It had taken Hunter a little bit to locate the ‘tomb in the void’ that the Finder spoken of to Kaji. Where exactly he hadn’t said. It’s not really important since any ‘location’ would likely not make sense to either Kaji or Ardul but when the rift had opened they found themselves on what certainly appears to be a space ship. Or at least, so the starfield out the window in the empty and dark room suggests.
Everything here is a bit… too big for Kaji. Everything’s slightly too tall, or slightly uncomfortable. It’s as if this was sized for beings more on Hunter and Ardul’s scale than a human one.
The air is stale and smells faintly of rot.
Hunter turns on the light when they arrive. Everything is sterile, though the furniture is overturned. “Right… so… this is an old Wolfen Cruiser. Same type that we found in the Swamp, Ardul. It’s been abandoned for a while and it’s rumored to be… somewhat haunted.”
Still half expecting the need for some kind of space equipment, Kaji’s equal parts disappointed and awed once they arrive. Travel by Rift to get to places otherwise inaccessible by walking is both useful and kind of anticlimactic, after all.
The odd scale of things in the ship is weird, but it’s not like he’s been on a spaceship before, and it could belong to any sort of alien species.
…this is an old Wolfen Cruiser. Okay. Or it could belong to Hunter’s people.
“Haunted?” Kaji echoes, brow arching as he looks over towards Hunter. Not scared, more curious.
“So it is…” Ardul answers, wearing her gleaming silver armour, wings furled tightly against her back. “… how is there power still, Hunter?” Of course that would be the first question she asks. “How long do you think it’s been here?” That’s the second.
She hasn’t asked ‘where’ this is, she knows the answer wouldn’t make sense and it’s enough that they found it.
“It looks like they left in a hurry…” The notion that the cruiser might be haunted gets a snort from the Valkyr “I don’t believe that for a moment. People just jumping at their shadows, more like.”
“Fusion cores have the lifetimes of small stars.” Hunter murmurs. “Still, it’s probably running on reserve or battery power. Most everything is shut down and it smells like the air recyclers aren’t working at full efficiency. I wouldn’t want to stay here too long…” As he’s talking he steps into a corridor. It’s dark as well. There’s sounds out there, but it’s hard to tell if it’s machinery or something else.
“Yes, haunted. Or inhabited. No one quite knows by what. We’re going to want to get to the weapons room though. We need a focusing crystal for Kaji’s blade and this ship was – long ago – carrying a contingent of Wulf.”
For a moment, it seems like Hunter has forgotten the others might not know what that is. “Oh, uh, another race. Canine. Shorter than wolfen. Natural pyrokenes. Their ships and personal weaponry all revolve around focuses for their psychic powers. Keep your guard up. No telling what’s in here…”
Something in the darkness… scratches. Claws on metal? Or just machinery scraping.
Rumors and stories stem from something or another. There’s plenty of possible explanations for getting a reputation of being haunted. Kaji’s just more open to that also genuinely including the supernatural. That had been a part of normal expectation even back on his Earth.
“So why was it abandoned. Do you know?” he asks Hunter as they start along. At least from where they currently are, it doesn’t look like there was any serious damage. Kaji would have to agree with Ardul’s observations though; it did look like someone had gone through here rather haphazardly unless something had given the ship a good jolt.
It must have been the blank look and the silence following Hunter’s mentionings of a contingent of Wulf that prompt further explanation, the young necromancer nodding when the Wolfen does so. “Oh, I see,” he says, and then pauses as a noise sounds apart from their own movement. He frowns a bit. “What was that?” he asks, hand slipping into his backpack in search of his penlight.
“Inhabited, maybe.” Ardul murmurs, taking a turn around the room and inspecting it. “Too many people think there’s a magical answer when simple science will work.” Which might be more true on Iyesgarth than Earth where magic certainly holds sway.
Hunters explanation of the core has her nodding, she remembers the core they retrieved from the cruiser on Earth. “If the air recyclers aren’t working, then we need to be careful. Stale air can cause hallucinations or euphoria.” Carbon monoxide poisoning is what Kaji might have known it as.
Following Hunter out into the corridor, the winged warrior peers into the darkness, brow furrowing. “What type of vermin might have lived on this ship, Hunter?”
“Rats. Voles. Similar.” Hunter murmurs. “Nothing that should still be alive. This ship is at least three hundred years old. The food stores should be long exhausted.” What else might have been on here when it was abandoned? Who knwos.
Kaji’s admittedly small and sort of weak light catches a bit of spined tail whipping around a corner. Hunter’s not looking in that direction when it happens or he’d probably shoot at it so the only other person who could see it is Ardul. Worryingly, the whatever it was seemed to be headed down a side passage which they’re approaching.
“Stale air could be a problem yes. As might damage to the ship. After this long, might be hull breaches and such.”
“Maybe we should’ve packed rebreathers or something.” If that was a thing, somewhere other than fiction. Kaji’s just glad that the ship’s artificial gravity and pressurization is still functioning, at least in this area. Who knows how long that’ll last, especially given the potential for damages. Lack of fresh air however is a problem, and he nods his understanding at Ardul, trying to be mindful of his breathing.
“Hmm…” He squints down the corridor. “That…sure seemed to be something,” he says, brow furrowed. He glances at the other two to see if they’d seen it.
“Perhaps, my Lo…” Ardul shakes her head and corrects herself “Hunter …” in the time they’ve returned from Wormwood, it seems they’ve been working on that. “But the tales of the ‘haunting’ had to come from somewhere and if were visitors to this ship, then they might have left food.” Or it might be a small colony of cannibalistic creatures that eat their old and some of their young. Not that she says that.
“Then we should be careful.” The Valkyr is looking in the direction that Hunter is and misses whatever moves. “What does, Kaji?” she turns to the youth, frowning slightly, trying to see what he’s seen.
The corridor is short and deadends with rooms on either side. The doors to said rooms are shut. It’s not immediately obvious where the creature could have gone. Or what it was.
Hunter peers when the other two do. “What seemed like something?”
The sound of scraping comes from up ahead. It’s definitely something dragging on the walls or floor. Protracted. It’s just not clear what. Then something goes ‘thunk-whirrrrrr‘. Like… a machine suddenly starting.
“That’s… not right.” The wolfen breaks into a trot to see what could be doing that…
And then gets blind sided by an insectoid thing that just phases through a wall right beside him.
Kaji rolls his eyes. Of course no one else saw. “Um. Looked like a tail. Kinda spiky,” he says, beaming his light about the closer they get. It’s weird though, given that the corridor ends not much further along.
The sounds that come up are however worrying, and Kaji looks about, trying to discern just where it’s coming from. “I have a very bad feeling about this,” he mutters.
As Hunter quickens his pace, so does the necromancer. This isn’t much being careful as Ardul had suggested, but there’s definitely something else here. But just what–
“Whoa!!” he yelps as the creature just comes right through the wall then.
“I don’t know, my Lord.” Ardul murmurs, falling back into the role the nanites have dictated. She seems to do that, when order and control is needed. “But Kaji thought he saw something…”
The frown deepens as she hears the noise, her hand removing the cylinder from her hip as she moves to keep up with the Wolfen. “Is that something starting u—” Something moves through the wall just in front of her and the energy blade hums to life, swiping with careful precision to try and swat the thing away.
The creature has… it’s hard to say how many limbs. It seems somehow ghostly and translucent but it’s more than solid enough as evidenced by the way it has knocked hunter down. It turns and stabs at Kaji and Ardul, screaming in a disturbingly human fashion. As it does, memories start to surface. Memories of torture, and helplessness and horror. Some that might be theirs. Some that might not… but… seem real enough all the same. Real enough to cause hallucinations.
Ardul’s definitely got the right idea, and as she moves to take up the offensive, Kaji grabs his weapon at his side. With the oxygen levels questionable, he doubts exploding ofuda will be very effective, among other things.
He barely manages to free the large knifelike blade from its sheathe when the insectoid creature jabs at them, its strike glancing off of it but throwing the necromancer’s balance off. The thing certainly looks creepy enough to be mistaken for a ghost, but what disturbs Kaji more is its screaming. Just what is this thing??
What happens next, he’s not quite certain. The images that well up in his mind, he’s not sure where they come from, the sensation paralyzing. He gasps, and for a moment their current situation blurs. Where, who-?
The memories that surface for Ardul are not pleasant. She’d spent some months in captivity being tortured after all.
She’s incapacitated for the moment, shaking her head and trying to clear it … and then she turns on Kaji, sword flaring.
“You won’t find her and I will not yield.”
The creature just stomps on Hunter and moves against the other two. When Ardul goes into her waking nightmare it shoves at her, trying to push her aside so that he can get at Kaji. It seems to really want him… multiply impaled. The nightmares intensify, they become violent and oh so much more real. The walls run. Bleed. What’s real now? Who can say. This thing seems to be in charge unless something can knock it off balance.
For a moment he’s back in that terrible space between worlds, staring up at a looming tower constructed of parts that look like bodies, and the memory of that acute pain and presence he’d felt then seems all too real. At the back of his mind he knows it’s not right, it can’t be right. That sound…that hum is familiar and doesn’t belong in this picture–
He hears Ardul’s words, but in that moment it’s like hearing a foreign language for how disjointed it is with what he’s seeing, or thinks he’s seeing. His fingers tighten around his unextended spear, but he forgets the word to fix that, isn’t sure what good it would do against…
The world shifts around him, better or worse, well, at this point it’s worse or more so than. Kaji backs away from the walls, gaping. No, this isn’t right, it can’t be real! But oh, the thing coming at him certainly seems to be! Where’s he seen it before? Wasn’t it just now? Where’s now? His thoughts are a jumble, his surroundings still throw him off, and his attempt to evade are clumsy, and he can feel real pain burn across his arm as the creature scores a hit.
The blonde is lost to the nightmares and stumbles against Hunter, the light of her sword dying as she fights with her memories. That leaves Kaji alone to fight what comes at him.
Between the nanites and her experiences in the prisons of Iyesgarth, the blonde, for once, is no use.
A BANG sounds in the chamber. Forgotten, Hunter has drawn his weapon and opened fire. The creature stumbles. The nightmares weaken. It turns on the downed wolfen and stabs down on him with dozens of razor sharp limbs… but it leaves the others free… if watching in horror as it eviscerates Hunter.
At the very least being hit has given him a moment of clarity. And then Hunter tears it open even further with a shot that practically shatters whatever horrifying surroundings Kaji had been convinced of.
“No!” he shouts, seeing the thing- that still remains very much real- as it plunges towards Hunter. Dead? Alive? If it’s either, then there’s a chance, but that’s about as far as Kaji’s thoughts go as he throws his free hand outward in the creature’s direction, fingers flexing as he tries to ‘grasp’ it if there’s a soul to lay hold of.
…of course if it proves to be something else entirely then this might end up being a very short attempt.
That’s all it takes for the blonde to respond, her blade blazes to life and she leaps. Sweeping the blazing sword left and right, at the thing that is harming … her Lord.
“No! Not again…” She issues a loud battle cry. Is it a vision or is real, she doesn’t know but she’s going to save him.
Like she couldn’t save Nina.
There is. In fact. There’s more than one. There’s a multitude of souls. Dozens. Hundreds. All twisted into this form. Screaming. Howling. It pulls off Hunter and rounds on Kaji. He’s going to get it. He’s going to be able to subdue or unravel it somehow… but he’s going to need a couple seconds to do it.
The realization that he’s not just dealing with a singular soul surprises him, but Kaji still manages to hold his focus. Standing his ground, his eyes narrow as he tries to sort through the mess of souls, a daunting task when the creature has turned its attention back towards him, but at least it’s stopped attacking Hunter. If Ardul can keep it distracted, it’d certainly give Kaji more time to find what he’s looking for.
He can’t even begin to understand what’s created such a fiend, but his assumption is that there has to be a main soul either holding it together or the true ‘host’, so to speak. Maybe that’s not even the right term, but Kaji’s not trying to think too hard for technicalities as he focuses more on simply doing.
Ardul isn’t thinking of Kaji. Her world has narrowed down to the Wolfen who appears to be attacked. Her blade hums as it slices the air and she puts herself between the thing and the … supposedly … downed gunslinger.
Keep it distracted, she’ll do that, the way her blade swings to and fro.
Ardul lops off a leg. Then another leg. Then another leg. Then an arm. It totters. It keeps growing new legs but Ardul keeps cutting them off.
And then it dissolves. Kaji’s magic somehow pulls it apart. And… into himself. Dozens, maybe a hundred souls. Tortured. Hurting. Confused. Lost.
That can’t be comfortable.
Hunter is down and bleeding but he’s not dead. He might still be mobile…
It’s like Kaji finds himself suddenly hit by a wave, overwhelming his senses, dragging him under a flood of assorted anguish that for a moment he can actually believe that he’s drowning. He might even have blacked out for a moment.
He’s not aware of when it happens but Ardul’d see him crashing to his knees, gasping raggedly as he stares wide-eyed at nothing. His grip yet on his blade is so tight that his knuckles are white, both hands against the floor as he tries to get a hold of himself.
Blearily the necromancer lifts his head towards the two.
If the Valkyr has taken any injury it’s hard to tell, her armour doesn’t seem to be damaged but her hair is plastered to her face and she’s standing over her downed companion.
“Kaji. My Lord.” The blonde pants and looks between the two. “Can you rise, Lord. Kaji, can you move. We can’t stay here.” If she had choice, she’d take Hunter to safety … but … they’ve a job to do.
“Yeah…” Hunter picks himself up. He’s limping a little bit. Glancing down he notices that the spirit or ghost amalgam or whatever it was seems to have formed around a pile of detritus. In which is a small crystal. About… oh… six inches from Kaji’s hand.
“Well… that’s… convenient. And… not convenient. Seems we have found your crystal. But… it might be a bit haunted.”
“…ugh…” comes Kaji’s reply. “I think I’m gonna be sick.” He swallows, bracing himself as he pulls a knee up to try planting his foot in preparation of getting back up. Maybe.
The crystal’s only noticed after the fact, a slow blink at Hunter’s words as his eyes alight upon the crystal just lying there. Yeah, that’s not eerily convenient at all. Grimacing a little, Kaji finally moves his hand to pick it up. “Yeah, can’t say I wanna exactly leap for joy here.” Considering how he got the thing. Is it all right for him to leave with…all…that?
Slowly he begins to pick himself up, sheathing his not-knife before he accidentally guts himself, turning the crystal around in hand. Again he looks to Ardul and Hunter, frowning. “Well, if this is what we came for, no sense in sticking around. I’ve got tons of questions, but we needa get you to a medic.”
Ardul helps Kaji to his feet, making sure he’s stable and rubbing his back a little when the youth mentions that he’s nauseous. “Breath Kaji…” She murmurs, as she takes her place beside Hunter again, taking weight to help him out of here.
“It will do.” she says in relation to the crystal “Though I rather suspect that you might have challenges later on.” Though he’s right. It’s time to go and she’s worried about Hunter. And maybe the memories of that experience are still riding her.
“Let us go …”
“Yes, and I suspect this isn’t the place to have a conversation.” Hunter grunts. He’s going to limp. Fortunately they don’t have far to go. They have a charm that will signal a shifter to get them out. Hopefully they won’t wind up in anywhere new, exotic and dangerous.
“Come on. Let’s go. You might need a priest Kaji. Or a whole convent.”
The search for Kaji's final component of a plasma blade takes him, Ardul and Hunter to the corridors of an ancient starcraft, but they find that they aren't alone...
April 11, 2411
A "Tomb in the Void", Space