, "Sasha would be the one to ask." She gazes at Ruth's sketch.

Without preamble, Lucas stands up, pulling a small flask from one of the cargo pockets of his jeans and a small knife from his belt. Muttering something too low to make out, he pours what looks like some kind of oil along the blade of the knife, with a final gutteral word stabbing the knife into the top of the table. There is a flash, as though sunlight suddenly glinted off the blade.

Kelsey jerks back in her chair, eyebrows scrambling for cover. She realizes what he's up to a moment later and watches with a bemused smile. "Well?"

You paged Lucas with 'Lucas glimpses a sad-looking young woman standing near Layla -- clearly a ghost. And then he sees -- and everyone sees -- something else.'.

Jack just arches an eyebrow, watching thoughtfully with the faint edge of a smile.

Ruth looks around the sketchbook at the table, the small knife sticking up from it. "So, when are we leaving?"

When the light clears, there is a pause, and then, on the far side of the room, just behind Ruth's chair, a woman's shape flashes into existence. She's there for a heartbeat, gilded as if by late afternoon sunlight, and heartwrenchingly beautiful, full of the wonder of the sky after sunset, with all the subtle colors and traceries of clouds drifting across her form. Her eyes are deep, ancient, and amused. As she turns away, hundreds of tiny, but floor-length braids, envelop her form. When she vanishes, a small golden thing glints in the light of her departure.

Kelsey's eyes widen again. "Well," she says, in a rather different tone of voice. "There's an answer."

When her eyes clear, Layla answers, "I'll come along."

"I wonder if she likes English men," Jack breathes, staring after the object left by the vision.

Ruth turns the book, slow, glances at the sketch on the plain and mostly empty page, then looks back over her shoulder. Her brow furrows. "Right."

There is a small clink on the floor.

"Indeed." Lucas makes a sign of reverence, his eyes briefly closed. Then he pulls the knife out of the tabletop, in which there is left no scar or mark, and strides over to ssee what has been left.

Ruth sets the book down on the table, twists about in her chair to look back at the floor. "What just happened?"

"Dunno. But I'm in," Jack murmurs, with a faint smile. "Wake me in... nine or ten hours," he adds with a pleased expectation of sleep in a real bed. The tall man turns to seek out said furniture, but not before scooping up another apple. For the road.

Lucas stares for a moment at the small golden thing in his hand, flushed and apparently quite stunned.

Kelsey whispers a soft Hebrew prayer before rising from her chair tentatively to get a better look at the gift.

Lucas is holding a beautiful little compass-like thing; the case is gold -- the very old, soft, yellow kind -- and the covering is cut crystal. The point of the gold arm floats lightly around toward the setting sun, but the lettering around the edge of the dial says, "Battle Plain This Way." The smith seems to praying, very softly.

"The next time Lilith rises," he breathes. "We leave then."