Logs:Lost History - Discussions and Decisions

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Lost History - Discussions and Decisions


Characters: Charity, Darcy, Eva, Gert, Gilles, Hawthorne, Nicolas, Orion, Simin, Slip, Stasya & Tristesse
Date: 2020-07-06
Summary: The Freehold (plus one) gathers to discuss Tumbledown Market and the Butcher Queen and make a few decisions about how to handle all of it.
Disclaimers:

This meeting hardly qualifies as a gala. Really, it's a very small meeting for a ballroom of this size. That's why they've got only about a third of the space cordoned off for use tonight. Conveniently, the third closest to the banquet tables nearest to the elevators. There available are modest, from pizza to cupcakes and water to soda, which suits the accommodations just fine. Folding chairs with nicely cushioned seats are set up in comfortably spaced rows. Really, it looks like this could be a half-extravagant meeting for a twelve-step program of some variety. With Slip standing up front--tonight, in dark jeans and a white tee shirt for NEW ORDER's Substance--there's a good chance no one's gonna try dissuading anyone of any sort of excess. Probably. Maybe. Who knows where the meeting will lead. As people start filing in, she finishes nomming on a pink-topped cupcake, waiting for folks to settle.


Pizza is a new experience for Orion, and he's got a few slices stacked up on a paper plate as he finds a quiet seat at one of the corner tables. Dressed in a dark orange t-shirt and blue jeans with brown sandals, Orion looks like he's strolled in off the street for the food buffet more than anything. His raven-black hair is tied into a tail down the nape of his neck, and his amber eyes flick up and over the room attentively from time to time. He's busy with the cheese and pepperoni, though, and is enthusiastically chowing down on the pile of slices: perhaps more than his stoic demeanor might otherwise suggest.


Stasya is dressed professionally enough for the meeting, if by professional you want someone that looks like a caterer in black shirt, black pants and even some kitchen anti-slip shoes. Along with the more mundane store bought cupcakes, there's a few boxes brought in by the cotton candy Wizened before she turns and makes her empty handed way up towards Slip as she eyes the crowd. "I'm not sure what draws people in more. A mystery or free food."


Gert has a sweet tooth. Probably more than one, judging by the sheer number of sharp snaggle-fangs packed into that grotesque mouth - and by the size of the cupcake pile that she's created on that suddenly-comically-tiny plate. It's almost as large as her head, and she plucks out one more for good measure before sauntering over towards one of the cushier chairs, the cupcake pile teetering dangerously as she moves.


She's dressed as she always is, in that strange little Chaplin suit and gloves, with her cane hooked over her elbow, unused. As she hops up onto her chair and turns to face front, she grins hugely - a terrible sight, for anyone watching - and gives Slip a little wave with her free hand. Then she sets about the business of devouring those cupcakes, one by one, in huge, hungry bites. "Oh, it can be both, Queenie dear," she says over her shoulder towards Stasya. "It certainly is for me."


It may be a meeting, but that doesn't mean Charity is about to get dressed up for it. The Autumn Beast is wearing a pair of black lace shorts, a matching cropped top that flows over her curves rather than clings to them, and wedge heeled sandals. There's a leather bag slung over her shoulders with fringe swaying, and sunglasses perched atop her head. It's a stark contrast, the casual boho vibes she gives off, with the Spring at her side. A fanged grin is flashed over to Eva, as she chimes, "Ah good. There's snacks." Crisp, British accent with that underlayer of canine rumble.


Who's standing there in a black windbreaker over a white t-shirt and a pair of faded black jeans? It's Hawthorne. And in his hand? The startlingly colorful glare of a bottle of Mountain Dew Liberty Brew. Because what else would he have? The slight hints of autumn leaves whispering off of his form, or the embers kindled in the darkness of the charcoal edges he gives off are the other concessions to not being filmed in black and white. He is standing behind a chair, rather than sitting. He's not big enough to loom, in spite of his height.


Nicolas makes a quiet entrance and, spotting some of his fellow Changelings near the array of chairs, strolls over to find a seat. The Fairest is dressed in a tan linen suit, white silk shirt, and dark brown loafers -- nice yet not too formal, especially without a necktie and his collar unbuttoned. His dark eyes study each of the others as he approaches, then he offers a polite nod and a general greeting. "Good evening." Passing on the refreshments, he goes straight to a chair in the front row and settles in. Clearly he's not one of those here for the food.


Eva, for her part, is of course dressed up because when is she not? The Wizened is wearing a sleeveless red pencil dress along with purple kitten heels and matching gloves; apparently for the meeting she's even located a small hat with a little netted veil that does nothing to obscure her features. Because of cours she has. She smiles warmly at those gathered, then laughs at Charity's remark about food. "Yes, we can get snacks before we sit," she replies, eyes twinkling.


Darcy is _not_ a changeling.

It becomes obvious upon first seeing him because he _looks_ entirely human. Of course, changelings being what they are, it's easy for them to feel that slight sensation of predatory nature that, with experience and meeting others, they could come to associate with werewolves. Vampires have their own style. Still, it can be hard to figure out what he's _doing_ here. But he's keeping quiet, staying out of the way, and enjoying the free food.

He's a (constantly) growing (and ungrowing) boy. Who knows who mass displacement and replacement works in wolf-spirit physics, he's not gonna take any chances.


Simin is not PRECISELY on time, the Winter running a little late as he finally slips into the hall, glancing around to make sure he found the right place and gravitate towards the small cluster of familiar faces. Still dressed out in the Dockers and polo and hiking boots he wears around the property, hair rebraided into a tight rope that sways down his back like a tail, he clasps his notebook to his chest as he approaches, flashing the faintest of smiles towards Charity when he sees her heading for the snacks.


Big meetings are not Tristesse's thing, so she slips silently into the ballroom, her wintry eyes sliding over those present -- some known, some unknown. The darkling finds a place to lean near the back (most likely where she can slip just as silently out), her arms crossed against her the black Ramones t-shirt she wears under a black leather jacket.


With her mouth full with that last bite of sugary, strawberry-y goodness, Slip is not precisely prompt in her answer to Stasya's observation, which has her, instead, pointing to Gert. Then touching her nose. And then raising her hand. Why not kick things off with a brief game of boring charades. Anyone who guessed the spring courtier was a both kinda girl gets a point. Brushing her hands on her jeans to clear them of crumbs once she's disposed of the cupcake wrapper, the pale-eyed darkling moves to a more front-and-center position and straightens a bit. With another lift of her hand, a sort of wave, she starts with a simple, "Hey," as she looks over those gathered. "For those who don't know me yet, I'm Slip, and I serve as Chamberlain to our magnificent monarch." And in case anybody somehow missed that news or the obvious symbol of authority, she gestures toward Stasya. "Given the rumors that have been circulating about the goblin market behind a suspiciously locked-to-us hedgeway and the possibly dead might-be-Gentry involved with it, we thought it was about time the freehold--" With a gesture toward Darcy. "--and other interested parties get together to clarify what's known, discuss theories and decide what course of action to take. Is everyone familiar with the information Eva's been collating or do we need a brief recap?"


"I do my best thinking when I'm not concerned that my stomach is growling," Charity muses towards Eva, with a grin. One that grows, threefold, when Nicolas comes in. "Oh look, there's the good doctor," she rumbles out to her well-dressed companion. "Right up front." Fingerwaggle. She extends the same wriggle of fingers to Slip, and then Darcy, before Simin comes into her field of vision. A quick look over the Winter, as she moves to add a slice of pizza and two cupcakes to her plate. And then that not-so-faint smile back at him. A questioning glance, to where she's probably thinking of sitting. An offer? Yes. Her eyes then take a quick sweep of the room, nostrils flaring and ears catching sounds, before she murmurs to Eva, "A few unfamiliar-to-me faces. Good. Very good." Plate of food in hand, she moves to take a seat. Not *Right* next to Nicolas, but giving a seat of space between herself and him.


Listening quietly as he settles back against his chair, Orion folds his hands overtop one of his knees as he listens and watches both the crowd and the speakers attentively. He's not interjecting, though he does occasionally snag another slice of pizza from a nearby platter, with a wild beast's ravenous appetite like he hasn't eaten in weeks.


The Wizened gives Charity an amused look at her remark, even as she helps herself to a cupcake. As the other woman more or less assigns her a seat, Eva doesn't quite laugh again - the meeting has started after all, yes? - but she slides between the Beast and the Chiurgeon, eyes twinkling with humor. A cheerful nod is directed towards Slip as she takes a bite of cupcake. Hopefully there aren't too many questions to start. At least it's a small bite.


Stasya certainly doesn't miss the werewolf's entrance, but just gives a nod of greeting to him as she also does to the others she's aware of having made contributions in the information gathering process. At Slip's last question, she does step forward. "In the name of efficiency, why don't we do to the brief recap? To ensure we're all on the same page and nobody is working of just wild rumors. Those do have a tendency to run wild in situations like this."


Simin gives the room another glance as people gravitate towards places to sit and Slip starts with the introductions. Keeping the notebook hugged to his chest, he does finally lurch into motion, pausing just long enough to pick up a bottle of water then trail after Charity, flashing her and Nicholas another faint 'I can be friendly, no really!' smile before settling his butt down onto a seat on her other side (as in, opposite from Nicholas, not between them). The Autumn is given a soft, "Hi," under his breath while his attention shifts to listen to Stasya and Slip.


"I've heard a bit." Gert's voice is impossible to mistake, once you've heard it. Like every wicked witch from every child's nightmare all rolled up into one, high and raspy and sharp. She chomps down on another cupcake before continuing. It just... vanishes, behind those teeth, and is gone. "Done a bit of research, since I got here. But I'd appreciate a bit of a recap, all the same. These old bones-" she says, not looking particularly old "-aren't up to as much legwork as they used to be. And the faster I'm brought up to speed, the faster I'll know how I can help."


Darcy makes sure he's given smiles and short waves to the people he knows, while he finds some food and a place to sit down and pay attention.


Nicolas takes a small journal-style notebook and a pen from his inner jacket pocket and is preparing to take notes when he sees Charity and Eva coming toward him. The doctor rises to his feet, offering the beast a polite smile and the wizened a slightly warmer version of the same. He keeps quiet, given that Slip has already started, and settles back down as soon as Eva and Charity have taken their seats. The Fairest can't quite suppress an expression of vague amusement even as he crosses one leg over the other at the knee and opens his notepad, ready to absorb information.


Hawthorne steps around the chair and takes a seat, taking a sip of his drink and giving a wave to those he recognizes, Eva and Gert and the werewolf, and to Tristesse with all the frost. "I do my best work on vague speculation and hearsay," he says, his tone dry in not-actual-objection. He does swiftly shut up though. For expediency if nothing else. His elbows rest on his knees, hunched forward a bit to listen, eyes going a little bit distant.


Belatedly, Nicolas noties the Simin taking a seat on the far side of Charity and gives the Winter a reserved nod in return. Perhaps that's his version of friendly? He does seem to be the serious sort.


Perhaps one of Charity's forms is a sheepdog, with all that oh so subtle herding she manages? Probably not. Just a wolf. Her hellos are quiet, as she settles in. Pulling out a notepad as well, as she murmurs something to those close to her. A bit of tension showing in her shoulders, and the exhale of her breath, as Gert speaks. Balancing her plate half on her thigh, half on Simin's. Eyes all for Slip, and the Queen, as the two speak.


Slip searches the crowd for responses, odd ears pivoting unevenly beneath the veil of her dark hair. When Stasya urges a recap, she dips her head low and respectful, a secondary nod, a bit more shallow than the first, following for Gert's request. There might be a quiet breath of laughter for Hawthorne's commentary. "Alright. Well. In brief, we've got a door on Barracks Street, just at the edges of the French Market, which isn't opening to us with glamour. Between Tristesse listening to the door to catch the melody of its key and Darcy's impressive research--" She pauses a beat, nods toward the not-Lost at the back. "That's the handsome werewolf back there." She flashes a faint smile his direction. "--we've found the nursery rhyme that unlocks it. It references someone named Bou-Cherie and begs them not to take limbs and eyes and stuff. Which seems consistent with rumors of a Butcher Queen who might be responsible for the missing parts on some of the hobs at the market on the other side. Tumbledown. Seems it's been in the area way longer than we have, but they're not used to any Lost coming through from this side of the Hedge. Other Lost not from New Orleans, sure. But the doors to New Orleans have been locked for a while. Maybe by this Butcher Queen somehow? But there are rumors that she's dead. And that there's been some oath broken, but I'm not clear on the details of that." Looking to Eva, she asks, "Did I miss anything?"


Simin opens the notebook up on one leg while Charity moves her plate a little, reaching over to give her leg a light scritch of nails across fabric. While he watches Slip and reaches for his pen, there's a couple of murmured comments, perhaps making small observations while they listen.


The darkling Tristesse meets Hawthorne's wave with a small, sharp-toothed smile, before she huffs out a small breath in amusement at his words. She glances at those she doesn't know, though not so long as to stare, before letting her gaze drift back to Slip. Still and silent, the only motion during Slip's recap of the events regarding the Barracks Street door and Tumbledown Market is a blink of her long lashes when her name is spoken, and a fleeting glance that alights on Darcy before returning back to the speaker.


"Bou-Cherie?" Gert makes... a face, at the sound of that, the conflicted grimace of someone who has just heard a truly awful pun. "Oh, now. That's... certainly something. Subtlety wasn't big on this particular queen's list of priorities, I gather." She sets her plate of cupcakes down on one leg, reaches into her suit jacket, and withdraws a little notebook of her own, along with a pen that she clicks open. "Much obliged for the catch-up, dear," she adds, as she opens it and begins to scribble. "Helps a lot."


Darcy waves to people when Slip points him out. He sticks his tongue out at Tristesse when she looks his way.


Once the meeting gets down to business, Orion markedly come more to attention and listens without moving, almost without breathing. His elbow is leaned against the table next to him, knuckles of his right hand against his jaw as he watches and observes. The crowd is almost entirely strangers to him, and though he glances over them periodically, he's still sitting back to soak in the proceedings wrapped in an aura of quietude.


Eva glances briefly at Charity at that murmur, her lips quirking for a moment, then she looks from Stasya to Slip, tilting her head in a rather birdlike fashion as she listens, finishing her bite of cupcake. At that question from the Chamberlain she smiles. "Well, that's all of the information, more or less. What started us looking for old Hedgeways - which the Barrux door is one - was the fact that it's been years since there's been any Lost presence in the area with little explanation as to why. Local mortal rumors as well as the hobs in the Market both point to the Butcher Queen being active in the area - most likely a Gentry, but we don't know for sure; we've been assuming that fact. Certainly the local hobs were in terror of her and seem to very much want to believe she's dead but...it's a bit unclear if she really is, since that door still opens to her rhyme. Of course, that would fit with Gentry being hard to properly kill, by all accounts." She gives the room a wry look. "As for details on the oath, believe Charity and Simin can probably speak more to the current project to try to find out more about that."


Stasya nods slowly as the Chamberlain gives the recap. She folds her arms behind her back and looks like she might attempt to slide into the shadows herself, but the well lit room doesn't seem to have any and way too many eyes to disappear from anyways. "In the Absence of this Butcher Queen, the market seems to be now ran by several hobs calling themselves Quarters. The one we met seemed to be involved in some sort of... drug manufacturing and trade." There's clear disdain in her voice for Herbert's choice of occupation.


Charity scribbles notes with one hand, as she takes a bite of pizza with the other. Thankfully, she has plenty of time to chew and swallow before she's mentioned by name. A glance towards Simin, a flick of her ears, and then she speaks. "I was part of a party that went the long way around to Tumbledown," the Brit offers. "Where we made the aquaintance of a hob known as the Ghostmother. As Eva mentioned, the hobs in the market still feared the Butcher Queen - one that we met kept repeating that she was dead, with the sort of mantra that a child might say that the monster under their bed is not real. They were all missing pieces as well." A quick frown. "We do not have the details of the Oath, as of yet. But the Ghostmother did make us an offer, an exchange for that information. We did not have what she needed at the time, however." Another look to Simin, so that he might add anything he has to say.


Nicolas glances aside as Charity murmurs something, offering the wolf-woman a brief, if reassuring, smile. But then his attention shifts around the room to each of the speakers in turn, his gaze sharply focused. A few notes are jotted down on his pad, a single word here and there, penned in a neat hand.


Simin blinks once when Eva mentions him and Charity, pauing mid-scribble in his notebook. He glances at the Autumn sitting next to him, and looks relieved when she starts off volunteering the information. He listens to what she says, then clears his throat and offers in agreement, "Noone would say how she died or how they knew she was dead. Its possible they dont understand you can't really kill on of Them and just think that's what she is. Right now if we can find the three things the Ghostmother wants, that trade for the information she has would be helpful. Neither of us are talented with the wrangling of ghosts, however, nor are the rest of the party that went with us."


"Oh, I heard about the Ghostmother," Gert says. She has a habit, apparently, of gnawing on the end of her pen when thinking. Unnerving to watch, but thankfully she doesn't spend long considering before going on. "Spoke with that Jake fella about it. There's things that could be chased down with her, no question. But there's two things I think are obvious that we might want to get some peepers on, if nobody else has thought of 'em already."


She looks up, glancing between Charity, Stasya, Eva, and Slip in turn. Her expression is /mostly/ serious, but there's the slightest upward crook at the corners of that awful mouth. "Anybody gone down and poked about in the mortal butcheries yet?" she asks. "Or figured out if there's been any bits goin' missin' from people since we've turned up?"


Slip winces faintly as Eva brings up that Very Big Important Point that she neglected to mention, the whole no Lost in New Orleans for as long as anyone can remember thing. It's significant. She nods gratefully for those additions, then another for Stasya as she points out the information about the Quarters, though she doesn't seem to share that disdain for Herbert's apparent profession. Charity's addendum earns a curious look before her focus shifts to Simin. And then to Gert. "I think that's where we are now. Figuring out what we need to know yet. Then making plans to do so." But it's a good time for the darkling to get back to lurking, to let others do the talking while she sticks to listening. One ear remains turned toward the group as she shuffles over to the table to snag a soda.


Hawthorne's eyes glaze over a bit as his pupils expand and contract, the speech of the other changelings getting through to him but he's.. Not living in the now right now, colorful leaves falling off of him a little faster and crumbling to ash and nothing or being lit by blue witchfire before fading to embers but it's just a little scratchy rustle happening around him as his brain tracks the branches of futures, quietly mumbling a few key phrases, a mnemonic to keep him on track. Or he just craaaay.


"Well, the French Market used to be a Red market - a meat market," Eva says to Gert. "And one of the mortal grandmamas I spoke with told me about how the butcher would take her due if you didn't leave a little cut of some kind of meat out for her. She told me a story about how she and her sister had gotten a small windfall: she put something out on the stoop, and her sister didn't; her sister later lost two toes. However, I don't know how recent it is that the butcher would forcibly collect her due, I had the impression that story was from when they were both was younger. So it wouldn't be a bad idea to see if there are still those incidents."

Eva smiles then and adds, "Also, slightly unrelated, but before I forget to mention it, the group that I was with in the Hedge did have the option to speak with another seer to get information - rather than the Ghostmother. I imagine there will be a price, since there always is, but we could try to get more information from that end, as well. Although I'm not certain how many prices we want to start accruing; the Ghostmother's price isn't cheap."


Charity adds, "I do have a way of getting at least one of the ghosts that the Ghostmother asks in her price. It has been a subject of debate, at least between Jake and myself, if the others are *actual* ghosts." She glances back to Gert at that, then forward once more. To her notebook. "Her exact words were: the ghost of someone who died violently, a memory of a ghost held dear and the ghost of a love that has died."


"True," Stasya gives a cautious nod with Eva's last. "Also, if we accept every offer, might be bad for haggling attempts in the future should we wish to utilize the market. We would not want the hobgoblins to think us weak or gullible." Her head tilts as Charity mentions the ghosts. "Which was it that you're suggesting you have and give up?"


Hawthorne starts to slip a little, his elbow almost sliding off his knee and that is what snaps him from the... We'll call it a reverie, as his mind chases branching paths. "I.. Hm!" Shaking his head a little bit and then rubbing at his face, fingers combing his beard slightly, the charcoal autumn adjusts his glasses, his eyes back to being their original bright embers. "I... Took a look. As reliable as such things can be anyway. If we do nothing, the Butcher Queen will not in the future control the market. There is something, however, in the nature of her maybe kinda sort of having influence and control over the Barrux Door. Which means that she is not gone in the entirety, regardless of her relation to the market. And so... Somewhere that still exists." His mouth twists a little into a frown, working on stablishing what that really means in his head.


"I think that's an important question," Slip notes to Stasya. "Do we want to restrict access to Tumbledown or let anyone who has the key or who can navigate hedgewise visit? Right now, everyone's keeping cautious, but having a big local market isn't necessarily a, uh, bad thing." Except, well, what Hawthorne said. There might be bad things maybe. The chamberlain goes back to her soda-sipping.


"Oh, yes, I chatted with Jake about that as well," Gert says, with a nod towards Charity. There's a gleam in her beady little eyes now, and that tiny smile is growing. "Definitely the right track, I think, to consider whether or not they're actual ghosts she wants. But the rest-" she turns towards Eva, and now that smile becomes a grin. A horrible, demonic grin, like a demented Cheshire Cat.


"/That/," she says, "I /like/. I do love me a good ghost story, dears. And /that/ is a lovely ghost story. Really sets the spine to tinglin'. And what I'm wonderin' is, if she's dead but they're all so afraid, whether or not she's going to /stay/ dead. Or if somebody else has made her into lunch, which has all sorts of fun little possibilities of its own."


She turns to glance back at Hawthorne, and one eyebrow lifts slightly as she watches him. "Well, now," she says. "That's interesting. But not immediately helpful, sadly."


Stasya turns her focus now on Gert and her enthusiasm on ghosts and the Wizened Witch clears her throat. "Ghosts are not just stories. Just as some mortals seem to have the habit of not quite leaving when they pass away, things in the Hedge can find ways to stick around as well. Particularly nasty business, unless you have a bit of cold iron or whatever else their frailties might be... or the most powerful of contracts. If the Butcher Queen was fearsome enough in life, her ghost would pose even greater a challenge. For that, and all of the remaining unknowns, I'm not convinced that we should just let anybody access the Market on their own just yet. And still... smaller groups might have more luck with tracking down different leads. Perhaps if a party is accompanied by a militia member or a hedge guide?"


"Unfortunately," Charity offers to Stasya, "It's the most simple one to get. The ghost of someone who died violently. We're in New Orleans - the city is crawling with such ghosts, I'm certain. And my sister - one of the People, like our lovely Mister Darcy here - is able to capture ghosts. It's not an easy task, mind. Just a bit more straightforward than the rest." Beat. "It might be helpful, yes, to see how recently the Butcher Queen has claimed her price. It's a bunch of woven, tangled threads." Amber eyes move to Hawthorne as he speaks, and she tugs her lower lip with one sharp tooth, before looking back to Simin at the mention of a hedge guide."


Eva gives Stasya a wry look for her cautious nod and words. "Excellent points," she says before being briefly distracted by Hawthorne...having a moment, as it were. "Interesting," she says, expression turning pensive. "So she's gone for the moment, but may come back at some point. Perhaps after we're all long gone, perhaps not. If she /is/ Gentry, I don't know how deeply into the abyss of visions we want to stare at the moment, however." An impish smile is directed back towards Gert despite the clown's sharp grin. "If you /do/ ask around the market grannies, let me know what they say?" Then she looks towards Slip and Stasya again. "Speaking of access - regardless of who is going to be allowed or not - before I forget to mention it: right now, we keep havin to picking the lock on the mundane gate that blocks the door that's where the Hedgeway is. We may want to look into acquiring the building."


Simin shifts his attention between Gert amd Hawthorne and Slip and Eva and Stasya, stopping every couple of glances to scribble down another word or two, which may or may not also mean he's leaning closer to Charity as he does so. When Charity looks down at him at the idea of a hedge guide, he flashes a small little smile and keeps his voice down, "If someone IS going out into the Hedge, even if you don't need a guide, I could use the trip for my notes."


Gert turns that grin towards Stasya and nods in agreement. "Oh, believe me, love, I know," she says. "I've hung about in too many dark places o' nights not to know they're very real. It's part of why I love the stories as much as I do - besides being good fun on their own, they're sometimes useful. Might give us an idea of where to go lookin' next, if we want to figure this out." She nods towards Eva, then, adding, "Of course, love. I'm around the butcher shops quite a lot anyway. I'm no chef, but I do love me a good steak. May as well go poking about while I'm there."


Slip nods to Stasya and notes, "I'll get something written up," about limiting access to Tumbledown Market for the time being, until the threat is better understood and maybe resolved. The problem Eva presents about the more mundane gate in front of the actual hedgeway earns a curious look, a faintly hopeful murmur of, "Can we afford that?"


Hawthorne clears his head a little and nods, then says "If someone has a question of the future of the market and what goes on there, I should still be able to take one more dive before it gets too murky. The more I go, though, the more the chance that I'll pick the wrong one, it gets harder to keep clear." He does add "Having control of the building with the door would at least make it easier to observe, and to protect, in both directions really."


Nicolas continues to listen in silence, though as the meeting becomes more conversational he periodically lapses into thought. Finally the Fairest raises his voice to speak up. "I am willing to contribute to buying the property as well." But the point he really wants to make is more organizational. "If I've understood the situation correctly, the details of the Butcher Queen's oath do seem to be the key. Perhaps learning that should be our top priority?" His gaze travels around to each of the others in turn as he speaks, but ends on Stasya. "Has someone been appointed to negotiate with the hobs in the market for this? If not, it might be wise to name someone, so our efforts can be better coordinated."


There's small return lean, Charity into Simin. She takes the chance to bite into her cupcake as others speak up. Even if her gaze stays forward, her ears turn towards the direction of various voices, giving them her attention. "Not a bad idea, Doc," she comments towards Nicolas. "Not myself. I may have made a tiny bit of an impression with one of the hobs in the market. Spooked him a tad. And I'm a shite bargainer."


For finances, Stasya just gives a shrug of her shoulders before murmuring back to Slip. "We can always speak with Ian and Mingzhu... if anybody should know if and how we can afford something..." The financer and the dragon probably would. And as for Hawthorne's suggestion of taking another dive, she gives a nod. "If the risk is in it getting too murky, perhaps take time and consult with your Ashen Court fellows?" Prophecy has never been Stasya's strong suit. But then her attention is on Nicolas and another nod. "Nobody should enter a deal on behalf of the Freehold itself without either my or Slip's permission. This should be protection for you as much as for the Freehold itself... if somebody is offering you a deal that sounds too good to be true that would be committing more than just yourself, you can honestly say you do not have permission for that, but would need to consult with us before returning."


Eva gives Slip a wry look and shrug. "Well, at the worst, that's what Pledges are for, yes?" She grins a little at Staysa's remarks, nodding agreement, then seems to remember she has a cupcake and takes a bite. That reminder about negotiation has her expression turning thoughtful, then she hastily finishes chewing and swallowing before she asks, "Would you prefer that we fulfill the Ghostmother's bargain, then, before we explore other options?" Her gaze is inquisitive.


Having finished off his share of the pizza, Orion is sitting and observing quietly. Mentions of the Hedge do cause his amber-gold eyes to flash with interest, but he restrains himself to a statuesque lean against his right fist, elbow propped up on the nearby table, that is both casual and rigidly motionless. He doesn't blink much, either.


Slip smirks faintly at Stasya's suggestions and nods. Then nods again to Nicolas for his offered contribution as well. Seems the freehold will be snatching up a building by the French Market. To Hawthorne, she notes, "I mostly just wanna know if there's a way we can get the hedgeway working the way it's supposed to again. Unsettling that it should be locked to us." She makes a face as she looks between Nicolas and Stasya, noting, "I heard that Gilles made a good impression with some of the hobs. Have you guys tried his mead? Definitely knows how to bribe his way into somebody's good graces."


There's a faint hint of amusement on Simin's face when Charity mentions how she spooked a hob, but stays quiet. When Stasya talks about not making deals on behalf of the freehold, he pauses his notetaking to nod slightly in agreement with that. Towards Eva, he clears his throat again and offers, "If Charity believes she has one of the three things asked for, perhaps we can review how hard it would be to get the other two. The offer has been made and its very straight forward, give me this and I will tell you that, no promises for future action. If the other two are going to be troublesome to acquire, then maybe so?"


Eva mms at Slip. "Well, we do know the rhyme so we can open it whenever we like. I suspect we'd have to remove the Butcher Queen's influence from the door to get it to work like a proper door and I have little idea of how to do that." She glances from her fellow Spring to the Autumns. "Although I'm sure someone enjoys that sort of challenge." Her eyes twinkle at that. Then she looks at Simin and nods. "I think that's a good plan; as far as I know, I think the suspicion is that we need memories rather than actual ghosts? Which would require people who have the proper sort of memory to volunteer. Although please do correct me if that isn't correct."


Nicolas inclines his head, accepting Stasya's instructions without complaint. He glances aside at Eva's question and is clearly curious about that as well. Slip's mention of Gilles draws the doctor back into the conversation. "He seems personable enough, though I've only spoken with him once." And it's not his decision in any case. Nicolas gives a supportive nod for Simin's point -- that have one third of the price and know what they're getting in return, so it's not a bad place to start. Then he favors Eva with a wry smile after she tosses out a challenge to the Autumn's present.


Hawthorne pushes himself to his feet, getting a little bit of a headache by the expression on his face and the way he rubs the bridge of his nose. "I'm going to get some air, I'll check back. And yes, it can be restored, but getting to those particulars is a bit beyond me at the moment. I'll look into it." He takes a sip of his horrific frankendew and then slips toward one of the exits for a moment.


Gilles arrives and for once, at least, he isn't transporting food or a keg or barrel of something to drink. He is still dressed in his 'working clothes' with his brocade vest although he has left the white apron behind. "Have I caught someone taking my name in vain?" the genial French wizened asks with a smile. "My apologies for being late. An issue at my establishment."


"Seems like we have plenty of alleys to go running down, then," Gert says brightly, snapping her notebook shut and stowing it back in her suit jacket. "And I'm more than happy to lend a set of peepers to anybody who wants help on their gumshoe activities, when I'm not busy going poking about in the butcher's quarter. But I think the most important thing to find out at the moment is whether or not bits are still going missing." She steeples her gloved fingers in front of her and, for a moment, looks serious. "I don't like the idea of an active Gentry hangin' about and stealin' pieces off the kiddies when we aren't looking. Oh, dear me, no."


Stasya tilts her head ever so slightly as she considers Simin's suggestion. "I wouldn't want to ask anybody to sacrifice something I'm unwilling to give myself. Unfortunately, all my loved ones are long since gone... and far away from here, not a ghost to easily be found. But even without the ghost mother... I believe we are a resourceful group. If needed, we can find what we seek with enough time." There's a slow nod for Slip at the mention of Gilles. "I have met him, however... not knowing what exactly the hobs might want does make me a bit hesitant to allow anybody to negotiate on the Freehold's behalf without a possible second opinion."


The darkling in the back speaks up -- likely most have forgotten Tristesse was there. 'Tis the nature of darklings after all, especially coupled with the stillness of Winter. "I'm not sure which Charity has already, in terms of ghosts, but I may hold one of the memory of a love lost. As many do, I imagine, of course." Lost love is a common experience. Her expression is a sad one at the thought. "But it's a little less mundane when it's the love from and of one of the Gentry, perhaps, and one of note." She looks a little sullen, that perpetual late teen's sulkiness taking over her expression. "I can volunteer that memory, if it's a memory that's needed needed. Not one I'm proud of," Tristesse says, one shoulder rising. "But that might make it that much more powerful. I don't know."


"That is my suspicion, Eva. That the other two don't have to be physical ghosts." Charity looks to Stasya as she says it, and a dip of her head comes. "Due to that phrasing. A *memory* of a ghost held dear. That suggests to me that it isn't an actual ghost she's looking for in that one, but a memory. I may be relatively new to all of this...Lost business. But memories can be sold and bought in the Market, yes?" A pause. A glance to Simin. "And then the ghost of a love that has died. Love can be a noun or a verb." She turns her head, looking over to Tristesse as she speaks, nodding to the woman. "That could perhaps be very useful, yes."


Sitting at a table to the side, Orion raises up a hand to offer a brief wave of greeting in Gilles' direction, before resuming his listening posture to follow the conversation with interest.


As Gilles arrives, Slip smiles crookedly in his direction and nods. "We were discussing the possibility of somebody making some in roads with Tumbledown Market on the Freehold's behalf, but the Queen has some reaonable reservations, given how little we know about the group. Is this a relationship we want to foster? Might be worth just learning more about the market and its inhabitants in general. How many of these Quarters do we know?"


Simin nods slightly at the discussion, glancing up at Charity and offering, "There is that yes, but then we'd have to find out what the hob would want for THAT and they will always ask for more than something is worth, so if we can find something the Ghostmother will take, ourselves, that would be better." He stops scribbling at that and pauses to listen to the others' suggestions, chewing on his lower lip as he does so.


Gilles raises a hand in greeting to Orion as well and then nods his head as he listens to Slip. "I believe I have made some inroads with the merchants," he says, "but yes, I do not think we want to be trying to establish formal relations between the Freehold and the goblins just yet. I think it would be better for me to establish some business relationships with the goblins first, then I may be able to get more information from them and possibly some assistance in setting up something more formalized."


Eva nods to Slip. "I think having our Freehold perhaps send groups to meet with the different Quarters that could be useful. Government to government, so to speak?" Her eyes twinkle at that. "Start with a bit more structure, as it were. And perhaps ask to see who else may be able to meet the Ghostmother's price - having people being able to chose if possible, would be nice. But I think that is all I could add, for now."


"That sounds like a good start," Slip offers to Gilles with a smile... and with a little look aside to see how Stasya feels about that. With a little lull forming in the conversation, she steps forward again, and says, "I think we've got some good direction. Informal relations with Tumbledown." With a nod to Eva, "Learning more about its leaders. Looking into getting the Ghostmother's price and finding alternatives for the same information about the Butcher Queen's oath. Trying to figure out how to get her influence off that door, if she's not actually dead. Which will involve looking into, uh, people and hobs losing limbs? After windfalls?" After a beat, she adds, "Oh! And buying up the building the door's attached to. And figuring out what we want to do with that. If you need any help from the Freehold to facilitate your efforts, just let me or Stasya know. And remember to take a militia member or hedge guide with you any time you visit Tumbledown. Which should be minimal and functional and only in small groups. Like, no shopping sprees until we know more about these guys, alright?" With another scan over the crowd to make sure there's nothing else, she gestures toward the food and offers, "Please take home leftovers. And share information as you can. Thanks for coming."