For the time being, most things in Saren’s Rest are ‘status quo’. Like its neighbour across the Strait, Vesper, Saren’s Rest never really slows down. The changes from day to night may not be dramatic, but they are ‘there’, nonetheless.
On the shoreline just outside the town, Ted Mercier walks cautiously along. He isn’t garbed as a knight — even his cloak is different, a tattered off-white with a cowl and he wears a shemagh about his head and across his face. He and his ward, Megana, are already some distance (by foot) from ‘Rest, following tracks in the sand that look as though they came from smaller boats. Life-rafts perhaps?
Up ahead, the beach becomes more rocky, and already some of the tracks are gone. The knight pauses, a hand on his jaw. There isn’t anything overly suspicious about tracks in the sand, but he needs the walk — to clear his head — and this provides some distraction. There is yet a couple of hours of light remaining in the day.
Might as well use it.
Megana is eyeing these tracks in the sand and Teddy both with a faint frown. He is not wearing his armor and out here he should be. She’s..of mixed feelings over this. On the one hand it’s good he’s trying to relax more. On the other, there are times and places for that and this.. this might not be one of them.
There’s also the fact that he’s said nothing of his dreams and so far as she can tell having stayed up while he slept the past few nights, there’s been nothing but the usual nightmares she soothes away. Megana is a lot of things. Patient is only sometimes one of them. She will give it one more night, and if Nadia hasn’t kept her promise then the Shifter will convince Teddy of the need to head to Dogwood. Like, yesterday.
She’s really rather hoping it isn’t necesarry and surprised still at the promise she made to the girl but.. looking at her Megana sees.. something. Something. She doesn’t know what exactly yet. The shifter bends to pick up a shell, and then a few feet on a second and third. “Ow! Motherfucker!” She tosses the third shell into the water with an angry scowl and stuffs her fingers into her mouth.”“What, what??” Ted exclaims distractedly as he turns about to look at Megana. “What did the beach do t’ya fo’ that kind o’…” and he frowns, thinking of a word. “Tantrum?” he finishes, almost smirking.
The sea washes up over the shore, much closer this time. The tide is coming in. The grizzled knight doesn’t seem to mind if his boots get wet, and the tracks in the sand disappear into the rocky formations not far away.
Walking back to Meg he inquires: “You awlright?”
“Bite me.” Megana glowers at him after removing her fingers and holds them out for his inspection. There are two bright white blisters edged with angryy red at the tips of her first and second fingers. “It had something in it.” She had not expected anything to be alive in there in this weather. She had been wrong. It happens. She gets bitten a lot actually. And stung, and clawed and scratched and.. it happens.
“There. That smile, or almost smile. Much better.” His ward darts forward and kisses his cheek before kneeling to poke at a bigger, green tinged shell at his feet. When nothing comes out to savage her she adds it to her collection. “Maybe we can find one of those big ones that lets you hear the ocean no matter where you are.” Megana smiles at the thought. Of course she knows it isn’t really the ocean but.. it’s more magical if you let yourself think that. She eyes the approaching tide with speculation. It could bring all kinds of interesting things. “I’m fine.” She turns back and nods. “How are you?” Megana tilts her head, watching Teddy closely.Mercier’s smirk fades.
At the ‘how are you?’ question, he turns away and continues slowly walking along the beach again. The waves regularly wash up over his boots, soaking the hem of his tattered cloak, ignored by the man wearing it. “Ah’m fine,” says he after a few quiet moments. “Jus’… got this damn headache ah can’t shake. An’ a feelin’. C’mon, tracks head into the caves up ahead. We almost there.”
Megana’s shoulders slump. He doesn’t seem fine but it’s more like, he’s not willing to admit it yet, even to himself. She doesn’t know whether to push or let it go. This is not the area in which she excells. “Uhm. Ya know I love caving. Could be something really great in there. Probably is. But you’re naked! I think we should head back. It wouldn’t be a great idea to open any rifts here. We aren’t *that* far out.”
What’s gotten into him? He’s usually more careful and “Hey. Why didn’t you tell me you still have a headache? I’ve got medicine and tea for that both.” She could also rub his temples or… get a hot towel or something. Though the fresh air is probably helping some.. Megana eyes the caves ahead hesitantly. Oh she wants to go in there, bad. It just probably isn’t the best time to do it. She’s reckless with her own safety, Teddy’s not so much. Besides they might need to be alive to go rescue that girl… “If we get eaten by cavemonsters she’ll be stuck with only a dick for a friend..” Shit, did she say that outloud?Mercier releases a breath, and puts his hands on his hips. They don’t remain there for long as he lifts one hand to his face, pulls the shemagh mask away and massages his eyes.
Some seabirds overhead utter a cry as they soar towards the ocean.
“We ain’ gon’ be eaten by nothin’,” says he a little tiredly to Megana, then he gives her a rueful — if pain-clouded — glance over his shoulder. “What, concerned fo’ yo’ old Guardian, huh?” he asks, a slight gleam entering his eyes. “Ain’ nothin’ gon’ get us like that, ah promise. Why so afeared? Demons don’ even scare *you*, Meg.”
That gives her pause. She knows she kinda sucks as a person. But surely he knows..he does right? The shifter glares down at the sandy ground and edges closer. She does not like knowing he’s in pain. “I don’t care about demons. Why would they scare me? They’re just demons. Only one thing scares me.”
She whispers the last, still not meeting her Guardian’s eyes but does quickly take the last step and hug him tightly. “You old dumbass. Of course I’m worried for you.” She doesn’t as a rule worry, but when she does, it’s always about him. “You think there’s some pirates in there cause I kinda doubt it..why’d they leave their ship for this? Pirates love their ships.. and theres no women or loot in these caves.. man. I hope there’s no women in these caves..” Megana eyes them dubiously. She casts about for a moment and then picks up a stout piece of driftwood to use as a club. “Okay. I’mma ready.”“Never said it were pirates,” the bearded man replies, smiling just a little. “Still could be, but… just as likely it’s some’in else. Ah gotta… do some’in.” He shakes his head, again massaging his brow and eyes with the forefinger and thumb of his left hand.
“That armour’s makin’ me feel like ah’m… chokin’,” he continues, half to Meg, half to himself. “Ain’ felt like this in… ugh. Cain’t remember. C’mon.”
The more rugged section of the beach quickly turns into a series of cliffs, the waves crashing up against them in some areas. On this side, however, there is still a stretch of beach-sand between the rocks and the water.
And there’s a cave alright. The tracks lead straight into it.
Mercier offers Megana another smile and makes his way over there, whistling. That’s another thing: he hasn’t whistled in years. Even with a headache, he’s still doing it now. He used to be quite a good whistler, too.
Of course, it also means that whatever is in the cave knows he’s coming…
At this point Megana is starting to become alarmed. It’s starting to sound like something is drawing him into this cave. His armor choking him? That.. well. She knows more about that than he thinks probably, but this doesn’t seem the place to talk about it. Megana readies her club, no longer interested in collecting seashells.
Teddy suddenly smiling and whistling when he was just in pain worries her even more. She can’t really recall the last time he did that though it had been often when she was a girl.. Oh Night.. if something is possessing him I will shred it into a billion pieces and then drag whatever is left of its corpse through the sand back to Saren’s Rest before I set it on fire! No one is going to hurt him… Her eating knife is sheathed in one of her boots but she’s not good at knifing people unless she can sneak up and get them in the back.. or while they’re asleep..
The Shifter wants to rush forward ahead of him and attack but puttng her back to Teddy when he’s being weird like this.. he wouldn’t hurt her on purpose. Never. If something is controlling him though.. Her magic is still unrealible here. It’s not just being close to Saren’s Rest.. it’s the ocean. It’s so fucking full of life that it’s very hard to discern any one thing, even from ahead and away from it. There’s thousands of things and its just too noisy.. After a moments thought, Megana ducks, darts forward and rolls to come up a few feet ahead of her Guardian, stumbling a bit as she goes to stand and swinging her makeshift club about wildly with an angry yell. “POOONNNNNY!!”Mercier blinks at Megana.
Then he blinks again.
Having trouble believing what he has just seen, he puts a hand to his head and… stares. Within the cave, a masculine voice cries out: “What the hell? Don’t hurt us! We don’t have any ponies here!”
The voice belongs to a man — human — likely in his fifties or early sixties, with a long beard and clothes that look like he has been wearing them for weeks. Behind him in the shadows is a small cluster of about four or five people, all similarly dressed and huddled together around a damaged longboat.
“Meg, what the hell?!” Teddy finally exclaims as he runs up behind her, and catches sight of the… apparent refugees or survivors or something like that inside the cave. “Ya scared the livin’ daylights outta me!”
“Uh.” Oh. crap. She had definitely not expected elderly dudes and ..oh geeze. Shipwreck survivors or something? “I uh.. I thought you were pirates. Sorry.” She flushes slightly and drops the driftwood. Not entirely the truth but it’s better than “I thought you were something possessing my Teddy.” Or yknow, a cavemonster. That’s just what she needs now a reputation for elder abuse. Frick.
Brown eyes shoot over to look at her Guardian. Yep, still looking at her like she’s nuts. Well, that’s a thing that happens a lot too. She sighs softly and mutters “Now you know how it feels. You’re scaring the hell out of me.” She squints at the people in the cave. How did he know they were here?? And why would they head for the cave instead of.. hm most sane people don’t head towards Saren’s Rest actually. Probably. Fair enough, what with the dragon and the demons and all. “I’m not gonna hurt ya. Relax. I don’t eat people.” She decides not to mention “that one time.”The bearded man in the cave approaches warily — especially eyeing Megana as if she were a crazy person. “Possessed… ‘teddy’??” he asks dubiously. The man’s accent is American, if different — likely from further North — as is his attire. “Eating people??”
He turns to look at the Cyber-Knight and raises his eyebrows in a silent expression of: *please explain??* Mercier… smiles wearily.
“She means me,” says he to the other man. “Ah’m Teddy — Theodore, that is. And ah ain’ possessed.” He adds that last part while turning his head slowly to glare over at Megana.
“Simon,” replies the older man. “Simon Partridge. We… we were on a ship, bound for Vesper when — .”
“Pirates?” Teddy interjects.
Simon nods. “Horune. We… I think we’re all that made it. Rowed here soon as we saw land. Where… are we?”
“Is it safe, Grandpa?” asks a young girl (no more than ten) cowering behind the man. Further back in the cave, there is a subtle sense — to Megana — of magic being conjured. It is impossible to tell what kind of spell it is, or if it is even *aimed* at someone, but threads of the arcane are definitely being pulled by something or someone…
“Heeyyy. Look I meant it. I was more afraid of you than you are of me. I didn’t know what was in here and you saw those pirates. Why don’t you all come over here and get behind us now..” Megana eyes the back depths of the cave uneasily. There is a child. There’s a lot of things she’s willing to do, hurting a child isn’t one of them. Neither is standing by while it happens.
Maybe it’s one of these people doing the magic, thinking they are a threat, she can’t tell for sure. Maybe it’s something slithering up from the depths of the caves.. either way it’s alarming. She can’t rift them all away from here. Megana eases her way over in front of Teddy, moving to put herself between him and the magic. “It’s safe..at least from us.” The shifter is still eyeing the back warily. “We won’t hurt you. If there’s somewhere you need to go we can help. We’re a few hours from Saren’s Rest right now.”A woman emerges from the shadows, tendrils of yellowish energy woven around her arms as she works through a spell. At Megana’s reassurance, the woman — who appears to be in her mid-30s — lowers her arms, and the energy fades.
“Mommy,” asks the young girl. “Is it safe? Are they going to hurt us?”
The mother eyes Megana and then Theodore and warily shakes her head to her daughter. “I… don’t think so, Meg,” she replies. “Are you?” That is directed toward Mercier.
Teddy lets out a breath. “Know ah don’ look it, but ah’m a Cyber-Knight. Ser Mercier. If yo’ really survivors from another wreck…” and he smiles down at the girl, ‘Little Meg’. “Ya’ll got naught ta fear from me.” A pause. “Why’dya come here instead o’ Saren’s Rest? They been rescuin’ survivors fo’ days now.” He gives Megana a brief look, and then slowly turns his gaze in toward the cave, suggesting she might want to check it out a bit more. Just in case.
Megana blinks a bit. Meg? What? That’s just weird. Her name isn’t all that common. She lowers her gaze to the floor of the cave, watching her step and hiding the fact that she’s uncomfortable with this situation both as she heads towards the back to look around. “We can walk you back to town if you want.” She smiles at the girl as she walks past because, that’s what people do right? Smile at children? She had not gotten many when she was a kid but the townspeople had been afraid of her. It had been a bit better in Vesper, on the occasions the shifter had ventured out into the city.
Megana listens to them speak as she explores further, moving slowly to give her eyes a chance to adjust to the dim light. These pirates are a little more real to her now, seeing that kid so afraid. She doesn’t.. entiely care but she also doesn’t entirely not care. ‘And I’m definitely weirded out by her name. What’s up with that? And Teddy.’ Megana rolls her eyes. Like he would actually know it if he was possessed..that’s the whole point of being possessed, you’re ya know, fucking possessed! You don’t know it. He isn’t acting that weird though…“I’m sure it’s fine…” Simon Partridge, the old, bearded man, tells the woman — likely his daughter. “I… know something about the Cyber-Knights…” He says it in a careful tone — the kind that could mean a good thing, or a bad thing.
“We…” he continues, even more slowly. “Needed to get our bearing first. I’ve heard of Saren’s Rest — Vanished Point, the whole… thing of it.”
“What,” replies Ted. “Yo’ from Dogwood…ah can tell by the accent. Why would ya come South via boat? Why not o’er land?”
The mother and grandfather glance repeatedly at Megana with increasing nervousness, the more she explores the cave. “We really don’t have anything of value…” the mother starts to say. Simon continues eyeing Ted.
“Originally, yeah. Look, you’re asking a lot of q — .” He stops as Megana nears a pile of supplies. A torn sheet of canvas is thrown over the top of them, but fails to completely hide a stash of arcane tomes. She might recognise some of them.
“No, don’ touch that!” the mother exclaims, immediately spell-weaving again. She lacks finesse, but that does not make her summoning any less dangerous. A Rift begins to open in the middle of the cave, between Megana and…
“Gale, don’t!” Simon exclaims.
Megana whirls around, eyes wide. She was looking for threats not at the their shit. Geeze does she look like the kinda bitch that would steal from homeless refugees?? I mean damn. She’s not that lacking in…”Oohhh fuck. You crazy witch! You can’t do that here! fffuckfuckfuck!” Megana eyes the opening rift and groans.
Teddy is on the other side. She can’t run through it and it’s too dangerous to try to run past, too late. “Take the kid and run Teddy!” They can’t leave a child with these whackjobs and whatever is gonna happen next, Megana seriously doubts its something a kid should see. Especially if that bitch is her mother cause Megana is gonna try her damndest to either kill her or rest control away and send whatever comes through after her which will basically do the same thing. Either way there’s probably gonna be killing. If she fails.. Megana isn’t nearly crazy enough to try opening another rift. This is not an area where you do that. It’s insane. Totally batshit insane. Odds are pretty high anything coming through isn’t going to be something the stupid woman can control anyway. Or there will be more than one..Indeed, the attempted summoning goes… awry.
If Simon has heard of Vanished Point and the dimensional instability of the area, his daughter — Gale — has not. Or perhaps she has merely panicked and attempted a ‘Shift-spell’ anyway. Either is quite likely.
“Run!” Ted exclaims, reaching for Little-Meg to pick her up and dash out of the cave. Simon follows, calling out to Gale at the same time, but the woman is transfixed — desperately trying to control a Rift that…
will not be controlled.
The tear in the fabric of space fluctuates spasmodically, changing size and shape at random. At various moments, it appears as if something is trying to claw its way out, while at other times it begins to suck things *in*. The longboat moves, scraping across the sand and rock on the ground, pulled by the unstable Rift. In a moment it — and all its supplies — will be pulled in. Or torn apart.
“I…” says the woman through tears in her eyes, her teeth clenched. “I can’t… It won’t… I’m sorry!” She needs to stop trying to control and let it go, before it does more damage.
“Meg!” Teddy calls out as he ducks back to the cave entrance. “C’mon, girl!”
Megana eyes the Rift for a moment, feeling it with her power. Yeahh. She decides to just nope the fuck on out of this and the shifter presses her back agains tthe wall as hard as she can and scoots, dragging her ass against the stone to get past the rift and towards the cave opening before it can swallow her.
Despite seeing the tears on the woman’s face and hearing the fear in her voice, Megana doesn’t even try to reach for her. She is a shifter herself, she has always been. What’s happening now is always your risk and often your fate. You either get smart or you die. She has no pity for the woman and is not going to risk herself and Teddy to try to help when the stupid woman panic attacked for no reason. ‘All I tried to do was make sure they were safe and actually what they said they were before we led them to the fucking city or something and got murdered for the trouble. Pirates have kids too. “I’m coming!”“I can’t!! I can’t hold it!!”
Gale yells over her shoulder to her father, Simon, and daughter, ‘Little’ Meg. As Teddy’s ward makes her way carefully past the unstable Rift, it warps and twists — coming within inches of snagging Megana’s arm, and then leg. Claws slash at the air through the portal, trying to climb through, but to no avail. The longboat… *flips*.
Spinning sideways as if it weighed no more than a skateboard, it sends its contents — the tomes, talismans and other items — flying about the room. Most are drawn into the Rift, while others land in the sand outside the cave.
Then the boat ends up stuck long-ways across the portal, wood creaking and shrieking until it splits across the middle…
And vanishes in the portal, taking whatever creature was trying to get out, with it.
“I’m sorry, Honey!” Gale yells back to Little-Meg. Teddy tries to get closer to her… without success. He does make it to Megana’s side however, and grabs her by the arm to help her escape the cave. “I’m so sorry!” Gale repeats, just as the Rift appears to explode — damaging the cave severely — and then implode. Gale lets out a breath, or tries to, through her sobbing. “I… I think it’s — .”
As the Rift closes, a single clawed arm appears through it, grabs Gale by the waist — and drags her inside.
“MOMMY!!” Little-Meg shrieks.
Megana clutches Teddy’s arm against her chest in death grip as she stares at the little girl. “Never having kids.” She mutters softly. Because look what happens. She moves foward and kneels in front of the kid. “I’m sorry.” She is. Not for the woman, she was stupid, it was her own fault..but Megana is sorry for the kid. She doesn’t deserve this.
If this kid is her daughter though..she could have the same power. If so this might save her life down the line. Maybe she’ll be more careful with the power if she has it. Or maybe it’ll just turn her dark or make even more reckless. Shifters are.. well. Some of them turn out just fine. Who knows. How to help though.. this isn’t.. kids are not her.. ah. Maybe.. “You’re mommy saved you. She was very brave. Something tried to get you and she protected you. That’s how much she loved you.” It’s not entirely the truth but it’s not entirely a lie. Something to hold on to, a bit of comfort. It’s all the shifter can offer, a version of what happened that isn’t altogether horrible and sad.Simon stares at the space where his daughter had been — and the boat, and most of their supplies — mere moments before… too stunned to speak. Eyes red-rimmed, he clutches his granddaughter to his side, slowly sinking down to his knees as the waves wash up over his legs.
Ted Mercier also stares. After a while, he simply bows his head and begins praying quietly for the soul of Gale Partridge, wherever she might be.
Simon closes his eyes to listen, causing tears to fall down his weathered cheeks and into his beard. Then he looks across at Megana and merely nods his head, grateful for what she had said to the little girl.
“I…” he stammers, throat dry as a desert. “I tried… tried to warn…”
“Meg,” Ted murmurs to his ward — causing the little girl to look at him as well. “See what ya can find ’round here. When it’s all together… we’ll bring these two inta Saren’s Rest.”
Megana nods. She’ll gather what’s left of these peoples supplies..not a lot. If any of the shifter magic books survived though she’s leaving them. The kid doesn’t need that shit. Better she doesn’t use her power if she has. Saren’s Rest could turn out to be the best place for them. She smiles wryly at that thought as she heads into the cave and gathers up what she can find in a blanket.
It isn’t much but there are a few things outside still so that’s something at least. The shifter looks around the cave and sighs. “Poor kid. Least she did try to save her though.” Her own mother had been.. so so much worse. ‘We’ll have to get them back and settled and then I need to get us moving towards Dogwood. Just in case. This was so unessecary. What a stupid way to die.’ Megana moves back outside and spread the blanket out to collect the rest of the scattered bits and pieces. Occasionaly she looks at Teddy but most often her eyes are on the kid, her expression hard to read.Ted is slow to catch up at first.
While Megana leads the Partridges (Simon and Little-Meg) away, the Cyber-Knight just stands there, staring into the cave-mouth. Part of the ceiling has already collapsed, and more rocks may fall down once the tide reaches the cavern completely.
Ted’s jaw might as well be set in stone, like the cave.
“Shouldn’ta ended like this,” he murmurs to himself. “Ain’ no reason… Goddamnit. Mah head’s killin’ me.” Taking a breath, he squares his shoulders and turns around to follow Megana and their two rescuees. Ted’s eyes focus upon the sand in front of him, and the footprints left by Megana, Little-Meg and Simon…
And he laments the lack of a fourth set that should have been there with them.
Having witnessed more attacks by Horune pirates along the shores of Vanished Point, Ted and Meg follow some tracks in the beach, leading them to something... unexpected.
December 30, 2409
Beach - Saren's Rest