Pilfered Roses

Politics
Winter Office of Strategic Services

We got paid for that job in cash, but I still have no idea what the hotel hollow wants as rent. It doesn’t want money… Don’t we own this place anyway? And where are my freaking towels? I haven’t seen one in days.

So the court monarchs are arguing like crazy over something. That’s a shame, because I need to talk to Norah. At least I can get some training in while I wait. A guy about my size named Ryan helps out with both garrote and knife tactics. He also has some advice on subtle hints that I am not to be trifled with. He likes my smile, but thinks I can do more. I like him, seems smart and professional.

I found out a bit more on what it means to be winter. The Armory group is all winter and they have a good amount of knowledge concerning the court. They can’t make the offer to me, but according to Norah, I am already perfect for the court. I just need to be asked. As soon as she gets out…

In a couple of days…

What the hell are the arguing about?

I am running out of ideas on what to give the hollow. These things seem to be run on emotion, but nothing I present is working. What am I doing wrong? David has an idea that maybe it requires something from the 1940’s. Good call. That seems to have worked. I do have one last question about this though. I tried for something that would mean something to me. Since I am apparently going to be in the sneaky spy court, I tried going for an old OSS medal. If I turn that in, will it pay for more than just two weeks rent? If not, I am going to find some website with bulk 1940’s pictures and/or paraphernalia and call it a life.

Finally got some proof that Ava exists. She looks terrible though. Looks like whatever she went through was pretty bad. And my doppelganger won’t even try to show any comfort. I might need to go up there myself. I want her to know that I am still here. I have a picture of her in my room now, courtesy of Jason. He is doing a lot for me, I have no idea how to pay him back for all this.

Finally, Norah is available. She is a wealth of knowledge. Most importantly is a war is brewing. Spring thinks themselves lords of the freehold, paying off Summer to not care, but Fall is getting angry and gathering power and influence. Norah, Winter, and her (well our) allies are trying to prevent this but other concerns have cropped up. A shadow court made up of changelings who don’t like the new order and want to bring it down. They are also gathering strength. And Lisa is helping them.

Norah has made it clear that I am her agent now and my help will be called upon. I think she has great expectations of me. I can’t let her down.

I tried asking David about his knowledge of Hedge creatures. He tried to wave it off with being a monster wrangler, but that is not going to be sufficient. I let drop that I know his most terrifying scene, see if that loosens his tongue. It didn’t. I know Ryan said to trust my Motley mates, but it is getting harder and harder to trust David.

What to do, what to do?

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Freehold
The Birth of Terry Czar

We need to pay rent on our hollow and I have no earthly idea how to do that. A message is at our hollow asking for us to find someone woman referred to as the Five of Hearts. She is somewhere in the hedge behind a supermarket. Julliette has returned and all three of us go out to try and find this woman. Apparently we will be paid if we do. Finding the door was tricky. I had to really try to find it as it was in a trash compactor.

I have no words for the hedge. It is made of cardboard, some of it being painted by… goblins? Gnomes? I have no idea. Julliette is helping them for information, which is a smart move. I have been noticing interesting things in the area, one more of my contracts. The… little creature led us to a desert that seemed to loop around on itself. This place hurts my head. I generally have good direction sense, but this place confuses the hell out of me. We made it to a convenience store. Some guy outside knows about our woman and said he would help. He walked off. An apron fell out of the newspaper he gave me and Julliette now apparently works here. I think we may have been swindled. The boss man is angry and Julliette ran off into the hedge. I worry for her continued survival.

Just like David. Excellent distraction.

I found some maps of the area inside, but I have no idea how to pay for them. An idea. I put on the apron and become an employee. Seems all trade here is on the barter system. Some changelings come in and try to pay with some goblin fruit. I talk them up to telling me about this Five of Hearts. Excellent, some direction. I promptly quit.

This place is brutal. After walking for a while, I can barely keep conscious, I hurt so much. David knows about some berries in here (I have to ask him about that later) that heal me up. Julliette found a rusty knife. I grab it as she clearly doesn’t know how to handle it. Berry juice works on it? Weird. We take some extra berries and head onward.

We found her but something is buzzing like bees except lower. I try to go forward but something slashed at me. I throw a stick into the mix. Apparently I his something. I go in and stab it. It IS a bee. A huge mantis armed bee called a “Slasher” (really need to ask how David knows this). We run as the bees are now angry. I ask Julliette to act as a distraction and hide. After the bees pass, I try to wake up the woman. It worked and the bees leave.

She is part of the freehold. Excellent. But Lisa lied. Apparently she sells our kind out to the monsters that made us like this. I’m going to ki… going to figure out what is going on. That Beth girl might be dead or taken already.

The freehold is… different from what I expected. I quickly get hold of a winter court official to tell her about Hermes death. She is a wealth of knowledge and thinks I might be an asset to winter. I don’t know, as the power gap between us is a gulf. I get the knife upgraded after that, and I get a new ID. I shouldn’t say my real name now, so I am Terry Czar.

I need to talk to Norah more, but she wants to talk in private. That is fine with me. Lisa is going to have to wait.

Patience Lindsey. Don’t act rash. This is a great start, but prudent action can make this great. Listen and learn.

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Stabilized
Thoughts of the Hollow Czar

I am going to a psychic fair to pick up some leads and David is coming too. Juliette left a note saying she needs to take care of some stuff. I wonder what she is up to? No matter, I can ask when she gets back. There is a maid girl who seems off to me. Everyone else seems normal so I am going to try and speak to her quietly. She saw me and ran off. What the hell? I didn’t even do anything. She left by the back door and I don’t know where she went after that. There are a couple of stores nearby. Maybe a craft store, need some supplies to fix clothes? She wasn’t there but I now have a name and an occupation. Lisa is a maid for some rich family nearby. It isn’t much but it is something to go on.

David is terrible at getting information. Good distraction though.

One of the girls at the counter can see auras or something. My aura looks different, but she can’t see the scales. She could be useful. She knows a little about Lisa, so that is good. She also sees others with strange auras. I will have to keep up with her when I have more information.

Found Lisa with some clever Google searches. I have an address so I leave her a note to meet me at the UFO thing David set up.

I have just about had it with David. He is completely irresponsible and lazy. I am going to have to make what meager money we have last until Juliette can get a job at the psychic store. Thank god a farmer’s market is nearby and I got some good food for cheap. I guess I am going to learn to cook. Except I have no working stove, refrigerator, or even microwave. Some rubble in the hollow is probably hiding a kitchen but I hurt my shoulder trying to clear it. Tried sleeping and dreaming for a kitchen as it seemed to work on my room. It kind of worked? A cart with a freshly cooked meal showed up. This place really does have invisible staff.

Finally, information. Lisa is a bit of a loner when it comes to the Freehold, but my politeness and promise not to bother her again if she just tells me some basics about our nature seems to have worked. I now understand Pledges better, Contracts are spells (which I can cast at least one, a slimy trail instead of footsteps), and I have the location of the Freehold meeting location, among other things.

I tried seeing if I had anything that could read minds. Kind of, but it was a bad idea. I looked into David’s mind to see what he is thinking and got a horrible memory full of fear and books. I guess I know not to try that again. I also seem to have the ability to predict the future in a very small way. I will have to try that out at some point. David thinks we shouldn’t see the Freehold just yet and I agree. Jason believes me, and is going to keep an eye on my now inexplicably popular doppelganger. Juliette is still missing but I found out that Burning Man is happening, which might be a taste of her time. I won’t worry too much about it just yet. Besides, the girl who saw auras has vanished. I did mention her to Lisa, but did I actually say her name? David and I are going to look into this.

I feel much better. I have information, Jason trusts me, and I have my bearings. I’m still worried about living expenses, but that is a mundane matter compared to everything else. I feel back in control. Focused. Stable.

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Juliette 6/17/2015

I took upon myself to take some cash, and buy a diary in which to write. I figure it would be the thing to do, to notate all my thoughts as I think them.

It’s all too strange. A sudden hurricane, a flash of light, a rose, three men, and me. That is how it started, or ended. I don’t remember how I got to here. My thoughts are instantly brought back to camp; the forestry club in the Pine Barrens. It was a lovely weekend; so much fun, and then these sounds that roused us from our tents. We thought it was the Jersey Devil. Hah. Or a prank, or even worse, the cops. We took our flashlights and went on the hunt, the sounds got louder, then the flash of light. And now I’m here, a diary in hand, sitting in a hotel room, alone.

My friends, my family, forgot their names. And yet it’s 30 years from that weekend. It’s 2015. No flying cars, no colonies in space. Nothing more than this scary hotel room.

About the three men, they’re in the same boat. They have no clue what happened before now. The youngest, Lindsey, he has ice blue hair, and scales over his arms that flash such light. It’s like I’m tripping but I know it’s real. For one so young, he’s smart and observant. He was only lost about a week. Our de facto leader’s name is David. His skin is like a story come to life. There’s writing, and pictures that move about his face and all over his arms and hands. He was gone he says for 5-ish years. I was gone the longest; 3 decades. I don’t know about the man called Hermes; he’s secretive and not willing to talk. Yet put us in a month long dream, and why? According to his journal, protection. From what? It says “the Mistress of the Garden”.. maybe that’s where the roses came from. Like the one I accidentally fused with a bunch of vines around my head.

I’m different, I’m changed, I’m not the same. I look like someone else I’ve never met. But I’m no mistress, no, I’m a monster. Maybe when we learn more, I can see exactly what these vines and I can do.

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Amnesia?

David entered room 212 and sat down on the bed, thoroughly worn out. He unconsciously patted his jacket pocket as he reviewed today’s events. A hell of a day, indeed.

First, the storm. A hurricane in Tennessee? It could happen. It had happened, however unlikely. It made him wonder if they’d really left the other world at all. What about his unwitting companions? Lindsay, the scaly child, and that strange but gorgeous woman with flowers in her hair… as her hair. Her name was Juliette. The two didn’t seem familiar at all. He doubted she was actually a murderer but that little bit of panic had brought about a way to keep tabs on all the people who had arrived with him. Except Hermes, who was dead. Probably. That was extremely unfortunate because he seemed to know more about what was going on than anyone else. He seemed decent at first, too, until they found the journals.

David changed into the nightclothes he found in the dresser drawer and, as luck would have it, they fit him perfectly. They depicted a desert scene from the American Southwest: deep blues for the night sky, dark clouds, a few cacti and even a small pack of coyotes howling at the obscured moon. Did they arrive at the same time as his shiny new desktop computer? Did Lindsay and Juliette worry about the origins of these “gifts?” For all he knew, the three of them owned the building in the forgotten past and this was actually normal. He went over to the door and double locked it, another new feature, hit the lights and then lay down in bed. He looked over at his jacket one last time just to make sure it was safe and then closed his eyes.

The thing that bothered David most of all, beyond the strange murder and locale, was the fact that the late Hermes’ building was now deeded to the three of them. When did that occur? Wouldn’t it raise questions? What if someone came looking for the man? Everyone has friends, after all. There was also the matter of paying taxes and utilities for the structure.

He yawned as he realized he would have to examine the documents more closely in the morning to make sure they were genuine and not part of some elaborate ruse. After all, he had a way with words.

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Steady

I’m in a hurricane with some other people standing around me. A literal flower girl, a man with writing on his face and a detective looking guy. I don’t remember how I got here, wherever here is. I need to have a look around, I don’t like being unsure like this. Except when it comes to Ava. I hope she is okay. Focus, I need to know where I am if I am ever going to have a chance of seeing her again. The others look just as confused. I feel a little better. At least I am not the only one. They are following me for cover. When we get to the street I see a car with a Tennessee license plate. That places me where, now I need when. The detective guy just opened a door to a factory with some OCD ritual. And now we are in a hotel. Mustn’t panic. Don’t lose control, or people get angry. Just listen and observe.

Just a week after I disappeared on the class trip. We were taken by fairies or aliens or a combination of the two. We are now… different. Hermes, the detective, seems hesitant to reveal information. The other two know nothing.

Woke up and quickly found myself in Boston. Didn’t see the other three leave, but I am home and I can get back to mom.

Something is wrong. Mom hasn’t turned on me once in a month. Not even for disappearing, which I know should have been a trigger. People keep changing, classes keep changing, books keep changing. Jason is the only one acting normal, but he is so abnormal, that I wonder if I just can’t tell the difference.

It was all a dream. A month long dream that Hermes put us in. He is dead now, apparently paid the price for his hubris. David seems to think it was Juliette. I don’t believe it, but I will go along for now.

This is really frustrating. I have no home, no friends, and a couple of college age people who are very unsure of how to keep us supported. I need to find another one of us. I need answers.

The dead body of Hermes… I didn’t feel anything. No anger, no sadness, nothing. How much of me has changed?

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