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[personal profile] wonder_city
Ho, Ha-Ha, Guard, Turn, Parry, Dodge, Spin, Ha, Thrust!

Nereid looked forward at the road into Sherwood. Tam smiled and bowed, extending one hand. "Shall we?"

She looked at him and blinked blearily. The gnawing in her gut had abated, so she barely noticed how hungry she was now. "I guess so." She took his hand, and they followed the road into the deep green shade.

The warm forest air was abundantly perfumed. Small white and blue stars peeked up from the grass underfoot, plate-sized rose blooms in saturated reds and oranges nodded heavily from tangles of undergrowth, and white and pink apple petals flurried down on pale breezes. Bird shadows flitted from branch to branch in the golden sunlight that filtered through the canopy, and avian chatter and song rose from every shrub and tree.

At some point, Nereid paused, staring upward. A tree stood on either side of her, and one was wrapped entirely in quarter-sized pink and white climbing roses, while the other was enclosed by a climbing rose with flame-colored blossoms. Where their branches came close to touching, over her head, the two rose types mingled and twined together, making an archway.

When her gaze dropped from the arch, Tam was smiling at her. He squeezed her hand, leaned down, and kissed her gently on the lips. It was oddly dreamlike and dizzying, drawing her up on her toes. When he straightened up, his smile was wider and he said, "This place has that sort of effect. Romantic, isn't it?" He stroked her face, cupping her jaw and letting his fingers slide into her hair just a bit. "My Janet," he said softly. "Let us do go on."

Nereid let him lead her. Her exhausted mind was trying to chew on the new... pet name?... but failing utterly to even get its teeth into the subject. A simpler part of her mind just resounded with He LIKES me! And that was, mostly, enough for now.

She slowly became aware of the sound and sense of water nearby. They were walking on a hard-packed dirt path that twisted through the enormous trees, always heading downhill, and the water seemed to be following them and drifting closer as they went. At last, they descended a sharp slope -- Tam hopped down and then lifted her down to his side -- and turned a curve, coming into view of the elusive moving water.

A slender river glittered under the open blue sky as it ran swiftly between the trees. Across the river was a wide log bridge, and atop the bridge was a man in a green tunic and hose, leaning on a quarterstaff.

"Oh, no," Tam breathed. "Let's... not. Let's see if we can find another way across."

"Why?" Nereid said, squinting. The man on the bridge was handsome in a generic sort of way, with pale skin and Hollywood star features and dark hair. His little green hat was perched at a jaunty angle. He grinned cheerfully at them.

"Because we're going to have to fight," Tam said, apparently looking along the bank for an easy way to continue one way or the other.

Some fuzzy memory made Nereid look up at the sky. She saw that the sun was almost directly over the trees across the river. "I think we should go this way," she said, resisting his tugs on her arm. The man on the bridge hadn't moved, only watched them.

"Why, for the love of little fish?" Tam said, sighing in exasperation.

"Because I'm tired and hungry and cranky," Nereid snapped. "And it's the way we're supposed to go." She jerked her arm loose of Tam's grip and thudded forward to the river's edge, stomping up onto the log.

"Ho, and welcome to Sherwood!" the man on the bridge called across to her. "I am Robin Hood! Stand and deliver, stranger!"

In other circumstances, Nereid might have thought that meeting Robin Hood was nifty and exciting, but all of her nift and excitement had dribbled out of her on the long, long walk. "I am Nereid," she replied. "No."

"Well, then!" he said, advancing with his staff in both hands. "I am loth to strike a lady! Will not your man there step up to match staves with me? I haven't given anyone a sound drubbing in weeks."

Tam opened his mouth, but Nereid stretched out her hand over the river and water leapt into it, making a solid, glittering staff. "No," she said. "You fight me. I'm the one that wants to go this way, after all."

Robin Hood arched an eyebrow at her. "It shall be so. But come, you must measure our staves. For it would be cheating if yours be longer than mine." He winked and struck the end of his staff firmly on the log.

She struck the log a sound thump with the end of her staff and said, "You can cut the corny pseudo-old English. If you were really going to speak the way you were supposed to speak, I wouldn't be able to understand you because you'd be talking Chaucer-ese."

Robin put his hand over the ends of both their staves and nodded approvingly. "All right, then, if you're going to be picky," he said, "I'll just say, 'Come on and try to kick my ass now, kid.'"

Nereid tried very hard to remember the few staff moves that Sophie had taught her, playing around in the lab when they stumbled on what Sophie jokingly referred to as her "Bataca encounter bats." But her reflexes were as slow as her brain. Robin feinted one way, then smacked her on the ass with the other end of his staff. When she managed to block another sexually harassing strike, he tagged the side of her head, making her ears ring and her eyes cross. She staggered back, giving way for several steps, then, angry and frustrated, she struck back. Her staff wrapped a snakelike embrace around his staff, and struck him hard in the shoulder. He hung onto his staff doggedly, even as the other end of her staff whipped around to hit him in the side. She wrenched hard, pulling his staff out of both his hands, and then hit him with his own staff: once in the head, once in the back, and once, decidingly, in the crotch. He folded in on himself with a "woof!" sound and fell into the river with a sizeable splash.

Tam hurried up behind her. "Quick, let's go," he said, trying to chivvy her onward.

She tossed Robin's staff into the river after him, then thought that perhaps that wasn't the best thing to do, and started to watch for signs of him surfacing. "Why?" She let her own staff drain away from her hand.

"Because if we don't get moving now, we're going to have to..."

"Fight all the other Merry Men?" Nereid asked vaguely. There, Robin's head popped back above the water and he was sort of... rolling toward the riverbank.

"No, worse," Tam said gloomily. "We'll have to join them."

"You're going to have to help him out," Nereid said, sitting down on the end of the log on the other bank of the river. "I don't think he's walking very well yet."

"He won't drown or anything," Tam said. "Come on."

"I," Nereid said with the air of announcing something of great interest, "am going to sit right here for a few minutes."

"Why?" Tam said, wringing his hands and watching Robin crawl painfully out of the water.

"Because," Nereid said scornfully, "I am tired."

Tam fidgeted but didn't go to help Robin. Nereid became entranced by a tiny brown bird with a melancholy song that nearly moved her to tears. A few minutes went by. Finally, Robin staggered up to them, crouched over and grinning painfully.

"Truly," Robin said with a tiny squeak in his voice, "I have rarely had such a bout. You must accept the hospitality of Sherwood and come dwell among us for a time!"

This drew Nereid's attention back from the bird. "How much time?" she said.

"The lady has a pressing mission," Tam explained. "The life of another hangs in the balance."

"I see," Robin said, stroking his goatee -- he had a goatee before? Nereid wondered. "Well, a day and a night is the traditional minimum, really..."

"A day and a night it is," Tam said before Nereid could try to bargain for less. "The lady also cannot partake of the usual fare; you might perceive that she is not of this world."

"Surely that isn't truly a problem," Robin said, smiling in a way that Nereid didn't quite like.

"She is under the protection of the horsewoman," Tam said with what Nereid could only describe as a Significant Look. Robin's eyebrows nearly jumped off his forehead.

"Then by all means, we shall try our best," Robin said. "Fortunately, there is an event at which we can obtain fare more particular to her circumstances. If you'll follow." He turned and sprang lightly up the bank, as if he'd never been smashed in the family jewels.

Nereid and Tam followed more slowly. Robin strolled along and sang lustily, if off-key. Tam winced every time he hit a particularly sour note.

The camp of the Merry Men was a strange mixture of rustic thatched huts, treehouses that would be more at home with the elves of Lothlorien, and children's backyard play forts. Upon Robin's call, a mob of green-garbed hooligans swarmed out of the buildings and trees to greet the newcomers.

Robin cheerfully introduced the various Merry Men, of whose names Nereid only retained a few, including Will Scarlet (noticeable for his red, rather than green, clothing), Friar Tuck (brown robe and tonsure, definite monkly signs and symptoms), and Maid Marian (distinctive for her femininity in such a masculine crowd). Tam gave them all a courtly bow and introduced himself as Tamas Lane and Nereid as Janet. Nereid blinked at this misnomer, idly wondering if she was supposed to wear a bra and slip and indulge in a spot of singing and dancing.

"In order to give our best hospitality to this noble pair," Robin announced loudly, "we shall all attend the FAERE!"

There were scattered cheers, and people scattered, apparently to dress and/or gather money. Marian neatly cut Nereid out of the remaining crowd and carried her off to a quiet corner of the encampment.

"You seem ill," Marian said with unexpected concern, persuading Nereid to sit on a large tree stump and joining her.

"I... haven't slept or eaten or drunk... drank? drinked? No, drunk," Nereid said, "for I don't know how long."

"Very remarkable," Marian said, pushing her thick red hair back off her shoulders. "You've obeyed your patron quite thoroughly."

"I've tried," Nereid said, and bewildered herself by starting to cry. "But I got lost and that was the first thing the Equestrian told me not to do."

Marian patted her hand. "Have you any guidance back to your patron? Or is this Tamas what you have?"

Nereid scrubbed at her eyes like a very tired child. "He's what I have. Though Coyote told me to always go toward the sun."

Marian raised her fine thin eyebrows. "If Coyote freely gives guidance, then you should definitely follow it. Until it gets you killed, of course."

"Oh, I can't die," Nereid said, seized with terror. "I have to find Sophie!"

Marian sighed. "Just a turn of phrase here. Don't worry about it." She looked past Nereid's shoulder. "Robin seems ready to go. At the Faere, we'll be able to get you food and drink from Earth that you can safely eat. All right?"

Nereid nodded. "I still can't sleep, can I?"

"Better not to," Marian said, helping her to her feet. "Let's go. You'll like it. It will be just like home."


From the Author:
Poor ol' Nereid.

Classic Marvel Comics no-prizes to the people who can identify the source of the title of this episode!

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! Ooooh! We're back up into the top 15! Thank you! Let's keep us there.

Date: 2011-04-11 06:18 pm (UTC)
contrarywise: Glowing green trees along a road (Default)
From: [personal profile] contrarywise
With that title, I half-expected Daffy Duck to make an appearance! :)

BTW, that cartoon is the first time I ever heard the folk song "Barbara Allen", which I later played and sang when I was in a band.

And now I want to know what the rest of the party is up to in Faerie.

Date: 2012-01-28 06:18 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Oh no! Nereid said Sophie's name! Is that okay? Will that have disastrous consequences in the future?

I'm curious about what's up with Equestrian and Wire and Maelstrom while Nereid is having all these adventures.


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