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Changeling: Malibu Dream House (Actual Play)

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  • So, you could say we're coming up on Two Weddings and a (potential) Funeral? Sounds about right.

    That said, I'm surprised that both sides were as open about their abilities as they were, not to mention that Vampire society seems a little less spooky than it's presented in the books. I guess that little reduction in the overall intersplat paranoia level is just part of your general genre tendency for shifting WoD from Horror to Dark Fantasy (or Paranormal Romance arguably for this campaign). Plus, I guess a city with only a little Covenant presence would be a little less monstrous. Or I'm too cynical about WoD vamps.

    A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


    • My games are more Urban Fantasy and Supernatural Romance than horror, really. They actually said very little about their society per se; they pooh-poohed most weaknesses, noted their masquerade (which they were able to guess the Changelings had too) and made vampires sound fairly benign. Both are Carthians, too.

      Not saying they were being puppetmasters, just that they made vampires sound like something Changelings did not need to worry about without outright lying about anything. Who knows what Faeries can do?

      Onyx Path Moderator
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      This is my mod voice. This is my goth voice.
      [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


      • I rather like how diplomatic both sides were. Neither the Vampires nor the Changelings were too forthcoming yet they explained some of the general facts about their respective sides; they were friendly but not overtly so; they established they have their own masquerades but also that their respective feedings weren't lethal. It was a good first meeting (well, discussion) of the respective factions.

        Also, I've been looking back at the previous posts here, somewhere near the start. It's really surprising not only at how things changed, but at how long certain elements have been in the story. I suppose that's the beauty of having Actual Plays around - you get a history to look back on, rather than just a memory. It's really cool.

        Also, Baroness, I see you've gotten certain images hosted elsewhere. Congratulations.


        • Yeah, It's a reason I reward people for journals. To me, the record of the game is important both short and long term.

          And yeah and I went ahead and at least got the currently running games some pics back up. Plan to with Demon, CoD, and Vampire too

          Onyx Path Moderator
          Forum Rules
          This is my mod voice. This is my goth voice.
          [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


          • It’s been about three weeks. Two weddings and a trip to Arcadia are bearing down on us, as well as bachelorette parties, a test, and a honeymoon. Nerves are building as the big days ahead, as a visitor arrives even as these are on our heroes minds.

            Session CI

            Lorelei’s Diary

            And once again I have let the journaling slide for a bit. I promise myself that I’m not going to forget, and then one thing comes up, and another, and another, and before you know it two and a half weeks have gone by with nary a single entry. I mean, I have been really busy lately, what with helping to plan two weddings and a bachelorette party, a honeymoon, a rescue mission, and daily training in… well, just about everything, to make sure that I’m as prepared as I can be for the Pilgrims’ test next week.

            That’s right, Marguerite and Julia’s big day is just two days away! The bachelorette parties are tomorrow night, and I meet with Jimmy and Peg the following Monday for my final exam with the Pilgrims (so, y’know, even if things go poorly in the test itself, at least I’ll have movie night to look forward to). And four days after that are the bachelorette parties for me and D. And the day after that I’m getting married… a word which I can’t seem to say aloud lately without stammering. Then there’s the honeymoon. And when we get back from that… Arcadia. And then college.

            So yeah, the foreseeable future is pretty packed.

            The last two and a half weeks have been pretty quiet, aside from the wedding preparations and the fact that the four of us are all slowly going crazy with a strange combination of stress and bliss. Julia seems to be okay for the most part; she’s walking around with her head in the clouds, clearly over the moon about her impending nuptials. Marguerite has been remarkably quiet and reserved (for her). It’s not like she’s having second thoughts or anything like that; it’s more like the full weight of what she’s about to do is finally starting to hit her. The two of them have been spending their nights separately for close to a week now. I guess it’s to build the anticipation or something.

            D and I have not been so restrained (though I haven’t asked if she wants to abstain for a week before the wedding like they are yet). D’s sort of in the same boat as Marguerite as far as pre-wedding jitters go… she’s happy but nervous as all get-out, though she’s better at hiding it (so far). As for me, well… I’d like to think I’m handling it all pretty well, mostly focusing on my friends’ wedding, and my party planning duties, and my Pilgrim training. It still hits me occasionally, and I’ll laugh or shudder suddenly in the middle of an unrelated thought. God knows what I’ll do after Monday, when I don’t have anything else to distract me anymore.

            Let’s see, other than that… well Calamity’s relationship with Becky seems to be progressing nicely, and she’s as happy as I’ve ever seen her… which is far preferable to the destructive spiral of depression she’d been in for the previous four months. Jacob and Luna are still chugging along, and their relationship seems as stable as ever. I’ve continued my training in unarmed combat, and have picked up the basics of knife fighting from Jacob and Calamity as well, though I doubt I’ll ever be as good as either of them… they make it all seem so effortless. I’ve also had Andromeda teach me the basics of computer applications, so that I don’t feel quite so at sea in this brave new world.

            Things picked up again at last night’s show, and not necessarily in a good way. I only had one solo number, so I decided to dress the part and pretty much stay in that outfit for the entire night. I pulled my hair back tightly, applied dark lipstick and eye shadow, and slipped into a sheath dress I like to call “the Grinch’s Heart,” because it’s black and at least two sizes too small. Needless to say, I had to be careful how I sat for the rest of the evening.

            Anyway, once I’d slinked my way through Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” I started working the crowd. Joan and Andromeda were there, and both asked me how I was doing. I was forced to admit that the closer we get to W-Day the more of a nervous wreck I’ve become, and they offered to help me deal with the stress in some creative ways. I seriously considered their offer, but in the end I took a rain check so that I could spend the evening with D.

            Joan and Andromeda have both promised to be at Julia’s bachelorette party tomorrow night, though in Joan’s case I had to spend a few minutes reassuring her that it was unlikely to devolve into orgiastic shenanigans. I’d be worried that Julia’s shindig might be stealing potential guests from Marguerite’s, but I’m pretty sure D’s not planning a gala event in any case… last I heard she was just going to take Marguerite through the mirrors to a Paris gay bar and get her laid. Good for her!

            So I bade a reluctant farewell to my bestest friends-with-benefits, and began to circulate the crowd again. There was one new face; an attractive changeling lady with icy characteristics but an obvious Spring Court mantle. She was rocking a low-cut red dress, and I’d noticed her looking at me earlier, so I decided to introduce myself.

            “Welcome to the Dream House,” I said as I took the proffered seat at her table, “I’m Lorelei.”

            “Siobhan,” she replied with a small smile and a handshake. (Pronounced shuh-VAHN, by the way… I had to look up how to spell it). “I’m new to the area, and I’d heard that this was a good place to meet local changelings. Well, this and one other place… but I’m not much of a club dancer,” she admitted.

            “Oh, you should check out the Rose & Thorn sometime anyway,” I said. “Flores runs a great club. Lots of atmosphere, and a wonderful place to pick up some glamour. So what brings you to Malibu?”

            “I have been sent from the Court of Fallen Stars as an ambassador,” she said without pausing. “We heard that you already have such emissaries from the Court of Fallen Angels and the Court of the Dragon, so we thought it prudent to send one of our own.”

            It took all of my considerable self-control to avoid a sitcom-worthy spit take. The Court of Fallen Stars. Hollywood. Dammit.

            We made small talk for a few minutes until I could reasonably excuse myself without being rude. I’m not sure what sort of changeling she is, exactly… I’d wager there’s some snowskin in her, like Jacob, but there was something birdlike about her as well. It mostly manifested in the way she moved her head when she was intent on something… sort of quick and jerky, cocking it to one side and looking at the object of her interest from odd angles. I found myself making a conscious effort not to emulate her once I noticed it.

            One thing that she said made me perk up and take notice… she planned to visit the reigning monarch the next day. I made a beeline for Calamity once I’d extricated myself from her table, just to make sure she knew about all of this. She had already spoken with Siobhan herself, and assured me that Becky was already aware of the Hollywood girl’s intentions to visit Jolie the following morning. Between the two of us, we then made the rounds to discreetly inform the rest of the motley.

            I told D first, and she offered to give Gloria a call to see if her girlfriend knew anything about the newcomer. I headed across the room to the bar to let Jacob and Luna know what was going on (Calamity handled Julia and Marguerite), but almost as soon as I got there, I saw D turn even paler and nearly drop her phone. I hurried back to her side to ask what was wrong, and got there just as she was hanging up.

            “That was Gloria,” she said once she’d calmed herself a little. “She’s met Siobhan, though they didn’t travel in the same circles. Said she always seemed nice enough, but maybe a little odd. And…”

            “What?” I asked.

            “She didn’t know if it was an official position… it’s not one we have in this Freehold, anyway. She said that it was common knowledge that if you did something to piss off the Spring Court, they’d sic Siobhan on you. She’s very good at stalking people, apparently, and when she catches them, she…”

            What? I asked again.

            “She eats their eyes,” D finished quietly.

            It’s a good thing I didn’t have a drink, or nothing would have stopped me from spitting that time. “Eww,” I said instead.

            “I know, right?” D replied.

            I hastened to give Calamity this new information, and she called Becky again, so it’s a good bet the monarchs knew about it shortly thereafter. Calamity seemed certain that they’d assign someone to watch Siobhan carefully… someone like Molly. That made me feel a bit better about the situation.

            I mean, seriously, who sends the fucking Corinthian as a peace ambassador?

            Anyway, things wound down after that, and people began to pair off as the crowds dwindled. D and I ended up inviting Julia to share our bed last night, and nobody had any complaints about those arrangements. D got up first to head to therapy with Jacob and Calamity, with me rising second to train with them when they got back. Julia remained luxuriating in our bed until Sex Breakfast was on the table (I made pancakes).

            Turns out that Hannah had spent the night with Calamity, and she joined us for the now-famous Sex Breakfast… though she may have been a bit disappointed, as the banter seemed unusually tame compared to our typical conversations. We started talking about Europe (and Marguerite’s impending trip there), which led to one of the strangest discussions of Lichtenstein the world has ever known. Julia mentioned that when she was younger, she had thought Lichtenstein was ruled by a lich, and how disappointed she was when she found out that this wasn’t so. I opined that this would be counter to the laws of nature, and Julia said that she scoffed at such laws, and insouciantly asked if I was going to call the Nature Cops on her. After a bit more discussion, we decided that if the Nature Cops do exist, Luna would be their official representative to the Malibu-Santa Monica area.

            Like I said: weird.

            After our guests had left for the day, we received another unexpected visitor. Boss Lowjack swung by the Dream House with Gloria and Tamara in tow. He wanted to debrief us on Siobhan and share information. The Hollywood emissary met with Princess Jolie this morning, and the meeting seemed to go well. Based on information Gloria volunteered, it seems like Siobhan might even be on the level… she’s well-liked enough to be good at the ambassadorial gig, but not well-connected enough to get out of it. Nobody had yet read her desires or fears or anything (I kicked myself at that; if only I’d thought to do that when we met the previous night!), but she doesn’t seem to be consciously hiding anything.

            Of course, with Hollywood that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. She’s probably got hidden programming somewhere in that attractive blonde head of hers. Hell, it seems like they program just about everyone in that Freehold, even people they have no intention of sending to the Lady by the Sea, like Gloria. And even if she is exactly what she seems to be… well, Hollywood will still have a spy and a contact within our Freehold now. As Calamity pointed out, even normal legitimate ambassadors are essentially spies when you get right down to it. And if Siobhan sets up shop here permanently, then Hollywood will have a foothold, or a beachhead, or… some other vaguely anatomical metaphor meaning a way to get inside our defenses.

            I’m worried about this, but I don’t think there’s any way we can stop it. Denying Siobhan the right to settle here as an open ambassador would be seen as an insult, and acting preemptively to stop her from hurting anyone would be tantamount to an act of war. Never mind the fact that they’ve sent spies, assassins, and monsters against us repeatedly… this time it looks like they’re trying to establish legitimate political relations with us, and the Lady by the Sea won’t be the first party to act aggressively in this situation.

            Oh, one other thing I should probably mention. One of Lowjack’s spies (probably Molly, I guess) went through Siobhan’s room carefully to make sure she wasn’t bringing weapons or other dangerous contraband into the Freehold. She didn’t find anything overtly hazardous, but she did find several suspicious vials of fluid. A sample was taken and given to Oleander, who determined that it was sugar water laced with a highly addictive chemical developed by the CIA for interrogations. The chemical has no other adverse effects, but the physical and mental dependency becomes almost insurmountable after only a few doses, at which point the addict will do almost anything to get another hit.

            It’s possible that Siobhan intends to use this on someone in the Freehold to coerce their cooperation with whatever nefarious scheme she might have in mind. Lowjack warned us all to be cautious, and told us that if we suddenly felt a strong desire for more of whatever we were eating or drinking we should report to the Winter Court clinic for detox. One dose should only result in a few days’ worth of headaches. But it seems more likely that Siobhan herself is hooked on the stuff, and the Court of Fallen Stars is using it to ensure her loyalty. If so, they’ve got her on a very short leash, and we’ll need to watch her even more closely. Oleander’s trying to synthesize something that will help the drug’s victims, but it’s a slow process and she can’t promise anything yet.

            So post-breakfast conversation was a bit heavy, to say the least. When Lowjack and Tamara took their leave, Gloria opted to stay to spend time with the motley. She asked how I was doing at one point, and I replied with what has become my standard answer to that question of late, that I was “tense and frantic.” She asked if there was anything she could do to help, and seemed genuinely concerned. When I replied that I just had to work through it, she suggested that I might enjoy a back massage, and said with some pride that she was pretty good at them.

            I glanced at D, who nodded and urged me to take her up on her offer. “You won’t be sorry,” she said with a smirk.

            “Okay,” I said, “you’re on.” And then something else occurred to me. “Actually, there is something else you might be able to help me with, if you don’t mind,” I said.

            “What is it?” Gloria asked.

            “Well, I don’t want to put you out, but if you’re not doing anything tomorrow afternoon I could really use some help setting up for Julia’s bachelorette party,” I admitted. The bride-to-be herself had promised to make herself scarce during the preparations so as not to ruin the surprise, and D and Marguerite were going to be off in Paris. I tend to plan big, so I could use every extra set of hands I could get. Particularly strong Summer Court hands like Gloria’s.

            She was happy to offer her assistance once she understood what I was asking, and made arrangements to stop by the Dream House around one o’clock. Then she, D and I retired to my bedroom. I slipped my robe off my shoulders (a simple act which is always somewhat complicated by my wings) and asked where she wanted me. She gave me an appreciative glance – nothing overtly sexual, just acknowledging my body as aesthetically pleasing, I think – and then nodded toward the bed. I lay down on my stomach, and she got to work.

            Oh my God that woman has magical hands. I mean, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with giving or receiving massages, but I’d imagine that she’s at least of professional caliber. Everything... the weddings, the parties, the tests, the show, it all seemed to melt away while I lay there quietly humming and moaning to myself as she worked out all of the kinks. She stayed with me for about an hour, after which time I think I could have fallen asleep if I wanted to. I was so relaxed that my body felt like a thick liquid, and when I stood up to thank her, my legs were a little unsteady.

            D is a lucky woman. I shared this opinion once Gloria had taken her leave, and D confided in me that Gloria had shared the same opinion regarding me (err… that D is a lucky woman because she has me as a girlfriend, that is). I arched an eyebrow at this, and D kind of rolled her eyes and then began to elaborate. Gloria appreciates that I am a beautiful woman (blush), but she is more sexually attracted to women who are more aggressive and “masculine.” Still and all, she’s said privately to D on more than one occasion that she might sleep with me “if she was drunk enough.”

            I let the conversation drop after that. I mean, it bears thinking about… as I’ve said before, Gloria’s very attractive and a super-nice girl to boot, and I’d be lying if I said I’d never considered the possibilities. But she’s a friend, and I don’t want to screw up that friendship for a night of unbridled passion. And she’s D’s girlfriend… the only one of D’s girlfriends who is not also my girlfriend. I don’t know if that’s important to my love or not, but if it is, I don’t want to take it away from her. So I guess my motto in this situation will be “proceed with caution.”

            The show is only a couple of hours away, and it’s our last show for the next few days (we’ve closed the venue over the weekend for a couple of “private functions,” namely the bachelorette party and the reception), so I suppose I’d better prepare to give it my all. Not that I don’t always give it my all, but you know what I mean. Plus, if I focus really-extra-super-hard on tonight’s show, then I don’t have to think about… other things.

            Lorelei Grace

            Calamity’s Little Black Book

            Thursday, June 4th
            Nine years, eighteen days
            Days without stabbing: 20

            So The Court of Fallen Stars has sent us a new monster, this one apparently likes to eat eyes. Oh, and the twist is that she’s here as an “ambassador” since they apparently figured out that we have official envoys from The Court of Dragons and the Night and Day courts of LA. Which does mean there is no diplomatic way to turn her away but really at this point why are we even pretending to be diplomatic? I mean, they sent the gorram mindfucker and it was only by dumb luck that no one fucking died. Personally, I think we should send their envoy back to them in a box… (better yet, just her eyes…)

            Though to be fair (yeah, I know, foreign territory for this little monster) Siobhan is pretty and well mannered enough. And according to Gloria (who also cued us in on her role as official eye eater for the Spring Court) she’s important enough to speak for them but not important enough to get out of this gig. So, technically expendable enough that she won’t be missed if we murder the fuck out of her for what her Freehold has done. And not honestly in a position to be the one calling the shots. Also, almost assuredly under programming and addicted to some CIA developed super addictive drug that serves no purpose besides addicting you and making you suffer terrible withdrawal. So… yeah more of a victim of their fuckery than one deserving to be harmed. Which means we’ve got a monkey-fighting spy here in our Monday to Friday freehold. Upside, apparently Tommy’s enough of a nuisance for them to risk sending her to her death to try to convince us to recall him.

            So yeah, not a problem that can be solved with stabbing. However, Oleander is working to see if she can duplicate the drug so perhaps it is a problem that can be solved with hugs and friendship. Wouldn’t THAT learn them for sending her? Okay, sarcasm aside, if our theories are correct she does deserve to be freed from their control (not to mention that I wouldn’t exactly mind giving her some special hugs) so this plan does have merit. The ones that do deserve it are, yet again, out of reach. Seriously, the monarchs of Hollywood really need to die the slowest and most painful of deaths.

            But it’s all out of my bloody little hands at this point anyway. She showed up here last night to get a feel for the freehold and we let the powers that be know. Today she’s at Glamour Springs playing diplomat. Unless she directly harms me or mine I’m not going to do anything to her without word from Lowjack or Charlotte and if it does come to murder I suspect someone else will get to have all the fun. Dahlia or Hannah most likely.

            And speaking of Hannah, apparently she was under the impression that I only enjoyed sex with women that submitted. Which… makes me wonder what she thinks about my thing with Beautiful. Though I suppose it’s not exactly a secret how Becky’s wired so she wouldn’t have to be into it the rest of the time. Still… It bears looking into. I won’t have anyone thinking ill of my dragon because she’s with me.

            Beyond that, it was a very carnally satisfying night. Hannah is quite talented with her hands and after some of the things she did with Contracts of Animation I may have to talk to Andromeda about learning that myself. We might dally again at some point since we both found the experience deeply (and frequently) satisfying. However, I fear the comradery of sex breakfast may have been a little lost on little miss murder. At any rate, I should make her a dream at some point. And Dahlia has made it clear she certainly would not object to me making her another one. Pity the two of them don’t hit it off better, I bet the three of us could really paint the town red if we had a girl’s night out.

            Ah well, I suspect it’s for the best that’s unlikely to ever happen. And I do have Julia’s bachelorette party tomorrow, which I doubt will be overly bacchanalian (despite rumors of Dark Kimberly jumping out a cake again.) Alas, I don’t foresee myself getting to lick icing off her this time either. Another thing that is most likely for the best. Maybe I should speak to Annika about sharing her pet… or perhaps it would be better if I didn’t. She might say yes.

            And then this weekend is the kickoff to wedding week. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I love my motley mates and I am pleased that the quad is so stupidly in love and I want them to be happy but this whole thing is making everyone even crazier than usual and the combination of saccharine lovey dovey with hair pulling stress (often simultaneously) is wearing my ass out. That and people keep dropping hints about Becky and I. I mean, yeah, we’re in a relationship. We are, I suppose, girlfriends. It is most certainly about more than just sex. There are very real and very complicated feels tangled up in it like a ball of yard that’s been molested by kittens. But we don’t have to host a grand parade and pageant to prove to anyone how we feel about each other do we? I mean… unless we wanted to do it because we wanted to and not because it’s expected of us. And fuck, but yeah every now and then I remember how much this whole madness used to be like one of my ultimate dreams. But I also used to have an obsession with sunrises and Lisa Frank stationary.

            I don’t know. I don’t even know that Becky would want to be tied down like that. I mean she seemed ready enough to let go when I was spiraling down after Gawain left. I love her, I do. But I look at Lori and D or Marguerite and Julia and I can’t help but think of how lost and devastated they’d be without the other. It scares me to think of being as lost and broken as I felt when he left again. And it scares me to know that there are people that could devastate me like that. And it scares me that I spent so much time alone that I’d rather risk going through that hell again that than go back to it. And that makes me wonder if I’m as in love with Becky as I think or if maybe I’m just so fucking terrified of being alone or so in love with the idea of not being alone.

            Fuck, too much thinking. I need to shake this off and get ready for tonight’s show. Hell, maybe rabid dingoes will attack or something and let me just forget about everything for a few glorious minutes. Maybe that’s my whole problem. It’s been way too fucking long since I had a real fight. I seriously need to bleed or draw blood.

            But not at the wedding. I will NOT fuck up the wedding.

            Jacob’s Journal.

            It’s been a few weeks of the same old stuff, but tonight things got interesting again. The night started out like usual. Hailey and Molly were at the bar with me and Luna. We were people watching and noticed Lori talking to Andromeda and Joan. Especially Andromeda interacting with Lori. They were being really cute. Andromeda nipped Lori on the nose and Hailey got all fed up. She was tired of Andromeda being the accepted one. She was saying that everyone liked Andromeda and shunned her, even though it was Andromeda that abused Hailey in Arcadia. Hailey said that what Andromeda did to her was actually worse than what her Keeper did to her while she was there. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to her. She wasn’t wrong. There are a good number of people in the Freehold that treat Hailey worse than they do Andromeda. I tried to reassure her that she had friends and to focus on that. She couldn’t change what was going on with Andromeda, but she could pay more attention to the positive things in her own life rather than focusing on what she was missing. I don’t know how much I got through to her with that, but her complaints petered out after a little bit. I think she was internalizing her griping after that, but I tried to do what I could for her. She has been a regular at the bar for a while now and we’ve talked on many occasions. She’s not a bad person, and I want her to see that. I guess we’ll see what the future brings. Maybe she took my words to heart.

            After all of that is when things got more interesting. Calamity came over to the bar and said that she needed to talk to me. So, we went to the end of the bar with Luna and she explained what was going on. Apparently, there is a new person in town from Hollywood. Her name is Siobhan and from a glance I could tell that she’s a snowskin and possibly a beast. She had twitchy head movements, like a bird. In any case, she is apparently here to act as an ambassador of peace. She wants to make sure that we are on the same page as Hollywood is about keeping up the peace that we have. Or supposedly have. They have sent a number of critters our way trying to fuck with people’s heads or dreams. The Hedge beast they sent did some serious damage to Desiree and led to another person getting poisoned. Those don’t seem like the acts of a group that wants peace with us. Our assumption is that she’s here to spy on us. Gloria also knew something about Siobhan. She said that Siobhan is an enforcer of sorts for the Spring Court. If anyone truly angers the Court she stalks after them and then cuts out their eyes and eats them. Yeah, that’s messed up. Then that poor shmuck has to get back into the Spring Court’s good graces again to get their eyes healed. Talk about a twisted arrangement.
            Tommy and Vik have been in Hollywood for a while now and we’re pretty sure that they know about Tommy. I think he’s been doing little things here and there to mess with them, but nothing on the level of what they’ve done to us. I don’t believe that they know about Vik. He’s good at being unnoticed when he wants to. Hopefully Vik can get us some valuable information on the Hollywood Freehold. He’s our own spy over there. Tommy is as well, but they are aware of him so he can only get so much accurate intel. I’m aware that it’s a pot and kettle situation. We are kind of annoyed that they sent a spy into our Freehold, fulling knowing that we have our own spy in theirs. To be fair though, they started messing with us before Vik and Tommy were sent. I think they realize how close we are to taking the fight to them and they’re trying to get on our good side now and make peace. If things escalate I don’t know who will come out the better for it. I expressed my concern that Hollywood might try something while we were gone, but Luna pointed out that the Freehold is hardly vulnerable without us. That and Madame Spidertoes has apparently been in a “mood” lately. If Hollywood tries anything and Madame Spidertoes retaliates I almost feel bad for the attackers. Almost.

            **** **** ****

            Therapy came and went. Sullivan expressed concern once again about me going back to Arcadia. I mentioned it a little while ago, since I’ll be missing who knows how many sessions while we’re gone. He didn’t seem to think that it would be healthy for me to go back to the place that messed me up in the first place. He knows why we’re going and where. It’s not like I’m going back to the Lady’s realm or anything. I’m not saying that it won’t be dangerous, but we need to get Lori’s friends out of there. Hopefully they won’t be too far gone. Arcadia can take its toll on your mind. It changes the way you think and not necessarily for the better. Some people get used to the confinement and accept it. They don’t know how to function as a free person any more. Desiree had that problem to some extent after she got back. She needed to have a “master” until she could find a better, healthier, way to deal with freedom. Hopefully Missy and Jane will be able to accept their freedom and find a better life in ‘the world.’ I think Lori is hoping that they might decide to stay in the Freehold. I have no idea if they’ll want to stay or go back to their home. We don’t know if they’ll be able to go home. I should probably mention that to Lori. She can do a search for Missy and Jane in ‘the world’ and figure out if they have fetches and if so where they are. It might be good to have that knowledge before we get them back so we’ll be able to answer the inevitable questions that they’re going to have.

            After that was breakfast. We had Hannah and White Maria there as guests. Hannah stayed with Calamity and I’m not sure who Maria stayed with. Hannah was a bit of a surprise, but I think she is fascinating to Calamity so it was only a matter of time before they hooked up. Lori made pancakes for everyone and I made the coffee. From there things got silly. There was talk of Canada, Belgium and Lichtenstein. Julia apparently as a child thought that a Lich ruled Lichtenstein. Like I said, silly. Then we got to talking about Nature’s laws and if there are Nature cops to enforce those laws. We kind of came to the conclusion that Luna is something of a Nature cop. She keeps the forests around here free of poachers and safe to travel in.

            A little while after our guests left Lowjack gave me a call and said that he was going to swing by with Tamara and Gloria for an update on certain things. I said that was fine and informed the group what was going on. When he arrived we all convened in the common room and got to talking. Last night Molly was sent to follow and investigate Siobhan. This is what she found out. Siobhan had a small pistol, possibly a garter or ankle pistol, and several small bottles of and unknown liquid. Molly took a sample and it was sent to Oleander to analyze. Her investigation also turned up that Siobhan is connected to dangerous people in Hollywood, but is not too highly placed. She has enough reputation and power to be sent as an envoy, but isn’t so high up on their totem pole that she would be overly missed if she didn’t come back. They took a risk sending an ambassador to our Freehold and they know that. Unless she tries something she’s safe, but Hollywood might not know that. We know that they are a little more morally flexible than we are here, and will dip to do things that we won’t. Or at least, what we haven’t yet. If they push us too far I’m not sure how the Monarchs will react. There were also concerns about Siobhan having programming of some sort, like the other ones, or even an incubus hidden in her dreams to pass along. I think the Monarchs are going to have Soon Hee take a look and see how sane Siobhan is while we can utilize her powers to do so.

            Lowjack suspects that Hollywood sent Siobhan to go about having Tommy removed from their Freehold. He has been making trouble for them every time they do something to us and is hiding in an inconvenient place for them to go looking for him. The pipes under the city. He is protected by steam and hot water pipes that can keep people away from him.

            While we were talking Oleander called Tamara with an update on what that liquid was in Siobhan’s room. It turns out that it is sugar water laced with a special chemical. I can’t pronounce the name let alone spell it, but it is highly addictive. Its sole purpose in existing is to physically and psychologically addict people to it. It is likely that this is the leash that they are using on Siobhan to keep her loyal to them and doing what they want her to do. Makes me wonder what kinds of things they are going to ask her to do if they need that kind of leverage over her. This substance is also not lethal, so Siobhan shouldn’t be harmed by it unless she stops taking it. Then she’ll go through a withdrawal that just sounds unpleasant.

            After Lowjack left Gloria mentioned that Siobhan used to be friends with Desiree in the past and that she might be interested in checking up on her old friend while she’s in town. We don’t know for certain if Siobhan has plans along those lines or not, but I can tell you without asking that she won’t see Desiree. They won’t let her. Desiree is on shaky enough ground as it is. She doesn’t need someone from her past making an entrance just now. With all this talk about Hollywood we all agreed that we were happy that none of us ended up in the Court of Fallen Stars. I’m not sure how the others chose this Freehold, or if they just came out of the Hedge near here. I followed the trail that led me to my sister, so I was going to end up here regardless. I am happy that Elena chose to go to school here though. I’m not certain that a place like Hollywood would have been good for my darker impulses. I’m fairly certain that if I hadn’t found such good friends and s supportive environment I might have gone back to Arcadia with Rook or used my skills for the wrong sorts of activities. I’m not perfect now, I know that. I’m far from it, but I’m a better person now than I used to be. I was cold and manipulative when I was Rime. As I’ve mentioned many times I do miss certain aspects of my life as Rime, but now that my conscience has been thawed out I remember what is right and wrong. I try to do the right thing, but I know I fall short more often than I should. I guess I’m still morally grey but at least I’m not as bad as I used to be. So, in all finding my self in the Lady by the Sea freehold has been a good thing for me. Diane gave me a nudge in the right direction and my friends have helped me in continuing that path here.

            End Session CI

            Session was fun. Siobhan is a Beast, and eats eyes directly without cutting them out.

            Couple comments came up not recorded I wanted to record.

            When the eye eating of Siobhan came up, Julia responded with “How Unreasonable.” Off the cuff and I thought it was funny.

            Hannah was telling a story when Calamity arrived. She was talking about rather than killing a guy, she put a grenade in his girlfriend’s mouth and rigged it so the boyfriend opening the door set it off. Hence Calamity hugging her and offering to be picked up by her. Calamity is a bit messed up.

            White Maria stayed with Insincere Marguerite.

            Bachelorette parties next time. Then we have a wedding. See you then.

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            • Quick note, no Bachelorette party. There was an exciting show (with new record roll) and then a whole crazy love drama and we did not get to them. They will start the next one. Still a fun session I look forward to sharing in two weeks.

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              • Um. Wow. Hannah's story is incredibly messed up. Can you say guilt by association and ludicrous gibs? I mean, that's some supervillain/Hostel-level shit right there (disclaimer: have never seen Hostel). Also, had to look back to see who Hannah was. Says a lot about Changeling paranoia and the tone of this campaign that I could totally forget about someone trying to kill another person and getting off scot-free (not complaining, just commenting, it honestly just might be my memory). Speaking of moral high ground, I feel like it's only due to

                Question time: Anything going on with our kawaii ditzy catgirl that just isn't coming up? And speaking of her, is her really buying into the story of her Durance reflected in a lower Clarity level?
                What's your plan if a PC dies or is captured in Arcadia? Will the player take over an NPC (considering there's now an unusual amount of NPCs in the motley) or have to roll up a new character? What exactly is Tommy doing in Hollywood? Mechanical sabotage? Stealing shit? Targeted Leg-breaking? Mooching on their glamour sources?

                A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


                • Hannah is pretty much a sociopath. She is intended to be scary. One recurring theme in MDH is there are people on this side of Arcadia that are scarier/more twisted/more evil than the loyalists are. (though not the Gentry, that would go against the grain a bit). Hannah is part of that scheme. Most of the Lady by the Sea members are good people. Some of them (for instance, Hannah, Lucian, Darke, Bright) are not without being Loyalists and more evil than any loyalist who has appeared, and others are not outright evil but capable of horrors because they feel they do what must be done (Joan, Lowjack, Dahlia, Oleander) and sometimes err on the side of violence. An then there are a few almost indistinguishable from Gentry themselves (Spidertoes, Tommy Rawhead) but are fairly benign to the local fey.

                  Carla should be coming back up soon, but probably when things resume post Arcadia trip. Part of the reason I had the time jump was I am trying to get to and through the weddings, honeymoon, and Arcadia so that can be done and we can sit down and get really entrenched in a lot of interesting things forming a tapestry of events again. So probably not much from Carla short term, but will happen.

                  My off the cuff answer is I am hoping no one dies or is trapped in Arcadia. My longer answer is that would be something to discuss with the player. I do generally keep an ongoing plan for how to deal with Calamity dying, not because I want her to (I don't) but given her aggression and reckless fighting style the only reason she is alive is combat is so rare. Her player has back up characters.

                  Tommy came up in conversation Sunday night OOC, I will paraphrase

                  "The trainer of the hedge beast is dead, by the way. He got dragged into a storm drain, and was not seen again till several hours later he was ejected in bloody chunks from the backfiring toilet of one of the monarchs. The position for hedge beast trainer has not been refilled."

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                  • Ok, so terrorist campaign on an already unstable Freehold. This will only lead to good things for our heroes and the local mortals. *munches popcorn expectantly behind a padlocked cold iron door with a plate-glass window, with iron sword at the ready*

                    Once again, not complaining, as this is the Chronicles of Darkness, but Lorelei is really deluding herself if she thinks her Freehold has its hands clean. Though at least they're trying to clean up their act lately on the "brainwashing and coercion" thing.
                    Last edited by Master Aquatosic; 02-13-2018, 08:44 PM.

                    A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


                    • Master Aquatosic - You're not wrong. Lori was not privy to the specifics of Tommy's activities in Hollywood, and to an extent that's deliberate on her part. Despite her own protestations, she's not stupid... she just prefers not to think about certain things. As a case in point, deep down inside she knows that Calamity killed someone for Lucian Torrez recently, but if she doesn't confirm it by asking, then she can pretend it never happened. She is fairly naive when it comes to power-plays of this sort, and is honestly happier that way. I suspect that if she ever actually pursues the Spring Crown, she's in for something of a rude awakening when it comes to how the Freehold actually runs... and may soon come to understand why Jolie is so desperate to get rid of the title!


                      • So I lied about the bachelorette party, sorry., Some drama (IC) and we did not get to the party. Still, should be fun. Enjoy!

                        Session CII

                        Lorelei’s Diary

                        Figured I’d update my journal while I have a few precious moments to myself; the preparations are in place and the party’s not set to start for another hour or so. I doubt I’ll have much free time over the next few days, so I thought I’d better get my thoughts down while I have the chance.

                        The first thing I want to mention is last night’s show. It was our final show of the weekend, as we’ve closed the Dream House for the bachelorette party and the reception, so I thought I’d give the people something special. I had two acts last night. The first was sort of a treat for our regular customers; a sequel to the Robert Palmer number I’d done the previous evening. I put on the same dress and did my hair and makeup the same way, and belted my way through “Simply Irresistible.” I don’t think it went over quite as well as I had hoped it would, but it still got my standard ovation, so I’ll chalk it up as a success overall.

                        The second number though… that was something special. We saved it for the final number of the evening, and it ended up being the proverbial show-stopper. Marie-Hélène (wearing a t-shirt with a reproduction of one of Julia’s posters of me on the front) broke out her guitar, and the two of us shouted our way through Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” It was an enormous amount of fun to sing, and each of us did everything we could to support the other. I took the traditionally male role in the song, and Marie-Hélène – still providing guitar accompaniment – came in at the end to cover the female vocals. You should have heard the audience go wild when she stepped forward in her own spotlight and scream out “stop right there!” I think the changelings in the audience were a little amused that our resident one-night ladykiller was taking on the role of the person who wanted a commitment, but she really sold it.

                        I think I can say without hyperbole that this was the most successful number I’ve ever performed. It certainly got the best response from the audience, and I was happily thanking people for their congratulations for the rest of the evening.

                        We had a pretty good turnout. Rowan and Neon were there for their second date, and once again Veronica was acting as a chaperone, looking bored and vaguely uncomfortable with the whole situation. I briefly considered offering to share the evening with her… but Marie-Hélène made a beeline for her as soon as we left the stage, and I really wanted to stay with D again last night, as we’d decided to emulate Marguerite and Julia and not sleep together for the week before our wedding. So after saying a quick hello to the three of them, I moved on.

                        I had noticed Oleander, Gloria, and Yvette sitting together at a table on the balcony, and I was intrigued, so I headed over that way. Oleander promptly offered me a seat next to her… which I ignored in favor of plopping myself sideways in her lap (she didn’t seem to mind). After a nice kiss hello, I asked how everyone was doing, implying if not stating my curiosity about the unusual gathering of girlfriends.

                        The truth of the matter surprised and touched me. The three of them have formed a sort of mutual support network for when the motley ventures into the Hedge later this month. I’ve been so focused on how it’s going to affect us that I hadn’t really considered how difficult it will be for those we’re leaving behind… the ones who care about us. I started to tear up a little, but I think I kept it in check.

                        “I’m hoping that we’ll only be gone a couple of weeks,” I said softly. “The plan is to get in and out as quickly as we possibly can.”

                        Oleander smiled grimly. “You know that’s probably not an option, right Angel?” she asked quietly. “I know where you’re going. Personally, I’m just hoping you guys are gone for months rather than years…”

                        I lowered my gaze. “I know,” I said, and let that stand for a bit. After a moment, I perked up a bit. “That reminds me… I want to ask you to do something for me if you don’t mind.”

                        “Anything, Angel,” she said with a smile.

                        “I’d like to start my college career in the Fall semester,” I explained, “but I’m enough of a realist to know that it might not be possible. I don’t want to have to reapply when we get back, so I’ve filled out deferment papers so that I can start in Spring or next Fall if necessary. I can’t think of anyone I’d trust more to deliver them to the University if I’m not back by the cutoff date, if you wouldn’t mind.”

                        She kissed me softly with a smile. “I’d be happy to,” she said, “just make sure you give me the papers and the dates before you leave.”

                        After that, talk turned to happier subjects. I mentioned that D and I would be eschewing each other’s intimate company over the course of the next week, and gave Oleander and Gloria a wink. “We’ll be counting on you two to take up the slack,” I joked. They grinned and gave each other a high five.

                        After that, I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with D. I told her about our girlfriends’ support network, and she agreed that it was a great idea. “I admit,” she said quietly after a moment, “that I’ve thought long and hard about asking Oleander to go with us. She knows more about survival in the Hedge and Arcadia than anyone else in the Freehold.”

                        “I know,” I replied just as softly, “and I’ve thought about it too. But please don’t mention it to Oleander. She’s too important to the Freehold for us to take her away for God knows how long, and if I asked her to come… if I even hinted that I wanted her to come with us…”

                        “She’d drop everything,” D finished my thought. “You’re right, though… we can’t do that with Hollywood acting up and everything else that’s going on.”

                        “So,” I said, changing the subject, “you’re gonna spirit Marguerite away to Paris after breakfast tomorrow. Just promise me you won’t lose your heart to some French girl and forget about me while you’re there.”

                        D chuckled and kissed me on the forehead. “Not a chance, Jules,” she said with a grin, “my heart’s got a one-French-girl limit, and Marguerite’s already in there. I’ll come back to you. I’ll always come back to you.”

                        I was reduced to a sniffling blob for a few moments after that, and eventually excused myself to pry Marguerite and Julia apart. Apparently the last five days of abstinence (well, abstinence from each other, at least) have been taking their toll, and the two of them were all over each other after the show, making out like teenagers in a dark movie theater. I broke them up before things got too lascivious, and they ended the night with separate partners, as per their previous agreement.

                        I had also heard that Angelica was making the rounds of the Dream House and speaking with all of the present members of the Spring Court… but she hadn’t spoken with me yet. Before I left the theater for the evening, I looked for her, and discovered that she had been trapped in the gravity well of Marie-Hélène and Veronica’s frantic snogging (as Jimmy and Peg might say). I made my way up to them and cleared my throat significantly.

                        After promising that I would return Angelica intact, the two of us sought a bit more privacy on the back balcony. It turns out that Angelica is going to be taking on some of Becky’s duties as a sort of co-claviger, and she wanted to know what we Spring Courtiers expect from someone in that position. I told her that I didn’t feel qualified to judge her martial abilities, and that I thought it was more important for the claviger to be someone who put the needs of the Court ahead of their own.

                        She thanked me for my input and then showed me why she’s being considered for the position. Her take on the Contracts of Vainglory is… unique. Apparently she filled a very specific role for the Director in Arcadia… that of an archangel. When she activates her abilities, she grows flaming wings and possesses an aura of majesty that can stop most people in their tracks instantly. I can certainly see how that would be useful for a claviger… she could stop fights and small riots before they even start, and give people a chance to cool down a bit.

                        After I’d repaired the hinge of my jaw so that my mouth would close again, I offered to walk her back in to the theater. “Marie-Hélène and Veronica will never forgive me if I steal you away from them tonight… but I’m keeping my options open for the future if you’re amenable, okay?” She grinned, leaned in, and gave me a soft kiss, mischief and a hint of orange fire flickering in her eyes.

                        I joined D at the door once again as the last few stragglers were finishing their drinks and heading out. “Ready to hit the sack, sweetie?” I asked.

                        “Yeah, in just a minute,” she replied. Then, giving me a significant look, she continued her thought. “You know, I’m really going to miss you over the next week.” It would have been an incredibly sweet moment if she hadn’t been addressing my boobs directly.

                        I rolled my eyes and took her by the hand. “Come on, Casanova,” I said with false exasperation, “time for you to sweep me off my feet for one last night of sin before you make an honest woman of me.”

                        Afterward, as I lay in her arms, I remember asking her something in a quavering voice. “Maria?” I asked, nearly a whisper.

                        “Hmm?” she replied, clearly sleepy.

                        “We can still do this, right? I mean, for the next week. Hold each other? Not naked, not in bed, but… we can still do this, can’t we?”

                        “Of course, Jules,” she said, a little more awake.

                        “Okay, good,” I said with a little sigh, as I snuggled into the crook of her arm. “I can go for a week without having sex with you if I have to, but… I don’t think I could last a week without this.”

                        She pulled me in a little tighter, but her embrace was still gentle. She knows how strong she is, and she’s always very careful not to hurt me. “Try to stop me, Jules,” she breathed into my ear, and then chased it with a kiss. “If anyone gets in my way when I want to hold you, I’ll…”

                        “…punch them until candy comes out?” I asked with a sleepy giggle.

                        “Damn right!” she agreed.

                        We must have fallen asleep shortly after that, because I don’t remember anything else except feeling warm and safe, watching the slow rise and fall of her breasts, and feeling the sweet whisper of her breath on my forehead as I drifted off.

                        We joined the others for Sex Breakfast as per usual this morning, though D and Marguerite were more fully dressed than usual when we came downstairs. Conversation was a little less goofy that usual too… we mostly just spoke excitedly about the upcoming bachelorette party. It was all I could do not to blurt out some of my plans and spoil the surprise. Once we’d all finished eating, Julia and I kissed D and Marguerite goodbye, and they took their leave, heading through the mirrors for the City of Lights.

                        There was a knock at the door just as we were finishing the dishes. “That’ll be Gloria,” I said, moving toward the entrance hall. “She’s a little early.”

                        Well, turns out it wasn’t Gloria, it was Doctor Bright. As I don’t think the good Doctor has ever graced our home with his presence before (maybe once when we first opened, now that I think of it), I was more than a little curious about his presence this morning. And any fool could tell that he was upset about something. He asked to speak with Julia, so I called her into the room. Turns out that after the show last night, she paid a visit to Desiree, and as she had been all keyed up from the time she spent with Marguerite, one thing led to another. Doctor Bright explained in an annoyed voice that Desiree is still fragile, and that in his opinion she wasn’t ready for the intense emotional shifts that often accompany the tender act of love. After chastising her briefly, he recommended that she contact him the next time she felt any amorous urges toward his patient.

                        Julia made herself scarce after that so that we could get to work on prepping for her bachelorette party. A few minutes after she left, there was another knock at the door. “That’s Gloria for sure,” I said, and made my way toward the entrance. Strike two! Elena stood on the doorstep in an agitated state, and quickly asked to speak with her brother. The two of them headed for the relative privacy of the office while Calamity, Luna and I started unrolling and hanging the black velvet.

                        Gloria actually did arrive next, but almost as soon as I let her in, Jacob came out of the office and asked if I could help Elena with something. She was in a state because last night, following a fit of drunken revelry, she and Stasia had agreed to become girlfriends and to tell their respective families about each other. As often happens following such fits of drunken revelry, she was having second thoughts in the cold light of the morning.

                        “Do you care for her?” I asked, consciously avoiding the L-word.

                        “Of course I do!” she replied a bit hotly. “She’s the only person I’ve ever… slept with. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t care for her.”

                        “But you don’t want to be her girlfriend?” I asked, a little confused.

                        “No!” she said, and then “yes! I don’t know. It’s complicated. I just… I was really drunk last night, and I’m not sure I’m ready to take that step yet. But I don’t know if I should tell her that or not. I’m afraid that if I go back on it now I’ll screw things up between us. I just want things to keep going like they are. I mean… she was really drunk last night too… maybe she doesn’t even remember the conversation. Maybe I shouldn’t bring it up at all.”

                        I had my doubts about that plan of action, and I said so in gentle terms. If Stasia and Elena are going to build something meaningful between them, they need to be honest with each other. And if they’re going to be getting drunk and intimate again, it’s not practical for Elena to have to keep straight what she’s sharing and what she’s keeping secret.

                        I also advised her to keep the “girlfriends” issue separate from the “telling their families” issue. I understand that her family is pretty traditional, and that she’s afraid she’ll be disowned if she comes out to them. And I really don’t want to downplay how serious that concern is, but… well, look at my own story. My dad used to be a total fire-and-brimstone type, but he’s mellowed a lot over the years, and next weekend he’s presiding over my wedding to a Hispanic Catholic woman. The love of one’s child can be a powerful catalyst for change in the right circumstances, so you never know.

                        In the end, I agreed to speak with Stasia when she arrived for the bachelorette party, ostensibly to see if she remembered the conversation itself and to sort of feel out her opinions of the situation, and then text Elena with whatever information I uncovered. In reality, I agreed to this plan mainly to give myself a little time to come up with a better solution. Any fool could see that those two needed to talk to each other about their relationship, but Elena at least was not mentally prepared for that meeting.

                        So Elena left through the back door and Jacob and I rejoined the others, who were laying out the black lace tablecloths at that point. By coincidence, Calamity had just received a call from Stasia, who wanted to stop by the Dream House a little early, as she had “something important” to discuss with our motley-mate. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed to bring Calamity in to our little conspiracy. She’s Stasia’s best friend, and the sassy Ukrainian is more likely to confide in her than in either Jacob or myself. I pulled Jacob aside to mention this, and he agreed that it was the right play.

                        So I called Calamity into the office (Gloria was starting to get pretty annoyed at all of the secret meetings by this point; Luna took it all in stride as usual) and spilled the beans. Calamity agreed that the situation needed to be handled carefully, as Stasia’s past failed romances have left her a little bitter and pessimistic about romance in general. If Elena pulls back too strongly from the proposed relationship, Stasia’s likely to overreact and end things entirely. After discussing our options, we decided that the best option would probably be to speak with Stasia first to prepare her for the conversation so that we can work through her initial negative reaction first and formulate a more moderate response to the actual event.

                        I think things went pretty well all in all. Calamity and I spoke with Stasia once she arrived (in the middle of setting up the centerpieces with their dribbly black candles). Well, okay, Calamity spoke with Stasia by herself until I decided to butt in and add my two cents. What? I wasn’t eavesdropping or anything… okay, in truth, I was totally eavesdropping. But goddammit there will be no scary relationship drama at my Julia’s bachelorette party! As Maid of Honor, I saw it as my duty to ensure that her special day wasn’t marred by angry, tear-filled break-ups.

                        So yes, I joined the conversation after a while. Stasia took the initial news of Elena’s cold feet just as badly as Calamity had predicted, but we were able to talk her down from her self-destructive implosion spiral. My central thesis statement in this situation was as follows.

                        “Look, Stasia, the key thing to take away from this is that neither one of you want to lose what you already have. We need to focus on that instead of on what might be coming. Tell Elena that you want to be with her no matter what, and that it doesn’t matter who else knows about it or what you call it, and everything will be okay. Get ahead of her nerves and own the conversation and everything will be fine.”

                        When I contacted Elena about the situation, I told her in non-specific terms that Stasia remembered the conversation and wanted to talk with her about it, but that neither of them wanted to lose what they had. I advised her to be honest about her feelings, as a relationship based on lies and hidden doubts is less likely to stand the test of time.

                        When the two of them got together as we were putting the finishing touches on the theater, it wasn’t as contentious or dramatic as it could have been… thanks in large part, I flatter myself, to the efforts of Calamity, Jacob, and myself. The two of them are still together, and I think their relationship is stronger now. Stasia admitted that she wanted to be more to Elena, but she didn’t insist on any particular label or timetable for their life together, and they’re still considering moving in together.

                        Wait a minute, hold the phone! Moving in together? I glanced at Jacob, and though he’s ridiculously hard to read most of the time, I think this was the first he’d heard of that little item too. Well, I suppose their business is none of mine at the end of the day. I’ll let big brother worry about that.

                        Now, I should probably stop writing and start getting into my dress. The party is set to start in about half an hour, and we have a few weirdos in this Freehold who habitually arrive early for every engagement. The dress I’m planning to wear is fetching, but it involves putting on a corset, and I don’t have D, Marguerite, or Julia to help me lace it up, which complicates matters a bit. I’m really looking forward to enjoying the fruits of my labors, though. I’ll write more in a day or two to record how everything went.

                        Lorelei Grace

                        Calamity’s Little Black Book

                        Thursday, June 4th
                        Nine years, eighteen days
                        Days without stabbing: 20

                        Well that was one hell of a last show before we shut down for the wedding all weekend. The place was packed to the fire code’s gills despite it being a Thursday. The show rolled along with everyone doing some really solid numbers but, of course, it was Lori’s closer that blew everyone away. She and Marie-Hélène put their spin on that Meatloaf classic ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights’ and they absolutely owned it.

                        Roan and Neon where there for another date. They make such an adorable couple but clearly Veronica was a little frustrated playing chaperon and was dressed to impress (which apparently Marie-Hélène was since she spent the evening with her as soon as the closing act was done and they left together).

                        Angelica was there talking with White Maria. I joined them and discovered that she was asking the various Spring courtiers what they considered to be the traits of a good Clavier. I didn’t catch it, but I believe White Maria’s specifications were, as always, exacting. She moved away to ask the others (though I don’t believe she escaped the gravity well of Marie-Hélène either and left with her and Veronica)

                        Needless to say, both White Maria and I know why Becky is considering training someone. I admitted to a little of my concern there and White Maria proceeded to lay out exactly what Becky needed out of a long term partner and even offered to advise me on whether or not things I’m planning are a good idea or not. I think, honestly, she’s as determined to make this work as either Beautiful or myself, which I take as a compliment since it means she feels I am worthy of Becky. (I should remind myself of that the next time I have doubts. I mean, she’s a tougher critic than Mikey and the Russian judge combined.)

                        At one point it came up that Siobhan and Leanne had met up at the Rose and Thorn and left together in high spirits. I made a (mostly) joking comment about needing to leave and make some poor life choices and White Maria firmly advised me against it, then proceeded to make an effort to distract and engage me to prevent me from running off to do anything foolhardy. It was sweet of her. You know, I would not have believed the two of us would end up being so close not that long ago. But she really is one of my closest friends.

                        And now that everything has wound down, I’m here waiting for Beautiful to be asleep so I can join her in her dreams. I’m thinking I’ll show up wearing something in innocent Catholic schoolgirl… I may not be a succubus but I do know what gets my favorite one’s motor running.

                        Friday, June 5th
                        Nine years, seventeen days
                        Days without stabbing: 21

                        Well that’s a fucking bullet dodged. But it looks like Stasia and Elena will not be having an ugly blow up in the middle of Julia’s bachalorette party. I’d ask what I’ve done to deserve this but I already know…

                        But thankfully Lori and Jacob decided not to keep Elena’s tearful admission of waking up and realizing that she’d been overly honest and unrealistic while drunk to themselves. So at least we’re not in one of those painful British comedies of errors that are only funny if you ignore the way people’s lives are falling the hell apart. And once they did tell me I knew that the only answer was an honest conversation between the pair. I also knew that Stasia was not going to react well AT ALL to Elena having second thoughts about her I don’t care shout it from the rooftops we’re in love position.

                        In the end I think my approach was the right one. Stasia arrived early and I took her aside (Gloria was so not pleased with all of the skulking and plotting in the back room while she was left working on the decorations poor thing). I told her what was going on and then Lori and I talked her down from her knee jerk reactions. Once she’d actually thought about it she understood all to well about how Elena had been carried away by emotion while logic was pickled by alcohol and that the return of it didn’t mean her feelings weren’t there just that maybe she wasn’t as ready to take such a plunge without all that liquid courage. And we pointed out how devastated she was at the prospect that she’d ruined things.

                        Jacob called his sister and we let the pair of them take the back room. And yes, I did follow invisibly ready to drop a whisper in Stasia’s ear if she needed. But it wasn’t needed. As I thought, once she got past her initial flare of panic and self protective fleeing she understood Elena’s position and was more than prepared to calm her lover and assure her that they could take things at a less all or nothing pace. I slipped away to let them actually have their privacy once it was clear we had avoided flaring emotions setting off explosive baggage and sending everyone running to lick their wounds. I mean, sure, I think they’d have gotten to the place to have that honest conversation afterwards, but depending on how badly it went they might never have actually done it or it might have been a long time wasted. And yeah, it really did strike a bittersweet feeling to hear Stasia talk about not being in love like this since she was thirteen.

                        But I’m not that girl anymore. And there is… too much has happened even if I could somehow be her again. But Elena. Elena can be her princess. Elena IS her princess. And I’m happy to have helped them avoid a fight that didn’t need to happen.

                        But this whole thing just makes it even more clear that I need to talk to Beautiful. She’ll be here soon and she’s staying till after the wedding. It’s the longest we’ve spent together in hell, maybe ever. But she’s changing her whole life around to make that sort of thing possible in the future. A future she wants me to be a part of.

                        I want that so much and at the same time it scares the piss out of me. I look back at all the times I wrote how I couldn’t understand how Gawain could love a thing like me and how he keep saying he knew and loved me anyway… that he would always love me no matter what…

                        It’s not fucking fair. She’s not the one that tore my twisted little heart out but I can’t stop. I can’t push this fear down. I can’t silence this voice in my ear that’s telling me that she’ll leave me the way he did. That no one can love something as sick and evil and twisted as I am. I can’t stop hearing Their voices telling me how no other could want a nasty hateful girl like me.

                        I love her so much. I just wish I wasn’t so bad at it.

                        Jacob’s Journal

                        Tonight’s show was one to remember. All the ladies did really well on their acts, but Lori and Marie Hélène were outstanding in theirs. They did “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf. And those two rocked it. I think it might have been Lori’s best performance to date, and that’s saying something. Marie Hélène was great and did her best to make Lori look good. I think it paid off. I know the audience sure appreciated it. Nobody was ordering drinks during that song.

                        After their acts the ladies went around and did their usual social butterfly stuff, and talked to a lot of different people. Lori talked to Oleander, Yvette and Gloria for a little while. Lori looked like she was a combination of happy and sad at the same time. I later found out that those three ladies are starting something of a support group for all the “girlfriends” while our motley is away in Arcadia. I think she thought it was a good idea. So did I. I wonder if they’d be up to allowing my sister to join their little group, if she wants to that is. My motley and I are Elena’s main contacts within the Changeling community here, and if she wants to get information while we’re gone I’m not sure how she’s going to do that if she’s not connected to some more people. I’ll have to bring that idea up to Lori and see what she thinks.

                        Later in the evening I got a call from an unexpected source. Flores called to say that Siobhan and Leanne were at her club and getting along really well, and that they had plans to leave and go “paint the town red.” I don’t really trust either of them, so I talked to Molly about it. She flat out asked me if I wanted her to go out and follow the pair to see what they got up to. I thought about it for a minute and then said yes. Like I said, I don’t trust them and want to know what they’re doing. I don’t know if I technically have any authority to send Molly out on missions like that, but she volunteered and left quickly after our talk. Siobhan and Leanne are probably not up to anything untoward but I figured it would be better to play it safe rather than be sorry if something happened. I did not hear back from her tonight.

                        **** **** ****

                        Today is definitely shaping up to be a more interesting day. While we were finishing up breakfast Dr. Bright came by to talk to Julia. Apparently she went to visit Desiree last night and they ended up getting intimate. Dr. Bright was upset about that because he didn’t want Desiree to suffer any setbacks because of intense emotions, good or bad. He warned her to ask him before she visited Desiree for any reason next time. Julia agreed. After he left Julia, and the rest of us, said our farewells to De La Rocha and Insincere Marguerite. They were leaving to go to France for Marguerite’s bachelorette party. We wished them a good time and they left through the mirror. Handy way to travel that.

                        After our motley mates left there was another knock on the door. This time it was Elena. She was obviously upset about something and asked to speak to me privately. So, we went to the side room to talk. Turns out that she and Stasia had had a rather fun night last night. There was a lot of alcohol involved and they both got pretty drunk. Things were said though that are now giving my sister possible second thoughts. They had talked about telling friends and family about them going out, specifically about being girlfriends. That was what had Elena so upset this morning. She doesn’t regret her relationship with Stasia in the least, but she doesn’t know if she wants to call them girlfriends. It seems that she is mainly freaking out over the whole label. She was also unsure about how our parents would react to the announcement. So, she was upset. She wanted to talk to Stasia about things, but didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings. I advised her that above all else she should be honest with Stasia. Hiding or lying about things now would likely come back to bite her in the ass later. I wasn’t sure really how to proceed besides talking to Stasia and being honest about how she felt, so I asked if Elena minded if I brought Lori in on this. She said fine and I went to get my motley mate. Lori came in and also advised Elena to be honest with Stasia. She said that she should make sure that Stasia also understood that she does not want to lose her, that she is just unsure about the label of being girlfriends. Elena said that she wasn’t sure if Stasia even remembered the conversation since they were both drunk and asked me and Lori if we could ascertain whether or not Stasia remembered anything from the night before when she came over later today for the bachelorette party for Julia. We said that we would do our best and text or call her to let her know what we found out. Elena then left so she could seemingly arrive for the first time later in the afternoon.

                        Once Elena was gone Lori asked me if I minded getting Calamity involved in this whole situation. She knows more about the relationship between Stasia and Elena than we do, and is best friends with Stasia. After I thought about it for a moment I agreed that it was a good idea. Calamity would know how to talk to Stasia about this whole thing so she didn’t freak out or get overly upset or angry. So, we brought Calamity into the side room and explained the situation to her. That Elena doesn’t want to lose Stasia but is afraid of labels. Elena had said that she would rather lie to Stasia than lose her. Calamity agreed to talk to Stasia, and did so a little while later when she showed up at the door. So, Stasia and Calamity talked while the rest of us decorated the Dream House for Julia’s party. When voices got raised Lori went in and added her two cents to the conversation. I didn’t hear much of what was said but heard enough to know that Stasia started to freak out and Calamity and Lori talked her back down. They both told Stasia that she needs to talk to Elena as soon as she arrives, and that she should be honest herself, but also listen to what Elena is saying.

                        Once that conversation happened Lori texted Elena telling her to come by the Dream House before the party started so she could talk to Stasia. Elena arrived a short time later and went into the back room with her “not girlfriend” to talk things over. I again didn’t hear much of what was said. I tried not to actively listen in. Elena and Stasia deserved the privacy, so I tried my best to honor that. They came out of the room a little while later looking calm and a little red eyed. I assume that things got a little emotional for them in there. They said that they had worked things out, and even went so far as to mention in passing moving into the same apartment. So, I assumed that things went fairly well between the two of them. I am happy for them. I had my concerns about Stasia in the beginning, I’ll admit that. Stasia had loudly said that she wasn’t into relationships other than one-night stands and I didn’t want my sister to get hurt. Now it seems that the shoe is on the other foot. Elena is the one unsure about the relationship bit and Stasia is all into it. I just want Elena to be happy. If Stasia makes her happy then I am happy. If Stasia ever does anything to intentionally hurt my sister I won’t be quite so sanguine about the whole thing though. Just saying.

                        Back in the early days when I was in Arcadia I thought about my sister a lot. I didn’t know in the beginning that the Lady had sent a fetch in my place. I thought that Elena would be upset that I had been trapped in the cave. I wanted nothing more than to get back to her and my family. For a while she was my guiding light. People say that twins have a unique relationship even among siblings. I always felt that was true of us. I knew that I had to survive so I could get back to my sister. As time passed I knew that Elena would not be happy at what I had to do to get by in the Lady’s realm, but I knew that I had to get back. I had to find my way home. When I entered the Lady’s service she did something that made me forget about my life in ‘the world.’ I forgot about my sister and my new goal had been to please the Lady of the Winter Winds. Sometimes I feel like I have to make up for that in some way. I know realistically that it wasn’t my fault that I forgot my mortal life, but the feeling still persists. I suppose that I could have moved on with my life once I made sure that Elena was okay. I could have left her to her own life. I didn’t though. Once my memories came back I started missing my sister all over again and wanted nothing more than to be a part of her life in whatever way I could. In the beginning it was just as a friendly face. I have been blessed that I was able to tell her the truth and that she believed me. I have my sister back and I will do whatever I have to in order to keep her safe and happy.

                        Insincere Marguerite’s Whispers

                        It is a somewhat nerve wracking time for me a good time but rough.

                        I get married in less than forty-eight hours to Julia Oldacre.

                        Tonight is the bachelorette party. I return to Paris for the first time in a very long time with Maria. That is nerve wracking enough. We are going to a “dyke bar.” She promised not to start a fight there. I will hook up with some French girl who I do not even know. Probably.

                        I am not having second thoughts, it is just making me very nervous and I am having trouble with holding consistency. My form is sufficiently liquid that keeping cohesion is somewhat difficult when I get really stressed about it. Frequently.

                        Julia has suggested she and I not share a bed for seven days before the wedding. The first several days were easy. I usually slept in the vents. I like sleeping in the vents. Usually. But things have gotten somewhat difficult, and I think that I do two things to deal with stress, go into especially narrow and small places (like the vents) and sex. Narrow places are easy. With Julia not as an option I have spent a few nights elsewhere, with Maria and with Yvette. Happily.

                        Somehow she seems to be doing fine with everything. I can’t imagine how she is having an easier time of it than I. I mean do not get me wrong Julia and I indulged in some passionate kissing the other night but still slept separately. It’s hard to keep my hands off of her.

                        I guess everything is sinking in and I am freaking out and I miss Julia. I hope Juliette and Maria are handling everything okay. Maria is certainly trying to seem okay. Juliette…is nervous. I think everything with my wedding and her wedding and the test, they are all weighing on her. It is bad enough two women getting married but four we are lucky we have the Malibu Dream House not Malibu Mad House.

                        I am looking forward to this, but I will be very glad when it is all over. It’s getting to me.


                        End Session CII

                        So there was a lot of RP this session not much plot advancement, but it was good RP. With a handful of bonus dice from Marie-Hélène Lorelei managed to hit 55 successes on her rendition of “Paradise” that lead to a lot of celebration. The scene with Stasia and Elena was unexpectedly good, and we had a good time with it. Wound up not having time for the bachelorette party, but eh, worth it for the good scene.

                        Next time expecting a bachelorette party and who knows maybe a wedding.

                        So we have started a new game. Blue Rose: Cat’s Cradle is a Blue Rose 2nd edition game using the AGE system. The game includes 5/6 of the players from Malibu Dream House, and all four of the current roster. It’s my first real Fantasy game since Exalted, short a brief flirtation with the D20 Warcraft game. It’s not WoD or CoD but we are having fun with it, and would love to have you join us for it. Journals and discussion can be found here. Hope to see you there.

                        Regardless, glad you are here! Comments and Questions welcome.
                        Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 02-25-2018, 05:15 PM.

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                        [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


                        • Now this time we have a bachelorette party and a wedding. Join the group for fun and hijinx

                          Session CIII

                          Lorelei’s Diary

                          Well, one wedding down and one to go. I suppose it’s “the big one” as far as I’m concerned (though Marguerite and Julia’s wedding was of course monumental in its own right, and I’d never say anything to diminish that). I still have my test with the Pilgrims tomorrow to distract me, but I imagine most of the rest of the week will see me degenerating into a quivering pile of raw nerves as I prepare to become Mrs. Lorelei Grace de la Rocha.

                          Julia’s bachelorette party went well, I think. Everyone seemed to have a good time at least, though I’m perhaps not as creative as I could be when it comes to planning fun sexy party games. Julia showed up right on cue, about twenty minutes after the rest of the guests, and made appropriately impressed remarks about the new gothic décor of the Dream House’s theater area. And in that respect I do have to toot my own horn at least a little… everything was draped in black velvet, with black lace tablecloths and dribbly black candles on every table.

                          I’d decked myself out no less opulently, of course… in a gothic gown with flowing black and red skirts and a fair (though ecologically friendly) approximation of an actual Victorian whalebone corset cinched tightly about my waist. It wasn’t the most comfortable ensemble, but it did serve to give my voice a nice breathless quality for the remainder of the evening. I topped it all off with a black lace veil.

                          Andromeda had brought a large, multi-pipe hookah, and Julia and I both supplied a little weed, and of course Jacob had agreed to serve as bartender for all of us wild and crazy girls, so things got a little spicy pretty quickly. There was a karaoke machine… for the guests, of course. It was my night off, and Julia’s voice is not for public consumption. But much of the evening was dedicated to an impromptu game of truth or dare. And just like at the game our motley played together over a year ago, we placed a minor pledge on everyone forcing them to tell the truth or to smell faintly of rotten eggs for the rest of the evening.

                          There were too many of us for just one game, so we divided it up by tables. I found myself at a table with the bride herself, Flores, Veronica, and Yvette. I know Calamity was at a nearby table with Becky, Stasia, Elena, and White Maria. A third table contained Joan, Andromeda, Neon, Brightstar, and Rowan… and so forth. I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all, with varying degrees of embarrassment and intoxication.

                          I couldn’t begin to remember all of the questions, answers, and dares that flew between us (see the previous paragraphs re: intoxication), but a few stand out. Yvette asked me what the most depraved thing I had done with Marguerite was, and just like last year’s fateful truth or dare game, I was forced to admit to a particularly kinky sex act… the same one, in fact. It seems like I’m destined to bring that up every time we play that particular game for one reason or another. Julia asked me an interesting question… she wanted to know who I’d most like to be the “father” of a child I carried, out of everyone in the Freehold, excepting those I’m already in committed relationships with. That’s an interesting question as far as changelings are concerned, as certain contracts mean that you can’t necessarily rule out women as potential “fathers.”

                          I thought about it for a while, as there are actually a lot of good candidates. Joan sprang to mind… she’s stalwart, and brave, and absolutely dedicated to those she loves. She’d be an amazing protector for a potential family group… but I know that sort of thing would cause tension between her and Andromeda, and even in a hypothetical situation like that I’m not willing to risk what those two have together. I thought about Princess Jolie, but her duties as monarch mean that she probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to devote to a potential family of that sort. And of course the off-the-cuff answer was Captain Jack – any child the two of us had together would obviously be amazing – but he’s not interested in girls. In the end, I went with Flores… she’s so kind and sunny and nurturing that I can’t help but think she’s going to make an excellent mother someday. She gave me a radiant smile and a slight blush as I attempted to articulate those thoughts.

                          Flores herself asked me who out of all of my lovers past and present I would least like to have my father walk in on me with. That’s a tough question, honestly, because for the most part those flings of which I’m less than proud occurred back in Defiance before I was Taken, and those names would have meant less than nothing to the people gathered at the table. Privately, I think I’d probably go with Sam Barnes, who defiled me in the vestry of Dad’s old church just after he got his driver’s license. Add to that the timing of when he left Defiance for good, and, well… I don’t ever want Dad finding out I had sex with him, and then doing the math to work out how old I was at the time. Yeesh, I was a messed up kid.

                          In any case, I decided that just giving the name would be meaningless, and that going into details as to why would be icky, so I opted to take a dare in the spirit of the game. Flores got an almost naughty grin on her face, then said “I dare you to stand up right now, walk across the room, and give Gloria a big, deep, sensual kiss.” Shit. I don’t think she knew how I’ve kind of fantasized about that for a while, but stopped myself out of respect for both D and Gloria’s feelings. I don’t think she realized that such a dare could have been harmful on a certain level… Flores would never suggest something that might cause problems. She probably just thought that she was breaking down barriers between the two of us.

                          But a deal is a deal and a dare is a dare, so I got up, took a deep breath, and walked across the room. Gloria’s table had been laughing and joking in one corner, but they all sort of fell silent as I approached. “Gloria,” I said as I came to a halt in front of her chair, “I like you and respect you, and I want you to know that I’m doing this on a dare, as part of the game.”

                          She nodded, a little confused. “Okay,” she said.

                          I leaned in and kissed her. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do anything like that halfway, so I made it count. A few seconds in I opened my mouth, and she followed suit, and our respective tongues came into play. All told, it lasted maybe half a minute. And dammit if it wasn’t a good kiss, too! When I pulled away, Gloria actually looked a little dazed, and gave me a faint, slight smile. “Wow,” she said softly, and I echoed the sentiment.

                          Maybe there’s a way that the two of us could be together sometime without diminishing what she has with D? No, focus Lori. This is not the time for that sort of speculation. Besides, she ended up going home with Oleander, who was at her table for the truth or dare game.

                          So when the time came for me to ask Flores a question, I decided to go deep and meaningful rather than embarrassing. “Flores,” I asked gently, “you’ve been with a lot of people in this Freehold, both male and female, and we all know that you care about every one of us. But is there anyone for whom those feelings go deeper? Is there anyone who…”

                          “Dare,” she cut in quickly, with a somewhat panicked look in her eyes. I honestly wasn’t expecting that, and I didn’t have a good dare ready, so I just gave her the same dare she gave me, only with Oleander instead of Gloria. Might have been more fun a few months ago, before the two of them actually hooked up, but it was all I could think of at the time.

                          My other dare came from Veronica, but for sort of an odd reason. The “truth” question she asked me was the old classic bar game “marry-fuck-kill,” with the field of options consisting of the current sitting monarchs of Malibu and L.A. At first I had Jolie as my chosen “fuck” option… but she’s such a genuinely good person underneath it all that I quickly changed her to “marry,” and put the scary-hot Charlotte in the “fuck” position. The problem came with “kill,” honestly… I don’t really like the idea of killing anyone, and even though I don’t know the Warlock or Leonidas well, I don’t want to think that way about either of them. So after giving two-thirds of an answer, I still ended up taking the dare.

                          Veronica thought about it in a moment, and then decided that I should walk around and spank the ass of every blonde in the room… not hard enough to hurt, but definitely hard enough that they’d feel it. So no stealth-spanking. I looked up at her, giving her my best smolder, and said “you know I don’t see you as a blonde, right?”

                          She shrugged. “I’m not a blonde,” she said after a moment.

                          Flores was confused. “What? Yes you are!” she said indignantly.

                          I left the two of them to sort that out and began making the rounds. There were a lot of blondes there last night, let me tell you. Some, like Gloria, took it with good grace, laughing it off as the silliness that it was. Others, like Andromeda, played their part to the hilt, making sexy noises as the slap connected. Still others – I’m looking at Rowan and Joan in particular – seemed embarrassed, but they were still good sports about it. “I would not do this for anyone but you, Lori,” Joan whispered from behind flaming cheeks. On her face, I mean… like I said, I didn’t hit anyone hard.

                          My question to Veronica was kind of a softball despite her spankening ways… since we share a relatively common background, I asked her to tell me about her happiest memory of life back in Iowa. She looked down at her lap for a minute. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” she said, “and very redneck, but here goes. When I was fifteen, my brother – who was seventeen – said or did something mean to me. I don’t honestly remember what it was, exactly, but that’s not part of the happy memory, so it doesn’t really matter, I guess. Anyway, I stole dad’s keys, and I…”

                          “What?” I asked, curious as to where this was going.

                          “I chased him around for nearly an hour. On a tractor.” She grinned at the thought.

                          I had to laugh at that. “I love it!” I said. “Sibling revenge courtesy of John Deere!”

                          Veronica shrugged. “I feel bad about the spanking thing now… I mean, you answered most of the ‘truth’ question, and still took that dare, and you gave me an easy out instead of retaliating. I can totally take a dare to make up for it, if you want.”

                          I would have let her out of it; I’m not usually the vindictive type. But at that moment, Rowan – looking about three heartbeats away from fainting with embarrassment – climbed up onto the stage and began timidly attempting to explain how heterosexual intercourse is supposed to work, using visual aids including but not limited to a vacuum cleaner and a sock monkey. I presume this was Andromeda’s work. It was cute, and it was funny… but it was also obvious that Rowan was genuinely uncomfortable, and I couldn’t help but feel bad for my former girlfriend.

                          “Sorry about this,” I muttered to Veronica. I browsed on my phone for about fifteen seconds and then handed it to her. “I want you to stand up on top of the table right now and sing this song as loud as you can, please.”

                          Veronica was a good sport about it, though she looked more than a little embarrassed in her own right. Still, the spectacle of a beautiful girl standing on a table and doing a little dance while belting out “The Major-General’s Song” from Pirates of Penzance is apparently enough to distract people from almost anything. Her voice isn’t bad, either… untrained, but she has some natural talent. And her familiarity with the melody and the ease with which she kept up with the patter makes me wonder if she’s maybe got a little amateur musical theater in her background.

                          After the truth or dare games wound down, I decided it was time to serve the cake. Of course, we had two… a real cake and a hollow one filled with a little surprise for Julia. This is probably the part of the bachelorette party of which I’m proudest… and I thank God that Dark Kimberly was willing to be a good sport about it. That’s right, when they wheeled out the comically oversized cake, Kimberly burst forth in full Lydia-from-Beetlejuice regalia, dancing slowly to the music with a typically stoic expression on her face. And yes, there was a striptease element to her performance, but in deference to the less uninhibited guests, it didn’t go too far.

                          After cake was served, we set up the sound system for karaoke, and most of the crowd tried their hand for at least one song. There weren’t a whole lot of stand-out performances, honestly… but everybody seemed to have fun, which is the important thing. I do remember Andromeda doing a particularly cute and bouncy rendition of a very vulgar song I didn’t know. I mostly demurred (it was my night off, after all), but I couldn’t resist Oleander when she gave me those big soulful eyes, so the two of us got on stage and did our own take on “Islands in the Stream.”

                          I spent most of my time, however, flirting with Yvette. Most of the rest of our little quad has already slept with her, and I was tired of being the odd girl out. She’s hot, she’s nice, she’s French, and I wanted to spend that night with her. I checked with Julia early on in the evening, and she was fine with it, as long as I wasn’t averse to her joining the two of us… which sounded like a peachy keen idea to me.

                          Yvette herself played the coquette at first, but I could tell that she was interested. At one point late in the evening, she handed me a tube of lipstick and asked me to help her reapply it. As I’m fully aware of my classic seduction techniques, I took the hint and applied the lipstick to my own lips, then kissed it on to hers. She responded enthusiastically, and that set the tone for the rest of our evening.

                          Once everyone had left, we decided to leave the cleanup until the following morning and the three of us headed up to bed. As we all had a big day coming on Saturday, we let ourselves drift off after just a little bit of debauchery, and slept comfortably in each other’s arms until it was time to get up for Sex Breakfast. Though not incredibly vigorous or overly prolonged, the sex was good, and I can honestly say that I went to sleep fully satisfied. The other ladies voiced no complaints, so I can only assume that they had similar experiences.

                          I rose first, as per usual, and headed down to the kitchen to start making omelets, hoping the smell would rouse the others. D met me in the kitchen, yawned, stretched, and kissed me gently as the butter was melting in the pan. “Hey, sweetie,” I said brightly, “how was Paris?”

                          She rolled her eyes. “Things… didn’t exactly go as planned,” she admitted.

                          “Oh no,” I said, my brow furrowing with concern, “is everything okay?”

                          “Yeah,” she hastened to inform me, “nothing’s actually wrong. It’s just that… well, Marguerite hooked up with these two French coeds, but I didn’t meet anybody there. So we went back to the hotel, but the walls were pretty thin, and I got sick of listening to them… did you know that there are girls in France who actually say ‘ooh la la’ when they’re not joking?”

                          I giggled at that. “So what did you do?” I asked.

                          “Well, I went out walking,” she continued. “And who do you think I should run into? Marguerite’s fetch. She looks just like our Marguerite would if she ate as much as a healthy person, by the way. So, I… well, I walked up to her and punched her in the face.”

                          My eyes widened. “You didn’t,” I said.

                          “I did,” she assured me, looking somewhat proud of herself. “What? Her picture is on the Front National website, babe. She’s a racist bitch. She had it coming.”

                          I had to admit that she had a point, so I didn’t argue further with her.

                          The two of us – and the rest of the motley, sans Marguerite and Julia – spent the rest of the afternoon making the Dream House ready for the wedding. I won’t go into too many details on the ceremony itself… I can always just look at the wedding album or something if I want the memories later. But I will say that it was a beautiful ceremony. Dark, considering Julia’s particular aesthetic, but beautiful nonetheless.

                          Marguerite wore a white dress, Julia wore a black dress. There were a few trained Hedge beasts carrying parts of Julia’s dress… crows bore the ribbons attached to her waist, while some sort of bipedal rat creature carried the train. I’m pretty sure Oleander had something to do with this, as I occasionally caught glimpses of her in the audience blowing on a silent whistle, and this seemed to coincide with the Hedge creatures’ actions in subtle ways.

                          I sang prior to the brides’ entrance, Jacob escorted Marguerite up the aisle, and Dad performed the ceremony itself. I think it might have been the first time he’s seen so many of the Freeholds’ denizens gathered all in one place, and at first he looked a little nervous about that. I guess we changelings can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to us. I covertly took his hand at one point, thanked him for agreeing to serve as the happy couple’s minister, and assured him that he was safe at the Dream House. He nodded, patted my hand, and seemed to gather himself pretty quickly after that.

                          A homily, a few words, and some pretty music later, and it was done. My loves are now officially Mrs. Marguerite Oldacre and Mrs. Julia Oldacre. I managed to avoid tearing up, but it was a near thing. D held up better than I did; for the most part she just looked supremely happy… though as always you had to look past that stoic, belligerent façade to notice it. God, I love her… and next week… no, not going to start with that sort of talk now.

                          The two of us stuck pretty close to each other during the reception. Our seven days of abstaining from each other’s intimate company had begun, and I think each of us wanted to take what comfort we could from each other’s presence. I had no lack of other potential partners, of course. Both of Julia’s parents hit on me (Linda in a dress so low-cut that it bordered on inappropriate), but I remembered my promise to Julia and turned them down as politely as I could. Oleander also made some comments to the effect that she wouldn’t mind my company, and also recommended the amorous embrace of Gloria.

                          “I’m not her type,” I replied wryly.

                          Oleander raised an eyebrow in apparent disbelief, but I declined to comment further. It’s amazing how a simple wordless gesture like that from her can pull me out of a funk.

                          Most of us danced with each other at one point or another during the reception. I even saw Calamity (carefully) dance with Dad once, and it looked like they were having some sort of heart-to-heart talk. I don’t know what it was about, and it didn’t seem polite to ask.

                          I ended up spending the evening with Brightstar… which brings up an interesting point. Knowing her own character, Brightstar volunteered to be mildly sedated during the wedding ceremony itself, so as not to provide a distraction with her occasionally hyperactive ways. An hour or so into the reception, however, the drugs seem to have worked their way out of her system, and she started bouncing around the dance floor as per usual. Once the bulk of our guests had left and most of the cleanup had been taken care of, she took me in her arms, grinned, and jumped up to my balcony from the lawn. As usual, it took me quite a while to wear her out, and when it was time to get up this morning I had to use Spring Court contracts to revive myself.

                          Most of the motley joined Gloria in a little karaoke after breakfast (we still had the machine from the bachelorette party), but Jacob and I demurred, and actually had a fairly important conversation. First, Jacob fretted a bit about his sister, and what she was going to do while we were in Arcadia. I mentioned the “support group” that Oleander, Yvette, and Gloria are forming, and promised to ask them to check in on Elena from time to time to make sure she’s okay. Jacob also suggested that we might want to do a little research on the Garfields and the Lassiters (Missy and Jane’s families, respectively) to see if it will be possible for my friends to reconnect with them when they get back here. I suppose we could use the Internet for that, but I think I might ask Dad to look into it as well… he knows both families, and might have even kept in touch with them over the years.

                          Today has been largely uneventful so far, though I have a feeling that’s about to change. Oleander called me up and asked if she could meet with the motley… specifically me and Marguerite, though she didn’t object to the rest being around if they wanted. Apparently she made some observations during the wedding ceremony which might be helpful in our upcoming journey into Arcadia, and she wanted to share them. She should be here any time now, so I suppose I should wrap this up.

                          I arranged to spend tomorrow night with her (she’s coming over for movie night), and I have standing plans to spend Tuesday evening with Joan and Andromeda (Joan has promised to dig up a “feature film” for the occasion). Tonight, however, I have resolved to spend alone, in quiet contemplation, meditation, and study. Jimmy and Peg are dropping by tomorrow to test me for entry into the Pilgrims of the Endless Road… which means they’re going to test me on what they perceive as my weaknesses, to see if I’ve improved in those areas in the month since they last observed me. As I don’t even know for certain what these areas are, I can only do my best to shore up my weaknesses and hope that I’ve identified them correctly.

                          After that, I can afford to go to pieces over my own approaching nuptials.

                          Lorelei Grace

                          Calamity’s Little Black Book

                          Sunday, June 7th
                          Nine years, fifteen days
                          Days without stabbing: 23

                          Beautiful has only just left and I miss her already. Fuck if having her here for more than just a lone night wasn’t absolutely amazing. I really didn’t realize just how deeply I’ve missed having someone since Gawain left until I did have her here with me. It’s just one more pain I’d gotten used to, like the glass in my skin. But I can’t let it distract me. I have things to do. Oleander will be here in a little while to talk to us about something pertaining to the rescue mission. And Tonight I’m going to be using dream-crafting to insure Lori is well rested and focused tomorrow for her trial with the Pilgrims.

                          Both the bachalorette party and the wedding were successful. Truth or Dare seemed like a dicey choice for a party of Lost but it went well, with some pretty amusing dares (Rowan turned every shade of red trying to explain sex with a vacuum cleaner and a sock monkey) and no seriously uncomfortable questions. I did have pause at White Maria asking me what the most beautiful thing I had ever destroyed was. I considered taking a dare, but then decided that I could be truthful without going into the details of what I did to Lindsey and Robert. I just said love and she accepted it with a nod. I did learn a few interesting things about Beautiful and Stasia’s dream car. Clearly our street racing vehicle needs to be a red Maserati. I cannot say I disapprove. Dark Kimberly was absolutely delicious jumping out of the cake in her Lydia Deets outfit. Then it was socializing and karaoke. Most everyone got up and had fun with it, with a few exceptions. Stasia and Elena were talking and so damn lost in each other it was adorable. At one point I even managed to sneak over and braid Elena’s hair without either of them noticing. For our part, Beautiful had me sing 6 Underground, which I wasn’t really familiar with and I think I may need to actually work up a number for at some point. Then I drug her up there and we did I Got You Babe together. I was silly and fun and I loved it. Then I took her upstairs and we spent the night together. And there was no rush or urgency the next morning (despite the need to switch out all the decor) and it was so nice to just snuggle and chatter and be together.

                          Eventually we made our way down and ate and pitched in to get the house ready. I think Lori was more worried about everything than Julia (ok, maybe not more but at least as worried.) But everything went off with exactly one hitch as planned. It was a really nice ceremony and I spent it sitting there holding Beautiful’s hand while her hair lightly stroked my shoulder and the spike of glass rising from it. The reception also went well (despite Julia’s mom showing more cleavage than both brides combined.) I danced with Beautiful a lot, but we also mixed it up. I did dance with Lori’s father and we talked. I may have gotten a little wistful about how nice it is that he and Lori have gotten back to together and how most of us cannot do that. I have no doubt he picked up on the fact that I’ve got issues there but it didn’t come up. I will never stop regretting that night, but there’s naught I can do to fix it. And I did have a serious talk with Beautiful. As much as I have thought about it and what to say the words just refused to come out the way I wanted them to but it was good and I think I managed to fumble my way through telling her the things I needed to. And eventually things wound down and we retired together again.

                          This morning there was a hint of bittersweet as I knew I had to let her go but we enjoyed the first sex breakfast with Mrs. Marguerite Oldacre and Mrs. Julia Oldacre. The karaoke machine was still set up so there was some goofing about there and just generally enjoyed our last few hours together before I sent Beautiful on her way with a deep lingering kiss. Everything just feels so damn right with the world and I’m too stupid and love-drunk to care that I know better.

                          Jacob’s Journal

                          After all the excitement of the afternoon the evening was pretty normal. Well, normal for around here. We had Julia’s bachelorette party at the Dream House and a good number of people showed up. There were games played and plenty of alcohol served. Lori was in charge of the games so she chose Truth or Dare for one game and got multiple groups of people playing it. I’m assuming there was plenty of dares going on because I saw Lori get up and walk over to Gloria and kiss her full on the lips. There was also Rowan up on the stage with several props, including a sock monkey and a vacuum cleaner, demonstrating heterosexual sex. She was so embarrassed. At least until Lori had Veronica stand up on a table and sing “Modern Major General” as loud as she could. That got some of the spotlight off of Rowan, which I think she appreciated. There was some karaoke too, but Lori took the night off. It was a fun evening all around.

                          I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Truth or Dare game that we played as a motley after only knowing each other for a short amount of time. I remember Lori asking me what my biggest regret was. I choked at that and said I’d take the dare. I think she was surprised and only dared me to take off my shirt. At that time I didn’t want to admit what my biggest regret was. I regret agreeing to serve the Lady. There are of course specific days in her service that I really regret, but it all stems back to agreeing to work for her in the first place. That one day in the cave. I wish I could take it back. I’m not sure that I would have survived in the Lady’s realm much longer after that day. I had been doing alright for myself for a while but it was a hard life and I’m not sure now how long I could have held out before some other band of people decided they wanted what I had and killed me for my possessions. Serving the Lady ensured that I did not need to worry about random people attacking me. For the most part. There was one man who attacked me even though he knew that I was the Lady’s Knight. He had a makeshift shiv made from a tree branch and ambushed me as I was on an errand for the Lady. He managed to get one strike in. He hit my shoulder, but before he could even pull his shiv out I turned around and plunged my own dagger into his gut. I left him there to bleed out in the snow. Rook’s training had paid off well that day, and has for many since. I guess I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I hadn’t served the Lady, but I still wish that I could have changed that decision. It was the worst and best day of my life.

                          Anyway, throughout the whole bachelorette party I took pictures of all the guests playing games and singing up on stage. I even got a picture of Calamity braiding my sister’s hair without Elena, or Stasia for that matter, knowing about it. And who can forget when Dark Kimberly jumped out of the cake wearing the girl’s outfit from Beetlejuice. I think that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. In the end I thought that all the photos might make a nice scrapbook for Julia and Insincere Marguerite. I can’t do anything about Marguerite’s bachelorette party, but I can at least provide happy memories from Julia’s.

                          **** **** ****

                          The day of the wedding dawned early-ish. We got up a little earlier than we would normally after a Friday night show and started taking down all the decorations from the bachelorette party. Well, we ate first then started swapping the all black lace and velvet for black and white decorations for the wedding. Also this morning De la Rocha and Insincere Marguerite got back from France. They had a good time it seems. Marguerite indeed seduced or was seduced by a couple of co-ed’s and De la Rocha was free to wander the streets near the hotel. While she was out walking she actually came across Insincere Marguerite’s fetch and did what I think most of us would have done in that situation. She decked the would-be Marguerite. I’m not sure how many blows she managed to get in before she had to run from the police though. Marguerite found her later and they made their way back to the Dream House. So, despite having to hide out for a while I think De la Rocha had a good time in France. Insincere Marguerite definitely did. She was very happy to see Julia though. Those two make such a cute couple.

                          The day seemed to go pretty fast all things said. The decorating took a good deal of time since we had to take stuff down as well as put more back up. It looked good when we were done though. Then the wedding. The wedding was very nice. I don’t have a lot of experience with weddings so I don’t know how it compared to others, but I thought it was nice. Insincere Marguerite had asked me to give her away, so I had the honor of walking her down the aisle. Both brides were really pretty. Marguerite wore a white dress while Julia contrasted her and wore a black dress that kind of reminded me of a Disney princess dress. She even had a Hedge beast, that looked like a mouse, holding up the train, and birds holding onto the ribbon in their beaks. I think the birds were rooks which gave me pause for a moment, but it didn’t last long. Marguerite didn’t have the trained Hedge beasts, but that was okay. Like I said, they were both really pretty. Lori sang something during the ceremony itself which sounded really good in the church. I know she sings in the choir for her church, so I wonder if that is what every Sunday sounds like for her?

                          The reception was nice too. I will admit that it was nice to be a guest at an event and not have to be the one that served drinks. They got somebody competent so that’s okay. Julia’s parents took the whole wedding and reception rather well. They had been ensorcelled so they could see us as we were and the Hedge beasts as they were as well. I’m not sure if there were any guests there that were not “in the know,” so I’m not sure how they would have seen the little mouse guy holding up the train. He was cute though. I think Oleander had a little whistle that she played to get him to do certain tasks. At the reception Calamity also sang a song. I think it was “Sweet Dreams.” Overall a good day. The brides were beautiful, the ceremony went smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

                          **** **** ****

                          This morning found us with a few guests. We had Gloria, Becky and Brightstar over for breakfast. I’m not sure who stayed with who, but I’ve got a good guess. Everyone enjoyed the food and coffee and there was much talk about the wedding. Everyone agreed that it was nice, though Julia was a little upset that her mother had shown more cleavage at the wedding than Julia did. She has asked everyone in the motley to not sleep with either of her parents since that would just make things awkward. So, nothing happened with them, but Julia was still a little put out about her mother’s attire. After we had food the majority of the group decided that they wanted to do more karaoke. While that was being set up and people started singing I took that opportunity to get Lori to the side to talk. I wanted to bring up the idea of connecting Elena and Stasia with the “support group” that Gloria, Yvette and Oleander have set up. I don’t know how long we’re going to be in Arcadia and I want my sister, and Stasia, to have some way of getting news and help if needs be. Lori said that she thought it was a good idea and offered to bring it up to the others soon. I also wanted to bring up the idea to Lori that maybe someone should research to see if fetches were left for Missy and/or Jane, and what had been going on with their parents since they were gone. I figured that once the shock of being back in ‘the world’ wore off they would want to know what happened to their families. I know that is one of the first things that crossed my mind when I got back. So, Lori said that she’d talk to her dad about it since he would probably know what happened to folks from their home town. I mean, we can google them, but their fetches, if they have any, may not have a very big internet presence. I guess we’ll see what that turns up.

                          After that Lori got a call from Oleander. She said that she had some news for Lori, and the rest of us, about something that may help getting into Arcadia. I’ve never had a problem getting into Arcadia, but then I knew where gates were that would take me where I wanted to go. I could take the motley to any one of those gates, but I’m not sure how to find our way to the Violent Empress’s realm from the Lady’s lands. There may not be a way to get there from her realm, or we would have to travel through other Keepers’ lands to get there. So, I suppose that it would be good to find a way to take us straight to the Violent Empress’ realm. Part of me is looking forward to going while another part of me is not. I want to help free those two girls from the Empress. I would be keen on getting anyone away from their Keeper. I’m just a bit apprehensive about going back to the place, or one similar, where I served the Gentry. Arcadia messes with your head and I’m not sure what it’s going to do to me, or the others, to go back there. I don’t want to change too much, but I fear that I will change to some extent. I don’t think there is a way to go there and leave unscathed. I guess mostly I don’t want my motley mates to change. Calamity really doesn’t need anything that pushes her closer to the dark side of herself, and Lori doesn’t need to discover the dark side of her own mind either. She is one of the most pure people I know and I don’t want that to change. Julia too. She is for the most part, despite her artistic interests, an innocent. Some of us have darker pasts than others and I fear that Arcadia will just bring those out more than we’d like. I know that we will not come out of this without consequence, but I pray that we don’t pay too high a price.

                          Insincere Marguerite’s Whispers

                          So I was married yesterday, it was lovely.

                          Julia wore black, and I white. Juliette was maid of honor, Maria mine. Julia’s father gave her away, Jacob gave me. Julia had a few hedge beasts supplied by Oleander to give her a dark Disney look. As the main Addams family theme played, Julia looked enchanting gliding down the isle we had their in the back yard. Juliette sang, it was beautiful. Moving. Wonderful. I am Insincere Marguerite Madeline Oldacre now. I am happy.

                          The reception was nice. Captain Jack kept starting to play the most unseemly music, but played the correct thing eventually. Juliette sang “Love Song for a Vampire”, Calamity sang “Sweet Dreams are made of This.” We danced to “This is Halloween.”. The mood was very high and I confess I feel better than I have in some time.

                          I think this is good for me. I feel more like I am more in control. Things are more right than they had been with me. Absolutely.

                          That said Maria punched my Fetch, and that is just strange. She was apparently just outside the hotel I was saying at with Chloe and Andrea. Apparently she was walking or lingering outside of it in the wee hours. Why? Why would she be outside my hotel? Perhaps she was drawn to my presence? If I am there for Bastille Day or my Birthday, will she find me again? If we survive Arcadia, I must speak to the others about this. I do not wish to be blindsided by that bitch. Certainly.

                          But I have had a lovely time. And a lovely wedding. And that is what matters most.

                          End Session CIII

                          Oh come on Lori rimjobs are not really kinky.

                          Okay so I pride myself on the fact I run games with little planning, and rarely preplan dialogue. I am well able to run even large conversations extemporaneously and smoothly. Still, the bachelorette party was a challenge. Each table had like four women I needed questions and answers for, and none were my PCs, so not as well considered. I mean it worked out, but extemporizing a question and then answering a question for 8 NPCs rapidly was…pretty difficult considering I was not even really expecting truth or dare when we started (Lori came up with that, after all) .

                          Musical side notes, The vulgar song Gloria sang was “Fuck the Pain Away” by Peaches, which is a fun song but vulgar enough I am not going to link it or anything. It’s on Youtube. Andromeda also sang a Peaches song, “Rock Show” which is pretty good, if also NSFW. It’s a favorite of mine, honestly. Also there was a major OOC sidetrack for a short time where we discussed “Islands in the Stream” as Jimmy Fallon did an AWESOME recreation of the classic 1983 Grammy rendition of that song with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton only with Jimmy Fallon and Miley Cyrus Not really my genre or favorite song, but I was nonetheless impressed and amused by the out of freaking nowhere recreation.

                          One wedding down, one to go. But first we have a test this coming session. Let’s see how it goes for Lori. See you then, Comments and Questions welcome.
                          Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 03-11-2018, 08:44 PM.

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                          [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


                          • Ready for Bachelorette Party and wedding number two? Well, you may think you are, but consider this a parental advisory. Nothing explicit, of course. So lets cover those and the honeymoon then, as the group moves toward the return to Arcadia.

                            Session CIV

                            Lorelei’s Diary

                            Wow, okay. The last two weeks or so have been… wow. I don’t have the words, I really don’t. Of all the blessings I have received since I returned from the depths of my own personal Hell, these past weeks have seen the greatest, and I thank God daily for His generosity. And I swear that, over the next few weeks, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Missy and Jane get the opportunity to enjoy the same kinds of blessings.

                            So the last time I wrote was the day after Julia and Marguerite’s wedding, and I was stressing over my impending test with the Pilgrims. Oleander had called and asked to meet with the motley, claiming that she had information which might be useful to us in our impending trip to Arcadia. It turns out that she had noticed at the wedding ceremony that the Hedge Beasts she had provided were acting as though they were afraid of Marguerite. She’s seen this sort of behavior before… the Hedge Beasts were treating Marguerite as though she was a Gentry.

                            Now, we all know that Marguerite is not a Gentry, but apparently there’s something about her bearing or mien that makes it seem that way to casual observers. The upshot of this is that most Hedge Beasts will avoid her if they can, and even other Gentry will likely go out of their way not to meet her (such meetings tend to end in conflict, and unless the given Gentry is spoiling for a fight or is an irredeemable gadfly, it’s simpler if Gentry avoid chance meetings with each other). We can definitely use this to our advantage if we’re careful.

                            I spent most of the rest of the evening studying. The subject of the day was history… modern history, since I missed so much of it while I was in Arcadia. Germany re-united. The USSR split up. So many new nations, shifting borders, wars, acts of terrorism, tragedies, triumphs, and wild shifts of fashion. Who can keep up with it all?

                            I did take a few breaks. Since the Dream House has been closed for the past few days, I haven’t had my usual wellspring of Glamour. So a bunch of us went out to a local bar that was having a karaoke night. Playing to my strengths, I decided to go with an old favorite: Peggy Lee’s “Fever” is always sure to stoke the flames of desire in the audience. I thought about doing a little impromptu advertising for the Dream House while I was on the stage… but stealing customers from that bar while enjoying their hospitality seemed like kind of a dick move, so I contented myself with just leaving a business card with the bartender on our way out.

                            I slept with Calamity that night, though it wasn’t like what most people would think after hearing me make a statement like that. She remained fully clothed (I tend to sleep nude whether I have a partner in bed with me or not), and entered my dreams to ensure that I had a restful, relaxing night so that I could go into the test the next day with a clear head and a focused mind. It was nice of her to sacrifice her evening in that way, and I made sure to let her know that I was grateful.

                            Sex Breakfast the next morning was… you know what, it was almost two weeks ago and a lot has happened since, so I’ll just hit the highlights. Marguerite is disdainful of British food (no surprises there). She feels that raisins are beneath contempt regardless of their provenience. Chocolate waffles and chocolate chip waffles are okay with her, even if they are of the Belgian variety. She and Julia still seem to be surgically attached at the face much of the time. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

                            Peg and Jimmy stopped by early that afternoon, both sporting stylish shades. “You ready, pet?” Jimmy asked me, his kindly tone slightly spoiled by the mischievous twinkle in his eye when he looked at me over the top of the glasses.

                            “Almost certainly not,” I said with a shaky grin, “but you’ve been more than fair in giving me time to prepare, so let’s do this.”

                            Peg remained at the Dream House with my friends. She and Jimmy kept in contact with each other throughout the test via their cell phones, and she presumably let my friends know how I was doing periodically so they wouldn’t worry.

                            Jimmy led me out to the parking lot, where a souped-up Mustang GT sat ominously as though waiting for us. I felt a grin spread over my face at the sight of it… not because I’m supremely confident in my driving abilities or anything, but just because I’ve always liked muscle cars of that sort. I mean, I’m no slouch in the driver’s seat; I’m just not professional caliber or anything.

                            Jimmy got in the passenger’s seat. The keys were in the ignition. It rumbled to life easily as I turned them, giving it a bit of gas like Dad taught me all those years ago. “Turn right out of the parking lot,” Jimmy said noncommittally, “I’ll direct you from there.” I did so.

                            Maybe five minutes into our drive, an odd repetitive clunking sound started up from somewhere in the car’s engine. You could feel it in the motion of the vehicle, too. “Might want to get that checked out,” Jimmy said, barely suppressing a wry grin. “I know a place up ahead.”

                            I continued to follow his directions until another car pulled up close behind us. It was another souped-up muscle car, though I don’t remember the exact make and model at the moment. “You know, I do believe that hooligan might be following us,” Jimmy said blandly.

                            “Street racing is really more Calamity’s bag,” I said with measured diffidence, “I wouldn’t want to take that away from her.”

                            Jimmy’s grin became positively shark-like. “This ain’t a race, pet,” he said with relish, “it’s a pursuit. See if you can lose him, why don’t you?” This sentence was punctuated by a light tap on our rear bumper and a rev of the other car’s engine.

                            “You asked for it,” I muttered, then jammed the car into the next gear and floored the gas. What followed was hair-raising in the extreme, though I have no doubt that the Pilgrims had taken every precaution. We didn’t even see many other vehicles on the roads, and Jimmy kept me away from truly dangerous areas like the seaside cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway. I cornered as best I could; trying to lose the other car while remaining vaguely on the course Jimmy had set. I peeled into several drift turns, wincing as I heard the rear tires spinning as the car fishtailed through one corner after another.

                            It took nearly a quarter of an hour, but we finally lost the other vehicle… all the while listening to that disconcerting thunk from the engine. Jimmy directed me through another couple of turns and into a garage. I pulled the car up over the pneumatic lifts, and the two of us got out.

                            “Now,” Jimmy said, “see if you can suss out the problem with the engine, will you?”

                            I pressed the lift button and the car steadily began to rise. “You know I spent last night studying history and French,” I commented wryly. He chuckled at that.

                            I set to work. It took me nearly an hour and a half of going over that engine bit by bit before I figured out what was causing the noise. I looked up the technical names of things after the fact, and it turns out that the main bearings on the crankshaft had worn down, causing the rods to knock against their housings. I pointed this out to Jimmy.

                            “Aye,” he said, “knowin’ is half the battle, they say… and the other half is doin’ somethin’ about it. Fix it, and see if that fixes the problem.”

                            So I spent another few hours elbow deep in grease and engine oil trading out the worn parts. The garage had all the parts I needed, as well as the tools (both manual and powered) necessary for the process. A skilled mechanic probably could have fixed the problem lickety-split. With my fumbling attempts not to destroy the engine, it took about four hours. Once everything was back in place, I lowered the car, climbed in, said a brief but fervent prayer, and turned the key.

                            That baby purred for me.

                            Jimmy climbed in the passenger side. “Not bad, pet,” he said in a pleasant rumble. “Now, your friends’ll be wonderin’ what’s keepin’ you. I’d like you to get us back to the Dream House in… oh, say half an hour or less. You don’t have to speed, but I’ll be keepin’ an eye on the dash, and I don’t want you goin’ under fifty-four miles per hour once we get up to speed. Got it?”

                            I was high off my success with the engine, and feeling a bit cocky. “No sweat,” I said as we pulled out of the parking lot and on to the road.

                            I did speed, as a matter of fact, but I’d like to think I stayed well clear of reckless driving territory. We pulled into the parking lot of the Dream House about twenty minutes later, and I left it idling for a moment (still no sound of knocking from the engine, so I must have done something right). “That was fun,” I said to Jimmy, fully sincere.

                            “You’ll want to clean up a bit, I imagine,” he replied, glancing down at my oil-spotted t-shirt and jeans. “Peg and I’ll give you our decision when you’re ready.”

                            I took a shower worthy of a crewman on a submarine and pulled on some clean clothes, then met the others in the theater downstairs. Everyone was gathered there by the time I descended. I thought I’d done pretty well, but I was still nervous. “Well…?” I said after a few seconds had passed in silence.

                            Jimmy nodded to me. “You did fine, pet,” he said kindly. “You were able to take a skill set you already possessed – the care and repair of complex systems – and apply it to a very unfamiliar set of circumstances. You were adaptable on the road when faced with an unexpected complication, and you were able to ramp up your speed when necessary without losin’ your head. And from talkin’ with your friends we’ve learned that you’ve stuck with your decision to train yourself both physically and mentally over the past month.”

                            I felt my eyes widen. “Does that mean…?” I asked plaintively.

                            Peg grinned and nodded. “Welcome to the Pilgrims of the Endless Road, Sister Lorelei,” she said.

                            I probably cheered. I think I squealed. I might have even jumped up and down in place a couple of times. Peg and Jimmy congratulated me, and let me know that I should settle into my new Kith role by the next sunrise. They took their leave after that, promising that I would see them both at the wedding the following weekend. They also told me that I should feel free to celebrate my achievements… but not to rest on my laurels. It’s advice I took to heart, and I had already told Calamity and Jacob that I’d like to keep training with them every few days.

                            We settled in to a regular Monday movie night after that. D and I shared an embrace, and she gave me a big fat congratulations kiss before the two of us settled in with other partners for the evening. I was already regretting my determination to emulate Marguerite and Julia by eschewing D’s sensual company for a week before the wedding… at that point I wanted nothing more than to luxuriate in her arms as a reward for all my hard work. But alas, ‘twas not to be.

                            Luckily I had Oleander to keep me from sinking into the pits of despair, and D likewise had Gloria. The movies were… fun, albeit a strange bunch. All three had an air of the whimsical about them, though they were very different in all other respects. First up was some internet amateur short film called Kung Fury. It was about a cop who… no, you know what? I’m not even going to begin to try to explain that thing. It was… bizarre, and I gather that for the most part it was a parody of films released in a decade with which I am almost entirely unfamiliar, so I’m guessing a lot of the references went over my head, leaving me sputtering and confused by the whole experience.

                            Next up was an action film called Big Trouble in Little China. This was sort of a goofy-fun take on Chinese low-budget fantasy kung-fu films… or rather, it was a representation of what might happen if an American action hero found himself caught up in the plot of one of those films. It was silly and irreverent… but also a lot of fun. There was plenty of charisma to be had on all sides of the central conflict, and there were more than a few laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout.

                            The third and final film was called Kingsman (subtitled The Secret Service). While it shared the same sense of whimsy as the other films, it was more of a black comedy, with extremely dark undercurrents just below the surface of the humor. It dealt with a “007” style British intelligence agency attempting to thwart the apocalyptic plans of a madman… but there was a lot more going on that just that basic plot. It dealt with some surprisingly deep issues, like class stratification and the dehumanization of the victims of violence. It included one of the most violent sequences I’ve ever seen in a film, expertly choreographed to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” It also included one of the most bizarrely disconnected uses of “Pomp and Circumstance” ever made, in my humble opinion. I enjoyed it, but was a little put off by the severity of the violence. Calamity adored it (of course).

                            We all retired shortly thereafter, and Oleander and I properly celebrated my initiation into the mysteries of the Pilgrims. It was a pleasant way to end the evening, but I won’t pretend that we spent the whole night locked in a carnal embrace or anything… I was mentally and physically exhausted from the testing process, and I drifted off a short time after we retired. When I woke up in the morning, I felt… different. It’s almost impossible for me to describe how, though. The closest I can come is to say that it felt like a portion of my soul had sort of clicked into place, like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Medicine makes more sense to me now. I don’t actually know anything that I didn’t know before… I just seem to understand it better, somehow. The way that a human body fits together, all the veins, muscles, organs, bones, etc… it’s not as complicated as I used to think it was. It’s kind of obvious, once you recognize the patterns.

                            The next few days are kind of a blur, honestly. I slowly degenerated from a confident, productive member of society into a quivering pile of raw nerves and insecurities as the Big Day crept ever nearer. I skipped the show on Tuesday night so that I could join Joan and Andromeda for dinner… that gosh-darned VCR was worse than ever, of course. This time it actually spat about eight pieces of burnt toast out at us at high velocity. I swear, it was funny, but Andromeda really shouldn’t encourage Joan like that…

                            Wednesday and Thursday nights I performed as usual. On Wednesday night I allowed myself to be picked up by Becky and Calamity. Becky is… I mean, wow. Sex with her is peachy keen. The bee’s knees. The cat’s pajamas. She’s… she’s just swell. Calamity’s no slouch either, of course, and I like to think that I held my own as well. But Becky… well, maybe it’s her kith showing through, I dunno. She did everything just right. And on Thursday night, Brightstar stayed over with me, as she intended to stay through until my bachelorette party the next evening. My most enthusiastic girlfriend is always a joy, and that night was no exception.

                            Friday dawned, and I continued the process of deterioration. Would the cake arrive on time? Would the dress still fit? Would the more belligerent members of the Freehold make trouble at Dad’s church during the service? Julia recognized the signs and did her best to keep me from exploding, with little shoulder massages here and calming words there. She also hinted at the fun evening she had planned for me and my nearest and dearest. And I have to admit it helped.

                            When evening rolled around, I showered, did my hair and makeup, put on a fun sexy party dress, and met Julia downstairs in the kitchen (they were already setting up for the Friday night show in the theater). When the proper time rolled around, Julia gave me a positively wicked smirk and produced a black velvet blindfold from the depths of her purse. “Put this on,” she said, “it’s time to go.”

                            I complied with – I admit – a small amount of trepidation, and allowed myself to be led out into the parking lot and placed carefully in the van. I had no idea what to expect… I’d heard that Marguerite just intended to take D to a few strip clubs and try to get her laid, but that didn’t seem like Julia’s style. I sat in the van for about twenty minutes as Julia drove this way and that, eventually pulling to a stop. She opened the side door of the van, took my arm, and carefully led me into a building.

                            It was obviously a club of some sort; the place was throbbing with dance music. The acoustics and the song selection were wrong for Rose & Thorn, though. Julia carefully led me around or across the dance floor (we had to maneuver around several groups of people, at any rate) and up a flight of stairs (always a delight when blindfolded and wearing high heels). We moved into a much smaller space, and Julia closed the door, which cut off most of the music from downstairs. The room was instead filled with soft jazz and a number of quiet whispers.

                            The blindfold was removed, and an assortment of my nearest and dearest gal-pals all shouted “congratulations!” Julia, Calamity, Oleander, Brightstar, Becky, Joan, Andromeda, Jolie, Flores, Veronica, Peg, Rowan, Neon, Marie-Hélène, Dark Kimberly, Molly, Moon, and Luna were all there… and Jacob had come along to document the party for the scrapbook he’s making. There were handshakes and hugs and heartfelt words exchanged all around. Julia had apparently rented a private room at the club, because only changelings were present as guests. There were a number of small tables scattered around the room, and at one end a jazz quartet composed entirely of suit-wearing women played a mellow tune.

                            Wine came first, and Julia made sure that I had a full glass in front of me at any given point. “Trust me,” she said with a wink, “you’re going to need it later.” As I have at my command the best magical hangover cure known to changelings, I didn’t see the point in denying myself a little refreshment.

                            Then came the games. Ohh, the games. Julia really outdid herself with that party, and put my little “truth or dare” experiment to shame. First was a sort of variation of “blind-man’s bluff,” in which yours truly, blindfolded, was made to kiss five of the other guests, and then had to guess who each kisser was. I didn’t do too badly when all was said and done, though I’m sure there were snickers here and there about me not being able to tell my various lovers apart.

                            The first kiss was deep and soft and sensual. My partner had long hair which brushed against my shoulders, a fresh clean scent, and a manner that simply oozed seduction. I thought I knew that one cold, and quickly guessed Jolie. The blindfold was removed, and much to my chagrin, Molly sat there, her eyes twinkling merrily. She’s… quite a kisser. Might want to explore the possibilities inherent in that at some point.

                            Next up was a conundrum for me. The kisser was slow but enthusiastic, and there was a definite aroma of plants in the air. Well, that certainly narrowed it down for me, but it left me with a terrible choice to make. The scent wasn’t strong enough for me to determine if it was Flores’ floral bouquet, or the earthier arboreal perfume of my love Oleander. I also knew that if I misidentified one for the other, Oleander would likely be hurt (Flores would probably be okay regardless). Julia and Calamity were carefully holding my arms behind my back, so I couldn’t touch my partner to determine body shape or hair length or anything like that. I held my breath and took the plunge. “Flores,” I said at last. Off came the blindfold, and much to my relief I was right.

                            Next up was another long-haired girl… I once more felt the whisper of it against my neck and shoulder as I leaned in. And though the kiss was undeniably pleasant, there was a hint of insouciance, of sassiness behind those soft lips. I thought back over my recent partners and took a stab in the dark (so to speak), guessing Veronica. Strike two, unfortunately… it was Dark Kimberly.

                            Fourth was someone I was relatively unfamiliar with. There was a bit of aggression in her smooching, but also a hint of nervous enthusiasm. At first I thought maybe Marie-Hélène… but if so she had removed her lip rings. I was at a loss for a few moments. Could it have been Moon? But ze has a lip ring too, so probably not. I frantically went over the list of guests I remembered from my first few moments without the blindfold, and eventually the answer came to me… she had been so excited to be included in the bachelorette party, but had also looked a little lost at first. “Peg!” I shouted at last, and she laughed as she removed the blindfold and gave me another friendly kiss.

                            The fifth and final contestant again had long hair, soft lips, and a hint of giggles and merriment in the hum that accompanied the kiss. That really should have given it away, but I thought maybe Julia was trying to trick me by putting in someone I’d already guessed, so I blurted out “Veronica.” Nope, the laughter that followed told me that once again I had failed, and Andromeda removed the blindfold with a wink and a solemn promise that she would forgive the mistake.

                            I was given a brief reprieve from the blindfold after that, and plied with more wine. I chatted with everyone (including the band) for a few minutes, until Julia announced that it was time for the next game. She approached me once more with that damned blindfold, and bade me put it on. I complied, and she started talking.

                            “I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘pin the tail on the donkey,’ right?” she asked innocently.

                            “Sure,” I said, not trusting her one bit.

                            She placed a length of cloth in my hand. I could feel a bit of Velcro at one end. “Well this is going to be sort of like that. Only instead of a donkey, we’re going to put five of the other guests in front of you. One of them will be Brightstar. Your job is to determine which of the asses you encounter is hers, and attach the tail.”

                            I had to laugh at that. “Sounds simple enough,” I said, allowing a little lust to creep into my voice.

                            “You think so?” she asked. “Well, I forgot to mention one tiny detail.” She and Calamity once more grabbed my arms and held them behind my back. The tail was placed in my mouth, with the Velcro facing outward. “No hands allowed,” Julia elaborated unnecessarily.

                            So that was a thing that happened. Gently guided by Julia and Calamity, I proceeded to… erm… “feel out” the contestants, using only my hips, my chest, and my face. It wasn’t easy. I mean, I flatter myself that I’m pretty familiar with Brightstar’s ass by now, but still… without the benefit of my eyes or my hands, picking it out of a lineup of delectable derrieres was a bit of a tall order.

                            I decided early on that the girl on the far left was almost certainly Dark Kimberly, based on size, shape, and the general firmness of the cheeks (and yes, oh my God, I just actually wrote that in my diary). The others were more difficult to pin down, but I eliminated the second from the left and the far right after a bit of deliberation, as they were both a little too narrow to fill out my girlfriend’s jeans… she’s got a killer set of hips. That left (if counting from left to right), contestants number three and four.

                            Either of them could have been Brightstar, honestly. The flare of the hips, the plush and supple swell of the cheeks, the graceful under-cupping where the legs joined the torso… while they weren’t identical, they were similar, and without using my eyes or hands I was at a loss as to which belonged to my girlfriend. Julia and Calamity frantically tried to keep both contestants from giggling as I considered the matter carefully by rubbing the side of my face up against contestant number four.

                            Yes, okay, it was silly, and me taking the time to write out all of these careful deliberations just makes it seem sillier. But hell, that’s part of what makes bachelorette parties fun, right? Eventually I caught something on the air… I’m not sure if it was a faint whiff of perfume, or shampoo, or detergent, or what. But it smelled like Brightstar, and it was coming from the right. “Number four,” I said, placing the tail and standing up decisively.

                            “Oh, Lori,” Julia said with a sigh… then she whipped off the blindfold and revealed Brightstar, sashaying back and forth so that the tail swung like a sexy pendulum. “Congratulations! You’ve clearly done your homework!” This was said to general laughter and applause.

                            Brightstar leaned in to give me a big hug and kiss. “I knew you could do it, sweetie!” she said breathlessly, and the two of us dissolved into laughter, and nearly fell over, which caused everyone else to laugh and cheer.

                            I was steered back to the head table and given yet more wine. I was starting to get a bit of a buzz at that point, which was probably for the best all things considered. “Next game!” Julia shouted after a few minutes had passed.

                            I confess that I groaned. “Not the damned blindfold again…” I whimpered pathetically.

                            Julia shook her head. “Not this time,” she said, putting it away. She brought out a few board game boxes and set one on each table. “We’re going to be playing a simplified version of Strip Monopoly,” she explained as people set up the boards. “No money involved. If you land on a property, you own that property. If someone else already owns the property, you take off an article of clothing. If you already own the property, you can put one back on. If you’re already naked and you land on someone else’s property, you… owe them a favor.”

                            “Sounds like fun,” I admitted, still feeling the buzz from the wine.

                            “It’s your party, Lori,” she said. “You get to pick your own playmates. Five to a table, so pick four guests.”

                            I would have liked to play with just about everyone there, honestly… but life is full of tough choices. In the end, I ended up at a table with Jolie, Oleander, Flores, and Veronica. The table next to us housed Calamity, Becky, Dark Kimberly, Brightstar, and Marie-Hélène. The others were distributed around the room, though some people (notably Rowan, Peg, Neon, Luna, and Joan) chose not to participate in the game at all. Nobody thought any less of them; that night was about having sexy fun, and we didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable.

                            So, the game began. I can honestly say that I have never played a worse game of Monopoly in my life. I kept rolling low and landing on squares that the other players had already claimed. The only person at the table who did worse than me was Flores, who was nude before she made it halfway around the board… though admittedly this might have been because she came to the party wearing only a dress and a pair of panties.

                            I wasn’t far behind her, in any case. The ladies in the band were good sports about it; every time one of us took off an article of clothing, they’d start playing “The Stripper.” And then, once the clothes were off, it didn’t take long for those who were doing well to start claiming their “favors.” Poor Flores and I spent most of the latter portions of the game on our knees under the table, seeing to the “special needs” of Jolie, Oleander, and Veronica (who to be fair, had also lost a fair amount of clothing by the time the game wrapped up). At one point I glanced over and noticed that Calamity and Brightstar seemed to be in the same position I was, so at least the bad luck was spread around.

                            After the game wound down, I pulled my dress back on (never easy when I’m tipsy, thanks to the wings) and meandered over to where Jacob and Luna were sitting off to one side. Luna had a long-suffering look on her face which she tried unsuccessfully to hide as I approached. “Hey,” I said softly, taking her hand gently, “I just want to thank you for being here tonight. Both of you. I know it’s not really your scene. But it means a lot to me that you came.”

                            Luna gave my hand a squeeze. “Of course we came,” she said softly. “I’m glad you’re having a good time, Lori. And I’m glad you and de la Rocha are so happy.” Jacob nodded his support and threw me a smile.

                            Julia caught up to me shortly thereafter, thrust another glass of wine into my hand, and brandished the hated blindfold like a weapon. “Last game of the evening!” she promised, and led me back to the head table. She fastened the warm cloth about my eyes and led me vaguely toward the band.

                            “I get to keep my hands free for this one?” I asked sarcastically.

                            “Of course!” she promised. “We have before you five brave volunteers who have offered to participate in a wet T-shirt competition. As the guest of honor, you get to be the judge. But of course, you’ll have the blindfold on, so you’ll have to rely on your other senses to make the final determination.”

                            I had to laugh at that one. And I’ve taken too long with this entry already, so I’m not going to go into detail about how it felt to grope the boobs of five of my friends and lovers through a layer of soggy cotton. In the end, I decided to ham it up, and fully gave myself over to the role. “It’s been a great honor to judge this prestigious competition,” I said to general laughter, “and I want you all to know that I’m the real winner here tonight. If I had my preference, each and every one of you fine ladies would take home the blue ribbon. But, since the rules require me to pick one of you… I think this young lady is best in show.” I planted my hand firmly on a breast that, when the blindfold was removed, turned out to belong to Flores. I was not shocked.

                            Things kind of wound down after that. Julia had them bring in the cake, and it was cut and served along with more wine. People talked, and joked, and traded stories of the time they had spent with me over the past year or so. A few people stopped by my table and made out with me for a few minutes, just so that they could say they had done so on “my last night as a free woman.” I did not object to the treatment, as I was well on my way to getting wasted by that point.

                            I didn’t set my sights on anyone in particular to spend the night with, but decided to see how the evening went. I’d thought for a few minutes that I might end up with Jolie, but Flores swooped in and claimed my time at the last minute… and one does not simply say no to Flores. She had also sort of gathered Veronica into her erotic gravity well, and the three of us staggered out the door as Julia was organizing the cleanup. My artistic lover admonished Flores to have me back at the Dream House by eleven sharp, so that I could get into my dress before we had to drive to the church.

                            I think I made one of those puns that seems ridiculously clever when you’re drunk as a skunk. “Don’t worry,” I slurred as I kissed Julia wetly on her cheek, “this is modern love. It gets me to the church on time…” Julia smiled dutifully and returned my affectionate gesture. She’s a good sport.

                            Flores and Veronica took good care of me that night, in more ways than one. I’m happy to report that I never puked, though I definitely felt the hangover in the morning. I have rarely been so thankful that I know the Contracts of Eternal Spring… the first clause cut through the hangover immediately and reminded me of why I should be a nervous wreck.

                            Flores took me to the Dream House in plenty of time to get ready; I had showered, done my hair, done my make-up, and armored myself with the array of fancy undergarments necessitated by my wedding dress before noon. Julia helped me into the dress itself, and soothed my frazzled nerves as best she could.

                            “Lori,” she asked softly as I fretted with my veil, “do you think you’re making a mistake today?”

                            “What? No!” I said hotly. “Of course not! How can you even ask that?”

                            She let her lips curl a little. “Are you sure about that?”

                            I started to see where she was going. “I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life,” I admitted, letting my shoulders relax a little.

                            “Then stop worrying,” she urged me. “You’re marrying your soulmate, all of your friends will be there, and your dad is presiding. No matter what happens… it’ll be perfect. Take my word for it.”

                            I did. And you know what? She was right.

                            Julia got me there. Dad met me in his office, kissed me lightly on the forehead, told me how proud he was of me, and then went into the sanctuary to begin the service. I came out on cue, with the organist playing “Here Comes the Bride” just like I always imagined. I’d enlisted the help of some of the local songbirds, and they were carrying my veil and train so that the dress seemed to float around me like a cloud. To the left and right, all of the changeling friends I’ve made over the past year sat arrayed in the pews of my father’s church, beaming at me. And at the head of the aisle…

                            D looked magnificent. She sported a black and white tux with a purple bow-tie which exactly matched the highlights in her hair. She threw me a cocky grin that just barely overlaid the shy smile beneath the surface. She beamed love at me from her beautiful eyes, and I received the message loud and clear.

                            Dad went into the ceremony, and the two of us read our vows to each other. We wrote our own, of course, which I won’t try to recreate here. We pledged ourselves to each other, for the rest of our lives, for better or for worse. And when the time came for us to state our names, I acted on an impulse.

                            “I, Lorelei Grace,” I began, and then continued, “formerly Juliette Faith Wells.”

                            Dad skipped a beat at that, but recovered quickly. I know that I’ve kept my real name a secret for a while now, but you know what? Fuck it. I can’t think of anyone in the Freehold who would want to hurt me, and if anyone decides to try, I’m sure that someone like Master Darke or Lucien Torrez would be able to figure out my real identity without too much trouble. It was my wedding day, and I wanted to acknowledge who I used to be, as well as who I am. I wanted the Freehold to know why this ceremony was so important to Dad, too.

                            In any case, we finished the vows, the music swelled, Maria pulled me into a kiss, and just like that I was Lorelei Grace de la Rocha. The two of us walked back up the aisle and set up a receiving line outside and greeted our guests and were generally deliriously happy. And then it was back to the Dream House for the reception.

                            Everyone cheered as I entered the theater with my wife. My wife and I danced the first dance, and then I danced with Dad, and Maria danced with a young Hispanic man I’d just met named Alejandro. Once that song ended, he glanced nervously around the room, and then made his way to the table housing Stasia, Elena, and Natasha. After a few minutes had passed, I went up there and joined him.

                            “Hi,” I said softly as I took a seat next to him.

                            “Hi,” he said in return.

                            “So, is this as awkward and uncomfortable for you as it is for me?” I asked in what I hope was passable Spanish.

                            He smiled slightly, but didn’t raise his eyes. “Probably more so,” he replied. “I haven’t seen Maria in years… haven’t even heard from her in almost as long. Last I heard she was running with the gangs. Now, I find out that she’s been kidnapped by aliens or something, her skin’s a lot paler than it used to be, and she’s getting married to a woman with wings.”

                            “It’s a lot to take in,” I said sympathetically.

                            “You can say that again,” he agreed. There was silence for a few seconds. “She won’t talk to me about what happened,” he said to fill it.

                            “It’s… intensely personal, and usually traumatic,” I explained. “A lot of us had to do horrible things in order to escape… things we’re not proud of. Give her time.”

                            He nodded. “I thought she was probably dead,” he said after another minute or so.

                            “She got out of the gangs,” I said. “She got certified and was working as an X-Ray tech when I met her last year.”

                            He quirked an eyebrow. “And now she’s a bouncer at a burlesque club?” he asked.

                            I chuckled. “I’m part owner of this place. As Maria and I started spending more time together, she decided to come to work here. But she’s keeping up the certification just in case.”

                            “And now, what… she’s going away again for… she doesn’t know how long?” he asked.

                            I lowered my gaze. “Sorry. It’s… hard to explain. I hope we won’t be away for more than a few weeks, but… it could be longer.”

                            And so it went. My first conversation with my new brother-in-law. He seems like a good guy. I mean, he’s obviously having trouble fitting all of this new information into his world-view, but for all that he was civil throughout our first meeting. He did caution me that this whole situation would be a much harder sell with their parents… particularly their mother, who is very traditional. Still, it’s a start.

                            I danced with almost everybody for at least one or two turns on the floor. Captain Jack was once again acting as our DJ, and he managed to keep things moving for the most part. Aside from the regular Freehold members, we had a few out-of-towners there as well, including Peg and Jimmy and Juan-Carlos (in a shirt!).

                            We ate dinner. We cut the cake. We tossed the bouquet and the garter. We toasted, and kissed when everybody clinked their spoons against their glasses. We did all that stuff that you see on TV and in the movies, and I loved every second of it. And when people started to trickle out and our friends began the process of cleaning up, D scooped me up into her arms and kissed me on the nose.

                            “Ready to head upstairs, Mrs. De la Rocha?” she asked me quietly.

                            I felt a little shiver run up my spine. “Whenever you are, Mrs. De la Rocha,” I replied with a naughty gleam in my eye.

                            She carried me up the main stairs to wolf-whistles and cat-calls from the remaining guests. She carried me into our bedroom, and set me gently on the bed. And though I won’t go into too many details of the evening that followed, I will note that I left the dress on for the first round, while I saw to her needs. Call me kinky if you will, but I wanted her to see her bride making love to her rather than just Lori. It was important to me that she took away that image.

                            The next morning dawned earlier than any of us were used to… and here’s the real reason that I haven’t written anything in this diary for the past two weeks. In the scramble to get packed and get out the door and get to LAX, I… accidentally left my diary behind. So a blow-by-blow of our wonderful six-day four-girl honeymoon in Saint Martin is unfortunately not in the cards. Suffice to say that it was wonderful.

                            Well, okay, I’ll say a little more than that. The first thing we did upon arrival in the tropical paradise was to set up a new pledge between the four of us. It was a pretty standard lovers’ pledge, as I understand it… we promised to love each other and support each other forever, and that we would never betray each other’s trust. In return for this devotion, the Wyrd is going to help us understand each other a little better. We sealed the pledge with glamour, and began the next chapter of our lives together. While D and I are married, and Marguerite and Julia are married… the four of us together are a single family. And nothing will ever break that bond.

                            So, can I just pause here for a second to say how much I love Saint Martin? It’s a tropical paradise… so much so that I’m kind of astounded my pack of darkling lovers ever agreed to it as a honeymoon destination. Beautiful white-sand beaches, luxurious accommodations, a queer-friendly environment, and the most beautiful exotic birds. And the best thing is… nobody looks at you funny if you talk to a parrot!

                            It was a perfect honeymoon. Sometimes D and I were off on our own, and Julia and Marguerite were off on their own. Other times, the four of us were spending time together. We had adjoining rooms at the hotel, so it was easy to set things up however we wanted. We’d go down to the beach whenever we wanted, and swim, or play volleyball, or organize a little cook-out, or just plain show off in our bikinis. We’d hit the hotel bar at any hour and grab a few cool tropical drinks. We’d spend an hour here and there claiming one of the club’s Jacuzzis for our own. And almost every night, the four of us would walk down to the beach, either all together or in pairs, and just enjoy each other’s company as we strolled along the shore in the moonlight.

                            I am unquestionably, unequivocally, without a doubt the luckiest woman in the world. Whatever happens next, I know that I will always have the past six days. And for that, God, I am eternally grateful.

                            But all things must come to an end. Our plane returned us to southern California last night. Tonight the Dream House hosts one last, blow-out extravaganza before the motley takes an extended sabbatical. And tomorrow… tomorrow we enter the Hedge. Tomorrow we begin our journey back to Arcadia.

                            We are as well-prepared as we can be. We have Oleander’s Hedge Beast guide. We have Marguerite’s strange aura. We have a pledge from Hunting Hawk that he won’t hinder our efforts to rescue Missy and Jane. We have Madame Spidertoes’ terrifying spider-bomb-thing. We have a good plan. And we’ve drawn up another pledge that should help see us through this dangerous rescue mission.

                            I pray that it will be enough. Please, God, let it be enough. Don’t let my friends suffer for my failings and obligations. If all goes well, I’ll write more soon.

                            Lorelei de la Rocha

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                            [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


                            • Calamity’s Little Black Book

                              Sunday, June 19th
                              Nine years, four days

                              It’s almost time. One last show tomorrow night and then we set out for Arcadia. The quad returned from their honeymoon and have retired to their rooms. Jacob and Luna are back from checking up on his family. I had dinner with Stasia, Elena, and Beautiful last night. I know they’ll be at the show but I wanted some time with just them before I left. I wanted a chance to tell my blood sister and Beautiful that I love them and swear that I would return to them. I also drew Elena aside and asked her to take care of Stasia for me. But for the most, it was just a nice quiet evening. A sweet memory to hold onto.

                              I am confident that the Dream House will be fine while we’re gone. Honestly, I think it will do Annika some good. Just spending the past week here getting familiar with things has her looking more lively. The real surprise was Dark Kimberly. I figured her attention to detail would work well with keeping the books and such but she’s proven to be an amazingly quick study in what goes into running the place. With the other changeling performers stepping up to help, I really have no concerns about leaving the Dream House in their care.

                              Yesterday was my last therapy session. Doctor Emmett has expressed concerns about me regressing under Arcadia’s influence, even if I’m not going back to Snow Globe. But ultimately, she understands why I’m doing this. She has insisted that I check in with her and let her know how I’m doing after I return and we’ve agreed to discuss whether or not to resume sessions then. Once the session ended, she shook my hand and wished me luck. She said she’d miss me and looked forward to hearing how it went. She smiled but there was a sadness in her eyes. She was not pleased with my role in the mission and I think she’s really worried about how accepting I am about my role within the Wyrd’s storytelling. She’s afraid that by killing Hunting Hawk while there I am going to backslide. And while I cannot dismiss her concerns she just doesn’t quite understand how the Wyrd works. It’s not that I see myself as a killer, it really is my role in the story. I’m the huntsman. I’m the boogeyman that takes bad children. I mean, look at slasher flicks, it’s not like the idea isn’t still alive and well. But doesn’t everyone who dies kinda deserve it? At least by an uptight puritanical sex is bad morality? I may not be the hero but I’m not the villain either.

                              Yeah, I guess I have been spending a lot of time thinking about that. There is no fighting the Wyrd. It’s where my power comes from. I’m a part of it now and it’s a part of me. It’s a river. Go directly against the current and it will dash you against the rocks. But go with it and you can pick your course downstream. And there are times when a monster is what’s needed. Much as I hate him, Darke makes the freehold a much safer place. Just like Dahlia and Hannah and Lowjack. Hell, what Tommy did to Hollywood’s monster trainer was straight out of a horror movie. Even my Beautiful likes the feel of blood on her claws. (I mean, there is a reason we make a good pair.)

                              So yes, I am going to murder Hunting Hawk. No pretty lies. He deserves it and he’s a threat to us and others. He has no desire to change his ways. And yes, I am going to enjoy it. I’ve dreamed about it and it had me soaking wet because pain and fear and violence and sex are all pretty much fused in my screwed up soul. (And yeah… Beautiful and I did share a dream about cavorting about slick with his hot blood...) But I am not doing this because I’ll enjoy it. I’m not going to drag it out and have fun with it. That would endanger everyone and I won’t do that. But I’m also not going to lie about this.

                              White Maria commented that I was falling into my forms remarkably well considering what was coming. She’s not the only one to remark that I’ve been calm this week. And it’s strange but I am. I mean, sure we have a rock solid plan and preparations but I’m not fool enough to think things can’t and won’t go pear shaped at some point. But I’m not afraid. Well, I am but I’m ready for it. We are going into Hell itself and I know that we’re flirting with things that we cannot hope to win against but no matter what I’ll face down whatever Arcadia’s got with a smile. Oddly, I’m reminded of Rook that last night, standing there alone with his blades in hand. He knew he was going to die, but he was going to die on his terms rather than bend a knee to us and betray his loyalty to his Lady. I barely knew him, but I respect him and I’m glad we gave him the honorable death he wanted.

                              Damn, I sound more Dusk Court than Autumn there. Maybe Jack’s been rubbing off on me while we were working on our surprise for the last show. I mean, it could be my last chance to engage in the hi-jinks so we decided to go a bit all out. Speaking of the last show, I should get my rest. Besides, my dragon is undoubtedly asleep by now and waiting for a princess to wander along ripe for ravishing and devouring. And I do so love the ravishing and devouring.

                              Jacob’s Journal

                              Okay…so Oleander came by. It turns out that she didn’t really have news about getting into Arcadia, but what news she did have could help while we are there, or at least while we’re in the Hedge. Oleander discovered, by way of her trained Hedge beasts, that they believed that Insincere Marguerite was a Gentry! Apparently if they just give her a quick look, and don’t peer too hard then they miss the fact that she’s actually a Changeling. They think that she is a full-blown Gentry. This could come in handy while we are traveling through the Hedge and possibly while we are in the Empress’ realm. We might be able to avoid confrontations if Hedge beasts, or goddess forbid Gentry, happen to notice our passing. Our plan of course is to try to avoid any entanglements while we are traveling through the Hedge but we may not have a choice. I guess time will tell on that count, but I’m going to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

                              After Oleander left we all split up. Lori, De la Rocha, Insincere Marguerite, Julia and Calamity all went out to a karaoke club to get some glamor back. I took the opportunity while the ladies were out to put together the scrapbook for Marguerite and Julia’s wedding and Julia’s bachelorette party. I could only be in one place at once, and Marguerite’s “party” was not picture appropriate. So, I finished working on that. I included bits of decoration from both the party and the wedding in there. There is also a copy of the invitation and pages from the guest list. I’ve watched my share of late night television shows, so I got some ideas from do it yourself programs that I’ve seen before I left and since I returned. My mom is also big into scrapbooking, so I had plenty of ideas that I got from her as well.

                              I had the scrapbook safely hidden away before the ladies got back from their trip, which sounded like it went well all around. Everyone knows that I’m working on these books, but I don’t want them to see the finished project before it’s time. So, I just left them wondering. To be fair, it’s unlikely that they are wondering anything about the scrapbooks at all. They’ve all been so busy preparing for back to back weddings and their honeymoon and can’t forget Lori’s test to get into the Pilgrims. To that end I overheard Calamity tell Lori that she was going to make a refreshing dream for her tonight, so she could get plenty of good rest before her test tomorrow. Lori smiled her thanks. I don’t know what the dream is going to be about, but that isn’t really any of my business.

                              **** **** ****

                              The day started off pretty good. Lori came downstairs looking well rested, which was the point, and Calamity was also in a good mood. She decided to make everyone chocolate chip waffles for breakfast this morning/afternoon. They were really good and were enjoyed by all. Not long after we were finishing up with the meal Peg and Jimmy came by to begin the test for Lori. Turns out the test was a pretty interesting one. Lori had to drive a souped-up Mustang to a garage to get it looked at, but there were obstacles on the way. She had to avoid being hit by another driver, a friend of Jimmy and Peg’s, and also lose the other driver on the way to the garage. So, Lori driving for all she was worth made it to the garage to get the knocking noise looked at. The twist was that she was going to have to be the one that diagnosed the knocking noise and fix it herself. This whole process took several hours, but she was successful. Turns out that it was something to do with the main bearings in the crank shaft. She got it figured out and fixed all by herself. Then on the trip home she had to make it in record time. Well, maybe not record time, but she was supposed to keep it above 54 mph for the whole trip home. Needless to say that trip didn’t take that long. When she got back to the house Peg and Jimmy congratulated her on the hard work and for applying her already notable healing skills in a new and interesting way. After the congratulations all around Lori was inducted into the Pilgrims of the Endless Road. I think Lori had her doubts as to whether or not she could make it into the Pilgrims. I’ll admit that they have a more rigorous testing process than what I did to get into the Knighthood of Utmost Silence, but it was worth it in the end. I am proud of my motley mate.

                              After the testing and celebrating we had movie night. We watched Big Trouble in Little China, Kung Fury and Kingsman. The first movie was a lot of fun. It was very 80’s, but a lot of fun. There was a lot of action and fun one-liners. The next movie was very short, but also very 80’s. More so than Big Trouble in Little China. Over the top fight scenes, dinosaur cop, Viking, barbarian woman riding a T-Rex. Yeah, it was weird, but also fun. Kingsman also had over the top violence, and a particularly violent fight scene playing to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” near the end. Over all it was a very violent, yet funny movie night.

                              After that the days blurred together. There was therapy and sparring with Lori, who decided to keep going with the practice even though her test was done. There was television and more wedding preparations and then more therapy and sparring. Then it was Friday. And Friday was De la Rocha’s party and Lori’s party. Insincere Marguerite decided to return the Latina’s favor and take her out to a club to pick up pretty girls. Julia on the other hand had something more elaborate planned for Lori. First Lori was blindfolded and ushered into a car. Then she was driven to a club and guided upstairs to a private room. And then the fun began. There were many, many games and many, many drinks, and I didn’t have to serve any of them. I was mainly there to take pictures for the scrapbook and to be the designated driver on the way home, or at least one of them. At the party Lori had to kiss several woman while blindfolded and guess who it was. She also played a game of “pin the tail on the behind” by guessing which one was Brightstar just by feeling their backsides with her face, chest or hips. It was interesting to say the least. Then there was monopoly, which was of course strip monopoly and left many a player naked or close to it. Then last but not least was the wet t-shirt contest. I think Flores was the winner. I took tasteful pictures of the games for the scrapbook. I figured that they might want to show friends this thing at some point and wouldn’t want the book to be too risqué. Luna kept me company along the side of the room. She wasn’t keen on playing in the games, but came to be there for me. At one point Lori came over and thanked us both for coming to the party and hoped that we were having fun. We assured her that we were enjoying ourselves and she went back to the games. Overall it was an evening enjoyed by all.

                              **** **** ****

                              Saturday dawned early for the Dream House. Lori came back after her night with Flores and Veronica and quickly started getting dressed for the wedding. She then got her hair and make-up done and in the end looked beautiful. I mean she’s always really pretty, but she went all out today to look good for her bride. She even had songbirds fly in and carry her veil and train. De la Rocha ended up wearing a black suit with purple accents. Her tie and vest were the same purple as her hair. Lori and De la Rocha’s wedding was also held at Lori’s dad’s church, with Lori’s dad officiating. It was a traditional service and each woman wrote their own vows. It was really nice. The reception went well too. De la Rocha’s brother even came to the wedding. Things are complicated with her parents, but her brother is more open minded, so she invited him. He seemed to get along well with Lori when they talked at the reception. I think his name was Alejandro. Most everyone in the Freehold was invited, but of course not everyone showed up. Even Darke was invited to the wedding. He was unable to attend, but he had been invited. Twitch did show up though. I still don’t like that nervous little shit, but I think he wanted to show his support for De la Rocha. I guess that was a nice thing for him to do. Anyway, Julia’s parents came, as did Elena, Stasia and Natasha. I think the ceremony and reception were well received by all, even the song birds.

                              After the second wedding the four ladies packed up and went on their honeymoon to Saint Martin. They haven’t gotten back yet, but I assume that they are having a good time. I have finished working on the two scrapbooks and will give them to the two pairs of ladies when they get back from the beach. I think they both came out pretty good. I can also add pictures of their honeymoon to the books, if they took any pictures. I guess time will tell on that one.

                              And while the ladies were in the Caribbean having fun I decided to go up to Portland to check in on my parents and the waste of space (aka my fetch). Luna came with me. I don’t think she’s ever been to Portland, and she wanted to see my parents. I am glad that she decided to come with me. It’s been a while since I checked in on them and Elena hasn’t been home recently so she can’t really tell me what they’ve been up to lately. I mean she calls them occasionally, but not all that often. So, me and Luna basically spied on my parents for a couple of days. It really helps that I can turn invisible for short periods of time. I could actually get close to the house or them without them knowing. I think my fetch knew that something was up. He was acting a little twitchy when I was up there. Mom and Dad made comments about his behavior so I know it’s not normal for him to be so agitated. He didn’t have an explanation for how he felt, so I guess they just chalked it up to him being a teenager. I didn’t feel bad for making the waste of space uncomfortable though. I got to see my parents and that’s the important thing.

                              On our way back to Santa Monica I made a spur of the moment decision to drive though Claire Falls, CA. I realize that it probably wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do, but I was curious and wanted to see how the place was doing. We arrived at night and got a room at one of the local motels. Claire Falls isn’t that big of a town so there wasn’t much to choose from, but that’s okay. They were not too busy anyway, so it worked out for us. Luna was against us stopping. She didn’t think it was safe, and told me so. I told her that I just wanted a quick look and then we could leave. Things didn’t go as I planned.

                              ************************************************** ***********************************
                              Jacob and Luna sat down in the booth near the back of Mai’s Palace restaurant and looked at their menus. Luna looked at Jacob with trepidation. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be here.” She said as she twisted her napkin in her hand. “If someone recognizes you it could be bad.”

                              “The real danger is Travers and he doesn’t come to this restaurant. At least I never saw him come here years ago when I was scoping this place out.” Jacob answered and put down his menu.

                              “I hope that you’re right.”

                              Jacob smiled at his lover and took her hand in his. “It’ll be okay.”

                              When the waitress came by they ordered their food and drinks. Iced tea was delivered in short order and Jacob sat back to enjoy it. Despite his usual misgivings he was sitting with his back to the door so that anyone walking in to the place would not immediately see his face. He trusted Luna to keep an eye on the door and let him know if anyone dangerous looking walked in. He had described what Travers had looked like so she could give him fair warning. They had been sitting for a few minutes when a shadow fell over Jacob’s shoulder. Luna looked up at the newcomer, but it wasn’t Travers so she didn’t tense overly much.

                              A quiet voice said, “I wanted to welcome you to our Freehold. I haven’t seen you here before and thought I’d make introductions.” The owner of the voice was a tall antlered man with calm brown eyes. He had started talking to Luna but then looked closer at Jacob and started. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here again.”

                              Jacob tensed. Luna started to discreetly pull a blade from her boot, but Jacob shook his head minutely. He recognized the voice, but wasn’t sure how the other man was going to react to his being here. The pale Changeling looked up at the newcomer and smiled. It wasn’t even a completely forced smile either. Jacob genuinely was happy to see the other man. “Liam, good to see you. How’ve you been?”

                              Liam smiled. “I’ve been well. I will admit to being surprised to see you here.”

                              “My circumstances changed after I left Claire Falls the last time. I left the Lady.”

                              “Did you now. How did you manage that?”

                              Jacob grimaced. “It wasn’t pleasant, but after I refused to let Rook take Diane back they took me for a traitor. I managed to escape a while later and eventually found myself back in California.”

                              “You betrayed the Lady?”


                              “I’m proud of you Rime. I’m happy to hear that you left her service.”

                              “It’s actually Jacob now. I took my name back when I escaped.” Jacob took a sip of his tea.

                              “Ah, okay. Jacob it is.” Liam smiled again. “And who is your lovely companion?”

                              “This is Luna. Luna, this is Liam. I believe he is the King of the Spring court.”

                              Liam looked surprised but quickly regained his composure. “I didn’t realize that you knew who I was.”

                              “I picked up things here and there. People always deferred to you and someone almost called you ‘your majesty once.’ You have the mantle of a powerful Spring courtier so I made an educated guess.” He smiled.

                              “So, what brings you to our lovely town? Not that I don’t enjoy talking to you again, but I’m curious. I didn’t think that you’d ever step foot here again after Travers.”

                              “I was in the area and decided to swing by and see how things were going.”

                              “I will admit that I’m happy to see you, but this is probably not the safest place for you to be.” Liam said softly.
                              “I know. Travers was always keen to see me dead, but I thought it might be worth a quick look. I really liked this town when I came through the first time.”

                              “Even though you were working for the Lady at the time?”
                              “Yeah, even despite that I could see what a peaceful place this was even then. I didn’t value it for what it is back then, but Diane helped me see the benefit in places like this.”

                              “How so?”

                              “I don’t know exactly. It was little things here and there. She helped me remember what it was like to care about people. Like little Felicity.” Jacob admitted.

                              Liam looked pained for a moment before regaining his composure. “She was certainly special.”

                              “I don’t know if it will make you feel better, but Rook is dead.”

                              Liam looked surprised. “He is? What happened?”

                              “He came to take me back to the Lady. It didn’t go as he planned. I have friends now and they helped me defeat him.” Jacob looked pained.

                              “It can’t have been easy. I know how much he meant to you. At least from what you told me when you were our guest, he seemed to be an important person in your life.” Liam put a comforting hand on Jacob’s shoulder.
                              Jacob looked up at the Spring king. “Why don’t you sit and stay for a while. It seems rude to have you standing there.”

                              Liam smiled and accepted the offer. He slid into the booth next to Jacob. “So, what are your plans now?” The monarch asked.

                              “We’re going to go home and welcome our friends back from their honeymoon.” Jacob smiled. “They went to Saint Martin.”

                              “Sounds like fun.”

                              “We also had some other plans…” Luna looked warningly at Jacob for a moment. Jacob smiled reassuringly at her and she relaxed her gaze. The look on her face seemed to say. “If you’re sure you trust him…”

                              “Yes?” Liam asked.

                              “We’re going to go to Arcadia and free some of my motley mate’s friends.” Jacob said quietly. “They’ve been held captive for thirty-six years or so. We’re going to get them back.”

                              Liam looked surprised. “You’re seriously going to go back to Arcadia?”

                              “Yeah. I would do anything for my motley. They are my family. If I have to go back to that place one more time to free someone then I’ll do it. Lori never asked me to come. I don’t think she would, but she knows that she can rely on me.”

                              “You really have changed, haven’t you?” Liam had an indescribable look on his face.
                              “How so?”

                              “You weren’t so selfless before.”

                              “I was for the right person.” Liam just looked at his former guest. “I would have done anything for Rook at that point.” Jacob explained before pausing. “I know that he’s not a great example, but I would have done most anything for him. I have found a new family since I escaped from the Lady though, and I would do anything in my power to keep them safe.”

                              “Perhaps you haven’t changed all that much.” Liam conceded.

                              Luna looked affronted. “I have kept my peace long enough. Jacob is a good man.” She exclaimed. “I will not have you insulting him to my face.”

                              Liam held up his hands. “I meant no offense dear lady. I only meant that perhaps I misjudged Rime the last time he was here.”

                              “No, you probably had the right of me. I know I haven’t changed all that much from who I was, but I don’t serve the Gentry anymore and I never will again. Luna is my life. My motley is my family. I will do what I can to protect them.”

                              “Even go back to Arcadia?” Liam queried. “What will you do if you start to go back to your old self?” The antlered man held up his hands again to forestall any argument. “What if going back there is too much of a reminder?

                              “It won’t happen.”

                              “How do you know?”
                              Jacob smirked. “You don’t know Luna. She’ll keep me on the right path. I trust her with my life and my sanity.”

                              Luna grinned. “Damn straight.”

                              Liam looked between the pair and smiled himself. “I believe you.” He looked to his right and noticed the waitress coming towards the table. “Perhaps it is time for me to leave you two to your meal. I will wish you good luck in your endeavors.” The antlered man stood up and made to leave.

                              “Thank you.” Jacob said.

                              “For what?” Liam replied.

                              “For trusting me.”

                              “Of course.” The monarch smiled. “You started changing a long time ago. I’m just happy to be able to see you come into your own. You are welcome in Claire Falls whenever you like. Take care.”

                              “You too.” Jacob answered. “Feel free to look me up whenever you’re in Santa Monica.”

                              Liam nodded and headed towards a table on the other side of the room.

                              “Was it a good idea telling him where he can find you?” Luna aksed.

                              “He was one of the only ones that gave me a chance in this town. Him and Diane. I trusted him then and he’s trusting me now, so I figure I can give him the benefit of the doubt about this. Besides, I have friends if anything goes wrong.”

                              “Damn straight you do.” Luna agreed. And then the waitress arrived with their food.

                              End Session CIV

                              Yeah so long Lori journal.

                              Some haggling over honeymoon pledge (gr. Affiliation, lifelong, endowment of +1 to Empathy rolls, poisoning the book) between the quad and the trip to arcadia pledge, which had different endowments and everyone got a level 3 steed, punished by pishogue.

                              Lorelei’s test was a few driving checks and some crafting checks. The Bachelorette party involved a lot of Wits + Empathy or Wits + Composure roll, and the Monopoly game was almost random. It is based on an account of an actual Bachelorette party someone I internet know had.

                              Other details…Insincere Marguerite has Gentrified Bearing, hence the reaction of hedge beasts. If you have not seen Kung Fury you probably should. The most amazing 30 minutes of your life* and for free on Youtube.

                              You have probably read enough for now, but comments and questions are welcome.

                              *hopefully not, but it sounds good.
                              Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 03-25-2018, 04:45 PM.

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                              [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


                              • And so they go, into the Hedge, and onto the place that changed them.

                                Session CV

                                Lorelei’s Diary

                                So we are one day into the most terrifying expedition I can possibly imagine, and things are going better than I had any right to expect (knock on wood). We’ve paused to gather our wits before entering Arcadia proper, but there’s no way I can rest or meditate or anything like that, so I’m putting pen to paper and creating a record of the expedition for posterity.

                                Our “Last Hurrah” show on Saturday – was it really only last night? – went very well, I think. It was a bittersweet achievement, of course, as we were preparing to leave our loyal customers for God only knows how long… but Kimberly and the others are more than capable of holding down the fort until we return, and we have to do this.

                                Or at least, I do…

                                In any case, we pulled out all the stops for the show last night. Calamity did her “Little Red Riding Hood” number as well as a new duet with the “unexpected” inclusion of Captain Jack. Marguerite got out there with Marie-Hélène and really tore up the stage with her song and dance. I did a couple of numbers I’ve done before which seemed to resonate with the occasion… “I Love Rock and Roll” and “I Will Survive.” The Gaynor number, in particular, seemed appropriate given what we were planning.

                                There was plenty of drama behind the scenes (figuratively speaking) as well. Most of the extra-motley girlfriends were gathered for the show, and emotions ran high. I caught a glimpse of Marguerite and White Maria engaged in an obviously intense conversation… one which both left in tears. Though I had my own drama to deal with, Marguerite sought me out later and informed me that White Maria had confessed that she was in love with Marguerite. This came as a surprise to everyone involved… not least of all White Maria, who had thought she was incapable of love following her Durance.

                                Marguerite wanted my advice, and I did my level best… but the timing of this little drama really sucks. Marguerite had been keeping White Maria at arm’s length due to her famously cold demeanor, and this confession caught her completely off guard. My girlfriend doesn’t know how she feels about White Maria, and hasn’t had time to process the information fully. Though I know a rejection at this point could be very emotionally harmful to White Maria… this can’t just be about her. Marguerite’s feelings and situation must be taken into account.

                                “Tell her the truth,” I advised earnestly. “Tell her that you don’t know how you feel and you need time to think about it. But not right now. We… don’t need the distraction,” I added delicately.

                                Marguerite agreed that this would be the best course, and I saw White Maria leaving a little later, looking upset, so I suppose she probably went through with it. I feel bad for her, I really do… but hers is a problem that will keep until we get back.

                                I had my own drama to deal with, though thankfully mine was not quite so… dramatic. Oleander and Brightstar were both there, and of course both wanted to speak with me privately. I indulged them both, because there was something I wanted to say to each of them as well. Their side of the conversations tended toward passionate farewells and admonitions to take care. On my end, well…

                                “I need to tell you something,” I said to Oleander, “and I need you to hear it, okay?”

                                “Of course, Angel,” she replied.

                                “Time is funny in the Empress’ realm,” I began, “you know that as well as I do. I hope we won’t be gone more than a few weeks, but… we both know that it could be longer than that. It could be… much longer. We… I know you don’t want to hear this, and I don’t even want to think it, but… we might not be back at all.”

                                She nodded soberly. “I’m enough of a realist that I’ve admitted the possibility,” she said after a moment.

                                “I love you,” I told her fervently, “and I want to think that you’ll be here for me when we get back. But… if it’s been years, and you don’t know whether or not we’re even still alive…”

                                She chuckled grimly. “Sorry, I know this is serious, I’m just thinking over the history of all the steady girlfriends I’ve had over the course of my life… it’s pretty much just you, Angel. Seems unlikely that lightning will strike twice.”

                                I reached up and touched her cheek. “You’re an amazing woman, Oleander,” I said, “and other people besides me have noticed that. You know that corny saying: ‘life is what happens while you’re doing other things?’ Well… I’ll be off doing other things for a while. All I’m saying is that if life happens… let it happen. I’ll understand.”

                                She gave me a searching look, and then nodded again. “Okay, Angel. I’m not going to go out looking for a new girl or anything like that… but we’ll see what happens.”

                                I had a similar conversation with Brightstar, though she was both more emotional and less affected by what I was saying, if that makes any sense. Brightstar’s never been as level-headed as Oleander… but she’s also poly like me. And though I know my extended absence will hit her hard, she has other people she can go to for comfort, love, and companionship. I’m pretty sure she’ll be fine.

                                I had to go up on stage and make a little speech at the end of the evening’s show, informing our regular customers that many of the familiar faces they had come to know and love at the Dream House would be taking an extended leave of absence in the coming weeks. I pointed out those of us who would be gone, and then introduced Dark Kimberly. Though of course, I didn’t call her that… not every changeling insists on an adjective like Marguerite. So Miss Kimberly Choo came up on stage and introduced herself as the interim manager of the facility, and assured our customers that most of their favorite stars (like Marie-Hélène, Ginny, and Annika) would still perform here regularly.

                                It choked me up more than I had expected, making that speech. As much as anywhere I’ve ever lived, that place is my home, and I will get back to it as soon as I possibly can.

                                I stopped by the door once the speeches were done to speak with Maria. I asked if she had plans for the night, and she gave me a line I’m becoming quite familiar with. “I’d like to stay with Gloria, but if you need me…”

                                I leaned in to kiss my wife with a grin. Sometimes I worry that she doesn’t spend as much time with Gloria as she’d like… but I confess I like the reminder that I’m always first in her thoughts. “It’s okay, D, really. I get it… you two haven’t seen each other since before the wedding, and who knows how long it’ll be until you can see her again? I’ll probably see if Oleander or Brightstar wants to join me for the evening for the same reason. Go on, have a good night. Just…”

                                “What?” she asked, instantly attentive.

                                I kind of sighed at my own insecurities for a moment. “I know the answer to this, but I feel like I need to hear you say it,” I explained.

                                “What?” she asked again.

                                “You’ll… D, you’ll stay with me the whole time we’re over there, right? I don’t… I don’t want to be alone in that place…”

                                She pulled me into a fierce hug and kissed me on the forehead. “I swear I will stay with you until we’re safely back here,” she said solemnly. Leaning in to whisper in my ear, she added “I wouldn’t leave you, Jules.”

                                “I know,” I said, sniffing a little. “I love you, Maria. Now go have fun.”

                                I ended up spending the evening with Oleander and Brightstar, and just for the hell of it we picked up Veronica too. I joked that I needed a good night’s sleep and was relying on the three of them to wear me out… and of course Brightstar took the words to heart. So I had to pep myself up in the morning for church. I’d asked the others if we could enter the Hedge just after noon so that I could attend the service. I missed last week’s service due to the honeymoon, of course, and I wanted to make sure I went to this one in case we’re gone for longer than we expect. Dad’s not a young man anymore and…

                                No, I am not going to think along those lines right now. Focus, Lori.

                                I went to the service, I sang, I met Dad for a few minutes afterwards, and both of us cried a little, and I finally got around to asking him about Missy and Jane’s families. The news was… a mixed bag. They’re not going to be coming back to much, but on the other hand, they won’t have to worry about interference from their fetches, either. Turns out that their fetches had a falling out with my own, and teamed up in the early 80s for a two-woman crime spree across the Midwest. Both were killed in a shootout with the police. I’m still not sure quite how to process that information.

                                Then I headed back to the Dream House. I slipped into my traveling clothes (sturdy jeans, a rugged shirt, and a leather jacket) and joined the others on the lawn near our gate to the Hedge. A small assembly of other people – mostly friends and lovers – also met us there with a few parting gifts.

                                Foremost among these was the little plant homunculus creature Oleander had trained. It knows the best route to the Empress’ realm, and will be able to steer us out again by safe paths. I don’t know how long or how much effort it took Oleander to train the little creature, but I can’t thank her enough for doing so. It’s already proven to be a great help to us, and I have no doubt that it will continue to serve us well on the return journey.

                                The Autumn Court also loaned us one of their artifacts (Moon had given it to Jacob at the show the previous evening). It’s like a magic compass. If a changeling puts a drop of blood in the device, the needle will point unerringly to that changeling’s Keeper. The Autumn Court is going to want it back when we return, of course, so we’ll have to make sure we take good care of it.

                                The last gift was actually a multitude of gifts. Oleander and Flores had concocted a variety of Goblin Fruits for us. They gave each of us six fruits which will help to restore our glamour as we travel through Arcadia… useful, as there should be a dearth of human emotions to snack on in the Faerie Realm. They had also tailored a single fruit for each member of the motley… something specifically designed to enhance our strengths and give us an advantage over any potential enemies.

                                Jacob’s fruit allows him to melt into a puddle temporarily, hopefully providing an escape from difficult situations. Marguerite’s lets her steal another changeling’s seeming and kith blessings for a short time. Calamity’s will let her fire her shards in every direction, effectively turning her into a very lethal explosive. D’s will let her gain another creature’s strength temporarily if she devours their still-beating heart (eww). Julia’s gives her lethal kisses. Luna’s lets her kick up a toxic dust cloud with her wings. And mine… well, I suppose it turns me into a Siren of some sort. According to Oleander, the fruit will render my singing voice irresistible… even if I’m using it to lure my audience over a cliff or into a fire.

                                And then there was nothing else to say or do. Oleander graciously offered to open the Hedge gate so that none of us would have to expend the glamour, and we were off. Calamity and Jacob both used contracts to see if they could learn anything about the local Hedge, and discovered a variety of creatures in the area as well as the swampy place where we’d found Joan’s magic cherry last year.

                                Both the homunculus and the needle (which I’d seeded with my blood) indicated that we should go in a certain direction, but there was no path leading directly that way. Marguerite – who had fallen into her Lost Pantheon persona, with a strange gait, wind-swept hair, and glowing golden cat eyes – sniffed imperiously and cut one hand at the surrounding thorns in a chopping motion. Seconds later the thorns moved aside, leaving a broad, straight path in the direction we wanted to go.

                                And that’s when the only truly nice thing that happened during our trip occurred.

                                The motley had made a pledge regarding our impending jaunt into the Faerie Lands, and as part of this pledge we’d woven in a boon of swift travel. The Wyrd apparently liked that idea, because it provided us with loyal Hedge Beast mounts, which all appeared at around this time. Each mount was different, and seemed almost tailored to its rider. Some of them seemed to be animals; others spirits, and yet others machines, but they were all vital and responsive in some way.

                                D had an old-school hog-type motorcycle. Marguerite’s resembled the Cheshire Cat from those old Tenniel line drawings… in that occasionally it was just eyes and a big grin, but it still seemed to bear her weight. Julia’s mount was a black skeletal horse. Jacob had a horse made of ice. Luna rode a gigantic stag beetle. Calamity sat astride something I can only describe as a wave of blood… but at its crest it foamed in the shape of a horse’s head (I was reminded of Elrond and Gandalf’s magic at the Ford of Bruinen, but declined to comment at the time).

                                I was a little intimidated by the mount the Wyrd provided me at first. It’s a large lizard-like creature… easily big enough for several people to sit atop at once. It’s brightly colored in turquoise and emerald swatches, and even brighter feathers of red and gold sprout from around its neck. It approached me cautiously, and nuzzled up against my hand when I held it out. I could tell by looking that it was female.

                                “I’m going to call you Poly,” I said softly (my own little joke… everyone in the media calls their birds “Polly,” but I dropped one L to pay homage to my romantic lifestyle). “Would that be okay with you, girl?”

                                Poly gave a happy little chirp, and my heart melted. I think I fell in love with her a little bit right there. I know I shouldn’t get too attached to anyone or anything right now… but if we both come through this ordeal intact, I think I’ll try to find a way to keep her. Maybe the Hedge House can conjure up a stable or something?

                                In any case, we mounted up and got moving. Poly carried me swiftly and gently across the landscape of the Hedge, and I found that riding her was as natural as breathing. A short time later, we came to a large tree. Marguerite scampered up it quick as a squirrel and returned a moment later carrying a large bag. She gave me a questioning look, and I sighed with resignation. It was time to try out the magic bag. No sense in lugging it all the way to the Empress’ Realm only to find out then that I don’t have the ovaries to go through with the plan. So I steeled myself, clutched my wife’s hand for a moment, and then climbed in.

                                Getting in that bag was difficult… but the time I spent there was nothing. I literally have no memory of what it was like to be inside; the next thing I remember is Marguerite gently helping me to clamber out and back into the clearing. I have a vague sense that a little time passed… sort of like when you first wake up in the morning, but nothing more than that. When I asked how long they had left me in there, Marguerite shrugged and replied that it had only been for a few minutes.

                                With that chore out of the way, we decided to continue on our way. We eventually came to a broad chasm with a loooooong drop to a river far below. The chasm was spanned by a single bridge of wood and rope. It looked old, but reasonably sturdy enough to support us and our mounts if we crossed one at a time. Sensing the value of caution, Jacob and Calamity scanned our surroundings once more (the catch for that handy little contract is to prick yourself with a thorn from the Hedge, so they made frequent use of it). Both of them gave the water below a dark look, and told the rest of us that there was a very large Hedge Beast located within it.

                                We knew that we’d have to cross the ravine to get to the Empress’ Realm because… well, because that’s how the Hedge works. It’s not about physical geography so much as the geography of stories: the Hedge had placed an obstacle in front of us, and we couldn’t proceed until we had overcome it in some way. So we each drew our weapons (everything from my small pistol up to Luna’s rifle) and made ready to face the creature.

                                Marguerite wandered out onto the bridge to draw it out. Sure enough, as she approached the halfway point, two heads extended up from the water below on long necks. They looked sort of like distorted versions of the paintings you sometimes see of the Loch Ness Monster, and they lunged for our friend. Marguerite leaped nimbly onto one of the heads and used her powers to slow it down, which made the rest of the fight much easier. And I guess both heads must have belonged to the same creature, because both of them were affected by Marguerite’s magic.

                                Following Marguerite’s spell-work, Jacob, Calamity, and I all fired at the head upon which our motley-mate was not standing, and Luna capped off the assault with a devastating shot from her rifle. That head, scarred and cratered from our attacks, fell limp into the water below, and the second head decided that discretion was the better part of valor and began to sink into the waves as well. Marguerite leaped once more from the head and drifted down into the chasm like a bit of dandelion fluff, and then clambered nimbly up on the other side, none the worse for wear. The rest of us crossed the bridge without incident, and proceeded on our merry way.

                                A few of us noted as we traveled that several creatures seemed to be observing us from a distance. We chalked it up to the effect Oleander told us about – how Marguerite appears to be a Gentry to Hedge denizens – and counted our blessings as we moved on. I hope we’re right about that.

                                At one crossroads, the homunculus and the compass appeared to disagree about the direction we should take. The homunculus pointed us toward the road straight ahead, while the needle pointed to the right-hand path. We talked it over for a bit, and decided in the end to trust Oleander’s homunculus. After all, if it was working properly the needle should have been pointing toward the Empress herself, and we had no way of knowing if she was in residence in her own Realm at that moment.

                                We found ourselves in a marshy area shortly thereafter. A quick scan of the area revealed several creatures of various types and a plethora of goblin fruit. We decided to make a short stop, as we all knew that goblin fruit can be very useful in a variety of situations (depending upon its type, of course). Jacob looked around for a bit and eventually pointed out a type of moss or lichen which would accelerate the body’s natural healing processes dramatically. I offered to help him gather it, but he quickly pointed out another (functionally identical) clump of moss which he claimed would cause hours upon hours of violent hemorrhaging if ingested. So after that I decided to emulate Mick Jagger and leave the moss-gathering to the professionals.

                                As we were wrapping up, three strange creatures lurched up from the depths of the swamp and attacked us. They looked like an odd cross between alligators and seals (Calamity suggested “sealigators” as a potential name, but I prefer “selkidiles” personally). Those poor beasts never even had the chance to land a blow… we fell on them like a pack of wolves, shooting, stabbing, and generally fucking up their day. The last one was about to limp away when Julia of all people landed the final blow.

                                I… I’m not sure what to think about these combats. Last year I shot and killed a Hedge Beast while helping to defend the Winter Court clinic from a Mothership invasion, and it nearly destroyed me on an emotional level. Today, I shot several Hedge Beasts, helping my motley to defeat and eventually kill them (well, I suppose the sea serpent thing was only wounded, but still), and it’s not really affecting me the same way at all. I don’t know if that’s because I recognize the necessity in service to my mission, or if I’ve just changed that much over the last year. If it’s the latter, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I mean, think about it… I’m trying to become a doctor for crying out loud. If I see that through, I’m going to have to take a sacred oath to “do no harm.” I can’t let myself see violence as the best solution to my problems. Ever.

                                We moved on quickly after the combat. Another scan of the area revealed some sort of settlement nearby, but we decided to avoid it after a little deliberation. It could have been a beneficial colony, like a Goblin Market, but the potential for danger was there as well… we were getting pretty close to the Empress’ Realm by that point, and the denizens of that place might have informed on us or turned us in to her forces to curry favor. Plus, we were in a hurry.

                                Eventually the thorns started to take on a notably purplish hue, and I knew we were getting close. We paused to catch our breath and finalize our plans… and Marguerite gleefully scampered up a tree. She returned a moment later holding another large sack. “Just where I thought it would be,” she said with apparent relish. “I used to get these all the time when I went on errands like this one. See, there is the map, and a little tonic to help with the sneaking, and a key to get past her defenses…”

                                I didn’t like it. “And this was left for you by… the Wyrd?” I asked pointedly.

                                Marguerite drew up short. Her golden eyes turned back to their normal pale blue, the wind ceased blowing her hair, and her movements settled into their normal patterns. “Non,” she whispered soberly, “this was left by Mama Lion.”

                                We debated the pros and cons of using the materiel for some time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the supplies themselves. I don’t think Mama Lion will gain any measure of control or authority over Marguerite if we use them. It seems more like a message to me… Marguerite’s Keeper is telling her “I know where you are and what you’re doing, and I approve.” It makes sense in a weird sort of way; this is exactly the sort of mission Marguerite was trained for.

                                So there’s the danger: using these supplies is tantamount to Marguerite tacitly agreeing that she is what Mama Lion made her. I don’t know whether that constitutes anything actionable in this strange world of legends and stories, but I’m afraid that it might. I don’t want to do anything to risk Marguerite’s freedom unless it’s absolutely necessary.

                                On the other hand, Marguerite is strong. I trust her, and she’s validated that trust over and over since I met her. And, well… these tools could dramatically reduce the amount of time we’d need to spend in the Empress’ Realm. And considering how the time-slip works between there and the World, that’s not something we can afford to discount out of hand.

                                Most of us saw the pros and cons of both options. Calamity and D were adamant that we shouldn’t use the bag as a sort of “fuck you” to the Gentry, but that’s hardly surprising. What did surprise me was that Julia came down just as vehemently on the other side of the debate.

                                “I don’t know why we’re even discussing this,” she said with fire in her eyes. “Lori can’t afford to be in there for years this time. She may not have that much time left with her father, and she needs to make the most of what remains to her.”

                                I nodded in acknowledgement of the sentiment, and then had to turn away and busy myself with my bag, unnecessarily straightening and rearranging its contents. I’d been doing a pretty good job up to that point in keeping the tears and trembles at bay, but with that one declaration Julia pretty much demolished my inner walls. I can’t afford to fall apart now. I need to be strong. I need to be strong for Missy and Jane. I need to be strong for my motley. I need to be strong for my dad. I need to be strong for my wife. I need to be strong for myself. Maybe that last most of all. I have escaped from the depths of Hell, and now I’m about to go back, and I’ll need every ounce of strength I possess if it’s going to work.

                                I’ve been writing this while we rest up and make our final plans. I think we are going to use the stuff in Mama Lion’s Gift Bag™. It’s just too much of an advantage to refuse in the most dangerous place any of us has ever intentionally visited. The map has already given us a lot of information that we didn’t previously have, for example.

                                Missy and Jane are still in the same cage we used to share. There’s a third bird in there with them now. Shit. Girl. I mean girl. There’s a third girl in there with them; one that I don’t know. Hunting Hawk is no longer on guard duty; he now resides in a cell across from theirs. I guess the Violet Empress wasn’t as forgiving as he thought she would be when he returned without me. His typical post and rounds have been taken up by someone I don’t know… someone called Ocras. Julia tells me that it’s the Irish word for “hunger,” and that falconers in the British Isles often name their birds that.

                                We don’t know anything about this new watchdog. What are his capabilities? Will he be more likely to spot my friends as they attempt to move undetected through the palace? What will his reaction be if he does spot them? Is he a match for, say, Luna or Calamity in single combat? And what about this third girl? If she’s another changeling, we can’t just leave her behind in the cage, can we? She deserves the same chance at freedom that the rest of us were given. But she has no reason to trust us, and I’m not sure we have the time it would take to convince her to join us. And that’s not even the worst possibility! If the Empress interrogated Hawk upon his return, is it possible that she’s a spy, an undercover Loyalist placed with Missy and Jane in anticipation of this very rescue mission? If she leads the Empress’ forces to the Freehold, it could endanger everyone!

                                So there are variables, and our plan might have to be modified a bit. Well, we expected that, and I think we can deal with it. And it looks like the others are getting ready to go now, so I should probably wrap this up and steel my resolve. And pray. I don’t know if that even works in this forsaken place… no, that’s blasphemy, so scratch that. God is everywhere, even in the depths of this hellish place, and I have faith that He – and my friends – will see me through this ordeal.

                                Hold on for just a few minutes more, Missy and Jane. I’m coming.

                                Lorelei de la Rocha

                                Calamity’s Little Black Book

                                The time is upon us. We’re camped in a grove of trees with leaves in every shade of violet on the edge of the Empress’ realm. Once we’ve finished gathering ourselves, we’ll be entering. It may seem like a strange time to be writing but I want to make sure I have my thoughts down while my mind is clear and focused. This place plays tricks upon you after all. Hopefully I won’t need a reminder but better safe than sorry.

                                There was a good crowd gathered to see us off. Flores and Oleander provided us with a number of hedge fruits, mainly glamour restoratives but also a few others and one specially created for each of us. Mine will apparently cause my glass to launch out and inflict great harm on everything near me but at the cost of injuring me and leaving me without my glass (until it regrows of course). It’s a powerful weapon but I find myself both fascinated and slightly afraid of using it. I know the glass will grow back, nothing so simple as this would remove it. But what will it be like while it’s gone? Even though I’ve learned to draw it inside, it is most certainly still there when I do. Like my blades, I can feel it inside my skin. I find myself trying to imagine it not being there and I can’t. Who would I be without it? Or, maybe even more worrisome, would I be any different without that constant presence? Something tells me I am going to find out before this is over.

                                But so far, our journey has gone well. Perhaps not quite a piece of cake as I joking proclaimed while Lori was in the process of admonishing us all not to make any such statements. That set off a bit of a playful Labyrinth quote back and forth which had the both of us laughing. I wonder if we should pull that one for movie night sometime? I mean, it is actually rather disturbingly close to how Arcadia works thinking about it. But then again, it might explain a few things if David Bowie isn’t human…

                                The hedge beast mounts have proven to be quite a boon. Thanks to them we’ve made great time. Each of them is unique and matched to one of us, which is part of why I think we’re taking to them so quickly (Lori and I in particular, but everyone seems to be developing something of a bond). I am honestly going to miss Sanguine when this is over. Unless maybe there’s a way to get the Other Dream House to add a stable for them. I bet Lori would be willing to help out with that. I mean, we’ve got a moat of fire breathing piranha, why not a stable for a bird-lizard and an oddly solid wave a of blood?

                                But yeah, between them and Marguerite's air of gentry and a little hedge shaping we made remarkably good time and have only had a couple of hostile random encounters. And even without pathfinder the monster at the bridge was too obvious to be much of a surprise. (And considering how hard and fast we unloaded on it I imagine it would be rethinking it’s life choices if it was smart enough too.) Of course, it was smart enough to withdraw unlike the sealigators that tried very unwisely to attack us in a swampy area we’d stopped in so Jacob and Luna could gather some healing moss. Luna was a bit disappointed that her students were using firearms, but honestly, I had only intended to open with a volley from Max as they closed and then switch to my glass. It just seemed fair since I only fired on the bridge beast with Sam (admittedly, it never got close enough for anything else.) But before I had a chance to wet my glass we’d put all of them down. It’s alright though, the plan is to be stealthy inside and that will call for blade-work.

                                Looks like my target isn’t actually going to be Hunting Hawk. While I am not comfortable with the source, I do have to agree that the information inside Marguerite's ‘goody bag’ is most likely accurate. The fact that it’s not a trap is actually the problem. It means her Keeper Mama Lion isn’t dead. It also means she knew we were coming, which means she’s been keeping tabs on her wayward apprentice. This opens up a while can of Shoggoths that we’re going to have to deal with. Marguerite is confidant that she can face the inevitable confrontation of course but I’m worried. I have no doubt that she can stand up to Mama Lion and tell her she’s not hers. However, it does not seem to have crossed her mind that Mama Lion might not take this refusal to return to the fold (or basically admit that she never left it) with grace and civility. I mean, I know that she and Mama Lion had a different relationship than most but we’re still talking about a Gentry here and if there is anything universal about those fuckers it’s that they do not like being told no. But that’s a problem for another day. Right now, the key will get us inside undetected which given the screwed up way time works in this realm is an advantage we cannot afford to ignore. And according to the info, Hunting Hawk has been caged and his role given to Orcus. So looks like I’ll be killing him instead. Could be worse, at least it’s not that prick Demogorgon. Anyway, I’m going to try to get a set of forms in before we kick this party off.

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