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    1. Dragonbud 9 yrs ago
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Rowan and Senna were tucked into the tree line, about 500 feet away from the tower, awaiting some sort of signal or sign that it was safe for them to start moving. It shouldn't take the pair more than a minute to quickly, but quietly, make it to the tower, but getting there before the diversion started would be dangerous.

But the waiting was the hard part, Rowan was getting antsy.

He was trying to occupy himself, getting himself prepped for the attack. For the past few minutes he had been doing warm up stretches, bending over to touch his toes and stretching his arms across his chest. Basically anything to keep from standing still.

He takes a glance over at his companion. She seemed perfectly capable, everything would go just fine. Hopefully.

The fairy squats down in the grass sprouting in this tree line. His brown eyes scan the ground a moment. He takes a deep breath, and pulls a small knife out of a sheath on his belt. He cuts five blades of grass from the patch. Stashing the grass in his pocket, he then produces a handful of tiny seeds, sprinkling them where he trimmed the grass. Rowan continued to look down at the grass, a concentrated look on his face. He runs his hand over the seeds, slowly exhaling, as his hand pulls away it reveals tiny sprouts where the seeds once were.

Rowan stands, stretching his arms over his head. He looks at Senna.

"Alright, do you have any concerns?"

He looks away with a huff.

"I've never worked with someone...sight impaired before. I don't want to hold your hand or like...have a leash around you. Cause I know you don't need that."

He pauses a moment, stealing a glance at the Darkling.

"But I don't want to leave you stranded either so...what do you need? Descriptions? Whistle signals?

Senna responded to Rowan's words by raising an eyebrow. From where she stood, she'd been patiently waiting for the fight between Adam, Lulian, Irae, and Amelia to begin. Instead of worrying about the plan, she thought it over as she listened to the breathing of her partner. She could hear the faint wheels of the trojan horse in the distance. The way Rowan spoke to her feigned nonchalance so obvious that Senna knew he was genuinely concerned for her. She smirked.

"Unless I spontaneously lose my hearing, you won't have to worry about me." Her voice only had a hint of snark to it.

She almost left it at that, but she remembered the leash comment and frowned.

"If anyone puts a leash on me, they're going to lose a hand." She muttered

Rowan blinks, snorts, and then laughs at this comment. He stifles the sound slightly, not wanting to give away their position. After a moment Rowan finally speaks.

”Gotcha, noted. I’d like to keep my hands.”.

The fairy quickly sorts through his bag, pulling out the two grappling hooks Emrys lent him. They were...heavier than he would have liked, but there was no point complaining now. Rowan had also given them a little customization, he holds one out in front of Senna.

”Here’s your grappling hook. I wrapped a thin cloth around each of the tines, so they won’t make a really loud scraping sound when they hook the tower wall. I trust the rest of the Pride to be distracting, but I want to give us as much of an advantage as possible.”

Senna clicks her tongue once before her long fingers reach towards the rope and grasp it. She gives Rowan a nod before securing the makeshift grappling hook to her belt on the opposite side of her pistol. ”Good idea.” She then slowly pulls her gloves to reveal the wrappings around her wrists, palm, and fingers. She tucks the gloves into a pocket before stretching her fingers out. ”I’m not sure if you’ll have time, but I do have one request.” She could hear the ox and cart rolling to a stop down the way. It was almost time.

”When we’re climbing… if you see any arrows coming our way, let me know.”

Rowan nods, but then quickly realizes the gesture would be lost on Senna.

”Yeah...yeah I can do that.”

Before any further words could be said, a sound caught Senna’s attention from the direction of the cart. The clash of metal against metal. The first fight had started.

Senna held up her hand as a gesture to wait, just in case Rowan heard it too. ”When you see the archers at the top of the tower fall, we move in. Only when the archers are taken out can we make the distance between the trees and the tower without getting hurt.”

As soon as the fighting had begun Rowan poked his head out of the treeline, just slightly, wanting to keep tabs on the melee group. Just barely, with his keen fairy eyes, could Rowan see the figures clashing. Although it was difficult to identify who was who, given that it was dark, and the fighting was happening far across a field.

Rowan narrowed his eyes slightly, huffing. He didn’t like the suggestion for the pair to wait until the four bandit archers had been killed for them to start moving. The two were about 500 feet away from the tower. It wouldn’t take a human all that long to sprint that distance, but the two of them had little legs. Not only that but the field had pretty tall grass, it was dark, and the bandits probably weren’t looking for two Fae to be tearing ass across the field.

But the captain's order is the captain’s order. Rowan really didn’t want to piss the guy off. He liked his job, and he liked not having arrows in him. Rowan watched the movement of the ground team with wide eyes, trying to keep the locations of his allies and the bandits in mind. But once the archery team got into position, and began firing at the tower, Rowan really started getting excited. His wings fluttered slightly as the arrows rained against the bandits.

He saw enough of these arrows collide with their foes to feel like the time was now. Rowan turns back to Senna, and in a hushed whisper says:

"Alright! Our turn, let's keep close together."

And with a deep breath Rowan dashed into the field. And while not in a dead sprint, as that would be a little too attention grabbing, he was moving pretty quickly. The two of them had to get to and up the tower before any bandits on the ground tried to flee inside, or the captain got smart and fled to the top. It would make it far harder for the two to climb up with a pair of bandits causing problems.

Rowan let one of his hands run through the grass they were hurrying through, the tips of his fingers glowing slightly. Let us through, we will cause no harm.. The grass, seemingly responding to Rowan's magic, parted around the two small humanoids as they charged through the field. The fairy winced slightly, blinking. Casting magic quickly, and while on the move, was difficult and draining. But he would take a headache tomorrow over tripping and falling in a field of tall grass because he and Senna were three feet tall.

Senna hadn’t been able to hear the arrows flying through the air, but she could tell they’d been set loose. Rowan’s wings fluttered; it happened every time he was excited. She even heard a few low thumps of bodies hitting rock. The arrows made their mark. It was time to move. Senna nodded her head when Rowan gave her the okay to go, and she was off.

She ran alongside Rowan with her head ducked low. Her ears heard the rim of her hat skim the tips of the grass until Rowan whispered to them and they parted. Now she only heard the sounds of their feet thumping across the field. She ran for what felt like a long time. Too long. Rowan’s feet slowed and Senna matched his pace until he stopped. Her tongue clicked twice, and she could hear her echos against the tower wall. They’d made it unscathed. Now they just needed to climb.

The pair eventually made it to the tower, approaching from the northern face farthest away from the ground group. As Senna and Rowan got into position to climb, the fairy took glances at the melee team. Shifting focus back to the tower, it was clear that the tower was too tall to simply throw the hook up and hope it stuck. With a sigh Rowan took several steps away from the tower, swinging the grappling hook next to him like a lasso. Once the hook picked up a significant amount of speed, and a good amount of slack, Rowan released it. The tines of the hook grabbing onto the upper lip of the tower, a strong pull confirming that, at least for now, it will hold strong.

While Rowan prepped his grappling hook, Senna knew she wouldn’t be able to hook it from this low. Instead of relying on the rope to aid her climb, she simply removed her gloves and stuffed them into her belt. ”See you at the top,” she said to Rowan before her hands gripped the wall of the tower and she started her ascent. She’d climbed walls like this before. Towers that were made this way, with rock and white clay, made it easy for her thin and long fingers to find a hold in the crevices. Her toes drug across the wall beneath her until they found footing. She continued to feel her way up the tower at a pace faster than Rowan could climb. With one click of her tongue, she knew she’d reached the top. She could hear a remaining bandit scrambling for the hatch and stopped to wait for Rowan. She’d need help to take him out.

Rowan took a glance over to his side, hoping Senna had been able to get her grappling hook ready. Instead he spotted her already climbing. Climbing with just her hands. Rowan blinked, trying to get rid of his wide eyed look of amazement. Rowan began climbing himself, using the rope to assist in his walking up the wall. He occasionally fluttered his wings, not wanting to leave Senna waiting. Pulling himself onto the lip of the tower a few moments after Senna, he was quickly able to discover why she had stopped. One of the bandits was still alive, and attempting to crawl to safety. Rowan frowned, for a moment the softness in his heart taking over.

The fairy grabbed the vine he kept coiled on his hip and with a quick movement of his fingers, and some magical persuading, the vine sprang to life, whipping out towards the injured bandit. It found it’s target not around his neck but instead the man’s leg, pulling the injured man away from the hatch. And Rowan, with the other end of the vine firmly gripped in his hand, barked out in a hopefully intimidating voice:

”Surrender now and you will be spared.” The bandit, eyes wide with terror, raised his hands in the air and mumbled “...o...okay.”

Rowan looks over the edge of the tower, at the melee team making short work of the bandits there.

”And feel blessed that you are dealing with us and not them.” The bandit nodded vigorously, his skin pale, though whether that was from blood loss or fear or both was unclear.

Senna pulled herself over the parapets, then put her gloves back onto her hands before proceeding. She could tell that the man was on the ground, but she had to click her tongue to know the vine was around his ankle. It wasn’t enough to keep the man subdued. Especially because he was being captured by two small fae. With a frown, Senna pulled her scimitar from its sheath and pointed it in the direction of the bandit.

”Move and you’ll regret it.” The bandit replied only by screaming and covering his face.

Now atop the tower, Senna and Rowan got a glimpse of the situation. The battle on the ground was going swimmingly, Adam having already taken down one of the bandits with a swift thrust of his sword, with Iulian and Amelia gaining on the others. Below, they heard the sound of a door slam shut, then muffled shouting. The fourth ground bandit, seeing the situation, had run inside and locked the front door. At the top of the tower, in the corner opposite where the corpses of the bandits slouched, was a wooden trapdoor with a heavy brass ring bolted on to open it. Rowan approached and tugged on the brass ring, but to no avail— the door was sturdily locked, with the bandit captain inside.

Rowan sighed, seeing that the still living bandit was no longer a threat, and the trap door was locked, the Fairy hurried along the lip of the tower, until he was on the face closest to the ground team. Taking a deep breath, Rowan sharply whistled, hoping to at least get Iulian’s attention, pointing and gesturing down at the fourth bandit dashing back into the tower. Rowan considered calling down to the ground team, but really didn’t want to call any more attention to himself and Senna. He turns to the quivering bandit, and attempted to sound friendly.

”Calm down, we aren’t gonna hurt you unless you give us a reason.”

Finn was about to object to the theft of the drink and the cigarettes, as well as the way Hagan practically smashed his way onto the train, but stopped. Finn had to remind themself, again, that this place wasn't real. There were no vendors and employees that were going to get in trouble, and no law enforcement on their way to stop them.

“... Do we have any idea where this train will go if we start it? Not that it matters if it goes outta here but shouldn’t we try figure that out before we go off to some other equally weird place. Though that does sound like a fun adventure.”

Nervously and absentmindedly picking at their fingernails Finn responds.

"F-for the most part this...this train goes westward."

Finn closes their eyes in concentration, visualizing the route of the railroad.

"Th-the Virginias, Ohio, I-indiana and Illinois, but I th-think one of the lines goes up to New York."

They get onto the train, nodding to Hagan who was holding the door open, looking around the walls of the car, hoping to find some sort of map or identification. They frown. As much as this place, this train, everything, felt familiar, they had only taken the train a few times. And...apparently these rides were taken a long time ago.

"But...It's kinda hard to tell...which line we are on.

Finn looks over at Isla, nodding.

"Y-yeah...and we might...be able to...find a railroad map or...something...

Finn had fallen quiet. Now, really taking in the uncanny sights, they were starting to realize that Zoey was right. This place, as much as it looked like home, was still 'Paradise'. For a moment Finn's stomach ached, it felt like they were wandering into a trap. What kind of sick person paints a trap to look like something so safe? What Isla said, about this place possible being formed from their memories, made them all the more anxious. They...didn't remember someone, or something, rooting around in their brain, but at this point they didn't know what to believe.

"Do you know where anything like a train or a bus would be? Or better yet...Somewhere I can get some damn cigarettes so I can focus."

“Or somewhere with a map,”

Finley nodded, although something about the way Isla smiled at the end of her sentence that made Finn feel...uncomfortable. They look away, towards their feet, before eventually turning to look down one of the streets.

"Uh...y-yeah we have a...uh...pretty big train station. It's...not to far away..."

They tenetively look back at the group.

"It will...certainly have maps...and vendors with cigarettes..."

Well...that was if these weird spirits wandering the street were still taking cash for goods.

Not expecting any complaints from the rest of the group Finley began leading them down the street towards the train station. For the most part the walk seemed rather normal, if not creepy knowing that some of the figures passing by were raspy voiced and aggressive. But occasionally a bright brick building seemed...odd. Slightly crooked, or just a bit larger than the building next to it. If this was really a place coming from Finn's memories, they either couldn't remember what each building looked like, or whoever crafted this place was getting lazy.

Eventually the narrow sidewalks widened out into a large parking lot, filled with colorful cars. Finn looked up at the large building the group was approaching. The front entry way featured granite pillars, topped with statues of eagles. Carved over the entry way: PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD EST 1846.

Finn continued to lead their friend through the bustling city, pointing things out like they were a tour guide. Finn was walking rather quickly, accidentally putting distance between the two younger teens and the rest of the group.

"And! O-over there that pizza shop is owned by a...a really nice guy! He's g-given me free food when I told him I was...was hungry and broke!"

Finn looked over their shoulder with concern when Zoey tripped, but this look of worry quickly turned more anxious as the man leaned over Zoey, and vanished after being blasted by her. What he said, Finn was too far away to hear the what but the way he spoke carried on the wind. His voice felt like a maddening, raspy, whisper.

This little outburst, and how the rest of the crowd carried on as if nothing happened, quickly snapped Finn out of their homesick bubble. Yes...this looked like their home, but something did seem strange. It felt...quiet? Empty? Finn felt a chill run up their spine. And suddenly the friendly, smiling, faces of the phantasms in the crowd felt less comforting. Finn quickly lead Trent back over to the main group, suddenly far more worried about the group separating again. Once the pair was back with the group again Finn muttered:

"Y-yeah I...I recognize this p-place but...it feels...different."

Finn frowned. If this...place, Paradise, was really just a strange dream, it was troubling that it was reflecting to a place Finn knew.

You know, somehow Hagan continuing to swing Stacey around by his collar did little to quell Finn's panic. Luckily Zoey and Isla were able to deescalate the situation. Although they did wince as Stacey was thrown to the floor, despite their fear of his powers. They frowned, wanting to check in on the young man but doubting that they would be able to provide any comfort. Finn stood up slowly, their legs still feeling shaky from the anxiety inducing hallucinations. But they did look up as Zoey spoke.

""... And we're definitely not where we last checked."

And with that information Finn smiled, like actually smiled, their form flickering in and out of visibility with excitement. Their eyes were wide as they glanced around the scene outside, taking in the details. Finn hurried over to the door, leaning against the door frame. They call back to the rest of the group.

"Wait! Wait I...I k-know this place!"

Finn turns around and begins walking over to Trent.

"Trent! I only live a...a block away! And my n-neighbor has a telephone in his house we can use!"

They offer a hand to their despondent friend. The younger man takes it, still looking slightly dazed himself. Finn leads him, with a surprising amount of energy, out the door. Finn seemed...a little blinded by the fact they were 'home' again to question how the bank got there.

Finn still felt...stunned. Coming down from the hallucination, the the sort of out of body experience their fear caused, made them feel...disoriented. The small cut on their neck hurt, sure, but what hurt more was what that cut implied. Zoey spoke to them, her voice feeling distant and soft.

After a moment Finn nodded, but couldn't quite speak. They were going to be fine, they just needed a moment to calm down.

But when Hagan suddenly grabbed Stacey, and Zoey joined him in shouting, Finn immediately began to panic again. If Stacey was the one who had caused them to hallucinate, Finn recalled him stomping back into the lobby, clearly upset, right before the visions began. Finn squeezed their eyes shut, clapping their hands over their ears. Panic rising in their chest, making it hard to breathe. After a moment Finn was able to stutter out, their voice full of fear:

"Don't yell at him! He's gonna...he's g-gonna do it again!"

It was strange. Part of Finn knew, or at least believed, that this was some sort of illusion or trick. It was too...specific to what they feared. But the much louder part of Finn knew that this could be completely real. And fear does wild things to one's mind. As Finn continued to press the scissor blades into their neck, the skin starting to yield and scratch, they felt like they had tunnel vision.

All they could see was their hands, shaking at they tried to pierce their neck. And all they could hear was the Girl and her raspy, furious voice, urging Finn to hurry up and die.

So Finn was a little surprised at the tackle. Well, more like completely.

Zoey was able to completely side tackle Finn, knocking them off their feet and sending them sliding into a nearby wall. The scissors are dropped with a clatter, a small splatter of blood drips off the sharp tip. Finn is dazed a moment, rubbing the back of their head where they collided with the wall, and flickering visibility for a moment. After a short recovery Finn began to look around, anxiously. A thin trail of blood dripped from a small cut in their neck.

But the Girl was gone.

"B-but...s-someone was...was..."

Finn stutters for a moment, looking around the lobby. They barely noticed Stacey approach, as their confusion began to change to embarrassment. Finn slowly puts a hand over the cut on their neck, looking away from Zoey and taking a shaky breath.

Finn and Trent had remained on their couch, the older kid still trying to make some sort of sense of their situation. The others had all eventually woken up, several chatting with each other or leaving the bank. Finn sighed, and turned to Trent.

"We sh-should try to find something for you to...to eat..."

And then there was screaming. One of the girls, at this point Finn wasn't sure, was yelling, and then Stacey rushed into the bank lobby, upset. Finn blinked, they wondered what had lead to that yelling match, and so early in the morning.

But then Finn heard a voice, raspy and weak and filled with hatred.

"Give me back my body you freak."

Finn quickly looked in the direction of this voice, and they found themself looking in a mirror. Well, not an actual mirror. They were looking at themself...no...not themself. It...looked like them yes, physically at least. But this was not Finn this was the girl. The girl in the car. The girl, still mangled and bleeding. A gash across her face, glass and mud mixed with the wound, her limbs snapped and bent. It was a miracle that she was even able to stand.

And she was glaring at Finn, trembling with rage. Finn was shocked, but before they could try to speak the girl spoke again.

"Give me back my body. Now!"

Finn swallowed. They had, for the most part, been able to keep themself looking calm. But their breathing had gotten heavier, their eyes flickering around. After stuttering a moment they finally spoke.

"I...I am so sorry. It was a mistake...I don't know how to le-"

"Kill yourself.

Finn blinks, trying to swallow the lump in their throat. The Girl spoke again.

"We are both trapped until you do.

For several moments Finn was frozen. But after a few, breathless, seconds, Finn stood up, slow and shaky. They looked towards the front desk of the bank, and after a moment began to walk to it. Finn walked with a strangely...neutral expression, seemingly not noticing the distress of the others around them. As they walked the Girl followed, her movements jerky and unnatural.

"You're not human, you know. You're a monster. You're pretending to be a human. You're a wolf dressed like a sheep. You're pretending to be something good.

Finn walked around the desk and began to shift through the drawers, eventually finding something they were looking for. A pair of scissors.

They slowly pull the scissors out of the drawer, clutching them in their shaky hands. For a moment Finn's eyes flickered around the lobby of this bank. And for a moment they were pulled from their terror. Everyone else, although they were muffled by the pounding in Finn's ears, seemed to also be distressed.

Finn raised the blade of the scissors to their neck, eyes squeezing shut as they tried to expel the vision of the girl from their mind. She couldn't really be here...right? But then again, the others called this place strange, said strange things and creatures were here. Maybe she really was trapped wherever they were.

They press the point of the scissors into their neck.

Rowan sat back in his chair while the others discussed their ideas, sinking even further below the top of the table. While the fairy seemed distracted, or bored, he was paying attention to the others. What a mix of personalties and questions. Doubting intel and confirming payment, self sacrifice and confidence. Soon there were no more questions and the Captain began to provide answers. It was honestly...reassuring to see that everyone was on the same page. Even if this was a simple mission, there were a lot of new faces at the table.

Amelia's suggestion made Rowan a little nervous. Drawing the bandits on the ground to the road, and away from the tower, was good but he was worried about the 'pretending to be merchants' part. Would that not seem suspicious? A cart rolling through at dusk of all times? What if the bandits heard about the roadblocks? Rowan huffed, crossing his arms a little tighter. No need to question the captain's kid. He was probably just over thinking a simple mission.

Rowan looks at Captain Bradshaw and gives a thumbs up, still frowning.

The Fairy looks around the group. Captain Armor and Armor Junior probably didn't want to climb the sheer face of a tower. Iulian was practically jumping at the chance to get stabbed. Morag-Nog was meant for the treeline group, and as much and Rowan wanted Ceri on his team, it was clear the Ostaran was needed there too. The priest...well Rowan wasn't sure about him. He wasn't even sure if Irae would go to a fight in the woods. He smelled too clean.

And so that left...the bird and the darkling. Fresh meat and Fresher-meat. He scowled, rudely scratching at a dry patch of skin on his arm. Darklings were good climbers, and Auguries were good at sneaking into places. But they were both pretty new to the company. And for that Rowan was nervous.

With a huff Rowan sat up on his knees, wanting to be somewhat scene by the rest of the ground. He props his elbows up on the table.

"Does the camp have hooks and ropes for the climbing team?"

If not that at least road snacks.

Rowan was not a morning fairy.

Autumnal Fae enjoyed sleeping in until noon, or even later. Waking up to a cup of wine and a platter of cheese and fruit, often with a cute fairy next to them...or three. So it was a miracle that Rowan got to the meeting on time. But it was clear that he was unhappy to be there so early.

His hair was messy, half pressed into his head and the other a flyaway mess. It was clear what side he favored sleeping on. His clothes were wrinkled, his shirt only half tucked into his trousers. Rowan was also missing his shoes. But this was a conscious choice.

Rowan sat in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, brow knitted together, a frown on his face. His large brown eyes scanned the crowd, taking in the suggestions of the others.

”Those with the ability to fly should probably scale the walls and enter the tower from the top while the ground troops enter the tower from the ground. It’s a classic pincer maneuver used to great effect in the Siege of Maceron. Any arguments?”

The fairy sits up. Rubbing a bit of dried drool from their cheek.

“Yeah. I support that. But we gotta be careful that the climbing team isn’t ganged up on by both the archers and the people on the ground.”

Rowan looks at the map. And after a moment of poking through his pockets he pulls out an acorn and a walnut. He places the acorn on the northern side of the tower, and the walnut on the southern side. He purposely sets these down with a bit of force. An effort to assist Senna.

“Maybe ground team comes from the front, draw the attention and the fire. Climb team gets up. Dispatches the archers real sneaky like.”

He again goes through his pocket, eventually pulling out a wax wrapped hard candy. He Rowan sets this on the tree line Irae pointed to.

”Here. Our archers. Also helping draw attention away from the climb group”

Rowan leans back in his chair. Still frowning.

”We also need to consider when this attack occurs. I think a night or early morning ambush. It gives us more cover. And a higher likelihood that the guards won’t be as attentive.”
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