Well south of the Vesper Border and into the area that only a learned few call ‘The Carolinas’ for reasons now largely forgotten there is a forest of the most wonderous trees. They’re called Steel Trees, and the area where they grow is known perhaps somewhat unimaginatively as the Steel Tree Forest. They’re massive. A hundred foot trees between ten and fifteen feet around are common and the giants get much larger still. Their bark and pulp is as tough as the advanced alloys that make up Hunter’s robot. Even the fallen branches and leaves are worth their weight in dino meat out here and often picked up by tribes to use as weapons, armor and building materials.
The floor of the forest is relatively clean and clear of cover, though the thick canopy makes it dark. Hunter’s bot strides for once as a midget among giants, stepping around the thick trunks and roots of the forest. The convoy tracks lead this way, south and west toward the hills. Everything in here is quiet ish. The odd animal call or flock of birds breaks the otherwise serene early afternoon atmosphere.
“Guys I’ve got something ahead.” Hunter says into the radio rather than over the loudspeakers. “Something’s fouling up my radar and LIDAR. Looks like about, oh, four hundred meters or so away?” It’s difficult to see that far ahead with how thick the trees are getting. Difficult for Hunter’s sensors to penetrate that far too.
In what is now becoming a familiar sight, Ardul is dozing in the back of the ATV. Both Pegi and Felipe have learned that the Winged Warrior sleeps when she can – something about never knowing when you’re going to get the next bit. Still, as Hunters voice sounds over the radio, she’s instantly awake, peering through the canopy of the vehicle trying to make out what she can.
“Shall I reconnoiter, Hunter?” She can cover a lot of distance and be quick about it, but splitting the party might not be the best thing. “Pegi, Felipe, can you make anything out?”
Since their last stop, Pegi has decided that she’d rather sit up top on the ATV rather than within its confines. Her senses would be more useful when she’s out in the open rather than behind a wall of metal, and so long as Felipe was inside, she wouldn’t have to worry too much about him. She’d found a place to brace her prosthesis against, doing likewise with her other foot despite the ride being relatively smooth.
The towering trees never cease to amaze her. She’s perhaps been here but a handful of times to help with gathering for her tribe, as it was a trip made only on limited occasion for how far it was from home. Out of habit she looks about the area for any of the trees’ shedding, but she knows that even if they find anything, they couldn’t bring it along. Besides, they have a job to do.
Hearing Hunter’s voice sound from below, which is odd since she knows he’s well above them, the young Saurian twists where she sits to pull open the hatch the rest of the way where it had been partially propped open by her axe. “What he say?” she asks, then tilts her head at the winged one before looking off ahead of them again. Is something out there? Her senses are sharp, but that’s a pretty long distance to decipher anything.
As dull as traveling can get at times, Felipe jerks his head forward at the voices of Hunter, Ardul, and Pegi, snorting abruptly with a, “–What? Oh.” Having more room on the inside and not much to talk about between long periods of time also allowed him to doze off once the scenery had lost its wonderment.
Squeezing his eyes tight for a few seconds, he shakes off the travel fatigue, recalling the most recent of minutes. “Uuuh I think Hunter’s senses are getting mixed up,” he translates loosely for Pegi’s understanding. Shifting to sit upright, he looks over at Ardul before looking toward the front. “See anything? I can tell you everything’s dark. And that there are plenty of trees around.” He may have been a little facetious with his observation, but it’s true.
“Have a look, Ardul. My MAD just blanked out.” Ardul will likely know that means ‘magnetic anomaly detector.’ Felipe and Pegi might just think he’s getting upset. Or that his robot is.
Four hundred yards isn’t all that far particularly in vehicles. Ardul will get there first but the others won’t be too far behind. There’s a ridge composed of what appears to be low hills but angular metal protrusions are justting out of them, some of them quite large and jagged. From the air Ardul may recognize the shape. Hunter’s taken her places like this before, but this one is possibly half a mile or more long. It’s much bigger than any of those places.
A few minutes after she sights it Hunter’s bot pulls up about thirty yards away and stops. Looks like the Wolfen is going to dismount. At the center of the ‘ridgeline’ there’s a patch of sunlight coming through a break in the treeline. It falls upon a large collection of five to ten foot tall lizard folk totems. That much will be evident to Pegi and Felipe up front. Anything more will probably requrie a closer inspection.
“Acknowledged Hunter.” Ardul answers, popping the top the ATV once Pegi vacates it. “Hunter instruments aren’t working well and he needs us to have a look.” the blonde explains as she begins to move across the forest floor. She keeps her wings furled, she’s not going to fly. At least not yet.
“Hunter, it looks like a wolfen vessle.” She reports over the comms “Just a lot bigger than anything I’ve seen before.” She holds her position, waiting for the others to join her, assessing what she’s really seeing.
Nodding at Ardul, Pegi settles back on the ATV again. “Make go faster, Felipe,” she calls down at her brother, thumping the metal as though it will do any good. She’s anxious to see what lies ahead that’s making Hunter’s bot upset. She’s also not sure what that has to do with music, much less why the Wolfen is trying to play anything while piloting his oversized image.
Once they do make some progress, the Saurian leans forward as she stares at the unusual shapes just beyond them. Even before the ATV slows, she’s moving to slip and hop down, axe slung on her back. Her uneven steps carry her closer to where Ardul has stopped as she looks past the winged woman.
“What that…?” she asks, pointing at the metal edges. Even as she asks, she’s already taking in the rest of what can be seen.“Okay,” Felipe calls back to the Saurian, more alert now as he presses the ATV on. It picks up speed, following the rugged path until they all get to their next stopping point.
Once outside of the vehicle, the doctor pauses. Perhaps it’s the feeling the forest gives off, the serene yet unsettling eerieness of a canopy so dense that heightens the imagination of a waking mind. Still, the light is a welcome sight among the site they all behold.
He’s never seen anything like this. He’s heard of the totems from Pegi, of course; those will be inspected as soon as he goes over to them. It’s word of the vessel that makes his brow lift. “Wolfen vessel? What’s that doing out here?”Hunter dismounts and walks a short distance until he’s standing next to the ATV. “That…” He says looking the ridgeline up and down. “Is what’s left of a wolfen battlecruiser… It must have crashed here during the cataclysm. It’s been here a while.” Several wolfen vessles were swallowed whole by random rifts in space during that period of time. None of them made planetfall intact so far as he is aware. But they carried with them the seeds of many wolfen populations around the world today.
“I think I see a door. I’m going to have al ook inside.” He’s seen the saurian totems but he’s not sure of their significance. There does seem to be smoke rising from in front of several of them. Incense or offerings perhaps?
Hunter starts forward. It’s a bit chilly still – more than a little actually – so he’s got his coat (repaired from his last adventure) and his breath is fogging up the afternoon air. He gets to within about ten feet of the door – the others can make it out when he points it out, it’s half overgrown and hidden by vines – when an arrow buries itself in the ground in front of him.
Several Sauriens descend from the trees, all of them armed.
“You walk on holy ground interloper. You will not disturb our ancestor’s rest.” The speaker is the largest male saurian of the lot. They have steelwood bows and steelwood spears and they look like they have steelwood leaf armor as well but their sudden appearance has Hunter drawing his sidearm and leveling it at the closest one’s head. Things just got very, very tense.
“There are wolfen vessels scattered around.” Ardul adds to Hunters explanation, smiling a Felipe and Pegi. “I’ll come with you…” she says to gunfighter “Whilst it’s probably been stripped, I might something that I can adapt for my suit.” She glances at the other two. Are they coming?
She’s a step or so behind the Wolfen when the arrow thunking into the ground has her unclipping the cylinder from her belt. Unlike Hunter, though, she doesn’t go on the offensive, but she does take a support position slightly behind and to the left of him.
“Holy Ground?” she asks, glancing at Pegi to see if the young Saurian can shed some light on that. “Do you mean this vessel?” She indicates the husk of the ship, speaking softly but firmly.
Pegi isn’t too sure what to make of the totems. Guesses, she has, but this isn’t a practice her tribe follows. Some of them can be very strange, so she’s been told. Amber eyes squinting at the smoke, she sniffs at the air again, but it’s something else that catches her attention than whatever’s burning. “Hunter-”
One arm extends behind her, a gesture to keep Felipe back as she starts forward, thunk-thud, thunk-thud. It’s not all that far that she gets before the Wolfen and Ardul are halted by the other Saurians who descend upon them from the trees above. She looks at the one who seems to be the leader of the group, moving towards Hunter and Ardul.
“They not mean to! We did not know,” she says, trying to imagine what he brothers would do under such circumstances.The doctor strokes his chin, nodding slowly. His own breath faintly forms puffs of mist in the cold, each one overlapping each other as he says, “Cataclysm events and various locations. Makes sense.”
He doesn’t follow immediately. Instead, he studies the totems a while longer as the others move, looking at the details on the poles, catching sight and scent of the smoke as it lingers in the air.
The questions he doesn’t get to ask are soon answered about the area. Turning to see what has happened, Felipe stops short of Pegi’s protective stance, inhaling sharply at the standoff between Hunter and the armored Saurians. Brown eyes flick between each speaker, quietly watching the drama unfold, his adopted sister being the last to try placating the situation soon after Ardul’s calm mediation. “We don’t mean any harm,” he adds steadily, raising up his hands. “Sorry about that. As Pegi said, we didn’t know. We were just traveling down the way and came across it.”
“Belongs to our people now!” The leader barks back. “You dog-demon. We see your images in the catacombs. You leave our ancestors or we drive you off!”
Hunter thumbs the hammer back on his revolver, making a menacing //click//.
“Pegi? Felipe? What’s going on here?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Ardul can see another pair of Saurians making for the ATV. Even if they don’t mean any mischief (and they very well may mean it) their rooting around in there will likely do far more harm than good. She’s being covered by a pair of archers though. Any sudden move…
“Why you with the dog-demon?” That’s a woman’s voice. One of the smaller Saurian archers nearer to Pegi and Felipe asks them that question. “We knew it come back one day. We guard our ancestors gate to heaven… Not allow them to be sent to the deep below ever again.”
“Do not go near that vehicle.” Arduls soldiers tone ring out through the clearing. “My friend here has a very twitchy trigger finger and I don’t like our equipment being messed with.” Her sword ignites then and she puts her back to Hunters, considering the distance between here and the ATV and just where those archers are.
Her armour can absorb a lot of damage. So too can her wings. And she’s quick. If they continue to make to the vehicle, the blonde fully intends to make a break for it. For now though, she’ll see how they respond to her voice of authority.
She might have normally come up with her own weapon as well, but here Pegi finds herself in a difficult situation. It shouldn’t have been, but as soon as she hears Hunter’s tone and sees him ready to fire, she knows it’s nothing simple.
“As they say,” she replies to the Wolfen, though her eyes remain upon the Saurians. “-this now where their dead rest. Do not disturb the dead.” The little Saurian looks pleadingly towards Hunter then before she looks around at the others. She tenses for another reason as some of the others go towards their vehicle, moving back and closer to Felipe.
“These Pegi’s friends,” she says, turning a look towards the archer. “And this Pegi’s little brother. We leave, but you not touch our ride.” The last she adds with a warning glare towards the ones that had wandered towards the ATV.During all of this, there may have been a moment where Felipe closes his eyes, his expression one of pained resignation as the wolfen and the Saurian shout. His brow furrows even moreso when the winged one says her warning to the Saurians who are attracted to the ATV.
Drawing in another breath, Felipe looks over at his companions who are practically ready to cut (or shoot) a few Saurians. “Clearly this /used/ to be your ancestors’ vessel. Except it’s been sitting here for /years/ on end before these guys decided to claim it. Since it’s on /their/ territory.” Dinosaur swamp. He can only guess there aren’t any real rules regarding such. They’re more like guidelines anyway. Pegi at least sums up this part nicely. “In the words of some of the patients I’ve tended to in the past, we’ve ‘done goofed.’ Walking into what they consider sacred ground wasn’t our intention, but we did it, and /now/ they obviously want us to go. And if we go, /we don’t get hurt./”
He says all of this rather calmly with an underlying impatience more toward Hunter and Ardul than to Pegi, the last of his hasty words spoken at almost a hiss. How he is able to say all of that without taking any breaths in between is a feat he barely notices until he’s given the chance to shut up, if only for less than two seconds. “Pegi’s right,” Felipe tacks on with a curt nod, brown eyes now resting on the Saurian female who still keeps her bow rigid. “If you let us go, we’ll be out of your hair. Simple as that.”The pair moving toward the ATV freeze at Ardul’s authoritative snap and look to their leader for instructions. Their leader isn’t looking at them though. He’s in a staring match with Hunter. There’s real //hate// in his eyes. He’s convinced that Hunter is pure evil and doesn’t belong here. This is more than just the simple indignation at encroaching on a holy site (though there’s plenty of that), this is something far more righteous. Or self righteous. Depnding on the point of view.
“I’m the one with the rotary rail guns and the ion cannon.” Hunter growls in reply to Felipe. True they’re on a bot that he’s not presently in. “And I don’t give a //damn// what-”
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! YAH!” //CLANG//. A high pitched voice rings out in the clearing followed by an almost bell like sound. A younger Saurian warrior has charged Hunter’s bot from behind and is wailing on it with a club. It’s an ironwood club. It’s pretty sturdy. But it’s not doing a damn thing to that bot’s shin.
“DIE DOG DEMON! DIE! DIE! DIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” He’s really convinced that the bot is some kind of enormous monster.
Hunter jerks at the noise and spares a glance behind him to see what it is. At any other time it’d be funny bordering on hilarious to him. Now?
Well it’s still a little funny. But it’s got to get through a lot of annoyance and anger. The wolfen seems to be running something through his head. If they fought here they //might// win. But Pegi and Felipe clearly aren’t behind them and they do need the both of them to reach that convoy which may still have survivors in trouble. That has to be the priority. On the other hand there are a variety of cultural, personal and practical reasons why he wants to search and clear this battlecruiser, not the least of which is the danger it could pose to everyone around it if one of those mysterious beacons activates by some chance.
The grey furred wolfen makes his choice. He lowers his weapon and starts to stalk back toward his bot. He is clearly angry.
“Get that kid of my bot before I shoot him.” The wolfen growls as he passes Ardul, though loud enough for Pegi and Felipe – which is whom he intended it for – to hear it.
“Never come back to this forest, Dog Demon!” The leader Saurian calls after Hunter’s back.
“And shut him up.” Hunter adds.
They have a mission. He’ll have to hope that this doesn’t become a problem later.
And no, he’s not happy with almost anyone present.
Ardul doesn’t take her eyes from the Saurians approaching the ATV. If they put one foot wrong, she’ll move. Felipe gets a //look// from the Winged Warrior. She can’t exactly deny what either he or Pegi are saying, but she also knows that display of might are valued … and they can’t afford to appear weak against a warrior-like tribe.
“What th—” She would laugh, she really would, but the situation is too tense for that. “Call your young off. It won’t end well.” She tells the other Saurians. Knowing they’re not likely to listen.
As Hunter backs down and snaps his commands at her, she snaps off a salute. “Sir, yes sir.” There’s a //very// small degree of amusement in her tone, she knows the wolfen is pissed. When they stop next, she’ll speak with him but for now, she’ll allow him his space.
“Back to the ATV, quickly now.” she says to Felipe and Pegi as she turns to eye the leader. “I would suggest that silence is the better part of valour right now. We concede the ground to you.”
Something tells her this will be a problem later.
The attacking child gives Pegi a new focus, and she’s all too willing to stalk off towards him. Hunter scares her right now, but she can’t particularly fault the local tribe for their stubbornness either. Still, the leader rubs her the wrong way. If it wouldn’t potentially start conflict between tribes, she’d like to smack him upside the head.
Instead, she limps over to the child to scruff him and toss him away from Hunter’s mech. “Not my fault if you get crushed,” she snorts, turning then to make sure that Felipe makes it back to the ATV safely. She’ll clamber back up once he is, still keeping a wary eye out upon the gathered Saurians.He’s a doctor. He knows how people act when they’re faced with hard facts, especially if it’s bad news. And no one ever likes bad news.
Although he keeps his composure, he flinches when Hunter growls, knowing full well that the wolfen isn’t in the best of moods. The Saurian leader…doesn’t help. “The ion cannon and the rail gun aren’t any good if their arrows are — ”
And there’s the odd interruption. The break in the tension is what he wanted, but not in the way he expects. Still, the doctor allows himself to laugh a little, the moment quickly vanishing as soon as Hunter makes her way past them. “…You don’t /mean/ that…” That’s all he says, his pitch low and taut, audible enough for the wolfen to hear. Brown eyes show no fear in the anger displayed, however, and he doesn’t care if he gets a response.
As Ardul tells them to get moving, Felipe sighs, shaking his head as he fixes the bag strap that has somehow tightened against his chest. He picks up the pace, jogging to distance himself from the Saurians, climbing into the ATV without looking back.“Try my patience and find out, Doctor. You just surrendered the graves of my forebearers to these people. I hope your favoring these Saurians doesn’t bite us. Or them.”
Hunter walks past the younger warrior – a child in many societies yes though not in this one. People grow up quickly here. They have to. They don’t live long otherwise. The wolfen clambers up the ladder back into the interior of his bot. He has moving again in moments.
“Give me a minute to compensate for the interference…” It takes him a solid minute or so to do so but eventually the bot indicates a course with it’s right hand about thirty degrees off their present one. “This way.”
The suarians back off the ATV and the Bot. They clearlly //really// don’t like the bot but the group of travelers is departing just as they promised.
“Travel safe, sister.” One of the grave guardians whispers to Pegi. “And Pink-Brother. I do not know why you travel with the dog-demon but be careful. They are not to be trusted. The legends tell us so.”
She presses a protective charm into Felipe’s hand (Felipe being the closer as they’re departing) and moves back with the others to give the little group room to leave.
The parting words offered to her are given but a nod. She’s glad that they avoided a fight. The leader would have been willing to, and she’d heard the steel in the Wolfen’s response. Her face is grim, but she says nothing until she eases herself into the vehicle.
“Hunter come back later…” Pegi’s voice is soft over the radio once they’re all settled within. For now, she feels better being close by Felipe. Her eyes watch the other Saurians as they prep the ATV to move.
“…Pegi not want Hunter to hurt or kill these. Pegi does not want a war.” Between her tribes or her friends. “We find another way. But first we must find the lost.”
Megana Shadowcleft heads out to FRP Ready Room.As Pegi sits with Felipe, he silently stares down at the charm, now warm in the palm of his hand. He cradles it, letting it turn over with the slightest of movements.
In the back of his mind, Hunter’s words are still sharp, as raw as a fresh cut on skin. Some regret in his decision sits in the pit of his stomach, but there isn’t anything they can do about it now. He barely notices Pegi speaking over the radio, voicing the concerns he had during the conflict. Then his mind drifts to the Saurian who spoke to him last.
//In return for the gift, Felipe gives the Grave Guardian a trying smile. “To be honest?” he starts, taking a second to think about it. “…I don’t really know either. But…sometimes?
“Everyone deserves a chance. Despite what legends say.”//
Back in the presence of the ATV, there is nothing he needs to say right now. They have a lead. He’ll follow.
Without any more delays, the engine of the vehicle is turned on, allowing it to lurch and hover in their new-found direction.
Another detour on the way to find the missing caravan. This time to a Sauren Sacred Ground where a Wolfen Vessel crashed.
March 07, 2410