When Animals Attack

"Avid? You dead?" Robin calls as she scans, holding the ground until her team-mates get there. (If either of the fallen riders seems to be getting frisky, Robin will put a swift boot to their temples.)

"I'm hard to kill," Avid says, "advantage of a thick head." He sits up.

"Knew there was a reason we kept you around." Robin grins at Avid, relief evident in her green eyes.

The boot is necessary and puts the one stirring rider definitely out.

The horse that Robin pushed over has clearly broken it's back. It is screaming in pain and writhing on the ground.

Adonis checks the remaining riders aren't regrouping, that the fallen riders are likely to remain so and no third parties are liable to intervene in the next few minutes.

The riders are off in the direction of their horn, which means at least a 10 minute margin in this woods at that speed, if the other troops are coming at speed.

The only unpeaceful thing on the small field is the wounded horse, thrashing through its death-throes near the Rangers.

Once assured that there will be at least a few minutes of peace, he turns his attention to Luke. If the female ranger looks his way he'll catch her eye but Luke's health is for the moment more urgent - there's always a premium on prophets.

He's got a bad, bad break in his leg from the fall, and he looks like he's taken a hell of a beating in the last few days. He's lost a great deal of blood as well. Probably some broken ribs as well. Adonis can tell from Luke's eyes that he recognizes Adonis, but he doesn't speak.

[BTW, does anything about her strike him? I recall he talked with rangers while returning with the expeditionary force who were concerned over a female who'd got lost exploring the Black Road and the way they spoke of her reminded him more than a little of how they speak of Julian. Would Adonis make the link?]

[The Peasant Reversed--your normal luck with cards says 'no'. You'll get it as soon as someone uses her name, which will happen soon.]

With sharp gestures, Robin indicates her plans for Totter and Levet to take flanking positions while she falls back to check on her downed man. A quick whistle is sent to Rain to let her know that once Totter and Levet have secured covered, Robin wants her over here -- at speed -- as well. After all, that little dryad thing said they were to meet on this side of the ravine so there's no sense in letting a medium tussle get in their way.

Rain is across quickly after Totter and Levet are in place.

With a disgusted tongue tick, Robin draws her sword and ends the horse's noise with its life as quickly and humanely as possible.

What should be a simple and humane strike for the neck turns quickly into something else as the blow lands. The horse's tongue whips out of its mouth and wraps itself around Robin's sword arm. The base of the creature's tongue is green and scaly and it's teeth are sharp and it is pulling at her. It has a green malice in its eyes and it is squeezing her arm. The ranger hears Avid call out "It's attacking Robin!"

Even before Avid's call, something makes Adonis look up from his concern for Luke.

Robin knows that her surprised laughter is inappropriate. But that doesn't stop it from welling up out of her throat even as the tongue constricts around her arm. Green teeth, green malice, green scales.... hello Dragon. The Ranger feels strangely flattered at this immediate attention even if the creature is threatening her life.

Digging her booted heels in, Robin rears back against the tongue. With her other hand, the girl snatches a dagger from her belt and hurls it toward one of the 'horse's' balefully glaring eyes.

The dagger sticks out of the green eye and a swirl of red and green liquids run down the creature's face, but the thing seems unaffected. Avid has run in and is chopping at the tongue with a little camp axe, and the horse's mane is curling towards him. The other Rangers are also reacting, drawing steel and/or preparing to attack the creature that's attacking Robin.

Adonis, still with his aspect upon him, walks purposefully over, evaluating the scene. "Make fire!" he commands, apparently to no one in particular, though only the other rangers can hear. (Or Luke, though he's doubtless unable to respond.)

"Rain. Light her up." Robin confirms nature's boy suggestion, remembering her father and Vista's plans for the Girth-bits. And hopefully, messing with a fire will keep Rain's mind on something other than the Approaching Aspect. A grim chuckle shakes the girl as she continues to pull back against the tongue. Here she was worried about a succubus hunt.

Then, without breaking stride, he passes behind the prone horse, kneels on one knee and leans in over its head, fixing the ruptured eye with his own implacable, blinkless stare. Unlike the previous fight, which he clearly revelled in, his expression is impassive, that of a man about his job.

Being a firm believer in not getting in a professional's way, Robin holds herself steady with a minimum of sudden movements. With her free hand, she flashes a quick signal to her team to let Mr. Aspect have a quick minute to work his stuff. If it doesn't work, then it'll be time to make Ranger hash out of the horsey. Once done, Robin grabs another knife and prepares to skewer whomever needs skewering.

Firmly pressing Avid's axe away with his left hand, his right siezes the horse's muzzle, clamping its own jaws shut on the tongue.

Adonis hears a cracking sound and splinters of teeth fall out of the mouth. The creature shows no signs of pain.

Then his left hand also finds a grip on the head where it joins the neck. He spits in the horse's eye.
And he pulls...
And he twists...
And then his foot lands on the horse's torso to give him more leverage and the head tears away as he applies his full strength.

The head tears away, but does not release the grip the tongue has on Robin's arm.

Daeon still has a firm grip on the head, but the tongue is starting to retract through the broken teeth. Robin's arm is starting to get numb.

Daeon finds that his foot is being laced into the horse's mane, a carpet of tiny hairs, wrapping over his foot and holding it surprisingly tight.

The headless horse is starting to rise, despite the clearly broken spine. If it does so and Daeon's foot isn't free, he'll certainly be in a bad situaton.

In the distance, Robin and Daeon hear the horn sound. It's closer than it was before.

"Dung!" Robin curses. So much for the professional. Her turn now. "Totter! Overwatch and cover fire - make 'em count. Levet, Avid - hash this thing. Many small pieces now! Rain, you're on barbecue duty."

Rain works on making a fire, quickly, while Totter heads for the edge of the clearing. Avid and Levet have short swords drawn and are attacking.

Robin tosses her knife, handle first, to Adonis. "It's not a contiguous creature, Nature Boy. More like a collection of malevolent cells. Best answer is to separate 'em from one another ASAP," she says with a pained grin and a wink. Then the Ranger drops the sword from her numbing right hand, to catch it in her left, and swings the blade up again in an arc designed to sever the tongue holding her.

Robin obviously doesn't yet know of Adonis' aversion to metals but even were it not both his hands are still full of head so the knife bounces off his chest into the grass.

The head is getting slippery in Adonis' hands, and he realizes that he's bleeding. The horse's individual body hairs are attacking his palms.

Adonis realises he's again completely out of his depth and turns to his last resort. Throwing his head back, he prays to the aspect of his mother probably best suited to offering aid in the circumstances. The language is Arcadian, which sounds much like a cross between ancient Greek and Latin.

Adonis keeps one foot on the ground while the other is lifted in the air by the headless horse.

"Ishtar! Dose boitheia Tammuz, tous oupaios guios!" [Ishtar! Lend aid to Tammuz, your beautiful son! Any true Greek speakers out there please forgive my mangling a beautiful language.]

But since gods like to help those who help themselves, he holds the head well above his head while trying to tear his foot free of the mane.

The head speaks, remarkably clearly since the tongue is still wrapped around Robin's arm. While the language is Arcadian, the words are archaic forms and the head has a decided accent, one that Adonis cannot place but has heard before. "[You shall receive no aid from my daughter, incomplete and tainted one!]"

Adonis gives no sign that the horse's words mean anything to him, semantically or metaphysically. [But something deep inside him notes that Mater did not mention this, that she probably would have had she realised and ergo it might be a good idea to let her know ASAP - assuming he can get out alive, of course. BTW, is the accent from the CoC?]

[why yes, yes it is. :) ]

Adonis is pissed-off, he had hoped the recent wars would have given a rather longer truce than this. And they still meddle in Arcadian affairs?

[specifically, like the dragons you spoke to there.]

[Ah! Ok, he's less pissed-off, more worried. Dragons are tricky!]

With a yell, Avid reaches Adonis. He hacks on the outstretched tongue once, twice, thrice and severs it. The tongue is still wrapped around Robin's arm, but it's not squeezing as hard.

[Adonis can hold on to the head and fall over, or he can drop it and maintain his footing.]

With the tongue severed, there's no need to keep hold of the head. Since freeing his foot is the next priority, he hurls the head down onto the horse's torso, using the impact to provide a counterthrust against which he can pull his foot free.

The head rips free of his hands like briars tearing out of hide and Adonis' hands are slick and red with blood and they hurt as if he'd grabbed a double handful of stinging nettles. His foot is also slick and he manages to slide it away from the mane. Adonis has trouble getting it under him and standing once it's free, so he goes down on one knee and immediately has to roll away to avoid the headless horse's stamping hooves.

Robin looks at the situation and sees that Levet is in trouble. He's gotten tangled up in the horse's tail.

The Ranger flashes a quick grin of thanks to Avid and bounds over to the Levet-tangle. She begins hacking away with the sword still in her left hand. Her theory is to free Levet from the main body of the horse first and thrust or roll him a little further from the creature. Then she will attempt to do some close shave work designed to get individual hairs off of him.

Robin will be careful, but not slow -- if Levet ends up with some Robin-inflicted shallow cuts, the girl figures those'll heal better than having the tail hair still on him.

(OOC - Robin's paying close attention to the tactical implications of this fight. Right now, she's thinking it's dangerous and ugly, but that she and her team have the advantage of numbers and weapons. But if she starts to feeling that her people are way over-matched or the approaching horn-enemy is cutting their time too short, her tactics will change.)

The tongue gives up on squeezing Robin's arm off and now works to actively interfere with her sword arm. She is not as precise as she might have been, but she does get Levet freed and throws him down away from the horse's tail. Avid is attacking the other flank, trying to keep a safe distance from the tail which is shorter but flicking dangerously towards Avid.

Rain is busily burning the head, which is now screaming in the same language as the naked youth.

Of Totter there is no sign. Nor is there any further indication of the approach of horn-blowing enemies.

Once he's gained a few yards of space, Adonis assumes a sitting position on one haunch, bloody foot rested on a calf, and takes stock of the situation. He glances first at Luke, to make sure he's not in immediate danger [I'm hoping he won't be, since Adonis had to move to the horse, but I know the thing's thrashing around, so...].

[Luke is not in more immediate danger than he was in before, but his wounds are serious to the point of life-threatening. He hangs on the cusp.]

Adonis does not want his new prophet to expire but things are a little difficult for the moment. If Luke really does look like it's a choice of immediate first aid or a coffin, Adonis will have to see to him now, otherwise he lays a bloody hand on his head in passing and grants him a brief blessing, hoping a little surge in his life energy will keep him going.

Then he glances at his hands and back to where he's just come, looking where his blood has fallen to the ground. [He's looking for flowers, does he see any?]

[No! Perhaps if you ripped open your wounded side again...]

Adonis is not actually in to self-mutilation. Evidently the birth event is past and there's now plenty of mundane fire in the vicinity.

As he does this, he chants a short couplet that sounds like something from a much longer hymn, "Strike a match to catch the Devil's eye, bring a cross of fire to the fight." Something about his voice [hopefully] makes Rain look his way and Adonis gestures at the brand in the ranger's brand. "A cross...of fire!" Then he looks round for some dead wood himself, hands still dripping. If he finds two pieces, he'll lash them together with some grass and then light it from Rain's torch, after limping over.

Of course, if firelillies are still springing where his blood falls, he will do something else, like ring the horse round with fresh flowers. [And we may find out if the little darlings can serve a useful purpose. :-)]

There is appropriate wood just at the edge of the clearing, a short hobble from his current position. As Adonis reaches into the woods, he hears a voice from above him say, in Arcadian [You must burn it utterly and cast the ashes into the gorge, else it will spy on your plans from the corpse.] The voice is like to but different from both Calliste and Artemis. A quick glance upward reveals nothing but a rustling branch.

Robin blisters the air as she takes a quick minute from the shaving of Levet to disentonguel herself. If she can free herself, she'll toss the offending appendage onto Rain's fire. After which she just can't help herself and the girl takes a quick swing, hoping to sever one of the creature's hind legs. (Not the one near where Adonis is sitting.)

Robin's blow is mighty and her swing severs the leg. The leg falls away from the body, where it lies kicking on the ground. The three-legged headless torso with the broken back is still dangerous, but between the Rangers and the fires the remains are quickly no longer a threat.

Adonis limps over from collecting firewood, lashing two straightish pieces into a semblance of a cross. He does not mention the voice but he pays particular attention to what she said. He sets the cross burning well and places it on the hacked remains of the horse's torso. At intervals, he gathers more wood and adds it to the flames.

When he's sure everything is burning well, he turns his attention back to Luke.

The Ranger grants herself the luxury of one quick barking victory dance. And the manic grin under the blood spatters, the flashing green eyes -- yep, that's a happy Robin. Then she's all business once more, making sure her team, especially Levet, are ready to move. A sharp hand signal is sent to Avid to check up on the man down near Adonis' original pile-up.

[Is this Luke? Hopefully by now Adonis is seeing to him. By my reckoning, there's still several bad guys lying around, all still alive. One has a broken back but the others should survive with a little care.]

[Yeah. I was thinking Luke. Robin doesn't particularly care about the bad guys. :)]

[Actually timing should be such that Avid starts looking at Luke while Adonis is burning horsebits. Pyrozoomania is a hobby that takes some time when you're working with horses.]

When Adonis turns to Luke, he finds that the ranger (Avid) is treating his wounds. Luke is unconscious but seems to be out of immediate danger (he's not bleeding anymore). It actually takes Adonis a moment to determine this, since Avid is himself quite bloody. His face in particular looks as if it has lost a layer of skin and his hands are, like Adonis', cut and bleeding.

Adonis flicks a glance at the two of them, then at his own hands. He seems to be thinking hard. As he does so, a minor flurry in the breeze wafts some of the smoke from the burning corpse across him and he raises a bloody hand as if shielding himself from the stench. Despite this, he clearly sniffs the smoke deliberately.

With other quick gestures and whistles, Robin indicates to all that she wants to move out as soon as feasibly possible. Between the rising plume of smoke and the chasm at their backs, the Ranger is feeling far too exposed and visible.

Avid returns a whistle that tells Robin that Luke won't be moving quickly.

Avid's report brings a grimace of distaste to Robin's face. So much for moving out immediately. Dung! Isn't that always the way, no good deed goes unpunished! Remembering Dannan, the Ranger wonders why no one can be rescued and then be just fine?! But nooooo, there's always something else.

The girl snorts herself out of her mood as she listens for Totter's sign.

Totter doesn't respond at all.

[Joy! I'd say this could get no worse, except I really don't want to tempt the GMs.]

[Presumably Robin is a little concerned by Totter's non-response. If possible Adonis will exchange a 'significant glance', just enough to show he understands her concern - and incidentally revealing that he knows more of ranger calls than he's let on so far.]

As the significant silence grows, Robin's brow furrows. No counter-sign from Totter, no horn-blowing, no arrows. Oh, she doesn't like the feel of this.

Despite herself, her eyes flicker to the Arcadian -- to find him glancing her way. Robin does her best to stifle the annoying flush the eye-contact brings to her tanned face. Her mouth turns down in a frown, but it's obvious from Adonis' glance that he isn't either responsible or pleased about this turn of events. And that he's aware it's going down.

As she mulls over things over, the girl quickly cleans and sheathes her sword, gathers up the knife she threw to Adonis and kicks the other one, the hot one from inside the horse's eye-socket, into the nearby chasm.

Adonis has business of his own. In order, he needs to tend to Luke, the riderless horses, their downed riders and then these rangers. Luke is hopefully made comfortable and removed from imminent death [thru medical means, we can't predict the prognosis if any new threats appear].

[That about sums up what Avid has done.]

If Adonis has any thoughts that it might have been better if he'd beaten Avid to tending Luke, he doesn't let them show. As the equine carcass reduces to ash, he crosses silently to Avid. He loitres a couple of yards away, without Avid noticing. One of the other rangers might think he was sniffing the slight breeze blowing across the glade.

After a few seconds, he steps forward and gently touches Avid's shoulder. "Thank you, ranger! Avid, isn't it? You have been most kind and I shall not be ungrateful but I must tend to him now." He seems to give the ranger a cursory glance over his face and clothing before observing, more loudly, in a voice that sounds incredibly like a more youthful version of his father, "It is unhygenic to wear the blood of our fallen foes overly long. We should all wash before disposing of the ashes."

Robin cocks her head at the sound of Adonis' voice, an unconscious smile coming to her lips. And she nods to herself, remembering her father's insistence that they scrub after dealing with the Girth-thing. She had just been hoping to get a little distance between their current exposed position and, hopefully, to a water source before she and several members of her team -- not to mention Nature Boy -- developed a bad case of Dragon Infection.

Though why he was worrying about ashes, the girl ticks her tongue in irritation. Ah well, if his companion was going to anchor them to this spot for a while, ash removal did become an issue, she supposes.

"Yes, sir," says Avid.

After gesturing Rain and Levet to watch duty, Robin moves over to look down into the chasm. After all, the last time she met this thing, there was a stream in the bottom of it. (OOC - she's looking to see if there is still water in the ravine. If so how much, how far away and how easy to get to. :)

There is water, but it's not still. :) And it's pretty far down. Call it a 20 minute climb, at best, down the side of a scrub-covered gorge.

[Assuming Avid takes the hint]

Adonis lets Avid move away, throws a glance at Robin to make sure she heard him talking to her subordinate and then leans over Luke, staring deeply into his eyes for some time.

Luke's eyes are normal, evenly dilated, and show no sign of possession. But he does not awaken.

[Please note: should Adonis sense something nasty has got hold of Luke, all his subsequent actions will be have to be revised as there'll be more important matters to deal with than a few horses. Otherwise, he leaves him comfortable and gets on with other matters.]

Once [Luke is] safe, Adonis turns his attention to the horses: he smoothes their muzzles, whispers in their ears and sets them at ease. They seem to come out of whatever trance-state they were in and Adonis sets them cantering for the woods of Arcadia.

The horses start, but turn when they reach the edge of the clearing, they move along the border for a bit, and then stop, confused.

Adonis' eyes narrow. After a minute, he whistles and clicks, again in a manner similar to Julian summoning horse and hounds. [He's calling them back by purely mundane means. There's no point leaving the poor things wandering around lost.]

The horses return to Adonis, and wait calmly near him.

As the sound of the hoof beats changes, Robin looks up and, after watching the animals for a moment, the frown on her face gets even deeper. Her eyes flicker momentarily as possibilities wing through her mind.

[Adonis] hasn't got around to the men on the ground, yet. Although a casual glance might make anyone think he's ignoring the rangers, a careful scrutiny would probably reveal he's been observing the leader closely whenever he has a chance to do so while she's not looking.

He's also waiting for the nymph in the woods to make an appearance. He's sure she will.

(OOC -- Since Adonis is an expert in women, I think he'd notice this:)

The Ranger leader is most definitely in heat. Bloodlust has changed to just plain old lust. Her blood is running hot and, though she is being very careful with wind direction, her sweat carries the scent of need. The way she is gesturing... her clothing has become uncomfortable to her.

Funny, that. Robin notices that the blood of the horse that's on her clothing and skin is beginning to make her itch.

But she is most definitely shying away from Adonis. Hard.

[I've a feeling we'll be retconning a lot of this but assuming we change nothing in light of the above...]

Adonis, clearly troubled, approaches the young girl. By now he's pretty sure she's close family. He's also aware she's responding strongly to his Godhead but as he needs her to be thinking clearly he does his best not to inflame her already aroused passions. He comes close and drops his voice, he wants only her to hear.

"Ranger Robin! We may still be in some danger. I was expecting someone, a relative, to emerge from the trees once it was safe; that she has not done so would indicate the danger remains. Furthermore, something has changed this place and the path I took to get here is closed; I think your archer has been separated from us, as have the hornblowers." He pauses and his eyes drift to where one of her hands scratches a blood-spot on an arm before continuing in a tone that lends considerable urgency to his mundane suggestion. "And I think we should all wash... thoroughly!" He sighs deeply - he just knows this is going to be taken the wrong way. "You should burn your clothes."

Robin shivers as she feels Adonis' approach and takes several quick deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself. This is so not the time for this! Dammit! A rueful chuckle shakes her frame. Succubus hunt. Riiiiight.

When Adonis begins speaking, Robin looks up from her inspection of the ravine.

"I agree." She says matter-of-factly. "I'm not going to be able to hold this ground. You've got a man down. I've got one missing and at least two more in serious danger from... well, stuff." She pats her arm where she was scratching it when Adonis came over. "I need to pull out. And I want to pull out back to Arden."

The Ranger licks her lips as the 'commander' falls away from her attitude. But while the lust is still there, swirling in the rush of her blood, it is something else fond and hopeful that is in her voice when she asks, "Will you come with us? Please?"

Adonis regards her steadily, impassively; his expression giving nothing away. Then he surveys the glade, paying particular attention to Luke, Avid and the equine pyre steadily burning down. Robin might wonder if thinking isn't his strong point, or then she might think he's trying to find a tactful way of saying something she probably doesn't want to hear. What he actually says is...

"I have...responsibilies. What has happened in this place - is still happening - would seem to be as yet unknown in Arcadia, or I would have been warned ere I left. My first concern has to be bringing warning of these events to the Goddess Artemis. Forgive me, perhaps you have heard of her? I am her son, Adonis." He offers his hand in formal greeting.

Robin's right upper arm flexes to lift her hand, but the forearm and hand itself respond only sluggishly. With an embarrassed grimace, the girl shakes her head. There's things on her gauntlet right now that she doesn't want to pass, even if Adonis' hands are already bloodsoaked from the same encounter.

More than bloodsoaked, his palms show masses of tiny hairswidth lacerations, though the blood is already dried.

He doesn't so much as shrug but his eyebrow rises in that subtle way, so like his father, possibly indicating mild surprise at the refusal mingled with even more mild disappointment.

"Though the way be closed, yet I must try to find my way back. It is a matter of duty, you understand."

Something green flickers in the back of Robin's eyes, another of those conflicted mess of emotions that only she is capable of.

Noting her disappointment, he continues hurriedly. "However, if, as I suspect, the way is closed, then I will need somewhere else to go and I do have business in Arden." He pauses, as if an idea is just occurring to him. "But I wonder, if you were to accompany me, if the way is open, or may be opened, to Arcadia, then it might prove fruitful to us all if you were to meet the Goddess, she would wish to thank you for helping me in need,...but if it should prove the way cannot be opened, then of course I would gladly accompany you to Arden. Does this seem reasonable?"

"Uh, Adonis? It's not time to be reasonable. It's time to run like hell. What happened here isn't over. We're still in the trap and it's teeth are closing." Robin looks at him with concern in her eyes. "If they haven't closed already."

The word 'reasonable' brings the flash of an amused smile to his face, almost a smirk. It's possible that it's just occurred to him that 'reasonable' is rarely included in Robin's vocabulary. But then the smile fades as she continues.

The Ranger starts striding over to where Luke lies, at the same time reaching awkwardly into a breast pocket with her left hand. "I think this... place is being cut off from the rest of the Ways by a very powerful being who would like nothing better than to dangle my crispy body in front of my father. And, I suspect, might like to do the same with yours. We need to get out of here. Now. We can deal with meetings and warnings and whatever later." She flashes the Godling a rueful grimace.

He walks with her. As she pauses, he comments almost to himself, "No, fathers don't like to see such things." With her glance, she catches what quite a few of the family have already experienced; that intensive dark stare observing her closely, looking into her soul.

Ah, dung! Robin blushes and lets her eyes skitter away from Adonis' stare. The girl has never been comfortable with strangers, especially related strangers, observing her closely. For the rest of her conversation, she involves her gaze with the workings of her pocket.

Most members of the family who have shown discomfort under that gaze have found Adonis tones it down in response but for Robin there is no relenting. There's something about he finds intensely fascinating.

[BTW, Hivemind, he's now had a chance to observe her closely for a while. Daeon has never forgotten any of his pasty liaisons; he's been noting Robin's size and build, her face, manner and personality. This may seem a little on the nose but does she remind him of any of his past conquests?]

In bits and pieces. Strong, Fast, and Sexy, like Paige. A Ranger like (um, dozens), Death with a sword, like Lilly. But no standout full-on matches.

"Unfortunately, the only place I think I can manage a fast team withdrawal to is Arden. If you think you can pull for Arcadia, terrific. But you only got about 30 seconds to make it happen. And are you going to be able to take your man with you? Get us to a spring or sacred pool within, say 5 minutes or so?"

Robin fishes out a small wooden card case and flips it open with the thumb of her left hand. Once the case is open, she lifts her left gauntlet toward her mouth, obviously intending to remove it with her teeth.

As she raises her hand, Adonis reaches forward with surprising quickness to keep her hand from her mouth. "If unfit to touch another, then surely it is unfit to enter your mouth."

"Oh, yeah. Good call." Robin looks a little surprised that she didn't think of it. Still not the most hygienic Ranger in the woods, she thinks to herself. The girl carefully tucks the card case under her right arm, the tongue lashed and not-so-mobile one, before holding her left hand out toward Adonis. Not without some trepidation.

He quickly reverses his hand and deftly removes her gauntlet himself, tossing it toward the pyre.

When Adonis touches her, a full body shake ruffles through the girl. Dammit! Dammit! Robin mentally chastises herself. This is so not the time. And so not the man.

[Robin] gazes back to her brother the stranger.

"It's your life, Adonis. Truly. And your choice. Though I'd rather not leave you here with what's slithering our way. And...." the girl gets that same look like she's going to say something she doesn't want to. "well... Dad is worried sick about you."

"Yes! He usually is..." He looks her up and down, almost as if undressing her with his eyes, but then seems to lose himself in thought.

Robin fights to stay still under that gaze. She has a wild thing's aversion to scrutiny. But she won't let herself break or shy away when so much is on the line.

Abruptly, he looks up and asks quietly but forcefully, "Robin, why are you here?" Something about his manner tells her this is not quite the non-sequitur it seems, and his decision may depend heavily on her answer.

The horse is still burning, although it seems to be almost burnt out, as if the act of possessing it consumed much of the mass of the creature.

"I came to find those who were lost." She answers honestly and simply.

"One of my men, name of Breeze, may have been coerced or charmed away from his companions. I came to find him. Ask him if he truly wished to leave us. Or to see if someone had been messing with his head." Robin's eyes narrow briefly and a spark of green anger ignites there.

Adonis looks toward the pyre, glances up at the sun and then back to Robin in a mannerism that might be the Neolithic equivalent of glancing at your wristwatch. If the name 'Breeze' means anything to him, he doesn't reveal it.

But when she looks back to Adonis, that anger flitters away to concern. "But I also gotta say that... well, my heart may have turned my steps some. Because I did hope that I would find you as well. If for no other reason than to tell Dad that you were... okay." She finishes with an off-hand shrug, a flat smile and a sad little shake of her head. There's no right or wrong in this one, no good or bad. Robin wishes her father and brothers would get along, but she's not about to enforce anything. On anyone.

"Pater knew I was with Mater and was therefore safer than anywhere else. But now others are missing." He nods, having come to a decision, and smiles warmly. "Of course, at some point I will have to talk to her, but perhaps this time is not now. Yes! Robin! I would gladly come with you..."

Robin's face lights up with a great glowing smile...

And Adonis' eyes sparkle back in return.

"...but there are conditions: we must succour all the wounded for we cannot leave them to She who may come here; and..."

... and then darkens.

He breaks off, as if he's having difficulty finding the right words. When he continues, he drops his voice to a murmur, almost as if he's embarrassed.

"There is a chance that Pater may attempt to prevent my returning to Arcadia. I would hope I am wrong but the possibility cannot be overlooked. You know, at times, he can be...overly protective? Would you give me your word to help me to return when I ask you, even should it mean my death? It will be soon."

Those green eyes look at Adonis for a moment, a myriad of thoughts and emotions swimming, diving, burning and flaring therein. Then one eyebrow lifts. And Robin says quite distinctly. "No."

Robin's reply puts no dint in the warmth of Adonis's smile.

She drops her gaze to pull the card case from under her other arm. "Gotta admit, though. If I was in your skin, I'd try that one too." She chuckles wryly. "But the answer's still no."

The Ranger talks to Adonis though she is looking down at the open leaves. Her left thumb comes to rest on a card bearing a brilliant illustration of Julian.

"Horsies and little wounded men won't matter squat compared to the carnage that'll eat this section of the universe if I let myself get captured by the Dragon. So no, they don't come first. And no. I won't promise to betray my Prince, Warden and Father just because you want me to.

"Like I said Adonis. It's your choice, your life. But our time is running out here. And we gotta get out of the rain." She finishes with a wry twist to one side of her mouth as she concentrates on the pristine cold white image of her father.

"Yes!" He replies cryptically, still regarding her radiantly.

As she trumps his father, Adonis visually checks the pyre, the sun and Avid once more then, still smiling kindly, he turns to minister to the fallen riders, taking care to divest them of any weapons before tending their wounds. Most are suffering from broken limbs but there's at least one concussion and one probable broken back (whom he will kill painlessly rather than allow him to be gribbled if he can't safely be moved). He's working out how to make them comfortable and how many litters he needs to make to move them. He's assuming Robin will at least take Luke so he doesn't check him until he's seen to the rest.

But he suspects Robin will be talking to Julian long before that and he keeps an ear open on her side of the conversation.

[heh. Nope, but she may say something else that will interrupt this longer task you've undertaken...]

The card is cold, but there is no stirring of contact, as if Julian were far in shadow.

"Dung." Robin curses under her breath. Then she chuckles grimly. "Getting wise to my tricks, are we?"

Shifting her thumb over, the Ranger concentrates on the second card in her case. The face of a dark quiet man, a visage that hides a sense of humor the girl finds entirely agreeable, stares up at her from the other leaf of her card case. [OOC - So you don't have to look it up, Reid. ;) ]

This card, too, is cold, but there is no stirring.

[OK, based on the assumption, which by now would seem to be some sort of basic principle of the Universe, that whatever Adonis assumes is wrong, please be aware he now believes he and Robin are going to be attacked and murdered by one or more vicious murdering gribblies and will definitely never, ever, live happily ever after. :-p]

[Trust me. Robin specializes in being wrong too. If we both assume we're Dragon-chow, we might even make it out of this. :) ]

Adonis hears all [OK, that's one expletive followed by a single cryptic sentence but we'll live with that, shall we?] but says nothing. However, realising the situation is getting more pressing, he works faster. He's no longer smiling.

He's also working out possible avenues of conversation with 'grandmother'.

[The way he's looking at things, it's probably not possible to avoid her now. When she catches up, on past performance she'll probably try to eat or consume him and Robin in some way. If she does this, they probably can't stop her. OTOH, if by any chance she wants to talk or gloat before dinner, then there's nothing to be lost in trying to say something that might change her mind.

Also, since Artemis was pretty downbeat about the chances of beating just her sister, Sister + grandmother seem insuperable odds, and from what Adonis knows of Julian and has seen of his cousins, most recently Robin, he'll get no help there at all. That being the case, the only possible way to come out of this draconic conflict with the things he loves intact is to come to a negotiated solution. As he recently told Robin, he'll probably have to talk to 'grandmother' in the end but he wasn't planning on 'now' until Robin refused his caveats. Now he has little choice as he's not about to leave these wounded to her tender mercies.

He believes the chances of this succeeding are almost, but not quite, zero but until a better plan presents itself or everyone suddenly undergo personality transplants, he sees no options.

Sorry! He's got nothing to add to game advancement ATM so I thought I'd offer some sort of OOC explanation for what might otherwise seem very self destructive behaviour. :-)]

Robin folds up the card case with a disgusted snort and shoves it back into her pocket rather... forcibly.

Looking around, the girl chews on her bottom lip as she thinks. Her eyes happen to stroll past Adonis just as he's bending to tend to one of the fallen, giving the Ranger a fine view of tight and tanned ass. Robin blinks rapidly a couple of times as her pulse rate leaps even higher.

Dammit! That's enough of that! If she's going to be constantly flaring with energy and passion, then there's better ways to use it instead of desperately wishing she was with Vere.

With a soft growl, the Ranger begins pacing. And with the pacing, she begins to fan the fires of her heart instead of repressing them. Along with those fires, Robin calls to herself the blue fire of her heritage. Remembering her walks, knowing herself to be scion of Amber, a scion of power, and an Initiate of the Pattern. And as an Initiate, what she walks upon, she makes her own. And what is her own, she knows.

[OOC - Robin's going to try to use Pattern to take control of this bit of Shadow.]

It's... odd. It remind Robin somehow of being in a pocket shadow, but not. There's definitely something odd going on here. It's as if the shadow consists of this clearing and the gorge and doesn't extend more than 3 feet into the surrounding woods.

Adonis, aware that her attempt to trump his father has failed, has nothing to say on the matter but he still intends to move out when his charges can be brought into a state where this is possible.

Every once in a while, he casts a surreptitious glance at Avid: what is he doing? And is he showing signs of irritation from the horse/dragon blood on him and the wounds on his face?

Avid is rubbing his arm.

[But not his face?]

nope, not his face.


The pyre has completely burned out and is not only not smouldering, but doesn't seem warm. The pile of ashes is remarkably small for the remains of all that has been burned there. There seems to be a little vortex of dust and ashes blowing around the remnants.

"Hunh." The Ranger breathes out. And turning, looks back for the bridge and extends her senses back along the path that she and others took to get to this place. A path that was laced with the power of heritage.

Out of a corner of her eye, the girl catches a glimpse of the wind swirls and Adonis' efforts to deal with the ashes. But since it looks like Nature Boy might have that under control, Robin doesn't chip in on that front at this time.

Robin's father has spoken of pocket shadows, places that are not complete, where the Universe is a small place and extends perhaps as far as the observer can see.

This really doesn't seem like such a place. It does remind Robin of the Black Road: It is not that there is something blocking her, but somehow conditions are different beyond the clearing and her grasp on the powers is insufficient to act on them at that distance

Adonis clucks in irritation as he breaks off his first aid duties and regards the ashes. Then he looks around for a plant with very large, broad leaves, similar to a banana tree, for example.

[Assuming he finds such a thing - if not, I can't think of a way to dispose of the ashes unless we pick them up by hand, unless the rangers have shovels but Adonis doesn't know that]

Adonis asks Avid to help him and together the ashes are thrown into the gorge after Adonis has wet them to make them more handleable. [He'll urinate on them if there's no other alternative.]

We'll gloss that part and just say Adonis wets them and between some broad leaves and the blade of Avid's hand-axe, gathers and dumps all the ashes over the cliffside into the gorge.

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Last modified: 10 May 2004