Grans smells like hot cakes and syrup because, well, that’s what’s for breakfast. The morning crowd has just cleared out leaving Aiden alone at a table with a pitcher of juice of some kind or another, a small arrangement of cakes that for reasons of tradition he doesn’t understand is called a ‘short stack’ and a few links of delicious pork sausage. Wild pigs were one of local species that thrived in the aftermath of the rifts and Aiden for one is always glad to see them on his plate.
He hates those damn things. They’re mean and ugly as sin.
By his plate is a rather ornate book borrowed from the library. It says ‘England and it’s Legends’. From the looks of it, it’s a copy of a much older book. There’s an ISBN number on it. No one knows what ISBN is anymore but those numbers are the hallmark of pre rifts publications and folks include them in copies because, hell, they might be important.
Looking very much like a creature of the night unwillingly forced to confront the day, Catriona makes her way downstairs – demeanour somewhat ginger, as she tries to sift through the aromas to focus upon acceptable forms of food rather than all-too-temptingly tasty people. She pauses near the foot of the stairs, blinking slightly, before her gaze follows her mental awareness to settle upon Aiden, the familiarity of his powerful mental presence meaning that there is already a somewhat nervous smile curling her lips before she fully turns to face him. One hand raises in diffident greeting, while she tries to work out what to do next.
Sitting next to Aiden, looking pale, drawn and extremely exhausted is Slaine. To Cats eye, the redhead looks a little different – her cheekbones sharper, her figure possibly … fuller – it’s almost imperceptible but it’s been a while and Cat might notice such things.
The Mystic is leaning against the psychic, looking at the book he’s reading, frowning a lot. “That’s a lot o’ words, Aiden. I don’ know if I could ever read so much…” she points to an image though “There, that looks like the trees I showed ye, doesn’ it?”
She looks up as Cat appears and waves. “Cat. Come an’ join us an’ I’ll get Horace to get ye some food.”
Elpida comes into Grans from Market Town.
Aiden looks up and smiles, waving for the pale redhead to join the table.
“Hey Cat. Morning. Haven’t seen you in a while. Did you get in last night? Help yourself, there’s plent of food.”
He is not food. Well he’s probably decent food but the same could be said of most of the people in here. Some of them might object.
Some of them might not and honestly those are the more problematic ones. The ones that try to bargain for it. It’s almost easier to just hunt someone down, in some ways.
Either way that’s not an issue here. “That does yes. Millenium Tree. Word is that there might be one or two on this side of the ocean but there’s like THREE of the damn things in England. They’re supposedly forces of good and aware of things that go on around and inside them.” Beat. “Course I’ve never been near one myself so I couldn’t tell you.”
He pauses and pushes the pitcher of juice Cat’s way. Its red, whatever it is, and smells… sour ish? Sort of like grapefruit juice.
Catriona moves closer, offering Slaine a little wave as well as a nervous smile. The more sapient and sentient the being, the more nourishing it is for her to snack upon… which makes the book-studying duo a real rival to the food on the plates for mouth-watering goodness. “Hi. And thank you,” she says quietly. She perches a little nervously on the indicated chair, reaching out to snare the pitcher in both hands, drinking in the scent for a few seconds. “What is this? And… interesting-looking book.” Slaine receives a rather intently quizzical look for a moment, then she turns her attention to pouring a helping of the juice for herself. “Food would be wonderful, thank you.”
Horace, the goblinoid d-bee server, scurries off without Slaine saying anything. He’ll return with food for Cat.
She notices the nervousness but thinks nothing of it. It’s Cat and Cat one of the least strange of Slaines friends. Cat can be sure, as she gives the Mystic a once over that the Mystic is changed. “Millenium Trees, ye said that when I was doin’ the scrying.” Her finger traces the words on the page “The trees are cared for by the Druids … I think that’s what they says.”
Cats comments has Slaine looking over “It is. It’s stories abou’ Englan’ and the Druids before the fall. We … We think Gran can be found there.”
Is Cat aware that Gran is missing?
Catriona interrupts her curiosity to offer Slaine a sympathetic look, nodding. “Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t pick up any sort of useful trail, when I had a sniff around,” she says apologetically. “Elpida told me that she was missing. Hopefully, she’s somewhere a lot nicer than I was.” She looks sheepish, shrugging self-consciously. “Don’t get lost in the dimension-shifting mountains. You can wind up in some rather ‘interesting’ places. I’m just fortunate that I have some, umm, unconventional options when it comes to food. I’m still finding *real* food to be a rather strange thing to be adjusting to again. But… England? You have a lead on her? I’ve wondered if I might be from there, myself. English seems to be my native tongue, but I’ve not found anyone who talks quite like I do. And it’s where English is from, so….” The dhampir shrugs again. “Sorry. I’m clumsily attempting to offer my help, if you think I can be of any use. Gran’s been nothing but good to me. And I’d like to help you, anyway. Whatever’s going on with you. But I think I’ll only know if it’s familiar if I see it. Though maybe reading about it might help. I don’t know. I… my memory… it’s… well. It’s probably not a surprise that it’s not all there.”
Elpida has a funky schedule given her work hours being ‘whenever’. She’s made her way out of her room and into the central area. Her ‘hair’ looks wet. She must’ve washed her snakes!
Hey, they get dirty, you know?
ANyway, she stops dead when she sees Slaine, Aiden and Wraith. “Oi,” she offers in greeting.
“Don’ be. Gran’s had reason to hide her tracks. She’s been doin’ somethin’ for Kailastia an’ the Dragoness ain’ sayin’ what.” Slaine offers a wan smile, still leaning against Aidens shoulder. “We know it’s somethin’ to do with threat that’s comin’ from the mountains and round abouts. What do they call them, Aiden? World Destroyers?”
“But we tracked her to up North, past the old capital. She’d fought one of these demons, a Strife – Kailastia called it. She got away and into a Rift. I was able to scry some items she left me and yeah, England.”
“We could probably use the help when we know what we’re doin’. There’s a lot goin’ on at the moment.
Elpida’s appearance has Slaine looking up “An’ here she is. One of the new part owners of the Inn.”
“World Slayers. And yes we could probably use the help. The last time we went to England there was something nasty afoot. And come to think of that…” They need to go see Gran and part of the problem is that this means they HAVE to go to Doreset. And the trouble with that is that they can’t go check up further, near Steness to see what the HELL is going on up there. That and they’d be recognized and attacked by the Fomor in a heartbeat.
But someone like Catriona could probably get in, figure out what Lugh is up to and get out. And if she had to fight well… Cat’s well capable of that.
“Actually yes if you don’t mind the trip. Morning Elpida. Up for the morning shift?”
Aiden’s got a teasing grin on his face.
Catriona looks a trifle lost, clutching her newly-acquired mystery fruit juice with both hands. “You’ve already been to England?”, she asks, latching onto one of the surprising things. Then she frees up one hand to extend it to Elpida, in combination greeting and seeking of reassuring physical stability. “I don’t think that I came across a World Slayer during my, umm, wanderings. When I kind of mislaid the world and couldn’t find my way back. But I admit that I tend to avoid any demon that seems as strong as me, and snack on the weaker ones. I hope that I didn’t spark off any trouble. But… Gran’s a Rift-using dragon-agent? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“…what now?” says Elpida when she’s asked about the morning shift. A yawn. A hand over her fangs politely.
“Yeah, sure, whatever. Just get me some coffee and tell me what it is I am doing /now/ and what gets shot or turned to stone.” She sounds tired.
That’s probably because she IS tired.
“No’ much is known about the World Slayers.” Slaine offers quietly, looking worried. “Accordin’ to legend, when they appear, the world is abou’ to end. Or they try to end it. We believe that four of them work together, though we’ve only really found three in the area. All indications are they’re tryin’ to connect up but we’re kind of guessin’ abou’ that.
Cat won’t have missed the increased CS presence to the North West of Dogwood. They’re patrolling too and that’s increasing tensions everywhere.
“Gran … there’s rumours that Gran is one of The Thirty. It’s possible. She did a lo’ of travellin’ before she bought inn to look after me. But she ain’ a Rifter, tha’ much I know. It’s likely the Rift opened as she was fleeing. That she’s in England is a very big relief.”
“An’ yes. Aiden an’ I were … relocated there by Agents of Bres several months ago. They told me Bres had my parents an’ I could save them but that was a trap. A trap that failed. Aiden an’ I couldn’ go back there withou’ being recognised.”
Now that’s a lot of information and Slaine falls silent, looking exhausted, as Aiden continues to read the book.
Elpidas grumpy mood gets another faint smile “Gran left ye, Kaji and Miss Frizz shares in the Inn – ye’re all the managers now.” It’s hard to hide the worry that the old woman might not be coming back.
Catriona blinks, more than a couple of times. “…some of that made sense,” she concedes. “But who or what is Bres? And… I can see why you might want to bring along someone who can pass unseen, and get into just about anywhere. If you can give me somewhere to start searching, and help me get there, then I can give it a go. My ability to run across water’s not something I want to test all the way across the ocean.”
“…uh…what?” says Elpida after a long moment.
There’s just staring at Slaine.
“…this is nearly as bad as almost Godhood,” she mutters.
“Bres is, supposedly, a God. An’ he’s somehow related to my Grandfather, Lugh.” Lugh, Cat might recognise. God of Light and all that. Old legends from the land across the waters. “Not Grans husbands, my fathers father. It’s all very confusin’, my family. As I found out.”
That sounds like a story and a half and judging by Slaines look will require a pitcher of vodka for the telling.
“Stenness, there’s a Rift there. Ye can use the interdimensional transit hub in the Forum. We’ll give ye all the information we can, if ye can check in there. Aiden an’ me, at the least, have to go to Dorset to bring Gran home. But knowing what Bres and the Fomori are up to would be helpful.”
Fomori, something else Wraith might remember. Large, one-eyed, giants who followed Bres.
“Ye don’ wan’ the Inn, Elpida?” There’s an almost hurt note to Slaines voice as she sees the response. “Gran thought highly of ye, to leave ye an equal share with the other two an’ wan’ ye to manage it. I’m sure Kaji and Frizz will be happy to work things out with ye, though.”
“I think that she’s panicked by the thought of being responsible for such an institution, rather than rejecting the kindness shown.” Catriona might well be wrong, but she’s clearly inclined to spring to Elpida’s aid before checking whether it’s needed. “Personally, I think that she should accept, if she can. But I might be considered biased. And… this would be a solo trip to poke around at Stenness, wherever that might be? I think that I remember what the Fomori might be. Or at least look like. Though it sounds as if I am missing a vast amount of what has happened to you. You certainly *look* different. And smell it.”
“No, no. I’m honestly flattered Gran thought enough of me to offer it to me. It’s more that it’s a /whole/ lot of work and fuss and work and fuss that I woke up to.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Given the kind of people that Gran worked with regularly, and who frequent the inn, I’m not sure I’m a good choice with the drinking and the bad attitude…. but I’lltry to honor her wishes all the same.” She rubs the top of her head. Elpida seems flustered, yes. Uncomforttable with having the responsibility, certainly.
Slaine scoffs at Elpida’s explanation “Ye’ve been managing the inn with the others since Gran left. An’ Gran weren’ no Saint, ye know that. If she though’ the three of ye could do it, then ye can.” It might be asked, eventually, why Slaine wasn’t included in the management of the inn.
“Ye migh’ be able to take one or two of the others but ye’ll need to be careful. Bres has already sent Fomorii after me here. Stennes is in England, to the North, I think. Near the sea. There’s a ring of standing stones there.” Cat might want to visit the Academy before she goes. Slaine and directions, oy vey.
“I look different?” That’s news to Slaine but Elpida might agree now she’s made aware of it. Cheekbones more defined, figure … curvier. Subtle enough that those close might miss it. “Lots has happened, Cat, since I got the Crown of Command from the Council in Lazlo, I’m no’ surprised I feel different to ye.” It’s a resigned sort of tone that Slaine uses and the mention of the Crown causes Aiden to grunt.
To Cats senses, she might feel a ‘presence’ around the Mystic. Something that is pushing at her.
“The Crown isn’ easy to … keep quiet.” That might be news to Elpida too, who knows full well that Aiden confiscated the artifact for a while.
“The Stones of… that rings a bell.” Catriona frowns, gaze unfocusing for a few moments, before she sighs and drags her thoughts out of her fractured psyche and into the present. “You feel different. You look different. You smell different,” she quietly asserts, though her tone is apologetic rather than challenging. “You look *good*, but I know that change isn’t exactly always welcome, whatever advantages it might bring. And I can feel something pushing at you. Which is… unusual, given the severe limits on my sensory abilities in that regard. For me to be able to feel it, well… it suggests it qualifies as a mind, or something very close to it.”
“Though I’d note… I’m seeing magic around you. That could be closely connected to it. I’m not the best analyst of things. I tend to just identify their presence, and figure out if they’re the same as something I’ve encountered before.”
A lot of the physical changes have been achieved through lifestyle – eating better and exercising more. There’s not much magical about that, except perhaps for the motivation to do so.
Slaine sighs, glancing carefully at Aiden who’s likely to scowl at the moment, “It’s the Crown, yer sensin’. The thing is an artifact that was kept in the vault in Lazlo. Aiden took me to retrieve it – only a Daughter of Danu can wield it because it’s cursed.”
Horace arrives with food for Elpida and Wraith, sliding the plates onto the table and places mugs by them. “Enjoy yer meal, boss.” he chortles to Elpida before skipping off again.
“I’m no’ sure how, but the Crown has … bonded with me an’ manages to influence me, even when I’m no’ wearin’ it. When we’re done with the World Slayers and the CS here and returned Gran safely home, if we can’ find out how to contain it’s influence, Aiden an’ me will probably go to Lazlo, see if I can give it back.”
See if the Crown will allow Slaine to do that.
It’s entirely possible that Slaine is going to afflicted for her lifetime.
“Ye say ye got lost on another world? Wha’ was that like?”
Catriona offers Horace a warmly grateful – and fang-free – smile, before looking back to Slaine. “…not good. You’re… probably aware that I’ve been heading off, for a long time now, trying to find some sign of Valeska. And hunting demons in the process. I misjudged a shift. Badly. Then misjudged how to get back from it. I was… gone for quite a while. Being able to, umm, eat demons to survive is useful. But I wouldn’t recommend it. And there’re some things out there that can, at least sometimes, break through my ability to hide myself. Life was rather ‘interesting’ for a good while. I stumbled back in here a few weeks back, and have been trying to ease myself back into being around *people* again. So I apologise for being so thoroughly absent. I promise I wasn’t ignoring you, or any of the troubles around here. I wanted to get back, but… world-travel’s not something I can do under my own steam. And if I can help now, I will try to, I promise.”
Slaine reaches over to squeeze Cats hand “We’re all busy an’ have our things. I’m jus’ glad ye’re safe an’ back again. I’m sorry we couldn’ come look for ye.” It cuts both ways, really.
“I’ll catch up with ye later, Cat an’ give ye more on Stenness, but if ye could look in there, it will help a lot.”
With a look to Aiden who’s still reading “Come on Aiden, we need to get supplies …” Slaine stands and stretches, offering a tired smile to the others. “Take care ye two, I’ll be back soon…”
Catriona quickly shakes her head, returning the hand-squeeze – albeit with care, having learned her own strength. “I didn’t expect anyone to come looking. I run off on my own and get into trouble. It’s… well. I’m delighted to find you here. And still willing to trust me. I’ll see what I can do to research Stenness and the Stones, and more. But do take care of yourself, okay?”