The boat in question turns out to be a modified cargo barge. It’s a large flat boat with a big motor on it which means on the one hand that it has plenty of room for everyone and on the other that it’s definitely a coastal craft and not something you want to take anywhere near deep water. Also it pitches pretty readily in any kind of chop and the low gunwale means that everyone’s likely to be a bit damp by the time they arrive.
The trip up the James river is eerie. There isn’t any direct sign of habitation or danger but every once in a while someone catches the sight of something moving just out of sight. Are they being watched? It sure feels like it.
Eventually the boat deposits them on the shore deep inside Richmond near the center. This is one of the more built up areas. A number ruins are still standing, in contrast to the rest of the city which can be quite patchy and in some places almost entirely reclaimed by nature.
“This way.” Ghost murmurs. “If they haven’t been caught already they’ll be over here.” Up ahead everyone can see an ominous dark cloud hanging over a particular part of the city in an otherwise clear blue sky. Even from this distance the magical nature of it can be easily sensed and it feels… wrong. Dark. Like it’s absorbing or shorting out all the magic beneath it. Which, as it turns out, is not at all innacurate.
“Stay sharp. We’re getting close.” The surroundings become a bit more dense and the streets narrower. Most of the buildings are overgrown with vines and no few have trees growing either into or out of them. Ghost turns off what was probably a main residential road and takes a much narrower and more concealed side path between a pair of high walls. From somewhere ahead, and not too far either, the sound of a crowd milling about can be heard.
Did we mention that Elpida doesn’t want to be here?
She doesn’t want to be here.
This is totally not at all because it involves the terrifying spider-lady. Nope. Not that. Not at all.
(It’s totally that.)
She’s got a hood up over her snakes this time, not that it does TOO much to hide them given that they keep poking their head out from under the cowl, but she IS trying to be a little less obviously ‘rawr I am the scary monstar’ right now. She looks to WRaith and then to the others with a helpless shrug. She’s got no idea what to do here but she FIANLLY has a pistol of her own!
Slaine has weathered the boat trip fairly well. After being out on Nix’s ship multiple time, the little mage doesn’t get sick, much. As to damp? A simple enchantment had kept her fairly dry and not taxed the use of her magic too much. She’s pale though – noticeably so – was before she even set foot on the boat.
It’s the trek across land that causes her more problems, she’s naturally clumsy and has to be careful not to slip or trip. She sticks close to Ghost, green eyes darting around at the feel of the magic. “Can ye hear it …”
Turning her attention to Wraith, the small Mystic considers “The biggest risk with this group is that they’ll be able to detect ye’re soul regardless of ye’re cloakin’ but I’m not sure we’ve got much choice…” She’ll vote for Wraith sneaking ahead. If she’s detected, they can deal with that. If not, they’ve got an advantage.
“Pfft. Everyone knows gingers don’t have souls,” mutters Elpida.The little group reaches the end of the path or alley or whatever and Aiden crouches at the corner to peer around it. There is a very large croud of disheveled people milling about in the remains of the wide boulevard they’ve come to just a couple hundred feet away. They’re not packed very tightly and they’re not moving together. It’s as if they’re lookingfor something that they know is here but can’t find.
They’re under that cloud now. The moment they reach its edge Slaine feels a tingle in the air. Her access to magic has been cut off. Or more accurately she feels like she’s standing in some kind of persistent countermagic spell. She could try to cast, but odds are good it wouldn’t go anywhere at best.
The psychics, on the other hand, don’t feel a thing.
//You’d let them know we’re here, yes, but you’d also distract them if your powers didn’t work. Which… might be a problem for you.// But one she can probably handle, or even use. //At any rate, do you see the ruined wall with the kind of castle like profile to the top? Alternating holes like battlements? That’s where the group is. There’s a basement behind it. The door is hidden by a pair of thick thorny shrubs and I’m sure the people inside are a bit jumpy.//
Aiden peers again and considers. While he is doing so Wraith can feel – other than her companions – a small group of four or five minds at about the distance she’d expect if Ghost’s friends are where he left them. There’s an additional one or two nearby that she can feel as well but they’re masking their location somehow. Necromancers? Or just observers of some kind?
“Alright. My suggestion is to let Wraith do some scouting.” Aiden says. “You can take people with you, right? Maybe take Elpida. Slaine and I will circle ’round the long way but if you two make it and can make contact, we need to get those people moving. Won’t do us any good to get there and drag the whole crowd right to their doorstep. Then we’ll //all be trapped.”Catriona pauses, mouth open to reply… before she coughs, giggles in response to Elpida, and flashes a grin. “Well… *hopefully*, it won’t matter what senses are being used to perceive me – I’ll still count as imperceptible. I don’t make myself silent and invisible, I’m unnoticable. Or that’s the theory, anyway. And I should be able to sense powerful minds in the vicinity. And have a fair chance at noticing anything with hostile intent to me, even if my mundane senses can’t perceive it.”
She goes rather unfocused for a moment, then points. “Four or five minds in a cluster in that location you’ve indicated. Four or five potent ones, that is. I’m afraid I’m not sensitive enough to pick up mundanes, or – unless I try – to breach the defences of someone masking like I can. On which note… there’re another one or two *somewhere* nearby, but they’re… well. Very hazy. Can’t pin them down. Pretty sure that’s deliberate concealment.”
“As for taking people? Yeah. The more I have to cover, the more it taxes me. But I’ve – briefly – masked a Titan so that we could surprise some of our slaver-pirate friends. So in theory, I could shuttle people out one or two at a time, physically carrying them. That crowd won’t be an obstacle for me. But that rather requires cooperation from the people we’re rescuing, *and* the hidden observers not spotting us. Still, bringing in Elpida could make sense, yes, in case there’re any surprises in there. I’m going to have to drop the cloaking, at least in part, if I’m to be able to talk to the people in there at all. Which reminds me: got any way I can identify myself as a friend to them? *Particularly* if people are already thinking ‘necromancer’, I tend not to get the friendliest of receptions.”
“…all right,” says Elpida after a moment.
“I’ve gotten a ride with Cat before so I know what to expect. I can cover her without losing my and my snake’s lunch. Not that they eat. Oh god. I woner if they’d puke out my brain or something.” Really, she is never, ever going to get used to the physiology of having snakes attached to her head. It’s just fucking weird, okay?
“ANYWAY. Ready to go!”
Elpida’s comment causes Slaine to blanch slightly before it gets a faint smile. At least until they move under that ‘cloud’. Then she falters as she feels magic denied to her. This might be bad for several reasons.
Wraith might hear a ‘murmuring’ from the Mystics mind, like a single muffled voice in the distance. Indistinguishable, but it’s there. “I’ve got no access to magic.” She mutters, looking round like she might find the anchors to the spell.
“I’ll go with ye, Vargr. But if ye want my talents, we’ll need to move out of … this.” she gestures around. She’s fought by Aidens side a number of times and they work well together. “Be careful, ye three…”“You’re a psychic too.” AIden mutters. “Alright. Good luck you two. Slaine, this way.”
The grey eyed man leads Slaine back the way they came and on a wide detour around. They can clear this crowd provided they’re not spotted by someone or somethng else. It is going to take several minutes though.
In the mean time Ghost nods to Catriona’s question and levitates a small badge over to her with the symbol of the Vesper Armsmen on it. //Show them that. They’ll know its from me. If either of you need anything I’ll be mentally listening and if you need to talk to the others just think at me. I’ll connect you. Good luck you two. I’m going around the other direction to make sure nothing’s creeping up.// And with that the big dragon cat also turns and stalks off.Catriona accepts the badge, scar twitching as her lips quirk into a smile – Ghost’s casual telekinesis still impressing (and somewhat surprising) her. The badge is secured in place, before she nods to Aiden. “Okay… here goes nothing,” she says with a grin, reaching for Elpida, intending to take the gorgon into her arms… before activating her subtle mental concealment, extending it to cover her burden as well. Then, seemingly wholly unbothered by the weight of the medusa, she blurs into motion, whipping through the throng of zombies as easily as a normal person might stroll through a stand of trees.
Beyond them, she intends to find a way to get into or up atop the somewhat-crenellated structure, wanting to get out of sight of the mob (and its presumed controllers) before having a more detailed scan for the precise location of the minds she seeks… and potentially thereafter dropping her own cloaking so that she can make contact.
Elpida allows Catriona to take her.
She does not look particularly thrilled with being ‘handled’ like that at all but it’ll do.
“A powerful one too…” Slaine murmurs to Aiden, about Wraith before turning to follow the grey eyed ex-Soldier. As soon as they clear the cloud, she breathes out a sigh of relief. “That’s better…”
Through streets, glancing around and letting her own senses roam trying to get a feel for what the Harvesters have in place, the little Mystic walks with the pyschic. “If she can make contact, are we goin’ to create a distraction so they can do what they need to?”
They can do that. If they do though, they’ll need to be skedaddle right quick.“We might have to.” Aiden murmurs as they move along a crumbled section of wall so low they have to crouch to remain concealed. “I’d prefer if we have the option to just sneak out of here but if there are necromancers watching – and someone has to be keeping that anti-magic cloud up – then that might not be an option.”
The pair comes to the edge of the cloud again. They’ve managed to clear the zombie crowd but they’re now at that wide boulavard again. If they’re to cross it then they’re going to need to make about thirty or forty yards of open space with little to no cover. Aiden pulls his ion pistol and hands it to Slaine. “Here, take this. Not sure the TK one will work being a techno wizard gun. Cover me.” Once Slaine is set he bolts across the street and amazingly makes it without being spotted. Then he turns and after a moment gestures for Slaine to follow.
Wraith manages to make the cover of the building. Everything seems okay, yes? Yes… it does. Everything is fine. We’re all fine here thank you. (How are you?). It only takes a moment to locate the basement door and slip past the thornbushes nearly concealing it. Inside is a downward staircase descending toward what looks like a dim light.
It’s actually Elpida who spots the webs first. Something big has woven a web above the base of the staircase. And sitting on it, concealed in shadows, is a huge orb spider. Which immediately on seeing them lunges at Wraith. Both women are going to get a very up close view of mandibles and venom dripping fangs before the creature hauls up just short of actually attacking partly on seeing Elpida herself but mostly on recognizing the symbol that Wraith is carrying.
“Oh. Help.” She seems a bit shocked. Yes that’s Ingerhast’s voice filtered through clicking chelicae. “Ghost must have made it. My apoligies for the welcome, we were starting to think he hadn’t. Much as I’d love to ask questions we have wounded here. Do you have a plan?”
Indeed there are wounded. Past the spider a couple of people are tending a downed armsman. Wraith can probably smell the fresh blood.
“I’M NOT DELICIOUS,” squeals Elpida at this.
“… I mean… we’re…here to rescue you… not that you need it.”Someone *really* could have warned her a bit better than vague mention of a ‘spider lady’. Wraith is, rarely for her, quite genuinely shocked… and then inwardly rather relieved that she was cautious about the order of scan, set down Elpida, hold up badge and *then* decloak. Finding her voice with the aid of a little throat-clearing, she nods rather awkwardly to the spider.
“The first step’s simply finding out quite who and what you have in here,” she says, a touch more hoarsely than usual. “I can cloak one or two at a time, and carry them out: we have friends outside as back-up. But I should warn you that I could sense the presence of minds in here, from out beyond the edge of the zombie horde. The strongest among you might be spotted, if I move you. Or their absence might, when I cloak them.”
It’s a good thing that Slaine is used to this type of thing, even if she is a bit clumsy at times. Crouching low, creeping along the wall, she looks to Aiden. “There are necromancers watching. Best to assume that, saves trouble later on. If they ain’ it’s easier for us.”
As they pause at the bouvelard, the little Mystic swallows as she looks out over it “We got to run that, don’ we?” she asks quietly taking the pistol as the psychic hands it to her. He has a lot of faith that she won’t shoot him – he’s not seen her shoot anything, ever. Except for magic missiles. “Ready…” She takes aim and watches as he makes the dash.
When he gestures to her, Half Pint swallows again, if she could access her magic she’d give herself a blessing but it’s only thirty or forty yeards. What on earth could wrong? Taking a deep breath, the redhead steps out into the boulevard at a sprint, aiming for Aiden.Slaine makes it to Aiden unspotted. The psy-warrior peers back around the corner. No change in the mob yet. Perhaps they’ll manage to make it out of here without having to fight…
//This is Ghost. I’ve just spotted another large mob of zombies coming up the river from the other direction. They mean to cordon the area off I think. If you have them you have to move now.//
Or maybe not.
//This is Aiden.// The psychic thinks back. //Slaine and I are inland of the river. We’ll draw the zombies up the boulevard and then lose them and circle back to the barge. The rest of you should get going soonest.//
Grey eyes glance up to Slaine. “This just got more complicated.” He leans down and picks up a handful of pebbles and… counts them? Two, four, six, eight, ten… yeah that’ll do. “Alright. Back my play and when I run, try to keep up.” Aiden steps out from the cover and into the boulevard. The zombies aren’t looking his way. He tosses the pebbles into the air and a telekinetic force seizes them and rockets them into the zombie crowd at railgun speeds. Ten zombies fall over with heads or chests burst from the impact and another ten a fraction of a second afterward from the overpenetration.
That gets their attention. The group turns almost as one and begins to run at him.
Down in the basement the huge orb spider turns into a rather pretty slavic looking woman in red leather. “Ames there is hurt. If we’re going to move in separate stages he should go first. The problem is that we’re mostly magi in here and with that cloud-” She cuts off as Ghost and then Aiden speaks and looks to Elpida and Catriona. “We have a few guns here but only Jess and Chrystal are really trained to use them. If we make a break for it we’ll be relying on you. They seem to be able to sense our magic, or perhaps it’s just one of us, but when we emerge… some of them might trail us distraction or no distraction.”
Elpida slowly picks herself up up off the floor. The rushing spider, the mandibles. All too real. Her snakes are still flailing out from under the hood that’s fallen down around her shoulders and then she readies herself, braces, as she lets out a breath she’d been holding. Nervous fingers draw her gun and she is distinctly NOT looking at Ingerhast.
“Lead the way, Cat. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”
Finally, she /forces/ her gaze back to the Spider-Lady.
“We’re not going to let anything happen. We’ll get you out of here, all of you, safely as we can.”Catriona goes rather unfocused for a few moments. Then she projects back to Ghost, trusting him to relay onwards. //You’ve got company out there. *Very* powerful mind just dropped its attempt to hide. Back ‘behind’ the zombies from where I am. Feels ‘cold’, similar to what I encountered at Greywall.//
Looking to Ingerhast – whose gaze is now blessedly easier to meet – she nods quickly. “Elpida can carry wounded as easily as I can, but can’t stealth or run so fast. If someone needs stabilised before moving, I can do that. Otherwise….” She looks to Elpida, then resumes the psychic communication. //Two choices, I think: I try to distract that necromancer. It probably can’t catch me. Elpida could escort the group to safety through stray zombies. Or I stay on escort duty: Elpida carries the wounded and I run interference close in around the group as needed.//
Slaines breathing heavily by the time she reaches Aiden. Mostly from the adrenaline rather than the exertion. “I can’ believe I made it…” she puffs and glances around the corner with the psychic.
She only hears Ghosts side of the conversation but nods when Aiden speaks. She expected something like this. She’s got some tricks of her own if they need them. “Alrigh’.” is all she says to the psy-warrior.
As the pebbles fly, Half Pints eyes glow and blue energy winds its way up her hands.”Run …” she says, muttering something under her breath, blue arcane symbols as she does, shooting out at the crowd. She’s not aiming at anything in particular, if she hits something that’s good if not, it will keep their attention on them.
She’s right on Aidens heels as he moves.Slaine’s spells simply cease to exist the moment that they hit the edge of the cloud. It’s very potent counter magic. It would have to be to prevent Armsmen and Academy professors from casting. It’s more than enough to overcome Slaine’s personal power. It is however very showy. Aiden’s eyes glint briefly – which is unusual – and his lines begin to glow red as he ploughs an orb of force through the oncoming crowd, knocking down and maiming whatever gets in its path. It’s less than a minute though before the crowd has gotten dangerously close and no measure to repel them will force them back far enough to be safe.
“Run.” Aiden says and takes off down the street. If there’s one thing he can do it is run. For a long time. Comes of being the kind of warrior he is. As a bonus, the further from the cloud they get the more vulnerable to magical counter attack this group becomes. The trick will be not getting herded into another group and trapped.
//Best if you stay and escort, Cat.// Ghost replies. //The faster we get everyone out the quicker we get out of danger.//
“Ames is stabilized but he’s not able to move very well. If your friend can carry him that would help. Otherwise we can manage. You just need to keep them off us.”
She takes a deep breath. “Alright. We’ll go on your signal. Take whatever precautions you need and let’s get going. We’ve been here too long already and we have some important information to report back.”
“I can keep them off me with just my eyes,” says Elpida, quietly.
Yes, those stories are true. She moves towards Ames to carefully pick him up with not really surprising amounts of strength. She is cautious. He may be stable but that doesn’t mean she can afford to screw this up.
“I’m ready.” The gun is back in its holster.“If any of you get surrounded or in trouble, get my attention,” Catriona instructs. “I can move fast enough that I *will* be able to reach you. But try to stick together, and keep moving. I’ll try to keep them off you as best I can. Don’t try any heroic last stands or self-sacrificing efforts to distract the horde. Elpida and I have some tricks left, and we’re not at that stage yet. Okay? Let’s get going.”
Drawing just one blade, to keep one hand free for grabbing of survivors or throwing of zombies, Catriona turns to depart.
Aiden and Slaine are running and fast. This is going to be interesting. Aiden might be able to run all day, Slaine … can’t. She can run //a lot// but she hasn’t had the type of training that Aiden has. The crowd follows them through the streets.
Wraith and Elpida find their unheeded to begin with and the others move along with them, slowly – some of them are injured. As they reach an intersection though, a //huge// ‘zombie’ D-Bee comes right at them, almost in Elpida’s face. Behind him, are four others and they probably smell wonderful to Wraith. The way they need to go, is straight ahead.
“OH COME ON,” complains Elpida as she arrives — slowly — with the frigging /giant sorta zombie/ right in her way.
“ARE YOU SHITTING ME,” she complains, throwing her hood off and letting her snakes run free, she starts to level her gaze on it.“Keep going!”, Catriona instructs the rest of the escort party, before blurring into full speed to let her slam in amongst the quartet of small zombies, hoping to achieve something of a skittles effect. She takes the risk of trusting to Elpida to handle the giant on her own, at least for a few seconds – while she’s confident of keeping the rest of the survivors in sight (and therefore in range for her to reach swiftly and protect).
The council members string out across the intersection, Ingerhast urging them to hurry.
The giant D-Bee, now that Elpida gets a good look at him, is a bit of chimera – lion headed and bird bodied but no wings. It screeches in the Gorgons face, raising an arm with razor sharp talons trying to rend the woman neck to navel. It’s distracted though by those snake waving around.
Wraiths blurring hits two of the four, causing them to stumble but not enough. All four turn their attention to the dhampir, splitting up to attack from left, right and front. They’re going to try and overwhelm her with sheer force.
ELpida looks up at the giant Dee-Dee and it’s chimeric form. “Very funny, but no. I’m going to assume you weren’t a nice person in life so that I’ll feel less shit about this.”
She stares up at the Dee-Bee who, beginning with his eet, gradually petrifies as he lifts his claws to rake at her.
There is now a statue on the street, one that will be considerawbly difficult to move later of a giant chimeric lion-like dee-bee.
She clears her throat. “WE ARE ALL GOING TO MAKE IT, YOU HEAR ME? I HAVE A FUCKING GOD WITH ME.”Wraith’s fighting style is, for the time being, somewhat less spectacular than Elpida’s… but she doesn’t even *claim* to have a deity with her. She does, however, have inhuman speed, horrendous strength, and far more than average skill. Tying up the zombies for a short time while whittling down their numbers proves to be well within her compass. One winds up atop a nearby roof, another draped over a window-sill two stories up. The others, she polishes off by letting one come within arm’s reach… so that she can use it to hit its companion.
That done, she gulps back the urge to stop and feed, tries to force her fangs away, and stutter-steps into a sprint so that she can blur back into place alongside the survivors as their protector.
“A fucking god?”, she asks Elpida upon arrival, flashing a (still somewhat fangy) grin.
There’s now a rather nice statue of a chimera standing in the intersection and four zombies scattered around and over it.
The slavice looking woman is standing on the other side of the crossroads, shepherding the last of the others across. “Well now, wasn’t that impressive. You two are just too … delicious. But we really must move.” She turns and follows the rest of her group.
There’s still several streets to go to make their way back to the barge and pursuit is limited. It’s not long before the barge comes into view and there’s Ghost waiting for them.
From the other direction, there’s a flash of red hair and man sporting red lines over his arms and his neck. Aidens got Slaine by her arm and is dragging her along as they run.
“I AM NOT DELICIOUS,” says ELpida, “I am not food, damn it!” She glares at Ingerhast! GLARES! She is totaly not terrified by her!
(She totally is!)
Anyway, she scurries off and gives CAtriona a haples smile, “It’s techncially true, you know.”Wraith blinks at Ingerhast – who frankly smells pretty tasty to her, too, what with being alive and all – and then again at Elpida. “Wow,” she observes cogently, to one or both of them. But thereafter, she does attempt to keep an eye on her charges and their surroundings… and when Slaine gets hauled into view, she detours over to her and Aiden, intending to sweep her fellow ginger (soulness or not!) off her feet, so that they can all reach safety as quickly and healthily as possible.
The hostages string out along the street, boarding the barge as they reach it. Ghost helps them aboard as they arrive.
“Wraith!” Slaine complains “What are ye doin’?! I’m alrigh’…” If she was pale before, she’s even more so now. The trek has taken it’s toll for whatever reason. Adien follows the women aboard.
It’s not long before they’re all aboard the Barge and it’s pulling out from the dock. There’ll be time for debriefing and follow up shortly. Right now, they need to get far enough away that the soulless army can’t get to them.
Answering Ghost's request, a band of adventurers head into Richmond to save Professor Ingerhast and others
April 28, 2410