Trespass

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Just Old Al
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Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:59 pm

Well, the usual suspects have been at it again.

Before I begin to post things, however, a few notices are in order.

1. There IS violence here. If you're of a sensitive persuasion don't say we didn't warn you - and don't read this (even though it is a cracking good story).

2. There are lots and lots of naughty words, as well as liberal use of the F-bomb by one of the characters (foul-mouthed does NOT begin to describe him). If this is an issue for you see above - don't say you were not warned.


Finally, please post any commentary in the associated comments section, thanks.

Your authors:
Just Old Al
Sgt. Howard
Dinky Inky
GlytchMeister
Shneekey The Lost
Warrl
ChicGeek
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:01 pm

Prologue- three weeks prior

The massive she-bear tumbled through the woods as fast as it could muster. Her feelings were not native to an adult of her species, but she could not shake them. She had seen her two cubs torn apart and eaten as they bawled and screamed in terror by a two legged thing that could outrun her... not many things can outrun a grizzly... but after the last gasp of life escaped the last cub, the two legged thing turned and faced her.

And she felt fear.

She had known for some time that she was the last of her kind for five day's travel in any direction. She had heard whispers of a predator that started at the top of the food chain.
And now that predator was chasing her.

She moved as if all infernal was chasing her- and to her this seemed the case. She had seen many two-legged things before, but NOTHING like this. She remembered back to the stories told by her Mother, who had been told by her Mother, and so on for who knows how many generations- of a time when the pale two- legged things had not run off the dark two- legged things, of a creature that consumed everything it found and was a result of bad magic among two-legged things. It had a name that no ursine tongue could pronounce and it was so foul that even flies would not go near it.
She was pretty sure this was the thing that now pursued her.
She looked over her right shoulder... and was struck on the left. Sharp fangs went deep into her spine at the base of the neck. The injury was precise- she tumbled of her own momentum, having lost the use of her limbs.

But she still had full sensation. She just couldn't move.

She now saw her tormentor... well, as well as a bear can see, anyway... and knew instinctively that this thing did not belong. Then she tried to roar in pain as her left foreleg was ripped from her body and stuffed in the hideous maw of the beast... only, she couldn't. She could only watch as the thing chewed her flesh while staring deep into her eyes. Next, a chunk of hindquarters came off, easily as if it was never attached. Again, it was staring into her eyes as it ate. She had no way of knowing this, but the creature actually understood ursine anatomy well enough have the bear alive and aware through most of the meal...

…it was incapable of knowing pleasure- but this came pretty close for it...
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:03 pm

Chapter 1

Al opened his phone, and with a few swipes selected a familiar number. The phone burred one, twice, then a cheery voice answered the far end.

“Director Oduya’s office!”

‘Al Richer calling for Brandi, please. Has she a moment to chat with me?”

“Certainly, Al. Wait one, please.”

A few clicks, then the cultured voice of the Director of MIB purred into his ear.

“Al, great to hear from you. What’s up – problems with the back shop?”

“Absolutely none. Everything’s purring along nicely, thanks to the new data links and the extra computing power. Actually, I need a little information on one of your operatives.”

A low chuckle rang from the phone. “Oh, so ominous. What is it you need Oh Great Superspy?”

“Red Card! Red Card! You’ve never let me live it down since that regrettable mess in Havana.”

“And I never will – just to keep you and those crazy friends of yours in line. So, who do you need information on?”

“Rumour has it yon salamander is back in the country. From what I heard his training with Master Prroul went well, and he’s working for you. If that’s the case, I want to borrow him for two weeks.”

Her voice cooled. “I need to have a talk with my security echelon. Not much good if the Other Realm types all gossip, are they? Yes, he is back in the country – and what kind of game are you hunting that requires a salamander?”

“A boiler.”

There was a 10-second silence on the other end of the phone. “Did you say…boiler?”

“Yes, I did. Let me explain.

RE has been hired to document, salvage, rebuild and eventually reinstall a steam generating and heat plant from an 1880s hunting retreat up on the Upper Peninsula. It was a luxury retreat in the middle of nowhere for the very rich – shipping and railroad types and so forth. It was abandoned long ago after failing in the 1970s – but a new owner has bought the place for refurbishment and reopening as an eco-tourist destination for the well-heeled.

They figure the original steam plant can be rebuilt to be a nice carbon-neutral source of heat and electricity. I ran them a proposal and they bought it.”

“Sounds great – but what do you need John for?”

“I have a choice – bring in a dozen men, and the noise, mess and general grief of a team of riggers with torches, welders, cutters, powerplant and all. Or” and his voice grew canny “I can do the job with decent lifting gear, a trailer of decent capacity, and yon salamander and his strength and ability to heat/weld/cut with not a lot of effort.

There’ll be three of us – Greg is coming along, and I will be going as this needs to be handled as an archaeological dig – everything gets documented so RE can eventually rebuild this thing in situ.”

“Sounds like a great take – and makes perfect sense.”

“SO, can I have his number?”

“Certainly. Oh – if you go on this run – who’s going to be subbing for you in the back shop? We have some time critical analyses there on the Late Lowland samples we sent you – and near as I know you’re nowhere near done with those – are you?”

“Alas, you are correct. That being said, can I get you to lend me someone for the back-shop work? The construction projects are all in good hands – the subassemblies have been farmed out and won’t be back for several weeks, so those are good. The analyses are the only thing that requires active handling – and of course any emergencies that arise.”

“Not a problem – let me see who’s available. Please, PLEASE don’t start any fights with whoever I send. The last engineering team we had in there is still drinking heavily every time your name is mentioned.”

“How droll. You didn’t tell me you’d taken up comedy as a hobby – explains why Glytch and you get along so well.”

“Funny, old man. Fun-nee. Remember who signs your contracts.”

“Brandi, love, if I thought you were serious I would be as well. You also know as well as I do that you can’t find anyone better qualified to deal with this insanity than me and my lot.”

Brandi chuckled. “And you work cheap. Very well – I’ll find you a substitute and send them down before you leave.”

“Thank you, ducks, and thanks for the information. Until then.”

Al hung up, as did Brandi. Calling out again she reached Billens, and asked him to see who might be able to substitute for Al in the back shop, then dismissed it from her mind.

One thing she forgot – Billens was still rather annoyed at the antics of the RE trio and their chaotic little stay in Havana.

A bit later, Al dialed the phone again. Unlike the first conversation, he knew this one was going to be…difficult.

Leaning back in the leather obscenity of his office chair, he listened, till a gruff voice picked up. “What do you want?”

“JOHN! BUDDY! PAL!!!! How was China? Lovely place I hear.”

"Then you're talking to some weird or state-sponsored people, 'cuz it ain't. Cut the bullshit, you old reprobate, you aren't calling just to be social. What the hell d'ya want?"

“Now is that any way to talk to the man who is offering you a quiet holiday in the country?”

There was a small moment of incredulous silence. "In case you've managed to go senile in the last few seconds, I just got back from bumfuck nowhere. The last thing I need or want is to go back out into the boonies."

“Yes, but this will be easy and relaxing. Bit of welding, bit of heating, some not-too-heavy lifting and that’s it. You, me and Greg Howard in the beauties of the Upper Peninsula. Good food – steaks – relaxing evenings by the campfire, and no stress. Best yet, no violence, no targets – just nice relaxing mechanical work.”

In a few sentences Al detailed the trip and the purpose for it.

“So, nothing but quiet and a bit of work, and whatever you want for a payoff within reason. So, what do you say?”

"Upper Peninsula, huh? So you need a space heater and an all-terrain forklift." John heaved a sigh. "Alright, fine, but you'd better not have forgotten how to cook a steak now that Rosalita's doing all your cooking."

"FAH! Have you forgotten how to throw fireballs? I was cooking, my lad, long before Rosalita came along and I still keep my hand in. Thank you, but we will hardly starve on this wanderjahr." Al was somewhat incensed - he'd always cooked, and was a dab hand at it if he did say so himself. Forgotten how to cook, indeed...

"Fine. You keep me in steaks and work clothes and I'll help you out. Sarge coming along on this little chaos ritual?"

"Yes, I managed to pry him out from under Annie's thumb and he'll be joining us. About time I get some useful work out of him in any case." The smile on Al's face traveled along with his voice, and John smiled - same old same old with those two.

"OK. Anything else I need to know, or need to bring along?"

"Bring along your camping gear - I'll be packing in a pair of large military tents - one as a bunkroom and cook shack and the other as a workshop as needed. We'll be going in in Clara, with a machinery and haulage trailer behind. Clara's rigged to provide power and such for tooling and lights as needed, so we're good on that. Welding and cutting gear is getting left at home - that's what you're for.

What I was going to do is leave from here and head up, then have you two meet me at a portal near the site, then we go in the rest of the way in Clara."

"So, how long is this cluster fuck of a Murphy invitation going to take?"

"Such LANGUAGE! What would Prroul say about this? I asked for two weeks of your time from the powers that be, but that would be the far outside. I'll likely fritter away two weeks getting in and out and back figuring traveling with the gear, but for you and His RedNeckness it's probably going to be a week or so. I really only need you lot for the on-site work and until we tranship the loaded trailer at a railhead or truck port, then it's back to a portal and a job well done."

"Fine. Works for me. Tell me when and which portal to meet you at, and I'm there."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:06 pm

Chapter 2

Two weeks later Al guided a heavily laden Clara through the streets of a village on the Upper Peninsula. Wending his way cautiously up the main street he spied his target – the town library.

Pulling into the parking lot, he shut Clara down, pulled his phone from his pocket and selected a number.

“Your chariot awaits. Do come and join the party.”

Out of the side door walked two men – Greg and John. Seeing them, Al chuckled, as the normal-height Sarge looked almost a midget when standing next to the seven-foot-plus of John. Both carried gear bags, and John had an additional backpack on his back.

Al stepped out. “Greetings. Welcome to West Arrowhead Falls.”

John looked around, strikingly unimpressed by the scene. “More like East Bumfuck Idaho. Motto: “It’s not the asshole of the Universe, but you can see it from here.”

Al TSKed while Greg guffawed. “Such language. Yes, it is a small town, but from what I remember of Omak it’s about the same size.”

Greg asked, “So, where to from here? You been to the site yet?”

Al shook his head. “Only by camera – the owners of the place took an abundance of shots of the site and specifically the powerhouse when they briefed me on the contract. Let’s get into the truck and I’ll tell you about it on the way.”

John looked dubiously at Clara. “Gee, you couldn’t have brought a clown car? Maybe a G-Wiz?”

“I do apologize, but I fear your best bet would be sitting in the back. There’s little gear there – mostly my personal effects – and yours, of course. All the heavy tooling and such is on the trailer in job boxes – those will be transshipped with the parts once we leave.

Think of it this way – all the comforts of home. Take a nap if you wish.”

“Yeeeeahhhh…don’t see myself fitting the bunk. Let’s get the briefing over with – this way we know what we’re up against.”

The three loaded into the truck (John opting to sit cross-legged in the middle of the truck, unknowingly emulating his Sensei) and with some awkwardness dealing with the trailer pulled out onto the main road out of town. Talking back and forth, the miles went by and eventually the subject of the site came up.

“So, how long to get there, and what are we facing?” John, one never to miss a briefing, asked.

“We’ve got about sixteen or seventeen miles to go on tarmac – then it’s off to a gravel road and a track after that."

"Oh joy, my tailbone's gonna love this." John muttered quietly.

"Supposedly the owners of the place have had the track cleared, but last I heard there was some trouble with that – labour issues on the job. We may have to resort to a hatchet in a few spots to get Clara in – the area’s likely a bit overgrown to the roadsides.”

John spoke up to the back. “Somehow I don’t think a hatchet’s going to be necessary.” he said, grinning.

Laughing, Greg agreed. “True’nuff there hotshot – you figure you can clear our way in without setting the whole damn forest on fire?”

“I've got a few tricks up my sleeves, yeah.” John said, a flame glowing from the tip of his index finger till, ostentatiously, he blew it out.

“All well and good, but remember this is a mundane site. Nothing can be left that indicates paranormal origin – and a very selective forest fire might be an ill-conceived bit of labour saving.”

“Well, I guess that leaves literal trail blazing out... Leave it to me, Al – you haven’t seen what I can do after working with Master Grumpy.”

“Well, you can demonstrate soon enough.

As far as the site goes, the plan is fairly simple. The whole lot is on the shores of a lake – pretty place from what I’ve seen. There was a large cleared area – now overgrown – with the main house facing the lake across it.

Behind the main house were the “cottages”. They were small but quite well-equipped for what they were. Exhaust steam heat from the engine house circulated in a low-pressure system to warm the main house, and the cottages had solid-fuel heaters. All of them had lighting run from the powerhouse – and this is the equipment we’re after – it’s in a building at the far end, close enough to the lake for water to be drawn for the condenser but that’s about all I know.”

Driving along, they had reached the end of the gravel track and now faced a heavily overgrown path. John hopped out, latched the back doors, and faced the track after critically eyeing up Clara’s bulk.

John walked over to a sapling, placing the root of his thumb against the bark with his hand in an L shape. A bit of concentration, and there was a sharp CRACK as the tree fell over. He held up the end of the sapling - it had been fuzzed rather like chopping it with an axe, but there had been but one stroke. "Paul Bunyan, eat yer heart out."

"Nice trick. How'd you do that?" Greg asked admiringly.

"Flame front. Basically the shockwave from a shaped charge minus the shaped charge. I can cut damn near anything, but it's not as neat on the more stubborn or gooey materials... And pretty much no range. I could probably cut a straight path, but they'd hear it in Springfield. Nothing like a Daisy Cutter to wake up a small country."

Thoroughly impressed Al applauded, as did Greg. With hatchets and John’s abilities the track was soon cleared to allow for Clara’s bulk and the trailer.

Working their way to the end they pulled into the compound. The area here had never thoroughly overgrown, mostly due to a gravel covering.

The three stepped out of the truck, and unease swept through them all. Al's notoriously iron stomach did a flip-flop, as though there was a skunk who sprayed the area, even though there was nothing to tweak the nose.

Greg felt an itching between his shoulder blades, something he hadn't felt in quite some time, but there are some things you just don't ever forget.

John looked about nervously. There was something... Unpleasant... but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Memories of his past as a vigilante bubbled up, but nothing precise.

All three of them figured it was nothing major, and shrugged their individual feelings off. After all, there was a job to be done, and all three were professionals. They didn't let little things like bad feelings get in the way of a project.

Still, just to be on the safe side, Al ducked into the back of Clara and brought out a small leather satchel. From this he extracted a small brazier on a chain, a bundle of sage, another of shavings of palo santo and some charcoal. Lighting the charcoal in the brazier, he added the sage, palo santo and small quantities of other items. "You two sit tight for a moment, two shakes of a lamb’s tail..."

John quirked an eyebrow as Al began his ritual, then leaned in toward Greg. "I didn't exactly peg Al for one of those new-age hippy oogie-boogie types..."

"Naw, he's not a bandwagoner... And he is a genuine Mage. Found out a while ago an' went off t' Scotland to get it all sorted out."

"Oh? Huh. Late bloomer, huh? I guess there's something to this, then. Looks pretty routine, if he has the supplies just lying around like that." John made this last observation more to reassure himself than anything.

"...Yeah, probably nothin' special."

As they had talked Al had walked the circuit of the open space, circling around the back of the manor house and closing the circle. Looking rather dissatisfied, he charged the brazier again, adding more of the aromatic herbs and woods, and went off again.

After the second round he stopped, kneeling to the earth.

“Now what?”

“Recharging. This’ll take a few minutes.”

However, Al stood nearly immediately, a grimace on his face. Coming over to the others he remarked “This is never going to be my favourite place on the globe, but we’ve a job to do. Let’s get the camping gear off the trailer and get the bunk tent set up – the workshop tent can wait for the morrow given the weather’s dry.”

With that, the men set to work setting up the large military TEMPER-style tent with its built-in lights and amenities.

“Al, why the huge tents for just us?” Greg asked, quizzically.

“Simple, actually. These are more mobile workshops than they are anything else – we’ll set up the smaller one for the tools and such, and this one is going to accommodate us, my desk and photo equipment for the archaeological work, as well as cooking and eating facilities.”

“Al, we brought a salamander. Why did you bother to bring a tent stove?”

“Because I am NOT cooking over that git.” Al replied, laughing, hooking a thumb over his shoulder at the tall man pulling frame sections into place and staking them with presses of his thumb on the stakes.

“Thank you. You have NO idea how much it pissed me off to be Sensei’s personal hibachi – and gods help me if I overcooked his rice!” John snarked, smiling.

As the men worked, other eyes watched from the cover of the forest – cautious, unhappy ones. Gleeful at the prospect of human targets, its greed was abruptly interrupted when one of the old ones displayed power – something that it liked not at all.

This would take watching and study before the time to attack came. Then it would feed, and watch the life ebb from the eyes as it ate them – slowly.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:43 pm

Chapter 3

The next morning bright and early there was a raucous clanging as Al thumped on the bottom of a skillet with a steel spoon.

“WAKEY, WAKEY! Rise and shine!” He continued thumping.

Suddenly a finger appeared from beneath John’s sleeping bag and Al yelped, dropping the spoon as if it were hot – which it was.

John peered out, smug with the successful effect of his counterattack. “It is half past the asscrack of frickin’ DAWN so will you shut the hell UP!”

“It’s a LOVELY day, coffee is on, get your useless lazy arses out of bed!” Deprived of his auditory weapon, Al made do with a well-trained set of lungs and prepared his secret weapon. Shoving the percolator to one side on the tent stove, he put the skillet down, reached into the cooler and removed a packet of sausages and another of bacon. Shoveling a liberal portion of each into the pan, he started breakfast – and as the meat began to cook his tentmates began to stir.

“Damn, that smells good…” Greg roused himself and pulled on his clothes.

“Damned right it’s good. For this morning I raided the larder at Alexander, and for today. Sometime today someone’s going to have to go into Arrowhead and stock us up on rations – I have MREs but I abhor those unless we have to. I plan to live in a civilized manner despite the conditions.

Speaking of conditions, everyone bring a friend? I know I mentioned it, but as this is nominally bear country I am not disposed to having to deal with the local brown bear population.”

John, sitting up on the edge of his cot, replied “Yes, I did.” Greg also replied in the affirmative.

“Good. Please carry them at all times – sling at the small of your back, I expect. I’ve packed a rifle in Clara’s back locker.”

“We’re in good shape, then. I brought a rifle as well as my pistol – never know what’s going to show up out here, especially with food in lockers.”

“Bravo. Glad to hear it.” Al was glad to hear it in more ways than one – his night had been restless at best, despite meditations to sleep. There was a taint to the land here, and the air – even the leyline he’d tried to tap yesterday for power had had an unpleasant ‘taste’ to it – so much so he’d stopped drawing energy, instead allowing his reserves to replenish by themselves.

Soon, the three sat to breakfast. Initially there was little conversation as coffee was drunk and eggs and rashers enjoyed, but then the topic turned to the work.

“OK, so what’s the drill, Al?” Greg asked, waving his fork with a sausage link on it for emphasis.

“Simple enough. Building to the far right from here near the lake – the lean-to shaped thing – is the powerplant. Building was stone and a slate roof – basically a bunker with the boiler inside. The building is segmented – the boiler’s in a room of its own and the steam pipes run through the wall to the engine, generator and electric switching.”

Al stopped, sipped his coffee, forked up a bite of egg and continued.

“You will be laughing when you see this thing, Greg – it’s a small vertical firetube boiler with a marine engine running a belt-coupled DC generator. There is a load of horrendous engineering in this thing – The boiler’s more of a mill item with an integral firebox, and the engine as I said looks like it came from a large launch.

From the look, most of this was bought used, and while it ran well it’s just not right. This, however is neither here nor there, especially as they want this thing turned into a candy-box rendition of itself – a Disney powerplant with lots of shiny gubbins going about. It is what it is, I am afraid.”

“So, what do we want to get on?” John asked interestedly.

“First things first documentation. I need to photograph the bleeding eyeballs out of it before we touch so much as a spanner. I was thinking, Greg, that after brekkies I could get you to go into Arrowhead for steaks and other savouries while John and I started photographing. Also, there’s a load of boxes likely to be at the freight office that need picking up – you won’t need the trailer."

With that Greg nodded. "OK, food and the freight office. That it?"

"Yes, that will do, though depending on the state of Clara's tanks you might top her up - we'll be using Diesel for the stove.

When you get back we could have lunch and start in on the electricals. The boiler is going to be a right bugger simply for weight – it has no connections other than piping to the engine and the manor’s heating system, so really just a case of cut it loose and disassemble enough to get its arse on the trailer. I figure we document and clear the decks so that worse to worst we can demolish building overheads to get the damn boiler out. There's a freight rail in there - depending on its condition we might be able to use it - that's likely how the boiler got there to begin with."

“Sounds good.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:46 pm

Chapter 4

Breakfast over, the three walked out into the clearing. With little effort Clara was started and the trailer shuffled to rest in front of the power house, making access to the tools easier.

That done Greg bid his companions adieu for the moment and headed down the road to the village.

As he drove, his thoughts wandered back to the sight over and over again. Unbeknownst to Al, Greg had had a bad night – fitful sleep and nightmares of his combat days-items that he’d not had issues with for decades now surfaced in the campsite.

If I can’t get this under control, I’m going to have to ask Al to drop me back here in town. Last night was enough to make me REALLY unhappy – not doing that again.

Finally, he reached the town. A bit of wandering and Al’s directions finally had him pulling up in front of the SHUR-FINE SUPERETTE – a general store of the classic pattern.

Stepping inside and selecting a carriage, his first stop was the butcher’s counter, where he placed an order for steaks, breakfast meats and meats for sandwiches.

Wandering the aisles as his order was prepared, he filled the carriage with drinks, condiments, and everything else they’d need for a few days, along with several bags of ice.

Finally, carriage full, he made his way to the cashier’s table, complete with a pre-conveyor sliding box to pull groceries forward.

"Don't get many strangers 'round these parts, looks like you're stocking up?" The cashier was curious, but there was a fear behind her eyes

"Yep. Got us a mess o' work to do out on the ol' campsite. They've called us in t' fix the thing, last crew apparently wasn't cut out fer it."

"Did you... well, none of my business, I guess." The cashier's fear ratcheted up a notch, and finally, she blurted out "Did they tell ya 'bout the fellers who went missing? Up and vanished from the site, bodies were never found."

"Not really, heard there might've been a bear 'round. I take it what you heard was worse?"

"Yea, only kind of bears we have around here are Black Bears. Sure, they'll do for an idiot tourist who thinks they can hand-feed 'em, but they aren't real aggressive and the ones around here have a healthy respect for humans. Bear hunting isn't entirely unknown, even if it isn't strictly something that is supposed to happen."

"So... what did you hear?"

"Well... one of the last crew was in, getting supplies like you are, complainin' about his buddy takin' off. Figured it happens, right? But the next set... they was scared of somethin'. Said no less'n four of 'em just up and vanished. All of 'em went off to do somethin' alone, an' never came back, an' never saw nuthin' of 'em. An' it's a long way to town by foot, yanno? They should've found somethin', if it were an animal attack. But nope... nothing, not down to the NASCAR hats nor the shit-kicker boots."

"Anyone else in the area vanish?"

"Not since the park closed down, not 'cept..." she paused a moment before remembrance dawned. "Well, there was a couple o' kids, boy an' girl, I don't think I need to mention why they felt the need to take themselves off away from town. Anyway, after they vanished for a couple of days, they asked the Sheriff to look into it. They found his car, with not a mark on it. But never found a trace of either one of 'em. After that, none of the townsfolk much went out there, an' the whole thing was forgotten as a bad deal."

"Hmm... well, if that don't beat all. Thank’ee fer tellin' me all that, miss. Somehow, that all managed to not get included in our briefin'."

"Not surprised. That group of suits just wants the place done up as a tourist trap, all they see is dollars in their eyes. Don't want to scare anyone off with spooky stuff."

"Pro'lly." But Greg felt a bit more unsettled than before. He tried offering her a tip, but the management had a very firm stance on employees not accepting tips.

At the next stop at the Freight Office, he decided to see if he could stir up any more intel. His old army habits were kicking in, and he never did much care for being shoved on the sharp end by some REMF with bad intel and worse terrain. Fortunately, they gave him an opening once he identified himself.

"Richer Engineering? Oh, yea, here ya go. Lot of equipment here. Didn't figure anyone would need that sort of stuff 'round these parts."

"Oh, well, my ol' buddy Al, he's the one who owns the firm you understand, was asked by some suits to go fix up this boiler out on the old campsite. You gotta know th' one, off th' lake? An' of course since I ain't much of the sort to go tinkerin', I get sent to go haul freight. You know how it is."

"Yea, that I do. That ol' campsite, eh? What'd them suits tell you 'bout the last crew?"

"Aw, you know, usual stuff suits talk about. Over-budget, over-deadline, that kinda crap. Spoken like someone who couldn't tell th' difference between a wrench an' a screwdriver. Why, what'd you hear?"

There was an uncomfortable silence as the two men manning the counter look at each other nervously before responding "Way I heard, six men up and vanished before the rest broke their contracts without pay and quit."

Greg quirked a brow at the somber faces "Sheee-it, they sure-fire didn't mention that little detail. How do six men up an' vanish?"

The two guys behind the counter just shrugged. "Dunno, but one of 'em was the guy they usually sent out here to pick up spares an' such. Guy went on a run, an' never came back. Found the truck at the front gate to the place, door was open, hell engine was still running, like he had stepped out to unlock the gate. Never found hide nor hair of 'em, though."

"Well, if that don't beat all. So I take it the crew got tired of losin' 'em in ones and twos and called it quits?"

"Ain't no twos, every mother's son of 'em who vanished were by themselves when it happened, or so we heard. Got to the point a fellow wouldn't go to the port-o-pot without a buddy, before they up and quit. You go out there, you take care of yourself, an' don't go wanderin' around alone."

"Yea... yea, I'll do that." Greg said slowly "Thanks, I mean it. Say, how 'bout you tack on an extra fifty for shipping and handling for yourselves. I'll make it square with the boss."

The two were quite amenable to that arrangement, and loaded the truck with all the alacrity he could wish. On the drive back, he thought about both stories, and how uncomfortably closely they meshed up. One lone story? Sure, trying to pull one on the furriner. But two from completely different sources that say basically the same thing? Naw, that was somethin' else. One thing was for sure... he wasn't about to let his guard down any time soon.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:47 pm

Chapter 5

The creature snarled, loathe to let prey leave its territory, but two were staying behind... The big one and the weird one. It remembered how workers from before would leave and come back, so it let the other old man go in the loud stinky rolling metal box and turned its attention to the two who were left behind.

Al walked to the trailer, now shuffled just outside the door of the power shed. Reaching into a job box for a pair of Stillson wrenches, he was struck by the quiet – and the utter lack of movement.

Excepting a few breezes, the landscape was still, even the pale greenery of the trees somehow stilled. The noises of John moving about in the confines of the building were loud in comparison, and he could even hear his own heartbeat in his ears... An anxious sound, slowly getting faster.

Securing the wrenches, he returned inside, unnerved but dismissive. Must be a bear wandering about nearby. It won't bother us if we make a healthy amount of noise...

“John, lad, let’s get these connections off the lines dumping into the hotwell – then we can have a look at what we’re dealing with for corrosion in the pipes themselves. Not seeing anything there is going to be reusable (or at least I wouldn’t trust it!) but we’ll need to take them along for measurement’s sake on fabrication.”

"On it."

While they worked, footfalls padded up to the outside of the building, stealthy, cautious, predatory. The noises the men were making covering its movements as the creature circled the building, shying away from the reek of lubricants and solvents on the tools in the trailer. It wrinkled its nose and suppressed the urge to snarl at the pungent smells as it continued to stalk is prey. A voice sounded from within the shed.

“Arrrrgh…these Stillsons won’t do it – the hardware‘s corroded. Warm the nuts up a bit, there’s a good lad. Not too hot, and let’s see….that’s done it. Moving on, then…cook off the rest of those and then we can pull that section.”

The creature felt its insatiable hunger intensify as it drew nearer to its prey... But after the elder one channeled that... power... (Its skin still crawled at the thought of what the old man had done... It did not like whatever he did...) it knew it had to exercise caution.

Footsteps came to the opening in the shed – big ones. The creature began to head back to the woods as the rusted iron door slammed back on its hinges. With that the creature bounded away, leaping into the forest and climbing up into the branches. All that could be seen of it would have been a slight ripple as its skin changed color to match the surroundings... It looked like nothing more than a bit of wind ruffling the grass and branches.

John emerged, back to the trailer for a large set of pipe wrenches. Hearing a bustle, he drew his S&W .500 and scanned, but saw nothing... The only movement he saw was vegetation moving in the wind. With a shrug, he holstered his weapon and returned to his task... Shouting back, he asked “How big do you want ‘em? You’ve got a whole damn hardware store in here! The hell did you do, buy a Harbor Freight?"

“Ha ha. Go for the eighteen-inchers – even with you warming things up this is not going to move easily.”

“Will do.”

Securing the wrenches, John walked back to the shed, door slamming closed again.

And the eyes watched...
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:46 pm

Chapter 6

As Greg drove back, though, the silliness of the situation began to prey on his sensibilities. All the way down the road, Greg kept mulling the information over in his mind... tell Al and John? What good would it do to set them on edge? Especially when the whole story sounds like a cheap attempt at a B-rated horror film by an amateur hack... naw, nobody writes stuff THIS bad.

Muttering to himself, Greg began to laugh at the entire concept. "I can hear it now - the camera pans to Al who says 'This can't be - it's too far-fetched.' and then John says 'Nah, we can handle whatever it is..'

Then one of the old guys comes up against it in the dark... Nah. NOBODY writes stuff this bad."

Still snickering, he pulled up to the entrance. Drawing his 1911 he pulled back the slide, priming the chamber with a live round, and took off the safety. Carefully inspecting the surroundings, he stepped from the truck, keeping Clara’s bulk to his back as a safe zone, and opened the gate. Stepping back in and driving through, he repeated the procedure, carefully closing the gate behind him while never taking his head off swivel.

Pulling into the clearing he swung Clara about, back doors to the two tents. Honking the horn, he stayed in the cab till Al and John, irritated by the honking, finally came out of the engine shed.

“CEASE AND DESIST THE HONKING! We heard you come in – what has your knickers in such a knot?”

“Nothing – help me unload this stuff – got bags of groceries and enough tooling to rebuild the Bay Bridge. What’s all this stuff for, anyway?”

“Most of it – for nothing, likely. I do have a lot of analysis equipment here for the archaeological aspects – if something is too spoiled to transport I’ll document it here and the carcase can stay and a new one built. The condenser is one such item – old steam radiators in the bottom of a well filled from the lake. Effective, but not salvageable.”

Within a few minutes they had the cases in the equipment tent, and the food in the coolers on ice.

“Looks good. Greg, why don’t you come with us and have a look at what we’ve been about? Then we can have a bite of lunch and have at again. I want to quit before sunset – we’re doing well and I don’t want to be wandering about here in the dark with the reputation this place has for bears.”

Greg thought to himself. Yah, not gonna say anything. Just common sense – bears and stupid rednecks, or kids too busy playing grab-ass to pay attention. Nothing spooky here.

And the eyes watched as the men went about their business.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:54 pm

Chapter 7

As the day closed, the three men withdrew to the tent. Darkness fell, with the cheery glow of the electric and propane lighting pouring out through the windows of the large canvas enclosure.

Inside was merry. Music played on the speakers attached to Al’s computer, and the three enjoyed cold drinks, their feet up on various packing cases and equipment. As they relaxed, they discussed the day’s accomplishments.

“Got a good start. Grid’s down, and the photo-survey’s been pretty thoroughly accomplished. Greg, what did you think of the electrical switch panel?”

“The wood was rotten, but given the humidity in that stone shed it’s not a huge surprise. With the shots you got of the layout and the schematics I sketched out of the panel and connections to the generator you should be able to reproduce it.”

“Expected, and thank you for doing that bit of fiddly work while John and I decoupled the engine plumbing. The original owners wanted a candy box Disney representation – it’s going to get all tidied up and polished, and the panel is going to be oh-so carefully rustic looking.”

John rumbled from where he sat. “Al, you don’t sound happy with that – any reason?”

Al made a face. “No particular reason – I do make a tidy living doing this, after all. Honestly, it’s this whole area – it puts me on edge a bit. I’ll be glad when we pack it up and move out.” He rose from his place and headed for the stove and cook table.

"What are we having?"

"Steak and baked potatoes...with your cooperation." As he said it Al laid a flat griddle on the top of the cook stove burners and commenced to lay out steaks after rubbing them with salt, cracked pepper and garlic.

Looking rather disgusted John stood and walked in toward to the cooking area. "I thought we weren't cooking over me. Okay, which one do you need help with?"

"These. Heads UP!" With that cry, Al reached over to his prep table and threw four baking potatoes wrapped in foil to the salamander.

Half-expecting the assault, John caught the potatoes and began to effortlessly juggle them, and the smell of roasted potato filled the room. Soon after, that delectable smell was joined by the scent of well hung meat searing in its own juices.

“Greg, these steaks are quite nice – these come from the grocery or did you find a butcher shop in town?”

“Nope, all the grocery store. Guy behind the counter knew his job, and prepped everything right for us – the counter was full of primals – they didn’t keep anything cut.”

“Small town – not a surprise. You want it, you’ll wait for it to be cut for you. At least we’ll eat well while we’re here.”

Within a few minutes "Back atcha!" came from John, and Al hastily donned two oven gloves. Tossing them back to Al, the old man kept them in the air till he reached the prep table, spiking them firmly onto a plate there.

"Damn - Dinner AND a show!" The applause from the corner where Sarge reclined with a Dr. Pepper was loud. John laughed, and Al bowed. "Thank you, thank you, you're a great audience! Make sure you tip your waiter, and we'll be here till next Thursday!'

With that done, and as the steaks came to perfection John again reclined, a grimace on his face. “Al, I know how you feel. There’s just something…wrong with this place. Normally, when I use energy it feels... normal – it’s what I’m made to do. Like walking or breathing.

Doing it here, though… it’s got a... a feel to it. It’s almost… slimy. It's gross. Like a bad aftertaste, but all over."

“I hear you, lad. I feel much the same. Been trying hard not to take energy from the leylines here even though I have permission from the landowners to do so – there’s a taint to them. Not sure what it is – but I don’t like it. However, it’s neither here nor there – and what IS here is dinner!”

Setting a rack of condiments on the centre of the table, Al filled three plates with steak, potatoes and vegetables and set them out. “John, there’s another steak there for you, and a baked potato as well. I know you’ve got an appetite on you and I made extra.”

John, his mouth already full of good angus beef, nodded with a grin. "F'anks... Iz goo schuff." He took a moment to swallow. "I missed steaks... I guess you haven't forgotten how to cook after all." He gave Al a smirk, covering up his own uncertainty about the location and the feeling he got when he burned.

With a will the men turned to their dinner. Casual conversation, horseradish and condiments for the potatoes accompanied the meal, with the banter of friends sharing a common task interspersed with planning for the next day.

Soon the plates were empty and slices of bakery apple pie and cups of strong coffee filled their places. Relaxing, the men enjoyed the quiet time – dinner ending, bed not yet — and sat with the music playing and enjoyed their dessert.

“Damn nice pie. Local again?”

“Baked there in the store unless I miss my guess, along with the bread. That place is a keeper.”

“Indeed.”

"I'm thinking of picking some stuff up when we head home to chuck in the freezer..."

Greg stirred, stretched, knocked back the remnants of his coffee and headed for the door of the tent. Halfway there, he hesitated, stopped, and returned to his bunk and picked up the pistol belt and 1911 hung at the foot.

Al nodded. “Good idea. Bears. More coffee? I’m going to make another pot.”

“Nope, thanks. Want to sleep tonight. Back in a few – got to water the foliage.”

With that he undid the flap lacing and stepped into the starry night.

Greg tried to remain cheery in front of Al and John, but now that he was on his own his instincts ran at full tilt. SOMETHING out here was not right... not ... not ... natural.

It spotted the older non-mage headed for the bush. It had seen enough of human behavior to know that it was going to release urine. Odd... but predictable. Also makes for an easy kill. The old one will be preoccupied and facing away. Even with the short neck, the paralyzing strike will work easily. The older one will be devoured but a short distance from its compatriots, unable to call for assistance. The anticipation of suffering made it impatient....

Greg was in mid stream when it happened- he saw the creature's view. He saw himself from behind, being approached silently. In a well practiced motion, the old 1911 snapped out of the M-7 tanker's holster, the slide was jacked and the trigger pressed as the bullet rammed to battery. This all in the fraction of a heartbeat it took for Greg to rotate 180 degrees. The flash of the first round caught the creature by surprise- it dropped its natural camouflage and Greg saw what he had just shot dead in the solar plexus.

He was completely horrified by what he just saw- in the very brief moment where the stunned creature and he stared at each other, his mind went full survival while the creature attempted to charge. Five more rounds, dump the mag and pop a fresh, seven more rounds, reload and finally eight more shots. Each round struck center-of-mass, infuriating and confusing the creature. The last round was against the creature's backside, as it apparently had enough of .45 ACP. Frantically, Greg searched for more magazines... only to remember he only had the three. He ran back to the tent...

What was THAT?!? It had been exposed to firearms before... and had learned to avoid contact with such things. But THIS thing kept belching smoke and pain over and over and over again! And it HIT so HARD! It was actually BLEEDING! And while this old one might not be magical, it certainly was hard to surprise... This will require some thought... and healing... and some slow killing, slower than usual....

John heard the gunshots and screaming, and immediately dove at Al, taking him down to the ground before standing and leaping for the tent, smoke trailing behind him as he preheated in anticipation for whatever was going on. One hand was on the grip of his revolver and the other was glowing cherry-red when Al, cursing under his breath with his .303 at the ready, joined him at the opening just as Greg bolted in.

"Right, lad- what was it?" Al asked tersely.

"Dunno... dumped three mags inta th' sumbitch an' it ran off,"

John followed in and noticed Greg's open fly...

"No wonder Annie speaks so highly of you..." he casually mentioned.

Al looked down- "Check yourself mate- yer hanging in the breeze..."

Greg looked confused for a moment, then looked- with a profound curse, he tucked himself back in and zipped his pants. "Good thing I didn't have to shit," he muttered.
John snorted, smoke streaming from his nostrils. "Dunno... Mighta killed the thing's appetite."

"Right-" Al continued, "Now that we got THAT covered, what the hades were you shooting at? What did it look like?"

Greg choked down a gasp as he remembered the thing-

"Well... muh... it stood on two legs... fucker was HUGE... an' UGLY..."

"Bear?" offered Al.

"...no... this were no bear...looked like it were covered in scales... UGLY sumbitch... fucker would scare th' warts off'n a toad... hands looked human... sorta... 'ceptin' the horrid talons at the ends of each finger. Teeth that ... muh... teeth that just are WRONG..."

"Wrong...? How do you mean, 'wrong'?"

"THE WHOLE DAMN THING WAS WRONG, AL!!! IT WERE A LIVIN' BLASPHAMY!!!"

"ATTEN-TION!" Al hated to push his old friend's buttons like this, but it was obvious whatever he'd seen had him badly rattled. With that, old habits took hold and Greg snapped to attention, though he was still trembling at the vision of what had attacked him.

"John, keep an eye out the door and windows - let's see if you can spot whatever had at Greg."

John nodded smartly and began to patrol - he was definitely not gonna mess with Al when the Sergeant-Major was at work.

Al turned back to Greg. "Sergeant, REPORT!"

Again, well-entrenched habit took hold. "Sir, I was pissing when I was attacked."

"Describe the soldier."

"Tall - John's height or so. Covered in scales - tough ones - the ball rounds basically bounced off. More or less human build but not human at all. Human hands with large claws. Taloned feet as well. Teeth..."

The old sergeant began to sweat and tremble a bit. Al realized he'd reached the end of where the conditioning would take him, and released him. "At ease. Come, sit." As Greg came off attention his knees began to buckle, and Al got him into a seat at the table. Reaching back to the stove he grabbed the coffee pot, poured him a cup, and shoved it in front of Greg's face.

"Sit, take it easy for a moment - you've had a rather nasty shock, me lad. JOHN!! Anything?"

"No. Whatever it was beat feet after Greg shot the hell out of it. That's not a good sign. Moving like that after taking that many damn bullets means it's scared or pissed off now."

"Bloody wonderful. Keep your eyes open but listen up. This isn't a salvage job any more - it's a hunting expedition. I am ANNOYED."

After nearly draining the mug of black Greg poured himself another and adulterated the cup with his usual. He then spoke, his voice clear, the shock diminishing. "Whatever that thing is, it's not a bear or anything like. It's also been here for a long time. When I was in town the folks at the grocery store tried to warn me about being out here, as did the folks at the shipping company. The stories were basically the same centrally, with different peripheral incidents." Like the seasoned noncom he was Greg condensed the reports into a synopsis for the other two, finishing up with "I didn't think anything of this - thought there was a rogue bear or wildlife."

"Neither here nor there at the moment, old boy - you didn't feel the reports significant. I think it's time for all the marbles to be in the game though." With economy of speech much unlike him he reported his feelings - the essential wrongness of the place, the disgusting taint of the energy flows, the taint over the land that even a thorough smudging hadn't budged. "Whatever it is, it's tainted the land here badly - which screams paranormal. John - what are you feeling? I know you mentioned something earlier."

"When we got here, I felt something was wrong. Now that I think of it, I musta been feeling like I was about to walk into an ambush. I should have noticed it right then and there. Master Grumpy wouldn't be pleased. I think I might have ignored it because neither of you two piped up. Figured I was imagining things.

And as for the taint, yeah, I'm feeling the same as you - even the dark energy here is disgusting. All my fire makes smoke regardless of if I want it to. While I can still use it, not sure what close proximity or contact is going to do for either of us... And I run on ambient dark energy. I can get by without, thanks to Prroul and his damn Nope Field, but it's still a real pain in the ass."

"Good point, lad - something to remember. Greg, you said that whatever this thing is it won't take on a group - it hunts strays only?"

"Yup. No incident of a multiple kill. It had camouflage, which it dropped when I got the first magazine on target. Likely it can't hide in more than one direction or more than one point of observation - the patterns won't 'look' right to one observer or the other."

“Okay, so we have a hominid killing machine, armored, claws and teeth and stealth operation. Any other characteristics Sergeant?"

Greg thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "Yes. Lean - very lean - almost skeletal. Lots of power, though - no body fat or padding from the look of it."

"Aw, goddamn sunova mothaf...." John drew his revolver and looked out the door again, the volume of his steady cursing dropping to a mutter.

"Kin'ell. Wendigo."

"Wait, you know what this thing IS?" Greg was incredulous.

Al spoke, briefing Greg. "When I took the classes at Gryphon there was an optional class - this one was not for the weak of stomach or the young - and the instructors were VERY serious about that. What it was was a 'know your enemy' class - things that go bump in the night for real, as opposed to the paranormal types we're used to being around.

"The wendigo was one of them."

Greg fussed - he waned information. "Don't stop there, damnit - TALK."

Al answered a bit hesitantly. "Simple enough; while the name is that of the Algonquin spirit of greed, the reality is much, much worse..."

“All right – stop being dramatic.” Greg said – he was not in the mood for hyperbole.

Al collected his thoughts, then spoke again. “This is not exaggeration or flummery, me bucko. This is a serious case of nasty masquerading as an Indian legend. A wendigo is vile – it’s a degenerate human. Think of a ravenous appetite that is never sated – it will kill and kill and eat and kill…never stopping.”

Greg was incredulous. “Human? That thing was NOT human. I’ve seen what a human can turn into and that wasn’t it.”

John turned from the door and faced back into the room. “Believe it. Sensei and I talked about nasties, and the wendigo is what Al describes.”

Al spoke disgustedly. “Trust me, I wish I was wrong.A wendigo comes into being because a human kills AND EATS another human being for reasons other than dire need or religious aspects. This also lets out broken humans who lust for human flesh – that is a psychological disability. Plain and simple evil is what creates a wendigo. A human makes a decision to kill and eat people – and that’s the jump-off point down the cliff to Hades.”

“That thing was not human. What happened to it?”

John spoke up, still staring into the blackness. “From what Sensei told me, the human aspects burn away every time this thing hunts and kills. The body changes to become a pure hunter – claws, teeth, the armor you saw and changes to bone structure. The mind goes away as well – it reprograms to be nothing but a killer. The only human traits that stay are the evil ones that turned it to begin with.”

“Well now and ain't THAT special?!?" spat out Greg rather sarcastically, "We got us a 'once upon a human' that now is eatin' people for the pure evil of it,"

Al spoke up again. “Not just people. It will make a clean sweep of whatever area it’s in. It will eat everything down to insects, then hibernate till food comes back.”

“This just sounds better and better. So, how the holy hell do we kill this thing?”

“That’s not a simple question.” John was emphatic. “It’s tougher but not impossible to kill than a human – think drugged-up crackhead with an adrenalin rush. The big problem is going to be hitting it – it’s really fast, really smart in a hunting sense, and it’s got stealth capability as Greg saw. The big problem we’re going to have is hitting it, and hitting it enough times to bring it down. Once that happens, it’s going to be a greasy smoking crater.” John’s hand glowed again briefly.
Last edited by Just Old Al on Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:30 pm

Chapter 8

It retreated a goodly distance and examined its many wounds. None were deep, and not all retained the implement that struck its flesh... but they hurt. They hurt bad. Worse than any it had experienced before... And they were faster, more frequent, with no warning smoke or flash... After a bit of digging, the remaining objects were removed... except that one in the back... They were a different color than before... Last time it was hit by these... Flying stinger things... It was barely starting to grow its armor... and the round, grey things were barely a threat, even then... But these shiny reddish ones were far more dangerous. THAT old one has a different form of magic, one to be respected. And THAT old one knew it was being stalked! So much effort wasted and yet no food... perhaps the tall, younger one would have to do for a first meal. They now are alerted, it will be harder... but the hunger doesn't wait, does it? It never waits...

Back in the tent, Al clapped his hands for attention.

“Okay. Now I need you lot to shut yer pie holes for a bit – I need to try and have a look about for this bastard.”

John was emphatic. “You are NOT going out there – especially alone. That fucker’ll have you for lunch in a heartbeat.”

Al chuckled mirthlessly. “He’ll eat me and not the redneck? I am touched by your concern, and annoyed by your lack of faith in my stalking skills.

No, I am NOT going out there physically. However, I am going to go and have a look about. It's called Mage Sight. Some call it astral projection, some call it an out-of-body-experience…now I can’t go far without a spiritual anchor, and She's not here...anyway Daisy would shoot me in a red-hot minute if she even thought I would consider it, but I can survey a mile or so hereabouts and see if I can spot that blemish’s lair. Now shut up and let me work.”

With that, Al sat on his bunk in the lotus position. Performing the heart breath, he drew power from his well and carefully detached himself from the physical body he inhabited.
Floating up and out he scanned the forest around the large tent, seeing with an acuteness not available to optics and organs of flesh. Out of habit, he looked for animals and insects to share Sight with, as well as any friendly wood-folk, but the stark reality of the vast emptiness and blackness of nothing that spread out so far distressed him greatly.

Slowly, surely, he spiraled out from the point, seeing the signs of the scuffle in the broken vegetation at the front of the tent, and the temperature variation of the puddle of urine, the hot brass and the few slugs still lying in the dirt.

Faint tracks led straight away from the camp, out past the power house and out of the lodge area completely. Like a spectral bird Al attempted to follow them, hoping to get a glimpse of the Wendigo’s lair.

As he reached the extent of this travel he saw the tracks continuing into the bush, in a few locations leaving bright splashes of blood.

He swept down to examine one, again seeing it where no physical presence would see anything. As he approached the…smell… grew and grew, till he was forced to stop.

Bloody horrible psychic stench on this. When, he chuckled mentally; all right, IF we kill this damn thing it will have to be eradicated completely. This thing is a blot on the Universe.

This sod has GOT to go.


A thought and he opened his eyes, to two anxious faces looking at him, at which he raised a hand motioning for a moment. He then rummaged in his kit and pulled forth his smudging supplies, and reaching deep into the pouch, he drew forth one of his crystals, and sent a silent prayer of thanks to Aurum for showing him how to make them, before snapping it, allowing the pure, clean energy to flow through him. Sighing in relief, he then opened a bottle of water and took a long pull before answering.

“Well? Did you see…it?” Greg asked.

“No, not a scale or a fang. You did damage it, though – I followed its tracks as far as I could and it was dripping ichor – I can’t bring myself to call it blood. I examined a spot of it – the psychic stench from even the blood was overwhelming.

John – when and/or IF we kill this thing it’s going to need a full-power blast – this thing needs to be snuffed out of reality or this area will never recover. That’s what we’ve been feeling – the residue of this thing’s presence for as long as it’s been here.”

John nodded – again not arguing with the Sergeant-Major no matter HOW he was collecting intelligence.

Al spoke again, old habits coming back to the fore in the situation. “We need to get some rest – I for one am NOT going out after that bastard in the dark. John, can you take first watch? Wake me in two, then –“

Greg interrupted. “No – let me take first watch. There’s no way I’m going to sleep tonight…not after…that.”

Al nodded, unsurprised. That type of an encounter did not make for tranquil slumber – or any at all for that matter. “Very well, then. Go for two hours, or until you feel tired if it’s sooner – it has been a very long day, after all. Either of us can relieve you, then the odd man out will take the next shift. We’ll figure out what to do after dawn – right now we all need rest.”

Al held out the SMLE toward Greg. “Not sure if you have any ammunition for the .45 here, and considering how hot that thing got it might not be completely reliable. You know how to fire one of these, of course.”

Greg demurred. “Ah have a friend o' mah own, as ye’d say.” He went to his duffel, removing a small but powerful-looking rifle.

"This here's Suzy- 1903A4 Mark2 with a cropped star- gauged barrel 'n' express sights. I even brought some Alpha Poppa fer it, figurin' on poppin' a bear's noggin should I have ter... 'spect this here critter maht need sumpin' in th' way o' ...strong... medicine from what yew is sayin'."

"Alpha Poppa?" John asked.

"Armor piercing," Al replied then turned back to Greg, "Is that the standard NATO stuff? I didn't think you could get it in .30 '06 anymore..."

".308 resized 'n' remounted- no big trick. Only brought two hunnert rounds though... yew rekkon thas nuff?"

"I imagine we'll find out... here's hoping it is. That... hmmm... 'Suzy', you say? I see she's 'cast off' and a bit long in the trigger pull- cut to you, I assume?"

"Did the stock m'self," Greg spoke with no small amount of pride.

"Greg, I have said it before and will say it again - you do extraordinary work. I really need to contract with you for a properly customized SMLE - perhaps the 7.62 sniper version."

"Y've got Chryso - whatddya want that for?"

"Times like this. I want a weapon that doesn't have the overhead of the magic. Not sure Chryso would even work here - it's semi-sentient and that taint in the energy would hamper it badly. Frankly I'm glad she's not here - I know what I'm feeling would do her no end of harm."

"I see. We'll talk if yer want one. Now, get some sleep and ah'll see yew in a few hours."

“Very well, then!” Al chuckled, and laid the SMLE down in easy reach. Not even removing his boots, he loosened his belt and settled back, the habits of years letting him go to sleep in moments.

John looked over from his sleeping pad, a mixture of speculation and concern on his face as he examined the exquisite weapon and its creator. "You gonna be alright, old man?"

Greg looked over from the window and nodded. “Not the first time I’ve been on watch. Get some sleep – I’ll see you in a few hours.” That being said, Greg turned back to the window and John settled down.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:32 pm

Chapter 9

With a pale, wan light the day penetrated the tent.

Shutting off the electric lights, John stretched, and went over to the kitchen area. Setting up the French presses, he then poured a pot of water and boiled it in seconds. Pouring the boiling water into the presses and stirring them, then pressing the plungers was the work of a moment – at which point the older men began to stir.

“Anything?”

“Nope. Not a damn thing stirring – at all. It’s dead out there – literally.”

Al sat up, stretched, and headed for the food. “Coffee, then breakfast, then we think about what we need to do.

As I said last night this is no longer a salvage operation – it’s a hunting expedition. This thing has got to go, or we do. We can’t take the chance it can catch one of us alone – there are three of us and we can’t pair up.”

“Makes sense.” said Greg, never at his best pre-caffeine.

With that, the three men had coffee, then breakfasted. Afterward, sitting with full mugs, Al started the discussion.

“Honestly, chaps, I have no idea how to go about this hunt. The only way I can see to guarantee an encounter is to offer a single human as bait – and that is just NOT ON.

Greg, you are a far better stalker and tracker than I – I defer to your talents. Any insights?”

"Whelp- I can start war Ah dumped into its hide and see war it goes... it were leakin' sumpin' fierce after Ah nailed it- tell th' truth, I doubts anythin' ever tracked this critter... Ah rekkon us tryin' t' track it might throw it fer a loop- but we best keep t'gether on this!!!"

"We've already established that, Bucko- we three remain united until death settles the issue. Period." Al calmed him down.

"Yup... yer right.. sorry, Al, but that thing... well, it just ain't ...right.... Ah rekkon it cain't hide frum mor'n one atta time, right?"

"That is what we are to understand, yes," Al rejoined, "... and it has no means to understand us, so our planning will be a. .. novelty... actually more of a shock... to the wretched thing."

"Ah'll know when it sees me," Greg quietly murmured.

"How's that?" Al asked, "What are you not telling us?"

Greg turned his face towards Al... not even the Doctors at Ft. Benning knew this... he spent a moment considering his answer.

"The stupid thing projects. " he said flatly, "When it focuses on me, Ah sees whut IT sees... Ah sees me thru its eyes. Most predators do that, but not many can sees it... seems mah Momma wuz Appalacian after all..."

"Neil said your Mother was Irish," John commented.

"Heh... John, yew go threw them hills an' see how many Scotch/Irish names yew tumble over. Yew still gots that "Saturday Night Special" Ah made yew?"

"You mean the .500 Smith? Yup- but I figure that a severe barbeque will do the job."

"John, trust me- yer gonna want sumpin' that barks over here an' bites way th' snot over there."

Al looked at John – the Sergeant-Major detecting a reservation in the tall salamander.

“John, comments? I hear something running around in your head.”

John paused, considering how best to say what he wanted to. Both of these old men had decades of combat experience, but he had advantages neither of them could dream of.

“I’m…not sure you’re taking the right approach. I think Al was right to begin with – we need to give this thing what it wants or we’re gonna chase it all over Hell and never find it.”

“Well, DAYM, John – we are NOT gonna put yew out there as bait! You’ll git killed and then we’re still gonna have to get the sonuvabitch.” Greg was adamant – after his close encounter with the wendigo he had a healthy respect for its powers despite its Billens’ heel.

John held up his hands. “Look, hear me out. As long as I have dark energy – even the tainted crap here – I’m immortal. That thing can’t kill me, can’t eat me and sureashell isn’t going to do anything but annoy me.

I can go out there and draw the motherfucker out, and we can make a clean job of this. Blow it to hell, incinerate the pieces and it’s hugs and puppies time, right?”

“You know, Greg – yon salamander has a point. I think in this case he may be right – but we can give him some insurance as well.”

Greg was having none of it. “And whut kind of insurance might THAT be, Mister Sergeant-Major? If anyone goes out with him they run the risk of ending up wendigo shit – or scaring the damn thing off.”

“Not if it can’t see them.” Al said, smugly crossing his arms.

Greg rolled his eyes. “Oh, great. More hocus-pocus. Yew have gotten insufferable since yer trip to Scotland, y’know that? Fahn, whut’s the drill?”

“With John as a focus I can accompany him anywhere he goes. My connection will weaken with distance and time, but I’ve enough duration, I think, to let me ‘fly cover’ for him. I see it coming, I warn him.”

“An’ how you gonna warn him, Mr. Mage?”

“Firecracker – trick Flashburn taught me. Small Bang, small puff of smoke. Whichever direction the bastard’s coming from I fire the cracker, then John can have some sort of warning.” Al turned to the salamander, who’d been following the discussion.

“What do you think, lad?”

“Sounds like a win-win situation. How long can you do this?”

“Some tens of minutes – not as long as I’d like to, but I can pull some energy from this septic tank. This trick will drain me pretty badly, though – and that’s the rat in the woodpile.”

Al turned to Greg and put his hands on Greg’s shoulders – an intimate gesture. “And now we come to that rat in the wood pile.

While I do this I am going to be effectively helpless – my connection to the ‘me’ in the body will be minimal, and not enough to let me react quickly if the wendigo comes calling.

I am going to put my life in your hands. Can I ask you for this boon, old friend? More the point, if you cannot defend me, I ask for the grace - don’t let it eat me alive.”

“Dayum, Al – ain’t nothin’ gonna happen..”

“I’m serious. I need you to promise to do this for me. I don’t want to be an observer to my own demise – and if the wendigo hits me while I’m out of body that is certainly what I will be.”

Greg’s arms came up, and hands clasped Al’s shoulders. “Yes.”

“Good. Now that all this touchy-feely shit is over with can we get back to killing the asshole, PLEASE?” Al chuckled at the salamander’s impatience as he broke grip with Greg.

“It seems our young friend here is impatient to go ‘chew bubblegum and kick arse.’ Got yer bubblegum, lad?”

“No, I don’t have any bubblegum!”

“Then we’ll have to settle for kicking arse, then. In any case, pay attention you two – I have an idea of how to do this, and want your opinions.

John – I can point you in the direction in which our opponent departed. I suggest you go off in that direction – make a LOT of noise – snap off saplings, generally act like you’ve not a concern in the world. Piss up a few trees – mark your territory. This should royally annoy the wendigo considering how long it’s ‘owned’ this place.

Greg, impressions on how long that might be?”

Greg thought. “From the stories I’ve heard, a very, very long time. The stories go back decades if not nearly a century from what I gathered.”

Al chuckled a bit. “When you are acting as an intelligence officer your accent fades. Interesting.”

Greg chuckled a bit as well. “When you’re evaluating data presentation is everything. So, we have a really old asshole here – seems to be why his armor’s that thick and he’s so damn different…and ugly.”

Al nodded. “Feral, smart in his way and able to camouflage. NOT good. I am not pleased – at all.”

“So, how do we handle this?” John was nonchalantly wiping down the .500 Smith – it had picked up a few fingerprints and he liked his weapons tidy.

“Dominance. You go out and piss it off. I am going to be with you, and watching for anything untoward. If I see anything you will get this.”

Al removed a small talisman from a pocket, clenched it in a fist, and made a throwing motion. At the other end of the tent a bright SNAP took place accompanied by a puff of smoke.

“Impressive. How the hell are you gonna do that if you’re floatin’ around like a damn ghost?” Greg touched on the difficulty succinctly.

“Simple enough. I will have the talisman in my hand. It’s nothing but a focus item, anyway. I can perform the spell without it, but having the talisman for focus makes it easier and faster. I want speed in this case for obvious reasons.”

“So, what’s our drill?” Greg asked.

“Also simple. You and I go out there into the middle of the clearing. I park my arse on the ground in lotus, and you take Suzy and your 1911 and watch around us. Odds are the beastie won’t go for us, but that’s not a guarantee.”

“I’ve heard ‘o crazier plans – but they didn’t work. You sure about this?”

“You want to chase a feral beast in its own hunting zone – a smart mankiller? *I* don’t. We can’t watch each other simultaneously, and we can’t bail out and leave this menace here. It’s got to go.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:16 pm

Chapter 10

The three left the tent, determined to rid the world of the menace they’d experienced. John, .500 Smith holstered at his side, watched as Greg and Al took up their places.

Again, Al settled in the lotus position and performed the ritual, carefully detaching himself from the body he inhabited. Rising to head height and then above John, he looked about for inhabitants to share Sight with and again found none. Saddened, he looked back, seeing Greg, armed to the teeth and vigilant, watching his temporarily uninhabited shell.

Greg looked down at his blood brother, oblivious and elsewhere. “Anything happens to you, old man, I will personally find you in the afterlife to kick your ass. Be careful.” With that, he watched John head into the forest, following the blood spoor from the night before.

The fetid ichor still lay where it dripped – it seemed not even microbial life wanted anything to do with it. John strode along the path, crashing through the brush, deliberately making as much noise as possible. In his hand was the 500 Smith, its chromed surface glinting in the weak sun.

A hundred yards away the wendigo watched, incredulous. Attacked, hurt and the prey invades! The big one acts like there is no fear – it invades! Where to attack where where where where where where…there!

With that the wendigo turned and slipped into the brush, to circle forward and plot an ambush. Never had the prey attacked like this. The prey always came as many. This time, the prey would die slowly, and the wendigo would feast before it ate the old ones.

John continued to crash through the bush, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. With him, Al still watched his surroundings – a difficult task and one that was tiring the old man more quickly than he thought.

Fergus warned me about this…hope I can hold out through the swing. Al thought.

John, however, was still going strong. “Fuckin’ thing…where the hell is it? Come out and play you filthy bastard…time to go visit Hades. I have JUST the coin for you to pay Charon with…and it comes in .500 caliber…”

John spotted movement in the reflection off his revolver over his shoulder. There's no wind to make the tree branches move like that... John took another step, forcing himself to remain calm as he took a steadying breath before suddenly pivoting and shooting at where he had seen the movement's reflection.

The explosion of the massive S&W .500 revolver shook needles from the surrounding conifers and raised a small cloud of dust from the ground underfoot, sending the massive bullet screaming towards the creature...

And missing it entirely.

"What the hell, where did you g-"

WHAM! The creature pounced from the side, slamming into John's hip. The unexpected direction of impact folded him and they both went down in a tangle. He felt teeth bite down on his kidney and he roared with pain as he combatted the creature's feral, primal mauling with his own judo and wrestling.

His blood, boiling hot, spurted onto the creature and it yowled, taking it by surprise. John gained the advantage and broke its holds and kicked it away, heaving it through the air and slamming it against a tree. His wounds were flaming, but they were sputtering and smoking heavily, and he wanted to retch as waves of disgust crashed through his whole body. He forced himself to ignore that and the pain and the itching as he got up from the ground, flowing from a three-point stance to a deep, rock-steady front stance, planting his feet and anchoring himself against another attack.

The creature writhed, and John had trouble telling what was what, as it was excellently camouflaged. The only reason he could easily find it at all was because it had his boiling, smoking blood all over it. Finally, the coloring shifted, and John got his first good look at it...

It wasn't human. It looked like an artists' rendition of a creature whose skeleton was assembled from a variety of apes, including humans... And a bad artist, at that. It was a sickly, slightly grey flesh tone in color where the camouflage has failed, losing the greens and browns.

The face was very human for the most part, but the jaw was warped to accommodate larger muscles and longer, sharper teeth... Which were jagged, blood-soaked, and yellow with plaque... Its eyes were squinted, but John could see the unadulterated malice in them... And a definite spark of an almost human intelligence. They were also quite bloodshot.

Its legs and arms were elongated at the shin and forearms, and each digit ended in wicked talons, which were serrated near the base, but smoother towards the points. And it was covered head to foot in what appeared to be... Toenails. They were growing out of its skin, forming a fairly effective layer of armor plating.

John was amazed by its appearance. "Damn, you are one ugly sumbitch." John summoned a fireball and was just about to hurl it at the thing when its color shifted once again and it leapt back into the trees, disappearing entirely. "Ugh. Fuckin Wendigo. They weren't kidding when they said they're ugly bastards."

With the wendigo gone, John headed quickly back toward the clearing to rejoin his partners.

About a kilometer away, Al sat with his eyes closed as Greg stood on lookout. A split second after they heard the report of John's enormous revolver echoing through the forest, Al made a face and recoiled. "Oh, bloody hell!"

"What? Al, dammit, ye cayn't jess cuss now an' not-"

"That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen!"

“Daym, ah told yuh that. John get it?”

"My instructor at Gryphon most certainly did not prepare me for just how hideous Wendigos are... Ugh...”

Al shuddered, still in lotus and eyes closed. “I was useless. John turned and fired at the thing at the instant I figured out it was there. The camouflage is incredibly good, and I will almost swear it knew I was there and moved when my attention was focused elsewhere.”

Stirring, he reached into a pocket and produced a crystal. Snapping it he breathed deeply, absorbing the energies contained within. Finishing his reattachment to reality he moved slightly, putting away the talisman in his pocket and the expended crystal in another.

He shuddered again and stood, letting his eyes open as John came running back into their camp, obviously in a thoroughly foul mood. "Damn thing bit my kidney, ugly little bastard. Hurt like a bitch. Did you see everything, Al?"

"Yes, I got an excellent view, and I'm very much worse for it."

"Yeah. Them bastards are ugly, aren't they?"

"Yes... Cloaking, keratin armor, talons, altered human skeletal structure... It's a-"
"A Gods-damned Wendigo. Yeah." John holstered his revolver and spat, making a disgusted face. "Its making my fire all gross. Eurgh."

"Aw, heyall."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:18 pm

Chapter 11

It BURNED!!! It BURNED me!!! How can this be?!? Its blood and flesh BURNED!!! What is this thing? ...

It listened- there was activity at the camp- odd- are they leaving? There are tools being used... The hunger now is stronger than ever... so is the hatred... this shall be looked at...

The three gathered again, standing in the clearing.

Al cocked an ear, though from his earlier experiences he knew the answer. “Notice there’s no sound? Rustling of the trees in what breeze there is, nothing else.”

“Damn, y’all’re raht. Nothin.” Greg had heard it before, his senses feeling dead from the lack of input.

“One of the things we are taught as SOP when using Mage Sight is to share sight with other beings. Insects, birds, small ones on the ground or in the trees. It’s a benefit – we can get many perspectives with little expenditure of energy.”

“Whut’s that ta do with now? That mean you can track the Wendigo easier that way?” Greg was in no mood for one of his friend’s numbingly thorough descriptions.

“No, actually. First off, the filthy thing seems to know I’m there – I can’t find it easily. Secondly, this requires energy I simply don’t have. I’m not the most powerful of mages, but the ground here – the leylines – are saturated with the wendigo’s filth. I can’t use the power much except to my detriment.

Third – there are none. Nothing alive here. I noticed it last night, and thought it me not doing my work properly. I was wrong.

Nothing lives here.”

The silence after that statement stretched on as each of them pondered the significance of that thought.

From where they stood nothing lived. Nothing made its home in tree bole or burrow, nothing flew in the air or slithered on the ground. Nothing spun a web in the tree branches, or sucked nectar from flowers that weren’t there.

Nothing breathed, nothing move – but them.

And the wendigo.

John spoke, his thoughts pumped into the still air.

"It'll be fun, he said. No worries, he said. Good food and good company, he said. Just some hard work, he said." John muttered under his breath as he drew his Smith and Wesson .500, holding it at the ready.

After scanning the surrounding thick forest, John threw a smoldering (his eyes were actually glowing a little) glower in Al's direction. "I think your wife had the right idea when she threatened to shoot you in the ass."

"Hush, you. Keep quiet and focus on staying alive... Or rather, keeping us alive, seeing as you're nigh immortal."

"It won't attack when we are all together, now... It's too smart for Leeroy Jenkins tactics. In the meantime, I reserve the right to an attitude, especially because it is oh so justified, right now. Are you positive you didn't know about this when you invited me along for this little escapade?"

"I swear, I had no idea-"

"Alright, then. I believe you. Let's kill the fucker."

“There are several problems with that, young lad. First, we have no idea where it’s gone after giving you an annoying moment or two. Second, we’ve no idea what its potential range is, or where the centre of that actually is – and searching for wildlife won’t get us there.

Let’s sit for a bit and talk this through – I suspect a bit of planning would not go astray.”

With that the three trooped back into the tent and sat. Al passed around bottles of water and drained one himself – wielding Power is thirsty work.

“Problem is here we have to catch the bastard out. In the brush we’ll never spot him – however long he’s been here he knows this land like no one else. That being said, this is going to require finesse – a simple ‘stomp the nasty’ is just not going to work here.”

“Opinions? Ideas?”

Greg looked pensive – there was an idea a-borning there. Al none too gently said “Are you in need of a magazine and some quiet time, or is that an idea brewing on your brow? Either way, please do tell – the suspense has me on the edge of my seat.”

“Well, at least A’hm tryin’ ta think a’ something…but I think I got an ahdear.”

Al prompted again. “Do tell.”

“Wayull, seems ta me that the critter’s got home-field advantage here. He knows ever’ tree, rock and bush and has paths.

Any paths we find’re gonna be his, ‘cause as you say there’s damn-all still alive here that isn’t us.

Seems ta me that that’s where we need ta work – ol’ nasty out there’s got ta come ta us – so we need ta think about where he’s gotta go ta come ta us.

Whuddya think?”

"We need some means of holding this beastie at bay," Al mused, "Something it is not ... acquainted... with. Greg, me bucko- seems we need to set some form of welcoming committee around this place- any ideas?"

Greg pondered for a moment... "Did I see a chunderload of old rotted barrels outside th' boiler room?"

"You did, Mate- you did... what do you have in mind?"

"And there were sum stack o' lumber as well, from the other crew?"

"Yes- right next to the coal bunker- Sgt. Howard, I smell treachery- what are you scheming?"
Greg's face split with an evil grin... "We're gonna teach this fugly thing how t' DANCE is whut Ah is thinkin'..."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:34 pm

Chapter 12

The idea, while simple, took time to implement. The three worked hurriedly, two concentrating as best as they could on tasks while the third scanned the trees for movement or sound. Finally, shortly before dark things were completed, leaving the grounds under Greg's watchful eye while the other two slept the first shift.

The night passed slowly, each of the men relieving the other on a two-hour schedule. Back on shift in the twilight near dawn, Greg watched out of the window of the tent. Senses not those of modern man scanned the forest and Greg awaited their tormentor.

Finally, he saw the glow of a hyper-active metabolism flitting from trunk to trunk, trying to close on the camp. Greg chuckled mirthlessly, ensuring his safety was off and making the checks any sniper makes before he needs to fire.

"Skittish little shit, ain't cha?" he chortled to himself, "Whelp, c'mon and gitchee whut's comin' to ye.... ya filthy sack o' shit..."

The old one with the loud things sits at the door- maybe he'll sleep... then I can YAUGH!!!!!

A sharp pain struck it mid shin. As it shifted to its other foot, another sharp pain struck mid calf of its leg. Then another- every time it set down a foot, there was a sharp pain.

Every sharp pain evoked another cry- the there was a whistle/CRACK as something flew through the brush- from the camp came a BOOM!

It jumped to the side- and something jumped up out of the ground and struck- then there was a flash and burning- more burning. It leapt again and again something jumped up and there was a flash and more burning.

Another whistle/CRACK and BOOM! Another leap and something truck the other shin, hard enough to damage armor. A leap backwards and its backside was struck, flashed and burned! Another whistle/CRACK/BOOM, this one striking mid thigh and tearing flesh. another leap, another strike/flash/burn followed by another strike to the shin.

"DO YOU SEE IT?" bellowed Al, practically teleporting out of bed, SMLE in hand and safety off.

"Yup- it's doing a pretty little dance with them barrel hoops.. one mo..." and Greg let another round rip at the creature, "THAT did something... he sure didn't like it... here we..." one more round flew at the creature, ".. go... THAT one hit vitals! He's losing ground Al! He's slowing down,"

Al squinted into the darkness- except for the sporadic brilliant flashes where coal dust was ignited as a dust cloud, he could see little.

"Brilliant use of a Mandalay Man trap- rigging a match to ignite the cloud on impact was genius! How many more are out there?"

"Ah'm thinkin' it's about run dry... yup, it's bookin' it,"

"Where did it flee to?"

"North by North-east...and bookin' at that..."

"How fast?"

"I'm thinkin' I saw a red shift..."

They know my hunting and will hunt ME! Burning stinging hurting! I must fight them now harry them weaken them kill them kill them kill them then I WILL EAT!

John stirred by the uproar, exited the tent. "All this noise and you DIDN'T kill it?"

"Ah gave ol' ugly sumpin' t' think about, anaways... Ah knows Ah nailed him once inna leg and once inna gut."

"Well, I suppose it'll go back and lick its wounds, eh?" Al said, somewhat but not terribly hopefully.

"Prolly- it's got sum serious healing t'.. hol' on... Al, it's coming BACK!! IT'S..."

Greg leveled the rifle and fired the last round just before something knocked him over, disappearing again into the forest with a strike-and-run tactic.

"DAMNATION!!!" Greg bellowed as he held his bleeding left arm, dropping the rifle.

"WHERE IS IT?" Al yelled in return.

Greg looked around- "Not here- Ah nailed it agin' Ah KNOWS it!" Getting up off the ground, he squinted in all directions looking for the beast before returning his attention to the wound.

Al looked as well- the rip extended seven inches along the length of the lateral left forearm, exposing muscle and bleeding rather profusely.

"Damnation indeed! Let's get some compression on that, shall we? John, be a good lad and hand me that first-aid box, eh? You know, old fellow- This might take a bit of magework to sort you out- you up to some 'hocus-pocus?'" Al grabbed the fabric, ripping it to get a full view of the wound. "Oh, bugger. He's ripped you a good one there, me bucko. This is decidedly going to require some magic to keep you functional and/or corporate."

"Dance around me wiff rattles 'n' beads if it'll work! Ah hain't too particular how ye sets me t' rights, jess be quick 'bout it!" Greg jabbered as he looked back outside the tent.

It HURT me AGAIN!!! It STILL SEES ME!! And now it is hard to breath... breathing feels... feels wet... this is not good... and there is pain in the chest, BIG pain... I will NOT sleep... sleep brings the bad dreams... I will not see the bad dreams I WILL EAT SO I DO NOT SEE THE BAD DREAMS!!!

Al reached into his pocket and produced one of the crystals, holing it up so the others could see it. “This is my last, old man – I hope you’re worth it.”

“Shut yer yap an’ get ON with it!” Gritting his teeth as the pain began to register Greg was in no mood for the banter, but was still comforted by it – as Al had intended.

Muttering, Al snapped the crystal, and the flare of energy transformed the old man. Chanting quietly to himself, his hands began to glow golden, and he approached the old sergeant.

"This, mate, is going to hurt like molten lead. I don't have the resources to fix you properly as the leylines here are tainted, so you're going to have to provide a lot of it. I'll give you all I can and stay conscious, but it is what it is."

"Talk less, fix more, before that...thang comes back. Ah got a score to settle with ‘im." Greg's face, pale and sweating, did not stop scanning the woods around him as Al prepared.

One old one tends the other...both are distracted. Finish them, and the big one is alone. I KILL I EAT!

Al's hands reached to the damage, Sarge's eyes anxiously watching his progress. Then, a flicker of infared brightness against the background caught his eye and he looked up.

"INCOMING! AL, YOUR SIX!"

Al turned, hands still glowing golden with the energy to heal his stricken blood brother. With that turn, the wendigo hit Al, claws raking across his leather jacket leaving tears in the tough material, teeth snapping inches from his jugular. Al reacted with the instincts of a hardened fighter - he grappled the beast, fell to his back and tossed it over him, further into the clearing and well away from the wounded man. As he did, there was a flash, as the energies of healing were inadvertently shunted into the wendigo's body.

The wendigo rolled on the stones and packed dirt, propelled forward by its momentum. Al collapsed, unhurt but unconscious as the energies of the heal were released in an uncontrolled fashion into the wendigo.

As the wendigo stood again, it shook its head. A pile of scales lay where it had come to rest, and more on the dirt it traversed. Its claws were shorter, and its skin more ruddy than the sullen grey of before.

Hurt. Pain. dull. hunger. Cold, and slow. What had the old one with power done to him when they touched? The shock passed through him when the old one touched…

The wendigo looked up and, John, in the process of summoning a fireball, looked at it. The fireball WHOOSHED toward the wendigo, who scrambled out of its way and into the woods.

"SOMETHING happened to that motherfucker when he hit Al. He looked different, moved different. Think Al managed to damage him with that flip?"

"Heyall, I dunno." Greg checked the unconscious Brit. "He's still breathing, but whatever just happened knocked him ass over teakettle. He's out cold."

John waved his hands, and a grey pall of ash and cinder surrounded Al, spinning like a tornado. "That'll keep him out of trouble for the time we need it. The wendigo can't get through it without getting sliced to ribbons."

"Good. Kin ye gimme a hand here?" While conversing, Greg had extracted a military compression bandage from its pack and gotten it over the wound, but hadn't managed to tie it on. With John's help, he got it cinched, and winced at the pain. "Fingers still work, so that's more-or-less good., 'Suzy' needs a reload, though an I doan' wanna take thayt time - down to mah 1911. Whar is th' bastard?"

"No idea."

The two scanned the clearing, eyes tracking, searching, seeking movement and finding none. Neither let their guard down for an instant – even wounded, the wendigo was a formidable enemy.

In the brush near its hole the wendigo crouched, heart thumping slowly, breathing deeply. Curled in on itself it thought. Unbidden, a memory of long ago came. The wendigo pushed it down, tried to focus on the kill, but the memory kept returning.

He was Objibwe. He had killed the tribesman who held the affections of the woman he desired. He had just eaten the flesh of his rival to gain his strength... but he had killed his rival in ambush. There was no honor in the killing and only hatred in the feast- he wished his victim were alive to watch the spectacle of it. Killing and eating one's opponent this way had a price... then the woman approached... and he was still hungry... she tasted quite good, even as raw flesh... it was before there were pale ones in the world... THAT DOESN'T MATTER!!! THE HUNGER MUST BE SATED!!! THE HUNGER DEMANDS IT!!!

Driven by the insatiable hunger it rose, and stealthily made its way toward the clearing. Searching, probing, it watched the old one that hurt and the tall one, and knew they watched for it.

The old one is hurt – its blood smell was on the wind. The tall one was preoccupied, watching out with the old one. The one with power was hidden in the cloud – he could be saved for last. Attack wait attack wait attack…ATTACK!

With all of the power it still contained, hiding as best it could, the wendigo blasted out of the woods toward John and Greg. Scrabbling gravel from the ground, the talons of the things’ feet dug deep and left gouges in the soil as it traversed the distance between the edge of the woods and the wary pair.

"INCOMING!!" Greg bellowed as he loosed a mag on the creature (who was now fairly visible). Six rounds struck what passed as flesh- three hit vital organs, penetrating deep. Greg dropped the now empty magazine with one live round in the tube- a new magazine replaced it before he pulled the trigger again.

Seemingly unaffected, the creature skidded, dodging and boring in relentlessly on the attack. While slowed and missing much of its armor, the determination and hatred that fueled it was still present in force.

"Stand clear!" John yelled as he threw a bright yellow flame at the creature's face- it missed, as the thing slipped deftly to the right as it pressed its attack. Greg's shot also missed, penetrating the space where it had been but a nanosecond before and whining off a rock and into the distance.

It charged John from this point, only to take another round from Greg into its right lower lung. The impact knocked it off just far enough that its attack on John left only minor scratches. John sent it sprawling with a single backhand.

Leaping up from where it had tumbled, the ichor of its wounds dripped down and soiled the ground where it stood. Panting, it stopped, crouched, its feral mien evident, the hatred it bore toward the men came off it in palpable psychic waves.

Greg looked at the creature... it was becoming more and more... human... even so, there was a stain to it, a vile presence that required no special talent to discern. Greg placed another round into it, this time striking the top of the sternum.

The bullet deflected into the creature's spine and shattered a vertebrae. The spinal cord was shocked at that point- paralysis set in. It could breathe... but not much more.

Greg saw the reaction – the creature dropped and howled – the first noise it had made in the entire battle. Its chest still rose and fell in pants, its eyes were open and searching, and its teeth still gnashed and tried to reach flesh to savage and torture.

Holding the old Colt on the target, he approached slowly. It, in turn, watched Greg's every move. There was nothing there but hatred... and hunger... BOTH insatiable, without remorse. Greg felt the bile rise in his throat- it was helpless, dying... and all it could cling to was its own poison...

" John- you OK?"

"Tolerable, I suppose- is that thing down for the count?"

"I think I paralyzed it- give me a hand, let's get it out to the fire pit... I want you to cleanse this thing."

"With fire? How hot do you think you'll need?"

"Can you vaporize tungsten?"

"Greg, if I were so inclined, I could vaporize the last million years of the geological record."

“JOHN! GREG! WHERE ARE YOU!” came a bellow. Both men started, then realized the source.

John waved his hand, and the pyroclastic cloud dissipated. Sitting up on the ground was Al, shaking his head as he tried to collect his thoughts.

“Damnit, Al, you scared the Hell out of us!” Greg said.

Al chucked weakly. “T’was not my intent, old cock – came to with that cloud around me and had no idea what you were about. Give me a minute and let me pull a bit of energy here – I’m completely shagged-out.”

Al rose to hands and knees and began to summon the energy of the leylines. After a minute and an episode of vomiting he stood, shaken and white. “I’ll hold for a bit, but we need to be elsewhere so I can get a proper charge.” Looking out, he started. “What have you got there?”

“This is our wendigo. Whatever you hit him with slowed him down, and John and I managed to bring him to a halt. Still alive, but not for long.”

“John, how are your power levels?”

“Enough. I’m in the same shape you are. Don’t want any of the dark energy here – it’s gross – but for that thing I’ll make an exception.”

Al looked upon the wendigo then looked away, eyes pitiless. “Make it go away.”

“Al, let’s get it away from the tents and equipment-“

“Sod the equipment. Nobody touches that thing. John, if you would be so kind.”

“How hot?”

“Yes.”

John turned from the other two – the discussion had taken their attention from the pitiless beast, once a man.

“WHERE THE FUCK DID IT GO?”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:37 pm

Chapter 13

Where the snapping creature had lain was a pool of its ichor. Leading from it into the woods was a foul trail, dripping from the wendigo’s damage.

“How in hayull did that damn thing get up?”

“I don’t think it got up more than crawled away, initially. Notice the smears and drag marks – it’s not functional by any stretch of the imagination. Unless I miss my guess and I will defer to you, Greg, on this – it’s gone to ground. It’s heading for its lair, and we’ll not see it again.”

John peered at the trail, not liking the situation one bit. "Al, I think it still had some of your mojo in it. Greg blew the spine. It had to have been repaired." He snarled, then took a deep breath, drawing in the disgusting dark energy as he did so. "I'm gonna go throw on my cloak, then we need to go after the damned thing and put it down."

“Yes, indeed we do. I want more ammunition, though, before we do.” With that Al dodged into the tent and emerged with a bandolier draped over one shoulder. Stopping, he pulled a stripper clip from one pouch and thumbed it into the magazine. “Full house. Ready to go. You, Greg?”

Greg had been busy as well. He’d retrieved ‘Suzy’ and a full clip now resided on her mounting, and the 1911 had been suitably rearmed as well. Hitching his belt up, he said. ”Let’s git ‘r done.”

John returned, his curiously black cloak draped over his normal clothes. His eyes smoldered and smoked.

Not far away the wendigo made its way toward its lair, in the roots of a corrupt, old willow. Crawling, dragging a useless arm it still moved – and plotted.

Sleep. Must sleep – too broken to fight but the hunger…the hunger. Sleep, and things will come again and then I will feed…now sleep.

It heard the sounds of pursuit behind it, which spurred it to greater efforts. Drops of blood, broken foliage and the drag marks in the leaf bed marked its path – but the wendigo cared not at all, as it could pass over rocks near its lair to mask its presence.

Sleep…must sleep.

The three followed the trail of the wendigo, the passage obvious for eyes trained to the hunt.

Greg led the way, the barrel of his rifle cradled in the elbow of his wounded arm, eyes unceasingly sweeping the terrain ahead. Al followed, stumbling occasionally with exhaustion but no less alert, his SMLE held at the ready.

John lead up the rear, small and concentrated roiling spheres of pyroclastic ash and fire burning in his hands, his power wound to a fine pitch for immediate use. His eyes now openly burned; and his skin, mottled in the pattern of flames, showed his level of preparedness. A foul-smelling smoke trailed behind him as his body expelled the pollutants of the Wendigo's corruptive influence as he consumed the area's dark energy.

“Straight ahead!” Greg shouted, and began to move rapidly toward the motion in the undergrowth a little way ahead. With that Al and John moved to flank him, Al to the left and John right, presenting a skirmish line to the presence of the unholy creature.

Too fast – they move too fast. Attackrunattackrunattackrun… Cannot run…must ATTACK!

Turning, snarling, the wendigo threw itself back toward its pursuers, one thought in its mind – to kill. No more to eat – it knew it was done – but to destroy and maim one more time before the darkness claimed it.

“Sonuvabitch! INCOMING!” Greg yelled as the wendigo headed for him. With that John and Al closed from their flanking positions.

Al, utterly cool despite his exhaustion and drained energy, dropped to one knee, aimed as best he could and began firing, as methodically as if he were simply on the target range. Greg did the same, aiming and squeezing off shots one by one.

Staggering, howling, jerking as the bullets hit and penetrated cursed flesh, the wendigo bored in, hate-filled eyes focused on Greg.

Closer, closer came the maddened creature till John, power wound to his greatest extent he dared, fired.

A column of flame, white even in the dappled forest sunlight, shot forward and hit the wendigo squarely, surrounding it in a sun-hot radiance that dissolved it rapidly into ash and gases, a pall of greasy smoke ascending, then strangely settling to the ground around the pile of ash, undulating like a heavy gas over the glowing embers.

"Hmm." John narrowed his eyes at the odd smoke.

The brush around the spot smoldered for a moment, then burst into flame as John resumed the onslaught with a small growl, incinerating even the ash of the wendigo till it was simply gone.

The two old men slumped to the ground, stunned by the heat, the brilliant flash and the concussion of the destruction.

"Let's see if that did it..." John, now returned to his human self, said with the tone of a man fighting down intense nausea. The three looked at each other, the two old men beginning to recover and John gulping and panting a little. He smelled a little of burnt plastic, as his clothes under the cloak had gotten slightly singed.

The pall of smoke, however, had other plans. Scattered by the second blast of fire, it coalesced and began to flow along the ground. John watched for a moment before following after it, with the others only paces behind despite their condition. "It wanted to get somewhere... I think it's still trying to get to something..." He quickly loosed the restraints on his power, allowing himself to glow and burn. A haze of heat now surrounded him, wilting leaves overhead.

The smoke lead him onward over some rocks - a dried riverbed that used to feed the nearby lake - before drifting up a slope in the middle of the riverbed to a former island. In the center stood an ancient, diseased willow. Gnarled and twisted and scarred by claw marks everywhere, its thick roots had been torn apart and a hollow had been dug out underneath.

Everywhere under the branches, heaped over the roots, were bones. Deer, birds, moles, squirrels, bug carapaces, a few bear skeletons, and many humans. Every large bone was cracked open and sucked of marrow, every small bone was gnawed. A few were fresh, but most were covered in moss or fungus.

John was overwhelmed by the horrific feel of the energy here. This is the Wendigo's lair... It has to be. It was the most polluted place he had ever experienced. And Prroul had not gone easy on him when training John to withstand this sort of thing. He dropped to one knee and hurled, then glowered at the insidious smoke as it drifted past him... And down into the hole.

This was the condensed evil of the wendigo – released from its prison in the flesh of the creature but still temporarily cohesive. As such, it sought the only other host it could possibly inhabit – the diseased willow it had stolen from a dryad, under which the wendigo had made its lair through the long years.

Al watched, horrified, as the outermost roots began to slowly curl and the smallest twigs began to shift and move against the wind. Leaves rustled strangely. A flash of a memory, of following Glytch into the forest to ask Emerauld for her help. Of how the very trees moved.

"Gregory, we need to execute a rapid strategic withdrawl." His voice was deathly calm and quiet.

"Huh?"

The Sergeant-Major grabbed Greg by the collar and heaved, his voice exploding and shattering the evil silence. "I SAY AGAIN, MOVE, SOLDIER! HAUL ASS!" As they ran, they began to notice the thicker branches and roots of the willow were beginning to flex, creaking and snapping loudly. Angrily.

John stood and cracked his neck. "Oh, this is gonna suck. But you're gonna like it even less." He waited until he could no longer hear the two old soldiers retreating before he began to cut loose.

An explosion shook the forest, the blast front ripping leaves from surrounding trees before they were incinerated mid-air. Bark scorched from meters away. The ground underneath John's feet hissed and cracked, fusing into obsidian before cracking from the heat stress, and finally melting. None stuck to John, as the convective air currents generated by his heat pushed it away before it made contact.

His skin glowed white-hot, his clothes instantly incinerated, leaving him covered only by the black cloak. Small, rocket-like jets of fire flowed from his eyes. A crown of fire encircled his head, two tongues of flame in front longer than the rest, reminiscent of the demon-like appearance he sometimes took on. Talons of fire sprouted from his fingers and toes, and the air around him began to whirl, intense convection winds driven by the heat; until he stood at the center of a powerful fire whirl. All of the fire belched smoke - thick, black, and greasy. The sky darkened and turned red as the smoke built and blotted out the sun. The constant stirring and motion began to generate lightning, striking at random. "You really want to take your chances, filth?"

Al and Greg made it back to the clearing and looked up, awestruck by the rapidly growing pyrocumulonimbus and the fiery tornado beneath it. "Bloody hell, John..."

Back at the center of the firestorm, the gnarled, twisted willow burst, shards of its half-rotten timber going for hundreds of feet. Any that flew at John dissipated into smoke long before they became of any concern to him. The trunk flexed and shook as the tree ripped its roots from the ground. Bones shattered and flew as the tree tore itself free from the pile of bodies. As it did so, it grew - to almost three times its already-considerable former size, fueled by the pure hatred and malevolence of the Wendigo's twisted soul.

John looked up as the tree's gnarled wood towered overhead, twisting into a vaguely humanoid shape. "...Fuck. Ok, I guess you do." He heard creaking behind him and ducked as a massive burning oaken tree branch lashed out at where his head was but a split second before. "SonovaBITCH!" He looked around to see the trees closest to the willow had also uprooted themselves and had surrounded him - bursting into flame as they drew near. Only the oldest, stoutest trees got within striking distance.

John roared and fired jets of fire and razor ash at them, cutting the trees apart and incinerating the pieces. The soil of the island had melted and flowed off into the riverbed as black glass, leaving behind only the rocky strata beneath, which glowed from the sheer heat John was generating. The ash of the trees was added to John's pyroclastic arsenal as he guided it into the vortex around him and fired it out at anything that came too close. Then, an enormous blow crashed into John's side, breaking several ribs, fracturing his skull, and shattering his pelvis and left femur. The force of the titanic blow sent him crashing through the forest, blasting several trees apart and shattering his spine and the rest of his ribs and limbs.

The willow had sacrificed several trees just for the chance to pummel John. It made sure the one hit counted, as the heat of the salamander's touch burnt the willow's arm-branch almost completely off. It couldn't do that many more times.

Shaking, it headed for the exhausted men, listening to the whispers of the forest to find them, its ponderous steps shaking the ground and crushing everything upon which it trod. As it approached new trees, they too became animated; the ones it abandoned stiffened and fell.

“What in Hades is THAT?” Al said, though all of them had heard the crashing and rending noises from further in the forest.

“Hayll, NOW whut?” Even through the trees and the washout effect of the firestorm, John's enormous heat shone brightly... And then it shot off in a random direction before coming to a rest and cooling until his heat was no longer visible. "Uh... Al... We might have ourselves a problem... John jus' went down." The firestorm began to lose intensity, and the fire whirl sputtered and died.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:49 pm

Chapter 14

John groaned, wheezed, and coughed. Fuuuck, that hurt. Summoning the fire once again, he began to slowly and carefully rebuild his body almost from the ground up - his bones were crushed gravel, his muscles were paste, and his organs were the consistency of pre-chewed jello.

If his body hadn't been merely an imitation done by the wild magic that made him, he would have been dead - and even so, he would be had there not been enough dark energy and heat left in him and around him to sustain himself. After a moment, John rebuilt his lungs and throat and gained the ability to scream - and did exactly that.

"Wait... I think he's still alive..." Greg squinted off into the forest.

"Well could he sodding hurry it up?" Al had his weapon trained on the source of the shaking, doing his best to keep his aim steady despite the rumbling ground. Then, he heard John screaming. Or rather, howling. Or a was it a bellow? Whatever it was, it sounded like he was hurt... And like he was pissed. He remembered the image of John joyfully cremating a man alive in the Battle of Pillsbury and shuddered, hoping that wasn't going to be the case here.

"Oooh yer gonna pay for that, you fuckin shithead, you..." John finally managed to heal himself enough to stop screaming and stood. "HEY I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET, FUCKER!" He crouched, pointed both hands down, and jumped, letting off a series of explosions beneath himself. As he was propelled upwards, he once more began to devour dark energy, igniting and reinvigorating the faltering pyrocumulonimbus overhead. Once he spied the terrible willow and the disturbance it caused in the forest, he cursed. It was heading straight for Al and Greg. "Oh no you fuckin' don't!" Jets of fire erupted from his shoulder blades and John propelled himself back down at the earth, angling to intercept the corrupted tree.

Greg and Al both looked up to see what appeared to be a small, furious, and profusely cursing meteorite streaking down from the roiling cloud of ash and smoke overhead, trailing behind it a new vortex of fire. The approaching fiend had apparently stopped to watch, too, because the forest became relatively quiet.

...except for the exceptionally foul mouth of the salamander.

"FUCKYOUFUCKINGFUCKIDDYFUCKINGFUCKER-"

John flipped midair and thrusted down at the fiend, both to burn it and to slow himself down enough that he could tackle it without reducing his body once again to organic goop. The willow threw up its remaining arm to shield itself, and several other trees were forced to jump to its aid by their monstrous puppeteer.

John burnt clean through them and drove his legs into the main trunk of the willow, driving it down hard into the ground. The impact was accompanied by another titanic explosion, blowing the rest of the nearby trees to scorched shreds.

"NO MORE PAWNS." John raked his flaming talons across the tree, digging for the heartwood. "SHOULDA POSSESSED A PILE OF ROCKS. NOW YOU ARE JUST KINDLING!"

Employing knifehand strikes, each one using the same technique as John used to cut down saplings, though several times more powerful, John blew a hole into the trunk of the tree as it struggled to retaliate. It lashed out, but only the thickest branches and roots came close, and each of those were expertly blocked or caught by John. Every time it made contact, he burned clean through, until there was little left for the willow to fight with, and as any of the trees it was puppetting came close, they were instantly incinerated by the near-supersonic vortex of fire surrounding the willow and the salamander.

Finally, John ripped open the trunk, exposing the willow's heartwood within... The wood that, hundreds of years earlier, had hosted a young dryad. The roots of which had been soaked with the blood of the Wendigo's first kill.

The creaking of the willow sounded almost like a cacophony of screams as John stood, reached his hands up, and began to guide the furious firestorm above. The vortex around them intensified as John seemed to pull the very sky down onto the abomination beneath him. The only thing keeping the wooden monster from incinerating now was the sheer malevolence.

The entire pyrocumulonimbus cloud, already heated to a glow and whirling violently, collapsed in on itself, becoming a supernaturally heated and impossibly fast pyroclastic flow. All of the energy was focused down to a fine point, a spear of hell on earth that impaled itself deep in the heartwood and unleashed all of its power directly into the corrupted tree.

The force of the impact made the ground shake for miles. The fire penetrated deep into the earth and spread out, creating a massive igneous fulgurite formation as rocks and sand and soil were fused. The ground split in many places, revealing the hellish glow beneath and belching up more black smoke.

Al and Greg watched one such crack open up between them and scrambled away, cursing. "That boy is gonna kill us all!"

Finally, the pillar of fire drained the last of John's firestorm. The sky cleared, and the forest went fairly silent - only the sound of burning trees remained, and faint echoes of the titanic event as they rebounded off hills in the distance.

John stood in the still-glowing obsidian crater, staring down at a pool of viscous greasy smoke. The thing's twisted, malevolent essence hadn't been so much as singed, though now it was without a body.

Still displaying the wing-like jets of fire and the crown of flaming horns around his head, the salamander knelt and placed his hands on either side of the disgusting presence, leaning in close to whisper in a multi-tonal voice. "You don't have a body to inhabit anymore. You don't have a way to hunt or eat. You have no way of satisfying your hunger or your desires here in this world. The way I see it, your only hope for respite is to embrace death. And no matter what you try, if you decide to possess someone or infect the land, I will always be here, and I will always be able to burn you out. Again and again and again. And you will feel the same pain each time, forever, until the end of time. I suggest you just lay down and die. Because I will personally make sure the alternative is far, far worse for you."

The Malevolence shrank back from the fire in John's eyes and, after a moment, slowly faded from existence.

John felt the nauseating presence evaporate and finally restrained the fire in him, once again appearing to be merely a tall human kneeling in a tattered, black cloak.

Moments later the two old men were there, despite the waves of heat radiating from the still-glowing ground where the creature had been.

“John! John, lad – still with us?” Al, rifle slung over his shoulder, knelt next to John, who was still on his hands and knees, retching and dry.

“Yeah, I’m still here. The dark energy around here SUCKS – let’s get out of here. I need some decent energy. Eurgh..."

“Yeah, let’s git out’a here. I think we’re done.” Sarge agreed. Between them Al and Greg helped John to his feet, naked but for his cloak. The three of them then staggered, and catching each other as needed, made their way back to camp.
Last edited by Just Old Al on Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:49 pm

Chapter 15

Brandi paced her office, looking at the three sitting there. Al looked pale and wan, somehow giving an impression of exhaustion despite his ruddy complexion. Greg was bandaged in several places, the extensive dressings flowing under his clothing in a few places and hinting of more. John was little better, his normal complexion a bit greyer than usual and with a slump in his shoulders.

"You two are DANGEROUS! I send a trained MIB agent with you and you don't have your usual crazy playmate and you manage to run across something that requires obliteration that can be seen from ORBIT! "

She turned to John. "YOU! You DO realize that that pulse of yours was visible on the GOES satellites, right? Do you REALIZE how much work that took to clean up? NASA is not as easy to fiddle as it used to be and considerably less cooperative."

In return, John snorted - unrepentant and highly irritable. "I'd like to see you do better. Do you realize how hard it is to convince a pissed off twisted ghost of a wendigo to take its chances with Hades whilst armed only with regular-old fire? That was a twisted soul, Director Oduya, and I don't have so much as a fuckin cross around my neck, let alone an ordained priest in my god damned back pocket! So WHAT do you suggest I should have done? Offer it a Snickers? You keep me around for things Just Like This. I went up there to eat steaks and move old machinery, and ended up nuking a creature -twice- that had eaten hundreds of people over centuries. I'm claiming bonus on it - we cleaned up a helluva menace up there. Unless you have a standard bounty for wendigos, I'm thinking about ten grand each, plus enough, in cash, to cover Greg and Al's medical bills without insurance."

"Damn square we ought t' get compensation!" Greg snarled, "Ah've gots me a whole new batch of scar tissue, Al's been chewed a mite an' forced to drink from a magical equivalent of a septic tank- oh, an' John got that 'privilege' as well- I daresay th' fact that we ARE... dangerous... as you put it... worked t' your advantage on this 'un."

Al spoke up, adding his voice to John and Greg's. "Madam Director, we did NOT have a choice on that one. The wendigo was not going down without extreme prejudice, and that thing after.....not so easy. It had to go, and you know it as well as I do. The lad here did what was necessary, no more, no less. I do have to ask, though - how bad is the mess up there? Are the mages having any luck at all?'

Brandi's visage sobered, her initial ire spent.

"From what Fergus and his team are telling me, it's a mess up there. The whole area's poisoned - it may never be right. We're taking advantage of the heat-pulse and the light show - which was seen in town, by the way - and stating a meteorite came down and lit a fire. Sorry to say, Al - the equipment and trailer you left up there are gone - they got caught in the 'uncontrolled forest fire' that ran through the area."

Greg spoke up. "Forest fire? Thought we pretty-well got everything that was outside the circle of destruction up there before we left th' area - what forest fire?"

Brandi's expression turned dark. "You did. The mages and elves took one look and declared that the whole area for kilometers around had to go. Nothing in the circle of the wendigo's feeding grounds was untainted, and they decided the best thing to do was to burn it clean, purge what could be purged and let the Goddess return the green to the area. Helluva mess."

Al pondered, then shook his head. "No great loss, Madam Director. The equipment can be easily replaced as can the trailer. I am sorry for the owners of the property, but insurance will cover it all for me with your word in a few ears, I suspect."

Brandi nodded. "Not a problem. It would have been suspicious if we'd pulled out your gear before the fire, so it had to go. None of that was anything but standard hardware anyway, I suspect?"

"Quite correct."

Now, Brandi looked at them all, gaze sweeping from one to the other. "With all that said and done, let's settle in, now. I need to debrief you three for the AAR - standard policy. Normally I'd have Billens do this, but given that he just curses if I mention any of your names I suspect we're all better off if I do it. So, let's get started."

John cleared his throat. "Ah, I've got a question."

Even though Brandi made sure to only inwardly cringe, it was still obvious she was bracing herself. "Go ahead."

"Wendigos... don't possess trees."

Brandi nodded. "I'd noticed that as well, but I figured it was just the tree being corrupted."

John shook his head. "No... it was the same thing. Just a different body. Um. In short... what the hell?"

Al leaned forward. "I've seen trees and plants move like that before. I'm not sure you remember, John, but Emerauld made roots and vines entrap thugs at Pillsbury."

"Oh yeah... so what, there was an elf in the area?"

"No... the tree it possessed was a Willow, wasn't it? I'm not sure if this is a correct assumption to make, but Ialin's host tree is a Willow, too."

Brandi pinched the bridge of her nose. "That may be why the Wendigo could possess it - it exploited the former connection to a Dryad. Would also explain how it could awaken other trees nearby. It was using the Willow as a marionette's cross, pulling the other tree's strings."

John swallowed hard. "It was a Host Tree?"

"Possibly."

John glanced at Brandi before deciding to hold his tongue for the moment, sensing she probably wasn't in the mood for more shenanigans. "Well, uh, that's fuckin unfortunate."

"Very. Is that all?"

"Yeah."

With that, the three and the Director moved to a table in her office, and settled down. "Al, you lead off, you were there first."

"I arrived in town early afternoon, then swung about at the library to await my comrades travelling by portal. Once they appeared..."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:51 pm

Chapter 16

John spent the night at the new Castle Alexander. He didn't sleep much - his mind was too busy mulling over the fact that the Willow was once a host tree. I hope the Dryad escaped before the Wendigo caused her too much trouble... They can transfer to other trees... I hope she's ok. I hope I didn't hurt her too much by killing her tree... And a big chunk of her forest... Forest fires are a natural process, forests need them to be healthy... Hell, some trees need fire to reproduce... After lying awake with his shins and feet hanging off the end of the bed for an hour while his mind continued to whirl, he got up with a groan, pausing to steady himself as he stood, pulled on his cloak, and headed out to the grand hall.

I think I've heard people talking about a dryad living around here, one that is especially sociable... Not sure, but I think she is a friend of Al's. I don't know where she is, and if she's in the Alexander forest, I can't just wander around looking for her. For all I know, Emerauld is in there, too. And I'm staying right the hell away from her.

John summoned a small torch-like flame in one hand and held it aloft to see as he made his way across the dark grand hall toward the central fire pit. After a bit of searching, he managed to turn the gas on. A cheery blaze sprang up from the rocks and John huddled close, extinguishing his torch and using the small gas fire to help purge some of the disgusting dark energy from his being. He stared into the flames, his mind going blessedly blank as he allowed himself to be hypnotized by the happy little fire. It felt good - it wasn't much of an improvement overall, like getting an ounce removed from a half-ton backpack, but the small fire did help restore a little health after several hours. The ache became a little more dull and the nausea ebbed slightly.

What I need is a good forest fire. Or maybe plop myself into a foundry crucible for a week. Maybe someone can take me to that fire pit in Africa, or Kilauea in Hawaii? Nah. Too many tourists. Damnit. Need to ask Brandi for advice on that.

Just then, John heard a soft footfall and pivoted, dropping into a deep stance as his eyes ignited.

"Ah! John, sir, you gave me quite the fright! Is... Everything alright, sir?"

Oh, it's just the butler. The hell was his name again? John slowly stood, extinguishing his eyes and grunting as his muscles ached and his head spun from his reaction. "You got me pretty good too. Sorry about that. I'm... Well, I've been better. Can't sleep. This fire is helping, though." He put a hand on the edge of the firepit - an action that would have burnt anyone less impervious to heat.

The butler flinched instinctively but, to his credit, recovered quickly. "Very well. Feel free to let me know if you require anything."

"Yeah, thanks."

John turned back to the fire and heaved a sigh, wincing.

...

As dawn broke, John turned off the firepit, showered, and changed back into normal clothes while Rosalita and the other staff began to make breakfast for the family. He made his way to the kitchen and put in a request for a large breakfast (steak and eggs, hash browns, four pancakes, and a glass of orange juice and another of milk), and helped out by bringing a few large pots of water to an instant boil and instantly preheating a few ovens.

As he sat and began to eat, his face a visage of determination as he fought the nausea, Al walked in and gave Rosalita a nod. She nodded back, and he sat at the breakfast table, snagging a large cup of coffee on the way.

John raised his OJ in greeting while he swallowed a bite before grunting out "Mornin'. Got some questions, whenever you're ready for 'em."

“Certainly, John. More than happy to answer any questions I may. From the tenor of the conversation yesterday at the AAR in Brandi’s office I suspect you’re looking for answers on dryads.”

John nodded, again chewing and swallowing. “Yeah. I'm not having fun wondering if I killed an innocent Dryad by burning up her tree, no matter how fucked it was, because I didn't spot her... Or if she's still alive, I wanna know where she is so I can tell her what happened. Their trees are like family to 'em. The least I can do is let her know the damned wendigo is gone and her tree isn't suffering anymore."

Al pursed his lips, unconsciously raising his coffee cup to his lips as he thought.

“Was the willow a Host Tree? I would answer that as a near-certainty. With what I have seen Ialin and Emerauld do with the willow grove that tree showed the same influence.

A Host Tree doesn’t have to be a willow – it can be any species, really, that a dryad is ‘born’ to live with. The two are inextricably paired – a dryad and its host are linked. The link can be severed and the dryad can move to an unoccupied sibling or child of the tree, but I suspect that is not the work of an instant.

Was it occupied? Gods I hope not, but it is a possibility. What I don’t know here and I’m not sure anyone does is how long the influence of the dryad remains with a tree if she departs. If it remains, then that tree may have simply been bent to the wendigo’s will. If not, then…you may well have dispatched an innocent.”

With that Rosalita walked over with a small tray. Toast, jam and butter occupied its surface – little of each.

“Senor Al, will you today let me fix you your usual breakfast? I have English bacon and fresh eggs from the farm, or sausage, or ham. Toast and coffee is not enough.” Coupled to her entreaty, she placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.

“Rosalita mi amor, I simply can’t face it this morning. I’m still not quite myself.” He reached a hand to hers on his shoulder and gave it a familiar, acknowledging squeeze. “I promise that soon you can feed me back up to my rotund self, but for now, it would be wasted. Thank you.”

Al turned to with his toast and condiments, washing it down with his coffee. As he ate he continued.

“I can ask Ialin – she’s a dryad that lives here in the willow grove. If you like I can go and see her this morning – I have no immediate commitments.”

John waved his hand in negation. “Thanks, Al, but I need to do this. This is my crime, if a crime it is. I have to ask, and I have to find out the answers. It's my responsibility."

“What will you do if the answers come back the way you fear?”

“I... Don't know. Carry it. Learn from it. Do better next time. Not much else I can do but I gotta know, it's making my guts writhe not knowing. Speakin' of, how are you doing? I feel like shit and you look about the same... Haven't gotten any better?"

Al chuckled grimly. “Sadly, no. The influence of the tainted energy is still with me, as I expect it is with you. Sometime very soon – when Fergus returns from the UP likely – I am going to go and spend a few days with him and his charming wife. I have need of healing.”

“Yeah, me too. I'm in need of a good thorough purge... But that can wait. So, where can I find Ialin?”

Al gestured with his butter knife. “Her grove is back in the wooded wild area of the estate. Take the path from the back of the house here, past the rose garden, then follow it to the left. You should have little difficulty finding them.

I do warn you – you will likely be blocked from the grove by the trees as she doesn’t know you. Be prepared to justify your presence.”

“Alright.” With that John stood, finished his juice and headed for the back door as Al returned to the remains of his frugal breakfast. "Um. Emerauld isn't in town, is she?"

"No, she's not. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, just a bad magic overlap. No drama."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:43 pm

Chapter 17

John headed out to the forest and followed the path as Al had instructed. As he neared it, he felt his heart rate quicken, and felt a familiar and highly unpleasant buzzing in the back of his mind. The hairs on the back of his neck stood. On edge, he finally walked under the boughs and immediately felt unwelcome. The trees seemed to lean away, shying from him, shunning him. The air was cooler than it should have been, and the leaves rustled eerily.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck... What the goddamn shit is this Al if I find some nasty lurking in your woods I swear by the Styx itself I'm going on vacation and you get to explain to Brandi why I'm not answering my fuckin phone...

John made it to where Ialin was supposed to be found and looked around. "Hrm." He put his hands on his hips and furrowed his brow. Not a willow in sight. "Well that's a pain in the ass." After a moment of thought, he began to pace out a square spiral, inspecting every tree he passed. Still no luck after an hour.

Patience already worn thin by how cruddy he felt, John got fed up and began to call out. "Ialin! I have some questions! Hello?” Wait, is it ok to just shout at her with her first name? Does she even have a last name? Whatever. “IALIN! C'mon, I can't find a single damn willow and I just want to talk. I know I didn't make a wrong turn... Right? Did I? Fuck, I'm gonna go back and make sure, ugh, dammit... Look, I can see why a forest being won't be too friendly with a Salamander but I'll be outta yer hair in just a couple minutes. IAAALIIIIN. Seriously I'm not here to cause trouble. Honestly I kinda wanna get outta this forest pretty quick. I'm getting the heebie-jeebies..."

John snorted irritably, though he made certain no smoke came out. "Well shit." Crossing his arms, he stalked back to the path and made his way back to Castle Alexander, grumbling and cursing under his breath.

Sitting at his desk in New Alexander, Al pondered his monitor, the tasks ahead of him, and the meeting that was likely taking place in his forests. Sighing, he reached for the keyboard, but never completed the motion.

*WHACK!*
*WHACK!*
*WHACK!*
*WHACK!*
*WHACK!*

GEROFF YOU MISERABLE FLYING RODENT! WHAT HAS POSSESSED YOU TO ATTACK ME THIS TIME!” Al was livid. A man simply trying to do business while still coping with demigods, wendigoes, Other Realm hangers-on and other para-abnormalities deserves more respect he thought.

Turning to his assailant he was shocked. This was not the winged nuisance and close friend of his travels.

Ialin was livid. He face was nearly crimson and suffused with anger, and her hand clenching the blueprint tube was white-knuckled and trembling with rage.

“What is that THING doing in my forest! It’s wandering around and calling my name – I smell your hand in this!”

Al was simply not going to tolerate this. Rational, calm, self-possessed – let’s pull this back up off the pub floor. Ialin refused to settle, flitting back and forth as if looking for another opening to assault the sitting human.

“Thing? To what thing do you refer, pixie?”

“The THING I am referring to is the salamander that REEKS of death and destruction is what I’m referring to! He’s wandering around trying to find me and by all the gods he is NOT going to!”

“Oh. That’s John. Nothing to fear there, Ialin – he’s a good chap despite a taste for coarse language and expletives.”

“That THING has a name? How could you let him wander loose in the forest – what if he sneezes or is surprised – that would be it for ALL of us!”

Al was entirely done with this. Ialin wasn’t listening, and by damn he wasn’t going to put up with it.

“Ialin, SIT DOWN. Convert to your true form and SIT. I will explain.”

After the third iteration of that request, each more firmly stated, Ialin sat. Her tall slender form perched stiffly in the leather chair on the other side of Al’s desk, her form not denting the cushion or her feet touching the floor. Her hostility rolled off her in waves, though in this form it was not visible in her face or anywhere but her posture.

“Ialin, let me explain. John is a salamander, yes – a being of wild magic – but he is also the most controlled of individuals. Had I thought him a danger I would never have let him seek you out.”

“What does IT want with me?’

Al was becoming a trifle miffed – this was not going well and the dryad’s truculence was beginning to grate on his nerves. “IT is a being named John, who I have stood shoulder to shoulder with in a battle for our lives. He is a thoroughly honorable gentleman, who through no fault of his own was pulled into a life and death battle with one of the most abominable creatures I have ever seen.

He wishes to speak to you about matters involving a dryad – the poor man needs answers, and he thinks – as do I – that you can give him those answers.

I have trusted him with my life – and he saved both the Sergeant and myself from being devoured alive by an abomination.
Please, Ialin – speak to him. It doesn’t need to be in your grove – I will find a spot elsewhere that will keep your grove safe.

Please.”

Ialin sat, stiff, silent and unresponsive.

“Al, I will not. The Firestarter is an unknown to me – I know nothing of him other than the reek of death and corruption that trails him like an evil smell. I love you, but you bear the same reek – it trails off of you.

I cannot. I WILL NOT SPEAK TO HIM. Get him out of my forest so I can breathe clean air again.”

Still trying valiantly, Al asked, “Fine, then. If you will not trust me, then who will you trust?”

Ialin looked ready to storm out, her anxiety telegraphing through her passive exterior. She visibly calmed herself, and then spoke again, the words sounding like they were tearing out her throat.

“If you can find someone to guarantee his honour – someone not connected to him or to the battle you were in – I will listen. You know those I trust and I respect. Find me one of them who will speak for this creature and I will listen.

Till then, I go.”

In a blink she was gone, the earthy cool scent of the forest left behind. Al sighed, locked his workstation and stood, stretching. Time for a cuppa - John will no doubt come wandering back soon.

Thoroughly irritated and more than a little nauseous, John stomped into the kitchen, muttering darkly on his way to the dining room. He was certain more than a few staff took one look at John and decided they had things to do somewhere extremely else. Need some ginger tea and then I need to find- "Oh, you're here."

John nearly ran into Al, who had his back turned as he was pouring himself a cup of tea. "Never even saw a damn willow leaf. When you said 'block' I got the impression of thorny vines or something blocking the path, not a mysterious and total damn absence of all things willows and dryads. So now what? I don't exactly know how to break or get around whatever kind of spell this is... I'm kind of a brute force guy with magical shit. 'If it's weird and in the way, burn it until it's normal.' And uh, that's not really the kind of mission I'm on here." Once Al finished preparing his own tea, John started making some ginger tea - the nausea was bothering him again.

"John, it seems that Ialin is not going to simply take my assurances as to your honourable intentions at face value. Because of this, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call someone else in to establish your bona fides."

The salamander turned to Al, eyes narrowing. "So, what, I need to bring a note from my Mommy? How the hell are you going to get Master Grumpy here to vouch for me? I don't really want to wait a year or two to have this conversation - and you know how slow moving he is."

Al chuckled quietly. "No, I can see your point, and no I do not believe we will need to invoke Prroul to get you vouched for. I have another in mind. Now, if you'll excuse me for a few minutes I need to go prepare a communique to summon assistance for you." Leaving the room Al walked back to his office and quietly closed the door.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:25 pm

Chapter 18

As Al returned to his office he remembered his lessons - this one taught by Sterling.

"Mindtalking in this realm is simple - you do it well enough now and you will do nothing but improve as you practice with people not in sight. Talk with me, talk to Fergus, talk to Flash and Aurum, talk to Auntie...practice and it will become second nature. Talking to those in the Other Realm is difficult for us, being not from it like me Mother for example, and requires the sharpest of focus and concentration. Uncle Fergus can explain it better than I do but I suspect it is the dimensional shift that makes it difficult - it takes more Power to 'shout' that far."

Mindful of the difficulties Al sat behind his desk and composed himself, entering a light meditative state. Rendering the necessary focus was difficult - other than attempting this trick once or twice with Emerauld for practice while in training in Scotland he'd never attempted it unassisted. Closing his eyes, slowing and moderating his breathing, he focused and sent out a mental call.

"SAFYR! SAFYR DRATHMIR! Can you hear me?"

At the third attempt a powerful call returned, nearly upsetting his equilibrium and threatening his precarious hold on the contact.

"WHO IS THIS!" In this call Al could hear all of the deadliness that was a Drow - and feel the strict control that rendered this Drow a knight and one of the most honorable beings he knew.

"No need to shout, Safyr - it's Al."

"AL? AL WHO?" Uh-oh. Oh, bloody hell...just what he needed - a thoroughly annoyed warrior Drow.

"I AM NO MERE WARRIOR! I AM A GREAT AND POWERFUL SHADOWKNIGHT! MASTER OF FEAR AND SHADOW! STAND FAST - We SHALL discuss this, whoever you are!"

Bugger bugger bugger bugger...oh, Gods. Just what I don't need - a giant Smurf with a five-foot steel toothpick. "SAFYR...UUTHLI! It's Al Richer - from Alexander House!"

"GIANT...Smurf?"
she said, calming, as she began to recognise the emotions of the speaker, and curiousity soon replacing the anger. "What is a Smurf - and why do you speak to me this way Ailean? How are you speaking to me this way?" Safyr was truly puzzled - as far as she knew Al was only an old human, no more.

"I've traveled far since we last met, Uuthli. I apologize for the stray thoughts - but this is a strain for a low-powered mage."

"Mage? Ah...of course. Mage. This explains much that Eme and I felt in you years ago - and your control of Chryso. What do you want - surely not just to chat."

"No, I need your help. I need you to vouch for the Salamander."


There was an icy silence that extended far too long for Al's comfort level. At the end of it Safyr spoke; asking, "And why would I stake my honour on the antics of the elemental?"

"Because the other I would ask needs to be kept away from him lest her Berserker nature claim her? Because you are exactly that - an honorable being - and that another being from your Realm needs your assurances. John needs to talk to Ialin - and she refuses to trust - justifiably given his nature but not so given his training and temperament. You, as a disinterested spectator who knows his Sensei, can help with this. I will explain all, I promise. I can't hold this much longer. I'm afraid I need far more skill than I presently have."


The silence at the other end held long again. Finally Safyr responded, doubt in her voice even through the blurring of Al's failing energy level and concentration.

"I come. Call again when you are where you wish me to be."

"Many thanks, Safyr. I realize this is not your problem, but your help is sincerely appreciated."

"If the Salamander betrays my trust he will not be pleased. I hope him worth your faith and effort. Until then, Ailean."


At that, the connection was broken and Al slumped in his chair, exhausted.

At the other end Safyr pondered the communication – the things it said and the things it merely implied.

"How interesting," Safyr thought. "He wishes to speak with Ialin, and is concerned for her. I could feel that from Al."

Drawing power, she set a light shield, deciding that if Al didn't wish Emerauld to know of this, she would keep it that way.

"Master Mutters, pardon for intruding thusly, but I must leave for a short while. Please keep my sister occupied. Our friend Ailean has asked my assistance with an issue, and I wish to keep her from this until I know more."

He chuckled, amused at her use of the nickname.

"Pardon given. How concerned should I be?" He responded in a slow, deliberate manner.

"I shall explain more as I learn it. Know this. She failed to mention to us that our friend Als Gift finally Emerged."

"Did she now? I wonder what reason she shall give me for that. Perhaps I shall have her hunt down more of the diseased predators today so she can think of a suitable one."

Safyr grinned, her toothy predator’s smile. “I thank you. With your permission I’m going to go prepare – I doubt I will be gone long, but I do not want to arrive in these slovenly leathers.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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