The group hurried away from the shoreline deeper into Annwn, with Articuno in the lead and Rook and Bimblesnaff behind, their familiars keeping up with their fast pace.
After a while, Articuno exclaimed “Wow!”
“What is it?” asked Rook.
“Gungnir is pointing in the direction we are supposed to go!” Articuno responded, causing Rook to smack himself in the head.
“I thought you knew that! Why else would you be leading us?” Rook snapped.
“Uhhh…” Articuno stumbled while looking for an answer.
“Forget it! Let’s go.” Rook said.
After a while longer of traveling into Annwn, with the group following the direction of the spear, Bimblesnaff announced,
“How can you think about food in a place like this?” Rook responded.
“What’s wrong?” Articuno asked. “This place doesn’t seem dangerous. We can probably take a little break from traveling.”
“ ‘Doesn’t seem dangerous’?! Have you forgotten what Annwn is?!” Rook exclaimed at Articuno.
He would have said more, but right then a horrific howl shook the whole group to the bone.
“AAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” Articuno yelled as she bolted in one direction, with Diamond following fast behind.
“Articuno! Wait!” Rook yelled while trying to run after her with Koumori.
“Hey! What about food?” Bimblesnaff yelled, trying to follow the sources of the yells with FlopHop.
Before they knew it, the whole group had been separated. Rook realized the situation after a minute of chasing a phantom Articuno.
“Oh great.” he groaned. “What am I going to do now?”
OOC[If I’m going to be criticized for my post, for reference, I’m one of the MCs.]
The fog of the Otherworld was dense, making walking difficult enough let alone trying to find one another. Additionally, unfortunate for them, the howls did not cease. To each came a different variation of the looming sound.
Articuno, stopping in her flee, broke down in tears, heard what seemed like geese overhead. It was then the yelping, thundering and loud, overpowered her deep sobs. She could have sworn a pack of dogs were at her side their cries were so deafening. Quivering in terror, the sound grew fainter. She prayed whatever it was had chosen another direction to head, away from her. She thought she would be safe. When the sound had entirely left her ears, she pulled her face from out huddled knees where Diamond, too, hid her face, thinking herself safe, only to behold a grim figure, mounted on a snow white steed with skins of stag and other quarry draped across his figure. Two great branched horns adorned his shoulders. His other clothing, as well as his hair, eyes, and skin, were just as white. Surrounding her was a pack of beasts, the Hounds of the Hills, Cwn Annwn, with translucent bodies and bright, red tipped ears. The hunting pack snarled and reared their teeth, but no sound escaped from their maws.
Rook ran through the invisible landscape in a panic seeking his sister with Koumori in tail, calling out her name. His footing slipped several times as hills suddenly began and ended. Everything looked the same in the mist. He could not tell whether he was progressing or circling endlessly. Something finally changed in the landscape, two points of light. Rook imagined it must be the windows to some house. He stumbled along the ground to what he thought would be people to help him, but the "house" began to move towards him. The beaming fire was held within in the eyes of a great, black dog wrapped in chains, or possibly a bear. Its size made it hard to decide. With a black, soul shattering howl, the Barguest hastened in pursuit of its already fleeing prey.
Bimblesnaff plodded along the shrouded grounds with his bright bunny, looking with all his heart.
"Where are ya?" he asked largely to himself. "Where are ya, food? There has to be a tavern around here somewhere." He kicked himself for letting Rook carry all the supplies Charon so oddly bestowed upon them. It seems he was deemed "trustworthy" or "competent" enough to manage the supplies. Feh. Consumption was not all on his mind. "A good drink would hit the spot, too," he added to his fancy, "and maybe, while there, a nice, young wen-" A most horrendous bay shattered his present thought and any that would be formed. The same sound could be heard by both Rook and his sister, despite the great distance. Pulling himself back to his feet and making sure he was still dry, a second baying ripped across the land, just as before. The encompasses fog thinned a little, but enough for him to see what stood before him. A cottage, not meager or grand, with the lights within all shut off and post to which hung a chain. The chain wound along the ground before reaching the enormous collar of a giant, green beast. The monstrosity was covered in thick, unkempt, shaggy hair. Its monstrous feet, while huge, were barely visible from beneath the shag. Along its back and down its tail continued a thick braid of hair, the only part of it that looked tended. Glowing, orange eyes beamed from beneath the long hairs on its head while two dangly bobs sprouted from its top. Its massive jaw swung down, only able to be located when open, ready for a third cry, but a voice rang from inside the house.
"What's goin' on out dere?" it demanded. The door to the cottage swung open to reveal a man. Pale and tall as he was, he was still a man, although something seemed aloof to his appearance. "We dun need any o' ya third barkin' at dis hour. Ah ain't got time ta deal wit dat mess." Near his giant, green hound, the man spotted a hideous green creature. "Oy, pup. 'Tain't e'en a human. Ya made all dis ruckus for nu'in'. Wakin' me up and the what for." The Cu Sith, while it could probably have easily torn the man in half with ease, cowered its head down low at its master's feet while whining in a plea for forgiveness. Patting the hound's head in reconciliation, he scratched his head while studying the goblin. "Queer. Dun get much visitors he'e in Annwn. 'Specially ones like ya," he added. "Ya're a strange one now, ain't ya. Well, better get ya outta dis fog and what for." With a shrug, Bimblesnaff accepted the Faerie hospitality. It was no tavern, but, living or dead, a Celt would have good stock in food and drink. "Oh, hun, all dat barkin' wake ye up, ta?" said the Otherworldly host over the goblin to another. "Well, stranger, meet me wife." The Ghobling beheld a figure of beyond wordly beauty, which made sense, being in the Otherworld, gowned in glittering green. As she bowed for a curtsy, her long, sparkling hair slid over her slender shoulders into view, among other things.
"Daaaamn," Bimblesnaff spouted in bewilderment, "I wish I was a Faerie."
"What brings you to the land of Tylwyth Teg, damned soul?" The menacing glance of Gwyn ap Knudd bore down upon 'Ticu. She shivered under his sight.
"Hey, I'm not... darned," she responded with less harsh effect.
"While your innocence is amusing, child," the Lord of Annwn coldly stated, although cracking a grin, "no wayward soul has ever escaped my hunt." Casting out his hand in command, the entire pack of Cwn bound onto Articuno to drag her soul to Hell. In a high pitched squeal, she covered her head, only to find herself unaffected. The dogs passed through her body, leaving her physically and spiritually in tact. The Overlord of the Dead was puzzled by this outcome. "You... are not dead?"
"No!" she boldly defied the godly figure's words. "I'm on a mission to save the world!" The Hunter was alarmed at such a statement, as he was entrusted with preventing the world's end. "I have the spear an' everything, too!" Holding up Gungnir, the weight of the head proved too much and crashed into the earth, revealing itself in all its glory to Gwyn ap Knudd. He recognized the ashen spear as no other than Odin's mighty lance.
"What is this wonder doing in the possession of a... a mere mortal and child?" demanded the grim Lord. "And what is this talk of the world's end?"
"The stinky dog man brought us here," 'Ticu over-simply explained, "on his stinky boat."
"Ah, yes, Charon," Gwyn ap Knudd spoke, rubbing his chin in understanding, "ferryman of the dead and boatman to the River Styx. That is why your body is not fully in either the real world or Annwn. You are caught between the two worlds... apparently." Dismissing his hounds, he turned his steed about. "Well, young one, your story is too fantastic to be false. I assume there is something you seek of mine?"
"Yes, one of three magic crystal," answered the little girl. "I'm a descendent or something and need them."
"Of course," he accepted with a heavy sigh. "I had not expected this day to come so soon. It is kept safe in my palace, along side many other powerful, forbidden talismanic objects." Signaling the lass to mount his steed, she crashed through to the earth. "Oh... sorry. 'Twould seem you must walk to my palace. I shall accompany you on your trek to ensure no evil attempts you harm." Sending his dogs charging ahead, he trotted along Articuno on the way to his fortress.
OOC[FMC: That's the general three fairy dogs I threw in there just to get things crazy. Gwyn, also, oddly enough, does have a job as "Saving the world from destruction" which really was more coincidental than intentional. He really does it by having dominion over demons. Annwn actually has two rulers, Arawn and Gwyn. Gwyn came later and had that whole world saving thing, so I used him. Also, that man and his wife are Faeries. That's what they look like. Just tall, fair people. Oh, and the 3rd cry of the Cu (or Ce) Sith kills you. Always good to note. Also, probably none of the words are actually pronounced as they look. Good ol' Celtic.]
Rook was drawn into the mires from his pursuit by the relentless black dog. He collapsed into the water, unable to flee anymore. His rising eyes, dripping clear of mud, beheld two more problems for the hero.
"Ah! The nine-eyed leech, Wizard Shackle! Oh no! Devil water-horse, Kelpie." He then took a moment to think. "Wait, there are no Shackles or Kelpies in Annwn. Why, you must be in the real world and unable to even touch me." Rook, rather impressed with his feat of logic, just stood there, smiling smugly, but the two monsters just looked at one another and successively bit onto each of Rook's arms. "Ow! My dexterity!"
Flailing about madly in the bog, the Barguest now loomed behind Rook, eyes aflame. "Well, if these two can hurt me, surely it cannot." Surely enough, the black dog launched a chain at Rook, wrapping and strangling his neck. "Ow! Why? Why doesn't this make any sense?" he managed to call out before his breaths were snuffed away, bleeding in a manner too profuse not to be comical.
"Ahem!" Koumari cleared its throat, standing idle on the sidelines.
"Oh, right, you," Rook somehow managed to speak with all three beasts attempting to kill him. "Have at it." The Tatzelwurm, pleased that it was actually remembered for once, clawed its way forward. The skies of Annwn were covered in a sudden darkness. Thick, black clouds shrouded the swamp. The only sound was the roar of echoing thunders above; the only sight the glowing, red eyes of the wyrm advancing on the attacking monsters.
"Did you have to use so much fire?" a slightly charred Rook asked after the bloody ordeal.
"Have to? No," his pet answered. "Wanted to?... yes."
"Speaking of not having a segue, where could Ticu be?"
"Don't forget about Bimblesnaff, too," added the familiar.
"I wish I could forget about Bimblesnaff," quickly retorted his keeper. "I have the feeling he is going to kill us and drink our blood if he ever goes dry. Let us hope he was able to find spirit of the lesser variety here in Fairyland."
"No he's not."
"He's not in Annwn."
"Who's not what?" growled Koumori. Rook then realized it was not his pet that had originally commented; they were not alone.
"Who said that?"
"I did, down here." They looked and looked, but could not find any speaker. "No, right here." The futile search continued for quite a time until it came to light that they had in fact found the speaker, just had not realized it was the one speaking.
Or that it could speak at all.
"You're a friggin' log!" roared Koumori.
"An enchanted log," it corrected.
"But you're still a log," pointed out Rook, continuing after a short, awkward pause. "Why are you a log?"
"Your friend the goblin came by," it began. "My faerie family had me all ready to be swapped with a human baby for their very own, but then Bimblesnaff -- that nice guy -- said that he would go to replace the stolen child instead! Now I don't have to wither away and die, and can live my life to its fullest!"
"... as a log," Rook added. "You're a log."
"For the last time, yes," the changeling log riled up. Rook then pondered the situation for a moment.
"Why would Gobbo do something like that?"
"Awake, son," soothingly sang mother, entering the small nursery area. "It is time for-- aaaaahh!" She looked to the crib not to find her infant child, but instead a green monster, crammed obviously too tight for his size, bent at every possible joint to fit in, with a small blanket stretched over his stomach. The goblin just stared back, with narrow eyes and a cool emotion.
"Wah wah, mama."
FMC: Fairyfolk would often exchange their own hideous, sickly children for healthy human ones. Childless feys would use a magic log instead, which would pine away and die in one year. Now, nothing ever said that these logs were intelligent, but I thought it was funny.
There are several ways a mother could test whether her child had been replaced with a changeling or not, most of which were very cruel