Logs:A Swampy Quest

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A Swampy Quest


Characters: Ezra and Ashton (with Stasya as ST)
Date: 2020-08-12
Summary: Ezra's hunt for some token armor leads him deep into the swamp with Ashton and to some surprising success!
Disclaimers:

Twisted cypress.jpg


The Twisting Cypress is a rumor that's not hard to pick up for anybody that's spent any amount of time around Tumbledown. For those with a bit of a more adventurous thirst that the Wayward just can't quench, there's another inn what should be a few hours walk through the Hedge, if all goes according to plan. The Hedge being the Hedge, those few hours can easily turn into a longer adventure and light has begun to fade from the sky as the trees grow taller and more twisted, and the ground beneath one's feet gets a bit squishy even on the path. Eventually however, out of the growing darkness there's a speck of light visible. Upon approach, it grows into a lantern hanging off a wooden bridge over a bit of swamp. There's a few more lanterns hanging along the walkway leading up to a tiny little building, well lit up in the gloom and the sounds of an enthusiastic if unskilled accordion player coming out whenever the door opens. A small plaque hangs near the front, not a word on it but the twisted cypress tree on it should be more than enough identification for most.

Ezra was dressed for the hedge in a few layers that'd leave others sweating. He wears a green hoodie, blue jeans, and black hiking boots that already have some wear on them. On his hip he keeps quiver of far too many arrows, and over his sholder is a bow a few inches taller than him. Right now, the hood of his top is down as his ears swivel about.

"Strange to see this here," the lapin man remarks. His nose twitches as he sniffs at the air for a beat. His gaze flits to Ashton then, brows furrowing. "Let's try to do this quietly if we can. No telling what might be out here, or what might call this place home."

So, once again, Ashton finds himself in the Hedge. This is a pattern that has repeated enough that he's beginning to feel like a real member of the Militia, instead of the random Spring tag-along. As usual, he's decked out in his best protective gear, which consists of a flak jacket pulled over a sturdy leather and denim assembly in shades of gray and black, the legs tucked into a pair of sturdy hiking boots for comfortable walking. A variety of leather pouches hang from a thick leather belt around his waist, while a brace of four throwing knives are strapped across his chest and there's a hunting knife in a sheath on his right thigh. Gripped firmly in his right hand is a slim Chinese jian crosses with a red-tasseled attached to the pommel. A flat leather satchel bounces against his left hip, where it's carefully arranged to avoid interference when access to his other gear is needed. He also has several Contracts up and running, including one that creates coils of water writhing all over his armored form like a multitude of translucent snakes.

"Yeah, could be some kind of Lovecraftian monster with too many tentacles and suckers for eyes. Or maybe we'll run into Sleeping Beauty, except she eats the face of everyone who tries to kiss her awake," Ashton throws out warily while he surveys the surrounding area. His nose lifts in the air to take a quick sniff, which leans him wrinkling it after getting a lungful of swamp gas. "Charming... You're the archer, so I'll take point."

From all appearances, the inn seems like just an ordinary inn... if you look past it's unusual location and the owls with too big glowing eyes that stare unblinkingly from the cyrpress trees above. The soft hoots don't seem to be phased at all by the approach of the two Changelings. The entrance of a lone hobgoblin into the inn does seem to get a roar of recognition from the crowd. "Boz! Where ya been man? And where's yer cape?" The harshest sound heard yet is muttered from the rather squirrelly looking hob. "Lost it to that damn turtle. Should have known better than to listen to your face. Turtle claws CAN hold cards."

Ezra's ears turn to the hob as he approaches the cabin. He adjusts the bow on his shoulder, but doesn't move just yet. He turns to the cabin when the door swings open. Mention of a cape gives him pause, and he looks over to Ashton for a moment. "They might know what I'm looking for,' the Beast comments, "but not 100% sure. Rumors and the Hedge can be as unseemly as bedhead after a hangover." He motions to the cabin, flips his head up, and starts walking. "You're already ready if something goes sideways, yes?"

Ashton relaxes only slightly once the place proves to be a legitimate inn, at least on the surface. It's start part of the Hedge, so that rules it out as completely safe. "Yeah, I'm not going to drop my guard completely, just because this place has a peaceful facade. I'm pretty much expecting things to go sideways at any moment, especially when you're chasing a rumor that could have originated from anywhere." He eyes the owls in the tree for a few seconds, matching his own glowing and unblinking eyes to theirs for a few seconds before returning his gaze to the cabin. "I've got your back. And your front." Ashton moves forward with the sword still in hand, just angled down slightly to avoid accidentally stabbing anyone that gets too close.

Ashton nods while keeping that starry, hedge spun long bow on his shoulder. "Worst case we have to fill them full of daylight." He giggles at the notion despite the present danger they're potentially in, and makes his way to the door. He gives it a few polite raps, and then opens up the cabin door. Both hands go to the air to profess innocence while he looks over the room. "Not coming to do you any kinda harm, but it sounded like you all might have had something of a problem. I have one of my own and we could potentially help each other."

It's easy enough to walk up to the in. The bridge might be old and a little squeaky, but someone's been carrying for it well enough it's not likely to just fall in on anybody. Inside the in is quiet cozy. Can't be more than ten tables in the little place, three of which are already filled with an assortment of hobgoblins in various shapes and sizes. The back of the aforementioned Boz is recognizable clear enough, the hob rubbing at his bare arms as the sleeveless shirt he's wearing is no substitute for the missing cloak apparently. Curious heads turn to look at the unfamiliar arrivals at the door. It's a green headed duckbilled man that quacks up first, the same voice that was giving his friend a hard time about the missing cloak. "Problem? The Inn ain't the sort of place for problems, unless you're aiming to forget them. Like poor Boz over there." This gets a cackle of laughter from a few of the folks gathered around his table. "Just what sort of problem do you think we have? And are you looking to make a deal?" There's definitely a glimmer of hope (or greed, although they might be the same thing) in the duck-man's eyes.

Ashton glances into the inn over Ezra's shoulder. His solid silver eyes scans the insides to make sure that it's as innocuous as the exterior before hesitantly sheathing his jian. The coils of water snaking around his body fades away into mist, which evaporates quickly back into the ether. Disarming clearly pains him, but setting into a place of hospitality warrants it. "Seems legit enough for now," the young man mumbles to his friend. He sucks in a deep breath, let's out slowly and puts a smile on his face.

"Perhaps, perhaps," Ashton answers when he finally sets foot over the threshold. He grins at the duck-billed hob. "Maybe the perhaps will become a firmer yes once we know a little bit more about the situation. Never good to walk into something blind, right?" This is followed by a silver-eyed wink.

The duck-billed hob gets a flat look from the Beast, but he's quick to warm up with a bucktoothed smile despite the aura of cold present by his very being. His gaze slowly moves to the one named Boz, and he starts moving over to the hob. "I think he might be the one I need to speak to, but I'll make sure to keep you in mind." As his hands now drop to his side he begins to walk over to the saddened hob. "You alright there, buddy?"

The duck-man holds up his feathery hands as if he means no harm when the Lost don't seem to inclined to take up his offer. It's alright, he's got his beer and his buddies to entertain himself although they do seem to keep ears turned a bit towards the conversation in some not so subtle eavesdropping. The grey squirrel-hob's fingers fidget as he's singled out again, eyes flickering between both Ashton and Ezra. "Me?" There's another nervous glance, and a glare at the duck for abandoning him. "Never been better. Well, I have been better. But I'll get there again. Why???" As nervous as he might be, curiousity does seem to be a little bit stronger as he leans a little closer to get a better inspecting glance at the weapons the changelings are carrying.

Ashton's lips twitches with amusement when the duck-man backs off. Then, he's moving closer to the squirrely hob with Ezra. "Well, you look pretty down, sitting all alone here..." Which is especially true now that the duck-man is simply eavesdropping from afar. "And I thought I heard something about a turtle before we entered. Perhaps you lost something or had it taken from you? My friend and I here aren't strangers to conflict, so perhaps we might have the right skills to help you get the desired resolution." His lips stretches into a friendly smile. "If nothing else, maybe we can lend you an ear to help you get your woes off your chest."

Ezra shoots an askance glance the duck-hobs way, and then looks back to Boz. "No harm, no foul. I wouldn't worry about him, anyways. It's best not to depend on people too much because you never know when they might leave you by your lonsome in this cold, cruel world. Why, it sounds like he alreadty has abandoned you, but that's nothing to wallow and despair over. It's not as if he or anyone else won't abandon you forever." Ever cheerful, the Winter, as he smiles at the hob.

He shakes his head then, and points his head in Ashton's direction. "What my friend, Mr. Choi, said is true. We could retrive this cloak for you, or you could even leave it for me." He pulls at the bottom of his hoodie, looking down at the Spartans log on the front, and sighs. "I could even give you this to keep you warm, although it'll do little to aid you when everyone abandons you."

Boz continues the cautious eyeing of the two changelings as they begin to talk, fingers twitching on the table top. The mention of it being a cold, cruel, lonely world certainly isn't comforting, not at all. His head tilts as Ezra mentions retrieving the lost cloak and even more at the idea of offering the hoodie to him, even as ragged as it might be. "My... cloak? It ain't mine anymore. Lost it in a game of cards to the turtle. Fair's fair... even if I'm pretty sure he was cheating..." The last is more of a mutter, but it may be cheating is only illegal if you can catch your opponent doing so. He might not have been clever enough to beat the mysterious card dealing hob, but he does seem to brighten a little as an idea strikes. "I could tell you where Snapper is, if you want. You two together might be able to beat him! But... not for free." Nothing is ever for free in the Hedge after all and Boz is definitely eyeing that hoodie that seems tantalizing enough, especially with the chill the Winter brings in the air.

"Ezra here, showing such kindness as to offer the clothing off his back," Ashton comments with a dip of his chin towards the lapine Lost. He hums noise deep in his throat while eyeing Boz thoughtfully. "I suppose that cloak would belong to this Snapper if he won that game fairly, but it definitely doesn't have to stay that way... And if he's the type to cheat, I'm sure that two pairs of sharp eyes would be able exactly what he'll regret betting against."

Ashton takes on an placating tone. "Of course you should be compensated for any valuable information that you can give us. Maybe you'll be interested in some of the trinkets that I carry with me." He unzips his satchel to rummage around in it. "We come from a long ways, outside the Hedge in fact. What about this little bracelet that a mortal girl wove with her own hands to show her affection towards a dear friend? Or maybe... a pack of tarot cards? I also have some mortal food if you're the type to have a sweet tooth..." He clears his throat and glances sideways at Ezra. "Or maybe my friend here would have something more suitable in mind."

"As Mr. Choi says, if the clothing off my back isn't enough for you, Mr. Boz, please let me know." He tips his head respectfully, and smiles as he lifts his head. "What is it you require? So long as it doesn't require the life and limb of my companion and I I'm sure we can work something out. Potentially."

The shirt off one's back is a pretty good deal in and off itself, even if it is summer and warmer clothing isn't strictly needed, Boz has still been occasionally rubbing at his own arms as he eyes the hoodie Ezra had offered. Ahston's offer of the bracelet also seems to get the squirrel's attention as well. "Ohhh, well since I'll be giving both of you the information, only fair you both part with something, yes? The jacket and the bracelet, that shall do nicely... I can tell you where Snapper is... and how he cheated me out of the cloak in the first place."

"Of course, of course. That's only fair, isn't it?" The soft clink and clack of objects getting moved around inside Ashton's satchel comes to a stop when he hooks the bracelet in question with his pointer finger and lifts it out to offer to Boz. The little accessory is indeed a friendship bracelet of the type that a craftsy young girl would give to someone she cherishes. The band mostly blue and white nylon thread braided in a chevron pattern with silver thread used as an accent. A little bell covered in silvery glitter adorn either end, so that they're twinned side by side when the bracelet is knotted. "I hope that this bracelet gives you as much joy as it did to the friend of that girl who made it."

Ezra has to let the bow go, and he seems a wee bit hesitant to do so. After another second's though he takes it off of his shoulder to give to Ashton. Then he grabs at the bottom of his hoodie, and starts pulling it up. Beneath it is a padded tanktop that's the color of blood. Off the rest of the way the jacket goes to reveal a few scars and scratches over his sinewy limbs. Most telling of the Winter's nature are is a dagger sheathed at the small of his back.

He starts folding up the jacket before handing it off. "Know now that this will make you a Spartan, now and forever. A people whose pride and tradition shines through on the gridiron battlefield." When done he hands it off to the hob with a won smile. "Remember that the next time you wish to find something to wager in a game."

"Look at that! I'm a Spartan!" Boz practically crows as he slips into the hoodie, clearly delighted with the trade, especially when he adds the little friendship bracelet to his wrist. The colors might clash horribly, but that might just be a pro to him! "So... Snapper. He's a mean ol' grump. Big guy..." He holds a hand up that seems to indicate the turtle might be about a foot and a half taller than the man-sized squirrel-hob himself. "But can't turn down a challenge. Usually games of chance, though chance seems to favor him more often than not. Occassionally a race. Don't know how a massive turtle managed to outrun Mandri over there..." There's a head tilt to indicate the duck man who turns back to his drink. "Maybe you can challenge him to an archery competition or something. Ain't never seen him use a bow..."

"It could be difficult for a turtle to draw a bow, but he did manage to hold on to his cards, didn't he? We'll be sure to come up with something suitable once we've met the individual in question," Ashton replies, exposing all his translucent teeth in a wide grin. He also glances back at the eavesdropping Mandri and end up having to clamp his lips together to avoid throwing out a quip about the duck-like hob just being slow, rather than Snapper being a speedy turtle. It's close. Very close.

Ezra clasps his hands after divesting himself of the hoodie, and chirps, "Excellent!" He claps his hands twice, and then grabs his bow. "We'll see," he says when shouldering the bow again. "We'll see how this all goes before I say what might happen. It'll be something for us to worry about, Mr. Boz. Do enjoy the jacket." As he starts to depart he remarks, "Think of me when it's the only thing keeping you warm on a cold, lonely, sad night.' A wave as he hits the door, shouting, "Toodles.'

Before they left, Boz was good enough to his word to even draw out a little sketch of how to get to the turtle, for what it's worth. The turtle's little bayou isn't too far away from the Twisted Cypress and the instructions are clear enough. There's no lanterns lighting up the path this time, but the trees begin to noticeably thin into a clearing and there's a fairly large shadow seen moving in front of a campfire. If they are to creep closer, Snapper it does appear to be, a massive bipedal turtle. Older as well, judging by the algae clinging to his shell. His mouth also seems to be wickedly curved, taking after those snapping turtles and giving him his name.


Snapper.jpg


Travel to the new location has Ashton on edge again. His sword and elemental armor both make a reappearance, though the former is sheathed again in preparation to greet the massive turtle by the campfire. He keeps the coils of water shifting across his body while the two Lost steps out of the gloom of the surrounding bayou into the warm glow of the clearing. "Good evening. You must be Snapper." Ashton asks genially. He places his left hand over his right fist to bow towards Snapper. The firelight glints off the pale dragon's translucent scales and momentary highlights some of the characters etched into them." Would you have some room around your fire for some weary travelers?"

Ezra is slow in his movement, and doesn't reveal himself initially. Where there is politeness from Ashton, the Beast silent skulks in the shadows. It isn't until that Ashton isn't immediately being attacked that he makes himself present much more overtly. The moon hare clears his throat when approaching from another angle with his hands raised for a few seconds.

"I am," Snapper confirms as he slowly turns to face the intruders, not even bothering to get up off his log seat. "And that would probably depend on what the travellers are after and who you might be?" He spots the hare's approach as well, but doesn't seem particularly concerned. The turtle is massive and armored and this is HIS territory after all.

Since Ashton didn't immediately get attacked and he's now within the ring of warm produced by the campfire, he lets the coils of water around him dissipate back into mist. "I'm Ashton Choi," he introduces himself with the same level of politeness as earlier. "I'm accompanying me friend in a jaunt through the Hedge for an adventure to spice up our evening. And hopefully some profit as well, because who doesn't like a dash of profit with their adventure? We heard that you're an individual with a love for challenges, and that might have just intrigued us enough for a visit."

"Ezra Sky," the Beast presents while taking a bow. He straightens back out, and gives the hob a brief smile. "As he said," echoes Ezra. "I heard tell that you won a garment off of one of your fellows named Mr. Boz. I'd like to wager something over a game or a challenge for the item in question. In return I offer myself for a favor of your choosing that does not require me to sacrifice life and limb."

Snapper gives a leisurely nod as Ashton introduces himself, and the turtles eyes spark a little as Ezra follows up with the mention of the challenge. "That could sound like something I might be up to. Already won one game of cards today. Could be I'm on a roll if you're willing to test that? Or... haven't caught my dinner yet. And if you're weary travelers, surely you're hungry too? Always am kinda fond of killing two birds with a single stone. We all get to eat and whoever catches the most fish... gets an extra prize. A favor for me or this cloak of Mr. Boz's if you win?" He can't help but let out a little snort as if he doesn't expect his losing to be the likely outcome.

Ashton pats his stomach and his dark gray tongue flicks out briefly to moisture his pale lips. "Mmmmm, I do enjoy myself some nice fish, especially roasted with some fine company to dine with. But my friend here our challenger of the hour, so I'll defer to his preferences." He dips his head towards Ezra, ceding the decision to the lapine Lost.

"I'd be happy to, Mr. Snapper. However, I believe I'll have to pass on the consumption of fish. I find meat utterly repugnant, but I'm sure there's berries around for little old me." He giggles, and takes his bow of his shoulder. "At least it won't be as bad as the ice fishing back home. Now that's a doozy."

Snapper's eyebrows narrow, or the would if the reptilian hob actually had eyebrows instead of just some thickened scales where brows should be at the mention of not eating meat and gives a snort. "Got some mushrooms off a little ways then. But not a challenge harvesting those. If you want this cloak, fishing it'll be. Against just the you or think you need your friend there to help?" The massive turtle has already won at least one challenge today so he doesn't seem opposed to the challenge of two versus one.

"Even mushrooms can be challenging to collect, but I guess the ones you mentioned aren't in the habit of moving around," Ashton tosses out with an amusement smirk on his lips. "If you're confident in your ability to catch more fish than the two of us combined, I won't be opposed to joining in the fun. More fish does mean a better meal, at least for you and me. Ezra will have to stick to those mushrooms."

"Thankfully they aren't on a thing as big as you, no?" asks Ezra. He takes his bow of his shoulder, and holds it as his side as he looks around. "Have a preferred spot to fish around these parts, and what are the stipulations? I imagine that you don't want me doing something like freezing my side of wherever it is that we fish."

Snapper rubs a clawed hand along his jaw as he ponders. "Fifteen minutes to catch the most fish in that time. You can't use any contracts on me. I can't use any contracts on you." He noticeably doesn't say anything about not using contracts on the fish themselves or the water, just giving a shrug for if the hare wants to freeze his whole section of the river. "I'll take the far side of the stream, you take this side? Or we flip for sides... but not upstram and down as that would be unfair now, eh?"

Ashton hums thoughtfully. "Sounds fair enough to my ears. I assume that we can use whatever we have on hand to fish with. I didn't exactly bring my pole with me..." He draws the jian from its sheath on his back and holds out the length of gleaming metal to the side. "But I do have this. If spearfishing is a proper sport, and there's no objections, maybe I'll turn sword fishing into one too. It'll be an interesting challenge either way."

"I could always use my bow. Tie a line to an arrow, shooot, pull. Not hard, but potentially much more difficult." Ezra leans onto his bow as he sets the notch-end on the ground. He pulls the sheathed knife from his back, flipping it in his hair. "Could always use this, but knife-fishing is a pain in the butt. I'm no Bear Grylls, sadly."

He sets the knife back into his sheathe and closes his eyes. He whistles a short, despondent tune; and with it his mantle flares. The snow falling from him whirls around for a few moments, and he starts walking to the water. "Don't want to traumatize them, I'll admit. Don't know how well they'd take that."

the idea of sword fishing gets a bewildered snort from the turtle-man before snapper turns to walk into the water. Swimming across is no challenge to the massive turtle. This is his home turf after all, the land and the water. Once on the far edge, he gives a whistle. "And our time starts.... Now!" While Ezra is busy busting out the pipes and working his animal magic, Snapper has his own contract to deal with as he summons the stickiest of the riverweed to him forming a net all about. True to the earlier word, he's taking care not to cross the median of the waterway with it. A few fish manage to evade the weeds and follow the lure of the music to the Changelings, but there's still more in the water ready to the turtle's taking.

"I'll try out my sword first. I'm better with it than a bow or a knife, and I'm not even sure if I can draw your bow," Ashton admits sheepishly to the lapine Changeling. He lifts his left hand towards Ezra and waggles his translucent brows. "I think I see fish starting to come this way. How about a fist bump for good luck in your next move...?" When the two Losts' fists touch, a subtle jolt of Glamour sparks between Ezra and Ashton. The young man starts to smile, but it quickly turns into a frown at the sight of Snapper drawing the very plantlife of the river into a net to encage some of the fish.

Ezra returns the fist bump while looking over to the testudine hobgoblin. "Worst case I still get it anyway," he says with a smile. He giggles when he lifts his bow from the ground, and starts taking aim. Breathe in, and with the first shot he lets out a breath. He repeats the process until time nears completion. He's careful not to the pale dragon, but doesn't err with a single shot.

When time is called he stops letting arrows loose. He had one last arrow knocked, but pulls it back for now. "So how many we got, hmm?" He uses the arrow to start counting, pointing at each one caught by the pair of Changelings.

Ashton might be panicking inside as he wades into the shallows of the river and starts stalking the fish with his eyes. His magic isn't useful for large scale fishing, the way that the turtle hob's able to pen away some of the fish or Ezra's ability to lure them in with a song. No, he's just going to have to do his best using the sword in his hand. The slim blade flashes in the warm firelight again and again as Ashton's hand flicks out every time one of the silvery forms draws near him in the water. He misses the first few due to miscalculated angles caused by the way light bending at the boundary of the water's surface distorts the true position of his targets. By the third failed attempt to stab a fish, he's starting to get the hang of it. A fish is run through on the fourth attempt, lifted wiggling out on the tip of his blade and tossed quickly off landwards, so that he can immediate stab down again. Flash, flash, flash, flash.

There is definitely a bit of surprise in Snapper's eyes as he sees just how successful the combined powers of the two Changelings are. Sword-fishing, who would have thought that would even work? And Ezra is practically shooting fish in a barrel even without a barrel. The turtle puts on as much speed as he can muster and when the allotted time is up, he does have a fairly respectable catch of three good sized catfish-looking critters, it absolutely pales into comparison to the haul of Ezra and Ashton and he gives a solemn nod. "A deal's a deal. I'll get you the cloak. Can even get you some carrots and greens for dinner as well if you want to part with some more of your fish?" The offer is extended even as he's moving over towards his log and opening up a drawer that was cleverly fastened inside. From within, he pulls out a cloak of deepest midnight blue, dotted with silver of slowly moving constellations. "Little sad didn't even keep it a full day, but that's how it works sometimes."

"You're quite the generous, hobgoblin, Mr. Snapper." The hob's kindness is met with a respectful bow from the Changeling. "You two can split the fish, and I'll be content enough." The cloak is then taken by Ezra and held hin both hands as he begins to examine it. While looking at his newly won prize he says, "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get me next time." Then he looks over to Ashton. "Thanks for the help. I appreciate it."

"You might not have kept the cloak for a full day, but you did get some excitement out of wagering and another tale in your repertoire. That must count for something. It definitely did with me," Ashton says, winking at Snapper cheekily while somehow also injecting some sympathy in his voice. It mostly hides the slight shakiness from the adrenaline rush of actually managing to complete the task that he'd set out to do with Ezra. Things looked a little dicey there at the beginning. "Hauling the fish home with me might be a little tricky, so how about you keep whatever we don't manage to eat, Sir Snapper? And return, all I ask is that you spread around a few positive words about the Lost of New Orleans to your next few visitors."

That certainly sounds like a deal to Snapper. And while he may have lost the wager and the cloak, at least he does have a bounty of fish to show for it. So maybe this actually was a win-win situation after all.