Author Topic: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm  (Read 22192 times)

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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5100 on: December 15, 2018, 01:51:24 am »
(( Branches section written with Salt. ))

Helen gave a little sigh as she regarded Branches with concern. "So. First and foremost. What do you recall of recent events? You don't seem to even realize what has passed, nor the fact you died." she pointed out, still taking care to keep the homunculus held up.

Branches hung limp between the two women, wanting to escape but unable to muster up enough strength to give even the weakest struggle. She'd put everything into the attempted escape and could have done it too, if it hadn't been for Illiana's sudden appearance. Helen's mask had been far from her mind of course. Branches didn't answer Helen's questions until they got back to the clearing by the lake and the he was laid out safely on a roughly made wooden bench. From the looks of the thing, Helen could guess that she'd probably split the log by hand.

"Recent?" Branches puffed nervously, "How recent? I remember sitting here by the lake and shaping this new body and then wouldn't you know it, all this little dirt people started bringing me things and-"

"Sweety, you are not Scheherazade and we don't have one thousand and one nights for silly stories. I swear, she isn't going to kill you so please just tell the truth? I don't want to have to issue you a court summons, it would invalidate your own credentials." Illiana scolded, "She wants to know what you can remember from before you found yourself buried here a few days ago."

"O-oh. Well... I went to that place full of people to try and find Illiana... And along the way... I think I remember a book? And a cloud? Maybe an old guy from across the lake. And a... A red cloud? I don't really remember." Branches thought aloud. She grasped at her throat, an oddly symbolic gesture that made Helen think of the homunculus swinging by a rope around it's neck, but Branches was no "hanged man" and the gesture was no more than her way of trying to remember. "Will you really not? Kill me?"

"I don't know about that girly," Steinar put in, cradling his cup. Meanwhile, the two men who'd arrived first groaned loudly, one of them with a mouth full of dirt.

Helen sighed a bit at all this, looking back to Steinar, who was simply smiling after having retrieved the items stolen from him. "So. You remember some of the events that happened. And to be honest, no I'm not going to kill you. I'd already decided against doing so before your apparent death made it seemingly a moot point." Helen explained.

Steinar shook his head a bit, regarding the homunculus with a bit of suspicion. "Wasn't expecting her to have trouble staying dead, when even normal people find that a daunting task these days?" he joked, to which the mage hunter grumbled a bit. "This is actually the first time I've witnessed a homunculus not disenchant on being slain. Then again she's also the first one I've ever heard of to end up being a thinking being with free will." she pointed out. In her experience, even the rogue homunculi she'd encountered had generally been acting out of the very basic programming worked into their being, or just as often possessed by outside influence.

She then turned her attention back to Branches. "As for what happened, there was a murder at the center, and you ended up as the prime suspect until the actual culprit was uncovered. She was a dangerous arcanist, and ended up striking you down during the fighting."

"That's because Branches wasn't made like a normal Homunculus and even then, most of the time people feed their little creation before naming it." Illiana explained. Helen crossed her arms and waited for Branches to react to what she'd just been told. The mechanic of creation and the consequences for breaking the rules were well known to most mage hunters as well as any experienced alchemist. She supposed it was fortunate Branches hadn't been fed. The resulting monstrosity would have been difficult to deal with.

"I didn't kill nobody..." Branches groaned. Helen sighed, this song and dance again. She didn't really have time for it, and neither did Branches for that matter.

"That's what she said sweetie. Why don't you take your fingers out of your ears and listen to the scary mage hunter?" Illiana suggested. Branches tried to roll over and groaned. The groan turned into an irritable rumble when Illiana grabbed her by the shoulder and stopped her. Helen waited patiently, watching the interaction with the feeling of someone watching a parent try and fail to manage their child. Furthermore, Illiana knew that Helen felt that way and for all of her omnipotence and power, it embarrassed the hell out of her because it was sort of true. "C'mon now, I gave you very specific instructions sweetie and while I'm glad you chose what you wanted to be and have gone on doing all sorts of things for yourself, you've gotta follow through on that last little thing. You can't afford to be afraid of Ms. McKinnon anymore."

"I don't wanna..." Branches grumbled. That irked Illiana like any parent hearing their child saying no to them and more. She shot Helen a quick glance, taking in the smirk hidden behind the mask and the much less hidden wide grin on Steinar's mug. Branches had crossed her arms and taken the prone stance of an indignant teen. "Nope, not gonna-"

Helen was just a little too late activating her masks noise dampening effects when the shout came. Steinar unfortunately had no such luxury and was knocked backwards off his seat before throwing his hands over his ears. The bandits unfortunately, were totally deafened.


Helen gave a little wince, still momentarily shocked and stunned by the sheer volume that Illiana so abruptly displayed, such that as the wards of her mask finally eased the ringing in her ears, she heard the radio piping up. "Sister McKinnon? We heard more gunfire and now what sounded like something shouting into a megaphone..."

Helen grumbled a bit, recognizing Solomon's voice through the handset, grabbing it to answer while still doing her best to keep Branches held up just in case. "We have things under control, just a local spirit and her toddler, plus two bandits we've already subdued." she said, before turning back to look at Branches expectantly.

"Well then? I'm not here to hurt you. And gods know Illiana seems to have enough to deal with, it seems. Plenty of people to hand out frivolous citations to." she said jokingly, though she knew full well that the entire cause of Branches' creation was one of the prime examples of an intervention that was well-warranted.

Either she was ignoring them, or Branches ears were more sensitive than Helen had given her credit for. Instead of slumping into Helen's arms, Branches was now tense and jittery as though jolted. If the homunculus got her feet under her, Helen realized, it would be trivial to start the chase all over again.

"OOOOOW. WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?" Branches shouted, clearly compensating for her blasted hearing, "SHE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A CLASS SCHOOL THING, WHY CAN'T I JUST WAIT AND-"

"And hope I forget? Sit around and play with your new boobs? You want to be your own person sweetie, but you don't want to take on the responsibilities of being a person. You're young and chaotic, you know the rules but not the ways. Knowing the rules is all fine and good, but they don't mean anything if you don't practice them. Look at your current situation sweetie. you've got all the magical talent and aptitude an instructor could ever want, but look. You could have been killed, and not by Helen. Do you even know who these men are?" Illiana scolded.

Branches managed to stand on her own while Illiana spoke her piece and now stood unassisted, drawing circles in the grass with her foot. Illiana's special influence ensured Branches could at least hear her above the ringing no doubt sounding it's solitary note in her ears.

They sat side by side on Branches simple bench, Illiana doing most of the talking until her hearing had returned. At some point, the talk turned private, and the two shifted into using a language that sounded nonsensical, having no similarities to any language Helen knew. Or even to one another. Branches sounded high and flighty, like chirping birds, while Illiana's version sounded oddly blocky and rough. The talk went on awhile, and so Helen decided she didn't want to be on the outside of it anymore.

"You know, I do already teach some people over at The Hall." She mentioned. To her surprise, her little interruption didn't seem to put them off or even surprise them at all.

"That isn't what she's talking about..." Branches said simply.

Helen regarded Branches with concern as she said that, before looking back to Iliana. "Then what is it you wish for me to teach her? I've been trying to ensure the others don't go burning down The Hall or getting into trouble with magic, but..."

It was then that Steinar spoke up, having removed his helmet for a bit, seemingly as though trying to dislodge the ringing in his ears, or simply to get comfortable during a moment of respite. "I'm sure a magical creature that's already gotten herself slain once has learned half your intended lesson the hard way." he pointed out, before looking Branches in the eye.

"She wants you teaching the girl how to actually handle all the things a person learns during their life, isn't it? The small stuff you don't just crawl out of the ground instinctively knowing." he suggested, before glancing back at Illiana.

"Exactly!" Illiana said, popping up in a manner that should have been next to impossible in her current professional business attire, "My Homunculus is smarter than your average Homunculus in every way. Smarter, faster, stronger better!" She gave Branches a long glance. She had done a perfectly acceptable job shaping herself. From one eyed child to a somewhat slight of frame one eyed young lady. Helen may have missed the little glimmer of pride in Illiana's bespectacled eyes, but Steinar didn't.

"Sure'n any parent thinks their spawn'r better'n anyone else's." He said, putting on an old fashioned sort of accent. Illiana gave him a glare that would have withered grass had she decided to, before shifting her attention back to the Homunculus.

"Er... Well, I suppose you don't have to ask right away..." Illiana said, embarrassed. "But for starters, your going to make amends for what your little toys did. Return everything. Got it?"

Branches nodded solemnly, knowing that the "private" conversation they had just been having would almost certainly come up again. Illiana still had business in this world after all, and Branches needed to be ready to work on her behalf.

Helen hmmed a bit at that, before taking something out of the backpack she had concealed under her cloak. A few small gold and silver tokens, marked with a cross-and-hammer of the Cleansing Flame, along with its material purity and intended weight. The now-quite-uncommon "coins" their armorers regularly carried for field repairs. "First, we should have Branches' golems sort out everything that was stolen, and set aside the items these brigands were seeking to return them. Add these as recompense for what's happened." she said, Steinar giving Helen a wary look as he took the small tokens, before the group headed back to sort things out...

"So...I've been lapse in my duties. Throwing away my old life in favor of living in exile. Believing our mission was a failure..." the hermit said, regarding Horace. "But it seems there is still hope. I have something for you, meager though it is." he said, retrieving a small pouch of some stranger creature's leather. From it, among sundry old items and dried herbs, he retrieved a dagger.

Or at least, it used to be. Whatever leather or wood had once covered the tag had long since crumbled and sloughed off, and the blade had at some point shattered into pieces. But what remained of it still showed the familiar engraved runes, matching the otherworldly script of Horace's axe. "This can no longer fulfill its purpose. But so long as one of his gifts remain, it isn't useless yet."

"Right." Horace remarked, accepting the broken dagger, seemingly dismissive of it at first. But there was a faint glimmer of magic left in it, wisps of essence seeming to flow through it and drift through the plates of his armor, conducting through him to flow into the axe he grasped in his other hand.

"So, you're here for more than handing out an old artifact, aren't you?" Horace asked, and the old man gave a sigh. "Indeed. To see that someone had taken up one of the sacred relics with my own eyes as another, not to mention ensuring you're suitable for the task. Though it seems you've proven yourself already." he admitted. "However, there is something I'd like to ask of you."

"Figures. Go on." the knight said gruffly, and the old man procured an odd necklace, simple leather cord and a small talisman carved from bone. "I'm not going to be around forever. The village you passed through along the way has come to depend on the fact that this area is a place of refuge. Without my magic, when I pass, the creatures that haunt this part of the mountain will be freed from my control. And that would mean disaster for them." He held out the amulet, Horace accepting it warily.

"I ask that you venture farther up the mountain, to lay this amulet upon the stones of its peak. It will serve as the binding force for my final preparations, so that what I've done here will remain even after my death." he explained, Horace regarding the man with concern. "This seems like a rather plain request to ask a stranger to do. Too hard on the knees?" he said, the old man grumbling a little. "Where did you get this one..." he muttered.

The presence around them seemed to regard their discussion with amusement, knowing full well one of the reasons behind this request. He had, after all, made a point of saying that even a rogue priest sworn under his oath could not escape being reclaimed, not even Astor could deny what was due. The hermit had lapsed in his duties, and hoped to linger. Not merely to watch over the village, but to escape what might be due to him. If his master would permit it.

The shift in the aura permeating the area sent a clear message, and Horace stood, turning towards the path leading farther up the mountain. Whether for what Horace might find at the peak, for the hermit's sake, for the good of the village, or for his own peculiar plans, it was a request the watcher would grant.

The tank roared ahead, turret sweeping unsteadily across the surrounding treeline, following the path towards smoke in the distance. Inside the vehicle the chatter was frantic, a young woman wracked with worry at the main gun, a short fellow in the commander's hatch trying to relay the very basics of operating the turret just in case, and a knight in the driver's position, quietly scanning camera displays as he operated levers to maneuver the tank.

"Got it, I...Jesus, place is lit up on thermal, let me-" Hector finally spoke up, only for Alice to interrupt. "Who's left? Do you see him?" she asked, Nathaniel checking his own displays. "Show's over, I got a lot of cooling bodies in the treeline and some smoldering ruins. Bar looks like it's still up at least. Fuck me, this whole time I'd been meaning to visit that place..." the commander muttered.

It was then however they saw movement, a figure that was still readily apparent on the old thermal imaging, and a mere flick of the switch revealed the shine of armor on the man staggering to stand. "Stop the tank! There he is!"

Over Nathaniel's attempts to warn Alice that there might still be someone out there, the tank came to a halt just before what was once a humble dirt lot for the bar, the woman popping open the hatch and climbing out, leaping off in a frantic pace. Her rifle was unslung and shouldered before she hit the ground, and Hector was out of the rear hatch and close behind a few seconds later.

It was to their utter relief that he was battered and stunned, yet seemingly not seriously injured, the two helping him up, to fall back behind the tank while Nathaniel carefully scanned the treeline at the M2 his hatch had come into possession of.

Isaac had little to say, pale and sullen in expression, seemingly numbed by something even as he found himself assuring his daughter that he was fine, which soon gave way to his own worry and exasperation over her decision to follow after him, on the way back...
« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 01:01:44 pm by Chaosvolt »