The Long Way

Title: The Long Way
Time Period: June 22, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: There's a reason that they're called shortcuts and not the regular route… there's always some sort of risk involved.

It's hard to gauge the days and nights underground. In the time that Jorn and Hossfeld have been searching, they've had to 'come up for air' more than the bearman would like. The other soldier is a bit superstitious and no good can come of staying in the tunnels for so long. The hunting horrors can creep up at any time, but the trail is hard to regain. So bickering between the two hasn't been an uncommon thing.

One thing is for certain, the tunnels are unusually quiet. For the amount of scents that he's had to wade through, it's unusual that they be so quiet. Jorn knows for sure that someone has been using the woman's smell to throw them off and lead them on a wild goose chase, but there's two others that are familiar. Two others from Dornie that aren't supposed to be here, Beisdean Skye and Darklight, his familiar.

It's harder to argue with a bear. So Jorn has leant towards staying this way, even when they come up for a moment of fresh air. He is able to communicate in a rudimentary sense, and that is good enough for the time being. Filling up the more cramped parts of the tunnels come as no surprise, and even in the bigger sections, Hossfeld mostly finds his company to be either a wall of fur, or creaking blackness and drafty air.

It has been some time since the large white beast made any sound other than the huffing of air, and rumbles of discontent. Thus, when Jorn comes to a hesitant stop at this place on the line, and backs up, moaning confusion, it stands to be something new. The big black nose is practically sniffing up particles of dirt. Lifting his head up, the skinwalker swivels it about in search for Hossfeld. Jorn knows Beisdean's trail more than Darklight's, but the pairing is obvious.

At least he tries to catch the German's attention before turning back to investigate the trail proper.

There are three things that Eduard Hossfeld hates almost more than anything else: Being underground, being in a tunnel, and being in the dark with things he can't see, in whatever order is most appropriate at the moment. It's more than fair to say that right now, he is about a displeased as he's ever been. Jorn insistence on staying in all three isn't helping his attitude either. What has helped, however, are the pocket watch and harmonica that have seen him into and out of ruins time and time again. Even if what power they possess is only imagined, it's enough to help the German keep his cool and at least tolerate the abysmal conditions he is forced to endure.

And then, something changes, and there's, what, distress? Perplexion? Whatever it is, something changed in Jorn's demeanor, even if Hossfeld notices it less in the attempts to get his attention and more in that they are no longer moving as quickly as he would prefer. "Was stimmt nun?" he half-snarls, "Eingestürzten decke? Verschimmelten käse?"

The sound of tiny feet scrabbling on tunnel floors is audible — it's hard to differentiate it from that of rats, but soon, to the bear at least, it's something much more welcome. The sound is accompanied by the whiff of the musky fur of pine marten that's stronger than the remnants Jorn's been snuffling, and soon, two round black eyes catch what dim light there is, shining some distance away.

Brother bear, comes the gentle voice of the medium's familiar. Your charge is in danger, as is my mage. You must be silent, or they may capture you two as well to feed to the belly of a god.

"Ruhig sein." Speech is simple and like gravel on rock; however, the longer that Jorn seems to stay like this, the more he seems accustomed. A click of mouth, a derisive snort of air. The white fur is, thankfully, visible in the low light. Jorn is not as superstitious as his companion, but his respect for things in such a realm is known even to Hossfeld. There is simply a line between having anxiety and staying aware. "Ein Junge-." He doesn't finish. The bear jerks its head up, shrugging about the shoulders, nose quivering.

«Silence is a luxury, when you are in a tunnel.» Jorn's initial reply is somewhat perturbed- however, he seems to take it to heart, shifting his feet forward to try and quietly get closer. The bear pulls its lips back in a momentary, prideful grimace. «Tyr watches his sons. Where are they?»

And another change, but this one is less like the last, Hossfeld observes. It's… focused. And so, if only for the moment, he complies with the order he is given and falls silent. Clearly, there are things and forces at work that the German is unaware of just yet. Hopefully, those things aren't lurking in the shadows, waiting to leap out and exert force to make him cease to live. Much as he wishes they had a torch, it's probably better they don't: If they can't see it sneaking up, maybe it can't see them 'sneaking' by.

This way… perhaps. I feel I've been going in circles seeking you and avoiding the creature that lumbers through these tunnels, the marten says, moving forward in the direction he had been headed, toward them, before turning where the tunnel forks. They are in some metal carriage of sorts, but here underground. They are to be tributes or sacrifice to some god — it may be the creature. They were to give up Beisdean before Luna came, but now it is she who is marked for slaughter.

His voice in Jorn's head sounds tired and resigned — it the sight of the two has given the magical animal hope, it doesn't show it.

The little marten pauses to ensure the men follow, then scampers up Eduard's shoulder to perch there without asking permission — since he can't, after all, speak with the German. I'm very weary. Beg his pardon for me, brother.

'Lumbers' makes it seem like kin. Jorn's reply is a grumbling sound, which ripples upon Darklight's further telling of his tale. He looks after the marten, following only when appropriate.

«How crude.» Among other things, of course. Jorn turns his head when the animal moves closer to Eduard, and judging by the lack of attempt to stop it- must be a signal to the German that it is a friendly animal. And it is bold enough to be one. "A familiar. Begs your pardon…" The bear blinks his eyes hard, and turns face back and move down the tunnel propositioned by Darklight. His paws lift high enough to move, but low enough that he does not make as hard an impact on the ground below. "Come."

The marten guides them but a mile and a half through the darkness, following his own scent and bits of memory before Jorn stops dead. Too pungent to ignore, the smell of an acidic urine and fecal matter overpower the trail of humans like a fog settling in over the heath. Darklight can smell it too, an all too familiar and horrifying thing that raises the little hackles on the back of his neck.

Before he can shout a warning to the bear, the source of the panic rounds a corner. A long angular snout lined with rows of jagged teeth hangs partway open as the giant reptile hisses at the trio. Its eyes are too well accustomed to the dark that it's been living in for the better part of a century and a half.

Eduard Hossfeld has no sixth sense for danger. He doesn't have the sharp nose of a dog, the keen eyes of a cat, or the vigilant ears of a fox. But he's learned over years that off all his senses, his eyes are the most likely to lie to him, and while that bit of knowledge isn't enough to give him the same advanced warning that Jorn and Darklight enjoyed (for what it was worth), it was enough for him to realize that something was wrong and be ready an instant before horror appeared. So, instead of running away screaming, he digs in a heel and stands his ground. Which is, better? Somehow??

It may be darkness that prevents the lot of them from fully realizing what it is they're facing, but when the thing hisses, Hossfeld responds with light. Light and sound as he shoves the butt of his rifle into his hip and squeezes the trigger as if to say, Guten tag. Verpissen und sterben.

The marten bristles and hides a little behind Eduard when he smells the creature; like his mage, he's not much of a hero except when he's forced to be. If he was, perhaps he'd favor a larger, more ferocious form. Tch!! is what he has to say to the creature as it hisses, before scampering back down Hossfeld — at the man's side, he grows, legs elongating, muzzle stretching, teeth coming to long, snarling points.

The now-lupine familiar still doesn't lunge forward to test those canines on the reptilian beast, knowing better than to get in front of the German and his rifle.

This creature has never had a rival, that much Jorn can tell immediately. But on the other hand, he cannot quite tell whether or not it is, in fact, an animal- as opposed to a serpent, or a creature of other persuasions. Being at the front of the pack, he isn't able to see when Hossfeld draws his firearm and blasts it. Jorn takes that moment to backpedal once it happens, knowing only that the thing will probably be finding itself disoriented from abrupt sound and light.

Backpedaling also, incidentally, provides the two behind him with a meat shield. For better or worse. Jorn is perfectly fine with staying in motion, to boot; his mouth opens in a growl, warning, just as much as the hissing was. They don't need to fight if they don't have to; and he is getting out of the thing's territory post haste.

Muscular legs carry the creature forward at a fast pace, using the surprise of the human to its advantage. With mouth open, it lunges toward the German, its jaws snapping closed and missing him by just over a foot. Just like Hossfeld, the giant alligator's eyesight can fool it sometimes. Age has that effect on things.

Anger is an emotion that's felt by creatures a little more advanced than a relic from a dinosaur era. Smaller brain means lesser brain functions, in this case the most the monster can do is choose fight or flight. Right now, in its own territory, it fights.

When the end of its tail finishes rounding the corner, the beast measures at least 22 feet in length. The long spines on its back and the length of its claws give those in the know about reptiles an inkling that it is male, not female, therefore just a little more protective over a space that's his.

Is it a dragon? Darklight asks curiously, despite his fear, the innate curiosity that is very marten-like transferring to the wolf as well.

His head lowers, and he bares those teeth in a snarl and growl — though he he stays back, letting the others start the fight first.

Fight? Darklight may be content to fight, and perhaps even Jorn is. But Hossfeld? He's concluded that the wisest course of action is to turn and begin making the most expeditious- meaning totally strategic and not at all because he's afraid of being eaten- retreat that safety will allow. "Leben und leben lassen!" he shouts back to it, and really, to everyone. 'Live and let live.'

«Nn- no…» Jorn does not sound convinced of his own answer, racking his brain. «I think I've seen a drawing- it's an animal, though. A very old one. Get on-» Plus, it hasn't started spouting fire, or acidic spit, or whatever else might come out of a giant lizard. They are uncommon sights, no doubt.

When the bear turns, Eduard is starting to exit stage left at the same time; what a smart man. There is no demand for flight from the skinwalker, instead he lets out a bellow of sound that shakes and rumbles in the tunnels, the roar reverberating thoroughly in the underground if just from the silence within it. He trusts Darklight to either keep up or jump on when he starts after Hossfeld. Though if the latter wants to hike on too- well- there's no place to say no.

The alligator doesn't chase after the trio for too long. Its short burst of speed nowhere near fast enough to catch up to a running man, let alone a wolf or even a bear. Once they have vacated its immediate area, the creature slows and then turns back. The last bit of it, the point of its tail, slides around the corner, hiding it from sight but not from mind.

One thing is for sure, unless they go the long way around, that beast separates Darklight, Jorn, and Hossfeld from the other two residents of Dornie.

After a time, the three can conclude they are no longer being followed. For Hossfeld, it's less that he observes this, and more than he doesn't hear it crashing after them, and then observes, slowing to a jog and finally to a stop, taking a few moments to suck in several lungfuls of air. "Well," he says, extracting the partially spent magazine from his rifle, stowing it in a pocket and replacing it with a full one. "Now what do we do? We would need a cannon to kill it." It's only then that it occurs to him to look around and make sure he's not talking to himself. That would be bad.

Get on? Darklight's not too sure of that plan, and instead, when he leaps, it's into the air with wings sprouting where legs used to be, into the familiar form of his raven. I can find the way. It will just be longer. We have little time. They plan to do it when the moon is full, and I think that is soon. Hurry. As if they need to be told. Be wary and quick. The people here are silent. Perhaps if you find them, you will be able to speak more sense into them than my mage, Darklight says as they hurry away the way they'd come. This way, I think, though it's longer by far.

"No need- to kill it." It is just living here. It didn't steal anyone. Hoss takes that look around and finds himself nose to nose with the bear, and a huff of air promptly after. Jorn waddles his way around the German, turning to follow Darklight with his eyes. «If they worship an animal, perhaps.» No lie, he is familiar with that, in a sense. He starts after the raven down the tunnel, jerking his muzzle for Hossfeld to follow.

"Long way."