Queen Of The Stuffed Animals


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Scene Title Queen Of The Stuffed Animals
Synopsis Emily goes looking for one queen, but all she finds is another.
Date January 5, 2019

Somehow, they'd let her out of the Safe Zone without showing a valid driver's license. They were only interested in an ID, after all. She talked her way through the checkpoint smoothly enough, for once.

Somehow, she navigated successfully clear out of town and into the neighboring state of New Jersey.

Somehow, between arcade games and a little practice, she'd driven the car down worn-down highway and muddy backroads without wrecking it.

Somehow, she'd made it all the way here by memory alone.

Emily Epstein closes the door of the borrowed vehicle parked on the edge of what looks, and feels to her, like a step clear into the past. A place, given its delicate, rustic nature that makes it seem like it should have been blown away by the passage of time, might have been aptly named Providence.

January 5th

10:13 AM

The edge of Providence

She adjusts the small shoulderbag slung across her chest, thin legs taking her around to the front of the car. Out here, even in the dead of winter, she can hear the sounds of nature like she can't in the Safe Zone. It's a little relaxing, paired in equal parts with unnerving. Out here, she was out of signal, after all. Emily's fingers rest on the hood of the vehicle for just a moment like it will help anchor her and give her a sense of confidence, then heads forward toward the settlement.

Instead of a guard at the perimeter that one might expect around the settlement, there’s a young girl with red hair dressed up warmly in a big fluffy drawing a faded and rusted red toy wagon behind her with a bunch of sticks stacked in it. Possibly she had been out collecting wood or something and wandered around deeper than she should have.

A stuffed raccoon sits rocking slightly in front of the stack of sticks. And a shadow of a bird can be seen gliding about overhead, as one might do to look for potential prey. Or carrion.

After a moment, the red haired girl seems to spot the figure trudging toward the settlement and she stops, dropping the handle that she was dragging and grabbing up the stuffed raccoon, which she holds in front of her like a shield in both hands.

“Who goes there? Magistra Mývel commands you to answer!” She even grabs the little raccoon’s stuffed arms and holds them up like she fully intends to use them as fists. Fuzzy fists of stuffed fury.

No, it hadn't been a child she'd expected to see. So when confronted with one, Emily stops in her tracks. Maybe because Magistra Mývel had made commands of her. Her brow starts to furrow in curiosity, tone curbed back from bemused to sound instead very polite to the 'Magistra'.

"Emily Epstein, at your service." For the sake of the show, she even bends at the knee in a kind of curtsey, thumbs pressed into her palm. "And who is that there attending the Magistra?" Her attention drifts past the girl to look at the drawn wagon and what lies beyond before she looks back at her, a faint smile given.

"It's fairly muddy out here, shouldn't we get her back to her parents?"

At first the young girl looks pleased that the trespasser is addressing the Magestra instead of the girl behind her, but then she mentions getting back to parents and the girl’s lips purse together, almost in a pout, it darkens her face a little, darkening that hint of red on her nose and cheeks caused by the cold.

“I don’t— !” she starts in argument, before holding the little raccoon up higher and talking in a different tone. She is almost doing an accent, even, a voice, something one might not expect from a seven year old at play. Though this one obviously has a lot of imagination. “My young charge needs to finish her chores before she can go back. The wood must be delivered! Fires must be burned. It is not too muddy.” She lifts up a foot that is stuck into a pair of rubber galoshes. “And my escort is dressed adequately for the mission.” There’s almost a thank you very much to that tone as she stomps said rubber covered foot back into the mud, which splashes just a little.

It’s not deep enough to hinder the wagon much, though the wheels are definitely dirty by this point. “Now why are you here. Are you lost? This is a long way from most strangers.” And she made it a point to try and meet most of the people in the village. At least in passing.

Her eyes don't widen much, but the look in them flickers. Alarm at the upset, curiosity at the short fit, followed by some level of understanding. "Very brave of your young charge to go it alone. She's valorous indeed." Emily's voice is softer than she expected to hear it, an emphatic respect for both the Magistra and the girl… even if her stomach is turning inside out with discomfort. She's never felt like she was good with kids, even if she got along with them well enough. Was willing to play along when it mattered.

She gives her a small smile, sincere but unpracticed. Sheepish, even. "I'm not sure I'm lost… I just haven't found who I'm looking for yet. But there's still time."

Emily looks back up for just a moment, looking for anyone the girl might belong to. Her concern at not finding any is visible only for a blink. Then, with a more reassuring smile than before, she looks back to the girl before her. "Maybe I can help the little miss with her mission. Two sets of hands are better than one." She offers one pale hand out to the child — or the Magistra she carries, depending on who decides to acknowledge her. "How's that sound?"

The young girl squints up at her for a moment, though the stuffed raccoon is not quite mirroring that emotion. The beady black eyes only have one expression, after all, but maybe the tiny red haired girl making the face for that stuffed animal. “I suppose that you can help,” the child responds quietly, looking back at the wagon before she shifts it in the direction of the settlement. She doesn’t notice that bird continuing to circle, or maybe she does, but she doesn’t actually look at it. It’s not as strange to her as the stranger.

“You may man the wagon,” she adds after a moment, in the same tone she’d been using when speaking for the Magistra. “Odette could use the help.” In a roundabout way, she was giving the name she went by. “You will man the wagon and I will collect the wood,” that was said in a different tone entirely. She paid very important mind to her play-games, but for a change she was speaking as herself.

“But I know how to kick people who are bad, so don’t make me kick you.” That part was said with a wave of a finger. “Daddy’s lady taught me where to kick them and I won’t hesitate if you try to hurt me.” And then she changes her tone back again, speaking as the raccoon, “And I know fluff-jutsu as well.”

No accepted hand, at least not physically speaking. In lieu of curling it back to herself, Emily leans down to grab the wagon's handle as directed. So long as the girl wasn't running around unminded, it was good enough for her. Looking back up, she notes the circling bird for just a moment and wonders… but falls in with Odette wherever she leads.

It takes her a moment to realize the change in tone really does signify a change in character, rather than the girl simply dropping the act. Emily fails to bite back a small smile at the mention of stuffed animal martial arts, even while faced with that wagging finger. She was dealing with a powerful force here, truly.

"Really though, it's a good thing to know, where to kick bad people." she intones knowingly, even while suspecting the advice might have been gender-specific. "But if you ever got in trouble and you couldn't kick the bad guy, you could always go for the eyes — Poke 'em as hard as you can. That hurts, too."

What a chat to be having.

"So, Magistra, are you and Odette from here?" Emily lets her voice lift conversationally and accompanies the question with a look down at the smaller girl. She keeps her pace measured, definitely letting the girl and her stuffed animal determine their course and pace, while minding for any sounds of approach on them.

“Oooh, that would hurt!” Odette exclaims with a hint of excitement to her voice rather than concern for who it was hurt. Poking of eyes and kicking between the legs were both reserved for bad guys, and she didn’t feel bad for them at all. Her expression changes as drastically as her voice sometimes seemed to, but this time she’s still speaking as “herself” as Odette. “No. We’re not from around here. We’re from far away.”

There’s a hint to that that perhaps she means very far away, but then her voice shifts to the tone and diction she used before for the stuffed raccoon. “We used to be out west until we moved here. We had a long journey before we could stop, but we like it here. Except Usagi, she misses our old house.” The way Usagi is mentioned it’s as if she despises the “person”. But a moment later Odette cuts in, “Usagi-hime likes it here. She just doesn’t understand why we had to move again. It’s dumb.” With a kick, she kicks at a puddle, sending dirty water splashing and threatening to get on more than just her own clothes.

Maybe she had thought that moving was dumb. “Daddy wanted to join Aunt Eileen. And we do like seeing her again,” she continues her argument, using her hand to force the raccoon to nod in agreement. “We do like seeing Eileen again.”

Odette's enthusiasm for the retaliation suggestion causes Emily to chuckle softly while they walk. "Yeah, it'd hurt a lot." she agrees in a light voice, watching the change happen between characters again. Usagi? It looked like the small girl had a lot of characters she bounced between.

"Moving can be really tough." It sounds like a reminiscence rather than lip service. "I had to move a few times when I was younger, too, and I hated it too. I got upset about it, like Usagi did — said I thought it was stupid we had to move." Her head tips to one side as she continues, "I did understand, though. Things were dangerous and the Civil War was starting up. We had to move to stay safe."

"At least moving out here you got to stay with all of your family. Yeah?" Another small smile tugs at Emily's lips. "Family's important."

There's a brief pause before she supplies, "I'm actually looking for Eileen. There's something I need to talk to her about. Do you know where she's at?"

“Moving is tough,” Odette agrees, stomping her feet a little, but at least she’s not splashing and kicking at puddles again. The mention of family seems to have sombered her a bit too, as if she was thinking about something unpleasant. But then again with the war recently there were so few people not affected in some way by it, and she didn’t mention a mommy. Just daddy’s lady. Distinctly not a mommy, it would seem like.

When the blonde mentions her intention, she stops and looks at her again, dark eyes actually narrowing a little as if being doubtful, almost as if the young girl might be wanting to protect a grown adult that can no doubt handle herself from whoever this young woman happens to be. “I’m not Eileen’s watcher,” she says in the raccoon’s voice. “But one of the other villagers might know where she is. But she’s very busy!” That last bit actually changes voices, as if Odette lost character for a moment, or just wanted to interject as herself there.

The village they were approaching did have activity, people going about daily chores, and one young man about Emily’s own age is sitting on a fence post not too far away and kicks his feet out to hop down. “You okay, ‘dette? Did you find a new friend?” the young man asks. He’s short and stocky, shorter than Emily herself, really, with dark hair and dark eyes that have a mischievous twinkle to them even as he looks from the young girl to the young adult with the wagon.


"She is doubtless very busy," Emily voices a little flatter than she means to. "But we have business. I owe her something, and she owes me something."

Something worth taking this risk and coming all this way, and the memory of it acts as an instant stressor. Geneva was doing less and less well, and the trip already meant she was taking a long time away from the apartment.

The appearance of the teenaged boy stops those thoughts from claiming a nervous hold on her, and she takes a moment to size him up as he comes to his feet. Her brow knits downward at seeing him — at seeing a person like him here. Both him and Odette defied the expectations she had for who she might meet aside from Eileen. Emily's eyes move past him next, scanning for the woman's small, familiar form, only looking back when she's not found.

"My name's Emily. I'm looking for Eileen." she states plainly. The tense crease in her forehead eases as her brow pops up in a silent inquiry of its own. "Have you seen her?" is asked regardless.

There’s definitely no Eileen in sight, though there are some birds, so who knew with those around. Odette beams over at Paul, as if she happens to like the young man quite a bit, and then her face becomes more somber almost immediately as the raccoon regards him with beady black eyes. “Mister Rodriguez, are you finished with all your farm work already?” Almost as if the stuffed animal was trying to scold him. Through Odette’s voice.

“Why couldn’t it be Senor Tortuga,” Paul complains with a roll of his eyes, before he sweeps into a small bow. “I’m sorry, Lady Raccoon, I’m just lounging about. The boss knows where I am.” Before he looks back at Emily, tilting his head a little. Yes, he’s looking at her a little more than the girl or the stuffed animal. Possibly because she looks vaguely familiar. Yet somehow not. “I’m Paul. Nice to meet you. I haven’t seen her in a bit, but she’s probably in town somewhere. Maybe over at the church. We just started to rebuild it. If you see someone walking around with a gun they’re likely to know where she is more.”

This one is not carrying a gun. “I can take ‘dette and the Coon off your hands and make sure they get back to her dad, if you want to keep looking.”

Odette looks indignant, stomping a foot until she turns the raccoon on herself. As if she were scolding herself. Then she actually purses her lips and pouts.

Emily's amusement at Paul's exasperation with the raccoon is faint, but definitely exists. The corners of her mouth tug into a small smile before her expression flattens again when he looks back her way, posture straightening. "Paul," she echoes back at him. "Nice to meet you." When the possible locations for Eileen are ticked off, she looks in that direction and her jaw tightens.

Oh, yes, just ask someone with a gun, they'll help you out, Emily.

"I'll need to," she admits, disgruntled. But it would be a relief to leave Odette with someone known to her so she's not entirely alone. Emily shifts her weight, looking back to Paul. "so I'd appreciate that." She looks at the last moment back to Odette with a shruglike lift of her shoulders, offering the handle of her wagon back out to her. "Looks like you'll have someone else to help you with your chores, Odette."

“Just what I always wanted, more chores,” Paul responds with a shrug of his shoulders. It’s sarcasm, but he manages not to roll his eyes as he says it, moving over to the wagon to grab onto the handle, nodding toward Emily, who is, unsurprising to him, just a little taller than him. And not only because of the shifting ground. He’s very compact in size. “Come on, Queen of the Stuffed Animals,” he says, offers her a hand, which she pointedly ignores stomping a few feet ahead of him.

After a moment, as if she just remembered something, she stops and spins, and this time Odette is holding her hand out in an offer. “Walk us through a wall and I’ll take your hand.”

With a laugh, the young Latino boy moves closer and does take offered hand. “Very well,” with a pause, he glances back to the outsider and nods his head a little, “Good luck finding the Queen of Crows, Miss Emily.”

Emily doesn't make it as far as a smile as she watches the two head off, because as soon as they do, she's left with the heavy reality of still what needs done. Geneva's life hung in the balance, and it's the whole reason she's out here — to find the Queen of Crows.

She might mean to say a proper farewell, but by the time she remembers, she's already found her first someone with a gun— and is in the process of having a very terse conversation with them. Why was she looking for Eileen, where did she come from, what was her purpose. Somehow, the confrontation ends with her neither being detained nor directly ejected from the settlement, but neither does she walk away with the answers she needs. Nor the answers she came all this way for.

If Emily had the luxury of time, she'd pass more time here in the hopes that Eileen would just appear. If that didn't work, maybe she would try to find the side road that lead to Berlin's cabin, in the hopes that her possible-sister might be able to help, or might be there at all. Emily would try something, anything… She'd risk having another awkward chat with the men with guns failing all that.

But she's already been gone long enough, and this has already been enough of a gamble.

Devastated at returning home empty-handed, and worried as to what the lack of being able to get in touch with Eileen means for the future … Emily heads back to the edge of Providence, her steps heavy and her chest aching.

She's heartbroken.

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