It had been a river, long ago, in a time when the world was (relatively) content to assume it was alone in the universe. Now… a thick bed of grass and assorted flora stretches out, veiled in thin mist…
An excercise in duty — or curiosity — for others.
Whatever form the ‘call’ took, the mysterious marshland known as ‘Dinosaur Swamp’ beckoned to many. Some… answered.
On the opposite side to the Sea of Grass, the remnants of civilisation long-since abandoned rise up through the fog- and vine-choked landscape like shattered monuments to the Past, saying: *Remember Us*. At the banks of the grass-river, lightweight craft — not unlike hovercraft, but without the technology — rest tied up, their occupants leading a group of assorted humans and D-Bees to what some might call ‘unholy ground’.
Dwellings built into trees, and the ruins of old buildings form a circle around what used to be the top of a sky-scraper — now almost totally swallowed by the swamp. It serves as an altar, black and sticky with the blood of sacrifices-past. The ‘natives’ are… bone-thin swamp-dwellers, armed with primitive-looking weapons that crackle with arcane energy. The prisoners they have with them are members of an expedition sent into the swamp… an expedition that never returned. Moreover, the elements themselves seem to object (for those who can sense it) the magic being performed here.
The metallic scent of blood and arcane energy stabs through the stifling stench of ‘bog’ and undergrowth… like a knife.
Howahkan, Wise-Wolf of Moon Fall, crouches upon the hillock, his muzzle raised to the heavens… listening. “The pain in the Earth is… terrible,” says he in a low growl. “We cannot allow the Mistdwellers more offerings for their masters…”
Sindri had already wanted to see the Dino Swamps before leaving Vesper if things were truly as bad as the peculiar lady had said; when there was a -paid- reason to go? He was more then willing, though he likely not taste the air, or smell it, hidden away in the Ultimax II he prefers. For him; right now it’s inputs from sensors, visual devices, atmosphereic samplings, and the like. The telltale ozone taste of the the Naruni powerfield meaning even if he was some how invisible from sight, his companions nearby would know that piece of technology has their back.
“Lets rain some hell.” He says over any private comms as missile launcher panels unshutter..and the laser rifle begins powering up.
This isn’t quite the way he’d wanted to visit this swamp he’d only heard about so recently. But Yaren is here now, and the closer they get to this particular place, the more uneasy he feels. It’s something he can’t quite place, but it can’t be good.
He has walked the entire way without complaint and without falling behind too far. His steps have hardly left a trace behind him. Once they come to a halt, his glowing violet gaze shifts from the wolfen and then towards the others he has accompanied, lastly falling upon Sindri and his rig, the only one he’s somewhat familiar with.
“Offerings….” he murmurs, but if he had a mouth he would have frowned.Having driven part of the way and walked the rest alongside Howahkan, Bridge also watches the goings-on ahead with a faint frown. She’s got the two rifles she bought from Daniel ‘s garage a while back — one in her hands, the other slung along the pack on her back — and she can only mentally and physically prepare for whatever’s about to happen next. She doesn’t actually say anything aloud, but … why is she here, again?
The village surrounding the altar (that had once been a building-top) appears… relatively abandoned. Whether scanned by eyes, sensors or magic there are very few figures in and around the domiciles…
And no sign of any fauna at all.
The smell, however, is bad enough to make Howahkan’s blind eyes water. The Wolfen elementalist stops walking and reaches up with a paw to rub at his eyes, giving a growl of discontent. “One smells fear in the… waste,” he falters, unable to find the right word to describe the stench.
The closer the team comes, the more is revealed.
Just up ahead, lying in the grass is a body: an older man, balding, and showing signs of having had cybernetic enhancements installed in the past. He lies face-down in the dirt, his back scorched from an energy blast… and by his hand rests a broken radio. The radio is still on, although only transmitting static, but at least people will know how the call for help got out.
More importantly, it is someone Stella Bridger will recognise.
At the same time, thin-limbed Mistdwellers lead the rest of their prisoners into the centre of the near-empty village while others gather around the altar. There is no mistaking the ‘thrum’ and ‘crackle’ of unwholesome energies building up. Howahkan sniffs the air again, and doubles over, retching.
The first of the prisoners is led to the altar…
Sindri is going to begin relying on his sensors more and more that ..things seem off. There might be a way to trick his mind, but not the machine, right? Hopefully. “Do I engage?” He just asks suddenly, he isn’t -sure- if others can see what he can see, he has no idea.
“I can engage from here, and that’ll buy you all time to close in..” Did Howie just puke? Well that isn’t good, aren’t Wolfen pretty damn tough, by any standard?
For once Yaren is relieved that there are no creatures nearby. The more he sees and senses of the place, the more wrongness he feels about it. While he is spared the sensation of nausea from the overpowering smells, he’s still largely disturbed by the implications. The body they find brings him sorrow; an unfortunate figure who had been struck down from behind. The wolfen is right. Whatever goes on here must be stopped.
His eyes narrow as he looks ahead towards the figures, the only life nearby besides themselves. “A distraction may be best. Too close may endanger others.” He’s not sure how refined Sindri’s weapons may be on his mech, and he’d only seen Hunter use something similar once before.Bridge holds one arm up to try and block the smell (as pointless as it is), then steps forward to check on the cyber-enhanced corpse. “Rosser. Damnit.” She straightens up again and moves back over to Howahkan’s side while raising the weapon and aiming it left-handed — using her enhanced optics paired with her cybernetic arm, not that anyone here would already be aware of that. She’s focusing on the person in charge of the horrific ritual up ahead. “I can probably get their attention if you want.” Unless someone tells her no, she takes a moment to line up her shot, then fires. Howahkan nods.
Rising to his footpaws once more, the Wise-Wolf shakes his head fiercely as though to banish the scent of death and wrongness from his nostrils, and then lifts his muzzle to the wind. “One agrees,” says he, with a shallow nod to both Bridge and Yaren, regarding a distraction. “Draw their attention,” he tells Stella. “May their eyes be blind to all but that which we desire.”
Turning his blind visage toward Sindri, he remarks: “Make yourself known, Coldarmored One.” To Yaren, the Wolfen adds: “We will try to get them out.”
A shamanistic Mistdweller begins chanting a spell — it is Rift-magic to be certain, the kind that Shifters use — and sure enough he opens a Rift IN the altar. The human — a young male, not a combatant but probably a scientist — cowers, forced to mount the steps by other guards. Some of the Mistdwellers angle away toward the banks of the Sea of Grass, separate from those guarding the other prisoners…
Howahkan again nods to Yaren and says: “Wait for our comrades to open fire, then do as you will. If you follow Howahkan, one will see to it you do not drown in the earth.” To demonstrate, the Wolfen drops his spear… and dives.
INTO the ground — as if it were water. Heat sensors, however, will reveal the Wolfen *swimming* through the soil toward the village and the bloodmancers about to kill innocent victims.
Thus, it begins.
Sindri is snickering to him self in the Ultimax II; this fight seems almost to easy, he’s firing when Stella does, though splitting to flank the village; to make the threats break up. The deep thrumming bass of the Energy rifle spewing death at those seem most likely to kill their prisoners first..along with the splash and churning of terrain. “Engaging!” He says by instinct over the comm link, as the Naruni field flares to full life, good luck punching holes in that!
If enemies seem to break from their prisoners to flee, or take cover? They’ll discover those plasma mini missiles are just as viable..and fear not. Sindri is a good shot, though there’s no doubt he’ll likely have to ignore some chances in this battle..right? Hopefully though, this’ll let others get in to..do what ever they do. Yanno, like SwampShark it up there Blinkin.
It is time to act, and trusting that the others know what they are capable of and must do, Yaren nods, stepping after Howahkan to assist with helping the prisoners escape. His attention is drawn back towards the altar as the Rift is opened, violet eyes widening slightly. Their time is short.
“This one will follow Howahkan’s lead- ..??” Hurrying after the wolven, Yaren comes to a halt, surprised as the other dives into the ground itself to make for the village. That’s- well, no time to wonder now. Without a second thought, the cloaked one indeed moves to follow. The less seen of them, the better, he thinks.Stella was aiming for the shaman-looking person who opened the portal, but her shot is not perfect and only wings him instead of killing him instantly. She promptly readjusts her aim and fires at one of the two people trying to drag the scientist-like person toward aforementioned portal. He’s the one at the most risk right now, so she’s trying to get him clear. The first of Sindri’s shots catch the Mistdwellers every bit as unawares as the rifle-shot that wings the shaman in the centre (Stella’s target). One figure dies with a blast to its gut, sending it flying across the village and into a building. Another collapses as a shot goes *through* its leg at the knee, crippling it immediately.
Others… discover what it means to be caught in the blast radius of several mini-missiles at once.
In retaliation, those with long-range weapons — oddly like techno-wizardry from the mystical ‘feel’ they have to them — fire upon both Stella and Sindri, while ‘infantry’ charge them across the solid ground in between.
Alas, the shaman has other plans.
As his first would-be victim flees back to the other prisoners in an attempt to help them all escape, the Shifter summons a series of small Rifts in front, and to the side, of Sindri. For a second, nothing comes out… and then tentacles attack the armoured mercenary from two different directions, writhing and twisting, spattering him armour with slime and gore.
Meanwhile, Howahkan and Yaren rise up out of the earth like ghosts, behind enemy lines and several yards away from the prisoners. “Let us get to work,” the Wise-Wolf says as Mistdwellers turn upon them. While two of them charge Yaren with ‘energy spears’, others go to fire upon Howahkan.
The Wolfen conjures a ‘hammer’ of air and earth… and prepares to slam it down on those nearest him. The rescuees run toward Yaren, and start throwing rocks, fallen spears etc at other Mistdwellers about them.
Sindri is still in his safety of…well, the machine, though with tentacles appearing, the heavy fire from his Ultimax II will lessen, vibro blades deploying to begin hacking at the tentacles. This is unexpected, but nothing he can’t handle; for now. He’ll only take shots he can make as he tries to keep the tentacles clear. “Don’t think I can safetly engage that shaman. I hope the Blind One and Yaren can deal with him.” He communicates to Stella. He sounds very calm; after all..he has that field still, now if it goes down..he’ll have to start disengaging to get clear before they rip through the armor plating!
It’s too bad that he couldn’t thoroughly enjoy swimming through the earth, but it’s still a thrilling experience. Yaren, light on his feet, already begins to move as soon as Howahkan speaks. He emits a sound, something of a whistle, something of a chime- it’s difficult to describe, but it’s a clear tone that rings through the air, a signal, in fact. The silvery pauldron on his right shoulder twitches, the two flanking pieces stretching outward as the rest of it unwinds and detaches from his arm- a snakelike creature in form, its body made up of many segments. It glides sharply through the air, emitting a similar chime of a call as it spreads itself to intercept any strikes made with those spears. It will continue to flit and curve about in motion of attack, its ‘wings’ sharp like a blade’s edge.
And they are not alone in the offense either, Yaren thankful to see that the prisoners also move to sieze the opportunity. For the time being he chooses to cover them, directing his…pet? with his strange whistles.Stella promptly runs to one side away from Sindri, likely to give him more room to move without fear of his stompy-bot stepping on her. She is NOT a skilled combatant, though, and having all of those bad guys running at her is NOT a good thing. She stops for a moment to try and take another shot at the shaman-person, this time totally relying on her optics and cyber-arm to deal with the whole aiming thing. And as soon as she fires she’s off and running again, because the charging attackers are about to catch her.
Damn, she wishes she’d been able to bring her truck.Bridge’s shot lances through the air, over the heads of the charging Mistdwellers, and hammers into the lead-Shifter’s chest. The ensorcelled wooden plate worn across the creature’s chest absorbs some of the blow, but it knocks him backwards several steps…
…into the razor-edged ‘wings’ of Yaren Seyuz’s… pet.
One wing pierces the shaman’s back. Another severs his head from his shoulders. Immediately, the rifts opened against Sindri begin to warp and twist, losing cohesion. Some of the tentacles retract as quickly as they may, while others… latch onto the merc’s armor, straining against the plating.
They are still holding on when the last Rift closes, severing the tentacles and leaving them dangling and twitching from the merc’s suit.
While Yaren’s pet continues to hold off its attackers, it allows Yaren himself and Howahkan to ‘shepherd’ the survivors away from the camp. Mistdwellers are already leaving in a hurry — even *most* of those who had been charging toward Stella. They are now in open territory, with nothing to defend them from counter-attack, from Sindri if he sees them. Their leader is dead, and the rite… completely upset.
“Quickly!” Howahkan tells to Yaren as he ushers more of the expedition out of the village. The Wolfen guides the escapees to an open space of ground with him, then reaches into the earth and *yanks* upward. A slab, easily big enough to carry himself, Yaren and the prisoners, rises out of the ground and hovers there for Yaren.
A Mistdweller nearly makes it to melee range, aiming a pike at Stella.
Sindri breathes a sigh of relief when the rifts close and he can see the Prisoners being..not mixed up with the mist dwellers. Thus will a long non stop roar of energy discharges again, and Sindri begins to advance, to make sure Stella isn’t caught in the mess alone. Then..he’ll start using volleys of Plasma mini-missiles to begin -levelling- the village. He isn’t sure if that’ll stop further rituals or not!
“Iinya, come!” Yaren calls, turning away from the bloody sight in favor of assisting with the prisoners at Howahkan’s behest. He trails behind to make sure they don’t lose anyone, and to make sure with Iinya that none of the remaining Mistdwellers follow. He almost appears to be pulled forward rather than pushed along by any real effort of his own legs.
Once in the clear, his pet flits back to his side, reclaiming its space on his shoulder, long tail entwining his arm. The first volley from Sindri strike then, drawing Yaren’s glance for only a moment before he turns and nimbly leaps up onto the slab that Howahkan’s separated from the rest of the earth, crouching there in place.Just as Stella is about to run for that slab that Howahkan pulled from the ground, one of the attackers catches up with her. When he aims that pike at her, she grabs at it with her left hand and yanks the weapon from the man’s hands, promptly turning it in her hand to stab him with it in return. And then she’s running again, heading toward that floating slab of earth. “Stella?” one of the survivors — a young woman, with very short blonde hair, asks as soon as she sees the Transporter. “Stella?! Oh, thank God. Hosser made it out. Thank — .” She stops talking all of a sudden as the slab of rock rises quickly into the air — amid a ‘reverse shower’ of arcane bolts fired at them from below.
Howahkan only slows down for Sindri to climb on, if the armor-operator needs to.
Behind them, the village… disappears in a cloud of debris and smoke thanks to Sindri’s thorough ‘clean-up’ work. The remaining Mistdwellers lower their weapons when it becomes clear that they will not be shooting down the escapees on their…hover-rock.
Yaren’s pet gets a yelp from one of the men, who does his best to shy away from the tentacled creature — while at the same time keeping back from the edge of the slab. “Magic,” he mutters… “Magic ‘n frackin’ D-Bee freaks…ugh.”
One of his colleagues — the woman who recognises Stella — jabs the bearded one in the ribs. “Shut it, Griffin! Hosser’d have yer hide if he caught ya talkin’ like that!” She turns back to the band of rescuers and adds: “Thanks, all o’ ya. We… I dunno *what* we’d be sufferin’ if ya hadn’t gotten here when ya did.” She smiles and goes to lay a hand upon Sindri’s power-armor, only to come away with slime dripping in goops from her fingers.
Howahkan says nothing; the Wolfen’s concentration is entirely invested in keeping the rock afloat, guided by Wind away from the swamp and back toward Stella’s truck. It is not until they come close to the vehicle again — safe and sound — that he murmurs:
“One wonders what it was they were doing so close to Mistdweller territory…”
A mystery for another day.
A message makes it out of Dinosaur Swamp, requesting a rescue, offering a reward. Fortunately, there are a few willing to enter the mists of the swamp and see what needs doing.
December 10, 2409
Dinosaur Swamp - Mistdweller Territory