Save Sir Hopsalot! ((Attn: Rowan))
Gretta had been intending to go on an evening run. She decided that she didn't want to go to the Park and Preserve. It was further away and a favored place of her kind. Gretta was looking for a small patch of woods for a simple jaunt through the spring night air. This little neighborhood park was perfect. It was nestled against a small forest and served as a community playground for several apartment complexes in the area. There was a group of three baseball fields and a soccer field just across the small side street.
She had intended to get far enough into the woods to sneak off behind some bushes and change. Of course that was before she saw the epic battle that had just begun.
The kids were squaring off into two teams but one team was made of the older, faster kids and the other team was made up of a couple of younger kids and an older child that looked like he spent more time on the sofa and less time outside. His glasses were constantly falling down his nose but, from what Gretta could see, he really wanted to play.
"Can I join?â€ She asked the smaller group. The youngest little blond blinked up at her and considered protesting. "You're big.â€ She observed.
"I am but that's okay, isn't it?â€ Her potential bespeckled team mate nudged himself ahead of the small blond and quickly nodded. He obviously saw an advantage to having an adult on their side. "Its good. I mean, its fine. You're invited....uhm, My Lady.â€ He even gave her a courtly bow, having to shove his glasses back onto his nose as he did so. The other team's members rolled their eyes and then ran off to a very colorful fort on the far side of the small sand filled playground area.
"This is ours.â€ Her blond guide led her to the plastic fort on the other side.
"What are the rules?â€ She asked her young knight. He smiled up at her and nodded back to the other group. "We've got a treasure and they've got a treasure. My name is Jack, by the way. That's Amy and the one there is Sam.â€ He pointed to a very quiet little boy with big dark eyes and a mop of brown curls. Sam looked at least part Hispanic and Gretta wondered if he was quiet because he didn't speak English or if he wasn't fond of talking.
"Hola, como estas, Sam?â€ He smiled at her and answered that he was good. Just the one word. Well at least now she knew the answer.
"This is our treasure.â€ Jack pointed to a small rusted green and yellow metal frog. Gretta suspected that it was old, older than most of the parents around the park much less their kids. "Amy says he's magic.â€
"He's a prince.â€ Amy confirmed.
"Their treasure is Elise's dumb barbie doll.â€ Jack said, getting back to the explaining of the rules, clearly not wanting to go into a debate on the merits of the frog. Amy did huff and mutter under her breath "She's not even a princess barbie.â€
"If they are able to steal our treasure and get it back to their fort then they win.â€ Jack patted the little frog. "We'll do our best, buddy.â€ He sighed and looked up at Gretta. "If they catch you then they can put you into the dungeon....which is the swings. You have to stay there until one of your people breaks you out of jail.â€
"How does that happen?â€ Gretta was intrigued by this incredibly involved set of rules. These kids obviously played together often. "The team mate has to make it to the swings, without getting captured, and tap on the metal bars three times.â€
"Magic.â€ Amy affirmed.
"Ok, I think I've got it. So we have to keep Sir Hopsalot safe and capture the other person's treasure while not getting captured. I am Gretta...by the way.â€
The kids seemed to approve of the new name for the frog. Amy giggled and Jack smiled. "Nice to meet you.â€ Jack said and started backing away from the fort. The other team was headed straight at him. "If you could capture one of two of them that'd be nice also.â€ The last portion was said as he ran around the outside of the fort away from two older boys.
"Sam, Estancia aquÃ con la rana et Amy.â€ He nodded somberly and stood on top of the big yellow cube looking toward the other fort. Amy watched in the other direction. The rest of the team could probably over power them but they'd have to get them out first.
Taking off after the two boys chasing down Jack, she caught up with them easily. "You two, off to the dungeon!â€
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. "Whew, oh I forgot to mention. You can only send people to the dungeon when they are around your fort...cause your a defender.â€ Gretta looked at the two boys; they were headed to the swings discussing something as they went. "Which in this case worked out.â€ Jack added.
"They are going to be coming for you now.â€ She nodded, watching the two boys as they continued to discuss their plans. Of course she could also hear them quite clearly but she was trying not to pay attention because that would be more unfair than it already was. A team mate came and rescued them quickly enough since no one from Gretta's team stopped them.
"We need some strategy.â€
((OOC: Gretta is wearing a jeans, a white pirate shirt and a red brocade vest with gold buttons. Her hair is braided into two separate braids around the crown of her head that come together in the back and finish off as one single braid. Of course there are plenty of wispy fly away strands of hair escaping it.
She tells Sam to stay with the frog and Amy. I would have started more of the battle but the rules took a while to explain. ))
Tonight there was a farmer's market in this area. Across one of the baseball fields, judging from the tents he could see in the distance. This being Nachton, just because the sun had recently gone down didn't mean everyone closed up and went home. Cris was working, because while they came close they couldn't always manage to mesh their schedules, and Rowan had a mind to come pick up some local produce, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, easy things that did not require heat to prepare, and make a nice light dinner for them to share with a bottle of wine.
He passed by the playground, as usual drawn to the kids playing there. There were some bored moms standing around chattering and one taller woman obviously playing with the children. There was a lot of running about happening, and he couldn't quite make out what was happening.
As he skirted the edge of the playground the crack of a baseball bat sounded in the distance from one of the fields. Rowan turned toward it, shading his eyes against the stadium floodlights to see if someone had hit a home run. As he turned back he heard someone yell, "Watch out!"
He collided chest to chest with a young boy and they both went down in a tangle of limbs. Something old, metal, and green slipped from the boy's grasp and landed on Rowan's chest. He looked at it. A tiny, rusty metal frog, faded and worn.
"He has Sir Hopsalot!" Someone else yelled.
Then, from his other side, "Get the treasure!"
Cupping the little frog against his chest Rowan sat up to see two groups of very enthusiastic kids barreling toward him.
((ooc: Rowan is wearing faded, distressed and torn jeans over black boots. He has on a deep turquoise tee and a grey hoodie over it. The usual array of nuts and bolts as well. ))
"They are going to be coming after you, so maybe you can take as many as you can away from their fort and we'll try to sneak in and get their...treasure.â€
"Okay.â€ Gretta patted him on the shoulder and went out toward the middle of the playground area. The two boys immediately came after her in a pair. She may not have been R'asa but Kadzait were no slow slouches when it came to running; she had to hold back so they thought they had a chance to catch her. Jack didn't tell her what the middle ground meant for placing people into prison but she suspected that it was no man's land.
"Where do you think you're going?â€ She heard a girl's voice and then a squeak of alarm from Jack. Next time she saw him he was trudging off toward the swings.
They were already short one member compared to the other team; they couldn't afford to have anyone in the dungeon.
Apparently Sam thought so also because she caught a glimpse of dark curls as he darted past, zigging and zagging between her two pursuers. He managed to free Jack but they soon had another problem.
"They've taken the prince!â€ Amy's voice rang out high, clear and very annoyed over the general commotion of the game. Gretta turned to see her running full tilt after an older boy and staying close enough to make the kidnapper look back over his shoulder from time to time.
That was how he ran into the redheaded stranger. Amy had yelled for the guy to watch out but it was too late, or maybe she had been talking to the other team member. Gretta chuckled to herself when Amy yelled that the newcomer, innocently brought into the battle, had Sir Hopsalot.
Jack, returning from the swings, shouted to Amy who had stopped to stare at the man with the frog. He yelled for her to get the treasure. Amy stared at the other boy and then they both stared at the redhead. It was obvious that neither was sure they wanted to mess with another adult, this one might not be friendly.
The two that had been following her had also stopped to watch the new drama. Gretta came close to Jack and they all gathered around the man with their frog. She decided that perhaps diplomacy was the way to go. "Noble Sir, I beseech you to please return our good prince back into our care.â€ Gretta gestured toward the frog, in case he wasn't certain who the prince was in this scenario. "We are emissaries from...â€
"Ashwood.â€ Jack supplied quickly.
"from the enchanted realm of Ashwood and we were escorting our poor cursed prince through this land to bring him to someone who could possibly release him from this vile sorcery.â€ Gretta gave him a curtsey and held her hands out toward the frog.
"Wait!â€ One of the older boys who had been chasing her stepped forward. "That's a lie!â€ You're prince there is a murderer. He killed our king, princess...uh, Malibu's father. Our wizard cursed him for his crimes and placed him in the dungeon but these criminals helped him escape.â€
"That's not true!â€ Amy stomped her foot and glared up at him. "Sir Hopsalot would never kill anyone.â€ She thought for a moment. "Unless your king was a bad guy!â€
The whole exchange had everyone riveted to the newcomer and the background story being made up about the two kingdoms and their nobility. Well, almost everyone...
Before the newcomer could pick a side to award custody, Sam's jubilant shout could be heard from their fort. "We win!â€
Gretta looked over at her side of the playground and laughed. There was Sam standing inside the top yellow cube, waving a barbie over his head.
"Not fair!â€ One girl sulked.
"It wasn't against the rules.â€ Jack pointed out. "We win.â€
"New game!â€ One of the kids shouted and everyone added their clamoring agreement. Gretta reached down to give their casualty of war a hand up.
"Care to join us?â€ She smiled at him. Gretta looked down when she felt Amy tugging on her jeans, while staring at the new guy. "He's big.â€ But then she smiled; this time the objection was obviously a joke.
Jack looked over at her and said. "You pick first.â€ He looked hopeful and scared all at the same time. Gretta thought it was very noble of him to give the choice over to her when she suspected that he had been captain of the winning team.
"I think I am going continue my association with Sir Jack. He has been a fine strategist.â€ Jack beamed and flushed a bright red but came to stand beside her.
One of the older boys looked around at everyone assembled and said. "Okay, I pick Sam.â€ The little guy looked surprised. He hesitated a moment and then walked over to the other side. Gretta hoped that by the end of the night the kids might have better opinions of each other.
((OOC: I figured this way we can make the sides equal in number and Rowan can choose whether to join Gretta's team or be on the opposing side. I placed a list of the kids in my note section. ))
She was chosen by the kid with the glasses. The little Hispanic boy went to the other team, whose captain had been the one to inform him of the dastardly frog-prince-criminal's doings. When all was said and done it was this team that Rowan found himself on, and he was glad for it. It would have been unfair to have both grown-ups on one team.
There were introductions all around and the rules were explained to Rowan by Peter as they trotted off to their castle. Also on their team, aside from Peter and Sam, were a pretty girl named Elise and a very small red-headed boy named Ron. The significance was not lost on Rowan, who smiled at the boy once they took their spots.
"Your name sounds like mine," he said, and held up some strands of his red hair on either side of his head with his hands. "Same hair too. We should stick together."
Ron nodded at Rowan with a little laugh.
"Okay. You can both guard the castle then," Peter offered. That sounded fair to Rowan. It wouldn't be nice to outrun a bunch of kids. He could hold down the fort.
"So what's the rest of the strategy, Captain?" Rowan asked Peter. The older boy looked at Elise, who offered Princess Malibu to Rowan to hold. Then they huddled together and worked out a plan. Sadly, there were no cannons involved and Rowan very much doubted a blade would be needed.
They didn't make battles like they used to.
When the game started Rowan ducked around the back of their castle while Elise, Sam, and Peter headed out across the playground, leaving little Ron sitting alone on one of the blocks partway up. Rowan was within easy reach.
She had picked Tony next. He had been one of the ones who chased after her in the last game. Truthfully, Gretta didn't care who was on which team so long as they were a little more evenly distributed and perhaps mixed up a bit. A part of her mental voice said that she should just have fun and let the kids have fun but she couldn't help but want to 'help'.
Elise was picked next by Peter; she picked Amy. They then picked Rowan, most likely figuring he could even out the advantage of the other adult. She picked Lucia next, much to Sam's apparent relief.
As they were headed back toward their fort, she could hear Tony and Lucia muttering in Spanish amongst themselves. Lucia must have complained about not being picked for the other team because Tony said that at least this game would go quickly because Peter would be too busy getting kissy with Elise. Lucia then pointed out that wasn't likely since Elise had looked pretty surprised and mad that Peter picked Sam before he picked her. They both chuckled and even Gretta had to smile at the drama.
"Thoughts, Sir Jack?â€ Gretta looked across the way to the other team.
"Uhm, well I was thinking.â€ Jack shoved his glasses further up his nose and looked nervously at the two newcomers who obviously weren't used to listening to him about anything for long. He directed his gaze in her more friendly direction and continued. "They are going to be pretty mad they lost so I figure they are going to come at us pretty hard.â€ Tony laughed and agreed with a nod.
"Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.â€ Lucia pierced him with hard obsidian eyes.
"Yeah, well, what I was thinking was that we should all stay here.â€ Gretta smiled but the other two started disagreeing. "See, if they come over here and we start putting them all in the dungeon at the same time...â€
Tony sighed and said. "Then someone will just come over and get them out.â€
"Yeahâ€ Jack looked smug for a brief moment. "someone from their fort.â€
"Leaving it less defended...â€ Tony smiled and smacked Jack on the back. "Not bad, Amigo!â€
"It will probably be that big guy.â€ Amy said softly, cradling Sir Hopsalot in her lap.
Gretta shrugged and smiled, maybe so or maybe not but they would deal with that problem once the first part of Jack's plan worked or didn't.
True to her knight of strategy's words, a large portion of the opposing team, or would that be country?, came straight for their fort. They knew better than to come too close immediately but instead darted in and out of the middle ground, hoping to catch a moment when some of their own people had left.
It still didn't take long with her, Tony, Lucia and Jack running around to catch them on their side of the playground. Eventually their dungeon held three members leaving it to Ron or Rowan to come bail them out.
"What if they just leave them in there to rot?â€ Tony said, scratching his head and looking at the swings and then at the other fort.
"Huhâ€ Jack put his hands on his hips and frowned thoughtfully. "I didn't think of that....I guess they could.â€
"Seems rather unsporting, don't you think?â€ Gretta watched the swings but cast a glance at her team mates.
"Yeahâ€ They both agreed.
"I don't know. I'd do it.â€ Lucia grinned evilly at all of them when the others turned shocked faces on her. "What?! They got caught.â€
"If they don't rescue them then we've still got the same number of people guarding their fort.â€ Jack sighed, apparently upset that his plan might have a hole in it.
"Well, then we'll just rush them with four people.â€ She smiled. "They can't possibly catch all of us at the same time.â€
There was no way the little 7-year-old could outrun the bigger kids on the other team. Nor was it very likely that he could guard the fort himself with most of the opposing team likely headed their way. Cracking his knuckles he smiled grimly.
"If I draw them off, do you think you can get one of our teammates out of jail?"
Ron looked thoughtful and then nodded. "I'll run really fast."
"Go under them if you have to," Rowan suggested. Ron nodded again, enthusiastically. He understood.
It was quite the gamble, with the opposing team too smart to leave their 'prisoners' unattended. But Ron was little and Rowan was fast. Rowan did manage to get plenty of attention by running straight for the opposing team's fort. He veered away, but not before sending one of the others to the dungeon.
Ron, in the meantime, managed to duck right in between the legs of a taller boy, rapping on the swing-set three times before the other kid turned around and sent him to prison. Peter escaped and ran back around to send Ron's captor to prison in return, then freed Sam leaving Elise looking even more pissed off than she had before.
Rowan had taken a risk and brought Princess Malibu along with him for the ride so no one could scurry into their fort and steal her while they were gone - no one had said that was against the rules. As Peter passed by Rowan hurled the doll through the air to him. He caught it right as Rowan was tackled by his own pursuers, winding up in the dungeon with Ron and Elise and two of the other team's players.
"This dungeon is way too crowded," Rowan said. "We should demand better housing."
At least the odds were slightly more even now, though. Although Peter's team still only had two people outside the dungeons, they had managed to send two of Jack's team there as well. Hopefully Peter and Sam would be able to work some magic, because otherwise the game was going to be a short one.
"He does know that someone's got to...â€ Lucia questioned as she watched the tall redhead get closer. Then she shrugged and moved away, hoping to slip past unnoticed and gather up 'princess' Malibu.
Rowan stopped short of the fort and turned to run the other way. "He's up to something.â€ Gretta said and looked back at Amy. "Keep Sir Hopsalot safe.â€
She moved away from the fort, Jack right behind her. "What are we going to do?â€ He asked, seeming to forget for the moment that he was the strategist.
"Keep an eye on Tony. See if he needs help.â€
"What the...?!?â€ Lucia could be heard from further away and then another muttered curse that sounded like something children shouldn't say. She could be seen stalking toward the swings; Rowan had looped around and caught her before she could break into their fort and steal their treasure. Jack gave her a questioning look as they both got closer to the swings.
Tony meanwhile had been chasing Ron around the structure. The kid was bobbing and weaving like a marine running through a field of mortar fire.
"It wasn't there.â€ Lucia explained. Jack looked perplexed. "The treasure, Estupido.â€ She sighed at Jack and plopped down on a swing. "He had it with him.â€
"But...but... that's!â€ He was so busy being outraged at Rowan's obvious breech of playground war etiquette that he didn't notice Ron until the younger man plowed right into him. They both went down hard with Tony coming up right behind them.
Ron rolled over shoving Jack away from him. Jack's glasses, which always seemed to have a precarious perch at best, went flying.
"No!â€ He scrambled after them on hands and knees. "I can't lose this pair; mom will kill me!â€ Jack didn't notice where he was until he felt a smug smack on the shoulder. "What?!â€ He blinked up at Ron and then squinted around. "Awww, man...â€ He was on the wrong side of the playground.
To his credit, Ron did lean down at snatch up the glasses and hand them back to Jack before Gretta's team mate was packed off to prison. He then returned to the game.
Then the little redhead veered back toward the swings and broke Peter out of jail. There was an exchange of thanks and then they were both moving in two separate directions.
Seeing that Gretta was running around behind his own fort and Tony was further away, Ron made a daring dash for Amy's position. "Oh, no, you don't!â€ Her righteously indignant voice could be heard across the playground.
Tony came running and soon Ron joined Lucia, Elise and Jack.
Gretta came around the back of the opposing fort and peered into the main plastic cube. There was indeed nothing there. Peering through the holes out at the tall redhead, she narrowed her eyes. "Very sneaky.â€ She murmured before heading back toward her own fort.
Peter was headed her way but she maneuvered around him and back into no man's land. He followed but didn't get close to the other side, obviously not in a hurry to take another turn in the dungeon.
Rowan on the other hand had gone on the offensive or maybe he went a little wide while dodging Tony, either way, he ended up running over the edge of the sand box and just into their side of the battlefield.
Gretta had to laugh as he turned and tossed something like a missile just as Tony lept for his legs. She followed the arch of the doll, noting absently Elise's horrified gaze, as it made its way through the air and into Peter's outstretched arms. Nice pass.
She moved back toward the swings just as Peter was freeing Sam. The two of them ran all out back toward their fort with their treasure, one tall blond in hot pursuit. Gretta stopped short of their side of the playground.
Returning to release Lucia from prison, Gretta smiled when she received a 'gracias' for her efforts. Lucia then looped around around the swing set and released Jack. "Come on, Sir Jack. We've got some more planning to do.â€
"Nice move.â€ Gretta smiled at Rowan as she trotted past and back to her own fort. "Very clever.â€
Rowan and the others didn't have too long to wait until they, too, were freed from captivity. There seemed to be a lull in activity as everyone regrouped and ostensibly tried to form plans. What was really happening on their side of the playground, though, was that Elise was having a minor teenage meltdown.
"I can't believe you didn't pick me first!" She raged at Peter. "And then you didn't even rescue me!"
Peter was looking decidedly uncomfortable with Elise's tirade and Rowan couldn't blame him. Hell hath no fury, after all...
"And on top of that, you threw my.. you threw Princess Malibu!" Elise turned to him.
"She was perfectly safe," Rowan said. "Peter caught her. Good catch by the way," he said. Peter smiled weakly at Rowan.
"I don't want to play anymore if you don't want me here." Elise was pouting now. Peter looked totally lost.
"I do want you here," he said. "Sam is just so fast, and he's really good at this."
"And I'm not?" Elise's rage was growing colder now and Rowan sensed teenaged angst.
"I didn't mean that," Peter said. He shot Rowan a look that clearly said, "help me."
Rowan choked back a laugh. "We need everyone," he said. "That means you Elise. You have a very important job this round."
The girl, distracted, perked up a little. "I do? What job?"
Rowan smiled. "You have to distract them."
Rowan explained quickly, the kids nodding around him. They waited for the other team to make the first move, though, hovering near the border of the no-man's land, waiting to see what would happen next. Elise hung back a little bit, periodically looking furtively under the inside of her pink-crystal jean jacket.
"Yeah but it was a good plan.â€ Tony said and smiled at Jack. "Got another one?â€
"Uh, I...â€ Jack mumbled and then looked at her. "I hadn't expected them to take the treasure out of the fort. I mean the fort is where you keep a treasure...â€
"Well obviously in future games you are all going to have to agree to another rule. The treasure must be kept within the limits of the team's area. That gives you room to hide it or move it around your own area but makes it only the opposing team who can take it out of the area by stealing.â€
"Hmm, yeah, I guess we didn't think of that.â€ Jack said.
Their conversation on rules was interrupted by the sounds of an argument coming from the other side. Gretta doubted the kids could hear clearly but she could. They were all still close enough to know exactly who was yelling, which meant everyone there could guess why.
"Oh, he is getting it now.â€ Tony said with a chuckle and a shake of his head.
"Yeah, you know she is mad when he didn't get her out of the dungeon too.â€ Lucia agreed with a bit of a wicked grin. Gretta suspected that Elise got her way sometimes by running over her friends' wants and occasionally that was going to bother them.
"Hey, they are coming out now.â€ Amy said and pointed toward the other side. The argument had died down and the others were moving around toward the front of their fort. Elise was looking suspicious, checking in her jacket as if to make sure something important was in there.
"She doesn't think we are going to fall for that, does she?â€ Jack looked indignant and pushed his glasses further up his nose. He glanced around at everyone else to make sure they were all thinking the same thing.
"Yeah, right?â€ Tony looked a little less certain.
Lucia narrowed her eyes. "They've already taken the princess out once before; now we would be looking for them to do it again. Most likely she's faking it and wants us to think she's got it so we'll chase her.â€
"Which means something else is up.â€ Jack agreed.
"But maybe she's really got her.â€ Amy was watching Elise as if she could see right through the girl's jacket. "My momma says the best way to get a man to do what you want him to is to say you want the posatit.â€
"What?â€ Tony looked confused.
"Opposite.â€ Jack supplied, looking incredulous and intrigued at the same time. "I don't see how that works.â€
Amy looked smug. "Momma said it was reverse cycling.â€
"What?â€ Now Jack looked confused.
Gretta laughed but thought this woman shouldn't be teaching her five year old tricks for getting men to do what she wanted, especially such broad generalizations that would likely backfire. "Reverse Psychology. Which one is your mother?â€
Amy pointed toward the benches. There was a blond woman dressed in a tight fitting pencil skirt busy messaging someone on her phone. She had her hair done up for work but her blouse was low cut enough to be rather daring for office attire. Gretta was pretty sure the woman practiced the philosophy she preached.
"Well I am not sure that is always the case, Amy, but here it bears consideration. Let's keep someone on Elise. The rest look out for signs of anyone else really holding their treasure. Right now its not terribly important. Keeping ours from getting stolen is.â€
"Yeahâ€ Jack looked down at the frog. "They might try sneaking in here like Sam did last game.â€
"Amy, you want to play look out?â€ The little girl nodded. "Here.â€ Gretta reached down and pulled Amy up onto her shoulders. "You watch for anything suspicious and hold on tight.â€
"But I have Sir Hopsalot.â€
"Well don't drop him and I'll try to keep from getting us sent to prison.â€ Gretta resolved to stay inside their fort area for the moment. She was pretty sure she could make a case for a tag not counting for the two of them but just for herself but that would leave Amy pretty much undefended with their treasure right in front of whoever managed to catch her.
"The rest of us should spread out and start looking...and maybe send a few of them back to the dungeon.â€ Jack said and pointed toward the other team like a leader heading up a charge. Gretta watched in amusement as they all ran forward at Jack's signal and then fanned out in different chaotic directions.
"It wasn't there!"
So obviously Sir Hopsalot had taken a page from Princess Malibu's book and was riding in style with one of his teammates. But, Rowan smiled, the other team hadn't found Malibu either.
There was a great deal of chasing, a fair amount of being sent to the dungeons on both sides, and a equal amount of rescuing from dungeons. Rowan was pleased to see Peter rescuing Elise when she got caught, but probably not as pleased as Elise was. It made him laugh.
Eventually the kids actually began to tire. Soon the chases grew shorter and shorter until they were all in the middle of the neutral ground. Peter and Elise were lying side by side on their backs, breathing hard, Sam was standing bent over with his hands braced on his knees, and Ron was sitting on Rowan's foot, arms wrapped around his leg. Rowan had been running around with Ron clinging to him for a while now, much in the way Gretta was carrying Amy upon her shoulders.
Finally Peter said, "Maybe we need to discuss a truce. Maybe... maybe Sir Hopsalot did kill Princess Malibu's father but it was an accident. Because the King was doing something bad."
Rowan kept the laughter to himself, glancing at Gretta with an amused expression. Obviously his own team was willing to compromise, but surely that had a great deal to do with how winded they were. He was pretty sure Ron was nodding off against his leg, too.
Peter was looking at Jack, now, as if hoping the other team captain would help him come up with a likely story that would both make Princess Malibu look like the fair damsel in distress while keeping Sir Hopsalot the hero Amy clearly wanted him to be. Rowan was all for a compromise, and he had already thought of five or six unlikely stories, but this wasn't about him. If the kids needed some help he'd help but it seemed like they would be able to work this one out themselves.
Even if he was fairly certain that Jack had been right about her not having the treasure, they still couldn't find it. A lot of running around was starting to wear the kids out.
Gretta felt Sir Hopsalot resting on her head and heard Amy sigh. Her little companion seemed bored. She was sensing that many of them needed a break.
Soon they all started settling on the ground in the center of the sand box. Gretta pulled Amy down from her shoulders and sat her down in her lap. The good prince was nestled close to the little blond's chest but no one appeared to be making a grab for him.
Peter suggested that maybe Sir Hopsalot had a reason for doing what he did.
"He was framed.â€ Jack replied solemnly. "By the evil troll, Todd.â€ There were a few snickers at the mention of the troll's name and Gretta wondered who Jack was insulting. "He was in love with Princess Malibu but knew that she would never marry and ugly old troll and he was jealous of Sir Hopsalot who was brave, and.â€
"Handsome.â€ Amy added wistfully.
"Andâ€ asserted Jack, taking back his narrative. "So the troll..â€
"Wait a minute.â€ Lucia said. "Trolls aren't smart enough to frame anyone.â€
"Maybe he had help.â€ Jack replied.
Elise smiled. "He had help from the evil witch Stephanie who was jealous of Princess Malibu's beauty and grace. " Lucia rolled her eyes but said nothing else. "She wanted the prince for herself so she turned him into a frog.â€
"Wait, he has to kill her father first.â€ Ron said.
"No, he was framed.â€ Jack reminded him.
"See, it was like this.â€ Tony gestured for them all to listen. "She turned Sir Hopsalot into a frog and then she disguised Todd as Sir Hopsalot and told him to go kill the king.â€
There were several "ahâ€ sounds and a few nods. "So then witch Stephanie had Sir Hopsalot all to himself but he escaped.â€
"And here we are.â€
Gretta looked over at Rowan and smiled. It appeared that kids these days didn't lack for imagination. She was also glad to see that at least some of them were still playing outside.
"So then it is a truce?â€
Jack nodded and Peter seemed to agree. "So what now?â€
When Jack and Peter asked what came next Rowan smiled. "Maybe we could turn Sir Hopsalot back into a Prince," he said, "unless he likes being a frog. He's a very handsome frog."
He didn't want Amy to feel that her Prince was being slighted, and the little green and gold toy was incredibly cute. Old and rusty, yes, but very reminiscent of times gone by. Rowan liked the nostalgia of the little creature.
Ron was definitely nodding off on Rowan's leg. Rowan could hear someone calling the boy's name; his mother, judging by the fact that she was freckled and red-haired like Ron himself was. Rowan walked the little boy, still clinging to his leg, over to his parent, introduced himself briefly, and did his best to allay the woman's slight shock at seeing her boy with a stranger. His way, of course.
When he returned to the group without Ron, Elise had retrieved Princess Malibu from her hiding spot and it was clear that some sort of arrangement had been reached. More parents were calling for their kids and Rowan watched them go, in pairs or alone, but all of them promising to come back and play again soon. Even Elise.
Rowan looked over to Gretta. "Well... that was fun," he said, grinning again. He brushed a lock of red hair away from his eyes and resisted the urge to send a message to Cris via the wristband he wore.
Offering Gretta a bow he said, "You've been a fantastic opponent, Lady Gretta. Do you need an escort somewhere else, or were you just out enjoying the evening too?"
"It takes time to reverse such a complicated spell.â€ Gretta added quickly. "You should probably hold on to him until we can get all the ingredients together.â€
"What do we need?â€ Jack asked, looking interested.
"Hmm, I will have to research it.â€ She looked thoughtful. "Are you all willing to help?â€
There were a lot of nods of agreement. "Then I will look up what we need and we can meet back here in a week, okay?â€
Rowan returned from delivering a sleepy Ron back to his mother. Amy was being beckoned by her own who was waving an impatient hand in a hurry up gesture.
Soon all the children had dispersed and the adults were left to themselves. Rowan claimed to have had fun. She nodded and agreed. "Yes, that was wonderful entertainment.â€
Gretta looked wistfully at the swings for a moment before answering his question. "I had come to take a run and this seemed like a nice friendly patch of woods. Thank you for joining in. I think they all had a good time.â€ Every kid was enjoying themselves and she thought that they might have helped that experience along. Left on uneven teams and without some encouragement to see each others' strengths she thought the evening might have gone differently.
"What were your plans before being blindsided and embroiled in a bitter dispute?â€
"I was heading that-a-way," he said, swinging lazily back and forth. "To the market. I thought I might surprise my fiance with something nice tonight. Something local. Organic."
And uncooked. He wasn't going to turn the stove on. But they didn't need to; while cooking was enjoyable for some, fresh foods were also tasty. Particularly local produce from the farms and homesteads just outside the city.
He could see even from here that the market was well-lit and still pretty well-populated. Nachton truly never slept. It hardly ever slowed down, as a matter of fact.
"So how did you end up in the aforementioned conflict if you were also an innocent runner-by?"
Rowan was interested in anyone who, like him, seemed to just be looking to stay lighthearted and carefree. That was how he preferred life.
"That sounds very sweet.â€ She smiled at Rowan's plan for the evening. "Would you mind if I join you? I have a friend who loves fresh food.â€ Gretta had a feeling Gris would be delighted with some fresh vegetables and Josh would love them also.
Rowan asked her how she ended up in the playground battle, figuring she had been sucked into in a similar manner to his own. "Oh no, I butted right in without being tackled.â€ Gretta admitted freely and cheerfully. "The teams were a bit uneven for the first match.â€
"So did you have a dish in mind?â€ Perhaps Rowan's fiancee was the cook and he was getting vegetables for someone else to utilize. However surprising someone usually involved serving them a meal, not giving them something to cook...at least usually. Gretta supposed if you were dating a cook then they might appreciate a gift of fresh food and would prefer you not to try to do anything with it. But most times she thought it would be wiser to surprise someone with a finished meal instead of expecting them to cook. She would have to ask Josh what he thought about it tomorrow when they had some time for idle chatter.
When she told him how she'd gotten involved he laughed softly. "That's great," he said enthusiastically. "I wish more people could do that, just jump right in."
Rowan never had trouble getting along with kids. Adults, now, they knew better. They weren't innocents. He had never felt too badly about scamming and conning them. Or killing them. He wasn't a saint.
He laughed again when Gretta asked what dish he had in mind. "I don't cook," he said without embarrassment, "which is why it should be an even bigger surprise. We both like fresh, local produce. I was just thinking of arranging a plate, something we can nibble on later in front of the TV with a nice bottle of wine."
Rowan shrugged his shoulders. "We both work pretty long hours. It's actually rare for me to be off when he's still working, so I figured I'd make him welcome when he gets home with something nice. Relaxing."
Romantic, although they hardly needed food and wine to get themselves in that mood. Rowan just wanted to do something nice for Cris, that was all.
Rowan said that he didn't mind the company. "Excellent!â€ It would be a nice thing to do for Josh and Gris. They both worked hard and seemed to want to spend every waking moment they could together. It was adorable, really. Josh deserved someone wonderful in his life; someone who would take care of him once and a while. Gris seemed intent on doing that and what was even more amazing, Josh was letting him. Not that the blond was doing all the care giving; she knew better than anyone just how much of that Josh did for the people he considered important.
Sometimes even for strangers; it was part of why she loved him so much.
Her knew friend here seemed to have that in common. Maybe it was the way he talked about his partner that reminded Gretta of Josh or maybe it was the way he easily got involved and played so well with the kids. She decided she liked him.
She smiled when Rowan admitted that he didn't cook. "You could make a very nice salad that would be actually quite filling.â€ He could add protein without meat if he wanted to. "It sounds like a wonderful surprise. I can't imagine him not enjoying it.â€
It seemed Rowan was a hard worker also; another thing he had in common with Josh. She wondered if he had a hard time -not- doing his job like her partner did. Turning the responsible person off and relaxing. Gretta thought Rowan seemed quite relaxed now so maybe not.
"So what do you do? If you don't mind my asking.â€ She grinned at him. "If you are an international spy or something then I will understand if you don't wish to tell me.â€
Gretta laughed and said. "That's what I do for a living so perhaps we could swap notes.â€ With a sigh, she continued. "Well, not really, exactly. I am a diplomat for Lichtenstein so the international part is correct but, sadly, no fancy spy toys.â€
"I think a few of those would be wonderful.â€
"A salad would be wonderful," he said agreeably. "He's a light eater. So am I."
Swaying back and forth on the swing he considered. "Maybe I can find something extra special too. For dessert." He practically purred as he speculated, knowing his tone revealed his amorous intentions, but not caring.
Gretta asked what he did and Rowan turned toward her but pushed himself on the swing to go a littler higher. Not so high that they couldn't talk but high enough to get a little breeze.
"A diplomat, eh? I've actually been to Liechtenstein. Beautiful country, you definitely have a fantastic few miles."
His accent made it quite obvious that he was European himself, so the fact that he'd been to Liechtenstein shouldn't be a shocker to her; travel in Europe was much easier and far more common than here in the States.
"Myself, I'm a doctor. I work for Meridian."
Oh, how happy he was to say that too. He had enjoyed his job at the hospital but it really had been a job - horrible hours, lots of stress, even more futility. This past month or so had been so happy for him. Not only did he work at home, within his Clan, but he was right across from Cris. The nearness didn't have any kind of a negative effect that Rowan could see. Cris seemed to enjoy being close to him too, and they had so much more time with each other now.
On top of that Rowan loved the people he was caring for. Not that that had been any trouble at the hospital but it was even more personal here. Within Evenhet no one questioned his expertise, or the fact that he appeared too young to have multiple fields of specialization. He got to practice them all, since he was the only doctor for a diverse group of humans. It was the most enriching and enjoyable job he'd ever had, which made it so much less than a job and far more of an enjoyable way of life.
He suspected that if his Clan would have him, he might do this forever. Of course it would be wonderful if, every century or two, he and Cris could head off for a year or five and just be alone for a bit, but he was supremely content with his life and he hoped, now that they were together, that Cris was too.
Rowan let his feet skid in the dirt and then slid from the seat of the swing. Turning to face Gretta he beamed at her and gestured toward the farmer's market across the fields.
"Shall we go see what they have? Maybe some enterprising tinkerer will have some good spy toys."
Say, he knew a tinkerer who made toys spies would enjoy! He was wearing one right now, in fact, although he was loathe to display it in public. Next thing you know, everyone would be wanting one just like it, and Rowan was disinclined to be sharing even if it wasn't likely anyone else would ever get their hands on a bracelet like his.
He mused about dessert with that special gleam in his eye. Gretta smiled, amused. "I am sure that you can make anything special with the right setting." She was perfectly comfortable talking about people's romantic lives and any other piece of existance. Gretta did not agree that such things should be tabboo or uncomfortable to talk about. Of course she was used to counseling people about the most difficult things that they were going through so perhaps she had a different perspective than most people.
He had been to Lichtenstein so Gretta liked him more than she already had, especially after it received a good review. "Thank you. I like it." She looked around the park at the wooded expanse at the back and the rows of apartments and city life toward the front. "Here is nice too. Its different but interesting."
Rowan was a doctor for Meridian. She watched him closely for a moment, deciding whether or not that made her like him less. Doctors worked in hospitals and hospitals were horrible places. However if he worked for Meridian then he was likely a research doctor. "What is your specialty?" She had her degree in psychology and now used that mainly for her pack; Gretta knew that her own fear of hospitals was based on childhood trauma and completely irrational but she truly hoped that her new friend did not work in one of those places of death and despair.
He stopped and asked if she was ready to go. Gretta replied that she was and the lept from the swing when it was at its highest forward arch. She had always loved doing that as a kid but now she was tall enough that the drop was not nearly so exciting. Landing lightly on her feet, she turned to Rowan. "After you."
It was rare that Cris couldn't be convinced to 'relax' when he came home from work. Even rare for him to need any convincing at all. Rowan knew how much Cris's job meant to him; he considered it his job, his joy, and his privilege to do little things like this for Cris. To help him enjoy his time off to its fullest not only because they loved each other and wanted to be with each other, but because he wanted Cris to go back to work re-energized and ready for whatever trials he might face on his next shift. So whether they had riotous sex just inside the doorway of their home or simply spent the evening quietly watching TV, reading, playing music, tinkering, or whatever struck their fancy, Rowan didn't care - as long as he saw that soft smile on Cris's lips as they drifted to sleep together.
Rowan nodded his agreement when Gretta said it was nice here, different. He dragged his mind away from thoughts of Cris (briefly - only enough to converse like a human being) and said, "Yeah. I've traveled a lot but since coming here, I'm happy to stay. I'd still like to get out and see the world but this, this is a city I'm happy to come back to."
When Gretta asked what his specialty was, Rowan smiled. It was a reasonable question, given that Meridan employed many doctors for its research. Rowan, however, was the one who stood out now as being a practicing doctor. "I'm in charge of the clinic," he told her. "So my specialty is currently family medicine, pediatrics, that kind of thing. Research isn't really for me. I like to take care of people."
Like his fiance. Cris cared for people too. He kept a Clan safe; now Rowan could help him out by keeping it healthy. He was aware that many other vampires would view his profession as pointless; one or two older members of Anantya he'd known had diplomatically tried to compare him to a veterinarian. In Evenhet his job was an important one, one he could enjoy freely without judgment.
He watched Gretta leap gracefully from her swing and land easily on both feet. He couldn't think of anyone he knew who be able to resist the swing-jump. It was tons of fun, after all. "All right, let's get to it."
They headed toward the farmer's market at a leisurely pace; Gretta was easily tall enough that Rowan didn't have to slow down for her, but he was enjoying their conversation so he saw no need to rush. He glanced at his wrist; he still had a couple of hours before Cris was out of work. He quickly checked his cell phone as well; there were no messages or texts waiting for him. Joanna was at the clinic currently; if anything came up she would have contacted him. He was on call 24/7 until Becky finished her training, which would be a couple of years, but he didn't mind. At the hospital he might have, but this was Evenhet... this was his family.
"Anything in particular you were hoping to find tonight?"
He was making small talk, yes, but Gretta's company was pleasant. He didn't think she'd mind. If there was something specific she wanted he'd be happy to search for it with her.
Rowan explained that he wasn't a research doctor for Meridian but a practicing physician for their interesting offices here in Nachton. She smiled. "I remember reading about The Towers.â€ They were a distinctive feature on the city's skyline; high twin towers linked by a bridge between them that allowed the people of Meridian to walk from one building to the next high above the busy street below. "I think it is an interesting social experiment, working and living with the same people.â€ It could foster a true sense of community, much like an older more simple time when the people you worked with were also your neighbors. The people of Meridian worked and played together. They helped or chose not to help each other. Gretta suspected there was a lot of success as well as some drama. She wondered if they had a method of working that drama out; it had the potential to be far more serious than regular water cooler crises. She gestured toward herself and grinned. "PhD in psychology.â€
Gretta smiled. "Perhaps I don't look very much like a doctor.â€ She shrugged, unconcerned. Rowan didn't look very much like a doctor either. Gretta liked that about him too; she could imagine the disapproving looks he must have occasionally gotten for his appearance. Of course he might take all the metal off while at work; it would be a shame if he did. Normal didn't suit him; she decided. He had too much personality to be a stuffy lab coated physician.
"I like helping people also. Some of my past work.â€ And present. "involved helping people understand their 'different' loved ones and how to relate to them in a healthy way. So much attention is placed on a person who has special needs that the people around them are often forgotten. For instance, the siblings of an autistic child need to know how to relate to their family member and their parents need to remember to not focus all their attention on the child who is different or place too much responsibility on their other children.â€ She had seen many kids resent their brothers and sisters with special needs for the attention and care they receive from their parents. Gretta had also seen parents use their children, especially older siblings, as nurse maids, protectors and baby sitters of their special needs kids, forgetting that the other children were also still children and needed time to be free to be themselves. She shook her head and sighed. "I am sure you know this and it is likely far more interesting to me than most people.â€
Rowan asked her what she was hoping to find, Gretta smiled and lifted her shoulders and hands in a 'who knows' sort of gesture. "Something good. I didn't have anything in particular in mind but I am sure I will know it when I see it.â€