Samhain in Not-Vienna

Ursa Diner(#179RAJh)
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."
VIEWS: Mess(#244)
Menu Board(#168)
Obvious exits:
Curtain Main Street Kitchen

Sashenka crouches on the floor with a broken tile and a bucket of glue, baby Eve strapped carefully to her back.

Kelsey emerges from the back room blinking sleepily. For some reason, she was sleeping on the floor under one of the cots shoved against a wall earlier today, blankets tossed over it to form a sort of low tent.

Dusty is carefully gluing a myriad of wood fragments back into the shape of a chair. It doesn't look like all the pieces really came from the same chair, but the resulting object appears to be vaguely chair shaped.

Sashenka finishes gluing and stands as Kelsey enters from the back, her eyes casting the girl a look of vague worry. She turns the baby-backpack around so Eve now slumbers against her bosom. "Would anyone else like some tea? I'm parched."

Rahne enters the diner with a lightly whistled tune and a pensive expression, hands clenched around the straps of her backpack a bit tighter today.

Kelsey's cheerful smile, belying the circles under her eyes, serves for everyone, but at the suggestion she chimes in with, "Let me get it, Sashenka-rhya," and dives towards the kitchen.

Layla enters the diner unobtrusively and closes the door behind her. She scans the occupants of the diner, and at the sight of Eve at Sasha's bosom, she breaks into a smile. She says "Tea would be wonderful," as she makes her way to the communal table.

Sashenka chuckles at Kelsey's enthusiasm. "Be my guest." She leans against the counter, hand absently stroking the baby's head. "Anyone else need anything?"

Dusty sighs at the sticky chair-shaped heap he's been working on. "I guess that's the best I can do..." He pauses to consider his work, the frowns and shakes his head. He sidles up the the counter. "How about some new chairs?" he offers to Sashenka.

Rahne's pensive look holds onto her face despite the small smile she gives. "Tea does sound good, now that I think about it." She also walks towards the communal table, but slowly, taking her time for some reason or another.

Sashenka grins down at Dusty. "I'm sure Rowan would be happy to share the woodworking tools. Have at it. That chairs was on its last legs even before it got smashed."

GM paged the room: 'You all begin to feel rather chilly.'.

Kelsey is busy finding one of the best brews (not that there can be bad ones in Sashenka's establishment), setting the kettle on. She returns shortly with a tray of six mugs, arranged with her usual vaguely terrifying precision in two rows, with a honeyjar and sugar bowl on one end and the cream pitcher and spoons on the other. She starts setting these out while the water boils. "How's our little one?" she asks warmly.

Sashenka pulls the blanket back, exposing a rosy cheek that has already filled out noticably from its previous malnourished look, and then tucks the baby in more tightly. "Sleeping like a cub in mama's den. I expect her to wake up in a little bit and be pretty hungry, though."

Layla shivers visibly. She pads into the back room and returns shortly with a shawl. She drapes the shawl around her shoulders artistically before she returns to her seat.

Dusty shivers as he reaches for a cup of tea. He looks at the baby, then asks "Maybe she needs another blanket? I think it just got a little chillier."

Rahne relinquishes her hold on her backpack long enough to set it on the table, turning her hands to the business of rubbing her arms gently. A very slight frown wrinkles her brow, and she leaves off rubbing to start digging through her backpack, pulling out a worn-looking sweatshirt.

It is midday on the first day of Samhain, which spans a period of several days in these more magical times. The day is relatively chilly and seems to be growing colder. Perhaps it is the clouds that are scudding quickly in from the west, passing over the sun and making its bright light flicker and grow more wan.

Sashenka nods. "I think you're right, Dusty. Would you mind grabbing the little quilt off the end of my bed?"

Kelsey looks up from setting out the tea service with a puzzled expression, brows starting to hunch together. "Another storm coming?" she guesses thoughtfully, heading for the door.

The slight fogging of the windows that always accompanies a large gathering of folk in the Diner has turned to frost.

Rahne tugs the sweatshirt on eagerly, settling it about her and tucking her hands into both sleeves like a makeshift muff. "Wouldn't surprise me, none. Weather's unpredictable as anything...."

Dusty shuffles off to the kitchen, shivering more intensely.

Kelsey opens the door about five inches to peer out, and in doing so notices the frost on the screen. "Good grief. It sure is."

Sashenka rubs at her arms, puzzled by their sudden gooseflesh. "I didn't notice a storm coming." She frowns. "I don't think this is any normal storm."

The temperature plummets suddenly. Exhalations turn to mist. The air shudders, growing thick and stagnant.

Layla clutches her shawl tighter.

Dusty returns with Sashenka's bed quilt in his arms, as well a thick wool blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He sets the quilt beside the baby, pauses, and looks at her awkwardly. "Umm..." he murmurs, "... I don't exactly know what to do with it -- uh, I mean her." He looks pleadingly to Sashenka. Then the temperature plummets, and he brushes aside his uncertainty and bundles the child in the quilt and holds her close to his chest.

Rahne's spine stiffens at the change in atmosphere while the rest of her tries to huddle into the less-than-substantial sweatshirt. "Good gravy...." she murmurs, casting her gaze around with a touch of wariness.

Kelsey, staring pensively at the clouds gathering over the afternoon sun, gives a squawk of surprise and lets go of the door, turning to scan the room with widening eyes. She takes a step towards Dusty and the baby, but has no more idea than he what to do. "Layla?" she asks with a strained laugh. "You see anything with that Spidey-Stridey-sense of yours?"

Sashenka hands Eve off carefully, smiling as she watches Dusty with the baby. When all looks taken care of, she steps into the cot room and emerges with an armful of blankets. "This is bizarre. Anyone have an idea what's going on?"

You paged Layla with 'Terese is extremely quiet and non-present. You do, in fact, feel that things are happening that involve the dead, somehow, but not The Dead. Not actual lost souls, wandering, exactly. It's hard to describe. Let us just say that your teeth are tingling.'.

Sashenka pages the room: Just a note, the quilt in question is child-sized, brightly colored, and (while clearly lovingly cared for) plainly old.

The tall Strider's eyes widen at Kelsey's news. Layla lets her eyes unfocus, and she looks around the room. "Did you see anything in particular?" Layla asks, as her eyes come back into focus.

Kelsey chuckles, trying to lighten the chill in the air with a gentle laugh. "The wind goin' 'wooooo' and the clouds marching over the sun like an army of dust bunnies and the sky a becoming shade of green. Why?"

Rahne digs a hand free and rubs the bridge of her nose for a moment, thoughtfully. With a few quick blinks, she pulls her hand away and lightly smacks herself on the forehead. "My memory failed me for once. It's 'round Samhain-time."

Sashenka looks at Rahne. "Well, yes. It's the first day. But I don't remember this happening last year," she says with a wry, lopsided grin.

Kelsey glances over at Rahne. "Then we're probably due for a bunch of Fianna trick-or-treaters passing out Guinness. Joy." Yes, she's trying her best. Perhaps a little too hard; her voice is unsteady with nerves. The door bursts open, as if a running person just ran through it. A very cold breeze rushes into the room and through it, into the back room.

Layla blinks. "I'll check on it." She moves to the threshold of the back room.

Rahne shrugs at Sasha and starts to respond but the commotion with the door cuts her off. Blinking a few times again, she continues with her interrupted utterance. "Never had this happen either...truthfully."

Sashenka gently takes the baby back from Dusty and sets her firmly in the post-apocalyptic Snuggli. She keeps ojne arm wrapped around Eve as she moves further from the door.

The cold breeze, redoubled, rushes out of the back room and out the front door, ignoring all in its path. The door bangs shut.

You paged Kelsey with 'You, standing nearest the window, see a pair of indistinct shapes exit the door on the breeze.'.
Sadie pages: Didn't see a thing, did I?
You paged Layla with 'No, you didn't see anything until just as it reached the door, when two shapes began to take shape.'.

Kelsey gives a growl of surprise. "What the fuck?" She follows the door's slam and wrenches it open, running outside.

From afar, Kelsey attempts to give chase.

Dusty hunches slightly, eyes darting about, looking for a suitably safe place amongst the remaining mess of the room. His eyes settle on the chair he'd been working on, and puts its mishapen form between himself and the door.

Rahne winces as the breeze cuts right through her sweatshirt and stares at the door. "If I didn't know better, I'd think something wants us outside." Tucking her hand back into her sleeve again, she moves to stand by the door, watching and waiting.

Layla says through clenched teeth, "Something's taking shape." She shakes her head, "Couldn't make it out. Certainly felt it," she adds as she shivers in her shawl.

You paged Kelsey with 'The town is... different. There are houses where there are usually only ruins, smoke coming from their chimneys and figures issuing from their doors. At the center of town stands a wooden platform. One of the figures dashes up it and begins to do something fast and violently... ringing a bell, you think, as the vague echoes of a bell ring off your back teeth.'.

The dim echo of a jangling bell filters through the windows.

Layla joins Rahne at the doorway.

Dusty pulls his blanket firmly around himself, and ducks lower behind the chair.

Sashenka's eyes narrow as she looks around the room. "Who are you? What do you want?" She manages to make it sound fairly polite.

>From afar, Kelsey is less composed once she's away from everyone else, but after a moment's shock at the changes (and another moment to comprehend, at least dimly, the cause) she rushes to the bellringer. "What is it?" she cries, wringing her hands and playing the part of bewildered villager all too well.

You paged Kelsey with 'The people are definitely hazy. Their features aren't very clear. The voices are naught more than a murmur at this point.'.

Rahne frowns a bit and shivers in no small amount. "Need another sweatshirt." she murmurs idly, opening the door enough to stick her head out cautiously, looking for Kelsey.

You paged Rahne and Layla with 'Looking outside, you see that the town has changed. There are buildings where there are usually only ruins, houses with smoke coming from their chimneys and people -- or, at least, figures like people -- issuing from the doors. In the center of town is a wooden platform with a shape violently ringing a bell on it. Kelsey has run to the platform and is attempting, apparently, to talk to the bellringer while wringing her hands.'.

>From afar, Kelsey gives up and heads for one of the ghosts of burning buildings; she's trying to tell herself she's just walking in a story, and she's trying to see, understand, learn as much as she can about what's happening out here.

Layla turns to the others in the diner. "You need to see this," she says as an understatement.

Sashenka turns the baby-pack back around so Eve is behind her, shielded from the wind as she steps forward and looks out the door.

Dusty shivers, looks about uncertainly, then gathers what's left of his resolve and steps forward cautiously, peering from behind Sashenka.

Layla steps into the street so as not to block anyone's view of the great outdoors.

Rahne's eyes widen, and she follows Layla out the door to stand outside the diner. Pausing there for a moment, she takes a long look around before taking a few slow steps forward, pointing herself on a path that heads towards Kelsey.

The sky is full of rolling cloud, the light a green cast, and the village looks strange: many houses which were in ruins or gone, earlier this day, are visible now, and there are too many people moving between them, blurry, indistinct, voices snatched away on the wind. Someone is ringing a bell on a platform erected at the center of town, and Kelsey appears to have just left it, and is moving slowly towards one of the strange houses as if caught up in the dream as well.

Looking outside, you see that the town has changed. There are buildings where there are usually only ruins, houses with smoke coming from their chimneys and people -- or, at least, figures like people -- issuing from the doors. In the center of town is a wooden platform with a shape violently ringing a bell on it. Kelsey is looking around at the figures running out of the buildings to the platform at the center.

Sashenka gapes, at a loss for words.

The crowd, as it gathers around the platform, seems to take on more coherence -- though they are still somewhat transparent -- and most of the figures seem to be carrying a weapon of some sort, varying from baseball bats, to pitchforks, to shotguns. The sky darkens as the figures become clearer as if... it were night.

Sashenka takes a step forward and stops next to Layla. "What are they doing?"

Kelsey has reached one of the 'ghost houses' by now and vanished into its shadow.

Dusty gasps, and grips the door frame tightly.

Layla answers Sasha's question with "I don't know." She takes off at a quick pace towards the house that she saw Kelsey last.

"Merciful...." Rahne whispers, taking a few more cautious steps forward and looking around slowly. As if to reaffirm exactly where she is, she turns her head to look over her shoulder at those by the Diner.

You paged Kelsey with 'The ghost house is a neat little habitation, with tchatchkes on the wall and little shelves, "Home Sweet Home" embroidered on a pillow on the neat little loveseat in the living room. The whole place smells vaguely of talcum powder and neat elderly folk.'.

Dusty shuffles forward slowly, and grabs the side of Sashenka's apron. "Who are these people? WHEN are these people?"

Sashenka puts her hand over the boy's. "I don't know, Dusty. I really don't." She moves down the Diner steps, trying to keep Layla and Kelsey in sight.

A portly man mounts the platform and waves his arms for attention from the gathered crowd. His words, the first clear ones you've heard, ring out: "Everyone! Everyone! Quiet down! Let's hear the news!"

Dusty reluctantly follows by Sashenka's side, his head darting about to look at the crowd.

Kelsey steps out of the house she entered and waves reassuringly as she spots Layla. She heads back towards the platform to join the crowd as the other people begin to gather; if those at the Diner didn't know her well they might mistake her for one of the villagers. Layla sees that she is pale but seems otherwise fine.

Sashenka stops, listening for the news.

Rahne picks her pace up a bit and moves closer, glancing behind her to make sure the others are all right before trotting forward again. Shaking her hands free, she combs her hair back and listens very intently.

Layla, relieved to have Kelsey back in her sights, slips back towards the gang at the diner. Her ears are picked up to hear the 'news'.

A young woman climbs the steps as if she were going to the gallows. Her face is pale and drawn, her hair and clothes plastered with sweat and dust. When she speaks, her voice is flat. "They're comin' for the Haven."

A low moan of grief breaks out, descanted by a thin wail from someone who cannot contain the despair. The sound mounts over the crowd as if it had a life of its own. The motion of the crowd is like that of a lake whipped by the winds of an oncoming storm.

Sashenka squeezes Dusty's hand -- whether to comfort him or herself is not entirely clear.

Kelsey's eyes widen at the name. She steps forward and cries out, "Do we let them? Do we only stand to wait for the storm to wash us away? This is our home!"

Dusty burrows closer to Sasha, burying part of his face in her sleeves. His breathing is shallow and rapid.

Layla shifts from foot to foot and continues to listen intently.

Rahne stands as still as a statue, watching and listening with every fiber of her being to the woman, to the crowd, to just about everything. Kelsey's cry garners a flick of her eyes in that direction, and she seems to curl her arms in tighter to her body.

Some people fall to the ground, screaming and weeping. Others break for the north road, brandishing their weapons. Still others cry, "We need to hide!" The rest mill about, the crowd breaking into a swirling morass of chaos and terror.

Sashenka lays a hand on Dusty's head, but her eyes remain riveted to the people in the square.

Kelsey attempts again to project her voice over the hysteria,hands clenched at her sides. "Hide the children! Get some stores taken to the forest! They can't get all of us!" Then she breaks out of the crowd, searching for those she left behind, a certain wildness in her eyes that matches that of the phantoms. "Layla, Rahne," she says hoarsely, drawing close. "This is our town's story. It's our duty to know."

Rahne shakes herself out of her rigid posture and rubs between her eyes a few times before speaking. "I agree. I'd be one to follow those that went north, to see what all they came up 'gainst. Anyone else?" she says, firmly.

The square gradually empties, but the sense of panic rises. And rises. And rises. The night is complete: no moon shines through the broken cloud cover. And the night is full of strange cries and keening.

Kelsey shudders. She is very much afraid, her face pinched and strained against the rising wind of fear and the more dreadful sounds in the air, but has a familiar stubborn set to her jaw. "I'll come with you, as long as..." she looks between Sashenka and Dusty. "Should we? Willl you be okay? And Eve?"

Dusty looks up to Sashenka's face; his eyes are fearful, but his expression is simply questioning.
Sashenka's eyes flick back toward Eve, then to Kelsey. "Yes, go. We'll be okay."

Layla draws her shawl closer, if possible. "I am willing to be a witness," she tells Kelsey.

Kelsey tells Dusty reassuringly, some measure of sympathy in her eyes, "I don't think it's real. I think it's the town's memory coming to life, a story, a glimpse of the past. I'm sure they can't hurt you." Well, at least, that's what she claims, and she's sticking to it. With that she turns to jog north, muttering something about "Galliard investigative journalists, reporting live on Halloween festivities."

Snarls and howls drift up the south road: enough to be the sounds of an army.

Layla mutters under her breath "I have a bad feeling about this."

Sashenka watches the others go, her face filled with both regret and relief. Then she hears the sounds from the south, and turns to Dusty. "I think we'd better get inside."

Rahne balls her hands into fists inside her sweatshirt sleeves and begins to head after those phantoms that took the north road, jogging at first. As sounds come from the south she pauses, looking back over her shoulder at Sashenka and Dusty, "Good idea. Very good idea."

Dusty gulps deeply, and nods the affirmative with great vigor.

Sashenka strides up the steps, holding the door open for Dusty to enter first. Her eyes scan the south road worriedly.

Kelsey pulls up short at the sounds coming behind, and growls under her breath. "We should be prepared to retreat out the back, towards the lake," she says firmly, reluctantly backing towards the diner with her face towards the south.

Dusty darts in the door and puts forward effor to pull in Sashenka behind him.

The gleam of eyes, the flash of teeth, streaks of shadow and silk shiver the night. A lone man runs ahead of them, eyes wild, desperately seeking some kind of shelter. Just ten meters short of the building that will be the Diner, he is overtaken by the lead wolf, a huge, ebony monster streaked with silver lightning. A clash of jaws, a shake of the head. The man has an instant to scream before he is torn in half. The army swarms into the village at a run, hundreds of inky shapes in lupus, hispo, and crinos. There are a few more short, violent meetings of Urge Lord and human, leaving bloody spatters and unrecognizeable shapes along some buildings and the ground.

In an old-fashioned manner, Layla raises a hand to her mouth as she recoils in horror from the sights before her.

Kelsey sinks down to one knee before the diner's doorpost: she was going to keep guard, but at the first death she howls a strangled cry of fury and protest, falling into war-form without even realizing it, braced with one hand against the ground in a sprinter's crouch. ~NOooo!~

Sashenka hurriedly enters the Diner and strips the backpack with the baby inside it from her back. "Dusty, can you take Eve? I may need to fight. I don't know if this is just a history lesson or not."

Rahne spins around fully to face the south, eyes growing incredibly wide at the sight presented to them. Inadvertantly, both feet attempt take a step backwards at the same time and catch against each other, sending her tumbling down hard onto her backside.

Dusty scrambles to grab the backpack, then slips to the back of the diner. He takes Eve out of the backpack and holds her in his arms, his body crouching to run and hide when the danger comes closer.

Sashenka turns away as soon as Dusty has a good hold on the baby, stepping quickly out the door before shifting upward into battle form.

Voice-of-Accord bolts forward towards Rahne to help her, snarling at her fallen tribesmates.

The vast leader rises to his truly enormous crinos shape, revealing a heavily scarred chest and belly. His head swings from side to side, lips curled in either a sneer or a snarl, it's hard to tell. ~This is nothing. She said the haven was north. And from there, the CAERN. We shall take this place, brothers and sisters. Give no quarter... no mercy. Once we have the place of the prophecies, even the leeches must give way before us. Forward... to GLORY! Forward... to SLAUGHTER! Forward... to VICTORY!!!~ He roars a howl and streaks onto the north road, followed by hundreds of howling, screeching, slavering Crinos shadows that seem to trail Corruption straight from the pits of Malfeas.

The horde swarms over and around Kelsey and Rahne without touching them, although both receive an opportunity to stare the Corruptor in the eyes.

The landscape is bleak and barren, sulphuric fumes rise from the prints of their feet, and the town... the town is empty of life.

Gathers Gaia's Milk howls furiously, but does not leave her position on the steps, guarding home and cubs.

Layla slumps against the walls of the diner, but does not fall. She watches the ravening horde as it moves out of town.

Rahne growls something under her breath about 'two left feet' and accepts the assistance, getting to one knee as the leader howls and freezing. Indeed, she does get that opportunity to stare, and does so with a deeper growl rising in her throat.

Voice-of-Accord stumbles to Rahne's side with lips pulled back from her teeth: for a moment it's hard to tell whether it's in fear, or whether the madness of the moment is affecting her dangerously. But as the tide of horror sweeps over them she grips the hands of her fellow Galliard and simply holds on, shuddering violently.

Dusty huddles in the back of the diner, eyes wild and frantic. He clutches Eve tightly, perhaps a little too tightly, for she begins to cry. Frozen in place, he whispers assurances to quiet her, and releases his grip slightly.

The shadows, just before leaving the line of sight of the people in the road, fade away, leaving the village in a night of despair.

Voice-of-Accord falls back into her own shape, still shaking. "Bastards," she saying brokenly. "Gods. Thunder, Thunder, how could it be like this?" She's fighting back tears.

Gathers Gaia's Milk sends a last furious howl after the shadows and then shifts back down to human form. Her eyes glitter with tears. "Dammit," she mutters. "Why can't the dead in this place STAY dead?"

Rahne's growl dies off slightly, though a plentitude of emotions make her eyes glitter like the emeralds they share color with. Resting back on her knees, she uncurls one hand from its fist and touches Kelsey's shoulder once.

"On Samhain?" Mrs. Whittaker, the silver-haired postmistress and phone operator, says, emerging cautiously from her home (the post office). "You'd be better shoutin' at a cloud to stop rainin'." She looks off at the north, glances away from a fading body in the street.

Kelsey meets Rahne's eyes with a raw, powerless look of shame and hurt, but her smile of thanks quickly attempts to plaster over the chinks. "Dammit." She wipes her eyes, trying not to look around the village too much now. "Is it over? I think I've got the fucking picture, already." At the half-familiar voice she finishes clambering to her feet and is dusting her knees off with a shaky laugh. "So I see."

"Never been this bad afore," Mrs. Whittaker continues. "Sometimes, we get the night and the shadows, but nothin' so... vivid." She eyes the "newcomers" keenly. "Mebbe you woke somethin' up, messin' about up yonder."

Rahne's mouth quirks just barely enough to count as a smile, but she doesn't get up right away. Rubbing her backside and tailbone with her other hand, she looks around the village. "We need a howl of a different kind, one to ease heart and mind..." she murmurs quietly in rhyme.

Meanwhile, the night is lightening back toward midday, the bodies have vanished, and a last howl echoes down the north road, followed by fading screams.

Sashenka sighs. "Yeah, that just figures."

Kelsey reassembles her composure in small chunks, but her face shatters into a rabbit-under-a-hawk-silhouette again at the final howl.

Dusty peels himself from the back wall, and stands on week legs, like those of a newborn foal. He stands a while, trying to find his equilibrium, then slowly moves forward. As he approaches the open door, he asks Sashenka over the cries of the screaming baby, "Are they gone?"

Just before the blight of the out-of-time passage lifts, there is a flicker of a shadow -- bird-shaped? -- flying (like demons of Malfeas were on its tail feathers) toward the ruins of the haven.

Sashenka turns quickly to embrace Dusty, just missing sight of the bird-shadow. "Yes, Dusty, they're gone. It's okay. It was just -- I guess the town was just remembering."

Kelsey stares upwards in alarm, teeth gritted. "It's only a story," she tells herself, swallowing down more fear. "history. It's old times. Not ours."

Rahne tenses briefly at that last echoing howl, and lets out a slow breath. Casting a glance up the north road, she slips down into her lupine form and stands, giving her mottle-furred body a vigorous shake. Padding over, she brushes against the back of Kelsey's legs reassuringly.

Mrs. Whittaker chews her lip and rolls back on her heels thoughtfully. "Hundred years ago, as I've heard from my granny. 'Twas a terrible thing." She casts an eye toward the place where the first man fell, just short of the Diner. "That was Jack Ferry, Fred's mother's father's younger brother. 'Tis said he drew them off from findin' the rest of the family by breakin' cover and runnin'."

Kelsey starts and looks down at Rahne with a grateful smile. "Hope Rowan's all right," she says fervently, a trace of yearning there too. Then she faces the knowledgeable villager with a lift of her chin, apology in her eyes. "Brave," she whispers. "And the haven? Did they hold out?"

Dusty releases a deep sigh, and holds the baby out for Sashenka. His face wears an expression of defeat as he says "I don't think I'm very good with her."

Harp's-Song leaves Kelsey and trots over first to Layla, then to Sashenka and Dusty, repeating the gesture and raising her muzzle to snort air softly upwards at Eve. All here.

Sashenka takes Eve from the boy. The baby quiets as she settles into the big woman's arms. Sasha ruffles Dusty's hair with a little grin. "'Sokay, kiddo. Believe it or not, I wasn't so good with babies at 11 either." Sasha gives Harp a grateful look. "The important thing is, she's safe. We're all safe."

Mrs. Whittaker eyes Kelsey askance. "The haven? They all died. Every one. The folks who didn't die in the first attack, who were ferreted outta the woods and hidey-holes, they died under torture, so I've heard. And not one of 'em said where the Place was." She chews her lower lip some more and shakes her head. "A hundred years. 'Tis a long time, but not to them. 'Tis a terrible thing."

Kelsey cannot meet the woman's eyes, but agrees with a mute nod, shoulders slumping.

Sashenka catches some of Mrs. Whittaker's words and rises briskly. "Besides, Dusty, I think Eve needs her bottle. C'mon, let's go warm one up for her." She steers the boy toward the kitchen.

The postmistress fluffs her apron and sighs. "Well, it's over for another year then. Glad of it, too." She retreats back inside, to her well-polished and cared-for home.

Harp's-Song pads back to Kelsey and nudges her leg gently. Come. Inside. Later we will howl for them.

Kelsey calls a cordial, "Goodnight, Mrs. Whittaker," the least she can do, before turning to join the others in their own haven. Her face is sad, thoughtful, and still pale with the cobwebs of lingering fright and anger.

Dusty follows on Sashenka's heels. His body is tense, but the tension of terror is fading into the stress of memory. He sighs, and his head slumps forward. He is silent as he helps with the warming of the bottle. After a time, he whispers "All that... that happened? Here?"

Sashenka takes the warm bottle from Dusty and tests it on the inside of her elbow. "Perfect," she says, but then sobers at his question, and finally sighs. "Yes, I'm afraid it did. Long ago. I'm sorry you had to see it all, Dusty."

Harp's-Song pads close to Kelsey, staying mostly at her side while heading back to the Diner. She doesn't shift back up to two legs until reaching the door and holds the door open, letting Kelsey in ahead of her.

Dusty mulls over Sashenka's comment for a time. "Those who did it, were they from the Hive?"

Kelsey tells Rahne with a threadbare smile propped up by pride, "Thanks," and enters, breaking her own tension with a curse as she sees the added frost, or condensation, on the inside of all the windows. She darts for the kitchen to make sure the teapot hasn't burned through.

Sashenka considers. "They were from A hive, yes -- but I don't know if it has any connection to the hive that's there now."

Rahne nods quietly and stays by the door a bit longer, propping it open with one foot while looking around the village once more.

Dusty's control finally slips, and he breaks into uncontrollable sobs. He sinks to his knees.

Kelsey comes out with the kettle and a meek expression, nearly dropping it as the boy starts to cry. She pours up a cup with what little's left in the bottom, adds some honey, and carries it to him awkwardly. "Go rest," she tells him. "There's no more ghosts tonight. We're safe here, you know that."

Sashenka puts her free arm around the sobbing boy and makes shushing noises. "It's okay, Dusty." She looks over the boy's head at Kelsey. "I think it's bedtime for all of us, Kel."