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The holiday schedule explosion has begun early; that and one of our cats being urgently ill means that you get more Dean rather than more Wonder City. I hope no one minds too much.

“Don’t you think it’s a little dangerous to have him here?” asked Tom, jerking her chin at their guide-cum-attacker. “I mean, if this is the real movement against...”

Mor laughed. “Ach, lassie, as if Godmither daesn’t already knaw aboot us!”

Iona said, “Weel, aboot us twa at least. Ye’ll nootice that th’oothers are keeping a far distance in’the gloaming.”

Tom paused a moment to note that there really were people who said “gloaming,” and Christopher said, “So, it’s not secret, the... Web?”

“It’s aboot as secret as a Witches’ sabbat,” said Mor, “Which we resemble a bitty, no?”

All around them, people were slipping off into the woods in twos and threes, leaving the clearing darker and darker. The Dean said, “It’s not the sort of thing one likes to accuse one’s neighbor of being at, I see. Because then people will ask how you came by the information.”

“Och, aye,” said Iona. “And the President may have her suspeecions, but she’s but one pairson, after all. We’ve left ye some gear and we’ll discuss gettin’ ye to Wu or posseebly Burrton, they’ve got big movements there.”

“I don’t understand why you’re not more upset about him,” said Christopher. Their former guide sniffed in an offended manner.

“Laddie, we’ve got several cells of resistance made up of clones like him,” said Mor, kindly but a little sharply. “Mostly Villain-based like yerself,” nodding at him, “as well as Hags, o’course, and Step-sisters and -brothers, and a goodly parcel of Comic and Pathetic Sidekicks as well as some Romantics, not too many. We welcome all.”

With that, they left, and Tom and Christopher were faced with the task of putting together their camping gear, as the Dean was wandering around staring at things and their guide was sitting with his back against a tree having an existential crisis. Quite literally, it turned out.

“No, no, don’t mind me,” he said. “I’m just wondering whether I should continue to exist or not.”

Tom resisted the urge to kick him and unpacked what felt like blankets in the dark. It was a long and chilly wait until dawn, but she fell asleep eventually.

Tom was woken by a combinations of factors: cold, a tree root poking her in a way that reminded her unfortunately of her last one-night stand, what sounded like a party gone horribly wrong, and... galloping? Was that galloping? As she opened her eyes, the “party” resolved itself to the sound of dogs barking and, ridiculously, horn music. She could see the silhouette of the Dean next to the tree which was so uncomfortably intimate with her nether bits, and managed a “Wha?” which was remarkably coherent for her, pre-coffee.

The Dean glanced down. “My guess is that the story is continuing even though we have removed ourselves from it. I wonder how it’s been edited?”

This made little sense to Tom, so she turned and nudged Christopher, on the theory that if she had to be awake at this lovelorn hour in a horrible wood, freezing and listening to someone talk nonsense, so did he. Christopher grunted and she nudged him again, harder.

Christopher sat up, his hair standing on and and stuck through with leaves, like a hedgehog’s. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

“I wonder,” said the Dean. Then she added, quite calmly, “I think one of us, or all of us, might be the object of this hunt, you know.”

Tom startled up. “Shouldn’t we run?”

“They’ll be on horseback,” said the saturnine man, gloomily. “What good will running do you, or any of us?”

“I’ve been wondering,” said the Dean conversationally, “How Godmother manages these sorts of stories. It’s easy to produce the illusion of transformation from outside, but how do you produce the illusion when it’s the Guest who needs to be the protagonist? I can think of several ways but they don’t seem to mesh with--”

Several things happened at once. On the other side of the clearing, a whole troupe of people on horses (white horses, Tom noticed peripherally: of course) burst into view. They were all dressed in bright colors and accompanied by rather large brindled and white dogs. Several of them were carrying banners or horns. There was something so staged about the entire thing that Tom was completely unsurprised that the sun chose that moment to lift out of its dawn cloudbanks and flood the clearing with bright horizontal spears of light, made slightly unreal by the mist still clinging to the trees.

Their guide gave a hoarse cry. Tom turned in alarm, just in time to see him seize Christopher by the ankle. “No!” he said. “Don’t run!” Tom kicked him, freeing Christopher, and followed her friend in scampering back into the wood.

There was no hope of following the trail from the night before; they were running blindly. After a moment or two of panic, Tom had the thought Where’s the Dean? and looked back. The Dean was not following them. But she could hear horses behind, she was sure...

There was a crash ahead of her and she turned back just in time to see Christopher slip down a bank. She heard, “Oh SHII--” and a mighty splash.

Her momentum carried her up to the edge and would have carried her over, but she grabbed the branch of a tree, which just held her flying weight. “Christopher?” she called, looking at the rippling pond. There was no sign of him. “CHRIS, GODDAMMIT!”

The branch she was dangling from broke. There was just time for her to say, “Well, fuck m--” before she hit the water.

Date: 2012-11-20 10:47 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore

And aww man, I hope the kitty recovers quickly and fully as much as he is able! Poor guy.


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