The Interloper


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Scene Title The Interloper
Synopsis Someone tries to give Delia a helping hand.
Date November 22, 2010

Outside the Kingdom of All

The grass is rendered silver beneath a moon that shines like an even more expensively precious metal, and rather than in its fullness, it's sliced cleanly in half by earthly shadow, because even dream worlds are round. A chilly wind makes the meadow dance and wave in a liquid rhythm, dazzling the eyes. In the distance, Delia can still see it, the gleaming mountain of raw diamond and the souls trapped within it, that the beaten road curves all the way towards its cut stone staircase. Above, something winged flies, disappears again in the dark sky above.

They've either been riding a long time, or maybe just a few short seconds — it's difficult to tell. Delia has her arms wrapped around the shoulders of the rider, and the animal thunders and jolts her with a flash of golden hooves and brilliant white flank. The horn that spirals out from the mounts forehead is the same metallic texture, looking like it could gore anyone in its path.

Gallop becomes canter, becomes proud trot before coming to a lazy halt, steam puffing from the unicorn's flaring nostrils. Logan manages not to jostle Delia completely as he dismounts with a kind of grace that doesn't come naturally to him in real life — or maybe used to, once upon a youth. He offers up a hand to help her down.

The black woods making up a horizon, marking off a kingdom's territory.

Slipping a hand that's as pale as the moon itself into Logan's awaiting one, Delia grips it tightly before sliding down from the back of the horse. Her bare feet strike the grass with only a whisper of a sound that's masked by the breeze carrying a floral scent across the plain. If it's chilly, she doesn't feel it much, warmed simply by the presence of the Brit himself.

Or maybe it's just his cologne.

On her back is the rolled fur that's made into a makeshift pack. In turn, it acts as a sheath for the sword he bequeathed her less than a week of dreams ago. How he found her or how she managed to circle back to him, only the orb could know. Given that it's not very vocal at the best of times, the mystery will likely remain that.

Tearing her eyes away from his brilliant emerald ones, she glances toward the black woods and raises one long arm to point at it. "Those aren't yours?" The question sounds absurd, even to her. "Why aren't they yours?"

"They are." Automatic response. Defensive. However, even Logan sounds uncertain about that, his green eyes ticking his gaze back and forth along the encroaching line of dark forest, which, from his expression, seems to be unfamiliar to him. One step forward has his trusty— until now— steed surging forward with a kick of powerful limbs, the unicorn shouldering between the King and the pilgrim and moving at a sudden gallop down the dirt road. It disappears with a flash of golden tail, and there's a second of a glimmer where it seems like a tendril of physical shadow wraps around white flanks and tugs the unicorn the rest of the way in.

Logan, allegedly, doesn't see that danger.

"Not again," is muttered, and he's off, abandoning Delia on the trail, the equally golden quality of his cape flagging out from where it pins at the collar, polished boots creating agilely set prints on bronzey dust. Does not, apparently, see where liquid shadow tracks across the path like an oil spill, reaching for him as well.

You must find the best vein, you see? You must slide in.

The large Russian's words echo through Delia's mind as her blue eyes fill with horror at the sight of the shadow. "Mister Logan no!! Stop!!" Afraid that it might be him laying in wait, the redhead begins sprinting after the lanky blond as fast as her legs can carry her.

As fast as the wind, her arms reach around the Brit's waist. Much like in a soccer game in another world and she twists with him, throwing him out of the way of the shadow only to land in it herself. She stands there for a moment, watching the Brit with something of a small smile on her face. Swinging the pack from around her back, she reaches in to find the orb and clasps it tightly in her hand. If this isn't Dema, then it might be the shadow monster.

The ground feels soft beneath Delia's feet — uncertain, like she could suddenly slip through it at any second now, the shadow quivering beneath her feet. In contrast to the textured dreamscapes of her journey, the sensation she feels then is purely visceral, an emotional tug of sudden panic that might be her's, might be someone else's, and sharply, it retracts, sliding back into the thick shadows of the forest.

Rejecting her. Logan, meanwhile, has landed on hands and knees, grass stains— for all that he landed on dirt road— scuffing on pristinely white trousers.

"What did you do that for— "

The ground cracks beneath his feet, as if the dirt road were suddenly just a thin dusting of grit over a fine glass surface — one that breaks beneath his weight, sending him falling down an inexplicable tunnel in the road, a shred of golden fabric catching on a jagged edge. The hole widens, a growing gap of crumbling ground in an unstable surface, edging towards where Delia is standing and threatening to consume her too until— a hand roughly grips her wrist, and with a jerk of supreme strength, the red-headed woman is yanked up.

Up and into an overhanging branch, dangling as the ground falls away beneath her feet. The person above straddles the branch, long legs bare save for where a fine, silky fabric of a skirt hangs from a slender waist, the bodice clinging to a slight torso. Long, pale arms, and then an elaborate mask that covers the woman's face, blue eyes— like Delia's— blinking through the sequined holes. Lips painted black are set into a line of grim determination, the white and black masking covering any other cue of expression.

Somewhere amidts all of this, a smile appears over a branch not far from where Delia and her masked rescuer hang. A large, toothy white smile, hovering impossible Cheshire in mid-air. A pair of yellow eyes blink open in the dark a moment later, followed by a black and white striped cat with a bright red collar coming into view as if fading from thin air.

"Delia," is a familiar voice coming from the cat, even though the Cheshire dreamwalker needn't open her mouth to speak, "are you alright?" One dark brow raises, and the gold eyes of Hokuto Ichihara settle on the masked woman, her feline face conveying a certain amount of aloof scrutiny, as if the question she asked was only a formality, but the real question goes largely unasked.

Perhaps like a caterpillar if it were.

Who are, you?

Distraught over the loss of a friend (or maybe his cologne), Delia searches the crevice from her vantage point on the branch. Unlike the masked woman, her blue eyes are watering enough for tears to threaten a spill, saved only by the fluttering of her eyelashes as she blinks rapidly to keep them at bay. Turning toward her, she takes a deep breath, preparing to blast the other woman with obscenities for failing to rescue the blond man (and his cologne).

She might be lucky in the fact that the sound of Hokuto's voice saved her. Delia doesn't swear often but when she does, she makes it count.

A quick glance at the cat has the young woman letting loose that breath in a shuddering sob as she glances down at the hole. "I… no I'm not alright!" Turning toward the cat, she unleashes that frustration out on her.

But it's impotent.

Coming out as nothing more than a whimper, Delia's shoulders sag and she lets loose a long sigh. "I'm… Just not alright. At all."

"I'm sorry…"

The voice is a little breathless, murmured from the masked figure who only occupies herself with making sure Delia has a decent grasp on the tree above a ground that's as smooth as obsidian, or as deep and limitless as space. Difficult to tell. She climbs through the tree, coming to crouch upon a sturdy branch before she simply sits, one long leg set to hanging, the other setting bare foot against the dark wood. "Your friend isn't in danger."

Hard to catch a lie, when it comes from a masked face. A hand drifts up to toy with a long black feather than sticks elegantly into a head of red hair, not so unlike that of Delia's. "But you are, Delia. It took me so long to find you— and I want to help you. I want to help you come home." She's ignoring the cat— or. She's ignoring the cat in words. Eyes tend to skip towards it, as if wary. "If I can…"

Yellow eyes narrow slowly, and the Cheshire cat starts to walk off her branch, paws disappearing as she treads forward as if obscured by unseen smoke, leaving only teeth and golden irises behind to float through the air over towards Delia and her savior. "No," is Hokuto's firm rebuking of that offer, imperiously decided.

"This is her problem," the cat insists, "she did this to herself and she is going to find her way back on her own. If I wanted her to just…" Hokuto appears on the end of the branch, fading into view as if stepping out of a dark fog, black-pawed feet treading over the bark with feline grace. "If I wanted her to just click her heels three times and go home," dark brows furrow and the cat's eyes turn slitted.

"Then she would be home." Therein lies the rub, Hokuto isn't helping. This predicament Delia is in, like so much else, is just another one of her tests.

Home… the offer is too tempting to pass up and the questioning flash from Delia's tired eyes tell the whole story. "I…" but then Hokuto speaks up, the tall redhead's shoulders sag a little more as she glances down to the hole where Logan disappeared. "I can't, not yet."

The agreement with her tutor doesn't come from the same vein, the least experienced of the trio gives them both a little smile and shakes her head. "I can't. I'm learning so much. More than just baby steps." A shift of her blue eyes passes to the cat before they settle on the other woman again. "I'm not afraid, I'm just tired. I want to go home, but I need to find it myself."

Another glance down the hole indicates where her thoughts are going, that maybe down where Logan disappeared to is where she needs to go too. If only to make sure the masked woman isn't lying. "Besides, you're in a mask… How can I trust what you're saying if I can't even see your face?"

A hand flutters towards the mask set on her face, going quiet, before she slips a thumb beneath it and angles it up just a little. Delia sees a glimpse of a cheekbone, eye socket, that eye shadowed in bruisey makeup then winks at her, and those black lips quirk in a smile. She resettles her mask. "Because this isn't about me," she says, quietly, that leg swinging before she looks towards the stalking cat. Instantly, that mouth twists in a scowl, her long-fingered hands gripping tree branch like claws.

"What gives you— !" Emphasis, more than shouting, words given edged weight and passion in what they lack in volume. "What gives you the right to test her! It's dangerous! You— you should know, Hokuto Ichihara! Just because no one pulled you out of a bad place when you started— "

Her words cut off, run dry, but the masked woman near trembles with indignance. In fact, the whole tree creaks, shivers. "Delia, come with me." She offers out a hand, rather than snagging the other woman off the tree. "Please. It isn't worth it."

Golden eyes narrow, and the Cheshire cat slinks away slowly from the new dreamwalker. "She's mine," Hokuto purrs softly, curiosity and fascination in her tone, but also protectiveness. The sound that comes next, is not only worrisome, but loud. Stone grinds on stone, the sound of an earthquake made mobile, an ambulatory landslide of sliding wet rock lumbering out of the forest, scattering birds from the trees. In the dark, Delia can just barely make it out, a statue that comes waist high to the branch that Delia and the unknown dreamwalker are settled on. In one hand, it carries a great, closed book, in the other, it is holding a paper card, back towards the tree.

The statue's face is shattered, a broken mask similar to the other dreamwalker's; orbiting plates of broken stone vaguely resembling a face around a hollow, empty head. Wrapped in carved robes like some bald, Greek deity, the statue is borh threathening and defending.

Then, as it turns over the card, it reveals the image of a tower being struck by lightning, shattering in the middle and breaking apart. At the top, it reads:


At the bottom is printed:


And a sudden crushing force threatens to drive the masked woman out of the dream, emulating the negating powers of the mind of John Logan, for whom is represented by The Tower in Hokuto Ichihara's mind..

Confusion sets in, moreso than when Logan was allowed to drop out of existence. The tiny glimpse of the woman under the mask just isn't enough to alleviate the worry. The young woman is wholly unfamiliar with the cards, the symbolism is completely lost on her and she clings to the branch as the fearsome statue instills a new kind of terror into her heart.

This isn't a subtle vein, the giant statue is so massively unsubtle that Delia actually clambers to stand on the branch, hugging the trunk to keep upright. "Stop! Stop, you're going to hurt him!" Dema would be proud to see that his lesson is finally sinking in.

Another darting glance is given to the tunnel and the redhead (the Delia one) closes her eyes. Almost as though she's trying to decide whether to jump down to rescue the man before the statue crushes him in the ground.

"No!" This comes panicked and shrill from the masked woman, as soon as she realises what's happening. It's like a tornado rushing unseen around the intruder, yanking off that mask which has her clasping her own face as if to hide it, cowering upon the branch that she only uses her legs to stay clinging to. Red hair becomes a maelstrom of writhing locks, fine individual hairs coming loose and flagging away, threads unweaving from her dress, and even wisps of intangible mist seems to evaporate from her skin.

But she falls, before she can totally vanish, tipping off the branch and reaching a useless hand up towards Delia, as if hoping that the woman would help the stranger. For a brief moment, she sees the face, but sees more her expression than features — stricken fear. For herself, maybe.

Or for Delia.

Her back hits the blackness of the hole she created like it really was just flat black rock rather than depth, lying still for a moment before she rolls over, twists, and propels her body through that unknown barrier and into the darkness. The silvery meadow, the beaten track, they ink back over where the ground had fallen in. The platinum moon above remains impassive.


Crash, thud. Someone falls through the thin branches of trees not so far away, and likely, Delia can recognise Logan — even if she'd have to identify him by his panicked shriek. And then low groan once he's landed somewhere nearby.

A swirl of black appears on the statue's shoulder, tendrils of shadow slithering and slinking until they take on the form of an elegantly dressed woman in anachronistic — for reality — clothing of black and white silk, a ceremonial kimono with billowing sleeves of black threaded with white, her long hair blowing in an unfelt wind, or more floating as if she were underwater. Gold eyes peer out at Delia, a pair familiar to the young woman from the Cheshire cat moments ago.

"Interlopers," Hokuto insists, "who wish to give you easy outs, are not tolerated." One black brow lifts inquisitively. "Consider that when I judge that Dema is allowed to stay." Hokuto's explanation comes as something of a riddle, though much of what the dreamwalker says is always intentional, every single word and gesture so carefully chosen.

"You," she lifts a hand, palm down, index finger out to point at Delia. "Should be more careful, but…" gold eyes lid partway. "You are learning."

Rumbling, the statue offers its shattered facade towards Hokuto as if considering her, then looks in the direction of the sound of Logan's voice where he'd fallen nearby. "John~" has a sing-song tone to it, "your damsel is ready for you again."

Still hugging the tree like a child on its mother's leg. Delia watches wide eyed, even reaching with one arm to help the other dreamwalker before she falls too far away. "Who— " But the question is cut off before she can really ask by the scream of the man crashing through the foliage. The redhead breathes a sigh of relief that the man is still alive, even if traumatized by the fall. A glimmer of concern touches her features before she turns back to Hokuto and chews on her lower lip. "Who was that?"

Watching the wriggling of the bushes, that the man landed in, Delia's nose wrinkles just a little. "Dema… The Russian man? But… He…" The puzzle just keeps getting weirder and weirder. "Where am I supposed to go? Do I follow the orb to the shadow monster? Or do I try to find home?" But the statue is calling Mister Logan.


She would never call him that.

"Mister Logan! Oh my goodness…" Delia interrupts with something of a glare to the colossus. She slithers down the trunk, ripping a small tear into her dress as she tries to break free of it to jump into the bushes with him. "Oh my goodness… Are you alright?! You fell!!"

Bewildered but alright. Logan's hands reach for her, gratefully accepting the help to pull himself out of the tangling bushes, crown sitting a little off-kilter on blonde head until he rights it— first thing, once he's on his feet— and then yanking his golden cape out from the claws of scraggly forest. "Fuck me," is not very princely. "Yeah, I'm— I'm fine. I'm…" And his emerald eyes dim a little, the way one tries to search for a memory that is swiftly degenerating.

Sinking back into the persona of his own costume. Cologne mingled with the scent of wet leaves, but there. "I think we should be on our way— oy!"

That's when he notes Hokuto's presence, once again snapping back to who he is, true to life, pointing accusingly towards the woman in her kimono. "You're dead. Fuck off." Oblivious, apparently, to everything else that's transpired since he fell through the ground.

Hokuto's dark brows furrow, gold eyes look to the statue of the Nightmare Man, shoulders rise in fall in a helpless shrug of cest-la-vie followed by a huff of breath that blows a lock of dark hair from her face as her eyes shut. "We'll be watching you, Delia…" Hokuto's soft voice calls out through the dark forest, her gold eyes slowly opening to square down ont he redheaded damsel and her unlikely knight.

"Best of luck continuing on…" For while Hokuto may seem to maintain her flippant air of whimsy, there is something boiling behind her eyes, something simmering in her heart, something stiffening her ephemeral spine. She does not know who that dreamwalker was, or more importantly where they came from. But under the light of a platinum moon, she does have the resolve to make one decision for herself.

She's going to find out.

White hands still gripping his, Delia's bright blue eyes dart between Logan and Hokuto. Her hold tightens and at the same time her eyes widen at the exchange between the two, finally landing on the unlikely knight when he sends his final cheery farewell to the mentor.

"You…" Her voice stops on her with a bit of a squeak when she attempts to speak. "I…" What does one say when three dreamwalkers invade the mind of the most breathtaking scent known to mankind?

"Ohmygod!I'msosorry!Itried tostopyoufromfallingbutIcouldn'tmakeit!Areyoualright?Ican'tbelieveityouweresobravethatIalmostfaintedand…" The big long string of words comes out so fast that she has to clap her hand over her mouth to stop the verbal diarrhea. After a moment's pause, she lets her hand down, letting it dangle at her side as she stares across at his emerald eyes.

"Wow…" and a sigh, pretty much says it all.

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