The trek through Dinosaur Swamp is no less treacherous or arduous than last time. If anything it’s a bit more. The spring thaw has made the swamp more sodden and shifting. It does this every year but driving a giant robot through it doesn’t get any easier.
Fortunately Hunter is an expert pilot. The trip has taken nearly three days but they are now approaching the site of the old Wolfen Battlecruiser and the Lizardman Village.
“We just passed redline.” Hunter says into his mic. The redline is the zone he judges encounters with the village’s defenders most likely. That is if they’re still here. The swamp is silent but Felipe knows probably better than most that silent does not mean empty.
Silence is normally considered a good thing. For instance, having some silence within a busy cityscape lets a person unwind from the daily stress they face. Silence is also a good thing to have if one is trying to concentrate on their studies or on whatever task that needs their full attention. But this kind of silence? It’s not a very good silence at all.
It’s funny how it’s assumed Felipe knows these swamps like the back of his hand. After the first trip, he may as well call himself an expert, especially since he’s realized things have been all too quiet for his liking. Although he’s paying attention to where he’s driving in the smaller vehicle, amassed thoughts almost make him miss Hunter’s call, gasping to himself as a hand snaps out to press one of the buttons on the dash.
“Got it,” he replies quickly, since saying ‘that’s a good thing’ isn’t really good at all. “Now it’d be great if we can pick up any signs of life…”
Arduls in the hover capsule with Felipe, stretched out in the back. As usual the blonde appears to be sleeping, a common enough thing on these types of missions.
Her job on this mission, is muscle and perhaps trying to keep Hunters head cool. That latter might be a little difficult.
“Wake me if there’s anything coming at us.” She’s possibly not the best of company on journeys.Ardul’s function is very likely to be more the former than the latter. It’s possible Felipe missed it, Ardul won’t have. He switched his missile loadout to antipersonnel and replaced most of the plasma missiles in his bot with fragmentation warheads. There’s something to be said about preparing for the worst case scenario.
This is probably more along the lines of making a point, though.
There’s a bird call off to Felipe’s right. The swamp has been suspiciously quiet for a while and this is the first bird call they’ve heard. It’s a wood thrush by the sound of it.
They are way, way too far south for wood thrushes.
The doctor frowns a bit at Ardul’s reply, nodding with some resignation due to the circumstances he’s gotten himself into. His idea collided with Hunter’s, after all, and he’s gunning for a peaceful solution that doesn’t involve any actual gunning down. Or explosions. Or accidentally starting a war. They don’t need another war.
But Felipe has learned how to take things with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s even a few tablespoons by now in the company he keeps, but he knows the idiom is dangerously unhealthy. As much as he can hope for the best, he quietly braces himself for the worst.
“–Huh. Bird.” The noise gives him a moment to breathe, but it doesn’t take away from his masked anxiousness. He checks on Ardul, then on the mic attached to the dashboard. “A bird. One bird?”
The weapon switch has Ardul sitting up, rolling her neck letting it crack. She’s not been snubbing the Doctor, just ensuring she’s at fighting weight when they get there.
The bird call has her grey eyes peering in that direction and then around, looking for the telltale indications that they’re not alone. “Been awful quiet out here, Hunter. Strange the birds start singing now. Are your instruments showing anything?”
She doesn’t know that the type of bird doesn’t come this far south “Not sure, Doctor. I doubt it and I doubt it’s a bird. Watch the instruments. I might be getting out soon.”Off to the left, shrouded in deep shadows the ridgeline that is the remains of the battlecruiser looms perhaps a quarter of a mile distant. Hunter had agreed not to make a direct line for it in the name of leaving at least some chance for diplomacy.
A thrush calls again, this time from the other side.
//Not birds. Heat signatures though. Moving in fast from both sides. I mark…a dozen targers.//
And then an arrow strikes the front of the hover pod. And the Gunwolf’s shin.
//Not very bright, are they?// Hunter mutters. That may have not been meant to transmit, but it does.
He’s interrupted by the arrow flying into the Gunwolf’s shin, stepping on the brake a little too hard. Despite being surprised, his brow furrows at Hunter’s comment, pressing down on the button again. “Well, no, but let’s compare the obvious differences between technological advancements later. We’ve arrived.”
Looks like he’ll be getting out of the vehicle as well.
“They’ve got us flanked, at least.” Ardul murmurs as the second bird sounds, her grey eyes cutting to the Gun Wolf as Hunter calls out the number. “Well, it’s a welcoming party at least.” She doesn’t believe that. The last time they encountered these Saurians they hadn’t been all that welcoming.
“I don’t think so either…” she might be talking to herself at the moment. “Pop the lid, Felipe. Let me lead.”
When the canopy opens the blonde exits, helmet covering her long hair, she doesn’t draw her energy sword yet “We come to parley. Who is your leader?” She’ll let the Doctor speak when she’s sure its safe.A number of lizardmen crouch in the shadows. None directly attack Ardul. Not yet. Hunter’s bot stops behind the vehicles and there is a whirring sound as the twin gatling railguns on the right arm spin up.
It’s quickly clear this is not the same warband that met them at the battlecruiser last time. The strong, mouthy one isn’t present. Indeed the leader seems to be a female.
“I lead.” She’s got a crest though it’s hard to tell from this distance if it’s a head dress or part of her. “Who are you who come unasked for on our land?”
Well spoken, isn’t she?
His pack is smaller this time, barely realizing he’s tightly pressing it against his side as they’re approached. Yet he remains outwardly calm, visually taking into account every Saurian member of the group. Another wave of relief falls over him when he notices this party is a little less quick to start a verbal row, allowing himself to share a glance with Ardul as he steps forward to stand next to her, bowing his head slightly. “I am Felipe Usnavi, and these are my associates, Ardul” — indicating the blonde — “and Hunter.” — with an indication toward the Gunwolf standing imposingly behind them. And as she says, we mean no harm.”
“Steady Hunter.” Arduls murmur can heard over their comms. As the female Saurian approaches, the blonde places her right arm across her chest in a salute and moves to stand slightly behind Felipe, on his left. A subtle message, but one the warrior types are likely to understand.
“How may we address you, Honoured One?” She can certainly lay it on thick when she wants to. Touching the side of helmet, the visor disappears, revealing her face and cold, grey, eyes. “We wish to discuss your sacred place and bring a gift for you and your tribe.”
She’ll fetch that, in a moment, should the discussion progress to that and not dissolve into a shooting match.Hopefully it won’t be Hunter’s last //retort// either. The wolfen does not remember these people fondly and it was only at the insistance of the good doctor that he agreed to let talking preceede violence. For now he remains in the bot watching the instruments. If talks look like they’ll proceed to actual talking he’ll come down. Otherwise he might be needed here.
The introduction of the bot as ‘Hunter’ gets a look and muttering. “Your ‘hunter’ looks like a dog demon. It’s an ill favored image.” The leader says. “You may call me Magewyn.”
That is //not// a Sauroid name and interestingly her spear has some odd metalwork on it. Odd metal work and strange bone carvings dangling from about a quarter of the way down the haft.
“Well Felipe, Ardul and Hunter. You have come to our land and come at a poor time for recieving guests. What about our sacred place do you wish to speak of.”
Maybe he’s grateful Hunter has decided to stay up in the Gunwolf. He can’t help but wince a little at the description the Saurian leader drops so casually. And with his limited knowledge on Saurian naming tradtions, he can’t really tell the difference. But the metalwork on the spear is noticed.
“Ah, as we’ve been told before, Magewyn,” he replies with a weak laugh, letting it trail off as quickly. “By a few we’ve come across previously, in fact! And it really wasn’t the best of first impressions for either side, but I digress.” He clears his throat, nodding to confirm their intent as stated by Ardul. “We do apologize for showing up like this. We meant to leave earlier, but we all got caught up in some problems of our own…”
He gestures lightly, leaving his hands open, hovering low and to the sides of his body. “Well, about the sacred place — the last time we were here, Hunter realized the shrine used to be a large vessel that once belonged to his ancestors.” His right hand creates a circle in the air in a vague direction toward the sacred grounds. “Unfortunately, his temperament clashed with one of the Saurians who guarded it at the time, causing more conflict than we wanted to have on our hands. But we were hoping” — he pauses, smiling lopsidedly while clasping his hands together — “and I do mean hoping, if it was at all possible to…take a closer look at it?”
Ardul had noticed the spear and was trying to get a closer look at the metal work. Unfortunately, the sun glints down through the foliage, momentarily blinding her making it seem like she was staring.
As Felipe talks, the winged woman shakes herselfs and reaches into the hover craft, removing a spear, similar to the ones the Saurians use. It’s decorative and a closer inspection will show that it’s inscribed with a symbol like the one on her gauntlets. The Sigil of the Iyesgarthian Princeps. It’s not exactly the same, though.
“Please accept our offering, Magewyn. A gift from my House to yours.” The blonde holds the spear across her upturned palms and bows her head. A ceremonial offering. “May I ask, respectively, Honoured One what makes it a poor time for receiving guests? Please forgive my ignorance of your ways, I’ve recently arrived on this plane.”Magewyn steps forward to the murmurs of those around her and accepts the spear. “This is good work. Offworld work. Thank you, Ardul.” She says, though there isn’t exactly any friendliness in her voice. More formality. Repsect for traditions if not those in front of her.
“Spring is a busy time. There is much work, much hunting and much magic to be done. And… there has been some tension in the village.”
“Magewyn, these interlopers have no place here.” Says a male voice. “Let us send them away and be done.”
Magewyn holds up a quieting hand though her warriors don’t seem to like the way Ardul is examining her kit.
“Access to our sacred places? Most would say that is impossible. Why should you wish to have it?”
A handful of seconds pass in silence as the gift is given. It’s only proper to acknowledge the offering as it goes from one pair of hands to another. But Felipe blinks, brow lightly furrowed as he looks back at Magewyn. “Tension?” The trying smile falters. He assumes it may have to do with other Saurian clans, but, again, it’s an assumption. Even if he’s been exposed to Pegi’s culture, he still has no idea what goes on in the swamplands.
The smile drops completely at the suggestion from one of the other Saurians. “If I may say? Sending us away would be a bad idea! Especially with a Wolfen who is ready to charge in the moment we fail to reach an understanding.” Drawing in a breath, he exhales, recomposing himself instantly. “I had a feeling it would be difficult to get into. I mean, it’s your grounds. But Hunter? He has ancestral ties to it.” He tries to explain it a little better, gesturing again as he does. “Think of it from his perspective, at least: if you saw something, something valuable, something /so/ important to your history and culture that should rightfully belong to you and your people, you would want to have it back in your possession, correct?”
Ardul hadn’t expected Magewyn to be friendly, this wasn’t that type of situation. “It is my honour that you accept, Magewyn.” the blonde answers, falling back to her place behind Felipe.
Happy to let Felipe field the questions, she turns her head in the Wolf Bots direction “If they’re still resistance, Hunter, perhaps you should explain further.” she murmurs over their comms. “Or would rather I did.” That might strike Felipe as slightly strange. Ardul deferring like that. Perhaps it’s just the situation and the delicacy of the matter.
“And is it access or possession that your large silver friend wants?” Do they actually think that ‘Hunter’ is the bot? They might be in for a shock when he gets out of it then. The question, though, has the warriors with the lizard woman stilling. What will be the answer to that?
Hunter, for his part, doesn’t answer quite yet. Which is probably a good thing should anyone wish discussion to proceed past this.
Felipe is grateful for any room to bargain without the unnecessary prejudiced interruptions from the Wolfen. The trust isn’t very strong to begin with, but he tries to do what he can to persuade the Saurians while they’re willing to listen.
“To be honest, he’s more for possession, Magewyn,” he answers, half-thinking about the description the leader gives in regard to Hunter. “While I agree it’s a pragmatic and sentimental decision to go with, Ardul and I wish that things don’t end on a sour note between all of us.” A beat. “Should you refuse.”
Ardul’s silent as this goes on, glancing between Hunter and the Saurians. “As the good Doctor says.” she adds quietly, not downplaying her presence at all. She knows she looks martial and maybe not outwardly threatening, but they should know not to discount.
“As the good Doctor sasys, we wish for this to be done amicably.”“I see…” Magewyn watches both Felipe and Ardul for a long while. Long enough that they might start to think the won’t say anything else. Just when one of them might be about to ask her about it though, she straightens and motions to her warriors. “Go back and tell the village I am bringing visitors.”
“Magewyn…” The male who spoke before starts to protest. One look from her cuts him off. “… yes Magewyn.”
Three of the party head away east at a run.
“Come. This is not a matter for speaking out doors.”
Maybe it’s just his imagination, but the pause is something he’s seen before — the thoughtful gaze, one that turns over an unspoken decision before telling a number of patients the bad news. Maybe he’s reading too far into it, reasoning that the Saurian leader may be thinking about it in a different way. She never once dismissed them, nor has she ever interjected with a blunt rejection.
So maybe…maybe they have a chance.
And that’s where the invitation to their village catches him off-guard. “What– ” Felipe blinks rapidly, looking over at Ardul and Hunter. His perplexed expression stays on as he looks back at Magewyn, hastily taking a step forward. “–Wait, we’re going to the village??”
Ardul is patient. She didn’t make it this far back on Iyesgarth by being impetuous and she also knows that things are tenuous. Best hold her tongue and let Magewyn feel she has some control over the matter.
“We shall follow.” That’s all Ardul says as she starts to follow, looking to the WolfBot as they begin to move. She is grateful that Hunter has held peace so far and hopes that it lasts a little while longer.
“Doctor, Hunter.” She says very quietly “What do you know of the Saurians Guest Right? Do we have to claim it outright or is it assumed?” So many cultures to deal with, the Valkyr hasn’t caught with them all.Hunter knows absolutely nothing about Saurian guest right, so his contribution to that question is a non committal grunt. Felipe may know more about how that works, assuming Pegi has filled him in on it… or he picked it up in his time travelling with her.
The robot follows along at a distance of twenty or so yards and it seems to be disconcerting to the remaining Suarian warriors. Magewyn doesn’t speak again. She simply walks. After twenty minutes of walking or so the village comes into view. It’s small, as are most settlements on Rifts Earth. There’s probably only five or six dozen adults in the whole tribe and a third again children, perhaps. The runners she sent ahead are now waiting with a sour looking larage male Saurian in a headress and wooden armor – the same they encountered before – and a male female pair possibly mated or siblings it’s hard to say.
Magewyn strides right up to them as Hunter stops the bot at the village edge. “We have guests.” She says simply and turns to head into one of the larger huts motioning for Ardul and Felipe to follow. Hunter’s appearance shortly thereafter gets murmurs from onlookers that range from surprised to worried to angry.
There’s a simple answer to Ardul’s question: “Hell if I know.” But Felipe does have more to add to it. “–From what I recall Pegi telling me, it’s assumed for most clans. Y’know, kind of like other species who state guests as guests.”
Of course, he shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the familiar face of that one Saurian they crossed paths with before. At this time, Felipe swears under his breath. He then fishes out the charm from his bag, holding it up as extra proof of their last meeting if the others had somehow forgotten about the Wolfen and his giant Gunwolf. “We’re…we’re honored to be here,” he says a little awkwardly, given their audience, but he is sincere about it, meeting every gaze as he continues to follow Magewyn. “Don’t be alarmed — he’s with us. We’ll behave.”
“That’s all I need to know. Thank you, Doctor.” Ardul answers as they begin the trek.
There’s little to be done about the robot and it’s effect on the Saurians, although Ardul might wish it otherwise. Her grey eyes are sharp and she watches … everything … hand on that cylinder at her hip. A subtle gesture that won’t be missed by the aggressive and warlike Lizard people.
The walk is nothing to her. Even with wings, she’s more used to walking particularly now, in this place she’s found herself.
As they approach the three, she bows her head in slight deference and looks back to the WolfBot at Magewyns words. “Will you join us, Hunter?” Felipes assertion that they’ll behave gets a slightly amused look. Perhaps the only break in her demeanour so far. She just rather hopes they won’t prove him wrong.
After waiting for Hunters answer, a grunt or otherwise, she follows Felipe and the Elder inside, taking up her place at Felipes and Hunters shoulders. Like the hired muscle she is.Hunter walks up ignoring the stares and glares of most. When he reaches the large warrior he looks him right in the eye and meets him glare for glare before turning up the walkway and into the thatch-roofed hut or hall that serves as the villages main meeting point.
Inside there’s a fire burning at both ends more to keep things a bit dried out than for any other reason. Over the one on the far side there’s meat roasting. Thick mats are on the floor in a circle, apparently for sitting. There is no table, though there are masks and spears and staves and bows hung on the walls.
Magewyn is pouring an amber colored slightly thick drink into wooden bowls as they come in. Behind them the male warrior and two smaller Suarians enter and shut the door. They take seats but don’t talk.
Walking up to them one after the other Magewyn hands them a bowl of something almost like thin honey but more pungent. “Drink and be welcomed in peace.” She says almost ritualistically. Once everyone is ‘served’ she gets the meat, puts it on a large stone platter and brings it to the center of the circle of mats. It’s soft enough to pull apart.
“Eat that the mind may take ease from the needs of the body.” She waits for everyone to have a bite then takes one herself as do the other three.
There’s a long pause as if the four Suarians are savoring the food but in truth this looks more ritualistic. “There. Now…” The male says. “What in the frozen hells is going on here?”
Hospitality is universal — being honored guests, Pegi did mention it was polite to accept the food and drink offered. The doctor isn’t sure how to take the drink, but he’s a little more familiar with the meat thanks to the times he and his Saurian sister made camp.
Between bites, his brow furrows slightly once business gets off to a rough start. Swallowing down whatever he has in his mouth, Felipe coughs into his hand and clears his throat. “I thought it was obvious,” he says casually, the cautiousness in his tone audible as he engages the larger male. “Magewyn has been kind enough to welcome us as guests. We heeded her warning about being out in the open while discussing some important business, and we do intend to continue it here…” He cants his head as he regards the other Saurians with them. “…In your company, it seems.”
Ardul watches the interaction between Hunter and the warrior, not saying a word. Dominance is a thing and both the males are rather good at it. To speak with the Wolfen now would ‘lessen’ him and they don’t need that, and the blonde keeps her face impassive.
Accepting the drink, it smells something honeyed nectar to the Valkyr, the blonde bows her head “We enter in peace and are welcomed.” It might not be the correct response, but it’s similar enough to her own rites and she drinks of the offering. Eyes water, just a little bit.
Taking a seat on the mats, sitting crossed legged – an amazing feat considering she’s wearing her armour. As the meat is offered, she bows her head again murmuring “The needs of the body will be eased.” Following the lead of the Saurians, the blonde makes a show of eating casting sideways glances at Hunter as she does.
“We are here to discuss access to your Sacred Place, oh chief. A place that is just as sacred to one of our number. Magewyn, ” Ardul inclines her head once again in the womans direction “has been kind enough to invite in to discuss it.”It tastes like tree sap, though slightly sweeter. It probably is some manner of tree sap. And it is most defintiely alchoholic.
“You what?” The warrior looks at Magewyn. “You brought them here to speak of this instead of turning them away? The answer is now.”
“Kovak, you may be our chief protector.” Magewyn says. “But matters spiritual are mine to decide.”
“This is not simply a spiritual matter.” Kovak shoots back.
“Yes, which is why we’re all here.” Magewyn replies serenely. She looks to Felipe and Ardul and gives Hunter a curious look. “State your case. Why should you be allowed access to our most sacred of places. You mentioned another claim. I would hear of it, and any other reasoning you might have.”
Sharing a glance with Ardul and Hunter, Felipe sets his gaze back on the Saurians, nodding in agreement with Magewyn’s words. “Right. Where did we leave off…”
Taking another careful sip of the tree sap drink, his nose wrinkles. “As we’ve said earlier,” he begins to explain, setting down the bowl, “we came back hoping to take a closer look at the Sacred Place. We didn’t mean to come across it the last time we trekked through your territory, but it appears our friend Hunter has some deep ties with the structure that rests there.”
Yes. He calls Hunter a friend. He can’t keep saying ‘this fellow’ or ‘this guy I’m associated with’ forever, and they need to try winning over a tough crowd who seems attached to their relics.
“He has told us that it once belonged to his ancestors,” he continues, gesturing lightly as he speaks. A brief glance is cast in his team’s direction. “Correct me if I’m wrong, guys, but did you say it was from the last large-scale war? Either way, there’s a long history behind it and we are hoping — if it’s at all possible — to reclaim what is rightfully his.
“…However,” he then adds after holding his breath for a few seconds, “if that seems like we’re asking too much, then we are willing to talk out further specifications of our already outrageous request.”
The story is for Hunter to tell and Ardul looks at the wolfen as she places her plate on the ground before her. “It belongs to Hunters people. They came here in it long ago and, I believe, there are still artifacts that are important to his people.”
Not to mention something operating the beacons and causing problems but Arduls not ready to lead with that yet. If Hunter wants to, she’ll follow his lead. She’s … getting good at that.
“It’s extremely important to Hunter that he reclaims it all.”“A long time ago, yes.” Hunter doesn’t bother clarifying with the history partly because he doesn’t know all of it and partly because it’s not important. “And yes there are artifacts of my people at the site. Some of them may still be active and dangerous. If so I’ll need to shut them down.”
Kovak’s eyes widen as do the other two. The smaller woman speaks. “But interfering with anything in the site is forbidden. It is dangerous. It may summon dog de-” She cuts off and looks at the male near her.
“Dog demons.” He finishes for her, looking at Hunter. “That’s what you were going to say, right Lethi?”
“Yes, Vesk.” She murmurs.
Vesk looks at Hunter and then to Magewyn. “He looks like one of them. From the stories. Why do you trust him?”
“I do not.” Magewyn replies. “Not yet. But I do not distrust him yet either.”
“An outsider interfering with our sacred burial site is tantamount to descrating it.” Kovak says angrily. “I will not permit it. The ancestors will be enraged.”
Magic being what it is, that might not be all tradition and metaphor either.
“You will cast your vote when it is time, Kovak.” Magewyn replies evenly. “As will we will we all.”
“For all we know he is behind our troubles there! He is already trying to drive us out!” Kovak raises his voice.
Hunter’s ears perk. “Troubles?”
“None of your business.” Kovak snaps.
“I hate to say this,” Felipe speaks up, keeping his tone just as even, “but I feel like we’re going to get into your business whether you like it or not.” All this talk about Dog Demons and why it’s synonymous with Hunter has him wondering about the Saurian belief system. “And while it would be better for us to keep out of each other’s way, the chances of that aren’t looking so great.”
“Perhaps you could tell us your histories. Your stories. What is this about Dog Demons, the ones that Hunter looks like. You say the artifacts on the site can summon them?” Arduls been listening, trying to sift mystery and lore from actual fact.
And she’s sure she heard right. They said there are things on the site that can summon them.
“And perhaps you could share more of these troubles.” She looks to Magewyn and the other woman in the structure “I don’t know your name, I’m afraid. I am Ardul.”
“But the Doctor is correct. If we can’t find a way to work together on this, we will most certainly be in each others way. Which is something I would like to avoid.”“We do not share our histories with //interlopers//.” Kovak half snarls.
“Kovak!” That’s the first time Magewyn has raised her voice. Kovak’s eyes snap over to her. “You forget your place.” She says more quietly gesturing to Lethi.
The young suarian woman nods. “I am Lethi, keeper of the Rememberance. In the times before, our people built near here. They found the Gates to Heaven and used it as a shelter. In their ignorance they tampered with the artifacts the spirits had forbidden. Not long after they did the dog demons came. They slew many warriors and drove the rest into the swamps. Then they burned the village. That was many generations ago. But always we have remembered to respect what the spirits forbid.”
Hunter grunts. He can see it. The suarians tripped something, an organized wolfen team detected it and responded, possibly to prevent a disaster possibly simply because they didn’t want the Saurians in there. There are, as he has outlined to the others, lots of things that could be plenty dangerous in there.
In answer to Hunter’s question Magewyn looks right at him. “Three days ago a band of our warriors was attacked near the sacred place. Several were killed. The survivors did not see what attacked them but many were wounded with these…”
She reaches under the mat and pulls out what looks to be a resin spike about the size of Felipe’s forearm.
Ardul has seen those before. Hunter takes in a hissing breath. “Xiticiks…”
A faint smirk forms on the Doctor’s lips. Interlopers. He’s never thought of it that way; it shouldn’t be funny to him, but he can’t help but find it amusing. He retains some of his earlier composure once Lethi imparts the stories of their past experiences with the ‘Gates,’ nodding as he takes in the details. Given the facts, it’s not too difficult to imagine the same scenario Hunter comes up with.
It’s the size of the spike alone makes Felipe’s eyes widen. You know how some patients fear those obscenely large syringes? It’s kind of like that.
“Xiticiks?” he repeats, looking to the others to see if they know anything about the weapon.
“My thanks to you, Lethi.” Ardul responds to calmly, grey eyes holding Kovaks as the woman explains. “As you say, it was long ago.”
Hunters grunt get a quick look, but the blondes attention soon returns to Magewyn. “Xiticiks, Doctor. Insectoids that are very viscious.”
“You say there were survivors?” Ardul looks to Hunter at that. “You said they don’t usually leave survivors, they take them all.” Felipe might guess what for, so might the others, given these are insectoids they are discussing. “We’ve met one in battle before and prevailed.” Just. But she’s not going to tell the Saurians that.
“You said near the sacred place, not at it?” The soldierly demeanour falls on her like a cloak. “What were the details of the attack, that the survivors can remember.”“Usually. Unless the hunting party is small or driven off.” Hunter murmurs to Ardul. Aloud to answer Felipe’s question he says, “Insect peoples from the West. The Devouring Swarm. There was a huge war not long ago against them and most were killed. Well, all the ones that anyone could find were killed. Apparently some got away. If they’re here, it’s imperitive that you let me into that wreck. I’ve seen evidence of a xiticiks attack at another wolfen site.”
Magewyn frowns slightly but Kovak bristles. “Likely this is simply an excuse. For all we know he may be working with them! Or for them!”
“No,” the doctor raises his voice, almost matching Kovak’s volume while keeping a cool head about it. His hand stays steady as it lifts in an attempt to keep things calm. “I may not have known Hunter for very long, but he clearly isn’t the type that plays well with others unless they know to keep out of his way on the frontlines. He’s also much more tech-savvy than any of us here, more or less– sorry Ardul. If he can do something to stop any other attacks like this, I’d go with it! I mean, denying him entry into the ‘Gates’ already spells disaster the longer we try sorting this out.”
Ardul may have a better defense here, but that is what he has to say.
Ardul nods at Hunter, taking that information in. “Hunter speaks true as the Doctor. From what you have seen, you know this to be true.” The blonde takes a deep breath in, giving Felipe a sideways look.
“If we were working with them, why would we be here? We would simply let them attack and follow them through. Your hunting party must have told you how strong and ruthless they are. Look at the evidence in your hands.”
“The longer you leave this, the worse it will become. The Xiticiks will not leave your village till you are all gone. And the ‘Gates’ are very important to Hunter.” She won’t add that they won’t leave till he has it. That much should be obvious. Rather, she’ll add “And you don’t want to be fighting on two fronts, do you?”Kovak bristles more but before he can launch another verbal fusilade Magewyn motions to Lethi. “What say you and Vesk.”
The ‘chief historian’ hesitates. Which seems like something she does a lot. “I… I don’t know. I know not of these ‘Zye-tick-icks’.” She has to sound the word out. “Our stories do not speak of them. They speak of the dog demons though, and the terrible fire they brought.” She looks to Hunter.
“What gaurantee do we have that if we let him in, history will not repeat itself.”
Hunter sighs in frustration. “None. I can only promise you that if you do //not// let me in, you will be borrowing a great deal of trouble at interest rates you can’t afford.”
The financial metaphor goes over Lethi and Vesk’s head. Vesk speaks up next.
“What Lethi means to say, I think, is that you ask us to go against both tradition and law in this. We need a good reason to do so. Can you give us one other than ‘it was yours first’? Even if we say we believe that, and I’m not saying we do, why should that matter?”
Hunter looks at Felipe and Ardul. In a more even talk it does probably does not, but it overlooks the fusion powered war machine sitting at the edge of the village. It’s a good question whether or not the lizard folk believe he’ll use it, or if they understand what it’s use might mean. Thus far, the only person here who might stand up to either Hunter or Ardul in a single fight is the woman wielding the techno-wizard like staff.
The shared looks are returned, set between a beaten look and one of silent determination. Felipe subtly works his jaw as he thinks, going over the fact laying claim to the ‘Gates’ is the one thing he knew wasn’t going to fly well with the Saurians in the first place.
“And this is why Ardul and I tried doing most of the talking,” he sighs, letting his shoulders slacken as he runs a hand through his hair, “but I understand why you need more proof…”
It feels like he takes hours to come up with a reply to the question, but one finally does come to mind:
“…It matters because there are bigger things out there than past histories.”
Dark eyes are solemn in their own right, rimmed with other responsibilities, pleading yet firm in their meaning. “Tradition and law can only go so far,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with carrying on in it, but everything outside of what you know keeps changing. And histories — any history of any kind — tends to be one-sided in favor of whoever tells it, or writes it down. It can’t always be trusted.” He waves an open palm toward the Wolfen and the winged woman. “Being outsiders, I get that we can’t be trusted. But I can tell you this: Hunter and Ardul are skilled fighters. With their abilities and resources, they can handle larger threats like the Xiticiks.” He then points back at himself. “I can help as well, but I’m usually relegated to tending to the sick or wounded.”
He then sets his hands on both of his knees. “If we can work /with/ you against this threat, then it’s possible that we can get the upperhand instead of having the village overwhelmed.”
“Let me ask you, Lethi, Vesk. If it was yours first, wouldn’t you want it back?” Ardul really doesn’t want to be a show of force, but she will if she has to. “It is of cultural and spiritual importance to Hunter. That should be sufficient, should it not? But, it is now a target of a violent and warlike race and the //last// thing we want, is to subject your tribe to that.”
The blonde brushes her hair behind her ear and takes a deep breath. “You’ll die, if you do not give it to him.” Ardul hates to have to be so crude and direct, but that’s where they’re at. “The Xiticix will descend on your tribe like the swarm that they are, take the able bodied and kill the young, infirmed and injured. Those they do take, will wish they had died because what awaits them at the claws of those of things is far worth death, even though death will come.”
Maybe she’s been reading up on it.
“And you know that between Hunter and myself, we have the strength to take it. It must speak volumes that we are here, speaking with you first, as the Doctor says.”sLethi seems to shrink and Vesk looks thoughtful. Kovak seems to be biting his own tongue. Magewyn looks to Hunter. “If we allow you unrestricted access, will you help us with these Xiticiks?”
Hunter nods slowly.
“I call for a vote.” She says.
Vesk raises his hand. Lethi and Kovak shake look around. “I… don’t know…” The woman says.
Right. Appealing to their better senses only works if the reality of the situation isn’t purposefully stabbed at with blunt force as Ardul so lovingly demonstrated. At the same time, the answers probably would have been the same either way; Felipe can tell Kovak is vehement in his stance against them. Lethi is more cautious of making her decisions, but her indecisiveness can count as another step backward.
“Ardul’s right,” the doctor admits, feeling himself give in a little more for the sake of their discussion. “There’s no way I can sugarcoat any of that, but Hunter has agreed to the terms that have been laid out. I’d take that as a good sign.”
There’s only so much of a diplomat that Ardul can be and the facts of the situation are just as she said. The Saurians were likely to continue to argue, not realising what they were up against.
There’s not much more for the blonde to say, except “What is it, that you’re unsure of?”“I… I can’t. I can’t let demons into our sacred place.” Lethi says finally and refuses to raise her hand.
“Split decision…” Magewyn says softly. “This matter must be decided by the spirits. I will need a conduit to allow them to speak.” Her gaze sweeps around.
“Not Hunter. He is too closely connected to this matter. It must be Ardul or Felipe.”
At this, Felipe softly snorts, the corner of his mouth quirking shortly after Magewyn suggests how to break the tie. “…Spiritual intervention, huh?” He should have seen it coming.
Sitting back on his heels, he studies Ardul and Hunter. “Well…one of us already got disqualified,” he says. “If you don’t want to, Ardul, I can…I can give it a shot.”
“I think the Doctor would be best suited for that.” Ardul answers. “I am connected to Hunter.” That might raise some questions but she’s not offering anymore.
“Go ahead, Doctor. Let’s see what the spirits have to say.” It’s not clear if she believes it not but she’ll honour the traditions of these people.“Very well… this cannot be done right away. For now you are our guests. Take your ease. At dusk we will call the spirits.”
Magewyn stands and gestures to the others. Apparently this concludes the meeting for the moment.
Returning to Dinosaur Swamp, Felipe tries to negotiate for access to Wolfen Cruiser with the Saurons. It's not easy.
May 23, 2410