City Lights at Night

Spring Cleaning

Red had never been great at the whole expressing emotions deal. Or for understanding when people had understood something he just assumed was basic. Of course it’d be his fault if Masa got himself hurt with his hedge stuff. He had the magic, Ondrej had the connections, Wren had the sense. Red was the strong one. If he couldn’t keep them safe, what was he good for?

Still, threatening at short-round was way out of line. But they’d been calling it a family this whole time, and they’d yet to have any disfunction, Red figured they were long overdue. Besides, it was much easier with everything on the table now. Red was never sure about anything in this world; even your friends or your court could have some purpose you couldn’t see, some reason to stab you in the back. But not your family, that much was clear now, and it made him feel a damn sight better.

And then he remembered the imminent trip to Texarkana and he suddenly stopped feeling better. Shit was about to get interesting, that was for sure. Red just had everyone made it to the other side of it ok. He had to…

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The Honest Little Clockwork man

The Little Clockwork man liked his secrets. He would sneak off and have private adventures on his own, or with a Frederick, and none of his friends would know about what he had done. It wasn’t bad things that the Little Clockwork Man would do… well not always. Sometimes he would sneak off and pick berries and search for treasure, and there is no harm in that. But other times the Little Clockwork Man would spy on things he ought not to, or travel to more dangerous parts of the forest. The Little Clockwork Man didn’t tell his friends about this because he so loved to explore the forest and he was afraid that his friends would tell him that it was too dangerous.

One day the Little Clockwork Man went on an adventure to the goblin town deep inside the forest. The Little Clockwork man’s friends hated the goblins, but the Little Clockwork Man was quite fond of them, even Frederick was a goblin and he had always enjoyed having Frederick to keep him company. As they traveled deeper and deeper into the forest The Little Clockwork Man was getting more and more eager to meet all the Goblins. Right before they got to the goblin town Frederick warned Masa not to stand out too much, or else the goblins would gobble him up. The Little Clockwork man was now a little nervous about visiting the goblins, but put his fears aside. He was too curious to not continue.

The Little Clockwork Man saw many great things in the town: dreams, beautiful trees, fruits, and many new Hob secrets. After a pleasant day at the Goblin Town, the little clockwork man headed home. But instead of sneaking home to find all of his friends asleep, they were all waiting for him.

“Where have you been?” They all asked with worry and concern

“Nowhere, I was just playing with Frederick” The Little Clockwork Man lied.

“That is a lie! you were in the forest! where did you go?” they demanded

“to the goblin town” The little clockwork man mumbled

“That is Dangerous, you could have been hurt! We were worried about you!”

The little clockwork man didn’t realize that his friends cared for him so much. They just wanted him to be safe. And with that the Little Clockwork man told all of his secrets and became an honest man. and even as the little clockwork man’s friends left one by one and as the little clockwork man slowly rusted and ticked more slowly. Even when there was no one left to wind him and he ticked his last tock. He remained an honest man

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A Goddamned Adventure

I set out a RISK board in the hollow, with 1 player to be played by Havelock, Susanna, Galt, Neon, Tremaine and myself to monitor the coming storm.

Red and I met with Galt. Apparently Tremaine has unrest in the ranks and Galt is influencing the Vamps, particularly Havelock’s crew to move against her. A hostile takeover bid of the Mirage, which has been in the Firm’s hands for a long time (Tremaine’s crew owns 45% of the Mirage) is being planned and I was told to expect a call from the vamps; somehow this is supposed to play out such that the Mirage ends up under my ownership. My own zasranĂ˝ casino. A real one. Havelock himself even called to set up a meeting. I am intrigued to say the least. They also let slip that Galt has a “silent partner” in the freehold. I’m curious who that could be.

Masa has been doing some creepy shit in the Hedge and keeping quiet about it. Apparently he’s been to visit Hobtown or some such. The problem for me isn’t so much that he might get himself hurt, like Red seems to think; I think if anyone is equipped to deal with hobs it may be Masa (especially with Frederick by his side), but rather that he kept it quiet until he was caught out by Eugene. There are to many secrets in this Motley by a long shot. Once Wren had spoken to Red for his threats we all had a nice little palaver to clear the air. Red’s family, Masa’s hedgeside extracurriculars, hopefully that will resolve some of the issue. Wren was quiet, save to tell us she knows where the third key is. Maybe she doesn’t have any other secrets to keep from us. Maybe I’m His Royal Highness, King of all Unicorns and Emperor of Nightmares… Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any unicorns in the hedge, but that doesn’t come close to implying they aren’t there… but my point stands; Autumn is Autumn. I trust that anything else she has up in the air won’t get us all killed, or worse. Besides one must choose their loyalties for oneself. Far be it for me to dictate that the others put motley over court just because I have.

One key’s around Neon’s neck and one’s in Texarkana. I-We have the third. The reveal is coming. What lies in that tower, and what will happen to the freehold. Should it be torn asunder who will right it? Do we have the fortitude to see this task through? Freehold or Pledge?

In the end, I guess, who the fuck cares? Its going to be a goddamned adventure.

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Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun (Secrets are for Masa)
in which secrets are for everybody, actually

Writing down “sigh” just isn’t the same as actually makin’ the sound.

We had a kind of pow-wow today. All kinds of secrets came out, which I’m glad for— bein’ able to trust my brothers is important, and sometimes I forget that. Granted, it had to start with Red losin’ his temper at Masa for undertakin’ a rather dangerous journey to a Hob town in the Hedge without tellin’ us, but it all turned out for the best. Now comes the hard part— after puttin’ all of our cards on the table (well, most of mine, but my other relevant secret en’t mine to tell), we’ve got to go fetch the other two keys. I have no idea how we’re goin’ to get Neon’s key from him, but what I’m worried about is Texarkana.

The more I think about it, the worse it gets. Havin’ spent my time in Arcadia the way I did… well, the problem is this: if— when— we go to Texarkana, I don’t know if I can bring myself to walk into that city. The thought of walkin’ into what has become uncomfortably similar to what I left behind over There… it terrifies me. My heart’s beatin’ too fast just thinkin’ about it. But damn it, I have to. If it’s by my own choice, maybe I can. I don’t know, can I bring myself to knowingly walk into a city that’s basically another cage?

We’ll find out, I guess.

“I swear that there’s no heart in this city
It’s here the slogan reads ‘Do your time’
Everybody’s doing their sentence
It’s just there ain’t nobody here
Who knows just what’s the crime.” (JBJ)

—Wren

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A Brief Update

Attended Red’s first meeting. We’ll see where this goes.

Visited Jeremiah Wolfe’s grave.
We were attacked by a slug, but made quick work of it.
We recoved a partially burned copy of the testament of the thorns.
There was a curse on Wolfe’s grave, which I accepted. It is the burden of the key, and it is a cost I must pay.
There are two keys remaining, one Neon wears. The other I have no clue to.
We met TJ; he used to travel with Dirge.

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Conspiracy and Keys
in which there is a meeting and the motley goes grave-robbing

I’m still not sure about this whole conspiracy thing. There was a meetin’ the other night… lots of questions. Red says it’s all on the level and it would be for the good of the freehold, and it would be about keepin’ folks safe… I don’t know. I’m not the militant type, and this sounds like war to me. I know we en’t exactly in a time of peace, per se, but I really don’t know.

Aside from that, there en’t much goin’ on here except the trip we took out Hedgeside. Ondrej wanted to go take a key from Jeremiah Wolfe‘s grave… he convinced Masa, so I figured I’d go along too. We made it most of the way without trouble, but Doushiro broke down and we had to go fetch water to build up steam again. We found water all right, and somethin’ else— there was a book, burnt, in the middle of a little island in the water. You know how I am, too curious for my own good, so I had to go for it. Of course I was terrified and almost didn’t, but I really ought to remember that my brothers are quite capable of lookin’ out for me.

I made the jump to the island just fine, picked up the book, and jumped back— there was a giant slug thing in the water tried to take a bite outta me, but Red and Ondrej dispatched it in no time flat. (‘Course we were all deaf for a little while, Red used an elephant gun.) Turns out it’s an old burned-up copy of the Reverend‘s book, the Testament of the Thorns. Speakin’ of, there was some important information in there. Seems it was a copy given to someone in an army… we had an army?… it’s full of the parables the Reverend tells at services. It’s got a story or two about The City— apparently there are three keys: the key of the City, the key of the Goblin King, and the key of the Law.

I wonder if it’s one of those that Dirge mentioned, he said somebody in Texarkana has a key…

Oh, and we met Dirge’s travelin’ partner. TJ en’t his name, but it’s what he goes by— he knew all of ours, though. He says we’ve got the mark on us (destiny, apparently). He said Dirge has the mark, too, and it’s still on him— meanin’ that he’s still got somethin’ left to do.

Pity he didn’t say just what our destiny is… but that would’ve been much less cryptic and confusin’, and that just wouldn’t do now would it?

“My momma give me a lock
And my papa give me a key
Then after I know how
To lock up these blues for me.” (RT)

—Wren

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Shelter From the Storm

Somebody once said that the smartest thing you can ever know is that you know nothing. Red had never been overly confident in his intellect in the past, but he was really starting to believe in that piece of wisdom now. Every time he thought he had things figured out, some new mystery peeked its head just enough to merit investigating without actually solving anything. They had Jeremiah’s key, but now they knew there were two more, and one of them was probably in the city with the ominous signage. And just to add puzzle to enigma, they’d gotten the info from TJ, who it turned out was real and in possession of seriously impressive powers. Oh, and he and the ambassador are old friends. Of course.

Even Baz wouldn’t pick a state of being and stay with it. One minute he’s giving Red physical, incontrovertible, weaponized proof of his existence, and the next he’s saying some belligerent shit in the graveyard where no one else seems to be able to hear him. This wasn’t ok. He’d been unsure about whether Baz was Hob or Changeling at first, but he’d never really let himself believe that he was just in his head… Maybe he was something the Lady had left in there, like some Manchurian Candidate thing… He didn’t know. He knew changelings all started to go mad eventually, especially as they became more powerful. Hell, just look at the monarchs. But he wasn’t nearly ready for it to be happening to him yet. Anyway, even if he didn’t strongly suspect that he was hallucination, Red was done trusting Baz. His mission was too narrow, his methods too suicidal and destructive. He was a soldier, through and through. Red was trying to be more than that now.

He even got the first meeting of the little society together, and things went well enough, at least he knew where people stood now. But they’d raised all sorts of questions about the pledge that Red hadn’t even stopped to consider. He knew there was something fishy about Neon and the coronation and the shit he could get away with, but exemption from the pledge? Something in Las Vegas wasn’t right. It hadn’t been right since Galt. And crazy or no, Queen or enemy, it wouldn’t be right again until Galt was dealt with, one way or the other. Red just prayed that would happen with enough time to make the freehold strong enough to weather the storm that was coming.

There, that was at least one thing Red was sure of, amidst all the mystery and doubt. The Storm was coming, the hurricane, the flood, the great deluge. He wasn’t sure why he was sure, but he was. And he’d be damned if he was going to let the freehold wash away with it.

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We attack the city light tonight

Almost all the preparations are made. We have a stockpile of goblin fruit, we have information, we have allies, and we have each other. There are just a few loose ends to tie up. I’m sure Wren has some last minute secrets to uncover. Red has to prepare himself for war, I hope his memories of his durance won’t haunt him too much. Ondrej and I need to find out how “the other mirage” and his key interact. It may be key in the days to come, And I am sure he needs to talk to a few more people. And I… have things to take care of. We are either going to save this freehold together, or the freehold is going to collapse, and changelings will be hunted down like… well not like animals, especially dogs, they are probably going to be the hunters.

As part of the final preparations I went to the Goblin market and bought all the fruits and food I could find. Wren bought some things as well. The dream merchant really wants a piece of my Fetch… I shudder at the thought of what that would cost me. On the other hand it would only be for seven days.

There is a long journey ahead of us. I don’t think Las Vegas will be safe for us once we begin our plan, so I will have to pack up and get ready to head to Texarkana as soon as we are done here. Right now our Freehold is holding on by a thread, and we are that thread. The four of us have a lot riding on our shoulders, and if we hesitate, the thread will be broken. Right now we are a marvelously crafted clock, but if one piece breaks or even wears down, we will stop working. Ondrej and Red are the hands on our clock, the face of our motley. Wren is the gears working behind the scenes powering this clock and keeping it ticking. Hopefully I can maintain this clock, keep the dust and the dirt from getting into the gears, make sure there is a nice crystal protecting the hands of the clock and make sure it gets wound to ensure that it still ticks true.

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Knocking on Somewhere's Door

In the US Army, they’d taught them about heroes. They’d taught them about the Medal of Honor and the men who won it. They’d brought in vets with various ribbons to show them what each of them meant and what it took to get each one. They showed you the glory bestowed on suicidal bravery, and stopped just short of actually encouraging you to follow in their footsteps.

They were more honest in the Other army. They had never hidden that heroes were created by the morale officers, not born. They still tried to make them, though. Red was never sure if it was because they couldn’t grasp the concept of it not working anymore after they admitted the sham, or if they really were nothing but a sick reflection of the real army and couldn’t stop if they wanted to. In any case, he knew what heroes were now. They were tools, and the people who used them would throw them in the grinder the second it was more advantageous than patting them on the back. It didn’t stop him from feeling off about what had to be done with Wolfe. But it did mean that, no matter what he did or how he want down, he didn’t expect anything else for himself.

Dead is dead, mission is mission, that’s what Baz used to say. Red hadn’t run into him in awhile, but he knew he was still out there, working toward his objective. He might not be thrilled that Red hadn’t taken a shot at Galt the night Dante’s opened, but Red had his own mission now, and he didn’t take orders from anyone who he hadn’t chosen as a commander anymore. Baz’s was good and all, but there were priorities. Galt was nothing but scumbags worshipping a lunatic, but national defense came before domestic politics.

On that note, the order was almost ready to take its first steps. One meeting, to give info and gauge interest in how far people were willing to commit, and Red would know what he had. If nothing came of it, nothing lost, at least far as he could see. But if people felt like he did, then this could be the start of something important. Something powerful. If war really came, they’d be the Freehold’s best line of defense. They’d be…

Red stopped himself. He had almost said it. As much as he knew it was stupid, he still wanted it. The recognition, the fame, the thanks. They would never be heroes. Depending on how things went, they’d either be people doing their job and probably dying for it, or the paranoid neighbor watching his lawn a little too close. People who thought themselves heroes were always fooling themselves dangerously.

As far as Red could tell, thinking you were a hero is how the whole ‘Hunting’ thing got started. These were people who thought they were doing good, who were honestly trying. If Red had found out about the wider world another way, he might be one of them. But with any amount of sight, you could see they did as much harm as good. Even Finch was wandering into areas that could get people hurt, and even being blackmailed hadn’t made Red think against him. He wasn’t sure why he wanted Sparviero or whatever, but whether it was it was to do an exposee on a hitman or to get in contact with a dangerous hunter, it wasn’t good, and Red strongly suspected that Wu was behind it. He might make himself a problem, and not one Red was looking forward to cleaning up.

Red knew he needed to give up on glory and heroes. Coyote had passed up command of the greatest weapon ever conceived, and it had been the right choice. If he hadn’t, he’d be a hero. And a lot of people would be dead. So he needed to be like Coyote. Powerful, but not for its own sake. Strong, but slow to strike. Honorable, but wise enough to remember that honor wasn’t worth lives. Red was ready to dig, and to fight, to meet in secret, and to open doors, and he was ready for all the consequences, practical and moral, that might come. But it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.

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Home is where the hallow is

Once the little clockwork man was lonely. So he decided to visit his good friend Frederick. He called his name and lo and behold, Frederick popped through the floorboards. The lonely little clockwork man now didn’t feel quite as lonely as he did before. The little clockwork man and Frederick went on wonderful adventures together. They traveled through the tunnels underneath the little clockwork man’s hallow. The little Clockwork man got stuck on the thorns but luckily Frederick was there to help him. Finally they arrived at a clearing underneath the little clockwork man’s hallow. This clearing had beautiful artwork (artistic licence) doodled by Frederick. In some doodles Frederick and The little clockwork man were skipping through the thorns, in others they were killing vicious hedge monsters together. In others still Frederick was protecting the little clockwork man from danger. In all of this beautifully doodled art Frederick and The little clockwork man were friends (and Frederick was king, but that isn’t important to the story). The little clockwork man’s clockwork heart was touched. He had a friend. The Little Clockwork Man and Frederick did many more friend things together and the Little Clockwork Man was no longer lonely.

The End

Epilogue

The lonely little clockwork man looked through his telescope and spied with his little mechanical eyes, large iron gates, docks, large chains, locks, and a shadowy figure. This made the little clockwork man even more crazy than he was before. His friends mistook him for a Hob and shot him. No one mourned his passing.

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