The Black Thorn 3

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By Daniel Leininger from Edwardsville, IL / St Louis, MO, United States (Abandoned House Uploaded by LongLiveRock) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Thorn 2

The motley, along with Chad the goblin, made their way across town. Their course was directed by Chad and had so many turns it was amazing he could remember them all. Eventually, they rolled to a stop near an old section of neighborhood with many rundown, small homes. It was hard to tell which were abandoned and which were not, but Chad pointed out the one occupied by the Black Thorn.

It didn't look like much, but given the thorny vines that were taking over the property, it seemed appropriate.

"She's in there," Chad said as he hopped out of the car and began leading them down the garbage-strewn street.

"Stupid desert," muttered Mira. "At least it could be raining when we do this sort of thing."

Chad ignored her and prattled on. "Of course when I say she's in there, I don't mean actually there, in the house. She's on the faerie side. But the Gate Keeper will let us through once he sees you're with me."

Less shivered at the thought of a vampire in the Faery Realms. The whole plan had his stomach writhing. He tried to cover his uneasiness by focussing on Mira. "Maybe you'll be in luck and the Black Thorn's domain in Faery will be a seaside resort."

Mira laughed. "You've seen my kind of luck up close. Care to revise that hope?"

The group paused in front of the house and Chad looked back at them impatiently. It was their last chance to turn back and they each knew it. Mira sighed and slumped a little, but she followed Chad.

"After you," Rey said softly, with a polite gesture to Less. She wasn't the slightest bit happy about the situation, but what else could they do.

Less' eyes gave Rey a worried looks. He took a deep breath, then stepped out of the desert sun and into the gloom of the house.

Mira followed as Less and Rey stepped over the threshold. The place where a door once stood was now only darkened maw with splintered wood for teeth. Dust stung the nose as they paused a moment to allow eyes to adjust to the hanging gloom. Something, somewhere in the house, slithered.

Chad bellowed, "Ho good man! I bring new recruits to join the ranks of our glorious union!"

A deep rumble vibrated through the house and a face crossed an adventuresome but feeble beam of light. The ogre's mug was easily double the size of Mira's face. He snorted, then leaned closer to eye Rey. His breath stank of something coppery and rotten. "I know this one. Lady Sage, is it?" His deep voice had a vaguely English accent to it. Rey though he recognized the ogre as once being a stalwart defender of the Summer Court.

Rey nods but says nothing, wondering if the ogre ate anyone who tried to cause trouble - or changed their minds about joining.

Mira missed what the ogre said next because she kept imagining what he'd sound like saying fe "fi fo fum" and then eating them. The ogre used a long inhale to gather in the scents of his visitors. "Well met," he rumbled after a moment. "I am Lord of the Thorn Gate. The Chad vouches for you; good enough for me."

Chad winked back at Less. "I recruited him," he whispered conspiratorially.

Lord Thorn eyed Less, but didn't say much of anything; he simple nodded. Mira he glanced at but seemed utterly dismissive of her. "As you might say," said the ogre, "mind the gap."

A violent swirling motion erupted before the four of them. Violent light writhed widdershins against dead, black light. Then with a strangely mechanical gasp, a hole opened between this world and some grey realm of Faerie. There was indeed a gap and it required a small hop to move through the Shadow Gate.

Moments later, the group was through, the Gate sealing behind them. Before them lay a dry, grey landscape populated by a single, tall manor. Where the house in the physical world was rotted and abandoned, this one show a pallid sort of life. While it was also overgrown, it was in condition with intact windows and brickwork instead of wood. Sounds echoed from the back of the house, rather than from inside it; it sounded like a grand party was going on back there. A gap in a long, tall hedge allowed admittance for adventurous souls who might skip the heavy iron knocker at the front door and prefer to venture around back.

"Friendly place," mumbled Less as he surveyed the empty land surrounding them. He tested his influence on the Fae Realm he was in. "Brambles are near and dear to your heart, Rey. Do these ones respond to your commands?"

"If they were normal, mainland plants, then there wouldn't be much trouble," Rey says. "But these here? Your guess is as good as mine. Did you want me to try?"

"Wouldn't you like to know the extent of your powers here? I do not intend to stay and want to know my options."

"Or, it could announce there are powerful fae present," Rey said, though she suspects the ruler of this realm likely already knew. She lets loose a bit of her magic to see if she can make the thorns move. She finds that it isn't difficult, but as soon as she stops concentrating on it, the plant returns to the way at was. "Interesting," she murmurs.

"I don't think it matters how powerful we seem. We are here to join the Black Thorn. Our powers will soon belong to it."

Resp?

Less was inclined to delay the inevitable for as long as possible and avoid the party out back. "The house might hold some information that might be relevant." He wasn't very hopeful, though, and it showed in his posture. He moved up the path to the front door and tried to pull it open.

The door opened with a welcoming gust of warm wind. Full view of the cozy interior was interrupted by a smiling greeter. Chad stepped up and interjected himself between Less and the little fae woman with green vines for hair that floated above the floor on gossamer wings. Chad said, "New recruits, Maeve! Volunteers from across the mortal realm of Mythic."

The little fae executed a little dip to show excitement. She was a little smaller than Mira and had pretty eyes despite the redness and dark circles under them. "Greetings travelers, and welcome to your new home," she said.

"How do you do, Maeve?" Less took the woman's tiny hand in his and shook it vigorously. He studied her carefully, noting her exhaustion. "It sounds like you have a full house here. Will there be room for us?"

"No need for concern," Maeve replied with another little dip. "The Black Thorn provides us all with what we require."

"Does our beloved Black Thorn have time to see our new friends?" Chad asked.

A cold little smile made Maeve's lips twitch momentarily. "The Black Thorn always makes time to meet new faces. I will inform her of your arrival --"

"Oh please, may I?" Chad interrupted hopefully.

Maeve paused and looked Chad carefully up and down. She smiled humorlessly. "Very well. She is in the study. I will remain then, and attend to your guests." She put it in a way to make him aware that she would take over because he was obviously eager to neglect his duties as a host, but Chad seemed uncaring of her accusing stare. Chad was taking his leave before Maeve had even finished.

When he was gone, she sighed and dropped to the floor. She stood a little under five feet tall and had the appearance of an early teenage girl. Appearance among the fae, of course, were a poor indicate of age or power, of course.

Less didn't like the idea of Chad meeting with the Black Thorn about them privately. He desperately wanted to chase after the goblin and zap strap him by the neck in an out-of-the-way closet. By the time he debated with himself whether to intercept him or just accept the fact that everyone coming through the door was unwilling at first, he had slipped through his fingers. "Mira, why don't you help Chad with the introductions," he said to her meaningfully. To Maeve he said, "Chad has been very helpful. How long have you been with the Black Thorn?"

Mira had inclined her head when Less asked her to go with Chad, and departed quietly in the direction she saw chad disappear.

"About three months," Maeve replied. "Would you two care for some refreshments? Tabitha vinifies our best wine if you'd like to try some."

"Just water for me," said Less, thinking of Mira. "It's uncommonly dry here. I was expecting that it would be lush here, a place of luxury and growth."

Maeve smiled as she gestured to a lounging spriggan. "My dear... ?" she paused to let him fill in the blank.

"Seleman, Les Seleman. At your service."

"Mr. Seleman, I'm sure you can appreciate that the Black Thorn provides haven for far more than green-loving Summer Courtiers. Indeed much of our membership is made of Unseelie or Unaligned, like myself. The building and the immediate area reflects the membership that we children of the Black Thorn encompass. If it seems a little rough or even barren to you, it is only that there have been fewer Seelie members around of late." Maeve glanced in the direction that Chad and Mira had gone, but there was no sign of their return yet, so continued to make conversation. "The three of you seemed comfortable in each other's presence. Tell me, are you close?"

Less shrugged, not wanting to admit any leverage they could hold over him. "There are others closer, but they have not yet chosen to join with the Black Thorn and reunite the Courts."

Tag! Feel free to request skill rolls if you wish to actively identify, look for things, or sense things here. :) If I ask for rolls, sometimes it's like advertising with a big neon sign SOMETHING IS HERE!! on the other hand, if I don't ask sometimes no one might think to look around a bit. But in Fate, it's always useful because even if *I* don't have something planned to be there, a good roll can still turn something up!

I would like to look for evidence of the fae here being completely taken by the Black Thorn. Presumably, the three drinks from the Black Thorn do not happen in quick succession. I don't know if 3 months means it has been plenty of time for Maeve to be completely taken, but her exhaustion must be a sign of something. Maybe its only the incessant partying.

I think that should be perfectly doable. Maeve isn't terribly keen on letting the downsides of being addicted to vampire juice becoming known before the newbies are hooked, of course, so she's been trying to keep your attention focused on her. For that reason I'll start the difficulty to notice the evidence you are looking for at a Fair (+2) difficulty and you can choose to use Notice or Empathy. This is to notice the condition of fae that are in worse shape than Maeve. You could make this even easier if you decide to walk away from Maeve and poke around on your own. Then the difficulty will be Mediocre (+0).

Watching Maeve herself to see if she lets slip something is a bit more difficult because, if she's really a raving addict, she's a very high functioning one. Rey, with a high empathy skill, might study her and place a few careful questions to find out more. Less, having recently found out Mira's dirty little secret, might instead mentally compare Maeve with what he knows of Mira's behavior since last fall to find out if Maeve is in exactly the same position as Mira, or if perhaps there are subtle difference, using Notice. Either task is quite difficult as Maeve is a deceitful little fairy, so I'll set the difficulty for that at her Deceive skill: Great (+4).