Logs:Lost History - The Ghostmother

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Lost History - The Ghostmother


Characters: Ashton, Brent, Charity, Gilles, Jacob & Simin with Slip as ST
Date: 2020-06-22
Summary: The Ghostmother names her price for learning more about a particular broken oath.
Disclaimers:

Wherever the group begins their journey, the first step leads promptly into the unfamiliar, into the thornier parts of the Hedge that stretch into strange and dangerous places. All it takes to find the proper path to Tumbledown Market is a prick of thorn to skin, a drop of blood left behind for the Hedge. Surely, nothing terrible will come from such sacrifice. Tempting scents and distant song carry down the vine-tangled paths between beginning and end, resolving with more clarity the closer the group gets: pies of all varieties, both sweet and savory and entirely inplacable; overly cheerful melodies about travelers' misfortunes; a cacophony of voices haggling and laughing. Telltale signs of a market in the short distance. This won't be a long journey. Today, the thorns, abiding the call of the Pathfinder, will be kind. Tumbledown Market is on the horizon.


Brent and his fae mount, looking like some kind of viney motorcycle, keep pace with the group. His pale eyes are very obviously keeping track of everything he can see, his head swiveling with his bike helmet off his head and strapped behind him. He is wearing mundane, black, motorcycle leathers with crimson accents.

"Thanks for letting me come along," he says to Charity and the rest of the group in a soft voice. "Dunno what help I'll be, but I'm glad to be here even just to look intimidating."


Once they're all gathered, Jacob takes a moment to draw the group together. "Alright, I'm going to see if Lady Luck will help us out tonight. I need a volunteer, though." He looks towards Ashton and smiles as he withdraws a needle from his pocket. Assuming Ashton allows it, he'll be pricked, for just a drop of blood. As he does, he murmurs, "To help us find and speak with the Ghostmother." Sure, he wants to find the other side of the door, in case the other group needs backup, but the Ghostmother seems to be his priority.

As for Jacob, he's dressed in his usual charcoal suit, a pale green shirt accenting it. He also carries a knapsack with a few odds and ends. A coloring book and crayons, some wind up toys, a whoopee cushion, some disappearing ink, a deck of cards, and a few other little odds and ends he thinks hobs might enjoy. He adjusts it on his shoulders and then grins at the group, "Let's do this thing." And then he's off with the others, heading down the path to Tumbledown. Thanks, Simin!


Gilles is grateful for the easy journey, having to pull along a small wooden handcart behind himself with three casks of beer. With the lack of information available about the market he's unsure of the goblin's tastes and so has had to improvise, relying on the relatively scant knowledge he has of the Parisian goblin markets when he formulated the beers. "I can speak with some of the merchants," he says. "Since I am trying to build some connections instead of trade I might be able to get some information from them."


Ashton is no Hedge expert. He's mainly tagging along with the group for the adventure, the excitement of uncovering hidden knowledge and to ensure that there's a presence from the Militia. Also, to keep an eye on a few of his buddies who are prone to attracting trouble. The Darkling is decked out in a flak jacket with a Chinese jian sheathed on his back, a brace of four throwing knives across his chest and a hunting knife strapped to one leg... because you can't have too much weaponry with you for a place like this. The clothing underneath the armament is sturdy leather and denim in shades of gray and black, with some hiking boots for comfortable hiking.

"You don't need to look -directly- at me, I was going to volunteer anyway," Ashton smirks. The Darkling momentarily braces his duffel bag against his left leg, making the odds and ends and other equipment he deems useful clank against each other. Then, he's holding out his right hand for the prick and there it goes.


Motorcycle leathers are the look of the day for Charity as well, her own simply black. Her wild hair has been bound back into a pair of braids, feathers sticking out here and there - the downfalls of being a beast. "Always helps to have another set of eyes and a brain," the Autumn murmurs with a quirk of lips. There's a hint of tension to her frame that isn't usually present outside of the Hedge. Canine ears flicking this way and that to pick up those sounds. It's only paranoia if the Hedge isn't trying to kill you. She stays to the flank of the group, old pack habits dying hard. It also gave her a chance, as they started out, to cover her tracks, leaving a feather in her wake.


Simin takes a moment to spill just a bit of his own blood once Jacob's gathered them together, "You said something about a back door. I can't guarantee that's what we're heading for, but I CAn tell which way the local market is. And it doesn't feel like we have much to worry about as far as briarwolves and the like go right now. He eyes Gilles' cart with some consideration before adding, "Not...a bad idea." The snowskin seems to have just brought along some patchwork leather armor pieces and his rapier and a small shield buckled to his left arm, "Shall we? It doesn't feel like it's very far, but you know how that goes."


Gilles gives Simin a slightly wry smile as they journey. "Free samples and the promise of future business," he says, "often have an almost magical effect in loosening tongues. Twin roads leading to a target's heart in case either one should be blocked."


The routes to Tumbledown are numerous, but so many of them lead here from distant cities. The Lost haven't been in New Orleans long enough to have established trods of their own to the local market which has surprisingly thrived in their apparent absence. Their local absence, anyway. The route Simin finds starts and ends as an alley, but it winds through a swamp-riddled wilderness that narrows down to a deerpath in width in a few parts, requiring the group to travel single file. A sense of foreboding travels at their back, a looming presence which suggests they might be being watched or followed, but good fortune calls them forward, leads them directly to their destination without the threat on their heels getting the chance to make good.

There is no proper sign to indicate they've arrived at Tumbledown Market. The Hedge simply spills right into the chaos, like arriving at a sprawling flea market through an unofficial entrance at the side, a break in the fence, in the rows of tables, which allows ingress to the vast maze of stalls and structures. In nearly every direction, hobs hawk their wares, from tokens and trinkets to jars of strange goop, from stories and songs to memories and names. And information. A blue-skinned goblin at a table to the left of the group calls out, "Hey! Hey! You need something? Need to know something? I knows everything! Will tell you anything for three hairs from your head. Anything you want!"


Brent looks around, curious and wary. He remains silent, but his "motorcycle" revs a bit, uncertain.


Jacob's dark eyes are alert as they pass through the swampy wilderness. He allows Ashton or Simin to take the lead, as they are the more martial of the group. He heads after them, keeping an eye out for anything potential threats. As they arrive on the edges of the market, he looks around, a smile playing across his lips as he takes it all in. He's seen it before, of course, but it was a different part, and he was busy trying not to be killed or kidnapped or anything like that.

His attention is drawn by the blue-skinned goblin and he smirks slightly. "Everything? I don't suppose you have any references?"


"That was surprisingly easy," Ashton can be heard muttering to himself. "Bet we'll get ambushed by Cthulhu swamp spawn on the way back..." Yet, even that dismal thought couldn't keep the Darkling from going all bright eye and excited at the sight of the market spread out before the group. He bounces slightly on the heels of his feet, fingers of his free hand twitching at his waist while he takes everything in. Despite his fascination, there remains a thread of caution that runs through his expression and he readily edges behind Jacob to stand as backup while the expedition leader feels things out.


Gilles pulls up a little behind Jacob with his cart. "Even if he does know everything," he says to the Fairest with a slight smile playing across his features, "do we really need to pay the prices of such a specialist? I mean, there may be plenty of others in the market who would happily trade the information for a much lower price just as a consideration for some larger deal."


Charity's ears twitch, picking up that murmur from Ashton. "Put me down as a no for Eldrich terrors," the blonde murmurs back. A small quirk at the corners of her mouth. She follows the others, and when the Market opens out before them, amber eyes dart around. It's...a lot. A lot totry and keep an eye on, at once. For now, she lets the others do the talking. She'll do the watching.


Simin takes out his little notebook and jots a couple of things down as they make their way through the thorniness and the swampiness, making note of some of the features they pass, because, lets face it, mapping the Hedge is pointless, but noting what you ran into and how bad it was, can be helpful. Its when the hawkers start that the Snowskin grumbles softly, "Part of me wants to say that now the ACTUAL dangerous part of the trip has started." He does, however, seem to relax a little and shoots a curious glance at Jacob, deferring this part of the expedition to Fearless Leader Fairest, though to Ashton's comment, he murmurs, "Don't jinx us, now." He glances around at the hobs hawking their wares, but makes an effort NOT to make eye contact for the time being.


"References!?" The blue hob's face lights up, his smile marked with too few teeth, gaps where some have gone missing or never grew in. His left ear has likewise vanished, a gnarled absence where it ought to be while the one of the right stands pointy and proud. "I can refer ya to lots of whatevers." With a glance darting toward Gilles, he adds, "Even to folks with better deals, yeh. If that's whatcha want. Just gotta say whatcha want. Dreams? Hopes? The blue stuff? Oh oh oh! Or the Pieman's pies? Can getcha a good discount on pies." His voice drop to a mumble as he continues to list off other possibilities, seemingly more to himself than the Lost he was addressing just a second ago.

Other hobs watch the group, some vying for their attention while others are more patient in their consideration. Others still keep to themselves, working out deals and sharing gossip and not all that worried about attracting new business today. Tables and stalls stand empty here or there where merchants have opted not to set up shop today, several bearing signs noting imminent return, promising new deals and better products. They're a disparate lot, little commonality among the hobs to suggest shared origin, but an inordinate number of them are missing pieces: a stump where a leg should be, a scarred space where once there was a nose, a finger replaced with an animated branch, a marble where an eye used to be.


Brent's eyebrow raises and he looks to Charity. Murmuring low so only she (and the rest of the group if near enough to hear a somewhat loud whisper pitched for Lost ears) can hear, he says, "You notice a few things... missing?" And by his look toward a hob, he doesn't mean an empty stall.


Jacob smirks a bit at the blue hob's words, although his dark eyes are taking in the missing ear. As well as the various missing parts on the hobs beyond the staff they're currently next to. He catches Brent's words and gives a slight nod, and then he's making a finger-gun gesture at the hob, "We might just have a look around before we decide. We need to talk to the Ghostmother before we can do our shopping. So the sooner we find her, the sooner we can strike some bargains." He whinks at the hob, then turns towards the others.

His eyes fall on Gilles and he says, "You said you were looking to make contacts. I'm guessing you have some market experience. You want to take the lead on negotiations. I'll back you up if you need it." Jacob can be a smoozer, but he's only been out a couple of years and has limited market experience. Besides, he wants a chance to step back and take in the other hobs and their... injuries.


"Sorry, sorry. Not trying to jinx us..." Ashton murmurs back at Simin and Charity. His stomach rumbles involuntarily at the mention of pies and he gives it a covert thump with a fist. Not the time, especially when he catches on to exactly what Brent's hinting at, which sours one's appetite quickly. The Darkling comments nack in a similar tone, "I think I know what you're talking about. One or two instances, wouldn't think anything of it... But there's definitely a pattern here..."


Gilles gives a slight shrug of his shoulders and flashes a quick smile. "Markets are the same everywhere you go," he says, "only the goods change. Fresh produce, roasted coffee, wild boar, or dreams. People want to sell and people want to buy." He takes a moment to adjust his grip on the hand cart and turns to leave the 'helpful' purveyor of information in order to try and find some of the merchants who deal with more tangible wares.


"Yes," Charity immediately replies to Brent, also quietly. Nodding in her agreement with the others. "Reminds me of what happens when someone doesn't show thanks for a bit of luck that came their way." A press of her lips, and a flare of her nostrils. Her gaze flits to Jacob as he mentions the Ghostmother, and she then watches the blue-skinned hob's reaction to it.


Simin quietly makes a couple more notes in his notebook, maybe just noting down some of the items he sees on sale, jotting down a name a hob screams out trying to get business, starting to note them by 'Missing left ear', 'Hob missing nose that's selling fruits', 'Legless one selling ?' and so on. Brent's observation gets a softly murmured, "Its one thing to say something /figuratively/ costs you and arm and a leg, but fuck me..." With a sigh, he glances back at Jacob and Gilles, opening his mouth as if to ask something, then pausing, waiting to see if the Hob is going to volunteer information in an effort to get a customer.


The blue hob issues a 'tch' that interrupts his distraction, that accompanies a recentering of his attention on Jacob. "Back by the star," he answers, pointing in a direction which, at first, seems random. Those with keen eyes--which may well be everyone present--might catch the tall posts which dot the market with signs hanging from them, including one with a seven-pointed star. "That one's for free. Goodwill." He taps one thick-tipped finger to his nose then points to Gilles. "You know. You want to buy? To sell? Can tell you where to sell!" But Gilles has already moved on, leaving the blue dude muttering in his wake. Until he catches Charity's comment about luck. His gaze snaps to her, regarding her with sharper curiosity now. Wariness, perhaps.

There are several stalls with fairly familiar wares in the near vicinity, some of which are even in the same general direction as that not-too-distant star they might want to follow. The brewer has several to pick from, including: a table with jewels and gems and cheap gumball-machine jewelery on display in glass cases; a vendor plunked down amid several piles of socks sorted by color; a very gloomy stall with thick cover overhead filled with bins of strange mushrooms, jars of preserves, tubs of odd-smelling ointments; a collection of broken mirrors sold by a hob with an equally fractured face. Just to name a few.


Jacob lifts an eyebrow as the blue hob points towards the star. He reaches up, tipping an imaginary hat to the hob. "Thank you. You will definitely be remembered." Either in a favorable way because the Ghostmother /is/ by the star, or in unfavorable way for lying. He turns towards the others and murmurs, "This seems... way too easy." Another glance around them, at the various maimed hobs. "Way too easy. But it's a lead."

He starts with the others towards the sign with the star on it, although he'll slow down for Gilles to speak with the other merchants. There are still many questions left to be answered, after all. And who knows if blue-hob's even telling the truth. He murmurs to Ashton and Simin, "Hopefully we keep all our parts."


Gilles moves among the goblins of the market, offering cups from the beer that he has brought. Having lived in Paris in the 1920's he's got some familiarity with markets and so isn't completely at a loss. He introduces himself as being new to the area and expresses interest in finding both suppliers as well as distributors, all the while paying careful attention to how the goblins interact with one another as he attempts to work out the hierarchy of the market and the trustworthiness of its various inhabitants.

As he works he also mentions now and again the Ghostmother, carefully gauging reactions and seeing what information he can glean from those who aren't quite so guarded.


Brent has fallen into his role of "mostly quiet muscle." He follows Gilles, making sure to look around a lot. The socks get a weird look, but otherwise, he's mostly just relaxing. Maybe too relaxed. The kind of relaxed a predator gets before coiling to spring.

At least he isn't intentionally baring his fangs.

Yet.


Ashton's nostrils flares to take in the strange smells that goes along with the strange sights. At a different time, in a different place, he might already be rummaging through his duffel bag to go through the trinkets that he has available to trade. But similar to what some of the others in the group are doing, the Spring Darkling's silently cataloging all the Hobs with missing pieces they pass by instead, trying to determine if there's another pattern hidden within the pattern. "Yeah, not letting any of mine get taken... not even the relatively unimportant pieces," Ashton tells Jacob after hearing the Fairest's comment. A small nod towards Gilles. "He seems to know what he's doing."


Charity's lips quirk, slightly, at something Simin says. But when that blue hob turns his attention so sharply on her, he gets the same right back. *I see you*, that look from the not-a-werewolf says. "Mmm," she intones, quietly. "Thought so." The others are moving along, but it's the blue hob she keeps glancing back towards, for a bit. Even if the crow part of her brain is certainly tempted by all the pretty shinies, and broken mirrors. Brushing a finger across a few of them, in passing. Casually.


Simin murmurs at Jacob, "Depends. Though if he ends up bring right, just remember that one on the way back out. If he thinks you took advantage of his goodwill, they WILL find a way to fuck us when we come back." Simin's such a bundle of cheerfulness. Ashton just gets a small little nod and an agreement, "I intend to be leaving with all of the body parts I had when we walked in, thank you." With that said, he falls quiet to listen to Gilles' potential negotiations, while trailing along with Jacob, since he's the one that has the conversation that needs to happen with Ghostmother. Simin just supposedly knows where he's going. Something like that.


The hobs near this side entrance seem a mostly amiable lot. Whether that extends to the rest of the market or not remains to be seen. Of course, it's very likely that Free Samples of tasty beer have a whole lot to do with their friendliness. A few recommend he visit with Jack at the Sans Merci and wave in a general direction toward what might be the center of the market. The Mycologist offers a jar of brown-capped mushrooms preserved in a pale pearlescent pink substance which smell bitter and earthy and slightly sweet, encouraging Gilles to brew with that and bring some back. See how it works, how it tastes. Mentions of the Ghostmother are mostly met with fond murmurs of approval, though a few of the hobs shudder, maybe mentioning once or twice the strange company she keeps. The cracked-faced hob with her broken-glass voice tells Gilles, "She's who you see for weddings and deaths, for joinings and partings, to bind and to break." There might be fondness in her tone, if it can be discerned through the crackling.

The blue hob keeps his eyes on Charity as he rubs the side of his head where his ear used to be, tracking her as she moves on to other stalls. All his bluster is gone, he makes no further attempt to engage the group, muttering a mantra to himself to remind, "She's gone, she's gone. She's gone," as he sinks down into his seat.

There are a great many stalls and structures between the entrance and their destination. Plenty of places to stop and shop, to browse and schmooze, plenty of hobs who will eagerly accept drinks for good and information, even if the trinkets they hand over are as-yet-glamourless knickknacks, all their potential stuck at the beginning of a story, being found and traded and nothing at all significant yet. It's easy to tell when they're getting close to the Ghostmother. Oh, sure, there's the sign they pass under, that marker a good guidepost, but it's more something in the air, the way the paths widen like the other merchants just didn't want to be too close to the tangled garden pushing up through the fog that sticks unnaturally to a large square lot marked with memorial stones and statues. A hunched figure is nearly obscured in the mist, tall antlers, all twisted and thorny, peeking up past a spill of snow-white hair.


Jacob lets Gilles do his trading and smoozing, but it's clear that the longer they dally, the more impatient he grows. Finally, he murmurs, "I'm going to find her. We know where." A glance around at the market, then back to the others. He lowers the voice, "Maybe she's the reason..." he waves a hand towards the market. He nods to Simin's words and smirks, "Thankfully, I intend to."

With that, he's heading towards the sight with the start. He notes how the path widens up and he pauses, slipping off the knapsack and offering it to Ashton or Simin, or whoever will take it. He then adjusts his suit, dusting out a crease here and there. One must look good for important meetings. That done, he moves forward, approaching the hunched figure in the mist. "Ghostmother," he gives a polite bow. "I come hoping you can answer some questions we have. We won't take up too much of your time."


Brent takes the pack, blinking at Jacob's impatience, but says nothing, just follows as close as his bike will let him get. He glances to Charity.


Gilles gladly takes the offered mushrooms, taking a moment to appreciate their aroma. "I think I can make an excellent brew with this," he says with a smile. "I will bring you a cask as soon as I am able." He notes the recommendation to speak to Jack as well, though the name of the Sans Merci doesn't seem to sit particularly well with him. In the meantime he directs the group towards the square. "She seems to be something of le Grande Matrone of the village," he informs Jacob.


Ashton keeps watches, but doesn't stray far from the cluster of Lost that he came. No matter how friendly the Hobs seem to be, the Darkling continue to be ill at ease. The hand not twined into the loop of his duffel bag keeps reach up to touch the hilts of his throwing knives to make sure that they're still in place. He's simply not stupid enough to draw one of them and risk breaking any Market rules with a sign of aggression. When the group comes within sight of their target, the Darkling draws in a breath, which escapes from the corners of his lips along with curls of pale mist.


When he sits down, Charity stops eyeing the blue hob. There's a thoughtful little furrow to her brow, but whatever it is that the wolf is working over in her mind, it doesn't stop her from following the lead towards that place where the guideposts mark the one that they're searching for. Autumn as she is, she has to admire it all, from the fog to the memorials to the antlers and the white hair. Commitment, she can appreciate.


Simin murmurs at Charity, "I suspect you are making an impression," nodding his chin towards the blue hob as they leave him behind. He keeps his hand on the hilt of his blade while they make their way through the Market towards the garden in the center of the foggy marketness, reaching out to take the offered packfrom Jacob, shouldering it for a moment to leave his arms free, and slowing down his approach so he hangs back with the rest of the Lost while Jacob addresses what they are all hoping is the Ghostmother.


When addressed, the Ghostmoster rises from the fog to an impressive height. She wears a voluminous robe in ghostly grey with pale fur around its collar, a few sharp teeth dangling in decoration about her shoulders. Her face is gnarled and hollow, more animal than man, though it's difficult to cite a precise species of reference. The antlers are large enough to be a burden, a slight hunch to her posture, though that may be for the way she needs to look down at others. Those paying careful attention might note dark, crimson stains at the lower hem of her garb, a scent of dried blood in the air. Dark eyes look over the lot of Lost, each in turn, then end where they began, attention settled on Jacob. "I've heard whispers." Her own voice sounds like one, possessed of an inherent hush, like wind through the trees, which doesn't diminish the volume, the sound easily carrying despite its softness. "Six in search of my quiet grove. Come. Sit." She extends a bony hand toward stone benches among the monuments and mists and weeds, an invitation into this small patch of her personal domain.


Brent hesitates, looking to his compatriots, before looking around and quietly telling his mount not to go anywhere. Skittish thing, it 'revs' once he gets off it, but it can't be helped. He walks into the grove and finds a seat, eyes searching for Charity. The Autumn woman would provide some comfort, right now. But he does not ask and does not assume.


Jacob can't help but be a little awed by the Ghostmother. Still, he offers her a smile and he nods, "It would be our honor." He looks back at the others and gives a thumbs up, motioning for them to join him. He moves to take a seat on one of the benches, his gaze srifting over the various monuments in the mist, reading those he can.

He takes a seat, turning his gaze back to the Ghostmother. "Perhaps, too, you have heard rumours of New Orleans. And of Lost. We come with a mystery. A door we believe may be linked to a curse or oath of some sort. And... we want to discover /why/ New Orleans was abandoned, and if it's related. We were told that if anybody knew these things, it would be you."


Gilles parks his handcart before entering into the Ghostmother's garden. He's not overly worried about its contents, trusting that the majority of goblins would not likely steal from her guests and at any rate his wares had already done their job. He lets Jacob take the lead and simply offer a polite, "Merci grand-mere," before he takes a seat.


Ashton glances briefly at the others before he steps towards the stone benches. The Darkling bows respectfully to the horned crone on passing, but he doesn't outright speak words of thanks. "One whom others go to for bindings and breakings," Ashton adds softly to Jacob's words, paraphrasing what one of the hobs told Gilles earlier. He takes a seat and carefully places his duffel bag at his feet.


"Don't I always, darling?," Charity muses back to Simin, with a quirk of lips. There's something left unsaid, though. A glance to both men that touch their blades, and a bit of the tension relaxing in her further. Not comfortable, not by far. But a little less like a cord about to snap. The rev of the hedgecycle has her gaze flitting back to Brent and, catching that look on his face, she takes a few steps towards him. Taking a seat next to him, but only taking up the edge of the stone bench.


Its the invitation to join Jacob that has the Snowskin hesitating, then glancing at the others to make sure they are advancing before stepping forward to join them on one of the benches, making a point to not sit too far away from the rest, where he can crane his head around a little before murmuring at the Ghostmother, "Thank you for your hospitality." With that said, he settles down, folding his hands in his lap for the time being while he listens to Jacob's request and watches for the response.


The air is thicker, heavier in the odd lot the Ghostmother has made her own, like a cool morning in a humid marsh. It carries the promise of a chill, a sense of being watched... the latter of which is, at least, easy to explain as other market hobs consider the old woman holding court. Tumbledown, here, seems eerily quiet, as if everyone were leaning in to hear that not-quite-whispered voice as it carries down rows and between stalls. She bows her antlered head in gracious acceptance of Gilles' gratitude and offers Jacob patient regard. It's Ashton's addendum which earns her first voiced response, a simple, sibillant, "Yes." Gaunt hands fold in front of her as she shuffles a little closer, into a position where she can see all of the visiting Lost, including the man with the motorcycle. "An old oath has been broken. The world, no longer bound by its rules, changes." Her inhuman nose twitches slightly. "What would you ask? What do you offer?"


Brent offers a belated incline of his head and, before the woman speaks, says a soft, "Thank you, ma'am..." his pale face burning from more than the Hedge's weather gracing his face. Then he tries to fade into the mists unsuccessfully, letting Jacob speak. But he sits between Simin and Charity, and winces. He done fucked up. But he's beside someone he trusts and that helps. Charity gets a crooked smile out of him, anyway.


Jacob glances at the others as they offer their additional words, nodding his approval. He looks back at the Ghostmother, listening as she offers those words. He considers a moment, then says, "We wish do know if the broken oath and the Lost reappearing in New Orleans are related, what the oath was, why there were no Lost before. And... about Tumbledown." He has so many questions, but he catches himself before he can ask too many. "As for payment... what is it that you desire?"


Ashton simply watches and listens for now, letting Jacob and more socially savvy in the group take the lead. He keeps his duffel bag sandwiched between his feet, the straps looped loosely in his hands, and leans forward slightly to focus on the conversation.


"Your time is appreciated," the blonde murmurs. Charity's hand reaches out to give Brent's leg a little squeeze, but it's brief. Hands kept in her own lap, and free. An abundance of caution, and respect, for the Ghostmother. Though she does flick her gaze towards Jacob at the last of his words. More cautious, now.


Simin scrunches his nose a little as he listens to the back and forth between Jacob and the Ghostmother, reaching into his vest to get that notebook out and whips the pencil back out, quietly jotting back down a couple of notes while he listens to the conversation, writing something down, underlining it, then pausing, considering showing it to Jacob but holding off while he talks to Her (tm).

The Ghostmother is quiet for a moment on the wake of Jacob's request, though it's difficult to know if she's considering it or allowing room for others to add to it before she answers. "All of us touched by the Wyrd are bound by oaths, defined by them in ways we wear both plainly and quietly. How winter clings to your note-taker. How your bike-rider smells of rain. How you all ally yourselves." Her smile is unsettling, the way her mouth splits vertically in the center, rising to her nose. Blessedly, it's brief and thin. "Some are nothing but their oaths and the stories woven into them. The Butcher Queen of Barracks Street was one. Her rule over Tumbledown was absolute. Her influence on the city beyond was pervasive. She is dead now, her oath broken."

Though she falls quiet, her head cants in a thoughtful manner, indicative of consideration, of more to come. "I could learn the details of the broken oath in exchange for three things: the ghost of someone who died violently, a memory of a ghost held dear and the ghost of a love that has died."

Jacob listens intently to the Ghostmother's words, dark gaze locked on her. He's quiet a moment, then nods, "You are very wise, Ghostmother." He bows his head a moment to her, "I would speak to my companions a brief moment, please." He turns his attention to the tohers and says, "The first two wouldn't be too hard, but the last..." And, a bit lower, "And there are many different types of ghosts. What do you think?" He eyes Simin's notebook curiously but doesn't ask about it just yet.


Gilles thinks about Jacob's question for a moment. "Though I do not think we should turn away from knowledge," he says, "I have to wonder how crucial it is to find this information. It seems as though she speaks about one of the Gentry who had the ability to keep the Lost away. Something has happened and they are no more, and with them this ward has gone." He pauses in thought and says, "Perhaps some of the others in the city might have information. It seems hard to believe that such an entity would simply vanish. Perhaps someone knows of what happened."


"Huh... The Butcher Queen. And I suppose she's the one collecting pieces from the denizens here," Ashton murmurs to the group. His solid silver eyes glance briefly towards the Ghostmother before returning to the group. "Our host can probably listen to our conversation while we're in her domain if she's inclined to, so we might want to be careful. Either way, maybe she doesn't require literal ghosts? Could be that something with the correct emotional residue clinging strongly enough to it would satisfy the conditions. And there could always be others around here we can ask that can give us enough of the pieces to draw the full conclusion." A nod of acknowledgement is sent Gilles' way. "Or..." The Darkling hesitates briefly. "What if we find where the dead queen lies? Could be that she left a ghost of her own and we can wrangle some answers out of it. But this might be the most dangerous option, especially if there's an alternative meaning for 'dead' at work here."


Charity's gaze flicks to Brent, and then Simin, as the Ghostmother mentions each one of them. Listening, quietly. Attentive. Taking her own notes, if not written ones. "Yes," she replies to Ashton. "Though past tense. That's why the hob we met at first looked nervous when I mentioned luck." Her voice is quiet. "I don't believe that They leave ghosts. At least I hope to all hells that they don't." The thought makes her blanche a bit, before she continues. "The memory of a ghost is not an actual ghost. But it is a memory. If one is willing to part with that. I might be."


She mentions learning the oath and that seems to settle Simin down, maybe whatever he was going to nudge Jacob about had something to do with that. Who knows? He can ask later if they survive intact. When Jacob turns his attention back tothe group, Simin glances down and rolls a shoulder, "We'll need to know how long her offer is good for. We don't have what she wants right now, and there's no point gathering it and coming back only to find the offer has changed because we took too long." The little notebook is still out, an extra line or two added while they discuss the matter among themselves.


The Ghostmother keeps still and silent while the Lost speak. If she can hear them, she offers neither indication nor response, permitting them the illusion of privacy if not any actual privacy itself. Others look on with curiosity, but it's doubtful they can hear anything going on, no matter how they might lean and strain.


Jacob considers the words of the others. To Gillese he nods, "We can pursue multiple paths. I do think we should ask around more. The Butcher Queen..." He ponders that a moment, then looks towards Ashton and nods, "Exactly what I was thinking. And perhaps we can find how more about this Butcher Queen, and what happened to her." He nods at Clarity's words as well. Then, to Simin, "A good point."

Finally, he turns back towards the Ghostmother and smiles, "Thank you for your patience. I am interested. In learning of the oath, of Tumbledown, and of the reason for the Lost's absence in New Orleans. I have a question though. How long is this bargain good for? We obviously do not have what you desire at this very moment. We will need to return, assuming we can find what we need."


Gilles returns to sitting politely and watching the conversation between Jacob and the Ghostmother without interjecting himself.


Ashton murmurs in reply to Charity, "Could be that the Butcher Queen isn't one of Them, but if she was, that just makes the 'dead' part even more sketchy." The Spring Darkling makes a face before schooling it back into a more politely neutral expression once Jacob engages with the Ghostmother once again.


Charity shakes her head slightly. "I believe she was. I could be wrong. But I don't believe that I am." Confidence, but not cockiness. "I had spent some time looking into her. There's always more to learn, of course." She glances over to Simin, and his writing, before nodding to his words. She goes quiet, then, as Jacob turns to face the Ghostmother again. Watching. Listening.


"My price to learn the details of the oath which bound the Butcher Queen of Barracks Street will not change." An answer and a clarification, that the price stated is for that one specific thing. The Ghostmother shifts her weight, a quiet creak of wood or bone beneath her robes, and looks to the rest. "Tumbledown Market has existed on this side of Barracks Street for as long as the mortal market has existed on the other side. Both began with bone and blood, with muscle and sinew. Both are something else now. Tumbledown is open to your kind, as it always has been." Another look among the group to see if there are other questions, then a look past at seemingly nothing. A nod.


Simin nods lightly at Jacob as he turns back to the Ghostmother to ask about the length of the offer, trying to listen, while offering a small negative shake of his head to Ashton, "I dont know if it is or not. If the Butcher Queen WAS one of Them, then yeah, dead can mean a lot of things, none of them permanent. Lets just hope she wasn't. I don't like following in Their footsteps, gone or not gone." With that reservation voiced, he trails back off to listen tothe explanation.


Jacob nods to the Ghostmother's words, and clarification, offering a smile. "Thank you." He moves to stand up, offering her a short bow. "I look forward to speaking with you again soon. You have my gratitude for your time. We will leave you now, unless..." He turns towards the others. "Unless anyone else has further questions?" She is, after all, knowledgeable about many things. "If not, I believe I need to speak with a certain one-eared vendor." He smiles a bit at that. "Charity, perhaps you could tell us more about your research, too."


Gilles shakes his head as he stands. "I have nothing to ask," he says before turning to address the Ghostmother, "except perhaps to ask if there is something I could bring to show our appreciation for your help."


Ashton gives a slight shake of his head to indicate that he has no more questions for now. "Maybe I'll have some after we poke around some more. But it's hard to know what the right questions are without more information first," the Darkling says softly to the group. "For all we know, we're already tugging at the wrong string. The one most visible isn't always the one that unravels the skein." Ashton stands up as well, picking up his duffel bag along with that motion, and gives the Ghostmother a respectful bow for the hospitality given.


"Of course," Charity offers to Jacob. "We can meet soon, at your place? And chat a bit about what I've learned." She looks to the Ghostmother, and gives a dip of her head. "Your time and knowledge are appreciated."


"I have heard--" From whom, one might wonder. "--of your craft," the Ghostmother answers Gilles with a nod toward the goods left just outside her lot. "I would partake, if any remains." The rest are given a low bow of her thorn-antlered head, acknowledgement of their intended departure. "I remain."


Simin shakes his head slightly in the negative at Jacob, though he pauses to address the Ghostmother, "Thank you for your time.." He pauses long enough to slowly rise back up to his feet and step away from the bench, making room for the rest of the little adventuring party to get up and get out of the way, lingering a little to bring up the rear when people turn to go, though the comment about partaking og Gilles' booze DOES get the flicker of some amusement on his face, that vanishes just as quickly.


Gilles smiles and sketches a slight formal bow to the Ghostmother. "Of course," he says to her, "with my compliments."