Finding our bear(ing)
Posted on Tue Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:45pm by Snot Rag Chops McGinty & Captain Daenelia Bradley & Master Ashrieda Sjaarda & Mister Aeolus Quetzalcoatl & Mate Isaak Alkaev & Mate Wren Tamryl & Mate J. Noone & Sailor Niles Oscar & Snot Rag Laudine Fortescue & Master Caroline Summers & Mate Ivan Petrov
Chapter 4: Storm Brewing
Location: Sand bar in the fog
Timeline: Day 1
The sea was quiet. A little too quiet. The silent sailors on board the Steamhawke lowered a little sloop into the waters below. Two nameless sailors were in the rowboat already, holding the boat steady against the bigger ship. One by one the members of the party slimbed down the rope at the side of the ship, and sat down on the benches of the rowboat. The Captain came down last, and moved past the mates to sit in the back of the boat.
"Away," she said quietly, while glowering at each one in turn. And with one command, the boat began its slow glide through the water.
Wren had a pair of pistols at his waist, something that looked sort of like a hollowed horn slung across his back and something that looked sort of like a grappling hook in his lap, except the blades were straight instead of bent. The young man had kept away from the oars, letting the more able-bodied crew members take that job. Wren was not built for hard labor. Instead, he bent over the gadget in his lap, rocking easily back and forth with the boat, a screwdriver in his hand as he continued to tweak and adjust for as long as he was able. He'd done what he could in the little time he had to prepare. With the fog their primary hurdle, Wren was working on a way to ease that issue even if just a little. Unfortunately, the fog itself seemed to wreak havoc on their gadgetry and weaponry.
While Wren fiddled with his machine, Carol had already managed to completely pass out sideways across the boat; her feet and head dangled dangerously over the sides and brushed the water as the boat glided along through the fog. Even in sleep her hand rested on her sword, and only the occasional snore signified her lack of consciousness.
Daenelia sighed, and shook her head, not just at Carol's sleepy form, but also to keep her mind as clear and focussed as possible. "We'll be there soon. We'll be there soon," she said in a whisper to herself. She just hoped it would be as quiet as it was now. The last encounter with Carol still fresh in her mind, she had to be in control, or something bad might happen. She quickly looked over her shoulder, back at the ship. It was swiftly being shrouded in mist, and only a vague form was visible. Just then the boat suddenly stopped as it was caught on the sandbar.
"We're caught in the sandbar, captain" explained Finn, who had been doing most of the work thanks to his powerful brass arms. The Elphin stood up and lead the others onto the sand. It was impossible to see very far through the thick mist, and if there were any features to be seen out there, Finn couldn't see them.
J couldn't help but be suspicious of the Elphin leading them along. They had yet to be formally introduced, but the combat engineer had a feeling the two wouldn't get along. Reluctantly, he followed the Elphin from the boat, grumbling under his breath at getting his shoes wet, but did not protest too loudly. When he reached the sandbar, the first thing he did was bend over and remove his footwear, expertly tossing them back into the sloop.
The Captain was the last out of the boat. She jumped into the shallow water and waded onto the wet sand. She stood next to Finn, looking around for anything obvious. "Right. Nothing here. Let's form two teams, one will go up there, the others go down there. I want someone to stay at the boat too. You, you two and you, with me. The rest, go the other way." Daenelia stalked off to the left side of the sandbar, followed by the group she picked out. Wren followed obediently behind the captain, still fiddling with a screwdriver and his funny looking hook-device before, apparently reaching some level of satisfaction (or just giving up), clipping the hook around his belt and the screwdriver inside his belt.
"Right, then," J said, eager to prove himself. He adjusted his hat, waiting for the Captain's group to head out. Pulling down the tail of his shirt, he glanced around at the crew he had been left with. "I'm taking charge here. Best to have leadership with experience." He looked them each right in the eye and smiled smugly. "Let's not dally, eh? There's treasure to be had. An extra gold coin to whoever finds it first."
"Yeah, Finn" Niles chipped in for the first time, "Let's show 'em how us sea dwellers do things in our niche!"
She exchanged a wink with his glare. She glanced at his mechanical arms and felt that maybe he wasn't quite the swimmer as she. She had been silent, trying to calm her mind which screamed at her to go back to the ship. She knew that if she looked scared, they'd pounce on her.
"You'll be safer in a group," she whispered to herself, "he won't get you."
As much as she liked Captain Daenelia, she figured that J seemed more threatening and able to fight off anyone like the one she was hiding from.
J was not quite as threatening as he would have liked, instantly regretting his decision to remove his shoes. The prosthetic leg on his personage was water resistent, but it kept sinking into small pits of sand, causing him to hobble more as he walked. Scowling, he looked back at his group, nodding to the Elphin girl. "You're the swimmer, yeah? If we find something, it's gonna be up to you to go down there. Sure you can handle it?"
Niles feigned as much confidence as she could and smirked at him, "What do you mean? You're actually asking me that? Of course I can!"
She cringed at her lie. It sounded so fake but what else could she say? Besides, if her team had to rely on her to do an important task, she had to prove her worth as a crew member of The Steamhawke. With the few weeks she spent there, already building up a reputation with her skills and cockiness, she couldn't let it crumble from denying J's future orders.
Carol had begrudgingly began to awaken around the time the boat had hit the sandbar. In the brief moments between then and now she’d groggily listened to the going’s on, but only now did she feel awake enough to actually get up and do anything. She gave a heavy yawn and sat up in the boat, jumping onto the sand as she did. She stretched her back a couple times and shook the saltwater out of her hair before taking a few, stumbling steps forward. She supposed she couldn't avoid work any longer.
“Hrm, right then...” she exclaimed lazily and with no small amount of sleep to her voice. “You goin’ that way?” Carol made a small gesture in the general direction Daenelia was standing, then turned her entire body in the opposite direction. “I ‘spose I’ll go this way, then.” she mumbled as she began wandering off down towards the other end of the sandbar, not bothering to look if anyone was following. She wondered if anything interesting could possibly be on such a desolate place, but held on to the hope that at least something worth fighting would show up eventually.
Ashrieda had been lurking at the back of the group, watching the others. The expression on her face indicated that she didn’t approve of some of her present company.
She’d been told to follow the Captain, but the fog-infested side of her brain insisted that following the other team would be much more fun, and the potential for blood and guts would be much, much greater. The logical side of her brain, though, gently reminded her that defying the Captain’s orders wasn’t exactly the smartest idea.
She suddenly grinned and saluted the Captain enthusiastically. “What's the plan?"
Daenelia just pointed ahead and kept walking. The sandbar stretched out before them, the mist still shrouding everything 10 meters ahead of them. The party of pirates left perfectly formed footprints in the slightly sand behind them. They noticed a slight elevation of the terrain, and suddenly Daenelia stopped, on what seemed like a small hill on the sandbar. There were footprints in front of her. She motioned everyone to be quiet and walk slow. Her heart was beating a little faster. Was there someone else here?
In the distance dark figures moved in the mist. Daenelia got her sword and gun out, and noticed that everyone was taking out some weapon. Wren, never without that cheerful smile on his face, held a pistol at ready. "Who goes there?" Daenelia yelled.
"Oi'!" came the incredulous voice of Carol. "Hell's name are you doin' out this way?" She shook her head in confusion, partly to grasp the situation of how two people walking in opposite directions managed to come face to face and partly to get what she suspected was sleep out of her head. Perhaps she hadn’t woken completely up yet, however as Dae still stood before her something else must be afoot.
Daenelia grunted and put her weapons away, Wren following suit with a sheepish grin. "We did find some tracks here," she said as she pointed to the wet sand. "They're yours, I suppose." But as she said this the mist lifted a little, to reveal a boney hand sticking out of the sand. Daenelia fell to her knees and starting digging sand away. "Who's this?" she murmured. "Help me dig!" she shouted at the others.
Carol kicked the hand with the tip of her boot, causing the fingers to knock off with a sickening crunch. She supposed she didn’t know the strength of her own feet sometimes. “Right then.” she responded to the Captain’s pleas for assistance. “Let’s get to diggin’.” She turned to face those who had chosen to follow her, standing dumbfounded at the thought that Carol was going to help. She drew her pistol and fired it into the air. “Dig!” she shouted in a commanding and devilish voice. Like hell she was going to do anything after just waking up.
It was with some reservation that J slipped past Carol to begin digging. His artificial limb creaked at the joint, and he winced as he heard water sloshing around the prosthetic. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was absolutely certain that it would be rusted by the time he got back to the ship. He began pulling back piles of sand, attempting to loosen the packed earth around the skeletal hand. "Looks like we got here just in time," he joked as his sleeve caught on to one of the fingers displaced by Carol's boot. He held it up, grinning. "Can't have been here longer than a few years. If we're lucky, might still have some gold on him."
J’s wit was suddenly interrupted by the skeletal hand shooting out and gripping his wrist, pulling him forward as if to drag him under the sand. The sand beneath the skeletal hand began to erupt as whatever was beneath used the leverage afforded by J’s arm to wrench itself from free from an earthy embrace. Before anyone could react a figure had begun to emerge from the ground.
The large framed figure sat up in his shallow grave, releasing its grip on J’s arm. The figure’s face was covered by a thick mask, reminiscent of a gas mask, and the jacket he wore was soaked in seawater and sand. The left sleeve of the jacket dangled empty at the man’s side. The man reached down into the sand next to him with his right arm, retrieved a dirty military cap from the earth, and placed it on his head.
Briefly the man looked around at the people surrounding him, all visibly shocked at the fact a man had just dug himself out of the ground before them. Even more odd was the fact they expected to find nothing more than a skeleton, and this man clearly had flesh. Was the fog playing tricks on them?
The silence was broken by the sharp sound of air rushing down a pipe. The masked man slowly stood up, shaking the sand off him as he did. The odd sound from the man’s mask continued for a moment, before being replaced by words. “My name is... Ivan.” the man said slowly. His speech was odd, as if being said on one ponderous, continuous exhalation. His words were immediately followed by a loud intake of air before he was able to continue. “Thank you for... finding me.” Once more there was a suddenly breath of air. It seemed as if speech was not easy to accomplish for this man.
"Uhhh... you're welcome" uttered Finn, breaking the silence. In between being thrown in jail and digging up a living corpse, the Elphin was already starting to regret coming along on this journey. "Are you the treasure?" he asked sadly. "Treasure?" said the masked man, giving a wheezing laugh. "I doubt many... would consider me one."
The captain was the next to ask a question. "How long have you been here, Ivan?" The man looked worried suddenly, despite the lack of visible facial expression. He tapped the chin of his gas mask with one finger. "Considering I am not dead...” he breathed in as he thought. “...Less than a week... What is the date?" But none of the crew could answer him. Nobody could remember the exact date, in fact the longer they were in the fog, the less specifics the crew could remember at all about their lives before the fog.
"Eh...the third? No, the eighteenth?" And the confusion only grew on Wren's face as he tried to answer that question. The numbers were fuzzy and for the life of him, he could not recall what month it was or even the year. The young man grinned sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders in a careless gesture. "Eh, who cares about the date anyway. What I want to know is why you're wearing that mask." He grinned and gestured loosely towards Ivan, as if worry-free of the implications of finding a guy buried in the sand with something like a gas mask. Had they risked exposure to something since coming...wherever here was?
A second wheezy laugh was uttered by the strange soldier. It wasn’t often people were so direct with questions about his mask. Tempted as he was to chalk it up to the overall strange circumstances of the situation Ivan found it refreshing nonetheless. The man reached up with his good arm then tugged his mask lightly, with little effect. “This mask... doesn’t come off.” Ivan replied in his traditional slow manner. “I doubt I’d recognize myself... without it.” he paused briefly, and one would suspect he’d have paused even without his need for breaths. “It’s been there for... nearly forty years...”
Once again he gave an awkward chuckle. “I suppose... this mask... is my face.”
"But maybe if we pull hard enough..." began Carol, reaching for Ivan's head. "Wait!" shouted the captain, as two of the others held back the crazed war dog pack leader. "Ivan... I am Captain Daenelia Bradley, and these are some of my crew. We came here searching for Quazlatah's treasure, do you know anything about it?"
"Yes... yes... that is what my ship's captain... came in search for. The last... I remember... is changing our heading... twenty-six degrees north!" Ivan exclaimed, pointing into the distance. "For that is where the clue lead."
"Welcome aboard, Ivan" smiled Daenelia.