Ten days later.
In a still functional mountain cabin,
150 kilometers to the north - north west.
”Jonathan! Jonathan!” Her face had been drenched with rain, her hair clinging to her head and her horn jutting out like a reef in the water. Kiph had been searching the premises for the timid scientist, but he had returned empty handed, save for a nasty cut in his right shoulder, a look of horror upon his face and an almost dying Master Loett in his arms, but the strange assassin would not speak of it. Jonathan had disappeared, just as Bleak Wood had disappeared, its moonlit silhouette growing ever more distant as she had gazed at it from her place in the passenger seat of the truck. At least the rain had stopped to grant her that parting boon.
Master Loett had appeared with Kiph, badly wounded having lost his left arm from just above his elbow and down, leaving only a helpless stump. His left eye had been gouged out, his right ear lobe bitten off, and his right hand burnt badly. The newest concubine had fainted just at the sight of him, earning her a disapproving frown from Kiph. Still, with Ceres’ skills he had been saved, but it had been close, and he had been put in the back of the truck, swathed in layers of silk and cushioning pillows. It was all they could do really, if they were to flee the fallen city. His possessions were numerous and only one concubine could to stay in the back with him, while another rode with Ralkhara and the third one sat in between Kiph and Ceres, much to the Fatebringer’s amusement.
Bakur dead… Jonathan gone… Bleak Wood in dire peril, possibly lost and our possessions possibly gone too!
Ceres shook her head and tried to sleep once more. Their journey had been long and arduous, for the wastelands offered precious few tracks and even fewer places in which to rest and recuperate. Much of the journey had been spent pushing and shoving the great truck, while Ralkhara and one of the concubines drove in advance, scouting out the terrain in front.
“At least there were no battles” Ceres said, as if to herself.
“Amarokh be our witness!” Ralkhara replied from the upper bunk. Apparently the Pathfinder could not sleep either.
“Ralkhara? What do you think, Ralkhara? What do you think of it all? Where should we go? What should we do?” her voice was weaker than she had intended.
Part of her wanted to go back to Bleak Wood – To discover what had become of the place, and perhaps to find Jonathan and retrieve their lost equipment. The relic of Radiatos was a heavy loss indeed, and Ceres was sure their newfound equipment, which was stolen equipment to boot, would not even compensate for a fraction of their loss. She just knew it, though her mercantile skills were dubious at best.
To the north were the Steelspine Mountains, supposedly impenetrable barriers of stone, ice and snow, though the nomads had spoken of tracks leading over it... Sometimes even under. According to some legends, the ancients lived there still, behind those mountains, and in their lands the valleys were full of bounty.
Or they could go due west, to the lands of the Train Peoples; the River Train Tribes and the Train People proper: Bakur’s lands of birth. But the River Train Tribes were at war there, and in their cannibalistic frenzy they could be dangerous to anyone. Also, the Aural Raiders had always made their home in that region, even though the latter years had brought lessened activity from these legendary bandits of the wastes.
Another choice was to the east, though she knew little of the lands there. Apparently the city of Light had been in that vicinity, but it had vanished without a trace, or so said the rumours. There was no going back to Corona though. Not like this. She refused to come back as a whipped whelp, bested by the wastelands and in dishonor. That was not her way.
Ralkhara listened to the morose woman. She had grown introvert and silent since their flight from Bleak Wood, and sometimes the Pathfinder doubted the woman knew what was best for her. They were alive and that was all that counted for the leather wrapped scout.
Though calling Master Loett alive is a matter of interpretation at the moment. Ever since his mysterious rescue at Kiph’s hands, he has been falling in and out of consciousness. I wonder what they faced there, alone in the darkness outside the tent? Kiph won’t speak of it. He thinks no one knows, but I have heard him weep in his sleep. What happened to us back there?
Ralkhara exhaled heavily. Ceres had spoken, her mind was now on the immediate future. Whatever they did, they needed the Fatebringer Master’s fuel, and his concubines had proven ample cooks, and for Kiph even more. Ralkhara had yet to sample their myriad pleasures, excepting their meals, but as no one in their party cooked, they proved to be a fine addition to their caravan.
Kiph said nothing. He had felt fatigued ever since he left the tent on that fateful night in Bleak Wood. He had followed the tracks of Jonathan all the way to the city gates, and there he heard the screams. Abak Loett had practically fallen into his hands, his left arm severed, and his ear bitten off. At that moment followed a carnage Kiph would never forget. Tens, nearly a hundred nomads perished that night as the mutant menace was unleashed in full, the pack united under a giant of sorts; a horrid nightmare of teeth and claws. Whipping his pack forth while it dispatched lives at random, its raking claws delivering death to those unfortunate enough to stand in its way. The Warden had arrived, bringing his gunmen of the city watch, and that was when Kiph fled. He ran as fast as he could, bringing his master along.
Never mind Bleak Wood, or the Warden, curse his soul. Never mind Jonathan or the relic of Radiatos or the stores of fuel they left behind. Kiph wanted to live, but he remembered it still. That leader of the mutant pack, it had looked straight at him. And with that gaze came a terrible thought, a horrible vision. He had been promised eternal death and pain beyond reckoning by the G’Kraun fiend, and those visions had been so vivid, so painful and brutal, that they haunted him still. He could not rest nor sleep, without having those visions haunt him. Even worse, sometimes he felt as if that terrible fiend knew where he was, and Kiph knew where it was too; it was on their track. It was following them, and in their wake was a trail of destruction. A depraved road of human carcasses and brutal extinction, every corpse screaming his name, telling him he did this.
Kiph was tired. He was so very, very tired.
The game will not end this glumly. We will discuss in the OOC, and a more optimistic post will be appended by yours truly. I have locked the game though, for the IC part is done, save for that final post by me (based on your OOC decisions)