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The Winter Garden

Common farmers in Torean lands speak of a gated garden that appears only in the dead of winter, on a single day when the sun is just right. It is mostly disregarded until Shavs who most recently bent the knee to Duchess Calista are heard repeating the same stories in their own tongues.

((This is a one session PrP, open to 5-6 players. If interested please drop me an @mail. Thanks!))


May 17, 2020, 8 p.m.

Hosted By


GM'd By



Videl Ingrid Dante Esme Nurie Thorn Aaron Ezra



Outside Arx - Lyceum near The Roseward - The Duchy of Tor

Largesse Level


Comments and Log

Across the Compact it is Tor that is notorious for their gardens; roses and blooms of all variety remain peerless in beauty and fragrance. Such richness inspires whimsy, romantic visions of fantasy and wonder found beneath colorful canopies and amidst tangled, verdant vines. Gardens are not all but beauty alas; under the fragrant flora lurks brambles, thorns, poisonous and insipid things the Lyceum so loves. Roots grow deep, and not all beautiful things are to be trusted.

A contingent had been rounded by none other than Duchess Calista. New Abandoned Tribes bent the knee and brought their legends with them. Prior to their oaths, rumors were already abound in the Duchy of a garden that appears only on the longest day of the cold months, appearing just at the apex of dusk when darkness is at even odds with light. Always witnessed in differing places, it seems to have no resting home save for when a Shav Shaman spills she had a dream the week prior. Details trickle to the Steel Rose Duchess, extended to those who find themselves now searching for it.

Among lands so lush legend is certain to grow. It is such a thing that brings our merry band of explorers to this sprawling field on this sun filled day. Countless poppies rule this stretch, bowing crimson crowns to the errant and whimsical breeze that brushes up pollen to the few bees bopping between them. It is enclosed on all fronts by trees, their branches slowly swaying with the wind.

Ezra checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 4 higher.

Thorn checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 7 lower.

Videl isn't usually one for adventure, but a beautiful and rare flower might stir her art; and so she's come. Leaning on her cane as she searches, the frail noblewoman has to take frequent pauses; but she hopes that what she lacks at innate aptitude for this task she can compensate for with the keen senses of an artist.

Videl checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 18 higher.

Esme checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 3 lower.

Ingrid is still new around Arx, but upon hearing about this beauty, she had to come and see if she could find this garden herself. Glad to see others along this path, she nods to each she meets.

Ingrid checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 30 higher.

Aaron checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 13 higher.

Not one to skip a trip to Tor during the spring, Dante looks forward to frolicking amongst the flowers and gardens of his homeland - although he knows as well as any Fidante the menace that can lurk beneath. Searching with his cousin Esme, the Marquis is on the trail of this whispered garden with Thorn and some others he doesn't yet know.

Dante checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 3 higher.

Esme is up for anything the moment 'adventure' is mentioned. This is no exception. She moves with the others with a bright and happy smile. Oh look a bird, oh look poppies, oh look Dante, oh look a frog. What does she not see? Probably any flowers, but she sees everything else.

Nurie was first captivated by the story, but as the journey takes them onward, the lady's maid and talor can't help but be captivated now by the colorful dance of the poppies and the colors of the flora around them, even as her bright eyes seek out any hint of where might begin their search. She walks with a companionable bounce to her steps, breathing in the fresh air as a change from the city's. "What a glorious day," she remarks happily, shading her eyes from the sun with one hand, almost like in a salute. It's tempting to pluck one of the flowers, just because, but at least she retains her manners--for now.

Nurie checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 45 higher. Nurie rolled a critical!

A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Esme before departing.

Thorn hasn't been home to Tor in years and certainly is eager to go check on the gardens she so lovingly fussed over prior to departing for Arx. Unfortunately she's too distracted taking samples of other plants to cultivate back in Arx and such to be paying attention to what she's supposed to be looking for.

Aaron has seen his adventures behind him, but this lure, of a more peaceful knowledge has propelled him out of his lighthouse for a short time. He seems constantly anxious and often glancing back in the general direction of Arx. He does sometimes sketch things. He glances over to Nurie when she remarks on the day and offers, "It is ah...said...that saying it out loud is a sort of curse." And he grins awkwardly.

Ezra trudges along the path, looking as much a commoner as anything else based on his garb and general appearance. Lacking the noble appearance is offset by the fact that he does seem as though he's use to hard and lengthy labor and is well suited to the outdoors. He is regularly looking about, not paranoia but a general appreciation for the outdoors. He has more of a scanning gaze than a focused one.

The field poses no threats for our contingent of would-be garden wanderers, no armed guards or questionable beings appearing to spirit them away. As Thorn kneels to pluck her flower, a bug deems it his civic duty to bite at her hand. There is no true harm nor swelling, but it will smart for a day or so. She fares better than Esme though, whose dainty foot finds the only root still stubbornly existing in a FIELD of all things.

It is when these troubles begin that the breeze seems to still, the trees ceasing their rustling of leaves in a fragment of a minute. The sun has begun its descent, and the dwindling sunlight only lends weight to the jarring silence that has settled over the meadow.

Thorn frowns and sucks at the bite on her hand, her noise crinkling up a bit, "Mind the bugs ladies," she warns, apparently figuring the lords can fend for themselves. She straightens, tucking away the bit of poppy in her bag.

Ingrid looks around for more bugs, "The bugs are already biting. Not a good thing." She notes the light out now. "Is it just me, or does the light here seem different here?" She asks any that are around her and can hear.

Esme is walking around just minding her own business when a stubborn root appears! At least she's not gotten a disease or failed the game yet. However, her dainty foot strikes this root and Esme starts to tumble. Only, she is a lady of grace and catches herself before for righting her balance. This leads to her 'damaged' foot being set back down on the root. Which causes the root to 'hug' said foot and by hug we mean Esme manages to lodge just her toes beneath it. Which causes her to yank her foot back from the 'hug' and this causes her to stumble towards Dante. Esme all the while is still very uncertain what and why the root is attacking her foot. So she does what anyone would do, she windmills her arms around her and those near her (Dante) are in threat of getting hit in the face or other areas.

"So it's not just me then." Videl answers Ingrid with a look of concern on her face. She goes to stand closer to some of the others. "Let's be careful here." She recommends, clearly worried.

Nurie's eyes widen, as Aaron speaks up, and she turns to look at him. "Oh dear, is it truly, messere?" she asks, somewhat ashamed. "Well then. Perhaps it's simply a very risky day to get turned as bright as a beet by the unrelenting sun instead!" His grin is answered with a playful wink. As the sun begins to set, her gaze is drawn to a particular direction of the treeline, pausing her steps and narrowing her eyes slightly, as something catches first her hearing and then her eye. "Look!" She calls to the others, and even though her voice is soft, with the meadow's eerie silence, perhaps it carries well. She points to a spot there. "Look at the light! It's darker there, more than it should be. I heard a strange noise as well, like roots twisting, from that direction." Her cheeks color a little, as if she's sure to be called silly.

Aaron finds himself staring towards the south as the meadow stills. He reaches down and plucks up a bit of weed, which he sticks right in his mouth, so that its dangling there. He makes a humming sound, then says, cryptically, "Like the sudden..." He meets eyes with Ingrid and then slowly, dramatically, pulls the weed out of his mouth, "I have a bad feeling about tthis..."

Thorn ;s head turns to squint off in the direction the others are pointing. Her head shakes, "I don't see it..." Bit still, her fingers creep towards the hilt of one of her daggers, always better to be safe."

Although it might seem odd for a rough man to appreciate gardens, Ezra doesn't seem disturbed at the appeal. He looks over towards Thorn's warning draws his eyes over towards him. The man is quiet, he has been largely quiet on the trip down here too but he does look about to say something when Esme begins some sort of gymnastics perhaps, he looks confused as he watches her completely at a loss. He looks back towards Thorn, "Uhh" He seems to be trying to gather his thoughts, "Do the flowers still smell to you?" Another brief pause, "Bugs, what type of bugs?" He looks back to Esme, trying to decide if she needs some assistance getting out if Dante hasn't moved to help her.

Tromping through a field filled with flowers might seem a little silly in diamondplate, but when Esme starts windmilling her arms about after her 'lady of grace' display, smacking him about the side of the head and thankfully just hitting metal, Dante extends an arm to keep his cousin from planting into the ground headfirst with a grin, shaking his head. Until that grin melts away, leaving a vaguely concerned expression on his face. "Well, that's odd. A whole field of blooming spring flowers, fragrant and delightful, suddenly - gone. No smell. And Esme didn't even hit me on nose. Yet."

Thorn considers Ezra and holds out her hand to show him the bite. "I didn't get a good look at it. But it chomped my hand nicely there." She tilts her head and sniffs a few times to trying to detect the smells that should there. "Strange..."

Ingrid has not taken time to smell the flowers, but as they mention it she leans over to test it out.

The smells no longer waft from the blooms, the bees no longer buzz, and the sun no longer seems to drop below the horizon of the forest surrounding them.

And true to the exclaimations of Nurie, as they all turn their gaze towards where she points an archway is just finishing its weaving of branch and root. Stripped of leaves and green, this wooden frame looks blackened and pained, but still all the same twisting and writhing to form an open gate with a life all their own. The light beyond is darkened, a richness of black velvet with a brushing of silver that can only be moonlight. Nothing else stirs, the sunset in this meadow held in a lull as this doorway has appeared.

"Well, walking through that seems like a stellar idea." Videl offers with some mock cheer, trying to keep herself from sounding scared as she approaches the doorway; not quite going through until some of the others have. "So, shall we?"

Aaron lifts his reddish brows and marvels at the process. "Is it true? It is." He takes several steps forwards, reaches out to grab hold of Dante's arm a brief moment, shaking it with an excitement, then does the same to Thorn, taking strides towards the portal to pass through it, muttering the whole time under his breath, but the tone sounds excited.

There's an undeniable effervescent curiousity in Nurie's expression; a strange gate in a now-spooky field calls to her Pandora-nature. "Well," she tells Videl, as she draws closer. "We /were/ tasked with finding out more about the stories," she points out. "Though now I don't remember if the stories specifically said that people knew about it because people had been in there and returned as well!" And oh look, at least she probably won't have to go first!

Thorn watches after Aaron, and shoots a glance towards Dante, "You are NOT allowed to get hurt or your wife will kill me." She gives Esme a stern looks as well before she rolls one of her daggers into her hand and follows after Aaron.

Ezra looks to Thorn holding out her hand to him, "Uhh" He squints and moves to try to look over the bite, "That's a bite all right." There's a true hesitation in his voice. He looks around for a moment and locks his attention on back on Thorn, "I could try to move in there quietly just to take a quick look, unless you'd rather go a different direction." He looks towards Videl and says, "You're probably okay to take a quick break if you want." The man is clearly not trying to take charge in this. He looks to those others who are talking, specifically Nurie's brief mention of the stories.

Esme finds her feet and smacks Dante when no one is looking because she can. Then she hmms at the bad decision trellis of doom. "Seems like a delightful walk." She will move towards it with the others. She's just sort of mixing into the crowd adn following. At the stern look, Esme bubbles up with a brighter smile.

One eye squints, the other widens at this bizarre archway springing up from practically nowhere, looking tormented. A hand drops to the sword at his side, Dante staring at the darkness beyond. "Esme. At my side. Thorn, you know these lands and that which grows in them better than anyone. If you want to go ahead, Esme and I will be right behind you with our blades drawn, but please be careful. Don't get ahead," he whispers to her with a frantic quietness, just in case that twisted arbor can hear. Who knows? He doesn't!

Dante wields The Edge of Perdition, rose-warded alaricite longsword.

Thorn wields rosewood thorn.

Ezra wields Heron's Beak, a knife.

Aaron checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 6 lower.

Ezra checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 45 higher. Ezra rolled a critical!

Videl checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 11 higher.

Nurie checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 2 higher.

Esme checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 6 lower.

Thorn checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 0 higher.

Videl wears no armor and the closest thing she has to a weapon are some hairpins. Lovely hairpins, no doubt. Alas, she doesn't look like she'd know where to point them; and so she tries to stay behind but close to the nobles who do look like they know where the pointy end of a sword goes. "I hope this isn't a big mistake."

Nurie wields emerald and turquoise vines pair of gem-tipped hairpins.

Ingrid checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 2 higher.

Dante checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 6 lower.

Ingrid admits, "I do not know my way around here, so I'm sticking with you all." She will bring up the back at this point behind the others. Not wanting to be alone exploring here.

@emit As each passes through the doorway there is a slight tightening of the chest, a breath stolen from them to result in a gasp that escapes in a puff of mist before their lips. It is cold, so very cold in that doorway. On the other side however, a pleasing warmth that lacks humidity to make it unbearable. Warmth dances upon any bare skin, all the temperatures of a morning sun but lacking all light.

The moon hangs heavy and full above them in a cloudless sky, stars dappling in unfamiliar constellations none can place. This is not a forest, but a well manicured garden with everything seemingly in its place. Fountains trickle in distances unknown, hedges and paths winding forth from them in an eternity of madness. There are flowers but familiar and foreign and even those that tickle at the memory suddenly seem hard to name.

There are no insects crooning in the night, no birds with a mournful coo of evening's rest chasing away the daytime hour. No signs of life other than the flora, though who is their tender? A bench only a few paces before them lends the slight hint that someone uses it for rest, and recently.

Esme tenses as she feels the pressure to breath against her chest. As they come out the other side... Esme trips. She finds another root that clearly does not respect the nobility of Tor. Although her emerald eyes slide up towards the sky. There is a .. frown. That is rarely seen on the woman, but it is there right now. She studies the stars for a few moments, before her eyes move back to the arch. While some may have been gone for sometime, Esme has lived her whole life in Tor. The sky is a familiar friend and this one is not perhaps it.

Aaron passes through the cold portal and takes another few steps, before falling to a knee. He wanders an arm like he's reaching for a wall to steady himself, but without one there, he just looks like a sad mime for a few moments while he collects himself. "The smell...where are we? We aren't where we were..." he murmurs.

The frail artist's eyes focus on the plants, not so much trying to identify them but trying to paint the flowers in her mind so she can remember them for when she leaves, and besides, it's so pretty. Then there's a moment of pause and she asks, "Anyone else hear singing?"

Thorn skids to a hault just on the other side of the archway, her head up, gaze scanning the area. If she was an animal here ears and hackles would be up. Her lips purse together, "No not singing... but something's wrong."

Nurie's breath is stolen not only from the momentary chill of the doorway, but also the place into which they step. It's still a little uneasy, though if asked Nurie wouldn't necessarily be able to name the silence as why, at least at first. But her eyes are alight as first she gazes upwards at the unfamiliar stars, and then at the tempting unfurling of pathways through the hedges, and the allure of exotic flowers. "Oh..." she breathes softly. "If we explore, maybe we should mark a path. My sister used to read me stories like this. It's always good to mark your path, if you can!"

Videl checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 15 lower.

Esme checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 15 higher.

Ezra checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 4 higher.

Nurie checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 12 higher.

Thorn checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 2 higher.

Ingrid checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 4 higher.

Aaron checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 2 higher.

A step, then two, and Dante follows Thorn through the tortured archway with a suspicious look, hand gripping his sword tight. Esme at his side, a curious glance is given as she looks up and frowns - he's about to stare up as well, but there's an overwhelming stink that makes the Marquis gag, his eyes shifting to Videl with a shake of his head. "No singing, just that horrible stench of rot," he murmurs, listening to Nurie's advice with a sound of approval.

Dante checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 4 lower.

Ezra stands silently with that paused moment of someone in awe of a piece of natural art. He looks about seeming to breath in the scents of the garden but at Esme's momentary journey closer to the ground he looks over and asks, "Are you all right?" It's a brief question and he seems to assume she is. He looks back towards Aaron, "What do you smell? It's oddly pleasant for here." He's holding his knife in his hand casually. He looks to Videl again, almost like he half expects the woman to collapse for some reason. He's back to Nurie, "That's a good idea if it's large enough."

Ingrid nods, "Is that a compost pile? Just not very pleasant that rotting smell." She keeps a step behind the others, following them through the arch.

Thorn's brow creases and she looks back to Dante. "Rot? I don't smell rot." Her brows crease together and she looks around again, "Everything smells normal to me... Just off like it's slightly off center."

In flutter, a second of a sigh, they all smell it at once - a sharp sweetness of rot, of the decay of a forest in autumn. It is gone as quickly as it appears, whisked away in a sudden breeze that leaves them all smelling their own personal favorite flower. It is easy to become enraptured of this landscape, the blooms are of a rare beauty indeed. Still, it is but varnish to those who may see.... ((sending pages for successes now))

"I hear it too, my lady" Nurie says softly to Videl, once her ears are accustomed to their new surroundings. "But I don't think I can quite place it." She is distracted by the reactions of the others, though, clearly not experiencing quite the same offputting smell that they do, at least until that sudden burst that seems to waft and then disappear to something more comforting, and she breathes in deeply. Truth be told, she doesn't know much about gardening, but surely she's not unfamiliar with a the scent of rot that all gardens have now and then, nor is she a stranger to the smokier, damper aroma of fallen leaves on the forest floor.

Ingrid hears something, her head moving like it comes to her. "Singing? Someone or something is quite kind to something. Perhaps it is what is causing all this strangeness."

Thorn reacges her free hand up to rub the back of her neck, her head canted to one side. She starts to take a couple of steps towards where that sound seems to come from but then halts herself. "Oh I hear it now. That way....."

Aaron tries to pick himself up. "I do hear...I do hear the singing now." He knits his brows. "And I smell Jasmine, but I don't see any. But of course, you can smell that quite some distance in the evening." When Thorn gives a direction for the singing, he compares that to where HE thinks its coming from.

Esme has hit her head one too many times, or maybe there is other things at work. "I'm fine." The words are softly given as she looks towards the East. Those auburn brows lower and without thought she starts in that direction. One might see she is heading through a blackened rose arch, "Excuse me.." The words are softly coming from her lips sweetly. It's the sincerity that rings on her words, lacking any skill of manipulation or acting process. Is she speaking to the arch?

Nurie follows along with the others, though sh doesn't have much in the way of supplies, but she'll look for little ways to remember which way they've come through whether that's a heavier footprint along the path, or moving a pebble just a bit, if there are things like that. She listens with curiousity to the singing as they draw closer to the source, perhaps buoyed by the kindness in tone.

Esme is the first to walk towards the direction the singing is surely coming from, but for all that follow in her footfall the source becomes immediately clear after a sharp right turn of the winding path.

A feminine form no taller than the average of the Lyceum is walking none too far before them. Her ears are pointed and peek out between long strands of vine and delicate branch that cascade down to her hips, blooming a crown of gardenias at her brow. Skin is of a olive hue, further warmed by the bright orange of her eyes when she turns sharply to glare at them when they appear around the bend. She seems feral, carved of living wood.

A small male child is with her, certainly human, but is shoved protectively behind her as she hisses at them. "You shall not have him, fickle and trickle and stomp as you might. This is the dream, not a night of fright nor delight." More fear than malice in her words, she is but a step away from bolting from them before in another breath she calms. Sharp teeth fade away and she is all smiles, a calmness overcoming them all. "Does your life ache you too? Are you finding the fruit of the vine sweet, your passions yielding a harvest of unsalted fields?" No name is given, nor none is asked for pointedly.

Videl sticks close to the others, clearly distrustful of the environment. When the strange figure comes into play, she offers a warm smile not at all disturbed by her appearance. "I sought beauty to memorize and return home my lady, to capture for my paintings. For I live for art." She offers warmly, glancing at the others and adding, "I think it's best to avoid giving out names." Then back to the woman, "Sylv'alfar, I presume?"

Thorn does not seem overly pleased when Esme starts off towards the sound. With a little curse under her breath she starts in a jog after her, "My lady...." She calls shooting a look over the woman and child, trying to impose at least a shoulder between Esme and the unknown figure, protective of the Fidante. "Excuse us," she tells the woman. "Do you live here?"

Esme smiles warmly until she sees the child. There is a clear mix of emotions that play upon her emerald gaze. She glances towards the woman for a few longer moments. "There are many types of ..." She doesn't say Elves and she doesn't say another moniker. She lets it lie. There is a lack of fear as she crouches down to speak to the child as Videl spekas to the woman. "Hello..." Esme smiles beautifully at the child. Almost as if a feeling of serenity could waft from her. Almost. "What is your name? Mine is Esme."

Ezra tags along with all the other people about but he's silent as he goes along. There's some apprehension in his steps as he goes along but go along he does. With the sight of the woman there's a rather shocked expression in his eyes as he gets a better look at her, a leaning forward to look closer while not pushing away in front of anyone. He looks to Videl at her final question and there's a shake of his head and says softly, "Surely not." But it's not stated as though it is an impossibility but just a small shock. He looks to the child but he's staying silent in the conversation.

Ingrid looks around the others and sees the lady, "Hello, my Lady." She does not want to add too much on herself. Waiting to see what is said in response to the others.

Nurie observes the woman and child quietly--though it's the child that she attends to the most, her arms suddenly aching for her little nephew that she couldn't love more if he were her own child. Does he seem calm? Scared? Dazed. For now she lets others speak, not overruning the voices raised, but her own demeanor and posture is one of calm deference, well practiced.

"Art." The dryad remarks, parroting the word with a deadpan that neither approves or disapproves. Her orange eyes rest on Videl for an uncomfortable stare before traveling over each traveler in turn. To the question of her origin she only crinkles her nose in disgust, the sound of branches moving about with a creaking protest sounds alongside that expression, though no trees are within sight.

"We all live here as we draw breath, in this moment." She answers to Thorn with a mercurial twist and bright, ringing peal of laughter. "I keep these lands, if that is what you mean... as will he will the time comes." Her hand squeezes tightly on the child's shoulder as she says this. Another squeeze ensures the child does not speak to them, hiding behind the wooden woman's hips.

Thorn slides her dagger back into her belt and holds up that hand to the woman and child with respectful nod and smile, "We don't mean you harm. This land seems... like a reflection of our own land. Touched some how. We just wish to understand it."

Aaron does not answer right away, following with the others and barely keeping himself from panicking. Its not clear what about, but he's definitely shaken. The strangeness of the female and the baby causes a frown to form on his face, a disapproving dad-stare.

She reminds them with silk drawn over a bramble of syllables, sweet yet -far- too so in tone, "You have not answered my own question first posed. That is /rude/."

"My life does not ache me, my flesh does but I will overcome that weakness." Videl answers thw woman calmly. "As for your other question, I'm not sure what you mean by it." Despite her frailty, despite leaning so heavily on her cane, she stands up straight and projects an image of confidence, "But if you could clarify I would love to answer."

Thorn's lips purse back at the woman creature, the way her nose crinkles, the slight twitch of her brow giving the impression of an annoyed cat's tail flick. "My passion is for the earth and the things it hides. Your earth, my earth. The fabric of the dream bent to give life. My only ache is for understanding." She shrugs and tilts her head towards those around her. "As I said, no one here means you or your child harm."

"I seek a great many things." Esme offers. "Let us say that life is a path and we are but walking on it one cobblestone at a time. The life has with it both a lightness and a darkness that calls to each. That is perhaps where I walk the middle of it, I would not say my passions are lacking harvest, more than direction." Her green eyes move slightly towards Thorn when something she says causes a flash of anguish. Then she looks back towards the woman and the child, "I think it would be fine for him to speak to me. As well, how long has he been your companion to learn the ways of the forest?"

Ezra looks to the dryad as she emphasizes the lack of a response and there looks as though there might be a stuttering reply that hasn't quite gotten out of his mouth. He looks to Videl and shrugs as he says, "I suppose I'm the opposite of her. I have my own things that I find painful but then perhaps I'm less well developed to handle certain things than others." There's a look around, "There are no bugs about in here, that's unusual for the outdoors." He pauses after verbalizing his observation and seems to accept the direction of the conversation where ever it goes.

"I'm sorry," is Nurie's gentle but sincerely apologetic response. "You're very right, I forgot my manners. "I find little sweetness comes without ache of some kind or another," she answers honestly. "And neither does passion. I often fail, and don't bring forth the fruit I first dream might come of it, but I still find joy in the pursuit. If 'tis you that's created and tended this place, it's even more beautiful than I hoped or could imagine it would be, and so are you, too." Her gaze is not diresct, respectfully averted, but she's still quietly watchful, especially of the boy.

"Life is fine..." Aaron answers in a measured tone with a certain tiredness. "I forget the bad along with th egood, and I get to dress men well. And then there is the light...which ever shines a way home. There, it is sweet."

It is very clearly not her child, stolen perhaps? Regardless of how he came here, the boy is obviously scared and keeps peeking an eye out at the newcomers.

"Pass." She points to Thorn. "You lack passion and so will your art, if no savory is yielded." she warns Videl oddly, clicking her tongue to chide the woman with the soft sound echoing and mocking them each. "You seek roots of another vine, neglecting your own." she remarks to Esme off-handed, her orange eyes then seeking out Ezra. There is naught but silence for him.

It is perhaps Nuries apologies and decorum that lure the dryad from the instant bristling. She looks nervously between them and then back to the child, only to glare back at them again. "Life begets life, but it also requires it. The decay in the soil gives breath to the blooms above. You would rob me of my child, my life to beget?" She remarks, but the thorns that count as nails dig into the boy's shoulder a touch too deeply. "They gave him up with their last breath. What fault is mine if they could not the crops to richly adorn their fields?"

could not get the crops to richly adorn*

Thorn's mouth pulls up at the corner at the dryad's pass, a flash of teeth born between her lips; a feral rejection of the creature's assessment.

Ezra checked perception + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 6 lower.

Esme checked mana + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 47 higher. Esme rolled a critical!

Thorn checked mana + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 14 higher.

Ingrid checked perception + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 5 higher.

Videl checked perception + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 23 lower.

Nurie checked perception + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 10 higher.

Ingrid has been listening to the others and to this being they are speaking to. "Life is precious. Life is beautiful. There is a circle of life and death that brings new life. We mean you no harm, as they have said."

Ezra momentarily watches the woman and whether her lack to respond to him affects him is uncertain. He seems unable to focus his eyes on any single or particular for too long, even as he speaks to the woman, "The wild is cruel sometimes but it can also be generous. Life and death back and forth." His attention seeming unable to fully lock on any person too long and he draws finally to the plants, "Plants are generous with life and take what's given. At least, the little I know about them." He hears Ingrid's words and finally moves to put his knife away in an attempt to make certain his actions are in line with their words.

Nurie looks at the dryad with sorrowful eyes, tears glimmering in them. Not pity, but empathy. "Oh, my lady," she says quietly. "Empty arms are so painful. And the joy of thinking that perhaps one could have what is long wished for so sweet. But some things aren't ours to take, if they don't come of their own free will. It's not fair. It's not your fault, no. But please don't hurt him to take away your own longing. Is there another way, that can be borne out of growing love rather than fear?"

Aaron checked perception + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 23 lower.

Esme is silent longer, she perhaps does not seem shocked by these words as if expecting them all along. Her eyes study the child and then towards the creature before them. "You know nothing of the vines that bind me and have through many turns. The Dream has crafted my paths and I follow as I know my steps are and should I falter, my next turn will come." She doesn't seem put out or anything. She doesn't really seem to reject the woman or not. "However, as there is night, there is also a dawn. As there is a wrong, there is also a right. You wish a life to beget the soil that you turn and the gardens that you raise. Would I rob you? No, but one cannot be robbed of something not fully gifted. For the fault you stated is your own if their crops would not grow. Did you not just say that it is you that decides here what is to grow or not? So would the act not be one of your control and thus render the question answered before it is asked?" Her eyes slide to the child. "An oath is a very honorable thing, but it cannot be made at a cradle or before dawning of the rise of understanding. It is not his oath, so what would you have instead of him?" She hasn't made an aggressive move, but her eyes are back towards the dryad. There is perhaps a spark within her own green embers of her eyes, a knowledge or an assumption. It is not spoken.

"Well...I don't know about that. If she's suggesting that the parents gave up the child as a sacrifice, then he's hers...or at the very least, the parents are not properly qualified. Its important to hear both sides more plainly." Aaron, the ever-helpful pipes up with a potential twist to the tale.

"You think I would hurt him, him my new child gifted to me?" She truly seems hurt, even if her own aims of the child remain murky at best. "Was it not cruel that they left him behind, already in that barren land of scathing heats and bleak winters? Would you usher him off to a house of others of his fate, forgotten in some bed of cold and mites with some poor bowl as sustance? Here he will be fed, well, until the time comes." She narrows her eyes and for a moment, the hedges draw closer to them, pressing in with a groan of their roots shifting the ground below them in a small rumble. "You say it without saying it, I see the pain in your would stay here if you could." It all retreats, the moon happily beaming above them again and the hedges as they were. The sweet scent of flowers is overpowering now, to some more than others. "Would you? Still, none may not pass without something paid. For blooms, decay. For sweetness, rot."

Thorn's weight shifts onto the balls of her feet, in a sort of readiness. Her head turns to look to Dante and Esme, a brow lifting slightly, "I really don't see why this child care arrangement is any of our business...?" She queries to see how they feel about that.

Videl sighs faintly. "Yes, I would like to leave, miss. I would dread little more than to remain here forever, for it means never seeing those I love again." She glances at the ground, "and I suppose by the redness of the ground, and the splotches on there, you ask us to pay in blood?" She narrows her eyes at this woman, "Blood magic is of the abyss. If that's what you ask of us, then you must be as well." Even with that statement, she takes a step closer to Dante, to behind Dante.

Ingrid listens and then tilts her head while listening to the dryad. As she does something changes. She whispers to the group, "Is she really real? I tilt my head and she seems to blink away and then come back. How is that happening?"

Aaron raises his hand, gently. "When the time comes, what happens to the kid? I really can't stay here. Its very peaceful, very nice, but I am truly bound somewhere else," he laughs a little nervous-weirdly. "and I am trying not to lose myself because this amazing and strange, but also terrifying." He reaches up to stroke his beard, scratching it thoughtfully. He nods over towards Ingrid, then knits his brows.

"What you say isn't a lie," Nurie says to the dryad, her voice still gentle, almost tender. "And it's more of a shame to us that is what would be like to happen, not you. Thre are people in Arvum that do very similar things. Maybe some even in the Compact, if you look at things in a certain way. I don't see the world as you do, my lady. And no, as much as I love seeing new things and would wish to ease another's pain, I couldn't bear to willingly leave my sister." She closes her eyes for a moment, paling, as if there's a pull and push to her senses that makes her a little dizzy. "I need to be with her." That seems to strengthen her, noticeably. She seems to ponder the matter of the gift, though.

Esme nods her head a bit, but it's not in agreement. She is perhaps waiting for others to speak and she is listening, even if that's not where her eyes are focused. There is a clear inner debate. "I would have him live a life that he chooses. In safety. I would have him live in a household where he is fed and cared for as well as trained in what is needed. Then I would have him be allowed to choose when the time comes for that choice to be made. For the prices to be paid, but I would have that choice be his." Her voice is not angry, it is very calm in fact. She's calm. Just as giving a point of view. She's not swung a sword. "So what is the price you would have us each pay?" She offers to Aaron. "She does what she thinks she must to secure the lands stay as they are." Which means she kills the child, but Esme is trying NOT to say that before the child.

"I expect" Ezra states somewhat softly despite the rather ragged appearance, "that we all have duties and work we have to attend to. Things which need to be done before any rest." He then grows silent for a moment and looks at the others, allowing them their voice, especially as of everyone he may be the least likely to take the command of the situation. Instead, with his silence, he gazes over and around the garden.

Thorn exhales softly and shakes her head listening to Videl, her lips part like she wants to protest, her eyes roll before she catches herself. Her grey gaze returns to the dryad and she scoffs lightly, her head shaking a little. "Nameless creature, you find me passionless but of all of these people I am the one who understands you best and your child." She lifts a hand to her chest. "I am a foundling misplaced who found a home with strangers." She smiles, though it is not a sweet gesture, there are sharpe edges to it, and the glint in her grey eyes. "And I am the one who knows the truth of life and death that moral and proper folks can't. I promise you, I won't touch your boy or try and take him from you..." She looks to the boy, not reassuring but knowing. "But we do want to pass and these noble companions of mine can't pay the price you need or want."

There is a long unsettling silence as she regards each of their words, orange eyes roving between them and seeming to pry them apart until each is left with an overwhelming feeling of being exposed no matter what physical or emotional armor they have donned. "Fine." she remarks, suddenly cold to them with a single push of the child forward. He stumbles forward and stares at the ground before him, not daring to look up into any of the traveler's faces. "If you can convince him, try as you might."

Oblivious to these words she hisses at them, the boy is whispered some honeyed words with a far too wide smile before the dryad steps back.

The moon has begun to sink, no longer at its apex of night's passage. The gardenia's blooming at her brow in a crown have begun to wilt, browning at the edges. "For his passage from this place, there is something of each to be paid. Not blood perhaps as the daft instantly suggested, but other in other sweetness of blight, life may my sylvan children find."

To Thorn she simply glances but a moment, regarding her curiously. "I do smell it upon you."

Videl kneels towards the child with a smile. "I know this place is lovely, but it's not for you or I. We belong in a different place, where you can have friends, where you can have fun. Where you can enjoy your life." She looks around, "Are you having fun here?"

Thornsimply nods to the dryad, she folds her arms, stepping to the side to watch the those with her ply the child with their arguements.

Videl checked charm + empathy at difficulty 45, rolling 11 lower.

Ezra happens to make his way over towards the dryad and attempts to speak softly with it, if she'll permit it but if not, he doesn't press it.

Nurie listens as others make their case, though when it's her turn to speak she does so gently. "It sounds like you've already seen so much," Nurie tells the boy. "And what she says is true, life isn't always a beautiful garden outside of this place. A place can be found for you, but there isn't a guarantee that it will be an easy one. Would you rather stay? If you want to remain, I wouldn't force you. But if you want to go, then I'll try to help." She doesn't look away from the boy, but instead tries to gauge his expression, and his choice.

Aaron takes a step closer and crouches, "You know...ah...what she means is that you can have pets, like a squirrel, or a dog?" He knows what pets are, right? "and eat chocolate and wear cool armor like that guy, or a dress if you want I guess, and there are plays..and other people, kids, your age. Its ok to not start out with much. I have a whole lighthouse...and I came from very little." He can apparently be fairly winsome when he puts in the effort.

Esme seems to pause. She's stuck between a rock and a harder place. "Persuade the child and each of us owes something." She looks around at the others and is clearly conflicted. The child. Or all the others. For the moment, she holds back and then she offers. "Are each of you willing to give up something that is not yet determined for the life of the child? Each of you willing?" This seems to be important for each one (except idle Dante) to answer for her.

Nurie checked charm + empathy at difficulty 45, rolling 12 higher.

Aaron checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 45, rolling 10 lower.

Ingrid nods, "For a child, for his life to save him, of course I am." It does not even take a second thought for her.

Ezra checked composure at difficulty 20, rolling 12 higher. Ezra rolled a critical!

Aaron looks at Esme and squints his eyes. "I think she said...something that will nourish the garden so...I just...assumed...." he makes a slightly wincing face and looks left and right.

Thorn's hand lifts to rub the bridge of her nose.

Esme sighs a bit as people are talking but not answering. "Yes or no." She will look at Videl, Nurie, Ezra, Thorn, and Aaron. "The moon is falling. Yes you will or no you will not. This is something that could be anything." Her eyes slide to Thorn, but she's still awaiting answers and fallouts it seems.

Ezra looks over from where he stands next to the dryad whispering casually but at Esme's question he gives a nod of his head, "If it's mine to give, yes."

The child looks up at Videl and narrows his eyes sharply, a flash of orange in otherwise normally blue human eyes.

The blue gaze flickers between Nurie and Aaron, the latter receiving a sneer that comes with difficulty - his cheeks do appear to have wooden splinters dancing up and down them. To Nurie he only nods, but so is the dryad. In a flicker he murmurs, "....a knight." But that is all he says.

Meanwhile Ezra has stepped closer to dryad and murmured something to her. Without a changing of expression and a mere flick of the wrist, roots begin to snake outwards from the hedges to seek his boots. A pungent sweetness of rot blossoms around the air of the dryad, but he does not fall over. It is but warning as the roots abandon his boots and go to make a tangle of thorns at the dryads feet so none others may dare such again.

She watches the questioning and back and forth with open disdain once the boy speaks. "He still dreams outside of my dream?" A snarl of ripping roots, gardenias dying to fall in a sudden dusting of ashen petals upon her shoulders. "He may go, if some part of you will stay. By prick of heart and loss of mind, felt only in the fray. You shall not decide nor ever know, until the moment comes to reap what you sow." Between simplistic rhyme it becomes clear, the child may go if they decide to take him, but something unspoken of the heart will be lost. The price to be paid, but unknown, its pangs to be felt only at the worst of times when all is too late to be redeemed of its aches.

Ezra has stepped closer to the dryad*

Thorn dips her head to the dyrad. "Be well Miss." She doesn't have anything to say about the kid, she turns to head back towards the arch way they came in through.

Ingrid is of course concerned as to what they may be giving up for this child, but the child could have such a life outside of this dream the Dryad has given him. They all need to agree though. She steps closer with Ezra.

Stillness, there is stillness as Ezra feels the roots wrapping out around him and he simply gives a nod to the Dryad and as they recoil he seems to release a hint of tension and he looks to those present and says, "There's a part of me that isn't mine to give up. If I can't say what I give up, I can't. Horrid as it may be or not, it's not safe to risk it." He does not look to the child, in fact, he's now not looking at anyone.

Aaron nods to Ezra, then looks towards the Dryad. "I can consent to giving up some things but...I am the Keeper of the Lighthouse." He puts an odd /weight/ on the words, as if the Dryad should know what that means, and maybe, what he cannot possibly be asked to forget about. "I need to stay...that."

Nurie draws in a shivering breath, but she listens and heeds his choice, even as it makes tears well up in her eyes. There is, after all, a lot of people and dreams in her heart to lose. "He wants to go," she says softly. "And dreams of being a knight. But if all must pay the price--she listens to Ezra's words with pain, closing her eyes, and angrily wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. "I cannot take my lord's choice away," she says simply. "And so I cannot ask that others give up something they don't want to." Her cheeks burn with shame, but she doesn't look away from the child, she won't spare herself that.

Esme watches the child for a moment and then the others. The choice has been made and it seems she accepts it, as long as there was some choice involved in it. Her eyes study the child to put him to memory and then the woman of trees. There is only silence from her now. A glance towards Thorn. Then a look back towards the tree woman and offers a soft comment.

"Gods forgive me," are Nurie's haunted words, though she knows that's actually not what or who she most wants forgiveness from. But she doesn't try to lessen the impact and ugliness that tightens around her heart, and neither does she try to hide it either. Instead she waits, pale and teary-eyed. "I'm sorry, love."

Thorn is already on her way back, to the archway, irritation practically radiating from her red clad form.

Ingrid looks torn here. It hurts the idea of not helping this child, but she knows it would take them all. She takes a step backwards, but is very slow to possibly follow the others.

It is a heavy choice with loss on both sides, but the needs of the many are decided to outweigh the needs of the few. The child looks wholly human once the decision is reached and pain darkens the innocence of that cherubic expression.

The dryad is all too pleased, that cheshire's smile spreading as she steps forward and wraps her arms about the child in the hugging embrace of a protective mother. The vines of her hair slowly descend and venture over the boy's twisted and horrified features, a scream muffled by wood snapping shut over his lips. Her entire form begins then to splinter and crack, encasing the child in vines and roots before the ground opens to devour the both of them.

The dryad vanished, the beauty of the Winter Garden goes with her. Death and decay ripple outwards from the spot she once stood, hedges becoming a briary of bone. All flowers reveal themselves to be vile flays of flesh, no discerning features left to depict what parts they once were. The rot permeates all, the crimson of the soil and the smell burning into their lungs. It is vastly stark in contrast, red against white set beneath the black void of sky as the constellations blink out of existence.

It is but a moment they witness, the withering of the garden happening in a matter of seconds. The moon wanes into a sliver until it snuffs out like a candle, swallowing all light and consciousness from them.

It is only a solitary, bloodcurdling scream that wakes them the next morning, bees buzzing happily about them in the morning's promising dawn.

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