"The admiral painted a clear enough picture to me." Fontaine answered "We will walk to the castle, stay there for the night and perform some blood ritual." He glanced back at his men. Eyeing up some of them. They weren't obvious to the other captains, but two of them were among the 'patriots' he had humiliated previously.
He had a hunch that a sacrifice would not be out of the question for Mannfred in this mad plan, so those two might come in handy. But who knew what would happen at that castle. Maybe there would be no need for such barbarism and maybe those two could redeem themselves to their captain and the company during this trip.
"Should be interesting."
Jäger frowned. "I for one at least hope to see some relics. Hell, even if there's only rocks in there one of them could very well be infused with the power of gods." Wilhelm chuckled.
"Doubt the gods would go 'I'm going to enchant this one ordinary rock among hundreds.'" commented Váradi, followed by a shrug. "But then again, who knows what the gods would do."
Váradi received a slightly concerning grin from Jäger who, at the time, was busy imagining the heaps of enchanted weapons and items awaiting to be claimed.
The ritual didn't worry him; he already had nightmares and expected the worst to happen.
However the thought of finding something that could turn the tide of war kept him going. For now.
[quote]Ackermann, I do apologize for my behavior the other day. I must have misunderstood you and likewise you misunderstood me and we both got off the wrong foot. I hope this will serve as an olive branch. Pure silver bullets for a pistol. May these will serve you well when you need them.[/quote]
The Commander accepted the bullets but at first appeared indifferent toward the Vice Admiral's gesture. As it turned out, appearances were deceiving, as his response revealed his appreciation. "As much as I value this ammunition, and I do- the Zuflucht was not carrying much silver at all, really... trust is something far more likely to save all our lives." He smiled and offered a handshake. "I apologize for any disrespect."
Ackermann felt a bit better about the day once Dobbs had given him the two bullets. After checking the caliber to figure out which of his two pistols to load it into, he placed them carefully inside of a specially marked SP-92 cartridge at the very bottom, under his personal set of silver-tipped bullets. When he had finished tucking everything away, he rounded up the small team he brought along and waived at the Admiral to signal that they were ready to proceed.
Spaghetti stared towards the beach
After the exchange, Dobbs and his gang made their way towards where Mannfred stood. Dobbs approached and gave a salute, "Admiral. I suppose we will be heading in soon?"
After taking a breather, Ephraim noted that someone was waving in his direction from the Gothians. Despite the person being clad in full armor, he could only imagine one Gothian waving at him in particular - it had to be Sari!
Adjusting his cap and his soldier's cloak over his coat, Ephraim waved back at Kahleen.
The skiff from the Mariner's Boon made landfall amidst all the commotion on the beachhead.
In contrast to the other ships, the skiff was meagerly loaded. It carried only Tobey, Bennett, two sailors and two mercenaries.
Bennett stepped ashore, his modest wellies splashing the water as he did. He carried his revolver with him, concealed in a shoulder holster under his jacket. Over his he also had small rucksack slung over one of his shoulders. Lightly packed, it contained a few books, the "dark" tome among them, along with a vial of squid blood that Doctor Marsh had extracted.
The two Sailor wore their own vaguely similar outfits and carried bolt action rifles. The mercenaries also carried bolt action rifles, although of newer variety and in better shape. All the men were carrying their collective supplies that they would need for the planned journey.
Tobey stopped and looked out over the beach. The first thing he spotted was Captain Spaghetti, staring aimlessly into the sand. He shook his head and turned to Bennett and signaled for him to come over with his hand.
[quote]After the exchange, Dobbs and his gang made their way towards where Mannfred stood. Dobbs approached and gave a salute, "Admiral. I suppose we will be heading in soon?" [/quote]
The admiral nodded, his hands clasped behind his back. His gaze swept over the beach and the last arriving skiff containing Tobey and his associates. He checked his pocket watch once more after a moment, then stuffed it away.
"We'll be moving along now. My men and myself will be going first - you and the rest may fall in wherever."
Mannfred whistled towards his marines, and the men lightly jogged towards the ancient trackway. There were old stone walls and brick along either side of the lane, but mostly buried in sand, moss, and sparse grass. They took up position at the front, forming two lines - six men on one side of the lane, six on the other. Another four men were bringing up the rear with animal cages on their backs. The two largest marines were carrying cages on their backs with a single pig within, while the other two had a couple chickens in theirs. Master Sergeant Donovan was at the front of the small formation awaiting for Mannfred to come along.
"Ready and awaiting, sir!" The sergeant announced as Mannfred walked past his marines. The men may have been in a rough formation, but this was no march and no etiquette was needed. Each man had his gear stashed for comfort, not appearances.
"Good, let's get a move on then. Everyone else will come along. I suspect the vehicles will bring up the rear."
The sergeant nodded, and Mannfred started down the path. Donovan held up his hand for a command prep, then ordered the marines to continue forward. They advanced at a leisurely but determined pace, heading the expeditionary force inland.
As the signal waa given Jäger excused himself. "See you at the top, gents."
Jäger, Sari and two soldiers climbed into the jeep which took point followed closely by the three Gothian trucks and their drill.
The convoy departed from the beach and followed Mannfred's command group with a few meters inbetween.
Krantz patted Váradi on the shoulder, before turning back towards the trucks. He motioned to Ephraim, followed by a "Load up. We're heading out." before heading to the rear of the lead truck. Váradi followed close behind, and soon enough they were climbing back into position in the back of the vehicle.
The trucks got into formation, the supply truck between the two carrying troops, and followed behind the others that were heading out on foot.
"Alright, let's get it up and running!" Ackermann barked, and the riflemen obliged by revving the tractor to life. The big engine easily pulled the trailer despite the sandy, uneven ground as it carried its macabre load toward the castle. The riflemen fell in, their spirits apparently lifted by the show of excessive firepower brought along by the other ships, while the radio operators followed behind with their heavy equipment piled on a sled, which they dragged behind them. Cameras dangled from their necks, and every once in a while, they would pause and debate the merit of snapping a photo at a specific location or of a specific subject. Overall, however, the hike began uneventfully.
[I]Earlier that morning...[/I]
There was an urgent knock on the Chaplain's door.
Rev. Pfeiffer had not slept well, not because of any nightmares of his own, but rather because he was the spiritual bulwark upon which so many of the Zuflucht's sailors relied to temper and overcome their own haunted dreams. He dutifully dragged himself out of bed yet again, yawning as he flipped his spectacles onto his wrinkled face. With a turn of the brass knob, the door cracked open, and instantly, the reverend locked eyes with Captain Fallensteller. It was strange; she didn't look any different than before, but now her gaze made him profoundly uncomfortable. [I]Perhaps it's just a trick of the light,[/I] he thought to himself. "Captain, I didn't know you were coming... how can I help you?" he greeted with a weak smile. "Should we take this outside, like last time?"
Fallensteller didn't return the smile. "That won't be necessary," she replied. "I didn't tell anyone I was coming here because I have a simple question for you about our [I]arrangement.[/I]"
The Chaplain blinked before frowning. "It's only been a day, my child. I haven't procured your list yet."
"I don't need it just yet," she quickly assured him. "I only need to know whether Petty Officer Otto Heppenheimer came to speak to you."
Pfeiffer paused before answering, remembering the shock he had awakened to hours earlier when the death occurred. Not only were the senior officers unsure of how to handle the situation without alarming the entire crew, but they had come to the reverend to seek his guidance on an important matter of faith beyond sanctifying the unfortunate sailor's body before "burial." Lt. Schuster, the vessel's chief technical officer, was particularly keen on securing the dead man's blood for use in Admiral Mannfred's next arcane ritual, and while Ackermann wasn't entirely sold on the man's arguments, he was nonetheless willing to discuss the matter seriously. Their main concern was over the well-being of the deceased's soul, and whether such a ritual could disturb it.
It was particularly terrible, as Heppenheimer [I]had[/I] in fact come to visit only hours prior, and described a continual, episodic nightmare he had been suffering from all night in which the Zuflucht was sinking. He told of his attempts to climb the stairs and find escape onto the upper deck, but how each staircase seemed to turn in on itself in geometry which defied explanation, so that each ascending stairwell somehow brought him deeper into the groaning, twisting, dying vessel. He awoke in a horrible panic to find that the bloody cross on his forehead had been wiped away. How, or why, was uncertain.
Despite having returned to bed after reapplying the protective cross, Heppenheimer explained that the dream returned to him. The rising water had somehow abated, leaving the halls half-submerged in inky seawater which moved in strange, threatening tides. Clinging onto the steel walls as he desperately searched for help, the Petty Officer was suddenly swept by a powerful current into a large room. A terrible sound of structural failure preceded a sudden influx of water which blocked his retreat, leaving him alone in a steadily-filling room. Resolving to break through the porthole window and swim out, he moved an old, ornate mirror out of the way, only to witness the last glimmers of surface light disappear in the abyssal darkness outside. The ship was far below the surface of the water, falling, falling, sinking so quick it seemed impossible.
With freezing cold water now up to his neck, he screamed helplessly... only for a hand to wrap around his mouth and silence him. Heppenheimer tearfully explained that the arm the hand was attached to had emerged from the mirror behind him, and that he had awoken just before the creature had revealed its face.
The technician sought the Chaplain's help immediately after the second instance of the dream, now ranting hysterically about the bloody cross having been erased from his head a second time. He claimed that the Admiral had lied, that there was nothing which could save him from the demon which haunted him in his sleep, and that he would be "dead before sunrise." He threw himself at Pfeiffer's feet, begging for some sort of ritual, and the Chaplain, perhaps naively, perhaps out of exhaustion, attempted to calm him with words alone, and sent the man away with nothing but empty assurances. "No demon can claim a soul which has fortified itself with unwavering faith in the Holy Pentarchy. You will survive this nightmare, and when you feel the sun's warmth tomorrow, you will be reminded of their divine providence."
The young man shook his head. "No, no... this sea is beyond their view," he stammered. "They can't hear me here or else they would have stopped this madness! I need to pray to... Him... and ask him for mercy-"
"The gods hear you, boy! But to ask for their intervention requires total commitment on your own part," Pfeiffer had tried to reason. "The gods are a whetstone for the blade of your soul, so that you can vanquish your infidelity by force of will. They're not a shield for mortals to hide behind from their own sinful tendencies! Resist the urge to consult darker forces and remember what awaits the damned..." The reverend continued along these lines until both men were exhausted, but when Heppenheimer returned to his bunk room at last, he had purged all thoughts of turning to Raum for help, thanks to Pfeiffer.
When they found Heppenheimer's body later that morning, he had proved himself true to his word- the sun had only just begun to rise. He had strangled himself to death using his own bed sheet while his bunk mate slept peacefully on the bed above him. When later interviewed, said bunk mate, Petty Officer Niklaus Busch, revealed that at the beginning of the night, Heppenheimer had entered his room in a trance-like state, unresponsive to greeting. He pricked his finger with the needle rather roughly, and then after staring at the trickle of blood, crawled into bed without creating the cross symbol. Busch attributed the strange behavior to drunkenness, and assumed that his roommate would later awaken from some night terror having been scared straight, and would correct the mistake, but it was now clear that something really had haunted the young man, causing him to hallucinate finishing the ritual on three different occasions.
Fallensteller listened to the story intently, breathlessly, in fact, as the gruesome details were recounted to her. Pfeiffer was beginning to wonder whether he should be telling the Captain about any of it, after a while. After all, she had never truly confronted her own spiritual weakness the previous morning, as she claimed she would. But when he had finished speaking, Sabine looked down at the floor and took off her hat. "I see..." she commented, sadly. [I]Damn. Damn, Damn! He was so close... Do you not realize you killed him, Pfeiffer?[/I] When she looked up, the intensity had gone away from her eyes and instead a misty reverence had taken its place. "This sea has claimed its first victim. Reverend, this is exactly what I feared would happen after what I experienced at Campo Diablo. I know you did your best for him, but those affected by Raum's influence need more than just scripture and a pep talk."
The Chaplain didn't appreciate his work to be summarized so harshly, but he understood the Captain's point. "What do you propose, then?" he asked.
"Nothing, for now. I need to meet with someone more experienced in this field than anyone on our vessel, but not the Admiral... I could tell he wasn't satisfied by yesterday's meeting aboard the Revenant. He still suspects me and my motives."
Pfeiffer scratched his chin. "Then who do we consult?"
"I believe it would be wise to speak with Captain Tobey, once he's returned."
"Those vehicles are being put to good use I see." Reginald commented as he noted the formation of the line that was taking place. He looked towards his own group. "Alright, let's go. Follow Mr. Ackerman's tractor and don't stray for too long. The land may be quiet but you never know with this expedition. Last thing I need is explaining how you died while stopping to pick a flower."
As the convoy followed Mannfred closely Wilhelm took the opportunity to lean back in his seat and close his eyes. Truth to be told he had not slept well during the past nights. Coffee had helped him stay alert although he was no fool, for it was merely a temporate solution.
In the front passenger seat Sari went over a crude map of the Lost Sea. Created using other maps as well as geographical information found within Mannfred's codex this new map was slightly more detailed and had far les errors. Still, details on individual islands were scarce aside from their general position.
Back in one of the trucks Sandrina double-checked her notes regarding flora and fauna with medical properties. Hopefully she'd be able to gather some samples while her captain was busy with... things.
Noticing his boss signaling over, Bennett walked to Tobey, though looking at Spaghetti the while. “He’s a weird one, ain’t he?” Bennett spoke.
Dobbs and his retinue followed close behind Mannfred and his men, following them along the path they are taking. Dobbs looked back curiously and asked Mannfred, "Sir, why did the others feel the need to bring tanks?"
As soon as Spaghetti finished looking at the beach, he smelled the fresh air. As the Problem Child got closer a ramp extended, pulling in at least two jeeps for the venture. He waved at two mercenaries handling the driving while another two were watchmen. Packing light was risky but seeing as many took upon it to reinforce their own travels Spaghetti saw no reason to bring more. He gestured Yves to hop in the front seats while a mercenary drove.
As the ramp came down, so too did Yves, dressed in a more fitting attire for this trip. A backpack of supplies was slung over his back, only with the essentials- a bullet pouch, rations for the boys of the Problem Child, and some drawing supplies. A musty old sketchbook and some colours, which he couldn't leave without.
A revolver hung at his hip, though no silver bullets came with it. His clothing was rather plain, and he didn't look out of sorts with the lads Spaghetti had brought along, though a piece of rough fleece draped down from his other hip, dyed golden, to note his role of authority. In both hands he held a sabre, tips shining a little bit more than the rest of the blades. For all that watched, Toison looked less like a dandy and more like a sailor with some years of experience. A truthful boast.
From what little silverware he could muster up with the time he had to spare, Yves had commissioned two cutlasses, tips cut with silver. One for him, one for Spaghetti. As he walked up to the jeep, he brought one up to show his captain, and placed it on his lap. "Take this, Capitaine. I'm sure that we won't run into trouble, but you can never be certain. Your sabre is laced with silver, as is mine. I will work on acquiring more of the stuff later." Yves said. He looked around, spying other faces he recognized- they were on the move. He climbed into the waiting jeep, tapping on the side when he took his seat.
"On y va!"
The mercenary nodded, stepping on the front pedal to press the jeep forward. The other jeep followed pursuit as they had a long journey ahead. They made sure to follow the trail of vehicles from the other crews.
[b]1898, 8th February
[quote]Dobbs looked back curiously and asked Mannfred, "Sir, why did the others feel the need to bring tanks?"[/quote]
"I suppose some feel over excited at the prospect of their first true land journey onto an island of the Lost Sea, so they wish to come exceedingly prepared for whatever trials they believe await. This particular island is not very dangerous, that is, compared to the rest of the Sea. There are some strange occurrences and creatures, but they typically only have limited contact with expeditionary troops. I can think of very few places which would require the usage of a landship, and that is not because of the need of the gun, but the armor. Gigantic animals which can snatch a man up and devour him, and rain so acidic it melts the flesh. Things like that," the admiral said almost casually, as if such things weren't so strange after all. In a surprising move, he pulled up his left sleeve and revealed his fair skinned arm to Dobbs. The flesh along the bottom of his arm from the wrist to elbow was marble white, notably paler than his already white skin.
"This is the result of sticking my hand into a seemingly simple pool of water to retrieve in artifact on one of my earlier journeys. The entire arm used to be this color, but over the years it has been going away. At first it had felt like my arm was perpetually submerged in ice water, but that feeling went away in time."
The expedition traveled fairly uneventfully for a little over an hour. According to the admiral, there was still a couple more hours of time left for the hike - so long as the weather did not worsen. Already, a heavy fog had rolled in across the land and a light rain continued to fall. The black sand remained remarkably resistant to this moisture and had not turned to mud, but heavier rains would likely turn the simple trackway into a terrible mire. Visibility was quite poor, being up to only about a few dozen meters at most. The mountains were now hidden away by the fog, as was the coast, and the expedition found themselves in a strange alien landscape of black land and white air. It seemed almost like a dreamscape as thunder rumbled far away, but no terrible storm coming yet.
Things were peaceful.
When more than several people suffered spontaneous nosebleeds, it was apparent that something wasn't quite right. Mannfred called for the expedition to pause momentarily.
"Admiral, sir, what do you make of it?" Master Sergeant Donovan asked, frowning and crinkling his nose as he dabbed at his upper lip with a handkerchief. It wasn't a lot of blood, just a little trickle from one or both nostrils, and there was no pain either. Some didn't even notice it until others pointed it out.
Mannfred didn't have a nose bleed, but by the way he opened and clenched his left hand and looked at it, it was apparent he was also feeling something as well. Others who happened to have old wounds would also feel some discomfort from them, such as an ache, a pressure, or throbbing sensation.
"Natural or supernatural?" The sergeant continued after a second.
"Either is a possibility. I'm inclined to suggest this is of supernatural origin. Had the nosebleeds been all, I would think that volcanic fumes may be the possible cause for irritation," he explained. There was indeed a very faint whiff of brimstone in the air, but only when it came in on a breeze.
"As that is not the case... it would seem that we may be dealing with an anomaly. Corporal Ostman? Please begin recording observations," the admiral said, glancing over to a marine who already had a notebook out and was writing quickly on the paper. Mannfred encouraged everyone to take observations and had many men who acted as scribes.
One of the other marines from the [i]Revenant[/i], a trooper with a cage of chickens on his back, grunted and dropped to one knee. His hand clutched the upper left side of his chest and he seemed to have difficultly breathing, and a few nearby men hurried over to him. They pulled the cage of squawking chickens to the ground and set the box aside and helped the man into a sitting position.
"Its a heart attack, sir," one of the marines said grimly. A man with a red and white armband - a near universal color symbol for medical personnel - pulled out a small bag of powder from one satchel and poured it into the stricken man's canteen. He quickly had the man drink it, and after a few moments his labored breathing and strained face seemed to relax, though he looked like all his energy had been sapped from his body. He looked near ready to pass out. The medic produced a strange device from his larger kit with a gauge, pump, and small armband and fastened it over the hurt man - apparently taking some type of reading related to the man's pulse.
Admiral Mannfred dragged his foot horizontally across the dirt lane before him, clearing a small square of sand away into a flat spot. He knelt down and began drawing a symbol into the dirt with his finger, and once it was completed, the symbol flashed and popped like a small firework. He drew his hand back quickly and stared down at the now slightly smoking sand.
"Not a good sign," he said, pointing to another marine. "Take a psychic force reading."
This soldier produced a glass vial from his coat pocket and held it up to the sky so the dim light would give it some illumination. Within it was some type of red fluid mixed with quicksilver, though the two liquids did not seem to wish to interact. The red fluid had gold specks which were easily visible to the eye. After looking at it for a moment, the trooper shook it roughly for a few seconds before holding it upright before him. Strangely, both the red fluid and quicksilver mixed and split themselves into two halves, retreating to either end of the vial, leaving a half inch of open space between the two. It was there the gold flakes suspended themselves in this open section of air, coming together into a rough sphere made out of flakes.
"Its... its a perfect force reading, sir! There must be a rift nearby!"
The admiral straightened himself up and adjusted his coat. He turned to face the bulk of the convoy and spoke loudly to address everyone.
"We are in the midst of an anomaly of unknown nature. We may have detected a potential rift. Stay focused."
The next few minutes were marked by tense suspicion while Mannfred consulted his personnel on the situation. It wasn't obvious to everyone at first, but slowly all sounds of the outside world ceased. No sound of rain as it lightly fell, no sound of thunder, nor of the distant waves crashing against rocks. Just nervous feet crunching in the sand and the idling hum of industrial engines.
"Contact ahead! Lone figure spotted!" A marine shouted, standing at the front of the convoy as a point man. He readied his rifle but did not aim it at the figure.
Just at the edge of visibility, half in the fog and half out, was a floating human figure in white tattered robes. They were hard to make out at first, but due to the wind rippling their attire they were made visible to the human eye. The figure was confusing to gaze upon at first as it become evident it possessed no head - simply a body with two arms, with legs likely hidden beneath the long white habit. Their arms were slightly outstretched to the side as if they were going for an embrace.
Slowly, all around the visible edge of the fog wall which surrounded the expedition, [url=https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/metro2033/images/a/a9/PixelyGhostsTheDeadCity3.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/640?cb=20130521055759]black apparitions began to appear.[/url] There figures were utterly silent and posed in odd angles - not all of which were easy to identify. They skirted the edge of what was visible, like the lone white floating figure, and some seemed to be shaking. A keen eye would notice an additionally alarming observation - these shadow people left footprints where they stood.
Ackermann signaled for the tractor to pause, and so the operator turned off the engine. As it fell silent, the Commander reached for his special cartridge and cautiously loaded it into his pistol, waiting for further instructions from Mannfred. Meanwhile, the radio operators prepared to take recordings; one readied his camera while the other rushed to the sled to retrieve the wooden box which held the special audio recorder. Lifting the lid, he ensured that the wire was properly installed for writing, and then plugged in a handheld microphone which was large and round, like a pocket watch, which he held at arm's length in the Admiral's direction.
As soon as Mannfred ordered the convoy to halt Jäger looked at Sari. "Kahleen, order the convoy to halt." Sari nodded and pressed a button, causing a lihht on the rear of the car to flash three times. This signal was repeated by all the Gothian vehicles.
Suddenly one of the marines gripped Jäger by the shoulder. "Sir, you're bleeding." Jäger touched his nose, looked at the blood and scoffed. "This is not a good sign. Deploy, formation around the convoy. We'll leave the drill if we have to."
Again a series of flashes, five this time, were sent backwards while Sari, Jäger and one of the marines climbed out. Meanwhile marines were dismounting from the trucks while the drivers and civilian staff remained seated.
Sandrina walked up to Jäger and Sari but before she could speak her words were cut short when one of Mannfred's soldiers called out a contact. Immediately the Gothian marines spun around with some kneeling down.
Sari took the point and gestured with her hand. "Hold your fire."
Tobey and his group had been walking on the side of the path, some distance behind Mannfred and his people.
As they stopped, so did Tobey's group. He observed as Mannfred and Donovan began discussing something.
Turning back to his group as he heard one of the sailors sniffling.
"Masterson" Tobey called out with his usual collected tone.
Masterson looked up and met Tobey's gaze, upon which the later tapped his nose. Masterson gently felt his nostrils with his fingers and noted blood seeping out. He hastily wiped his nose on the arm of his deep navy coat, and then stuffed his nostrils with gauze. The other sailor and the two mercenaries checked on themselves, but alas, they had not been bleeding.
Tobey was unable to make out what Mannfred and Donovan was discussing, but he assumed that the Admiral suspected something supernatural, as one of his men did readings with a instrument unfamiliar to him.
Suddenly, attention was made to the strange figures in the fog. Bennett had been the first to spot them, but Tobey discourage him from firing.
"We don't know if conventional arms will hurt them." he said in a cautious tone.
Fishing out the dark tome, he flipped to the chapter for creatures. He had briefly looked over the contents of the booklet, and stumbled upon the chapter [I]Foerms and Creetures[/I].
The dialect the tome was written in was strange, but carried many semblances to Old Lore.
Tobey was sufficiently acquainted to the now extinct language that he could read the tome. At least to a understandable degree.
Loosely scanning the pages whilst keeping a half eye on the cautious commotion and the creatures, he attempted to find anything related to the creatures before them, or at least to something similar.
The Eisenstrasse trucks rolled to a stop, killing their engines and sitting silent. Meanwhile, their passengers disembarked with weapons ready. Krantz and Váradi slipped out of their vehicle, the former using a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his nose. Váradi, meanwhile, simply lifted his mask up a bit and spat a wad of red into the black sand beneath him. "Defensive positions around the trucks. Do not fire unless attacked or instructed." said Krantz, looking to the other soldiers that were pouring out of the back of the trucks. They complied, the storm troopers and regular soldiers forming a perimeter around the trucks.
Váradi spotted the figures quietly surrounding them, studying their movements. They were like shadows with no bodies...but apparently still had bodies of some form as they were still leaving marks where they stepped. That bothered him less, though, than his eye. Or rather where his eye used to be. The socket was throbbing, as if the wound had been reopened. A few other places on his person were hurting as well. Gunshot wounds, cuts...any old wounds he had gained from the war. Krantz could feel it too. The mark on the back of his shoulder were a man had stabbed him with his knife was aching. But both would have to just ignore the aches and pains for now. Supernatural forces were at work. Krantz loaded a stripper clip of five silver-tipped rounds into his rifle. The other soldiers were doing the same, if they had rifles, and affixing silver edged bayonets for use.
The lead Eisenstrasse truck rolled to a stop when prompted, as it killed its engine and sat silent. Ephraim felt strangely disorientated, akin to when he lost his balance a while back. He rested his head on his hands, hoping this feeling of unsteadiness and disequilibrium would pass him. As he slowly recovered, he looked over to the driver, who looked worried for the tramp.
"Are you alright?" the driver asked him, to which Ephraim responded with a mumble: "...ehm, I'm fine...."
The two of them then heard Krantz's order from the outside. Ephraim took a deep breath, and felt as though he had recovered. After giving a confident look to the driver, the two got out and joined the others in the defensive positions, armed and ready.
Krantz glanced over, taking note that Ephraim was assuming a defensive position alongside the other soldiers. Good. He nodded to himself, before looking back to the spectres around them. Váradi, on the other hand, had never taken his eyes off the shadowy figures. He could barely make them out in the fog. He squatted down, his machine gun still firmly gripped in his hands, as he continued to watch.
- - - - - - - - - -
[QUOTE][I][B]1888, 20th April
Vicinity of Klyastitsa, Pavolvia
Frühjahrsoffensive (Spring Offensive)
Ungrian/Pavlovian Border War[/B][/I][/QUOTE]
"[Váradi, move your men up. Once the shooting starts, I'll send the others in behind you. Command wants the village taken before the month is up, and we're getting nowhere sitting in here in the fucking mud.]"
"[Doesn't look like there's gonna be much of a village to take.]" replied Váradi, looking out over the mud filled craters of what used to be a wheat field at the village in the distance. Thick black smoke billowed into the skies above, as the village continued to burn. It had been burning for about three days now, after a previous attempt to take it from the Pavlovians. Some molotovs were thrown about, and now here they were. Gazing at a roaring blaze. Váradi looked back to his commander nearby, a shorter man with a near perfectly groomed moustache. Perk of beng an officer, he guessed. They got to bathe more often and actually tend their appearance. The officer grunted. "[Well, the Kaiser still wants it to be taken. To show the Pavlovians that they can lose a hell of a lot more than us.]"
Váradi nodded. Yeah, they'll be losing [B][I]MUCH[/I][/B] more. "[I'll get the men going. The Kaiser will have Klyastitsa.]" said Váradi finally, before turning and departing from command tent. Outside, Pracht troops moved about. All preparing for another future push into the village and deeper into Pavlovia. The Pavolvian troops on the opposing side were putting up a hellacious fight, and it was apparently big enough to have some of the 1st Sturmsoldat Battalion be sent over to assist in the push. Váradi was sent to lead them in the battle, even though he had been previously wounded in another fight down the line. A piece of shrapnel had taken out his left eye, after piercing and becoming lodged in his steel facemask. It had to be cut out and cleaned, then sewn shut...but even that wouldn't keep him off the battlefield. He simply had bandages wrapped around his head over his left eye, and a new mask issued to him.
He marched through the camp, seeking out the other members of his group of storm troopers. Eventually, he found them sitting around a fire, eating rations. "[Get your armor and gear on. We're moving up.]" said Váradi, looking amongst them. "[Now? Fog is starting to roll in. We won't be able to see shit.]" said one of them, after gulping down a spoonful of beans. "[Yes. Now. Gear up.]" replied Váradi, heading through their congregation to find his armor and weapon.
It took them relatively little time to gather their things and get ready to move. Some of them were suited up in the trademark storm trooper armor, a mass of steel plates and leather straps. Others were geared in their standard uniforms, but were using spiked clubs and pistols. These lightly equipped troops also carried bundles of grenades packed into large satchels. They'd simply rush over towards a Pavlovian position and just fling as many grenades into it as possible. The heavier storm troopers would cover them with machine gun fire. A wonderful combo, and it had worked beautifully till now.
Váradi looked about as his men finished gearing up. That one soldier was right. The fog was rolling in, and rather fast. It might actually help them, or it might be a hinderance. Still, they had to take the village. "[Alright. Lets move. We'll swing around to the right side and come in from the direction of the destroyed windmill. If you spot a machine gun nest, you know what to do. Covering fire, and pelt them with grenades. Use the craters for cover if the Pavlovians bear down on you.]" said Váradi. The men replied with a resounding "Jawohl!" and soon they were off.
[b][i]Eleven years ago
Viktor Mannfred smiled widely, the excitement in his only eye almost palpable. They had been in the Lost Sea for nearly two weeks already, and moral was high. The discovery of an island was an exciting experience for any mariner, especially when four were found all at once. There was a special sensation that gripped the heart of the adventurer when a new location that had not been previously known to man was added to the maps. It came as a quaint giddiness, a fluttering of the heart. What beauty and treasure did these lands hold? Finally, they'd be able to see those wonderfully rainbow feathered birds which had teased their ships, always flying by but never stopping for the men to appreciate. Fleeting Beauties, a watchman had called them one afternoon. The name stuck and became the first named animal of the expedition. Viktor wondered just how many more intriguing creatures would be found, though he knew that there was still some danger involved. The fair people of that port, Campo Diablo, had warned of terrible sharp toothed serpents which stalked the coastline of many islands, as well as venomous salamanders. The reports of flesh eating squids, vile creatures known as Blood Squids, had yet to be encountered thankfully.
The dreams were perhaps the strangest thing to affect the expedition, but they weren't particularly terrifying or alarming as the old stories often told. Viktor had dreamed of darkness, but it wasn't a cruel darkness - it was like the sun was setting, promising a cool and alluring night, but one which also brought along the dangers inherent to any place where the moon reigned over the sun. He wasn't afraid, however. He was curious to see what would happen when that darkness reached midnight. After all, he had a fair mastery over controlling his dreams. It was a talent he learned about in a book once from his father's library. It was a strange thing at first, and one he didn't entirely believe, but over his years in the Navy he had practiced the meditative and introspective techniques to calm his addled mind on nights before or after a battle. Since entering the Lost Sea, the dreams had become so very vivid and real. It wasn't very hard to project his consciousness into his dreams anymore.
A fair sized crowd of sailors had gathered on the deck to gawk at the new islands, four almost equidistant landmasses which seemed to stretch along in a row. Each island looked vaguely similar, but the orientation of the green trees, hills, and even mountains were all of course different. Rumor was that some men had spotted somke coming from one of the islands, which if true hinted at potential natives or volcanic activity.
"I think this expedition will change the world," Viktor said to the younger woman beside him, a Lieutenant named Elisa Murdoch. She had shown a remarkable aptitude for managing the ship, though some of the older and more traditional sailors still took issue with allowing women on board the ships, least of all having to take orders from one. There had been some cruel rumors during the first days that had set off regarding Elisa and himself, but that was to be expected in these circumstances. Mister Heinlitz had put a stop to that scuttlebutt quickly.
"Really?" She laughed, "That is a pretty bold statement, sir. What makes you so sure of that?"
Viktor smiled again, glancing at the girl. "It may sound strange... but its just something I feel like I know."
The admiral frowned slightly, his gaze sweeping over the assembled shadow people lurking on the edge of the fog around the convoy. His marines were assembled around him, the men pulling the levers of their rifles to remove the unspent standard shots so that they could be replaced with silver rounds. Mannfred kept his hands clasped behind his back, drawing no weapon as he studied the scene around him.
"Maintain targeting formation, sentries observe flanks," he said to the marines, and they shifted around only slightly.
The floating, headless figure on the road before them remained motionless, save for a gentle up and down bobbing as it suspended itself in the air. Mannfred tapped his index finger against his thumb repeatedly, not as some arcane gesture, but as an apparent tick.
He pivoted gently on his feet, glancing back at the rest of the expeditionary convoy.
"Hold your fire unless there is an immediate danger. Please keep as silent as you can."
He turned back to the creature a little ways down the road, and then strode carefully a few feet down the trackway and towards it. He stopped beside the point marine, who was crouched in the black sand and cradling his rifle.
"[i]Shala'tet, [/i] spirit. [i]Levanus et torsan,[/i]" he said, directly addressing the entity. The words were unfamiliar to the ears of the others.
The spirit raised its hand in a surprisingly human motion, making a horizontal slashing motion and then a series of more intricate gestures.
[i]Shala'tet, idano. Levanus et torsani bedan,[/i] it responded back, its voice smooth but almost in a wail, like a person screaming into the wind and receiver only hearing a muted version.
The admiral's posture visibly relaxed. He unclasped his hands from behind his back and removed his cap, giving the spirit a modest bow that looked like the way stage actors bowed in plays - one foot drawn back and hands held out to the sides. When he straightened back up, the spirit performed a similar bow, though it looked a little odd from the air and without a head or visible legs.
Gently, it began to descend towards the ground. It came within a few feet of Mannfred and the front marine. Not much of its appearance changed from what could be seen in the air - a white robed humanoid form with no head, and legs potentially hid beneath its long robes. Its hands were skeletal, but blood red.
[i]Tarouk ser vonas tapet Ira,[/i] it said as it tapped one hand against its empty neck. The spirit then made an almost shrug like gesture. [i] Kasah Raum[/i] dedancti [i] losari camantes.[/i]
Mannfred followed its next gesture as it pointed out the surrounding shadow spirits. "Unsalo, unsalo. Pom sennec tas?" His tone and inflection sounded like one who was familiar with what he said, but the spirit spoke only in the fluidity and confidence found in a native speaker.
[i] Ira Shepard. Ira protancti losar camentes. Wosar jadan [/i] tu." It punctuated its final word by poking a long boney finger at Mannfred, and then at the convoy behind him.
The admiral was silent for a moment as he seemed to think things over. Finally, he turned and addressed the people.
"This spirit comes to warn us of danger. Raum has... evicted them... from their home for a second time."
Around the fog wall, the shadows seemed to stir. The silent crunch of feet on sand was just barely audible as some seemed to take a step forwards towards the convoy.
[quote]Loosely scanning the pages whilst keeping a half eye on the cautious commotion and the creatures, he attempted to find anything related to the creatures before them, or at least to something similar. [/quote]
There was one page dedicated to entities titled "Shadoweth Folke." It seemed to label them as one of several kind of lost souls, living beings who perished a violent death but whose spirits were too weak or unwilling to linger for revenge. A sentence theorized that they were primarily women, children, and the elderly. They were generally docile, appearing only for fleeting moments, but capable of causing great distress to those who witness them. At the moment, they didn't seem to be causing any particular supernatural anxiety, but they had been around far longer than the text alludes to them being capable of doing.
"This spirit comes to warn us of danger. Raum has... evicted them... from their home for a second time."[/quote]
Jäger frowned and his eyebrows formed a sharp 'V'. Evicted? By Raum? He motioned for Kahleen and the marines to hold before walking up to Mannfred. He bowed towards the spirit before looking at Mannfred.
"What do you mean 'Raum has evicted them'?" He asked with a calm tone.
Behind him Kahleen did a quick sweep to make sure that her forces were positioned correctly. She spotted Ephraim and nodded towards him.
"Probably like any slumlord. Destroyed their homes. Or whatever these things would call home." Reginald commented "He came in and destroyed their resting place, forcing them to wonder like bums looking for shelter." He looked towards his admiral. "How close am I?"
Sorry, you need to Log In to post a reply to this thread.