Down the white brick road they went from the Roothouse.
At the edge of the orchard, they stopped by a thicker swirling mist, and planned. They needed to know the nature of the Beast before trying to save it.
Eventually, it seemed clear that Oakskin should go, for her light step and her womanhood, given Greenie’s nature and his mistress.
Through the mists she went, but did not find the quiet afternoon and the Greenie she had expected. Instead, there was a great balloon of many colors, its basket floating serenely in the lake. A young man in the basket was asking for rescue, saying he could not swim, and that their (very pink) boat was nearby.
The boy, whose name turned out to be Oriel Sightline, was rescued. His mistress, Ballantine Orientation, had gone up to some special place under the waterfall. Then the Beast had come. There had been some ruckus, and then… the waterfall.
Oakskin found them. The Beast was on its side, it’s massive green bulk mostly on the stone platform behind the waterfall. His vast head was against her lap. She stroked the head poof and the beard poof, slowly combing seeds out of them. She was singing, long lovely tunes. She saw Oakskin, and smiled, putting one red-taloned finger against her lips as she hummed.
Oakskin signaled that she would return. Unconcerned, Ballantine nodded, and went on singing sad, lonely songs.
Sanction set about brewing a brew to soothe the savage beast. They prepared to lure the creature away from Ballantine.
They woke the Beast. It sprawled away from Ballantine and the first cucumber was unlaced. Fresh. The next was laced. The Beast noticed the hostiles. It began the only sensible course of action: knocking them into the waterfall. When you were the size of a house….
Sanction was one of those hurled into the waterfall, which redoubled its thunder and pounded the old man into the bottom in a merciless barrel roll. Chain pulled him to safety, as he also eventually pulled the massive broken blade of the daiklave out of the creature’s shoulder when it fell.
Lady Ballantine was grateful for the rescue. She offered a crystal chit to Sanction, saying she would return such a salvation with gratitude and interest. Oriel and Grayn helped them to their boat. They skidded away over the lake. Then, as the balloon took flight, catching the last rays of the setting sun and spraying the small Valley of the Orchard with all the many colors of light.
Up on the hill was a set of doors marked with a Solar compass in orichalcum. Above it, on a platform was a yoke made of Starmetal. It glittered under Sanction’s fingers. He read the inscriptions on its surface, and upon the pedastal. Serious, frowning, he made his way back down beneath the waterfall. They headed as a group back to the orchard.
Back beyond the mists, with their prepared rope, they gathered in the orchard. The spirits of the Wyld Hunt had gone. Onyx made his way back out of the mists. Apparently, where fog was concerned, solidity was a liability.
The apple leaves whispered blessings and memory as they left.
They spent a short night in Waymount, remembering the Inn at Haven, and lamenting the end of the little turtles from its ovens.
The next evening, on a hillside near the Sea of Grass, they met a part of riders from the Endless Caravan.
Their leader introduced himself, and said they’d come with extra horses to speed their joining the Caravan. The Night Driver was expecting them. He didn’t say that last part with anything that approached respect.
They took their rides, Oakskin up on the Captain’s white stallion, her red hair loose in the night.
They arrived at the Caravan as it plodded slowly forward, lights glowing in the dark.
They met with the Night Driver at a fire circle. He took the story of their travels. He seemed content. He welcomed them. Told them to get some rest in the little carts set aside for them. They should learn to sleep by day. Their work would begin soon.
Drifting apart, home at last in their moving home, the group muttered their good evenings as they set about to make their camp.
Oakskin took the Night Driver at his word. She followed him back past his black lacquered wagon. When he had gone, some terrible curiosity overcame her. She got inside. There were boxes at the sides, and 2 lamps lit inside – one yellow, and one burning clear white. In the middle of the wagon was a long white box, inlaid with wood. She grew afraid.
Inside the Endless Caravan. Inside the Night Driver’s wagon. Inside a white box lit with a Yellow Lantern and a White Lantern, inside nature-colored satins, she found herself.
She screamed, and ran to find Chain.