Layla is sitting by a make-shift cradle. She is rocking a small bundle cuddles in her arms. Fretful noises can be heard from the tiny bundle.
Kelsey looks up as the door opens with a certain wariness, working in the kitchen right now. She's a bit hollow-eyed and battered from the earlier unscheduled excitement.
Josh wanders in slowly, a few minutes later. He winces once he sees the results of the attack. "I...heard," he says softly.
Kelsey's smile is a little too quick. "Couldn't save the mother, but at least baby's safe." How can she sound so sure?
Rowan, an adze in one hand and the remains of a log in another, heads in the door, after Josh.
Kelsey's expression lightens a bit at Rowan's arrival, and she wanders over past Layla to take a look at their charge, stooping and reaching down for a tiny hand, making soothing noises over the child's fretting. "Huusshh, shhh, it's okay. All safe now."
Josh finds a place, whereever he can, to sit down. He slumps as he takes in the scene.
Rowan appears to be trying to rebuild the chair he made into firewood, the day before. He also doesn't seem to be doing too bad a job, although certainly, it's not going to be any masterpiece. "Hey," he says quietly to Kelsey; Josh, he seems to have talked to already, and recently.
Layla offers the child to Kelsey. "Would you like to hold her?"
Kelsey smiles down at the child, "Well, yeah. You doin' pretty well with her, though," she says earnestly, before holding her arms out to gather the girl into herself. "Eve," she says in a low voice, rocking her, then looks up hopefully at the Strider. "We should bury Teresa. What's the best place, you think?"
Rowan suggests, tentatively, "Where the old town was?" as he planes his log.
Here's an unusual sight: Eos not in the caern. The older woman has spent almost all her time in the past few months on the Bawn, patrolling. She seems a touch grim as she enters the Diner as quietly as possible. There is one freshly-healed line across her forehead, and her clothes seem a bit worse for the wear.
Josh looks over again as the door opens, and immediately his head drops low, in respect and submission. "Hello," he says, clearly nervous.
Eos breaks her grim demeanor to smile and nod to Josh. "Hello, hello," she says cheerfully enough.
Kelsey is just getting Eve settled comfortably in her arms and rocking her, trying to soothe away the half-hearted motorboat complaints, and doesn't look up until Josh speaks. A startled smile and a correct duck of the head meet the elder's arrival. "Eos-rhya! Everything all right?"
Rowan gives Eos a vaguely startled half smile, and keeps planing.
Layla settles on the floor at Kelsey's feet. She is gazing adoringly at the baby nestled in Kelsey's arms.
Eos waves a hand airily. "Everything's fine, fine. Julen is orchestrating a bit of Umbral patrolling. She may be here later. Just wanted to check in and make sure everything is all right."
Josh lets out a sigh. "Well, this is it," he admits.
Sashenka steps into the diner, a huge backpack on her back. She looks footsore and generally weary -- until she gets a look at the place. Then her jaw drops, and she stares -- at the baby, at the mess, at... well, everything at once, or at least she TRIES to.
Kelsey shares a shy smile with Layla as the two Galliards hover over the child, but tells the Warder quietly, "For now. I... Sashenka!" Her voice squeaks oddly as she checks her volume at the last second, trying not to disturb Eve.
Completely by accident, at first sight of Sashenka, Rowan drops his planer into the small pile of woodchips he's been creating. "You're back!" he almost yells, before remembering the baby. He instead just says it very loudly. Not having a baby in his arms, he's able to head right over to her.
Eos was moving in the direction of the younger Galliard and her charge, and reacts in a strangely prompt fashion to the noise of Sashenka entering behind her. She spins on her heel, almost, but not quite, dropping into a crouch. She relaxes at the sight of the Nitakk-Ita, and quirks a sympathetic half-smile at her amazement.
Sashenka hurriedly removes her pack, dropping it to the floor as she steps forward. "Good Mother, what happened?"
Josh looks to the others assembled. "That could explain it better than I could."
Rowan's expression tightens slightly. "We had a convert. From the Hive. And, um, she got killed." Jerking a thumb at the baby, he explains, "That's Eve. She's /ours/. /Not/ theirs."
Josh wipes a hand down his face. "The Hive? From the Hive..."
Eve lets out an impressive mewlish sort of cry, waking a little more fully as the bustle in the room picks up. Kel rocks the baby slowly, a fierce look in her eyes terribly at odds with the soft noises she's making. "Hey, it's Mama Bear. You wanna meet Mama Bear, don't you, now? She'll make everything better..."
Sashenka looks toward the cot room for the first time, and catches a glimpse of the small body. Her face pales and her eyes fill with tears. She starts to say something, but the baby's cry interrupts her, and she turns away from the body, toward Kelsey and the child.
Layla fetches the bottle Kelsey prepared. She shakes a couple of drops of milk on her arm to test the temperature. The milk must have cooled enough, for she wordless hands the bottle to Kelsey.
Rowan drifts back towards Josh, now. "She -- she said that Jan Ezust told her you were a person of honor. That you'd help protect her." His expression says he doesn't quite know if he should be saying this.
Kelsey adjusts her hold slightly and starts to take the bottle, then shakes her head and motions for Layla to manage it with a sheepish grin. "I'm not as coordinated as you," she tells the Strider. She looks up to hold Sashenka's eyes, some troubled thought wrinkling the young woman's forehead that she can't, or daren't, put into words just yet.
Layla settles back on the floor next to Kelsey. She holds the bottle to one side and divides her attention between gazing at the baby adoringly and watching the others in the room.
Josh just looks like a stunned ox. "I...yes," he says, on the verge of tears himself. "But...I want to protect her, and I know little of being a father." He looks over to the baby girl, giving her an apologetic look.
You paged Layla with 'You sense the Presence sort of leaning over you, as if to try to look at the baby.'.
Sashenka's eyes lock onto the baby with an expression of heartbreaking longing. She stands near the door, at a loss as tow hat to do, her bulk for once seeming awkward.
Eos leans against the counter, watching and listening.
Layla startles suddenly at apparently nothing. Then she forces herself to relax.
Kelsey tears her eyes away from Eve, who is nursing with small sucking noises and dribbling a bit of the milk, and catches the various expressions around the room. "We'll all look after her. But the mother asked for Joshua, and Sashenka, you're... I think she'll call you Mother most've all. Come? Give her your blessing?"
Rowan's expression twists into a smile, and he just nods, and goes back to planing. For a moment.
Josh nods quickly. "I...I can protect her, but Eve needs a mother more." He looks to the Nitakk-Ita. "Sashenka...I would be honored..."
Sashenka blinks hard, then steps forward with a tight, grateful smile to Kelsey and Josh. "She --" the word comes out, somehow, both gruff and squeaky, and Sasha clears her throat. "Her name is Eve?"
Josh nods. "I just heard that myself."
Layla nods her head in the adfirmative. "It is."
Rowan says, a little hoarse, "We named her just as her mother died."
Kelsey exhales. It's pass the baby time. She shifts position to warn Layla, holding the bottle, before slowly lifting Eve in her arms to let the older woman claim her. "Yes. Layla named her, to stop the spirits sent from the hive to carry her back. They came here after her. Killed the mother. " There's a pang of guilt in her voice, although she relates it as gently as possible.
Eos stares at the floor thoughtfully. "Apologies. A pack of 'em slipped past Julen and I."
Layla reclaims the baby from Kelsey. She sits contended on the floor, crooning in a quiet voice.
Layla gives the baby a kiss on her forehead, then offers her to Sasha next.
Rowan pauses in his planing. "You did the best you could, ma'am. That place... wasn't gonna give her up willingly."
Sashenka stretches her arms out to receive Eve, and pulls the child in to rest against her soft bosom. "Eve," she whispers, and it sounds like a blessing.
Eos shrugs gently. "It doesn't mean we can't wish we'd done more." She quirks a smile at Sasha and the baby. "At least you all saved one, and that's certainly more than none."
Rowan says, ruefully, "I sure know the feeling, yes." After a moment, he glances towards Sashenka, thoughfully.
Josh looks at the ground. "But how many more will be hurt at his hands?"
Kelsey looks over towards the Warder with flushed cheeks, agreeing with Rowan. "And you hadn't stopped some I suspect we wouldn't have been fast enough to save Eve. Anyway. That's why the Diner's banged up. The fight. And now, well, we were working up to... to burying the mother."
Sashenka is completely absorbed in the baby for several minutes, but finally she looks up. "I think I've got the gist of it, but would anyone care to explain just what happened?"
The screen door creaks, and in walks Higami, in a sober gray kimono over his business wear. He pauses, examining the scene.
Rowan takes a deep breath. "I could try. I think I put some pieces together, anyway."
Eos nods and looks to Rowan with interest. "I'd like to hear the jigsaw put together."
Rowan explains, "She... Fled from the Hive. After a dream where the Dark Mother said she'd get stuck in the Paths by Argent if she stayed. Argent, of course, being her father. She knew about us, beforehand, cause Jan Eruzt, he said Josh and us, we're a honorable and safe bunch. So... We've been spreading seeds, and they've landed on fruitful ground. We -- Niska at first, and the rest of us in time, we found her at a crossroads, exhausted, tired, wounded. And we did help her. And... Sasha, your granddaughter, too, she helped her escape." He sounds very tentative about this last part. About saying it at all.
Kelsey shoots Sashenka a concerned look, nodding her own suspicion. "The mother said she'd been helped by a golden-haired child," the Galliard breathes softly. "Who gave her a cup with some magic drink to give her strength for the journey, and said 'My grandmother's folk will care for your daughter.'"
Sashenka listens with interest, her eyes widening. "She was here again? I... I don't suppose she mentioned her name?"
The Dancer shakes his head. "I only got her scent, not her name."
Kelsey shakes her head apologetically. "We didn't see her. Niska may have?" She looks questioningly at Rowan. "I'm sorry. I didn't even realize til later who it might have been."
Rowan says "I don' think she's catchable anyways. Not unless she wanna be."
Rowan then goes back to planing
Sashenka's expression teeters between joy and sadness, but after a moment her mouth quirks into a grin. "Little scamp angel. I suppose she'll tell someone one of these days."
Josh rubs his chin. "Interesting..."
Eos raises an eyebrow, then frowns. "Argent is... the girl's father?" She nods in the direction of the body. "Or the ba... Eve's father?"
Josh glowers. "WHy am I not sure I want to hear the answer to that?"
Kelsey's lips press out into a desperate frown. "Yes, Eos-rhya," she answers obediently, then pleads, "We've /got/ to save her. Don't say it's past hope."
Sashenka's smile fades and her eyes narrow. She hugs the baby a hair more tightly. "Don't say what's past hope?"
Eve stretches in Sasha's arms, her left arm emerging from the blankets. Shining silver lines twine around her arm from shoulder to fingertips, looking almost, but not quite, like script or stylized runes of some sort.
Eos raises an eyebrow to Kelsey. "Is it one, or the other, or both?"
Higami, who was busy surveying the damage, looks up at the flash of silver. He walks closer to the group in conversation, studying the baby.
Sashenka looks down to rearrange the baby's blanket after she stretches, and gives a little gasp as she sees the silver marks. She looks mutely up at the others for an explanation.
The hint of belligerence in the young Shadow Lord's face eases ever so slightly, eyes going soft and sad as she looks back over towards eve in time to to catch the shine of silver. "Argent was Eve's father. But the mother said she hadn't been brought to the Paths of Madness yet."
Eos nods. "No one is ever beyond hope, Voice-of-Accord. Hope is all we have sometimes, and that's what brought this child here."
"They never really say," Josh ponders, thinking out loud, "If there is a way back from the paths.
Higami pages: Are the silver runes on the same arm as Argent's silver arm is to him?
Kelsey gives a tight little laugh of the sort she was prone to during her first months here. "I'd like to think one can come back from almost anywhere," she murmurs. Her eyes go to the guildsman. "Can you tell what the marks are, Master Higami?" she asks softly. "Is there any way to remove them?"
Sashenka croons softly to Eve as she resettles the baby so her arm will be easily observable.
Higami pages: And, while I'm at it, do the runes match any runic language?
Josh sits again, lost in some thought.
You paged Higami with 'Same arm, yes. The left. And no, the marks do not resemble any language script or runes. They're just random squiggles.'.
Higami continues to study the runes. "Tell? No. It may be worth saying, however, that Eve's marked arm is her left, and her father's marked arm is his left, as well. Argent's very name, a permutation of 'silver', the color of the runes... she may be spiritually marked as belonging to him, or perhaps belonging to whatever it is he belongs to. As to how to remove them... I could search her dreams, but in my experience infants' dreams can hold extremely unpleasant spacial irregularities, and also, their unformed minds can be damaged by Dreamwalking. Perhaps Niska or Rennen could hold some discourse with the mother?"
Sashenka's mouth tightens when Argent suggests that the baby may be spiritually marked as Argent's. No one need doubt that she'll fight that, if need be,
The Galliard's face goes abruptly rigid. "Niska...did," she says tightly, turning away from the room.
Higami looks up. "The results?"
Josh looks up, curious as well.
Layla takes Kelsey's arm. "Let me speak."
Kelsey doesn't seem inclined to answer anyway, but pulls away from Layla with a jerk. She heads for the back room and the cot with a stiff stride.
Rowan looks to Layla, construction suspended.
Layla answers Higami's question with this "We won't be able to ask Eve's mother complicated questions for a while. This will come in time." She watches Kelsey's retreat out of the corner of her eye.
Sashenka watches Kelsey go, not quite stifling a sigh, then turns her attention to Layla.
Rowan says, a little tentatively, "How much time?"
Higami turns to fully face Layla, listening attentively.
Layla's eyes unfocus then refocus. "I don't know."
Eos watches Kelsey depart.
Kelsey sinks down on the floor next to the mother with her back against the wall, trying not to look at anything except the stuffed animal wolf touchingly left as an improbable guardian over the dead.
Sashenka pages: Oh. Forgot to ask. Other than the silver marks, does Eve seem healthy, normal, right number of fingers and toes, etc?
Rowan offers, "Well, tell us when you do?" and eyes his chair leg dubiously.
Higami suggests to Layla, "If you were to elaborate as to the communication difficulties, we might be able to change the circumstances..."
Layla gives Rowan a tense smile.
Rowan puts the chair leg down gently and heads towards Kelsey. He crouches down next to her, silent.
Layla says hesitantly "Her shade is unformed still."
Higami asks, "And Rennen's tribe cannot help her complete the transition?"
Kelsey turns her head to give Rowan a dangerous look, some of last night's hostility bristling in her brows again. Then she closes her eyes and leans towards him, hands clutching her knees.
Sashenka pulls a chair from a nearby table and sits down. With an ear cocked toward the conversation, she looks Eve over carefully, doing a mini-physical, it seems.
Layla says "She has the transition. She just needs time to pull herself together. I don't think there's much my tribe can do for her."
Rowan seems to have no problems with hostility, and oddly enough seems to have none of his own, as he gathers her into a sideways leaning hug, silently.
You paged Sashenka with 'Malnourished, small. Certainly born within the last 24 hours.'.
Higami gives a small bow. "Forgive me. I had forgotten you were of the same tribe."
Sashenka pages: Sounds like time to turn on Suckle. Don't know if it would really help or not, but it can't hurt. ;)
You paged Sashenka with 'The silver seems to be integral to her skin. Her eyes are the normal dark blue of newborns. She's got quite a shock of black hair, however. And tufts of fur along the tops of her ears.'.
Layla gives Higami and small bow in return. "There's nothing to forgive. I do not think we were properly introduced. I am Layla, Blessed Day, of the Striders."
Higami nods and gives a small, friendly smile. "And I am Higami Ryumaru, of the True Dragon, representative of the Guild of Technology. A pleasure to meet you."
Kelsey sighs facing away from Rowan. "Thanks." She pats his forearm quietly, letting tension drain towards someone who is, after all, an anchor.
Layla says "The pleasure is mine."
Rowan seems to absorb and ground it, somehow, since he doesn't gain any tension at all, today. "You're welcome," he mutters, not moving.
Josh stands up, and bows to the group. "I need to get some air," he says quietly, stepping outside.
Sashenka finishes examining the baby, tucking the blankets back in around her. Still holding the tiny thing in one arm, she stands up and moves behind the counter, humming and talking quietly under her breath as she begins assembling some sort of herbal infusion.
Higami's smile lingers for a few moments as he examines Layla. "Well," he begins, turning to Sashenka, "I suppose I could utilize the usual channels to research the markings. Referring to the Guild's central database would be a simple task... it would be possible for me to transmit the shape of the markings to the Guild this very evening, and their database could relay an automated relevance search's findings back to me by morning. It would surprise me if the Guild knew of this, however. I have another group of contacts who possess considerable occult knowledge, but correspondence with them would take weeks. In the meantime, I am glad that you have her, Mother Bear. I can think of no safer place for her."
Sashenka stops talking to listen to Higami, and smiles when he's done. There's a fierce joy to it. "Thank you, Higami. It would mean a lot to all of us if you'd try any sources that might possibly help."
Eos stands upright and nods to the various people in the room. "Well, it seems like all is well in hand here. I ought to go relieve Julen at patrolling. Good to see folks." She moves to the door and departs.
Kelsey looks towards the main room and musters her voice again. "If... if there's nothing else to be learned from Therese while she's here, is anyone else up to helping with the burial, now?"
Higami seeks out a piece of paper, and when he finds one, looks to Sashenka for silent, visual permission to use it. He then removes a pen from his pocket and begins to copy the meandering lines down onto the paper in detail.
Sashenka nods her permission to Higami.
Perhaps Eos and Julen are just changing shifts, as the Alpha heads in the door almost as Eos leaves. Her gaze finds Kelsey, or perhaps more accurately, the body, and she sighs, quietly.
Sashenka leaves the herbs to steep and comes back around the counter. "I'll help," she says soberly.
Kelsey moves to the foot of the cot hesitantly to lift it, giving the alpha a wan smile. "Heya. Rowan said, maybe, the ruined village. Up for a hike?" The thin corpse is, sadly, very little weight.
Kelsey pages the room: Kelsey is assuming Roaring Brook since that's where the ghosties were. Which is convenient, since old bonehead skulks about there all the time.
Sashenka nods, grabbing the stuffed wolf with her free hand before it topples to the floor.
Julen murmurs, "Always. A Gathering, then? Properly?"
Kelsey bites her lip. "I don't know the proper rite. But maybe Layla does?" she asks hopefully. "Or maybe it's not necessary. She said the spirit was already in transition." The rather earthbound Galliard sounds a little uncert ain about what this means.
The Alpha glances at Layla, questioningly.
Higami finishes writing.
Layla says only "We have it." The quiet Strider announces this as if she's making perfect sense.
"We?" asks Julen, who does not seem to be one to leave issues lying.
Layla nods, and her eyes slide to the doorway. She seems to be looking past the door and into the great beyond.