Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Stories, continued and interrupted, of beings from wherever the sky calls to the dreamers, the wind whispers to the wanderers, and the road calls to the determined.

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Jackie Von Tombs
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Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:01 am

"Don't worry, Mrs. Tapack. Tell your niece that there will be a casket and a grave for her son," Jackie soothed the old woman, grimacing. Mrs. Tapack exhaled, leaning into Jackie, grateful and dabbing at her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.

"Thank you, my dear. It was all so sudden. So horrible. We're all so poor, we... didn't know what we could do."

"We'll be there tomorrow after the service," Jackie promised, "Then we'll have him prepared for the funeral by morning. I'll leave the directions to the cemetery."

"Thank you so much," the old woman squeaked, squeezing Jackie's hand. Jackie smiled, easy warmth, and let Mrs. Tapack murmur a prayer before the girl patted her hand and moved off. Once her back was turned, Jackie exhaled, shaking her head. There were entirely too many little ones passing on in that little backwater village.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the summer, and often beyond, Jackie was a common sight in the slums and backwoods towns around the main city. With her gang of Parkour super villain cosplayers, they used what they'd discovered on their runs through the city to help out those in need.

All too often, it was for the last deposition of a loved one. Jackie would make a plain but decent pine coffin and find space in the nearest cemetery, dig a grave, and help transport the body. This time, it was for a small child.

The family lived in one of the very low tech suburbs of the city, which gave Jackie the opportunity to bring out a newly restored children's hearse. It was a rare and beautiful horse drawn vehicle she had found while free running with her friends. Half the size of a typical hearse, it was white, carven with a floral motif, with glass sides and heavenly blue velvet curtains.

Daisy pulled the little hearse somberly through town, a plume of matching blue feathers on her head stall. Desdenova drove the little nightmare, appropriately garbed in a black suit, top hat, and gloves. Jackie rode alongside the boy, wearing a deep purple skirt and blouse, mourning for a girl from the 1900s.

The little house where their client waited was dark and gloomy. The family had gathered for the wake along with the neighborhood. They all removed their hats as the hearse pulled up.

"Thank you both so much. We just … we don't have any money and..." the boy's father whispered as he walked to meet Jackie and Desdenova. Jackie shook her head, giving the perfect mortician smile, a strange blend of comfort, sorrow, and warmth.

"This is what we do, Mr. Ismil," she assured him, "We'll go in and move him to the coffin, now. Perhaps you and your wife should go say your goodbyes."

Mr. Ismil nodded, exhaling, his head hung for a moment before he turned back to the house. Jackie and Desdenova watched him go, both with the sad-comforting smiles on their faces.

"Ugh. I hate these. But he'll be happy playing with new friends, soon," Desdenova sighed as he helped Jackie pulled the disturbingly tiny coffin from the hearse. Jackie nearly fumbled the coffin, blinking several times. Desdenova stared at her.

"There's nothing dead here," she whispered sharply.

Desdenova's brows knit. He looked around, then carefully opened his mind to scan around the little house. Jackie had received the lion's share of their father's abilities, such things came to her easily. Desdenova had to focus.

"...There isn't. Then... what's going on?" he responded, indicating the quiet group of people waiting out front, "None of these people want to hurt us. They're just sad."

"Follow my lead," Jackie responded, gripping the leather hand holds on the tiny coffin. Desdenova helped, but it was mainly for show. Jackie was stronger than she looked. They entered the house slowly, both looking around for anything out of place.

The parlor had been draped and the windows and mirrors all covered in black cloths. There were a few flowers, mostly boughs of cedar and pine and ivy decorated the table where the child was lain out. He wore his best clothes, which were still shabby and worn. He had a few toys set out with him.

His mother, heavily pregnant, knelt by his head, sobbing inconsolably. His father helplessly tried to comfort her.

"She's in bad shape," Desdenova hissed to Jackie. He moved as she set the coffin onto the floor.

"I know. Later," Jackie responded quickly before she pulled her mortician smile back to her lips, "We're going to move him now. Why don't you take Mrs. Ismil to your room? My brother wants to see her later, he can heal her."

"Why can't you heal him?! Why can't you heal my baby?!" Mrs. Ismil wailed. Desdenova flinched and stepped back, wide eyed, but Jackie simply smiled, helping Mr. Ismil get the poor woman to her feet.

"He's going to try. But you need to lay down."

"Jackie!" Desdenova hissed. He could often bring back the dead, but it wasn't easy, and it wasn't fair to give false hope.

"There is nothing dead here," Jackie reminded him curtly. Desdenova frowned, biting his lip and nodding. He watched as Mrs. Ismil tottered to her room, then exhaled heavily. He looked over the child, his brows knitting. When Jackie returned, he shrugged to her.

"There's nothing alive here, either, Jackie. I mean, this may as well be a bundle of sticks and leaves," he told her in an undertone, indicating the child's body. Jackie eyed him oddly, then moved to lift the boy's head.

It came off in her hands. Jackie and Desdenova stared flatly at this. Jackie's fingers flexed.

What had seemed to be a little boy's head of some four years crumpled into a dirty cloth bag filled with leaves and trash. Stunned, Jackie grabbed for the body, only to have it come undone in her hands, as well. Just a lot of sticks bound together in a rude human form.

"...Crap," Jackie whispered, wide eyed.

"...He's been kidnapped. Maybe by fae? This is a changeling," Desdenova pointed out, shuddering, "What do we do? When they do this, they aren't going to give him back."

"Is there fae magic on it?" Jackie asked, rubbing her brow with her fingers. She tossed the 'head' back to the body. Desdenova regarded it keenly, then shook his head.

"No. It wasn't glamour, it was a spell, and not a very good one. It broke apart when you touched it, probably because you're a necromancer."

"And probably because they didn't expect a necromancer to handle the remains. Fuck. What do we do now?" Jackie hissed. Desdenova exhaled, wide eyed. Then he said something monumental, something which had rarely left the lips of any Jones, let alone a Von Tombs.

"...Call the Police. I mean. Call. Like. Katt. She'll get real cops, detectives, over here."

Jackie exhaled and nodded, pulling her phone out. She waited as Desdenova put in Katt's phone number, and then stepped away to talk.

Desdenova blew out a quantity of air. He turned as Mrs. Tapack stepped in, indicating the dummy haplessly. She stared, her handkerchief at her lips.

"I knew it," she whispered, though she was still stunned, "I knew there was something weird going on with Jannes. He didn't know me. He didn't know anyone."

"Jackie's calling for help. He must have been kidnapped," Desdenova explained, "I don't know what to do, he still might be dead, there's been no ransom demand, and these are poor people..."

So many terrible things could happen to a poor child snatched from the slums like this. Desdenova winced faintly.

"First off, we've got to get it around that he was kidnapped. There's been … ten children in the past year or so who have inexplicably died like this. But that happens around here. I wonder how many of them have rags and sticks in their graves...?" Mrs. Tapack whispered, "I'll go tell everyone."

"I'd better tell the parents. She's in a bad way, she needs to be healed or her and the baby won't make it," Desdenova nodded, drawing in his breath slowly.
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:38 pm

Mrs. Ismil kept a precise and neat diary. Mr. Ismil gave it to Desdenova and Jackie to read some time later. The siblings left Mrs. Ismil laying in bed with her new born, somewhere between terrified and hopeful. At least with the new baby to comfort her.

Jackie flipped through the pages of the diary, frowning, leaning to Daisy's shoulder. The nightmare muttered, shifting her hooves. Desdenova climbed to the hearse and released the hand brake.

"Home all day, Jannes plays in the yard. Home all day, Jannes plays in the yard..." Jackie reported as she read, "No mention of strangers or people acting oddly..."

"Nuffin's been here bad," the nightmare announced, clopping a dainty hoof.

"Went to Dearest's lovely petting zoo. I could scarce believe it, it was free for children under ten. There's so few places we can afford, but I saved up the admission for me, it was only ten coppers, and we had a lovely time. Why, there was even a bear, but I didn't have the money for Jannes to pet it. It is kept apart from the other animals. I promised Jannes we would return soon," Jackie read, frowning.

"Under ten free? That's the bread and butter for outfits like that," Desdenova pointed out, "Especially if the adult admission is only ten coppers."

"Yeah. It's all we've got. I'll take this back to Mrs. Ismil, she can show it to Katt's people when they get here. What is and where is Dearest's petting zoo?"

"Passed it on da way here," Daisy called, shifting in the harness, "C'mon."

"Hang on," Jackie replied, swinging to the seat. She picked up the reins and gave them a shake. Soon, they were returning the way they'd come, heading back for the city proper. A long stretch of roadway ran between the city and the small town, dirt but maintained well enough. Along the road were random homes, some made over into businesses.

A carpenter, a truck farm, a junkyard, and then, what at first looked like another junkyard turned out to be the zoo, 'Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo' painted neatly onto a white washed board sign. It was open. A few families were milling around in the enclosure with the animals.

Daisy came to a halt, and Desdenova and Jackie regarded the place. It was on about a half acre of land, surrounded by a ten foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire. That looked as if it'd been scavenged from the junk yard, it was rusted and crooked.

A doublewide trailer hunkered at the back of the property, rusted and bent as if it'd been abandoned for some time before being reopened, more or less. It was as shabby and rusty as everything else. Two old garden sheds, cheap tin, sagged between the house and zoo.

The petting zoo seemed typical of most petting zoos. There was a four foot fence enclosing a small area, a few canvas sun shades stretched overhead. Several feed vending machines were fastened to the petting zoo fence. However...

The animals all looked weary and thin. There was no sign of a larger enclosure for them to exercise in, no sign of stables. They lived in that small enclosure their entire lives. Most hung out by the feed vendors, and greedily gobbled down the small handfuls of food they were offered, but were too weak to really push or shove for the feed.

A few of the animals seemed to have given up entirely, and sat miserably by the water troughs. A small spectacled bear cub was chained in a small space away from the others. It groaned unhappily as it sat at the end of its short tether.

"Oh Lady Fate. Call animal control," Jackie snapped, appalled.

"For what good that will do. They'll take these away, and she'll just get more," Desdenova pointed out dryly, "And it will take animal control a while to get on this."

"There's a dog. Go talk to it," Jackie noted, picking out a sad eyed basset hound laying with a pair of large gray tabby kittens. The poor thing looked hellish, dispirited.

Desdenova slid off of the hearse seat, removing his gloves, then dug out ten coppers. He started to walk for the zoo, and to his surprise, was met at the front gate by a gaunt gray haired woman. She had been sitting by the petting zoo, taking money, but moved when Desdenova moved.

She looked like a kindly grandmotherly sort, her hair in a bun, wearing a fussy print dress under a flour sack apron. Steel rim glasses, twinkling gray eyes and a kindly smile finished off the look. Desdenova regarded her solemnly.

"What a lovely little pony. I don't suppose she's for sale? I've been looking for a new pony since poor Sugar passed away. She'd have a lovely life here, I've got two miniature horses and a miniature donkey. And she'll never have to work again. Just get petted and have fun," the woman crooned. Desdenova eyed her, then looked into the petting zoo enclosure.

Sell Daisy to the lady? A fun way to steal a little cash, horrify Daisy, and stick it to the old lady, but that wasn't why Desdenova was there. He bit back the impulse for evil.

"Ahhh, no, we need her," he replied slowly, "We're just taking a break, I thought I'd come look at the animals."

"Oh. Oh! You must be here for that little Jannes Ismil boy. Such a shame. He was just a skinny little thing. He and his mum stopped by here a week or so ago. Well, if you've got the coppers, lad, come on in." she replied, going from a mournful little moue to a beaming smile.

Desdenova eyed her sidelong. The woman had a mouthful of some bright white teeth. They looked like old fashioned dentures made with radiated enamel.

"You're Dearest Callister?" he asked, handing over the change. She smiled again, eyes obscured when the sunlight gilded her glasses.

"I am, I've been running this petting zoo for oh, decades. Sometimes we pack up and go here or there. Going to be joining the circus for a spell in fact, so we'll be gone after next week. Better get in your petting now."

"Yeah, I guess so," Desdenova nodded, eying her a moment longer before he went to the set of gates to enter the petting zoo enclosure. Two gates, to prevent the animals from escaping. He slid through and walked past the other animals to the dog.

Both kittens climbed Desdenova hysterically, trying to burrow under his clothing, clinging tightly as they could, which was a considerable amount more than Desdenova was used to from kittens. He winced and stifled a few yelps as he knelt beside the dog.

"Now don't be thinking you're going to sneak my kittens out of here, lad! You can have 'em when they're grown, though!" Dearest caroled. Desdenova waved back at her, nodding. He touched the dog's head.
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:29 pm

Misery. Utter Misery. The dog was in deep mourning and distress. Desdenova woofed softly, glancing back to see where Dearest was. The animal turned immensely sorrowful eyes to the boy, a few soft chuffs and whimpers escaping her.

Desdenova stared at the dog, horrified. After a long moment, he nodded, then carefully dislodged the kittens from under his coat. They spat and growled unhappily at him, but he petted them and tucked them under the dog's head. She groaned, cuddling the kittens to her.

The bear cub was far too small and skinny. All of the animals were. He frowned faintly as he wandered through the small enclosure. He made sure the animals by the water all had a good pile of feed to eat, protecting them from the more able ones until they had fed, and then wandered out.

"Is there a bathroom I could use?" Desdenova asked Dearest, doleful and blushing.

"Yeah, necessary's over there. Don't you pee on the seat, now!"

Desdenova shuddered faintly, then more, as he realized she'd pointed out an ancient portable john. It did not look safe, and smelled worse. The kid vomiting just outside the door did not enhance that smell.

It did give him opportunity to look the property over, however.

A large animal trailer was parked behind the sheds. A truck that looked like it had been dredged out of a river ten years ago was hooked up to it, half under a decaying canvas cover. A midden pile of animal poop and household waste was to the west of the doublewide. It had overtaken the chain link fence, in fact.

Despite the fact that the animals seemed to be kept in the petting zoo enclosure, there were three large wooden hutches huddled around the back of the trailer home. An awning stretched over them. Desdenova glanced back, realizing that Dearest was starting to watch him. Sighing deeply and holding his breath, Desdenova ventured into the old port-a-poddy.

His head was still spinning when he returned to his sister and Daisy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Now what?" Jackie asked, frowning. Desdenova exhaled, climbing to the hearse. Jackie reached over for his hand to pull him beside her. Once he settled, she clicked her tongue, and Daisy started off.

"Prolly get into trouble, but we really need to move fast. Dearest is getting ready to leave here, to join up with a circus, and you can bet that's just as bad as this, and from what the dog says, she'll have eaten all of the 'puppies' before then."

"She ate the dog's puppies?" Jackie asked, making a face.

"The dog's a little crazy," Desdenova explained with a wry grimace, "Her name's Sue. She was bought to guard the property. Dearest was kidnapping kids and shoving them into hutches..."

"Hutches? Really? And fattening them up?" Jackie put in, incredulous. Desdenova shrugged.

"It happens."

"Go on," she responded, aggravated.

"Sue believes human children are puppies, and when she realized Dearest was eating the children, Sue tried to protect them. Dearest did a bad magic to Sue, that's all I could get from her, and since then, Sue's been locked in the petting zoo," Desdenova explained, shaking his head.

"Any idea how powerful Dearest is?" Jackie asked with a thoughtful frown. Desdenova shrugged again.

"Probably not as powerful as she'd like people to believe, but there are some heavy blots of evil on the lot. What did Katt say?"

Jackie shook her head, her lips pressed together.

"I had to leave a voice message, so I think bad things are going on with her, too."

"So, what do we do?" Desdenova asked slowly. Jackie rotated her jaw side to side, her eyes narrowing.

"Dearest needs a new picture pony, does she? I need to make some calls once we get back to the RhyDin house. You see if you can get hold of Sard," she finally announced.
Last edited by Jackie Von Tombs on Fri May 17, 2019 1:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:04 pm

No zippy convertible tonight, no, Jackie carefully piloted the old Chevy panel van through the city.  It was just that, a big old Army surplus delivery vehicle, kept in surprisingly good shape for its age and class.  She handled the streets easily in the large van, while her little brother sat firmly strapped (and not very happy about it) to a jump seat behind the driver.  She pulled in quietly and took in the building curiously, hot green eyes curious as cats.  

Desdenova couldn’t really see anything, and as the warding had never been changed on the seat straps, he was stuck there until released.  While he was wearing dark pants, shoes, and hoodie, Jackie had her usual Jackiepool free running kit on, red and black, but with long pants rather than boy shorts, and long sleeves.  She pushed back the door, and hopped out before remembering her brother.  Thus, she turned back to release him.  He grumbled, but what can you do?  

“This going to be a park…?  It looks epic already,”  Jackie asked as she barged up, making sure to keep Desdenova pulled up close behind her. Most places Sard was working on had Monster Plants, and she didn’t want to explain to her parents how her little brother got composted.

The Greenswarden took a swallow of coffee as he watched the van pull up, absently lifting a hand to rake his hair back. It could use a few hours of getting brushed out, most likely, but he'd been working. Priorities.

A grunt greeted the girl as she climbed out, nod following for Des, and he tips his head toward the waiting cups. "Help yourself. Black, little bag has cream and sugar in it if you want." His is untainted, not even by Sekal. Pushing to his feet, Sard climbed the steps to pull one of the doors open, and shook his head.

"Not exactly. We can talk inside. Been meaning to show this place to you two, anyway, and it's almost done now. Good for the Guardians to get to know you two."

And that's all the explanation he offers, at least for the moment. The door is left open, and the biker's movement betrays that inside, there are steps going down - just a couple, as they'd find when they followed.

"Going to be a community garden. A place where anyone can come, and claim an unused planter, to grow their own food. Grow flowers, herbs, medicines. Anything but drugs. To remember that there's more than pavement and steel to being alive."

"What are your plans for approaching this... Petting Zoo? And what are you going to do with the animals, once you get them out of there? Can't just turn them loose."

“Blessed coffee,”  Jackie noted, grabbing a cup and drinking it black.  Desdenova, however, used up all the packets for his cup.  Coffee was bleh to him, but it was hot and now sweet and creamy.  He mumbled his thanks after Jackie, and they trailed after him, wide eyed taking in the structure.  

“Awesome,”  Desdenova noted, wandering through the plots.  He stopped here and there and graffitted onto the bricks, etching random wardings with a small pen knife.  

“It’s gorgeous,”  Jackie echoed, then she exhaled as she put her thoughts into order, and removed a small notebook.  She rattled off the animals that they had observed at the zoo, frowning faintly.

“I’m not sure any of the wild type animals, the deer and the bear particularly, can be released at all. However, I called several rescues to get in contact with their ‘ambassador animal’ people, so though they wouldn’t be wild, they would be properly tended and happy." she turned a page.

“BUT," Jackie continued, holding up her pen, "Before they’ll touch any of them, they have to go through a vet, and I do have one lined up prepared to take them, and they will have other vets to help as they assess the condition of the animals. Des’ll heal them as he can, but he can only do so much before he starts getting to a bad seizure place.”

Propping his ass against the edge of a mortared-brick planting box, Sard folded his arms across his chest, coffee cup still dangling from one hand, and nodded as Jackie worked througth the plan. The watchful sense escalates dramatically as soon as Desdenova started to 'graffiti', and for a moment it might well feel like a building presence getting ready to swat - but a glance by Sard, and a deep, resonant hum, diffused the situation before it escalates.

“As for getting in there. I was able to get a friend’s granddad to call Dearest and ask her to meet him to discuss purchasing a pony and other cute animals. He’ll keep her busy as best he can till at least ten pm, so we have a few hours to get in, get the animals into the van and trailer, and hopefully search the property to find out if she is involved in Janne’s disappearance. Des will deal with the animals, you and I do the snooping…” Jackie paused to take a Breath, and drink.

Desdenova, meantime, handed his Ipad over to Sard, a very cool wood framed steampunk affair. It was open to a folder of photos of the house and property.

Accepting Des' notebook, the biker studied the place critically, a grunt evidencing his opinion of the situation.

"Getting in's no problem. Can have that fence, and the trailer as well, down in a matter of minutes. Can put some of the animals out at my place, but not long-term. Just until they can be processed through the vet. Stable's fixed up, all but Muharib's stall."

Pushing away from the planter, the biker headed for the inner door, and again climbed a few steps to open it. The door frames were at the original height, though the floors were no longer at floor level. Stepping through, the biker nods to the two to take a look, rather than taking them on an escorted tour.

A few steps back down, into a brick-cobbled courtyard, now with a glass roof arching above it. More brick-framed planting plots, raised only a foot off the ground and larger - six of them, spaced around the coutyard. In the middle, a low fountain tiled in blue ceramic, with a tree growing so close that it leans over the fountain, braced against it with bark growing onto the edge.

The hint of eyes in rippling water, and a rustling in the boughs just above, where nyad and dryad keep watch. The tree looked strong. On the far side of it, there's a clear patch of earth and a sturdy bench facing both.

"Guardians. Place was going to be bulldozed, would have killed them both. Trees roots extend to the edge of the property now. So does the spring's water. Inner area's just for a few people, not open to everyone. That's all you need to see about this place - Sylva's got a plot in here, Lucy as well if she wants it. You two, if you want them. Now - let's close up here and go get the lay of the land outside that prison, before we go in. I'll follow you on my bike."

“Oh wow…” Jackie noted as she followed after the man, Des a few paces after. She bowed politely to the naiad and dryad, “Forgive me, Old Ones, I didn’t bring a proper offering this time, but I will next time."

Desdenova scoffed softly and squirmed by. He always had crunchy cat food and tobacco and sage on him. So he stepped as close as allowed and left a bit of each in a hollow near the fountain, then bowed a bit.

“Greetings,” he chirped, “It’s very nice to meet you.”

Jackie muttered something like ‘suck up’, and Des noodled his tongue out at her as the turned back to them.

“Prolly find a nice offering bowl if they like that kind of thing.” he decided, looking the space over, “I’ll plant you a Moon garden.”

 Jackie nodded, jerking her head to indicate the van. No trailer on it - yet.  She wasn’t planning on stealing the old horse carrier at the zoo, but there would be one waiting.  “Okay, let me make sure Des is strapped in and we’ll get moving.  It’s not a long drive, but it’s a bad drive, the roads are caca.”

"Once we get the animals out, we'll need to do something about the place. Have to see what the area around it looks like, and what we can do, when we get there." Sard took one last glance over the pictures, and the biker nodded, returning Desdenova's tablet.

A chuckle vibrated the biker's chest without any sound, as he shook his head at the two and closed the door behind them all, ushering them out ahead of himself so he can secure the outer door, as well.

Swinging onto his bike, the Greenswarden folded the kick up and buckled his helmet on. Appearances and 'bravado' be damned - Sard always wore a helmet when he rodes, unless he carried a passenger and needed to put it on them.

"If we can come at the back, do it that way. The trailer will block sight from the main road and delay any curiosity. That fence is already rusty - I can have it down in a few minutes, just the area we need, when we get there. I'll take the rest of it down once we're done extracting them. When they're loaded up, you need to get out of there immediately, so there's no risk of getting tied up with any legal claims if this woman comes back."

“I left a message with our aunt Hally, she’ll get the paperwork through I’m sure as soon as possible,”  Jackie nodded as she turned to help secure Desdenova. It wasn’t that the straps or buckles were difficult, it was that it wasn’t made for him to work the buckles, in fact, the opposite.  So he had to be buckled in and out, unless in an accident or other issue, where they would open on their own.

“Okay, don’t listen to Pollyanna, once Aunt Hally gets that message, she’ll be there with bells on and armed and ready to take down anything she has to,” Desdenova called with a scoff. Jackie rolled her eyes and poked a Tootsiepop into his mouth. He glared at her. But Tootsiepop.

A grunt answered the news about Halcyon, from both sources, but there's a twitch to Sard's lips that suggests humor as he watches Desdenova get strapped in. Draining the last swallow from his coffee cup, he tosses it aside. It's not littering... not when, by the time he's started the bike and pulled out behind the van, a smaller shadow in its wake, the cup has already decomposed and filtered into the ground.

Jackie got behind the wheel and started the van up.  She pulled out slowly, then drove a fair clip through the streets.  She was actually a fairly safe driver, though on the aggressive side.  Clearly she’d cut her teeth on the Los Angeles freeways!  

(Written with Sard <3)
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:38 pm

The night was a pleasant thing, and the biker studied the area around them critically as they passed through it. Finally, as the van pulled to a halt, Sard came up along it on the driver's side, idling the bike and looking the situation over.

The moons shed a good deal of light. No one lived in the junkyard to the left and if anyone lived in the construction yard to the right, they were asleep. The old truck was currently missing, one of the sheds was open.

"That trailer out back. Are you planning to load them into that? I'm not sure how safe it is, but I can strengthen the floor some if necessary. The predators... those are going to have to be kept separate, to avoid panic. The bear. The kittens, too, or they'll risk getting trampled. If the dog will ride with the bear, best to keep them together," Sard noted, thoughtful as he pulled off his helmet.

Turning his attention to the junk yard, Sard narrowed his eyes, studying it with senses other than visual.

"Another dog there. Probably to guard it, or a stray looking for shelter. I can keep it asleep, or we can take it, too. Figure that out after the others are extracted. For now, I'm going to increase the bacterial decay in its guts... keep it knocked out with the alcohols in its system until we're done. Pull through there to get around back, unless you've got other plans."

“No, not going to use that trailer, it’s dangerous,”  Jackie responded as she dutifully undid her brother once more.  She pointed her chin over to the construction yard: a U-haul trailer had accidentally been left outside the gate.  How convenient! Not really, Jackie knows how to swing a bribe.

The back of the U-haul was even more conveniently aimed at the back of the zoo, where the bear and dog and kittens were. It would be a matter of cutting chain link, cheap steel rod fencing, and chain.

“The bear’s just a cub, and it’s really weak,” Desdenova chimed in, “So I want to heal it and sort of bundle her up with the basset hound and kittens into the van, and then I can make it sleep till we’re out of here. And all of the animals have to be out of here.  We can’t leave any.  I promised Sue.”

As Desdenova spoke, Jackie got the toolbox in the back of the van open. She took out a set of bolt cutters, then pulled a headband light onto her head, but didn’t switch it on.

Glancing over at the u-haul, Sard nodded.

"It'll work. Don't need to cut through the fence, though. Not going to be a fence, when we're done here, if I have anything to say about it. To start, though, just one section - if there's anything other than the animals in there, it's mixed in with them, and gut flora is gut flora. The dog's the only thing I can sense over in the junkyard. Hard not to tell a dog for a dog, when it's got that many fleas." Even bugs have gut flora - and when the fleas cover a dog-shaped object, it was fairly obvious.

Sard eased his bike forward, into the edge of the junkyard. It can wait there, blending in with the junk, laid over on its side against some scrap metal - in the dark, just another piece of trash.

"I wasn't worried about the bear attacking anything, but it's a predator. The animals nursing young are going to want to protect them - and that could prove dangerous for the bear. Kittens are just small enough to get trampled, and I figured the old dog might work to keep the bear and kittens more comfortable."

“Okay, outside of the stray, do you feel anything else?  There’s a lot of death here, and it ‘tastes’ funny,”  Jackie asked, "A lot of death and a lot of life."

“Something … kind of like Daisy, infernal or abyssal, is around, but I don’t know what exactly,”  Desdenova piped up.

"I wouldn't be able to sense anything infernal. Abyssal. That type of thing. Not for those qualities, at least. Something like this... I've seen it before, but it wasn't anything like those. It was the lair of a psychic vampire. They'd feed on the emotions, both of the people and the animals. Pain, fear, joy, despair - the stronger they could make it, the more of a meal, and they'd drain people so badly they'd wander off and dye for lack of will to keep living," Sard explained, "If anything like that crops up, you two get back to the van fast. I can promise you that there won't be any animals left here, even if I have to give them a painless death to ensure it. That's a last resort, if we find something too dangerous to take down. Show me where you planned to go through the fence, and I'll remove it."

“Psychic vampires, I hate those,”  Jackie responded with a twitch, and also, a paranoid glance to her little brother.  Desdenova did not have some of the defenses she had, and Sard had her concerned about that.  But she shouldered herself out of it.  Keeping Desdeova safe was not the best way to let him learn.  

“Bear and dog and cats first…”  she noted, indicating the set of fences between the U-Haul and zoo. Chain link on the perimeter, cheap steel pickets for the rest. “Wake Sue up and tell her we’re coming. Get in position.  Once you’ve sorted out who’s in the Uhaul, get the rest over to the van.  Sard and I will go in the other side by the midden pile…?”

All the Greenswarden really needed was a visual of what he would be destroying. Or, rather 'repurposing'. Studying the sections of fence, he nods a curt approval to Jackie's plan, and stimulates the organisms already there. Rich in the soil, thriving on the metal itself, tiny mechanisms of technological destruction - nature's composting method when it comes to metal. Rust.

A section of fence, from the ground up, starts darkening visibly as it decayed, crumbling and sagging as it sifted to the ground in clumps of damp rust and dust. A method that worked equally well on electrified fences. For the wooden sections, dry rot that started crumbling them, and only in a specific spot lined up with the U-haul, to let bodies pass through.

"Lead the way. Midden pile first, then those crates, the sheds, and the trailers. Leave the mobile home for last. Des, worry about getting the animals out first. Out, loaded, ready to go, then you can apply some first-aid to the ones that need it most. It may be hard, but this isn't the time to get tied up with healing and end up with animals that haven't been extracted yet, and needing to leave in a hurry. I'd rather not have to kill them, to save them. They've survived this long, they can last a little longer, until they're somewhere safe to work with them."

One of the harder lessons to learn. That sometimes, healing has to wait, and sometimes, the greatest mercy lies in a clean death.

“You can only throw something into stasis as a last resort,”  Jackie added quickly, narrowing her eyes at her brother.  Desdenova returned her gaze a bit sulkily:  he liked animals a lot better than people.  But he nodded, and slipped over to the U-haul, woofing softly.  

The basset stood with a half hearted wag of tail until she realized what was going on.  She quickly started nosing the kittens towards the trailer. Once Desdenova had the bear cub's tether cut, Sue moved to simply grab the cub by the scruff of its neck and hauled it (more or less) for the ramp to the trailer. Poor Bear was baffled but silent and still as the Mama dog took charge.

Once the fence there was down, the Midden pile slumped even more onto the other yard, and a fresh aroma of oh thank the fates it’s not summer yet washed over the area.  Jackie swallowed back bile, but prowled in, turning the light onto the pile as she moved.  Rats, mice, bugs, the usual reducers, swarmed through the trash, but none wanted anything to do with the light.

A Greenswarden can be useful, at times. Leaving the animals in Desdenova's' hands, though he continued to track the flora-signatures of them. Sard accelerated the decay of the fence ahead as well, a hand extended to keep Jackie from passing through until it's entirely down. Better not to take any risks they don't need to.

It only took a few moments. The stench of the midden heap didn't seem to bother the biker much at all. Head swinging from side to side as he got a feel for the trash, the biker narrowed his eyes, accelerating the decay there as well. Not as much - just the soft material, swelling and heaving as though it were alive, though a hand on Jackie's shoulder offered assurance that it's a deliberate act.

"Watch your step. Going this fast, most of it breaks down into a semi-liquid form before it finishes decomposing. I'm only taking out the 'soft' materials... if there are any living creatures here, it won't harm them. If there are any dead animals here, it won't destroy them, either. You don't really want this crud on your clothing, though, if you can avoid it, and I'd rather stay back a ways anyway until it's broken down some. Wouldn't be too surprised to find some fairly nasty scavengers in this mess. No flame. This is going to produce a lot of methane," Sard explained in a quiet voice.

“Ugh,” Jackie noted, watching in fascination rather than revulsion as the pile started writhing.  “I can do that with flesh, but not on that scale yet,”

Yet.  You can bet she was going to practice after seeing that display.

(Written with Sard <3)
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:07 pm

Jackie stepped back as Sard suggested, keenly looking into the open shed.  Probably a smaller horse trailer had been in there, and probably Dearest was towing it around tonight.  That was likely where the other dog was, and as her light passed over the darkness, a flash of green from a pair of eyes was visible.

However, when Jackie tried to re-aim the light at the eyes, the creature was gone.  She frowned faintly, trying absently to recapture the animal in the light, but wasn’t willing to focus all of her attention on the task. There was simply too much else going on that required reflexes and thought.

Meanwhile, Desdenova and Sue were doing fairly well moving things, though the silky cock gave an indignant cackle before he was stuffed under Desdenova's shirt.

A chuckle vibrated Sard's chest, though it was silent. It was reflected in the squeeze of his fingers on the girl's shoulder, before his hand drops away, however.

"You're probably working from the other end of things. Break down the tissue by accelerating the death in it. What I do is accelerate the life in the organisms that consume dead tissue... same effect, but from the opposite side of things. It's equally effective, but my way has the benefit that the organisms are actually eating the decaying matter, so there's a bit less of a mess to clean up afterwards. The air's too humid here for dry decay, without a sealed environment." Even dry-rot in wood isn't really dry!

Glancing over at the shed, the biker studied it sharply in response to Jackie's brief attention to it, but he'd missed the glow of eyes in his concentration on the midden heap. It wouldn't take long for the debris to break down - the soil near there is going to be very fertile!

Only once the muck was dug into the soil did he move forward, though, pausing to collect a chunk of branch. There was still enough life to shape it, elongating its growth until the living energy within is used up, a staff suitable for stirring through the debris that hadn't been broken down to identify what it is.

Desdenova got to work with moving the animals. They were alright, other than their gut flora being unhealthy, a result of too little food, depression and poor housing. The more animals Desdeova got out of there, the easier it would be to monitor the larger 'pools' of bacteria that remained.

Squatting next to some small bones, the biker stirred them cautiously to examine their nature, head tipping toward Jackie for her prognosis.

Jackie’s brows knit, and she hunkered down to touch at the bones.  Her eyes closed, her head tilted back, a slow and windy exhalation.  

“Bad.  These are human, immature, a child.  Six, seven.  Wait.  …Over here.  What happened?”  she’s talking, but… to who?  Her eyes opened and she tilted her gaze aside.  There was silence, though a touch of chill nearby.  She reached down and began to collect the bones, dropping them into a large zip loc baggie pulled out of her back pack.  

“Okay.  Is there anyone else?  Bring them to find their tethers, or I can’t do anything.”  Then she exhaled and gave her best I’m Not Insane Yet, But I Sure Am Trying smile to Sard. 

“You ever read the story Hansel and Gretl?”  she asked, “You know, two kids randomly find a house in the woods made out of cookies and candy, and instead of freaking out about that and beating feet, they start eating it, and hello, it’s owned by a little old witch who’s on a carb crash and craving protein.”

Far be it from Sard to question someone starting to talk to nothing. He's got a ghost living in his stable, at home. Studying the space Jackie's watching, the biker offers a grunt to acknowledge the information about what they'd been from, and helped to collect them before resuming his examination of the trash pile.

They still had the cages and sheds, as well as the trailers and house, to check out, as well - but if Jackie's found an 'informant', that should speed things up.

"No. Heard different versions, though, same concept. Kid gets chased out or abandoned for being lazy or bad, tempted away or something like that, finds what they think is somewhere safe or a treat, gets made into a slave or eaten. Usually, one gets fed to the other, then the fatted one gets eaten or something like that. Basic concept is, good children work hard and don't trust anyone but their parents. Not a bad concept, if you need a hard worker and the area's dangerous. Usually it gets softened down, though, the more advanced the culture is, until the message gets lost. Is your Dearest a bit more physical than a psychic vampire, then? Use the animals to bait the kids in, then eat them?"

“Looks like, yes yes.  Eating the kids.  From what I can figure, she picks out who’s going to be next from the kids visiting here, and either snatches them before they leave and sends a pretty crappy similcrum of them home, or snatches them later and leaves the changeling.  It seems to sicken and die quickly thereafter, and the parents bury a bag of trash while their poor kid gets eaten.”  Jackie noted, irritable tones flickering through her voice.  As much as she hates drama, this is a full blown psychotic episode for her.  

Straightening up from examining another patch of trash, Sard frowned at the open shed.

"Don't like that everything else is buttoned up, and that got left open. I'm going to go ahead and take a look. Don't go anywhere but here or there - I can see you from there, as long as you're here."

“Yeah, Dad always says when something’s different, there’s a reason.  So.  Be careful.  There’s so much psychic turbulence here I couldn’t pick out a demon if it took a leak on me.”  Ah, so gracious.  Then, absently aside Jackie spoke again:

“No, no, I don’t need your bones, I need your tethers.  Tethers.  Where you always wake up and where you always end up.  But don’t worry, I’ll gather up what bones I can find to take back for you.  No, they have to come to me, like I just told Mr. Sard, there’s too much noise here for me to find them.  …Just tell them they’re going to have to come out if they want to get out of here.”  A tad exasperated.  Dealing with ghosts always had its own odd problems, but with children ghosts, it was a bit more complicated.

Stepping away from the midden heap, or at least what remained of it - with open air, the methane would be dissipating rapidly now that the softer organics are broken down. A lovely patch of thoroughly composted mulch, just waiting to be planted! And undoubtedly, the biker had left a few small seeds scattered here and there through it...

A glance checked on Desdenova, to ensure he was doing okay extracting the animals, before Sard nodded to Jackie. Just as well that she was dealing with the ghosts. Sard probably would have just left them there - but dealing with the dead wasn't his area of expertise.

"If it starts raining, and it's warmer than it should be, don't look up." Dry words, before he headed off toward the open shed.

Not directly, but bowing out at an angle to approach it from the side, where he's not visible through the door. It's an automatic precaution, just as searching the space for any organic life that might indicate something bigger than a rat is.

That close, it was a bit easier to concentrate his attention - and Desdenova getting the larger animals out made it vastly easier to spot movement, too. Sard still kept track of the boy, and the life that moved near him, matching each signature with an animal as the motion changed to a directed goal instead of weary ambling.

A flick of his fingers sends a scattering of tiny seeds across and into the doorway, seething into life as infant vines before he glances around the frame to scan the interior - floor, walls, then roof, each in turn, though Sard hadn't brought a light. Usually, he didn't need one.

Desdenova was doing alright, most of the animals were bone weary and used to following Sue around. The dog was smart enough to knock feeders over for them and to bring back small prey for the few carnivores.  By that point, he was fastening leashes to the deer’s collars and leading them to the van.  The larger animals would need to go into the trailer.

Sard heard hissing, like a cat, but with an infernal edge to it.  Yellow glowing eyes appeared up near the roof, disappeared, and reappeared down low.  The shed smelled of stale machine oil, mostly, and seemed to serve as a garage.  

Once upon a time, the property had been a truck farm.  Small disc drags, plows, and other implements were crowded into the space.  There was considerable whispering, low and hatefilled.  Most was unintelligible, but words like ‘Mistress’ and ‘Intruder’ and ‘Don’t fucking care’ were able to be picked out.  Once that started, Jackie became visibly uneasy, but she remained where Sard had left her.

A piece of Sard's thoughts followed Desdenova, another remained with Jackie. The rest focused on the shed. As the biker reached across to tap his 'watch', a flick and swipe over the face of it. There were a number of things that Sard could have done. He could have charged into the shed, to confront the infernal beast.

He could have retreated, backing away to call the other two for reinforcements. A slow, cautious scan swept over the tools scattered around, and the biker did something else entirely. He reached over to grip the edge of the door, and pulled it - slowly, and with his motions entirely telegraphed – to close it. The creatures inside clearly didn't like the idea of coming out into the light - and Sard was perfectly content to cater to that desire, at least for the moment!  

The other hand, though... that slipped a few fingers into one of the innumerable tiny pouches on his belt, calling on its enchantment to bring the seeds he wants to his fingers. Sard's been to many places. Not only worlds, but planes... and he can't sense an infernal creature, no more than he can any other living beast, at least - and any more than he can sense a Celestial creature.

He didn't pull the seeds out, and wouldn't, unless the creatures attacked, however. Having Sweetbriar near wouldn't make anything infernal happy at all, and as long as the seeds stayed in their pouch, they were concealed. Sard was not at all above using the door as a shield while he slid it the rest of the way shut!

Bump thump Whump!  The stray dog scrambled its scrawny ass out just as the door shut.  The hissing receded, more or less.  However, one of the whispers rasped out ‘wizard’, but the rest of the voices were repeating ‘dog stupid’.  

The stray hunkered behind Sard, just a young pit bull mix, common everywhere, with enough scars to give evidence it was an escaped bait dog.  And mange.  And fleas.  And ticks.  The dog looked soulfully and hopefully up at Sard, it hadn’t lost its faith in humanity yet, a paw lifted in question, licking its nose.  It kept cutting glances to the trailer and the crates behind it, sort of wagging its tail though it was firmly between its legs.

Fingers twitched sharply as the dog bolted out, eyes narrowing on it. But to all appearances, it was a dog - and the whispering from inside is enough to alleviate at least some of the biker's concerns. With the door secured shut, however, Sard wasted no further time - The seeds, tiny white specks, were pulled out of his belt, and he started circling the shed to sprinkle the celestial plant around its edge.

Some got scattered on the dog, as well, but otherwise the biker doesn't bother it. Not directly, more or less... there may have been a seething wave traveling over the poor mutt's body, as the digestive bacteria of all its 'friends' got abruptly accelerated in production and development. Tiny bugs exploding all over!

Euw.  Drippy Dog.  But the mutt didn’t more than give a good shake and have a good scratch throughout the process.  It perked at the snapping fingers - it must have had a kind owner as a pup - and swarmed after Sard all knobby knees and visible bones.
Last edited by Jackie Von Tombs on Fri May 17, 2019 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:09 pm

With the seeds spread, Sard made short work of backing away, fingers snapping by his leg to draw the mutt with him, before the ground roiled. Vines snaked upward, pale and luminously translucent in the moonlight. That should at least keep whatever was inside contained for a little while - though it was going to be visible, if the 'owner' returns to her property too soon... which is why he wasted no time heading for the midden heap, waving Jackie toward him.

Once Jackie caught sight of the motion, Sard diverted toward where the dog had been looking. If there's one truth in life, it's that dogs and children will find each other, somehow, whenever possible. And the dog's wag didn't suggest fear, so much as hope.

"Something nasty in that shed. Dog was in there, too, so if you can sense anything off about it, we'd better deal with it now. The kids are going to have to come out or not, but we need to get the rest of the sheds and those crates checked out - dog seems interested in them, so if it's what it seems, best we look there first."

Jackie glanced to Sard, the shed, and then the pup.  She woofed at it a few times.  The dog promptly rolled, belly up, and whined.  She chuffed, and the pup was up again, wagging, its eyes bright as it had all sorts of things to say.  Probably much too fast, Jackie was staring at the animal with a brow pinned high, the other scowled low.  Then she blinked several times.  

“Darklings of some sort in the shed, but there’s more,”  she reported quietly, “And kids in the kennels.”  She could only use the dog’s ‘terms’ until she figured out what the animal meant.  …Yes.  They all spoke Dog.  It was more useful than Latin.  She shifted and withdrew a small pistol, a revolver, from her person.  She swapped cylinders on the weapon.  

“Holy hand grenades are hard to come by, but I do have some blessed lead,”  she smirked ironically.  “Ready when you are.”  

Desdenova, meantime, was moving the mini horses and pony, each scurrying along faster than he wanted them to.  He grabbed their bridles and braked them.  Running would lead to panic.  Walk nicely.  He stood quieting them for several moments before moving once more.

A satisfied grunt from Sard answered the information of what was in the shed.

"We get done here, I'll rip the shed apart. Sweetbriar will make short work of something that minor. Major one would have already swatted us like bugs. If there are more, point them out to me - you can probably sense them better than I can - and let me try to get rid of them before you start shooting that thing. It's likely to be loud, and I'd rather avoid too much noise."

However, the presence of the seeds coating his palm and fingers may be deterrent enough to encourage any more Darklings to sneak off rather than run the risk, and Sard only paused long enough to look down at the dog.

"You need him along, or should we send him to get loaded up? He's had a rough time, from the looks of it. Better to make sure he's out of here, while we can, so if you don't need him, tell him to go wait at the hole." Sard might actually be more concerned about the animals than any children - after all, people can always just make more children! However, that wasn't keeping him from cutting a direct path toward the crates - the most likely 'kennels' that are there.

Jackie nodded and wuffed at the pup a few times.  The dog regarded her all sadly, but as it turned, it shuttled quickly to follow Sue around.  The older dog simply grabbed it by the scruff and dragged it in to deposit with the bear and kittens.  She fully expected the young dog to be good, and the young dog wasn’t stupid.  It hunkered down with the kittens, absently grooming the bear cub.  

Again, the biker didn't just plow straight in on the area. Instead, he studied the ground, circling wide to come at them from the direction of the trailer. That would be a fine place for traps to be set - tripwires, if nothing else, and there's a slow, creeping riffle of the bacteria in the dirt, searching for the tingle of magical energy contaminating it that would indicate a more sophisticated warning - or trapping - system.

The darklings in the shed had realized the celestial planting around them, and … it …sounded like… they were having a grand old hoopla of a party in there.  They were happy.  They were cheering the plants on.  

‘Break the circle’ was chanted like a rabid lot of soccer fans.  Sard’s caution paid off:  there were a lot of traps.  Magical, mostly, but there was also a motion detector that turned on a flood light and a siren.

Something was moving within the dilapidated trailer, as well, eyes appeared at windows and moved, like a large cat glaring out of a cage.  
“Something - some sort of demon in the trailer,”  Jackie reported quietly, “Likely bigger or stronger or both than the darklings.”  Likely?  The entire single wide rocked and tilted as the thing moved through the structure.  But then again, it was nigh onto falling apart anyhow.

The Darklings were going to be disappointed for now - the plants are just there to make sure they don't come out, and while they surrounded the structure, they didn't start ripping it down. Not yet, at least. Perhaps the infernal creatures are as much captives as the rest... it wouldn't be the first time the biker had encountered that!

For now, though, those creatures are contained - and Sard was content to deal with them later. Now that the dog was out of the way - for his own safety - Sard paused at the first hint of a magical trap, lifting his hand, fist closed, to stop Jackie.

"This place is a mine field. Stand still, stay right behind me. I've got plenty to work with here... I'm going to see how many of the traps I can defuse before we keep going."

A glance at the trailer narrowed his eyes, however, before he shook his head shortly.

"Ignore that for now. It's inside, and doesn't appear to be coming out. Not yet, at least. I'll put a seed barrier around it before we try to get near the cages... that may not be enough to stop it, if it does come out, but it should be enough to slow it down enough for more direct measures to be taken." Quiet words, murmured rather than projected. Sard would rather not tell whatever is in there what he was planning to do. And the first thing he was planning to do... was very small.

Very small indeed. Microscopic, even - a haze of tiny spores, drifted outward in a flung arc to settle onto the soil. Rich with bacteria spread outward from the midden heap, and feeding back to that fertile malaise. Tiny fungi, sprouting and seething in a dull, reddish-orange carpet outward, as their life cycle was vastly accelerated. They darkened to a dried-blood hue wherever they encountered the focal point of a spell... and started sucking the magic out of it.

Parasites of the vegetable kind. But they served a dual purpose... not only did they feed on the magic, steadily draining it rather than triggering it, they also crawled into every mechanical nook and cranny, every hollow beneath a pebble and electrical board, breeding happily to gum up the works. A thriving, fungal orgy! At least Sard kept them away from Jackie - and himself, a perimeter within which the spores are neutralized.  

His other hand lifted, extended to offer Jackie a handful of the celestial seeds.

"You go to the right, once the bloom dies off. I'll go to the left. Stay back away from the building, but sprinkle an even line around it, until we meet up on the far side."

Jackie watched, fascinated, but when he offered her the seeds, she quickly pulled her fingerless gloves onto her hands.  She kept the seeds carefully contained there.  Hazard of her existence:  Evil and Good were stinging things to her.  She nodded as he spoke, and waited.  

Whatever was in the trailer was becoming more agitated, the box of beast rocking and creaking.  Jackie eyed it, and though she had salt, of course, the seeds seemed more directly to affect things.  When your obnoxious little brother is a mage, you learn quickly to keep packets of salt on your person.  

“I can get its attention over on my side while you get to the crates,”  she noted, quiet, lips scarce moving.  She took a look back, Desdenova was leading the pig to the van. Miss Pig wanted to go root around and find more food as soon as she realized she was free, but between Desdenova and Sue, they were able to direct the animal to the van and inside.

"Tch.." Quiet sound, before Sard shook his head.

"Seeds first. Go ahead - the spores will be dying off, but if you see them concentrated anywhere, stay away from it. They're still leeching the magic out. This won't work on everything, but I haven't spotted anything it won't work on, here. Some of the highest tech is so well sealed, they can't get in to gum it up. We meet up in the back, YOU deal with the brats, I'll distract the thing. You'll have your gun in case it tries for you, and I don't like kids. They usually know that."

Dealing with children, when they've figured out you don't like them, is purely a recipe for disaster!

Uncoiling to his feet, the biker started their path with a tossed line of seeds, and nodded to Jackie to start where the spray ended. He did the same, in the opposite direction - just a steady, slow sprinkling, to create a barrier. There was no movement from the seeds - none at all, though the energy is building to stimulate growth when it was needed. Hopefully, they would get a full perimeter around the trailer before then.  

A nod and Jackie gave a quick fist bump before she turned, moving low and silent around the trailer.  It was uncanny just how quiet she could be when need be.  She was scarce disturbing the air as she moved.  

The beast seemed to be watching more for Sard, anyhow, as the man was the larger, and therefore the more obvious threat.  Jackie managed to loop back to the trailer end where the crates were.  One empty, two containing sleeping kids.  Filthy yet plump and delicious.  
Jackie frowned at the cages, then made an annoyed sound:   there were the tethers for the ghosts.  At least, the iron of the latches and locks.  

“I need the latches and locks,”  Jackie mouthed to Sard, “Once they’re out.  From all three of the crates.”  She moved to the crate, watching the rear window.  There was an awning over the crates, suspended from the top of the singlewide.  

A pair of angry yellow eyes watched from the window.  Heavily clawed hands pushed at the glass.  Jackie ignored it, pressing fingers around the lock and hasp.  The wood slowly began to moulder into dust, until she could yank of the cage door’s open.  She paused and stared hard at the kid, who was still sleeping.  Until she could reach in and grab him up — nicely fixed in stasis.

A trail of seeds, all the way around the trailer. But with the creature inside making no move to break out - yet - Sard circled back to join Jackie, at least for a few minutes. And the far end of the trailer started to rot. It was mostly made of metal, anyway... and just like the fence, it could decay, though for now it's just the rust already there getting a stronger foothold.

Hopefully, there weren't any snackfood-kids inside... A glance swept up to check on the resident of the decaying structure, before he grunted affirmation to the girl. Again, the bacteria are already there - just a matter of accelerating them, though the energy might conflict with Jackie's when they intersect. Still... when the rot gets fully activated, it would destroy all the nice, soft, organic wood, leaving the metal latches and fixtures to be gathered up.  

Sard didn't stick around to watch, though. He hadn't missed the fact that the resident was primarily focused on him - and he didn't try to be subtle, about staring back at it, before circling around toward the front door. Not that he has any intention of opening it! But the thing inside might not know that.

Toward the front door... and then around it, toward the far end of the trailer, to see just how complete the infernal creature's range is inside. The words weren't spoken - but they should be clear enough regardless. Get the kids, get the tethers, and get them out!

So long as the creature followed Sard, the seeds were already germinating and sending up tiny sprouts at the far end of the trailer - ready to spring into growth, once Jackie has what she needs and gets beyond them, to create a barrier. Elsewhere, they're still dormant, though the line of activation was following Sard's movement toward the trailer's opposite end.

It was like a badger stuck in a rusted oil drum.  It slammed into walls and threw things around, rushing after Sard’s movements.  Oh.  Yay!  A kid screamed from inside the trailer.  Jackie froze as she gathered up the iron, kid one over her shoulder, and exhaled.  

Muttering about betting that the kid trapped in the single wide was Jannes, Jackie stood and walked swiftly back to the road and the van.  She jammed the sleeping child amidst the alpacas, and paused, getting a head count and checking Desdenova over.  

“What’s left?”  she hissed.  Desdenova frowned, looking back to the zoo.  

“Rabbits and geese,”  he whispered in response.  She nodded and dashed back to collect the other child.  Desdenova hurried to grab the rabbits.

(Written with Sard<3 So was the one before this. Derp.)
Last edited by Jackie Von Tombs on Fri May 17, 2019 1:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Mon May 06, 2019 2:31 am

Well, shit - there just had to be one stashed away for dinner. Sard swept a glance over the area, tracking Jackie and Des, before picking up his pace. A woodsman's lope, around to the back of the trailer at the far end from the crates. The screaming from inside probably wouldn't make much more noise than the beast crashing around inside, anyway.... but the sooner it could get pulled out, the better.

Which is why the biker snapped a glance toward the perimeter fence nearest, dark red boiling over it to crumble away into rust before he turns back to the trailer. And the same red boiled up over it, eating away at the iron-based metal. But singlewides aren't usually built with very much iron. The frame might sag, groaning under the weight inside, but it's a dark wash of oxidation that starts melting away the paint and the aluminum beneath it, as Sard stood just on the line of seeds they'd strewn at that end.

Let the infernal creature come after him - and if he could serve as bait to get it outside the property, that would give Jackie the time to get in and get the kid inside. Dark chunks of metal 'melted', sifting into grey waste - and as the creature jostled, the entire end of the trailer began to crumple like a soda can in a furnace, even without any heat.

There was a distinct sense of ‘oh fuck it’ as Jackie dashed back. She simply snatched up the second kid and ran her to the petting zoo where Desdenova was wrangling geese.  His wide eyed stare said ‘wtf!!??!’ though he did not. He left the geese hissing and grabbed the kid’s hand to hustle her to the van with the other.  

Jackie sprinted back and stared as she realized what Sard was doing.  Trouble was, the beast was pretty sure Sard was working up a trap, too.  It wasn’t …entirely stupid, though the dogs likely had smarts on it.  It was sullenly still and hissing.  

The beast had good reason to be suspicious - it's not a trap, but it Sard was bait. Well, no more of a trap than the rest of the perimeter is

A kitchen chair came flying out towards Sard.  An old CRT TV.  A lot of books winged out one by one (all tawdry romances, if Sard stopped to read the titles).  The transmission case off of a a 1970s Honda motorcycle.  A large potted and mostly dead philodendron.  

Now that Sard had the main focus of the thing's attention, the biker doesn't even try to use exotic means to protect himself. Sard ducked and twisted, dodging the projectiles by purely physical means, laughing, one of the rare occasions when it's actually audible, arms deflecting the lighter objects just enough to avoid a solid impact, the heavier items ducked entirely. Sard was enjoying himself thoroughly.

Then, shrieking all the way…  the kid was pitched out at the man.  

The petty assault couldn't last, though... and while Sard wasn't exactly expecting a child to be thrown at him, it didn't come as a complete surprise, either. Twisting to grab at the kid, Sard didn't even TRY to cradle the kid in his arms, to cushion his fall and protect him.

The moment Sard grabbed for the kid, the beast launched outwards:  A grizzly bear sized blot of darkness, bear-shaped, more or less, but it was definitely fat, and breathing heavily.

As the beast rushed, there was a heave from the ground, a rolling wave of earth and vines that carved upward into the air all around the trailer. Including where Sard had deflected the child to, a cushioning resilience that catches and winds around the brat. Finding nothing infernal other than the taint of contact, the vines spat him out the other side of the rising wall to be collected by Jackie.

Decay washed over the trailer, crumbling it visibly even as the vines crawl up and over the top, collapsing what's left in a wave from the far end toward the biker.

Sard backed away, a path clear of celestial life that led out the dissolved fence, an open shot to freedom - the creature just has to go through him to get there. Smears and drops of blood scented the air, where skin had broken beneath the objects that clipped him – it wasn't visible, not through his coat, and it wouldn't last long before it healed. It was another type of bait.

Jackie could only STARE at Sard before she started laughing, but it was more that ‘oh Fate’s going to fuck us now’ sort of laughter than happy funtime wee laughter.  The kid - Jannes as deduced - squawled as he was pitched, but then started giggling as he was cycled through the writhing mass of plants.  

“Again!  Again!”  he cheered as he was spat out at Jackie’s feet.  She rolled her eyes and collected the child, rushing back to the van once more. Jannes stumbled quickly into the van with the other kids and animals. She paused there, frowning, looking off into the distance.  

Desdenova looked as well, frowning.  He glanced back to Jackie.  

“I’ll throw up a set of confusions, if she’s as bad a her other work as she is with making trash golems, it should keep her busy till we’re long gone,”  he announced, “But you have to get the geese.”  

Jackie muttered, leaving the boy to his castings to go and corral the pair of very offended Embden geese.  Fortunately, a rather mellow breed of the horrid beasts. They hissed but allowed the girl to pick both of them up.

And, speaking of horrid beasts… the Trailer Beast huffed and panted where he thought he would have caught Sard.  But there was no Sard.  Its eyes narrowed as it realized Sard was backing away.  It could smell the blood and was madder than hell about the celestial weeds.

 It contemplated its next move.  

The darklings trapped in the shed could see the fight, and taunted the big one nastily.  It would seem that they were indeed trapped there.  But the big one… It had its loyalty to Dearest, clearly.  It dug claws into the dirt and considered its strategy:  throw things, roar, jump onto.  What could go wrong with that?!  

It sucked in a breath and exhaled a stream of something very like Greek fire:  hot, tarry, and burning like phosphorus.  Right at Sard as it made another lumbering charge for the man.

The Sweetbriar vines ringing the shed hove inward, covering the building in a seething mass that wouldn't take long to reduce it to shredded metal and wood. It was a reaction to the infernal energy inside, with the 'leash' released.

Translucent stems flush solid and pale with celestial energy, and those crawling over the trailer do the same - while performing much the same function, seeking out and destroying everything saturated with infernal power. If there were any children left in the trailer, they'd probably survive - but it's not called a 'briar' for nothing! The thorns are vicious.

The road back was cut off, vines to either side forming a funnel that really only gives the creature one direction to go. And there was the Greenswarden in that direction. A step over where the chain link fence had been... and a hand flung forward, to throw a handful of seeds toward the beast's face and body.

Sweetbriar, sage, coltsfoot and star thyme... among others. Some were incinerated by the naphtha vomit, but not all. Celestial vines tore up through the soil, seeking to wrap and shred at the creature's body, thorns punching inward sticky with venom that would heal a celestial creature - not so, an infernal.

The others are more of a distraction, and it's a necessary one. A haze of growth, tangled and seething, weaving purification, salt and cleansing into the celestial vines, to try and bury the beast entirely  beneath the mass - and give the Sweetbriar time to work. Sard's busy twisting aside.

The arm he'd flung the seeds with swept down and across, but it was more for balance than anything resembling a shield. Clinging, burning vomit sears through heavy leather and the denim beneath it, but he'd flung himself far enough that it didn't catch his body directly.

A shoulder, part of his side, most of that arm. Some melted away with the leather as he tore the coat off, tossing it into the Sweetbriar, and a little more goes with the shirt, but there's still clinging, tarry liquid eating into his skin, in patches and swaths.

Pupils dialated sharply, and then contracted to pins, the biker dugs into his belt with his good hand to dust the wounds with fungal spores. It would coat and smother the goop, forming a crusty seal.

The beast’s momentary triumph turned to fury, and it squalled hideous, twisting and writhing in the briars.  But, it was heavily overweight - it didn’t last long.  This is why you never should feed your pet killer beast fatty table scraps.  

The other batch of Darkings screeched as the shed broke up.  They started to lunge after Desdenova, but with the nasty holy weeds everywhere, they had to abandon their plan.  Rather than to be torn to shreds, they discorporated.  It’d be a long, long time before they’d be able to return to reality, but they’d be sadder, wiser darklings and not end up trapped by a second rate witch.  

Jackie finally had the geese, one under each arm, both honking in alarm, as she reeled to turn and watch the fiery beast go down, green eyes wide.  She turned and shoved the birds into the trailer, then sprinted back for Sard, yelling his name.

Peeling the tar and spores from his arm was going to be unpleasant - but it would have to wait. As long as it was out, that's all that mattered for the moment, as the biker scrambled up off his knees, breath panting roughly beneath his ribs. The faint stench of burnt hair mingles with incinerated leather and denim, the sweet-sick odor of crisped human, but the scents are dissolving fast.

A clean, pure odor wipes them from the air, spreading out across the lot and the properties to either side, as the infernal beasts crumbled and fled, banished from the material world. As the larger creature was torn apart, light burned a clean white luminescence everywhere the sap had punched through its 'skin'. Within moments, it all whisped away into vapor, which flowed across the ground and soaked into the earth, cleansing the plot of land in the most effective way possible. It would be a pain in the ass replenishing Sards supply of seeds - but it was worth the expense.

As the sound of Jackie yelling penetrated the buzzing in his ears, the biker glanced up and swept the property with a sharp scan, good arm lifting to wave her away - back toward the trailer.

"Go! Get the animals and the kids out of here! I'll be fine. May need help later."

Getting the crud off his arm, shoulder and side, he would definitely need help with. Right now, though, that pain was serving a purpose. It wasn't shock, but a mingling of genuine pain and a twisted form of pleasure that narrowed the Greenswarden's eyes.

“Are you sure?  Dearest is heading back, and though Des will have her dazzled and there’s your blockade, she’s going to be pissed off,”  Jackie replied, looking back over her shoulder then back to Sard.  She’s from Hollywood, people enjoying pain is nothing new or shocking to her, but there’s a place and time for everything, after all.  

Desdenova finished up securing the animals and frowned as he stepped closer.  However, Jackie held him back behind her.  Desdenova shrugged,

“I can shift him outside of time a few heartbeats.  Dearest won’t be able to do more than scream at him.”

"Yes. Get them out of here. Witch is going to have troubles enough, and I don't plan on her noticing me, if I can help it. If you have to, get them out of sight, then come back to make sure everything's going okay - but don't come back into this plot when you do, no matter what you see. I need to be in current time, Des - I can't connect with the Green as closely if I'm not. Go! I'll be next door."

Enjoying, yes - but the biker doesn't have a lot of choice in that matter. It didn't keep the pain from being genuine, either. It was the chemicals released by his nanytes to keep him functioning while he's injured that he's addicted to, and no adjustment to them would change that, since they were doing what they were supposed to. It didn't keep him from being functional, though, fortunately. Teeth clenched, Sard nodded to the junkyard - where Sard left his bike. Just going to have to ride without it!

Sard started walking toward the front of the property again. No more Sweetbriar, but instead the building blocks of life - bacteria, stimulated to start eating away at the structures and equipment on the property, from the outter fence inward - rotting wood, rusting iron, oxydizing aluminum. Sard had every intention of turning the place into a nice, fertile, flat, utterly vacant plot of grass. Maybe with a few fruit trees.

"Times like this, I really wish I had the kind of structured spells that could turn someone into a nice, juicy looking young lamb." Dry words! But a fitting fate, if he could do it. Sard couldn't. Well... not technically!

(Co written with Sard <3)
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu May 16, 2019 4:46 pm

Desdenova does have the sorts of spells that could turn people to lambs…  Also he could turn bad kids into donkeys and a few other random Grimm brothers riffs.  But, Jackie just nodded and grabbed Desdenova by the hand, towing him to the van.  She quickly had him belted in, then turned to make sure the trailer was properly hitched up.  Always checking the machinery.  

Jackie hopped behind the wheel and got the van started.  First things first, they were heading for the hospital, then to the waiting veterinarian.  Jackie wasn’t eager to be letting anyone know what Desdenova could do, let alone what she was capable of.  

As Jackie had the ghosts tethers, they were compelled to follow her, as well.  They were well gone when Sard might start noticing random pressure being brought against his own measures against Dearest.  She was madder than hell.  

While Dearest had been discussing purchasing a few ponies with a handsome old guy, someone had poured bleach into her oil pan and cut the springs on her large stock trailer.  The truck was screaming its last about a mile away, and the trailer was on its side in a ditch about a mile past that.  Worse, she couldn’t contact her pet demon at all.  

Dearest set off quick and nasty flash-fire spells on anything near her as she bulled her way down the road — though as she triggered Desdenova’s spells, she was as often going away from her house as towards it, and currently was par boiled, mostly naked, and her false teeth were gleaming so brightly she could literally see by them.  She hadn’t found fit to find this worrisome yet, however.

Blood is a powerful thing, no matter what it's source. But when it's filled with the kind of organic tools that Sard's is, it is a very useful thing. Keeping his coated arm tucked close to his side, the biker fumbles seeds from his belt, smearing blood on them before he tosses them - in careful patterns - around the midpoint of the property.

All the while, the buildings and fences were being eaten away, and sinking into the earth - and that earth heaves, seething as though it were a living thing, to pull the remains down and scatter them out. The trash from the midden heap was strewn wide, turned into the soil by the cables of wire-tough vine churning the earth.  

Dearest would return to a carpet of fresh, green moss. A few small saplings scattered around it - hawthorns, rather than fruit, gnarled little things with thorns only a shrike could love. Sard headed for the junkyard next door, just as he said he would - to collect his bike, and to prop both of them up against a pile of old metal, untouched by his stimulated decay. Waiting.

All Dearest had to do is come onto the property... into the area the biker had sown with the same magic-eating fungus spores, spiced with his own blood for strength, and the same thorn-vines he uses to defend his own property. Just seeds, for the moment, with nothing more than compacted growth set to trigger as soon as weight passed above them.

Having finally gotten one of the other guards to show her how to access her voice mail …again… Halcyon tracked down the kids. Riding Stupid, the great destrier made a surprisingly fleet time on the old road. He spotted the headlights to the van and pulled up before plowing into it.

Jackie quickly rattled off what had gone on to the taciturn warrior, and Halcyon simply lifted her brows.

"Shall Sard be needin' help?" she asked.

"Probably not? But I'm pretty sure if we water him well enough and keep him in filtered shade, he'll be fine," Jackie replied. Halcyon scoffed, then jerked her head to the side.

"Let's get moving. Kids need to be taken to the hospital before else, and we'll need to be sendin' runners back for their parents."

(Co-written with Sard! <3)
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu May 16, 2019 4:57 pm

Dearest finally managed to reel back to her…  her… …She stared in stunned bewilderment.  Her animals, her trailer, her darklings, her DINNER were all GONE.  She started casting badly done spells in an effort to locate herself, though she was certain this was where she lived.  

“Fifi!  Fifi!  Where are you?!”  she hollered, only to howl once more.  Her false teeth shattered in her mouth, and she spat out blood, broken teeth, and bridgework, staggering out to the lovely lawn of moss.  Nasty horrible green stuff.  What the hell?!

There was a little twist, a small mutation to the fungus this time. Head tipped back against the hulk of an old rotted out Woody tipped over onto it side, with a young willow growing up through the windows, Sard exhaled a controlled breath and pushed away from the car when Dearest pulled up.

Carefully, the Greenswarden straddled the bike, though he didn't start it. Not yet. Slouched in the seat, Sard watched the vehicle and the woman through a hole in the underbelly, where parts had been cannibalized from the vehicle, and its hood wasn't any more.  

Dearest staggered out onto the moss, and as soon as she got a few yards inside where the fence once was.. the moss boiled up around her. Thick, thorny vines, snaking and twisting around anything they come in contact with. The growth was accelerated from compacted life, the result of taking fully mature vines and reverting them to seed form. All the energy to get to full growth was still there, just waiting to be let out.

Twisting and writhing, they latched onto Dearest as the nearest 'trellis', serving as a perfectly viable prison. The fungus had also been triggered, a reddish-orange wave boiling up around her feet to crawl up her body, feeding on her own magic.  

The twist was that the fungus was also feeding on flesh, this time, tiny roots burrowing against skin, to release its spores into her flesh and blood. It wouldn't eat her. No, not at all! It wouldn't be more than an itchy growth on her skin, a nasty looking rash! But until she could get it fully purged from her bloodstream and flesh... it would keep right on feeding on magic, sucking it up and devouring it.

It was hard to work use magic, when it got sucked out of you as fast as it could be accumulated. It was only then that Sard extended himself again, reaching toward the plants. A little back door - the second wave of spores, released from the first, died out on exposure to open air. And the first died out as soon as it had drained the magic from its 'host'. Rhydin did not need an infectious fungus floating around in the air eating magic wherever it found it!  

So. Much. Screaming.  The neighbor at the junkyard stepped out, and then, like any concerned citizen, pulled out his phone and filmed Dearest’s agonized flailing and screeches.  She was not the best of neighbors, and when you’ve even pissed off a guy that lives in a junkyard… you may have gone too far.  

Dearest tottered several feet, trying to get off of the evil lawn, and finally collapsed. Not dead, a stasis bubble opened around her.  This was a concession to Aunt Hally, who actually did not prefer to bring perps to judges, but because she was stuck working for the guard, she had to at least try to bring them in alive.  

It would be an interesting trial, if the woman survived jail with a lot of very pissed off people.

Meantime, Jethro, our Junkman, wandered over to give Dearest a few kicks to the ribs. Experimentally.  When she didn’t move, he just kicked her a few more times to roll her into the gutter.

“There.  Now you and your garbage is off of my daddy’s land, and it’s mine now like it always shoulda been.  I told you your wickedness wouldn’t go unanswered, ya creampuff harlot.”  A snort, and Jethro tossed his head and mosied back for his house.

Normally, Sard might have objected to the kicking. Jethro might bruise his spores. In this case, though, the biker just retracted the vines back into the ground, to lay there, waiting... until they either started to grow naturally, on their own, again, or he makes use of them again. THOSE seeds are easy to replace.

Jethro's abuse provides the perfect distraction for Sard to start the bike up, the engine muffled to the point that it's doubtful the man would even notice. Easing out into the street, Sard pulled the motorcycle around by where the woman had been kicked, and glanced after the departing junkman.

Slouched on the machine, the biker studied Dearest critically... and reached over to tap his 'watch'. He really shouldn't have deactivated the shield earlier! But hind sight is always clearest. For now, a short, subvocalized message transmits to Desdenova's phone - to check whether he needed to stay and keep guard on the woman (He'd felt the spores go dormant - so it's not death!) or meet up with the other two somewhere. Oh, and there's the burns... which he's going to need some help with.

(Co Written with Sard! <3)
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu May 16, 2019 5:07 pm

“Just go straight back to the city, we’re at All Pets vets,”  Desdenova replied, sounding a little breathless, “Uhm five miles, it’s the first stop light.  The van and Stupid are outside.  You know Stupid, right?  Big gray horse.  And um you can just leave Dearest there, Hally will send a copper for her.  Even if she manages to get out of the stasis, she’s not going anywhere.  Got some curare into her.  Won’t kill her but not for lack of trying.”  Aw, he sounded so cute, too!

A grunt answered Desdenova's message, which should be lucid enough - but it's followed by words.

"Probably won't ever be using magic again, either." Just that, before Sard hung up, and a few minutes later the biker eased to a stop next to Stupid, sitting for a few moments before he swings the stand down and climbed off the machine, unbuckling his helmet one-handed to hang on the bars.

"You eat, step, shit or piss on my bike, you're not going to share any more souvlaki." That said, the biker wasn't above leaning against the overgrown behemoth's shoulder. He was just a little drunk on endorphins.

Stupid rumbled, his ears pinning back for a moment before his huge head swung around, snuffing at Sard then peeling back his lips to show his teeth, fangs and all.  

“Bah.  It would probably turn into some eldritch horror, and those give me indigestion,”  the stallion remarked in a bone vibrating bass voice.  

Jackie stood anxiously outside of the veterinarian's building, watching for Sard, but did not swarm him.  She waited for him to make the push for the door, or for Stupid to rotate his ass around, pushing Sard with it.  

“I saw the burns, how bad are they, are they encapsulated, do you want some water?”  Jackie rattled.  She didn’t often get anxious or emotional at all over things, but she did feel bad, as they had dragged Sard into the evening’s weirdness.

A slap to the stallion's ass answered the shove the biker got toward the door, but it did get him into motion.

"Nothing eldritch, just metal, grease, gasoline and battery acid." And assorted other components that go into an utterly non-magical motorcycle. There was really nothing at all arcane about the machine - just fine craftsmanship. Sard was moving for the door by then, though, a chuckle vibrating his chest, and not in the least unsteady on his feet. If he had been, he would have been pushing the bike instead of riding it.

"Water would be appreciated, Jackie. The burns won't be a big problem, except that the spores I coated them with haven't pulled whatever that thing spit at me off my skin. If they had, the crusts would have peeled off by now. They're encapsulated, but I'm going to need help to get the stuff off my skin - the crust broke a bit when I bent my arm, during the ride here, and it caught fire again. It recoated fast enough not to add to the damage. How are the animals? And the kids?"

“Water!”  Jackie bellowed over her shoulder before turning and leading Sard inside.  Large waiting room, and several teen volunteers holding the animals calm as they wait their turn to be seen.  The animals were all quiet, many were sleeping.  

Their biggest concern was the bear cub, who had already been seen to and was sleeping comfortably wrapped in a blanket with a stuffed bear, cuddled up in a veterinarian student's arms.  Probably the first time the poor thing ever had a full belly and comfort.  

The kittens had stormed the paladin and Halcyon had given up trying to remove them from her person. Sue was finally happy, overseeing all this with a slow wagging of tail, occasionally woofing at the mutt pup as it was treated for its injuries and malnutrition.  

In all, the animals were too weak to be frightened, particularly fortunate with the deer and elk, but also, though badly housed, usually their interactions with humans were not terribly bad and usually meant food.

Desdenova sat in a corner of the big open treatment room, infested with rabbits.  One of the students fetched Sard a two liter bottle of Arrowhead water.  

“Animals all are reasonably stable, they all should survive.  The bear’s the iffy one, but Hally did some of her holy healy stuff for it,”  Jackie reported, exhaling, “Kids are all at the hospital, Des just did a general healing on them but they need to have their kidneys and livers checked and you know, they’ve had a stressful few weeks.  The cops will fetch their parents.  Hally said she’ll cover their bills.”

Stepping to the side to brace his shoulders against the wall next to the door - still shirtless, and with crusty brownish-black stuff coating most of one shoulder, arm and the side of his ribs - Sard accepted the water with a grunt, then passed it off to Jackie to open for him. Also, that allowed him to dig out a few small seeds, and cup them in his good hand as they sprout. Then they were crushed in his fingers, to stuff into the bottle's neck before he takes it back - being one-handed didn't seem to be very unfamiliar to the biker.

A few long swallows later, Sard pushed away from the wall again, moving toward the nearest animal. From there a circuit begins, just touching here, running his fingers through fur there. It was easier, with physical contact, to isolate digestive flora - and at least the beasts will have theirs well balanced by the time he was done, malignant internal parasites neutralized or killed off.

"Good. Sounds like everything is under control... and you got the metal bits you needed? Last I saw, the woman flopped over unconscious and was in a ditch. I didn't put her there." He didn't! Jethro did! At least he didn't ruffle Halcyon's fur and check her guts while he made the rounds. Some of the scrawnier vet aids may not be as lucky.

"Any ideas on how to get this stuff off my arm? All I've come up with is to cut it off, and that's not going to be pleasant." Not for him, since it means taking off healthy tissue to remove the naphtha!

There were going to be some nasty poops in the exercise yard!  But as Sard went through the animals, they all reacted with presses in return, sometimes licks, and the baby goats were captured before they scaled Mt. Sard.  

Halcyon narrowed her eyes on the mess that was Sard's arm and lifted her chin, flicking out a wafer thin bit of obsidian glass from the beaded choker worn around her throat.  

“Aye, I can do somethin’ with it, I think.  Just be standin’ there with ye chest thrown out.  Ye should entertain ye’s medical aid,”  she noted, deadpan.  “I can put awash in deep waters to keep out the air, and skim off the crust so to put back fresh skin.  Des can not…”  she overrode the boy as he started to pipe up, and shot him a look, brow lifted.  He grumbled and hunkered with the rabbits.  He’d been put someplace safe where he couldn't hurt himself, clear enough he’d reached the limit of what he could safely do.  

“Or Jackie can squish about ye flesh like tis putty and pull it off.  If ye have flesh which she can manipulate.”  And there was the reason none of the Von Tombs kids had scars - Jackie had inherited her father’s ability to ‘meld’ flesh.  Though, Jackie did give a warning.  

“I’m better with dead flesh than living, but I can do living flesh.  It’s just slower and I’m not as good at it.”

The goats get their heads knuckled - which, for a goat, is generally a particular treat, unlike most creatures. Pupils dialated again at the wafer of obsidian, Sard frowned at the woman, then gave Desdenova a critical once-over, and a nod to thank him for his offer, though the same motion reinforces the denial of his aid.

"Probably best to just take the stuff off. I can heal fast enough, once it's gone - whatever that thing spit on me, it inhibits my nanytes from neutralizing and sloughing it."

Probably because when they try, it opens up more chance for it to burn, which reinstates its presence.

"Thank you, Jackie, but in this case it would probably be best to do some cutting rather than fleshcrafting."

A quick glance around, and the biker moved toward that exercise yard - just another nasty mess for someone to clean up! The mutt pup got his head patted in passing, as well, but Sard didn't call the dog after him. He has enough pets already.

"Jackie, are you going to need to use Muharib's stables? Hally, if you go out there, leave the ghost alone." Paladins. Can't always trust them not to stick their noses in. "Oh - the land these animals were on. It should probably be reclaimed as a city park, and I don't recommend anyone trying to develop it. The, ah, witch... probably did something..." Yeah, right. "But I'm sure if a few benches got dropped off there, the trees will be big enough to make nice shade soon, and the community could use something pretty. Might even put some playground equipment there - that shouldn't do any harm, so long as nobody tries to dig the ground up."

Halcyon glanced at the obsidian, then back to Sard, brow quirked.  

“I can use steel, tisn’t a worry.  But cease ye escapin’, I will cut it off ye,”  she wasn’t scolding, it was more resigned humor.  He could still demur, and get Pharlen to do it!  Paladins were creepy, after all.  She scoffed at bothering the ghost horse, though, amused.  Jackie turned a bright smile to Sard.  

“Yeah, once they’re done with the cow, ponies and donkey.  But they shouldn’t be there too long, once I chase down Thorn, I know she’ll take them.  If she can’t, I’ll just take them to Ben.”  

Halcyon, meantime, had finally gotten to the ‘witch probably did something bad to the land’ part, and just gave him a ‘yeah right’ smirk.  But went along with it.  

“I shall have the planner out there as soon as possible to check th’ zonin’.”

A snort dismissed Halcyon's suggestion of steel, and Sard nodded toward the exercise yard.

"Bring your rock, and get this stuff off me. Out there it can just get sloughed onto the ground, and cleaned up with the other messes. I know full well that sliver's sharper than any steel, I just don't see any need to get carved on in here. Besides, it would upset the animals." Blood-scent! Holding the door out into the exercise yard open, he pointed the paladin outside, cats and all.

Little devils would probably be more interested in tasting blood than distressed by it, unlike herbivores.

"The stalls and runs are repaired. Muharib won't bother the animals, but he might get upset about people going in and out of the stable, so if I'm not there make sure you go in through the paddocks instead of the stalls. Once I get there, I'll retract most of the grass in the paddocks, so they don't glut themselves and founder. Make sure you pick up some grass hay, though... no alfalfa, just dry orchard grass, since they won't be used to eating anything rich. Don't want to shock their systems."

All of which Jackie probably already knew, but Sard wanted to be sure. Taking another long swallow of water, the biker drained the bottle in short order, and offered it back to the girl before heading outside for impromptu surgery. Starting with the arm is going to let him see how good Halcyon was with the obsidian scalpel, so that was what got offered over first.

Halcyon followed Sard, then examined the damage keenly.  Her eyes were a lambent silver in the darkness - but her goddess was a night goddess.  She was very good with any sort of blade, but particularly good with the volcanic glass bits.  She was glad he was okay with it, because it was magnitudes of levels more sharp and clean than steel.  

“Justice smiles down upon thee,”  she assured him, much more formally than before, “Thee hast returned health for harm and life for death.”  

A careful touch of a warm and calloused hand to Sard's arm at the top of the crusting.  It felt as it cool water was running down his arm, under the crusting.  After a few moments, water would run out from the other end of the damage, saline and cold, but with a close enough ph to his to not sting or burn.  As that flushed through, Halcyon deftly wielded the obsidian chip, neatly flaying away the crusting.  

As the crusts fell away, those caught fire once more, but they were off of him. Halcyon spread her palm open to smear the water over fresh open skin.  The water gleamed as it assisted his own body to regenerate flesh and skin there.

Propping his good shoulder against the wall, Sard watched Halcyon's examination, expressionless and distant other than the quirk of a lopsided smile, at her words.

"I'm a Greenswarden. I return life for death, and death for life. Harm is a necessary part of health, but not when the harm promotes nothing but unhealthy decay. Justice has little to do with it, but balance... balance has everything to do with justice."

Plants are greedy, vicious things that want to claw their own niche, regardless of the consequences. Hence the Greenswardens - to monitor and balance those consequences, for the greater prosperity of all. But sometimes, that meant cutting out what won't benefit the whole.  

"Was fun, though, and those things in the shed were as happy to get dumped back where they belonged. What was meant as destruction's been converted into fertility. Going to be a fertile Spring, when the weather breaks. Plants have been storing up, and the pollen's likely to be unusually dense." The last words were quiet, a rambling, idle bit of information as the heat of the woman's hand contrasted the cold of water on raw meat.

A pleasant sensation, actually, to replace the sticky cling of the naphtha-like vomit that had been coating it, pulling pain out by the very chill. That doesn't actually do much to help with the endorphin intoxication, though, since the nanytes were still busy at work.  

Sard didn't even twitch when the obsidian sliced, remaining stolid and still to let Halcyon cut where she would, only moving once flesh has been stripped clean of the crud, to expose the next area in need of flaying - shoulder, then finally his ribs, undoubtedly the most awkward spot. Also, his pants were soaked, but that was the price to pay.

Blood pinked the water flowing over his wounds richly, but already there are white strands weaving across the raw flesh, as though his blood were infested by tiny spiders busily weaving webs of new tissue to replace what had been lost.

"Thanks."

“I am only the vessel,”  Halcyon noted, typically creepy paladinly, as she took up to repeat the process with his shoulder.  Careful, swift, accurate, the glass was sharp enough that the nerves may not even have time to protest the shearing, and with as fast as he was healing on his own, coupled with the acceleration she added, it may just be all the endorphin high without much of the pain.  She dropped a solemn wink with a glance up to him.  

“Fortunately, I be nay topped off with flowers.”  Paladin humor.  These are the jokes!  The kittens ventured out from under her hair and within the greatcoat, sniffing delicately at the blood, but Halcyon bopped their noses lightly before they could start tasting the man.  

“Ye two devils stick to mice and bugs.  Ye dasn’t need to know people be edible.”  

Two little hisses, but they accepted the reprimand and just peered at Sard as if he’d relent and give them a taste.  Little liars, their bellies were nice and fat after a good feed of warm cooked chicken and broth.

A snort answers the claim to be 'only a vessel', but Sard didn't get into the philosophical debate. Maybe another time.

"Careful. Might make you sprout flowers, just for saying something like that." Paladin humor meets endorphin-drunk Greenswarden. It was a disaster waiting to happen!

Digging his fingers into his belt yet again, Sard reached up to clap a hand onto Hally's shoulder... when she's not applying the scalpel to his flesh. He's careful about that timing. Just a pat, purely harmless. Never mind the catnip that he just doctored her coat with. At least it wasn't flower seeds!

Give the two kittens something other than Koralian to test their tongues on! Halcyon was probably stuck with those two little demons now. They could ride around on Stupid's head.

"People are perfectly edible. Just ask a plant. They don't really taste very good, though, according to my brother's beasts." But brother and beasts alike are dead, and Sard didn't pursue the topic. "Jackie just mentioned some of the animals. The rest have somewhere to go? I don't want them out at my place for very long, but there's no reason they can't go out there for a little while. There likely to be any 'awkwardness' out of this situation, or is it cut and dried enough to keep those two and myself out of the political and legal end of things from here out?"

Halcyon eyed Sard a moment as if she knew very well what he’d done, and probably she did:  the kittens were now SO VERY INTERESTED IN THAT SPOT RIGHT THERE.  She chuffed much like her horse might as she turned to work on his chest.  
 
“Aye, aye, she had secured as many fosters as she could beforehand.  That be why I am cover’t in kittens.  Lost me old cat to me Mama a while ago.”  And whether she’d admit it or not, she was a sucker for kittens.  The rest of the animals were more or less food animals to her, or, were.  Now they’re distinctly pets, and not for the pot.  

“Fairly certain Thorn would have no trouble taking all but the pig and dogs.  But the pig is spoken for already, and I be certain t’will be no trouble rehoming the dogs.  As for the legal end, if there be any proof remainin’ that ye did aught there, I shall be disappointed in ye all and go clear it up before I bring out anyone to start dealin’ with it.”  

Halcyon was used to Desdenova and Jackie being able to clear out all evidence, after all.

A chuckle shuddered Sard's chest as he folded his arm - already, there's the start of skin on rebuilt meat - up out of the way to let Halcyon have her way with his chest and ribs. Mostly his ribs - he'd been ducking aside, so the full brunt of the spew hadn't hit him.

"Left a coat and shirt behind. Made sure there wasn't anything left of either to be found, though." So no, nothing that would point toward Sard specifically. The moss and trees are even genetically similar enough to those found on Earth to have come from there - except that any Fae would recognize the trees as being more than prospective lumber.

"Good. Might be able to integrate the deer into the woods on my place... but they wouldn't live long, if they wandered off. I don't try to prevent hunting, so long as it's not on my land. I can provide a place for animals that need steady care for a little while, but not a long-term home. Puff and Olive are good enough at taking care of themselves, and the horse - well, he looks after himself." And, the horse was dead.

"Thanks. For the knife work." A nod indicated Sard's shoulder, streaks of watery blood staining his skin where they'd run down his back. The pants were going to need to be washed - wet denim is just not very comfortable, but it's more comfortable than he'd be if he lost more than a coat and shirt!

“Ugh, dasn’t remind me,” Halcyon chuckled dryly, and nodded.  She paused to inspect her work, assuring herself she’d gotten all of the crusted stuff off, and the flesh was clean and healing.  She drew back and with a press of fingers, cracked the obsidian flake, then broke it to small fragments in her palm.  It had done its job, now it was to return to becoming sand again.  Not a paper cut on her.  Her hands were tough.  

“Have a care, they be domesticated, ye’d end up with a herd o’ fat n’ sassy mule and white tails and elk runnin’ to ye after teasin’ hunters an’ predators.  Or end up with a bitchy buck what decides to defend them from ye.”  Halcyon warned, amused, but she really didn’t see Sard babying a lot of deer.  More like leaving them to learn what a bad idea it is to taunt predators!  BUT… those elk were going to really grow up …they were Irish elk, and destined to be giants!

“I best be getting all this to th’ guard captain an’ startin’ this all rolling.  Need to make sure the children be accounted for an’ all."

The kittens each got their ears ruffled, as Sard twisted and shifted to be examined. No need for bandages - his hide would repair itself soon enough. It would be tender for a few days... but that's the price to pay, and it had certainly been a more entertaining night than he'd expected it to be, before getting called.

"Good luck with the cats. Go ahead and go inside - I'll wait until the cuts are sealed over before I go through, so if you would, just let Jackie and Des know that they can deliver the animals out to my place, without getting eaten by anything. They know the way."

Halcyon chuckled and dipped a bow, polite, before she absently stuffed the kittens back under her coat.  They squirmed to get at the cat nip from the underside, making her look like she was hunchbacked.  

“I shall.  I’ll come find ye if aught else must be done.  Fair winds an’ followin seas.”

(Fin! Thank you to Sard! <3)
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