A First Taste of Hell

Title: A First Taste of Hell
Time Period: June 19, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: It's bittersweet, as one voice is silenced.

Much to the dismay of the teenaged Rowntree, she was left in the care of the women that Duncan sent. Safeguarded from sailors and safe from the monsters of the deep. Luna insisted on it. The girl's screams echoed behind them for the first few miles, until the hills swallowed her sounds.

Southern England is a much hotter place than Dornie at the end of June. Long pants, long sleeves, and long dresses make for uncomfortable travel and it was a ten mile walk just to get to the outskirts of the ruins. What is different from Dornie is that it's deathly quiet, not even the sound of a bird or an insect interrupts the breathing (in Luna's case heavy breathing) as they travel. Dilapidated husks line overgrown roadways, automobiles, Luna had informed them at first sight.

Resting against a rusted frame, the prostitute drinks heavily from a canteen. Previous warnings have gone unheeded, there's plenty of water, there's always been plenty of water. They just came from the water. Logic at its finest.

Hotter than Dornie, maybe a little bit brighter than Dornie, but to Eduard Hossfeld, just as much home as Dornie, and a welcomed change from the open ocean. If man had been meant to travel the water, he'd have been born with gills instead of lungs. Of course, solid ground or not, the fact is that they're still treading on dangerous ground. While Luna rests, the German sweeps the surrounding area less to find the best route (that's already been roughly planned and can be fine-tuned later) and more to make sure there isn't a faster one they can use to save time. Even with a start on the day, it takes time to hike ten miles, and staying in the ruins after sunset is generally not well-advised. Shorter route means less time in the danger zone, and less time in the danger zone means longer life expectancy.

But that was earlier, and now he returns to where he left the girl (and where she hopefully still is). Time to strategize a bit more. "So. What do you think of it?" he asks, really, anyone who cares to listen when he emerges from the side of the roadway, "You're first taste of hell?"

Jorn has pointedly been avoiding drinking too much of his own water, because his warnings to Luna go unregarded, and because he knows he will probably need it. The cloak pulled behind his shoulders is doubled up as always, hanging to around his waist down his spine, clasped narrow at his chest. Warmer weather means his usual armor is lighter, and the sleeves are gone entirely, replaced by simple gauntlets. He boggled one militiawoman already when he told her he used to wear full armors during his years on the mainland. But when you're in a place where the water freezes on your lashes, the more you have the warmer you stay.

Jorn, despite feeling terrible that they had to leave the stowaway- probably better this way, while they scout things out- found himself more interested in the horizon than the skeletons of automobiles on weatherworn roadways. He is watching the jagged line when Hossfeld returns again, and the German gets a turn of the head and a faintly distracted blink.

"Tasted worse. Never gets old, though, if you ask me." The northman turns and wanders over to the dilapidated thing that Luna is resting against, thumbing a broken, rusty edge.

Nearly drained, the canteen is stowed in a small pack at her side. The blonde is all smiles as she fingers through a book, a gift from her benefactor, to one of the pages picturing Liverpool as it was Before. "I don't know what the two of you are on about, it's pretty here. Nothing at all like hell, full of brimstone and fire and devils. We'll have to find Constance something pretty to bring back, she can make up a story about how she found it or something. She's good at play acting."

Truthfully, Luna does feel horrible about leaving the girl behind but that feeling is nothing compared to the terror of Duncan Rowntree's wrath. The prostitute hasn't had the misfortune of witnessing it first hand but by all rumors, it's a terrible thing. "Look, I think we're here," she says pointing at a picture of a fountain and then into the street. Whatever she's looking at doesn't look at all like what's in the book, maybe a century and a half will do that. "See, if you squint until your eyes are almost closed and then cross your eyes, it looks almost like this building just there."

"Not the most reliable method." Hossfeld finally takes a quick drink from his own canteen- probably the third drink anyone's seen him take since they started walking- and then caps it closed and adds it back to his pack. "The roads, all of them, had names. Sometimes, a sign may have survived, so you can see where you are. Sometimes." Another glance around, in the perhaps wild and unfounded hope that something will jump out at the German when he missed it before, telling him exactly where they are. Navigation in a city was always tricky.

"We should be quick, though. Das jagd entsetzen, always looking for you. Always." Whatever they are, of course.

Jorn's hand finds an itch deep in his hair, palm at the back of his head while Luna flips through the book. "Pretty enough to be more dangerous than it looks." His mouth creases down when she shows them the picture of where she thinks that they are. Jorn leans over her shoulder to look, though he does not appear completely convinced as he glances between the two, squinting. Hossfeld is in the right boat. The only way to know for certain is vague, at best.

"Ich bin eher vorsichtig uber wilde Manner." A quick tongue over the edge of his teeth, and Jorn is turning away to examine something else. "We could find where one of the landmarks used to be, as a point of reference. Is there one we can use?" Jorn asks this of Luna, the girl with the supposed key to the city.

"I wish the two of you would speak in clearer tongue, I don't understand half of what it is you say." Luna looks between the two men, her only protection against the hunting horrors and wild men of Liverpool. Balancing the book on her knees, she pulls her pack closer to her lap and digs out the plastic covered map.

Unfolding it, she looks between the colored diagram and the pictures in the book, flipping pages until she finally comes to one with a large tunnel. "We need to find the entrance to the underground," something that might be obvious to the two men already. "That way." Her arm extends to point directly at the bent skeleton of a building. It might have stood tall once but in its age, it's nearly doubled over.

Where Luna points, Hossfeld turns his head to look. It's not quite what he was hoping to see, but better than what he expected. "That way," he repeats, "You're sure about that?" Whether Luna is sure or not, he unslings his rifle, inspects the chamber (loaded, as expected), and removes the magazine to slap the end lightly against his leg before reinserting it, and then shifting his attention to check his revolver's cylinder, and finally to make sure his knife is where he left it. "I've been underground once. Not here, but once. It will not be like you're expecting, probably."

"Where did you go under?" Curiosity gets the better of Jorn, at length, and he inquires in passing. He looks off to where Luna gestured, then to other landmarks of toppled walls and crumbling steel. "I've been under as well, and he is right. It may not be what you expect. More creatures adore caves than one might think. But I know that I had more to worry from trolls and ogres and the like, rather than wyrms or boogeys. Or men."

"You will have to consider letting me ahead of the party when we find it." Jorn lifts one hand and taps himself on the nose, making a point of it. "So there are less surprises…?"

Keeping a hold of the map, Luna starts out in the direction she pointed. Though she might have argued for the use of a rifle, no one was actually willing to give their own up to her. So she's in charge of leading. Exaggerated steps carry her past the leaning building, around a corner, and…

"Well that's rather strange, it should be right here." The blonde woman stares up at their surrounding and then down at the ground, rubble covers most of everything. "It should be right there." Then she's back into the book, flipping the pages madly and glancing at what is left of local landmarks. A rock, a bit of road, rolled vehicles. That dog.

Slowly, she turns back toward the dog, and her lips stretch into a tight smile. It's not exactly a friendly mutt either. Its lips curl back into a smile that matches Luna’s as it snarls at the trio.

Where did Hossfeld go underground? "Verdun," is his only answer, for what it's worth.

When Luna has some difficulty finding out exactly where they are versus where they need to be, the German smiles inwardly. That's life in the city, and it's hardly a surprise that they might be a little lost. But the dog that seems to have appeared from nowhere? That's a bit more concerning, especially since he'd missed it entirely during his last pass through the immediate area. "Careful, schmetterling," Hossfeld cautions, clearly intending the warning to be more for Luna than Jorn. He braces the butt of his rifle against his shoulder, ready to snap the muzzle to bear and open fire if necessary. "A hungry dog is more dangerous than a wolf."

"If it should be, it probably still is. Only below." Jorn is as attentive to the location as the rest, but he seems put off when Luna's directions lead them to what appears to be a dead end. He is about to say something when she forces that smile, and Hossfeld braces himself into something defensive. Jorn turns to look, eyeing the mongrel and its territorial snarling. The German props the butt of his gun ready to bear, though Jorn seems to have other ideas when the dog shows its teeth.

He glowers back it and bares his own; there's a shift in his features, the lengthening of teeth, the downward push of brow and nose, the darkening glint in his eyes, and a threatening, guttural growl that rumbles out of his chest at the dog.

It doesn't seem too intimidated by the giant bear as it should be. Hossfeld's words ring quite true in this case and when the hungry dog is joined by a few more… Pack mentality begins to take over. The ruins around them are large enough that they can hide quite a bit. It might even be possible to hide an entire factory full of children, should the Rowntree arms employees decide to make a break for it. For now, it's just dogs. Quite a few of them.

"I don't like dogs," Luna stammers, backing up toward a pile of rocks that seems perfect for climbing. "This is why I should have been given a rifle in the first place." Jorn's growl causes her a little more alarm than his form, perhaps she's not quite used to the man hunting seals.

"Surviving in this kind of work, sometimes is not about having a rifle, but knowing when to walk away from something. Now would be a good time to practice." But Hossfeld does not take his eyes off the growing pack, even if he is evaluating, in his brain, the best way to follow his own advice and start moving somewhere else. That would be a very, very bad idea. "Frau Owens, is the left arm your least favorite, or the right?"

Jorn shifts his stance, putting Luna at his back, and his front between the rest of the world and where she stands. Buffalo do it too, when they want to protect the calf. Luna is by now means a baby cow, but the point of the gesture remains.

"At least they are not wolfen size. Just dogs." He has come to blows with wolves before; what he is more curious about, is what these mongrels might be carrying in place of being smaller. "I could cover you?" Jorn asks the German over one shoulder, not taking his eyes from those of the dogs. Eye contact is a good way to make an enemy of a cur, but it is also the key to dominance.

The pile of rocks seems quite a climb but much safer than down on the ground, so that's what Luna does. Quickly placing the map and book in her pack, she grabs for a bit of rock and begins a scramble for the top. Bit by bit, she gains ground, further away from a dog's jumping distance until she's reached a safe ledge above both Jorn and Hossfeld.

Growls fill the air as the dogs begin walking forward. No, they aren't as fearsome to look at as wolves. Their bodies mangy, likely riddled with ticks and fleas, and so thin Aislinn could play piano against their ribs. One-Two-Three… In a vee formation, a few of the dogs begin walking forward. The one at the right seems to keep his eye on Hossfeld, the easier meal of the two targets ahead of them. The other two are trained on the larger predator, their skeletal shoulders moving up and down with every slow pace forward.

At their flanks, two on the left and three on the right begin moving at the same pace. In the heat of the midday sun, they seem unhurried to make their kill. They have time.

For a brief moment, Hossfeld takes his gaze off the dogs, just long enough to see where Luna's getting to. Climbing up is not a bad idea. "We move up instead of away," he says, "Luna's climbing. Then, I'll climb while you act frightening, and then I'll shoot at them while you climb. We don't have time to make a better plan." That much is evident in Hossfeld not even waiting for Jorn to acknowledge or agree before he's already slinging his rifle back over his shoulder. "I'll climb quickly," is his last bit of speech before he breaks gaze from the dogs for longer, this time to hurry up the same rocks that Luna did.

The blaze of white around Jorn's shoulders sheathes through the rest of him, and the snarling, protruding facial features from before appear again, arms and legs lengthening out into powerful limbs. He is fine with the impromptu plan, it appears. The giant white bear brings his front end up off the ground, slamming both forepaws down into the dirt, fur bristling and long muzzle open in a bellow of sound.

Jorn does not rise onto his hind legs, instead lowering his head, swaying from side to side, air huffing from his lungs as he postures defensively. Warnings.

Hossfeld's break in eye contact by turning from the dogs causes them to break into a charge. When the one focused on him begins to run, all the rest snap into action. It takes less than a half a minute for the mongrels to reach the bear, two of them skidding around him for the man trying to climb.

He's nearly out of their range but one, some sort of wolfhound cross, leaps up and grabs at his pantleg. Although terribly skinny, the dog still boasts a weighty 100lbs. He drags Hossfeld down enough for the other dog to take a grab as well. It misses the first couple of jumps but the third manages to nip. The further down the German is dragged, the easier it becomes for the second dog to reach him.

Jorn's troubles begin with five dogs latching onto him. Four of them are larger, like Hossfeld's wolfhound, the last is a smaller terrier mix. It's attention is on the bears ankles, little needle teeth clamping down in an attempt to pierce the flesh under all of the fur. The larger ones are making a more coordinated effort to bring the bear down on its side or back.

Hossfeld unsurprisingly gives a yelp of, well, surprise when he suddenly becomes about seven stone heavier and starts slipping, and then when the second dog gets into the mix, a snarling cry of, frustration? Holding as tightly as he can and turning his attention on the larger of the two hounds, cocks his unengaged leg up and then drives the heel of his boot downward, aiming for one of its eyes. If he blinds it, bonus points. And if not, maybe he can hurt it enough to make it change its mind. "Let go!"

The thing about bears and dogs, is that dogs bred for hunting bears of this size are not these dogs. One swipe of a paw sends the little terrier flying high through the air after meeting the force of the blow. Head over tail, nose over ass. In the same breath, Jorn reaches up his shoulder to drag the nearest curr down to meet his open maw and gnashing, tearing jaw.

The dogs, wherever they are, are met with a thorough flurry of claws and teeth. He is not concerned about chasing them away- right now, Jorn's mind is set on blood, and rage.

A sharp crack that can be felt through Hossfeld's boot as he disengages the wolfhound from his leg. It skitters off, writhing on the ground for a moment before it rolls to its feet, its jaw hanging at a sick angle as it paces around the rocks. Wheezing growls emanate from its throat as it glowers at the German man. The other dog leaps and tries to climb the rocks after him, but to no avail. Its nails scratch against the surface of the rocks, unable to find a hold to go after him.

Jorn's terrier meets its end with a sickly smear of blood against stone, it’s crushed skull leaving a nice souvenir for the carrion birds beginning to circle overhead. The next victim doesn't fare much better as its ribs snap like dry twigs under the force of the polar bear's bite. From Hossfeld's point of view, they might be eating a feast of dog tonight. Not a bad pull, especially since it's by accident.

Freed, the German reaches back up for his previous handholds and climbs once more, although rather than getting all the way to the top, he settles for being outside of his second assailant's reach, before he once again looks down to the dog he didn't introduce to his heel. Instead of the intention to kick, however, he instead unholsters his revolver, quickly lines up a shot and squeezes the trigger. There's not much he can do about the melee surrounding Jorn without creating undue risk, but he can still keep that melee from getting bigger.

Jorn tosses the dog from his mouth like a doll, and it flops hard onto the ground. Long tongue wiping spittle and blood from his nose, Jorn turns his attention on the next dog attempting to clamber on him, pulling it down from his side and lurching upwards, and down onto it, teeth snapping and weight going with gravity. The dogs may be hungry, but Jorn is fed well. Desperation is all well and good, but not in this case, it appears.

Hossfeld is quite successful in taking down the last dog on his heel. As opportunity should have it, one of the ones around Jorn is far enough to pick off without hitting the bear, barring any too sudden movements. Though, as the German takes aim, the dog's head turns in the opposite direction, then it begins sprinting away.

As do the rest.

Jorn is left alone, save the corpses. The carrion birds circling overhead begin to dive, one by one, for the flesh of the freshly dead. Their claws scratch at the gravel of the antiquated roadway, the bits that haven't been grown over by weeds in the past 150 years. The bear, unsurprisingly, is unwounded. The fur covering his body was more than enough to keep the teeth of the hungry dogs away.

Above Hossfeld, a clap of wings heralds the flight of a few doves. The white birds flutter through the air in a lazy circle around the pair and settle back onto the pile of rocks, near Luna's pack. Luna on the other hand, is nowhere to be found.

To say that 'this is wrong' is at the very least a disgusting understatement. It's unlikely that Luna would've been inclined to climb back down the other side, and falling doesn't seem terribly likely either, as he imagines she'd have made quick a racket. "Frau Owens?" Hossfeld asks as he crests the rocks, immediately looking down over the other side just in case she did fall. "Luna?"

When the bear circles in place to look up after his wards, he is only able to see one. Even now, the brow of the beast twinges low, forcing an expression of consternation. Jorn picks up onto his hind legs, black nose sniffing the air. The groan from him is obviously one of bearish concern, aimed up at the German and the pale birds bobbing about at the top.

Death. Blood. Birds. Hossfeld. More birds. No Luna.

Hossfeld's climb to the other side, and meeting Jorn when he rounds it, confirms that the woman has simply vanished. Much like the dogs. There's another scent, an unfamiliar one, certainly human in origin. It covers the rocks where Hossfeld climbs. Up to the ledge where Luna's pack rests, now crawling with white pigeons, and ends there.

Jorn is unable to get anything besides the human scent he cannot recognize. The blood-smeared muzzle of the polar bear pulls back, and soon it is the blood-smeared face of Wartooth peering up at Hossfeld, hands holding onto the ledge above and pale eyes on the other man.

"Someone else's smell." Jorn pants a moment, heavily. "Dogs, Luna, birds, someone else. it disappears.." Immediately, he checks the sky, confusion littered on his expression.

Nothing on the ground, leaving Hossfeld to look confusedly at Jorn when the bear-man reveals the additional information that, all things considered, makes little sense. And then, he looks at the doves and begins to consider them very seriously before deciding that the very idea is silly. "It was only a minute she was out of sight," the German concludes instead, "Even if she had a horse, she could not go far in that time." Therefore, she must be close.

"The smell, it disappears here, ja? It must come from somewhere else, so there is a trail. Find that, maybe we find her?" What else do they have to go on? Luna disappearing into thin air is absurd. Turning into birds is only slightly less absurd. Since the two men are still alive, that only leaves two options: If she wasn't carried by someone else, then it was der poltergeist. For the moment, Hossfeld collects up Luna's things while Jorn does, whatever it is Jorn does.

More searching by Jorn reveals the same. Luna did not come off the rocks, at least on foot. Nor by anyone else's foot. As Hossfeld collects the pack, he spies the map through the opening. Pulling it out, he makes a closer examination. Then to the book. Back at the map. Overhead, just what he said before is there. A sign, venerable as it may be. The letters can still be made out, however faintly, and an arrow pointing down. Luna was right. It should have been there. It is there.

Just… how to get in?