Dana, Darkedge, and the Dog

December 31, 2016:

Dana and Pepper are catching up, and a stranger 'drops' in.

Stark Tower


NPCs: Rex (Dana's hound), JARVIS, FRIDAY



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It's been a day or so since Pepper's friend Dana arrived in a rather unorthodox manner. She invited Dana to come back at any time to catch up over some tea, and hence they're settled on the couch in front of the TV that's softly playing music. There's even a great big new dog bed with a fluffy blanket on it under the TV for Thorn, er, Rex to lounge in if he chooses. He's totally welcome on the couch, though, as long as he shares.

"So how freaked out was your mother last night, Dana?"

Rex will share. Especially if there's popcorn or something involved. Pizza? He's not fussy. Dana looks much better today than she did when she arrived. It's amazing what mother's soup, a good night's sleep (sorta?), and a full dose of Maddox healing potions can do. She relaxes, cupping her mug in her hands gratefully, enjoying the simple pleasure it brings. "She's a witch," the halfblood replies dryly. "Freaked out isn't quite the right term." She chuckles ruefully. "Relieved. And, you know, I did get the usual lecture." But, nothing she couldn't handle. And, even welcome, given the circumstances. "She still loves me, that's the main thing." Indeed. It's quite possible the Maddox coven might be plotting against Maeve, now. Foolish as that is. Or, at least, plotting serious protection wards.

Gotta love a coven of 'experienced' ladies. (They object strenuously to the word old.)

Magic hung in the air. Fae magic. Not the same kind of fae as he is used to, but fae nonetheless. Needing to have something to make up for past ….oversights… Darkedge follows the feel of the fae, slipping from shadow to shadow. It led him to a balcony where inside two ladies sit, staring at a box far too bright for his eyes to make out anything other than BRIGHT. He couldn't make out details, but he could wait for a few more hours, here in the dark, sensing the magic that drew him.

Pepper smiles and nods to Dana. "That's really the most important thing." She appears about to say something more when the faintly Irish sounding female AI voice speaks up from the ceiling.

"Miss Potts, we have detected a presence on the balcony but not have record of how the individual arrived there." That gets Pepper's attention and elicits a faint frown. "Have JARVIS get one of the suits ready, just in case." For her own part, she sets down her teacup and feigns nonchalance as she goes over to the suitcase that is actually the Rescue armor that Tony insisted she keep on her person. "Dana, if you want to leave, now's a good time. If not, the back wall of my wash room leads to a panic room that Tony had installed. JARVIS will let you in."

Dana rises as well, giving Pepper a deceptively easy smile. "Oh, no," she says, crossing to the credenza to put her mug down. She moves with the grace of an elf, and the sharp-eyed will note the magic in her aura, and about the ornate Celtic-worked bracelet on her left wrist. It's the work of John Wayland Smith; unmistakable to those familiar with the legendary smith's Hephestian abilities.

More, however, the dog, Rex, didn't need FRIDAY or JARVIS to tell him of the stranger's appearance. He is Cwn Annwn, a hell hound of the Wild Hunt. His hackles rise and he nearly triples in size almost instantly. He's off the couch and growling audibly at the window, his eyes glowing red. If there was any pretense of nonchalance from the women, the hound completely obliterates it. He knows the scent of Fae. Especially dark fae. And he's taking no chances with his mistress' freedom and life.

It's his reaction that clues Dana into the true nature of the threat and that's enough for her activate the Smith's gift to her. Rune covered light leather armour shimmers around her form and she slides a powerful runic rod from the satchel beside the sofa. "I'm not running," she tells Pepper, her eyes flashing with anger and magic. "But, I'll apologize in advance for the damage we're likely going to have."

At the balcony, Darkedge could hear sounds through the glass, but couldn't make out anything specific. He also couldn't tell that Pepper was approaching owning to how bright the interior was for his eyes. It was the sudden flare of fae-magic and the feel and growl of the hell hound that had Darkedge backing away from the glass. Silver eyes wide, he retreats to the railing then toward the shadow from which he had appeared. Must get some distance. Must get more information before trying again. Trollguts! They have a HELL HOUND!!! And the magic being used within is far more than the trace amounts he was tracking.

Likely to give Pepper and Dana a better idea of who's on the balcony, a number of lights out there suddenly light up the entire area and likely banish any shadows big enough for a man-sized individual to 'hide' in.

At the same time that Dana's armor appears, the Rescue armor crawls its way over Pepper's form, and she raises one repulsor-equipped hand when the man out on the balcony is revealed. (Thank goodness she chose to wear jeans today.)

Dana can instantly see the elf beyond the window. And his magical nature. Within her hood, she grimaces. "Dark fae," she tells Pepper. "But, I don't think he's all that fond of the light." The last is more of an observation of his reaction than his nature. After all, all those bright lights? Gotta make a cavedweller like that flinch.

Rex continues to simply growl at the interloper. He won't pass through the glass unless the stranger makes a move to attack first… but only because Dana's taught him restraint.

"You got a sound system we can use to speak to him with, or do I open the window?" And for Rune, that means passing through a transition point in the Veil. Something she'd rather not do here. "If he's been sent by the Queen, I want to know."

She's careful not to use Maeve's name.

Another side step and his world is a sudden wash of white. Darkedge cringes from it, face a distortion of the sudden discomfort one feels in such sudden brightlight situations. The shadows flee from him, leaving only the one behind himself, the one he can never use because it is himself. The few others that remain are too small and too feeble to be of any use for anything.

He brings an arm up to shield his face, a grimace, as his right hand reaches for the mask at his belt. It won't help him see, but it will protect his eyes and the pale of his face. And the hood gets drawn up and clipped to hte mask as well, to cover the shiny metallic-colored strands of silver hair… and most importantly the delicate tapered tips of his pointed ears.

Covered, and cornered, Darkedge straightens fully, out of sheer force of will and training. The light exposure, all ten seconds of it, made his eyes water, and the intensity of it brought on the desire to vomit. He breathes, a forced slow and steady and shallow, through his nose while his molars are pressed together tightly.

Is there a sound system? Does JARVIS greet you in the elevators? Speaking of JARVIS, he speaks up for both the ladies inside, and the pale man outside.

"Sir, may I inquire as to your name and your purpose here. Unannounced visits are usually not well received." The lights don't dim, though. Not yet.

"Miss Potts, Miss Maddox, my sensors indicate a physiological reaction to the lights in our visitor. Should I lower the light level?"

"No!" Dana says more sharply than she intended to JARVIS. After all, her potential opponent is currently at a disadvantage. This is good to her way of thinking — thinking honed by her recent captivity in and escape from the Unseelie Court. There's a beat. She straightens out of a neutral crouch and growls out a concession. "At least, not enough to take away our advantage."

She moves forward to stand at Rex's flank, green eyes hard as she studies the now-masked elf. "I don't recognize him." Which at least means he's not one of her recent tormentors.

A voice. From… somewhere. Beneath the mask, Darkedge frowns as the light-induced headache and dizziness that accompanies the nausea make it impossible to pinpoint the location of the speaker. The worst part is that Darkedge knew he was alone on the balcony, and he didn't hear anyone join him. As he listens, the only breathing he hears is his own. What is it? Will-o-wisps do not speak with male human voices. And those Darkedge can sense, even if there's a light-cursed HELL HOUND not but ten feet from him. It's those facts, the disembodied human voice from no where and the HELL HOUND that have Darkedge on his 'best behavior' and replying.

"Darkedge. Curious."

His voice is clipped, tight with the tension of biting back bile. (AlliteratioN! YAY!) But hidden in those tight tones is the accent of the fae-elf, of the music that is so natural to them. It renders the three English words into a three-note melody. Disharmonious, chromatic, dissonant, but melodic nonetheless. And muffled by the mask.

The mask, turned toward the glass door, mostly, is featureless. No holes for eyes or mouth, barely holes for his nose to breathe. It's one solid piece of leather, black like the rest of his attire. It's bland unadorned nature is in stark contrast to the intricately tooled bracers on his forearms.

The carvings of magical charms weave beautiful elfin patterns that are powerful and pleasing to the eye and not at all like those found in the Unseelie Court. Similar scroll working is embroidered into the edges of his clothing, from the high neck that protects from the bottom of his jaw to the lacings of his leather boots. And there are no weapons visible on him. But, he IS a dark fae. They could have any number of hidden weapons.

Pepper Potts keeps her hand up and aimed at the now-masked pale man, though her faceplate is still open. JARVIS dutifully relays the man's voice inside and Pepper risks a glance toward Dana. "This looks like it's more your field of expertise than mine."

Focusing on the man again, Pepper says clearly for JARVIS to relay outside, "What about my office piqued your curiosity, Darkedge?" She suspects it wasn't the furniture or the tea collection.

Darkedge. "He's an assassin," Dana concludes. It's not some sort of magical knowledge. It's an assumption based on the elfin-ninja garb coupled with the name. The Dark Queen she's been dealing with doesn't hesitate to give her favoured guards and assassins similar sobriquets. She raises her voice to be transmitted by JARVIS. Her tone is uncharacteristically imperious. (Apparently, she really did spend way too much time in the Court.) "Whom do you serve, assassin?"

He was tense about the man's disembodied voice.. but hearing the two women's voices too? Darkedge visibly spooks and steps back against the railing. His hands set upon it and for a moment it looks like he is thinking about just tumbling backwards.

"….magic…." Under the mask, Darkedge licks his lips and fights the want to cough and clear his throat. These few words have been more than he's spoken aloud in… centuries. The raspy tone is muffled by the mask. At least some of the nausea is fading. Mostly. Sorta. Kinda.

"….my Queen… Lady of Avalon…" And no more. Can't talk any more for a bit. Throat hurting.

Lady of Avalon? Pepper is clearly not sure she heard that correctly. Is he talking about the tart with the sword under the lake? Sorry, sorry, bad Monty Python reference. And while he might have been planning to infiltrate for … magic? Pepper recognizes the sound of someone whose throat is bothering them.

Finally lowering her hand, she goes and fills one of the sturdy ceramic mugs from her credenza with cool (but not cold) water and carries it carefully in her gauntleted hands. The Rescue armor's face mask clicks down over her face just before the door opens seemingly on its own and she sets the mug on the closest part of the balcony railing before backing inside again.

The Lady of Avalon. Dana's brows arch at that. And, remarkably enough, her shoulders relax by a millimeter or two (though not much more; he's fae and she's not stupid). "I don't think she's allied with her majesty," she tells Pepper. But, she won't swear to it, anyway. And, if he were drawn by magic. Her own slightly pointed ears rise as her brows lower and her eyes narrow in thought. "If he's been drawn here by magic, he's been drawn here by me. But not necessarily for me."

She watches Pepper make the kind gesture of water in a ceramic mug. A wry smile touches her lips. As the door opens, she moves towards it, flanking her friend, and Rex chuffs his annoyance at the pair's deliberate step ahead of him. Not, mind, that the window and wall between him and Darkedge is even the slightest impediment to him.

Dana regards the elf for a moment and steps through the doorway behind Pepper. But, while Pepper places the mug on the railing, Dana steps to the opposite side of the balcony, albeit still against the windows and away from him. And her magic rod is still in her hand. Rex makes his displeasure known by crowding the door — very easy at his current size.

His blind. It's perfectly clear that he's using sound to track where things are because the moment the door opens his head clicks in that direction. The 'eyes' of the mask don't quite line up to where Pepper is. And then he can hear the metal boots on stone floor, and he shies away a bit further. His body tenses, ready to fight, to flee, to get out of the way of the not-quite-as-heavy-as-he-except-from-iron-full-plate metal armor. His head tilts at the faint clink of ceramic cup to railing. And then the armor withdraws. There is the soft sound with the armor, of cloth, or leather. He tracks that too, but it is clearly a 'smaller' threat than the metal sound was. He shifts his head toward Rune as she comes to a stop opposite the mug… which he can't drink from unless he removes the mask. She's the magic. And the Hound is …her guardian? her pet? her… enthralled? Darkedge waits.

"There's water in this container for you," Pepper offers, touching the mug with one gauntleted finger and creating the faintest clink as the metal touches the ceramic. Her voice is distorted by the suit, until the faceplate clicks open again. "JARVIS, please lower the lights by twenty percent."

"Based on the man's reaction, Miss Potts," the AI replies inside her helmet, "Lowering the light to no more than forty percent of full brightness would be preferable." The lights do dim a bit, though. Probably not enough, but some.

Dana studies the interloper and recognizes his blindness. Pepper's kindness spares her from showing the same — though she likely would, if only to establish some sort of guest-rights safety net. Generally, the fae are sticklers about that sort of thing: not attacking a host that offers hospitality. "Did your Lady send you here?" she asks casually now, a hint of that royal imperiousness in her tone still. "Or are you here of your own accord?"

Offered water. Darkedge adjusts his head at the sound of Pepper's digital voice, and then again when her facemask clicks open, though that had come with a tense flinch. That voice! One of the disembodied… How did she speak.. THROUGH the wall without him sensing magic? Was it so subtle that the taste of the Hound's magic covered it?

But he was offered water. It would be rude to refuse it. He steps along the railing, moving slowly. Three steps and then Rune speaks, and he stops.

"Both." Darkedge rasps after a very long pause. Under the mask, Darkedge licks his lips again and tries to swallow. Should he try to touch their minds? It would save his throat. But to open that way to a human, if Pepper could even hear him, purely for his own comfort? Was it worth it?

Pepper considers the mask, looks at Dana. "I have an idea. One moment, please."

She steps back into her office, sheds all but one gauntlet of the armor, then returns with much lighter footfalls and the darkdark green woven silk wrap she's been using as a scarf for the past couple of days. She folds it in half lengthwise so it's two layers of the lightweight but opaque fabric, then offers it to the pale man. "See if this will work instead of your mask, and then you'll be able to take that drink."

If he holds out his hands for the fabric, she'll let him take it before reaching for the mug. "JARVIS, lower the lights another ten percent, please." The lights dim a little further.

Dana watches Pepper continue to make an effort to welcome the Avalonian. She stands silently until the lights dim slightly again. Then, she shifts faintly, wanting better answers. "Why did your Lady send you?" Dana asks now, the imperiousness fading to a more cautious note. Rex chuffs again his displeasure at all of this and paces just behind the wall of windows, much like a caged tiger. Dana lifts a hand to still him and he chuffs again, nose nearly against the glass as he stares out at the elf.

Darkedge listens to the armor leaving, that the woman made a polite departure first. He waits in silence, head canting again when soft footfalls return. The slippery soft whisper of silk is heard in the wind of night. The shadow of her hand offering it is sensed. Still too small for an egress, but… Slowly, Darkedge reaches out for the cloth. His gloves are more black leather, soft and hand stitched. More black on black scrawling runes trace the backs of the fingers. He can't feel perfectly through the leather, but enough that he knows when he's got a hold of the fabric.

Darkedge shifts his head toward the scrape of mug against railing even as he takes a step away from where Pepper was when she offered the scarf, as if uneasy by being less than five to six feet away from anyone, the length of the blade of a sword extended at arm's length. He listens to her order her servant, Jarvis, to lower the lights further. What ten percent is he has no idea. But… it would be rude to refuse. Slowly, Darkedge removes the mask and brings the scraf to his eyes fairly quickly. The grimace is back, though not as pronounced as before.

More talking! Why is it always more TALKING with these humans? He schools his face not to sneer and tries it. Because his throat hurts.

I am her Scout, searching for magic in the realm of Humans, Darkedge sends his thoughts out telepathically, keeping them open to those in the immediate area. The touch of his mind is cool, like a shadow on a summer's day — Not that Darkedge has any personal experience with that particular analogy. His hands tie the scarf behind his head, as the mask dangles from his belt. There's still tension on his face, but the grimace is gone. As is most of the nausea. The headache, however, that's going to take a while. At least he's keep the ache from his sent thoughts.

Pepper flinches in surprise at the telepathic communication, but still somehow manages to NOT spill any of the water. She looks at Dana, then asks a bit hesitantly, "Why would she be wanting magic in the Human realm?" That seems … odd.

Dana grimaces at the telepathic touch. She's not fond of that particular brand of communication. It makes her feel far too vulnerable. Thus, it's all she can do not to ignite a witchshield — the one thing that helped keep her alive in the Court. She debates his answer internally. Fae do not lie, though they can freely twist the truth. Though mind-to-mind touch lessens that probability considerably. Her nose wrinkles briefly, like a cat catching wind of an unpleasant scent, though the expression schools neutral soon quickly enough. She opens her mouth to ask the same question as Pepper, albeit in a far terser manner, but closes it instead, deciding to await the tacit elf's answer, first.

Really, she ought to just ask him outright if he's seeking her. But, a) that'd be way too easy and b) she doesn't think she'd get a straight answer. (And, c) she just miiiiiight be a little over-paranoid, these days.)

The human HEARD him? Darkedge turns his still blind countenance on Pepper, curiosity apparent in how his head tilts.

To protect it, replies the dark elf. In Send there is Only Truth. But yes, he could twist it, offer bits and pieces of it to say what he wants others to hear instead of what it actually there. but for the moment, the briefer the response the less wiggle room there might be. His head shifts toward Rune as she opens her mouth, then back toward Pepper as the half-fae makes no further sound.

I am intrigued that you can hear me, Human. Because he hasn't been given names. Of course, which one is he calling Human? Or does he mean both and is just addressing Pepper since she's the one talking is anyone's guess.

"Honestly, it surprised me a bit too." Pepper steps toward the man again to offer him the mug of water, tapping one fingernail against the ceramic lightly as if to indicate why she's moving closer. "Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by weird all the time?" She's honestly not sure. "Oh, and please call me Pepper." She's been told that there is power in names, but hopefully a nickname would carry less weight.

To Dana's way of thinking, the briefer the response they're sent, the more likely there's some editing going on. A whole lot more room for wiggle, if you ask her. "Define 'it'," she suggests, eyes narrowed. 'It' could refer to the Human Realm, or it could refer to some other thing — a command, creature, or something else entirely — pertaining specifically to Avalon an its Queen.

Too, she just assumes 'Human' is addressed to Pepper, since most Sidhe nobles refer to her as 'Halfling', 'Halfblood', or (more often) 'Mongrel'. And the so-called 'lesser' fey respond to her more as either Sidhe or Witch, depending on their bent. So, they're a lot more circumspect about what they name her aloud. (It's those damned elven Sidhe that are the sneering, insulting bastards.)

Needless to say, she's not nearly as trusting as Pepper. She doesn't give even a nickname.

Fingernail against cup, Darkedge homes in on again, tensing but not making any overtly threatening motions. He holds a hand out slowly again, waiting for Pepper to press the cup into his hand. Cool water would soothe his throat. But the cup could be poisoned. He'll have to take very small sips, polite ones if lacking trust.

Perhaps so, Pepper, Darkedge replies. Hidden in the velvet of his mind's touch is a faint bubble of amusement. Humor that fades at the haughty tone of the fae-born. Darkedge turns his face toward her.

Magic. he replies simply, without a sneer to his face or his thoughts.

Pepper backs off again, looking at Dana as she does so. "Okay, I'll freely admit that I'm just a Muggle here, but can you explain to me a bit more what it is about 'magic' that you're here to find and protect? Is is those who use magic? Is it magic itself?" Maybe if she gives him some more leading questions he'll actually answer.

"To protect magic?" Dana is clearly surprised. She still doesn't trust the interloper… but, it is possible he's not after her. And that is a faint relief. Of course, there's still a magic user that she doesn't know hanging around Pepper's balcony. And that doesn't make her happy. But, she's not so foolish as to gainsay the Lady of House Stark in her own demesne. Especially since Pepper is asking all the right questions, for the moment.

Besides, Pepper has iron armour and repulsor beams, not to mention iron-forged implements-of-last-resort. That definitely counts for something. And Dana actually does have confidence that Pepper could hold her own in a pinch. She's seen her deal with the Dark Queen, after all. And this guy ain't that bitch.

When the fae takes a sip, however polite and small, Pepper might notice that Dana does relax a little more. Enough that Rex snorts his disdain and actually sits down on his haunches, still glaring through the window. The sip suggests Darkedge is accepting hospitality, after all. "You accept the hospitality of Lady Pepper in this place?" There is formality in her tone, but none of the imperious edge any more. It's more one of a neutral transitioning. She's merely seeking confirmation. An affirmative answer will allow her room to breathe and take the edge off her interrogation. Or, as the case may be, her suspicion about his answers to Pepper's interrogation.

Sip taken. Darkedge licks his lips and forces himself not to down the whole cup immediately. He starts a very patience count to forty.

As my Queen commands, he replies with a formal nod, acknowledging that he's here to do both. That he is an assassin playing the role of a scout might smack of: by any means necessary. And to confirm to Dana what his mission is at the moment. He heard the surprise on her voice, and now the formality. He straightens up.

I am, is the affirmation Dana was hoping for.

"Well, if you are accepting my hospitality," Pepper says, remembering at least a little of what Dana explained in regards to the Fae concept of Hospitality, "please, join us inside where we can all be more comfortable." And where JARVIS and FRIDAY have a bit more ability to help disable the guy if he chooses to turn violent suddenly. She knows for a fact that the AIs are capable of making her office's lights and sound system act as a sort of flashbang thing, and she's inwardly glad it's not ever been needed. Yet.

Dana exhales a silent breath she didn't know she was holding. But, notably, she allows her hood to fall back and lets her power rod sit a little less defensively in her hand. As Pepper invites their guest in, she motions Rex to step back away from the door. Again, there's a disdainful chuff from the hound. This is not his day. But, his mistress waits until the elf has entered the office before she follows, herself. She gives the balcony and the sky around it one last sweep, allowing the Shadows and Shades to dance before her eyes as she makes sure there aren't any others before she finally slips in behind them and closes the door.

Dana's quick sweep of the area before following Pepper and Darkedge inside reveal that the dark fae-elf was indeed alone. Other than the shadows he used to get up here, there are no traces of magic; fae, human, light, dark, or otherwise.

Darkedge follows the sound of Pepper into the apartment, moving slowly to avoid tripping or running into anything. As the texture of the floor changes, the dark elf steps more carefully. A few steps in, far enough for Dana to move about him, enough for him to listen to where that Hound places itself, Darkedge stops and waits. He has no idea what the layout is like in this place. He can, however, make out where the light sources are through the scarf and his own closed eyelids.

Pepper watches the elf's hesitant motions, then after a look at Dana makes a decision. "Darkedge, I'm going to hold you to the rules of Hospitality. While in my domain by my invitation, you are not allowed to cause any living being harm unless it is to defend your own life. Are we understood?"

If he answers to the affirmative, she'll ask JARVIS to drop the lights to forty percent. The TV on the wall is still playing music softly, but the screen itself is off.

Rex shifts as Dana pads towards the credenza. Her satchel is there, the one from which she pulled her rod. She pulls out a chair there, but waits until she hears Darkedge's answer before she settles into it. The hound follows her, juxtaposing himself between her and Darkedge, angled so that he can intercede on Pepper's behalf, too, should the need arise. He sits down on his haunches, but his demeanor is still alert. When she does eventually sit, the rod is set across her lap.

Again that blind's man head shift toward Pepper's voice. And a faint tilt, as if taking her words into consideration.

I can not agree to those terms, Darkedge states, listening to where Dana and the hound move to, and how the hound's paws sounds… gentler now. The magic of Hell fading from his senses.

Unless ordered otherwise, I will act in defense of fae-kind as well, and request harm in defense of that fae-born I sense in the area be included, otherwise, I will thank you for your hospitality and excuse myself. To track the fae down at a later date, but at least he's being civil, right?

Pepper hesitates at that. "Fae-born in the area?" She turns to look at Dana a bit confusedly. "I thought all of the brownies or other little ones had fled the building after the last time things were damaged." At least, there were no longer any tiny individuals enjoying her offerings of soured milk and tiny things that sparkle.

Without an agreement to hospitality from Darkedge, both Dana and Rex remain standing. "I imagine he's referring to me," she tells Pepper, a dry note to her voice. She turns her attention to him, since she knows he'll sense it regardless. "Lady Pepper is my hostess. You're in no danger from me or my hound in this place if you offer no threat to her or those she calls her own." A beat. "And her defenses are formidable enough against our kind even without magic." Iron. Lots and lots and lots of iron and steel. "The little ones fled long ago, and will likely stay away until… the matter with the queen is settled." Because they're not suicidal.

I never expected to be in danger FROM you. But unless ordered otherwise, I must act in your defense as well as my own. Darkedge states, head turning first to Dana before overshooting Pepper by a few inches as he turns back to her.

I request the amendment: harm permitted against those who would seek harm of any fae-born in your castle for the duration of my stay. I will have no new orders until have I next report to my Queen. he says again, waiting for Pepper to accept the fact that he wasn't talking about defending himself against Dana but acting as one of her guardsmen while he's here under Pepper's offer of hospitality.

Well, if Dana seems okay with the amended agreement, Pepper's okay with it. "Agreed. You may employ non-lethal harm in defense of any fae-born in this building. JARVIS, if you would, please, lower the lights to forty percent."

The lights dim steadily to less than half what they were, meaning they're likely still very bright to Darkedge but at least no longer outright painful. For Dana and Pepper, it's now at 'romantic' lighting levels.

"Should I start a fresh pot of tea?"

Dana's brows rise at Darkedge's clarification. Interesting. That could, in fact, work to her advantage — not that she's all that inclined to purposely exploit it. But, she's not foolish enough to overlook any potential port in a storm. "Let me," she tells Pepper, hanging the rod on her belt with a loose leather tie. She's nearer the credenza, anyway. She glances back to Darkedge. "There are a selection of teas here." One of which, she notices, is a mix from her mother. That actually makes her smile. "I can recommend this one, if you would like." She withdraws the small container of loose leaf and opens it, moving toward him with obvious movement to offer the container for his inspection. Just so he knows it's not poisoned or something. The tea is a mix of herbs and tea leaves. There are no magical properties about them, particularly, but they are considered a refreshing, strengthening blend that can help with swifter recovery from fatigue and mild wear.

When his clarification is accepted and the lights lowered, Darkedge pulls the scarf off and blinks several times. It's still very brightly light,yes, but he's now not going to vomit from it. He turns int eh direction he last heard Pepper, and offers the scarf back to the red-head. His eyes are metallic silver, just like his hair, glinting and not in the way a cat's would. Far too bright for that trick. Offered the recommended tea, Darkedge peers at it, senses no magic, and nods his acceptance. As for non-lethal… he'll stay quiet. If the attacker starts with lethal attacks first, after all…

Smiling her thanks to Dana for offering to fix the tea, Pepper then turns to Darkedge as he finally stops having to shield his eyes and accepts her scarf back. "Please, have a seat." She gestures toward the small conference table where Dana had been sitting and Rex now waits. She steps over to the couch and table to collect the teapot and cups that had been abandoned there when the elf arrived, and sets them on the credenza to clean later. Then she finally settles in a chair at the table, sitting properly as if about to hold court. Or lead a boardroom meeting. Or similar.

Dana sets about making the tea, careful not to use the charmed tea pot just so their guest doesn't think she's tweaking the brew. She fills the kettle with water and is content to wait for it to boil, standing beside the counter while Darkedge decides how or where he will settle. Rex grudgingly lowers his front end so that he's lying down, but his back haunches still quiver occasionally.

The dark elf remains where he is until motioned by Pepper toward a seat. It's only then that he moves, eyes sweeping about the living space as he turns. He pulls out a chair and settles to it, watching two ladies at their tasks; how Pepper settles regally and how Dana waits at the counter, and how Rex is watching him waiting to pounce.

The ceramic mug is set down on the table near at hand.

Pepper reaches a reassuring hand down to Rex. "How long have you been searching for traces of magic, Darkedge? It seems like a … challenge considering the state of modern-day America." She herself didn't even realize or believe that magic was a thing until just a year or two ago.

There is likely a sense of close cooperation between the two women. Dana is not servile by any means. But, she's content to allow Pepper to be 'Queen' in this place. It is the redhead's demesne, after all. The witch is content to listen for now, turning back to the counter and pouring out the water over three diffusers into three cups once it is ready. Then, she brings them to the table, setting one in front of Pepper and Darkedge, first, and then fetching her own. She sits down on the other side of Rex, to add to Pepper's reassurance. The hound snorts and spares a moment to lick Pepper's hand. Dana reaches over to the credenza to grab a tea towel and pass it to Pepper. At Rex's current size, she'll need it.

I do not know how to express time in a way you will understand, but you are correct. It has been a challenge. There are few spots of magic of a kind my Queen hopes to protect and far too many humans playing with forces beyond their kenning, Darkedge replies, seeming to be almost amiable, calm and poised, yet clearly showing Pepper a great deal of respect and defference. This is, after all, her domain. As the tea cup is sat down by his elbow, Darkedge nods to Dana. A ripple something warmth drifts from the dark elf, a sense of gratitude. It is wordless and formless but easily felt nonetheless. He takes the cup and brings it up to inhale the aroma. Yes, he is seeing if there are any detectable poisons. Not that he expects these two to try to poison him now. It's just habit, instinct, to always be on his guard for such things.

America. This is what you call your realm?

With a nod of thanks to Dana, Pepper takes her mug and sips at the hot beverage even though it's technically still steeping. "Well, this entire continent — land mass — is known as America. The island we are currently on, with all of its tall buildings and the green in the center, is known as Manhattan. This building, Stark Tower, is my realm." Well, more or less. But she's not going to argue semantics right this moment.

"The easiest way to express time is by the sun and the land. One cycle of light and dark is one day. Many days, enough for the weather to change from hot to cold and the trees to lose their leaves, that is a season. A full cycle of four seasons is a year."

Dana smiles wryly at the elf's confession of time. "It doesn't help time runs at different speeds in different realms," she notes. "But she's right. The large breakdowns are roughly the same. Years, Turns, Cycles, they're all the same, more or less." She picks up her cup and take a moment to sniff it, as well, more because she finds the fragrance comforting. Then, she takes a sip. "You can think of Stark Tower more like a Clan or House within the larger realm that is America. Their holdings extend across the land."

Darkedge absorbs this new information,nodding as he does. Detecting no poison, and seeing the others sip without fear, Darkedge blows on the tea then sips very gingerly.

What is the changing of the bright orb at night called? For I have seen it change, from nearly painfully bright to perfect darkness over a hand of times since I began my scouting. Not that that really helps, since as Dana said, time is different when he gets pulled back into Avalon, but they don't need to know that. Pepper, Lady of the Stark Tower on the Isle of Man Hattin' in the land of America, part of the Human Realm. He turns to brow at brow at Dana, noting that she has yet to give a name. he doesn't blame her. Fae-born. To be unknown…

There's a hint of humor to Pepper's voice when she answers his question. "The cycles of the moon at night are called months. You've been searching for more than five months. That's a noticeable amount of time. Has your search at least yielded positive results?" She removes the strainer from her mug and sets it on the table, then takes a more decisive sip of the tea. "Would either of you care for something to eat?" It is getting on toward dinner time, after all. And Pepper knows that Rex will never say no to a snack.

Dana gestures lightly at Darkedge. "If our visitor would," she says. No, Rex will never say no to a snack. And Dana is usually amenable to it at Pepper's, since she knows the woman has replaced her ironworks with copper, ceramic, and wood. "There will be no iron near the food," she notes. She's guessing he's got the same allergy as she.

Months. Days. Years. Darkedge takes another sip, larger, since the first one yielded no ill effects.

I would not refuse, and it has yielded a few, though now one area has too much human attention. I must wait before returning, Darkedge replies then turns a surprised little almost frown on Dana for the iron comment. A brow quirks, and he looks away.

My thanks. Because it didn't occur to him that iron near the FOOD was a thing here. He knew only that eating here made up sick and so he didn't. Add to this the fact that he can't get back to Avalon without his Queen's help and meals are few and far between.

Pepper notices the frown. "The food's been making you sick, hasn't it? Iron, mostly in the form of steel, is used very commonly on this planet. But, we are not incapable of compensating, if we're made aware of it." It certainly helps that the chef kept on retainer was only too thrilled to get the VERY high end set of all copper cookware and all wooden utensils and all titanium cutlery.

"I'm suspecting something simple would be best. JARVIS, could you please have some baked potato soup and peasant lunch sent up?" Yes, that sounds odd, but it's the simplest name Pepper has heard for a platter of cubed meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, and breads.

"Of course, Miss Potts," the male AI voice says over the speakers.

"Miss Potts, Security wishes to know if they need to send up a detail for the unannounced presence in your office," the female AI voice interrupts. Pepper blinks once, then replies. "No, FRIDAY, everything is fine. Thank you, though."

Dana can sympathize with the elf's problem. It took her mother months to figure out what her problem was when she was little. She lets Pepper take care of the details regarding the food. Instead, she decides to offer the elf a bit of information. "Humans have always meddled with powers and in affairs far beyond their kenning," she notes. "But their resourcefulness knows few bounds. There's magic still, in this world. More than most people recognize. There are humans here gifted in the arts, by nature and by choice." And some not so much gifted as cursed, but that's another story. "There will always be those who over-reach. And there will always be…" she pauses, searching for a good word since he might take 'interloper' personally, "visitors from other realms, drawn to the magic that lingers here." This world is, she has discovered, a giant nexus point of sorts for all sorts of cosmic, multiversal, and magical weirdness.

How astute this human is. Darkedge schools his face even as he listens to her ordering her invisible servants about. And the new female voice asking about security. It has Darkedge tensing though he turns his gaze to Dana's explanation. He nods again, gaining more valuable information that he'll take back to his Queen. Next time she meets with him. Until then, Darkedge sips a bit more tea. Pepper's hostess. He has no say on the menu.

Pepper takes a moment to consider what Dana just said, and then nods. "That does seem to be the case. Humans tend to be rather insatiably curious, even when the risks outweigh the potential benefits." Not Pepper herself, though. Well, mostly not. “I guess that sort of defines the human condition. Clever, curious, and careless."

The food should, in fact, be quite enjoyable. Dana, anyway, prefers it to most of the concoctions Maeve tried to throw at her. Fae delicacies are just that, delicacies. And usually rarefied in more ways than one. Give her old-fashioned bread, cheese, and soup any day.

She leans back now, hands resting lightly on the arms of her chair, and watches the conversation proceed, not caring to volunteer more at the moment. Besides, Pepper summed it up pretty nicely.

Tea sipped at again, Darkedge considered this as he once again glances over the very odd living space. Her throne room? No… Study perhaps… Meeting area. Just makes the most sense. They are meeting.

What are your servants, Lady of Stark Tower? They are not magic. They are not alive. They are not visible. He has to take a moment to muse over her description of the human condition. Careless is exactly how his Queen would describe them. Careless and murderous and thoughtless and.. well, Pepper hasn't been. Perhaps, once he has an answer on the servants, perhaps he'll discover that she is partially fae-blooded herself. That would explain things.

Pepper smiles in what might be amusement, recognizing the confusion about the AIs as something she's seen many times before. "They … reside elsewhere, and speak to me through speakers set into the walls. I'm not the only one that they attend to. They handle tasks for every person that lives or works in this building, and couldn't be everywhere at once even if they tried." But, as AIs, they actually CAN. Still, keeping the concepts to something the elf will hopefully comprehend.

Dana listens to Pepper's response and a smile touches her lip as well. The closest magical comparison she can think of is a 'homunculi'. But, she doesn't say it, because it's not entirely accurate, either. "Do your people live in a slitheen?" she asks, instead. The slitheen, of course, is what the Sidhe call their demesnes — the fairy mounds they call home. She's fairly sure he's not actually Sidhe, even if he is elfin.

The explanation is… mostly adequate, and so Darkedge nods. He sips the tea again, searching for a way to gather more information about.. AH! Where are they stationed, how do they see and then Dana is asking for information. Darkedge looks over, and tilts his head.

The term is unfamiliar, so…. I would guess they do not, he replies smoothly, calmly, no emotions in his mental touch. Will not think about them as his people. Silver eyes turn back to Pepper.

And where are they that they can see and hear all?

Again, Pepper takes a sip of her tea to give her a moment to think of a way to explain where the AIs are without actually admitting that they’re not corporeal organic people.

“They’re in a central part of the building, where they can speak with anyone and relay messages and information as requested. For example, I asked JARVIS to relay my request for a meal to the cook that is retained on staff for Mr. Stark’s and my requests. He already knows about D— my friend’s special dietary concerns, and will make sure to relay that additional information to the chef even though I didn’t explicitly ask him to do so.”

She takes Rex licking her hand calmly enough, but is inwardly very glad that Dana thought to get her that tea towel. Because slobber. Very big dog slobber.

Dana offers Darkedge a smile as Pepper clarifies the ‘allergy issue’, so to speak. She glances to her friend as she nearly betrays her name. But, the syllable is caught and the sentence changed, so she relaxes once again. “Think of them as having large scrying pools that allow them to see all in the Tower,” she suggests. It’s a close enough analogy. She sets the tea towel on the arm of Pepper’s chair.

Silver eyes flick to Dana the moment Pepper changes the sentence. A moment to regard the fae-born, and Darkedge resumes what would otherwise be considered polite conversational eye contact. He nods as the explanation makes enough sense that he doesn’t need more for the moment. He sets his tea cup down to regard the hound lickign Pepper’s hand. What else to ask…?


Pepper can tell that the elf is at a loss for conversation, and as is the duty of a proper hostess, she moves to fill the silence before it can become awkward. “You mentioned that one area you were scouting had garnered too much attention. How did it manage to do that?” She can only hope that it didn't do so in a bad way.

Dana just isn’t in a hurry to reveal her name to the stranger. Chances are that it won’t necessarily be a problem, but her recent escape is too fresh for her to relax. Indeed, she’s not sure she’ll ever truly relax. Rex eventually settles down, though he still eyes Darkedge. But, he senses Dana’s caution is more calculated and less defensive, which puts him slightly more at ease. As at ease, anyway, as he’ll ever be in the presence of a fae stranger. The woman continues to sit quietly, letting Pepper lead the conversation for the minute.


Dana’s silence is… what? Irksome? That it leaves him to interact with the human perhaps is what is irksome. He inclines his chin lightly, hands resting lightly on the table.

There were deaths in the area. Darkedge replies calmly, eyes lifting from the beast again to the human, keeping the fae-born in his peripheral.

Deaths in the area. Pepper's mind immediately jumps to a recent news story about some teens found dead in Central park. “Oh. That would be a problem, all right.” She can't help but wonder if Darkedge had anything to do with these deaths, but even offhandedly accusing him by asking would be rude in all forms.

And then the food arrives. A large silver platter heaped with at least three kinds of cold meats, several cheeses, fruits and berries and veggies all in bite-size portions accompanied by a still warm loaf of bread and a lidded ceramic soup tureen with a matching ladle. Dana has seen these dishes before, and they match the dishes and flatware that resides in the credenza. It looks like an excessive amount of food, even for three people.

Pepper stands to accept the rolling cart bearing the food and to reassure the little blonde woman in a security guard uniform who brought the cart.

Yes. Dana is letting Darkedge do all the hard work. Pepper, too, perhaps, but she expects her friend will understand her reticence to be a chatterbox in front of a strange Fey. Though she's reasonably convinced, at this point, that Darkedge isn't a direct threat, she knows all too well how quickly that can change.

She looks up as the food arrives. Although Pepper takes the trolly, given she must reassure the security guard that has brought it, Dana stands smoothly and moves to bring the cart closer to the table. Without needing to be asked, she slides the platter from the top of the cart onto the table.

Then, she says to Darkedge, "Please, take a plate and help yourself." To emphasize that, she takes a plate for herself and circles around the table back to her seat, from where she can reach the now central platter herself.

The food cart arrives, and Darkedge turns to peer at it. The security guard gains a goodly portion of his attention as Darkedge notes anything he might recognize as a weapon, while weaponless but still dangerous himself. Though he watches the security guard, his peripheral tracks Rune's movements as she sets the tray down, collects a plate, but does not yey take food herself.
-— New Activity ---

Pepper does indeed understand Dana's reticence, and she's okay with it. After the guard leaves and she pulls plates and silverware (actual silver) from the credenza, she offers Darkedge a smile. "Please, help yourself. I don't really stand on formalities at mealtime." And as if to prove it, she takes the last plate for herself and promptly uses the bamboo tongs on the platter to start adding bits of everything to her plate, though more veggies and fruits than meat. ANd of course, at least a little of each cheese offered.

"It might be best if you both avoid eating the crust of the bread. We didn't give the chef enough notice to bake a loaf fresh, so this one might be store bought." Meaning steel food processing equipment. Though, knowing JARVIS and the chef, it could well be a loaf ordered from the Silveroak Pub the moment Dana arrived in anticipation of the two women requesting a meal. The AI remembers things like that.

Dana nods in response to Pepper's caution about the bread. Nevertheless, she, too, begins putting various bits and pieces from the platter on her plate. She's willing to take the meat Pepper leaves behind, however, because of the soulful red eyes beside her. Since the bread doesn't appear to be quite the usual plethora of grains Wasea's loaves often sport. She's fond of rich brown breads with hearty grains, though she's not above making white bread for those who prefer it. However, Dana takes that to suggest that leaving the crust alone might be wise. So, upon slicing herself a piece, she gently tears the crust off and sets it aside.

After watching the girls digging in, Darkedge uses the tongs to put one of everything on his own plate, but leaves the bread alone completely. Dipping his fingers into a pounch on his belt, he pulls out short thin chopstick like items. Only, instead of wood they are gemstone. One ruby, one topaz. WIth the motion came a subtle gentle roll of magic from the elf. And he nibbles, sampling carefully.

That's one of the perks of New York City: the produce is invariably of superior quality. And, Pepper usually makes a point of having her chefs buy from local community co-op gardens, making them even fresher. And, despite having brought out utensils, she actually chooses to eat her selections by picking up each piece with her fingers and popping the morsels into her mouth. Likely, that's why everything is chopped into smallish cubes.

"Mm. The gouda is particularly good today," she comments after eating a piece of cheese. "I hope you'll pardon my curiosity, Darkedge, but what sorts of food do you usually enjoy in your home realm?"

Dana's faintly pointed ears rise and her eyes move immediately to Darkedge and his 'chopsticks' when she senses the magic about them. There's a faint question in her eyes, but she doesn't immediately call him on it, waiting to see if the magic displays any ill effects on the environment or her friend. Such, of course, would void the hospitality extended to him. She's hoping that doesn't happen. She'd sooner get through the meal without a fight.

As it is, however, she slips Rex a few rolls of meat, sampling some of the fruits and vegetables around it.

Dana's attention on his him noted, along with its timing, but like her he says nothing about it. Instead, he uses his 'chopsticks' to collect a thing. The cube of cheese is studied as Pepper comments on something he doesn't have a reference for. A tiny bite, merely half of the morsel is taken, before Darkedeg flicks his metallic gaze to his hostess.

There are a variety of things available, he replies. Which really isn't a reply since Pepper asked about what HE enjoyed. He chews the bite of cheese, not certain he likes the mouth feel but making no outward reaction to it. The magic he used is gone, faded back into the surrounding ambiant magic of his clothes and his armor and the amulet at his throat.
-— New Activity ---

Having already made a bit of a dent in the 'first course' of their meal, Pepper reaches to ladle up a serving of the soup for herself. The aroma that fills the room when the tureen is opened speaks more of a hearty and flavorful stew more than an actual soup.

"What manner of things? Vegetables? Fruits? Breads of different sorts, perhaps?" Yeah, you're not off the hook that easily, bub. "Which would you consider your favorite?"
-— New Activity ---

Dana does Darkedge something of a favour, insofar as she uses her fork to point to various pieces on the platter. "These are cheeses. The speckled one is the gouda Pepper referred to." She then gestures to the fruit and names the most common, following up with the vegetables. No dreamberries on the list, of course. No surprise, there. But, for her taste, Dana likes the raspberries and black berries. Though, she willingly takes some stew to go with the centre of bread she has.

Shame about the dreamberries, really. But what do you expect from this backwards human world? Darkedge regards Dana and the foodstuffs she points at, memorizing the names of each. And now the flavor, texture, and smell (as much as he can smell anyway) of each.

All of those, and more. As fo rmy favorites, I have no reason to inform you if I have favorites let alone which ones they are. His eyes moves to Dana. It occurs to me you have names for the lady of this tower and myself, but I have no name fo ryou.
-— New Activity ---

Pepper's eyebrows go up at his flat out refusal to say whether or not he has favorite foods, much less what they might be. Okay, then. And then he asks Dana about her name, and her eyes flick over to her friend. She has NO idea how to help here. The whole thing about names having power is still a fairly new concept to her, but she knows it's a BIG deal to Dana, and that's why she's been trying her best to not let the brunette's name slip.
-— New Activity ---

"Rune," Dana replies simply. An evident enough name, given the magical etchings on her armour — armour she's still wearing, albeit with her head uncovered. "Rune will suffice." Rex gives Darkedge a flat look, as if the question was offensive to him. But, it's debatable whether or not the hound actually heard the telepathic comment. It's just as likely, perhaps more likely, that he's objecting to the silver-haired elf's attention on his mistress.

The name given and Darkedge nods, somehow making the motion regal and subserviant all at once.

I see you, Rune. is the formal feeling reply as his head lowers before straightening back up. Does he know that she has more than one name: of course he does. Names have power. The True Name of a thing having the most. The Lady of Stark Tower knows a more powerful name for her fae-friend than Rune gave to him. This does not bother him. He turns his attention to his plate again, selecting a bit of meat with his crystal chopsticks, watching for pepper's reaction to the name Rune gave. After all. Pepper said 'D-' earlier, and now looked to Rune for how to handle his name-question.
-— New Activity ---

Well. Now that that's sort of settled, Pepper seems to relax slightly. "Would you care for some of the stew, Darkedge?" Because, really, she's kind of running out of things to chitchat about considering how … forthcoming the elf is.
-— New Activity ---

Dana returns Darkedge's greeting with a formal nod of her own. Her lips twitch some at the words, a wry, almost rueful expression directed more at herself than him. Indeed, she studies him for a moment, absorbing the sight of his aura and his true nature, all of that open to her ever-on True Sight whether she wills it or not. "Rwy'n gweld ac yn deall chi, Darkedge," she replies — essentially saying 'I see you' in the language of her people. And, in many ways, she does, even though she cannot read his mind or discern his inner motivations, faults or foibles. But, at least, she knows he's not a demon in disguise. He's fae, and everything that brings with it. That much, she understands well.

The human relaxed. She's aware of multiple names, each having different levels of power over an elf. His Queen will not be pleased to learn of that. It's the sound of this new language that draws Darkedge's gaze again. Though he has no idea what she said, he lets the sound, the shape of her lips when she makes those sounds, filter into his mind before he nods again.

Indeed, the dark elf is fae. A different type than Rune, perhaps, but fae nonetheless. And beholdent to a fae-queen. One whose good graces are as shifting as the wind. The offer of stew and Darkedge shakes his head as he sets the plate down, each item tasted, but nurishment definitely not taken fully.

No. he replies to Pepper. The refusal may only seem rude because it lacks any attempt at the little white lies of social attempts to keep anyone from being offended.

The rest of the meal is perhaps a bit stilted, but Pepper does insist that Darkedge collect whichever leftovers he would like to take, and even offers him a plastic container with a secure lid to use.

Dana will have to apologize to Pepper, later, for the awkwardness. But, really, her self-preservation instincts are too far in overdrive right now for her to do otherwise. When the meal ends, she stays by Rex's side, and lets Pepper make the final arrangements with the elf.

None of which the dark elf takes. In fact, he seems uncertain why the human would even suggest such a thing. Leftovers? Travel rations? Really? Do you WANT him to get turned into a tea cup? With the same no nonsense manner as before, Darkedge refuses the parting gift. Instead, he magics his shopsticks in order to place them into his belt pouch. A pounch some paranoid person might note are far too small for long slender chopsticks. If she's observant, perhaps she'd note that Darkedge closed his fingers about the crystals in a manner that would have crushed them, like one would crumple paper into thheir palm, before slipping quarter-sized ovaloid stones; one ruby, one topaz. The magic fades again, as Darkedge turns away to return to the balcony.

No parting words, no farewells, not see-you-later. There are, after all, reports to make. He simply moved toward the balcony, hoping the lights are low enough to grant him shadows. If not, he'll have to leap off the balcony and aim… REALLY well.
-— New Activity ---

Pepper is a bit confused about why Darkedge refuses to take leftovers, but doesn't offer a second time. She does ask JARVIS to turn off the lights on the balcony, thus recreating the shadows that had granted the elf egress here in the first place. So, thank you for NOT jumping off of the building.

As Darkedge leaves, Dana gives Pepper a rueful half-smile and Rex returns to normal 'Thorn' size. "I should probably explain…" she says, thus beginning a conversation that will likely go into the wee hours before she finally retreats home to her mother's house.

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