Friday, 3 March 2017

Bastet's Corner - Baptism (Pursuit)

Mission Entry: None
Log Entry N°: #01/001

Day 01, Hour??

Well, curses.

The amount of curses my brain is making up out of nothing is impressive. The further I dash across this woods, trying not to lose sight of that creature while doing my best to avoid contact with... well, basically anything else, the more I tend to believe I'm trying to cope with a weasel, rather than a rat. Or, whatever that thing might be. Its agility is well beyond impressive, even for someone like me. Granted, the suit isn't exactly helping right now, but even if I was just wearing a normal one, I would still have quite a hard time in keeping pace.

Most sensors seem to be working, but I can't make contact with my Brothers, in any way. This means that either comms are busted, or that I'm well outside range. I literally have no idea of my whereabouts. It most certainly isn't "a few yards away", though. I presume the explosion overloaded it, somehow, or I don't know what else happened, but I must have been ported somewhere far enough to be beyond reach.

Many weapon systems aren't working, and the few long range ones that merrily bleep on my visor are the extremely disruptive ones that obviously I can't afford using, no matter how much I'd wish, because the wretched thing still has my device, and if we consider it my only hope of (somehow) getting back, a giant scrambled rat, no matter how satisfactory, and possibly even tasty, might have some negative impact on my chances.

But hell if I'm not using my claws on it as soon as I catch it.

Slow down, you relentless rodent, will you? Don't you have to catch your breath or something?

No, of course not. Quite the opposite, actually, and you rush headlong in a swamp. My suit's joints are gonna love this.

Day 01, Hour??

Well, it's been fruitful, this little trip in Muddyland. My melee weapon subsystems are all working perfectly, as the amount of tendrils and other vegetation I had to cut to untangle myself happily testifies. That, and I'm getting a fantastic camo pattern, 100% natural. I don't really want to know how I must smell. Oh, the joys of chasing prey.

One thing strikes me as odd, though. The few moments the rodent has stopped, for a split second mostly, it has never seemed to look my way. It has smelled the air and looked around, but hardly ever bothered acknowledging my presence. As if it were concerned on some other presence, although I can't say I'm sensing anything, even through the mist, which isn't even that thick.

It seems that we're finally leaving this swampy terrain behind us. I wonder where it's headed, though. Its running pattern seems... odd. As if it was avoiding something. As I keep chasing it, I casually glance around, looking for possible clues.

And then I see it.

At a risk of losing sight of my target, I just... have to stop for a moment and have a better look.

Mewmperor be good, this has to be the crudest trap I've ever got to witness. I can't even call it basic, it's less than amateur level in manufacturing, and yet excessively presumptuous in design. Whoever made this up must have skipped Trapmaking 101 to 103, and casually entered the classroom during the last day of practice.

And there are many of them!!! One worse than the other! What travesty is this?

I'm amazed it even bothered avoiding them at all. Granted, they look menacing enough, but...

The rodent! McPaw, get your priorities straight (but the trap... seriously, such a failure of a... the rodent, the rodent, you idiot)!

Day 01, Hour??

At long, friggin' last. I have caught up with it.

Guess it must feel safer, or it has eventually reached its limit and has to catch some breath. Either way, I can finally catch and deal with it, claim what's mine, and begin to find a way out of this charade.

I'll just sneak behind it...

...or maybe not.


Please, don't. Whatever you're gonna try, do not start tinkering with that thing. Just stare stupidly at me, like you're doing right now, and do it for long enough as to allow me to get a little bit closer. Threaten me with that pointy needle you have, if you really must, but just don't fiddle with my device. Really, it's a matter of a few feet, let me slash your head off approach and get that useless doodle...

"Confess and repent, vile creature!" is the only thing I hear, just before I see a gigantic claymore blade pass inches close to my face and plough the ground, blatantly missing its target. Whether it was me, or the rodent, that I could hardly say. Glancing at my right, I see a tall, bulky armored figure, all intent in prying the weapon out from its newfound sheath.

"Squeak squeak squeaky squeak squeak", mocks the creature, before hurrying into the bushes. I step forward to the chase, but at the same instant the blade gets loose, almost planting itself on my chestplate.

"Stop right there, you treacherous felon. You aren't going anywhere unless I say so", the voice again. A distinctly nasal voice, I must add. This time, it's clear I'm the addressee.

Yes, you, with the questionable pointy-eared, wide-eyed helm.

Well, bugger me.

I was this close. Literally this close. And this tincan of a... man, I suppose, has to ruin it all.

I release the visor of my helm, and give the newcomer my worst glaring stare, loading it with all the hatred I can. "What the hell is wrong with your head, you dungbrain of a dimwit?" I shout, hissing and spewing at the same time.

His reaction is sort of... awkward. Unexpected, even. As he places the point of his blade towards my face, I see his grip... vividly shaking. He finally mutters some words, again in his nasal tone, but their meaning escapes me. Only grasping something like 'monstruum' and 'diabolicum', I realize I turned the translator off. I close my visor again, and the system turns back on, in time for me to hear "ungodly feline demon" and something about my mother I don't exactly like.

"Can you understand me, now?" I ask, and the dimwit startles again. "It speaks my tongue, now! What sort of sorcery is this? You know the many languages of the ill-tongued serpent, that must be, you vile creature... but no word coming out of that foul mouth can ever hope to confound me, strong in the faith as I am. Know this, as I smithe thee down, you spawn of chaos! I will-"

I put an end to that endless blabbering rising my claws at the same height of his blade.

"Stop your relentless, nonsensical yapping and listen. I don't know who you are, nor I care about your reasons to be here. Just answer this: why did you stop me from cutting that rodent in half? Are you a friend of his sort?" I ask, ready to skewer him, for my patience by now runs extremely thin. He scoffs, then lowers the blade. Slightly.

"Friend? Me? You seriously ask me if I'm akin to that vermin? You either are a fool, hoping to talk your way out of this, or are twice the fool, for not knowing a thing about this world, creature. What must you be? Pick your words carefully."

I'm the wrong bastard to mess with and I'm about to split your head in half to see what delicious mass of spoiled curd oozes out of it, I think.

Lowering my claws, I stand in attention, and proudly show the mark on my suit.

"I am Bastet McPaw, proud member of the Raven Guard, Elite Unit in the 10th Company. I serve the Mewmperor Emperor with all my Brothers, and my life mission is to eradicate any form of Chaos in the universe. You threaten me, you threaten Him, and suffer the consequences. I don't know what this place might be, but I feel it's not where I belong. Now who, or what, might you be? Pick. Your. Words. Carefully." I say.

After what seems an eternal instant of uncomfortably cold silence, he lowers his claymore to the ground, seemingly relaxing. He then plunges the tip in the ground, holding the pommel with both hands, and stands in attention.

"You say you are an enemy of Chaos, yet you know little of the plaguebringers. It might indeed be that you are not from this world. Your armor seems to hint at it, for it's nothing I have ever witnessed. Be it as it might, you show padronance of language, and your intent seems honest enough. It's courtesy that I put my questioning aside, for a time, and answer accordingly. You happen to face the one and only Corporal Marcus Jenkins, of House Jenkins, Witch Hunter."

Questioning what I've just heard, I blink.

"Say what?" I stagger. The figure stays motionless, without uttering a single other word.

"Hello?" I try again, unsuccessfully. I check the visor, puzzled, but my translator seems to be still active.

"Can you please say it again?" is my last attempt of making anything useful out of this farce of an encounter. In return, the man leaves his sword to slowly remove his helm. An impossible haircut crowns a face I've seen before. I just have to remember where, and when.

Could it be...

"Ah, I see you know courtesy and proper manners", he starts again. Without the visor, the tone is excessively nasal, and it takes me quite the effort to keep my coolness. "Perhaps it was my helm, or might be that you are hearing impaired. At any rate, I'll concede to repeat myself: My name is Marcus Jenkins, of House Jenkins, Witch Hunter Corporal. And I won't state it a third time." His mouth opens in a smile as dazzling as seemingly artificial, were it not for the genuine light in his eyes. This man actually believes he's important, and that he's granting me the blessing of his presence

Let's see if I can get anything remotely useful out of this, or if I'm better off without him. Physically.

"I got your statement correct, thanks. It was probably the visor. I am glad we can communicate in some way. At this point I'm quite convinced it's safe to state that I am not of this world, as you too attested. You see, I was on a mission, fighting the forces of Chaos with my Brothers: while doing so, I was supposed to test a field device that could have helped with my defense and mobility. Think of it as a displacing cloak, if you must, to keep the difficult jargon to a minimum. But as soon as we got deployed, there was some sort of explosion. It must have done something to the device, I don't know, I just remember the light... well, long story short, I woke up in a wooden area not far from here, and that rodent... took my device and ran away with it. I was about to retrieve it, just before you showed up and messed things up pretty well, idiot our encounter. By the way, why did you stop me, in the end? You still haven't told me."

With all that said, the man grimaces a moment, as if he didn't really enjoy being questioned about his actions. Nonetheless, he then smiles briefly, and nods.

"You must understand me, ser, you truly must. Should I call you ser? Or how should I address you? You seem different than a mere footman, but I have no idea how that works where you come from, if what you said is true. And believe me, I intend to fully ascertain that, I truly do. Oh, don't fret, it's just my mission, nothing personal. If it helps you relax and get some relief, I don't think you're lying to me, as of now. I..."

"I am perfectly calm and-"

"...was on patrol duty to check for vermin, and I happened to hear some rustling coming from the bushes. I wandered in, and there you were, face to face with a plaguebringer. Those I know all too well, but you? You were... are.. something different, never seen before, no offense meant. I could get to the vermin at any given time, but you had to be faced and your threat be estimated. That's why I stopped you, plain and simple. You would have done the same had you been in my boots, for sure! You clearly understand my position, it's not easy to undergo my task, and as skillfully as I do, if I can say so!"

As he finally pauses for a second, I feel my temple pulsing heavily. If his duty is to bore living beings into a deadly slumber, then he indeed is a master at arts.

"Fair enough, Witchfinder, I-"

"Finder? Witchfinder? Ha ha ha ha, no, no, no, my poor misguided friend, you've got it completely wrong!" he starts again, "What I do is not finding, not at all! I hunt, I truly do. Finding is..." as he bends briefly to grab some gravel, with my extreme disappointment he keeps blabbering. "...absolutely unnecessary! Here, see this pebble? You could toss one in an acre of tall grass, blindfolded, and nine times out of ten you'd hit the head of an unbeliever. No, no, what I do is hunting. Following the prey, capturing it, questioning it, forcing a confession out of its mouth, and making it pay the adequate penance for its sins! This is what Witch Hunters do! We hunt, lad!" he finally ends, with quite the upsetting look in his eyes.

"Listen..." I sigh, "Corporal just out of caution for I want your mouth fully shut, I take no offence and I understand your position. I just want to return to my chase, and hope to find that rodent still with my device, retrieve it, and try returning to my homeworld. I don't doubt you're living in an interesting place, but it's fully clear that praise the Mewmperor I don't belong here. I would part right now, if you don't mind and actually even if you do."

The light in his smile tells me I've chosen my words very poorly. My temple suggests me the same. I sigh, again.

"Ah, but of course! I'll tell you what, I will come with you and lend you my expertise in your hunt! And while we're at it, I'll keep the merry conversation on, and I promise you that by the end of it, if you truly are who you claim to be, no harm will come to you! Besides, don't worry, I happen to be the clever and skilled tracker, so it won't take long for us to reach the vermin... we might actually find it in one of my traps."

Traps, right. Considering the kind of individual, that sounds pretty logical, but apparently I'm starting to hate my body enough to check.

"Traps?" I ask, perfectly aware of what's about to come. My temple screams all its spite towards me in a relentless, overwhelming pulsation streak.

"But of course, traps! Useful gadgets to complement my skills, of unparalleled design and all crafted by my very own hands! I've scattered a few around this zone and the nearby swamp. Not sure if you might have noticed them, as I concealed them pretty carefully" he concludes, with a sly grin. I bite my tongue really hard.

"Yes, as a matter of fact I have probably seen one, while chasing the rodent. It was the most incredible piece of horsedung ever witnessed by humankind very peculiar. I've seen many maimed Gretchins surpass few artisans meet that level of handycraft. Do you happen to catch much prey with them?"

"To be fair, not really. It's probably because they just don't have the chance, you see, I capture them way beforehand, with my skills alone." he remarks, with a boastful smile.

"I'm utterly sure it's the case. So! As amiable this conversation might be, I must sadly point out it's not getting us very closer to our target. Shouldn't we get going already?" I suggest, trying to sound as polite as possible. Which is a very difficult task.

"Ah, you're probably correct. Let's start hunting, ser. You'll remain impressed at how quickly we'll get to reach our prey. I promise you, I truly do. You see..."

"In silence, possibly?"

"...since my days as a small child, I've always enjoyed hunting. At first, with my old man, going out in the woods for small game, bow and arrows alone, learning how to read their tracks, how to stay upwind so as not to let them catch our scent..."

Mission Entry: None
Log Entry N°: #01/002

Day 01, Hour??

Chaos be damned, Unseen Giants Taggart everything be damned. Hell, I be damned, too. This is getting more ludicrous by the minute. The more I ponder about it, the more I'm convinced this must be some kind of comedy plot, served warm to entertain spectators, sitting somewhere.
As I observe him closely searching the terrain near the grain field, I can't help thinking that my excessively loquacious companion has been the perfect addition to an already exquisite stage. My only relief is the fact that he apparently is keeping his word, proving to be an adequate substitute for my tracking skills, which is giving me time to recollect my thoughts, assess what exactly is working in my suit, and what of that can actually turn out to be useful in this... hunt. Mewmperor forgive me, I'm starting to talk like him.

"Ser McPaw, the vile vermin was heading to the church", states Jenkins.

"Come again?" I casually remark, silently cursing immediately after realizing it. He turns back to face me, and stares blankly. Mewmperor, give me strength. "Please, state your words again, Corporal", I say this time. He smiles, and slightly turns again backwards, looking at the field.

"According to its tracks, the plaguebringer was heading to that building you see at the limit of the woods. We call it a church. Whether to rest, hide, or to reach its colony, is yet obscure to me. Let's not waste any longer, and promptly move to the chase. The storm is impending, ser".

He's right, I realize, as I look to the distant dark clouds. And a storm means rain, and... lightning bolts. Even if I'm still completely unsure of how all this started, I can't dismiss that possibility. In the hands of the rat, that device could prove to be potentially troublesome. An overloaded one... I can't even begin to think about it. Regardless, it still is my sole hope to go back to my Brothers, and pondering idly won't bring me any closer to its recapture.

We start heading to the building, at a steady pace, not caring too much about the plants. I'm positive the farmers will still get aplenty, when the crop season comes. The closer we get, the further the structure does indeed look like a church of ancient times. It feels... weird, the thought again.

"So, Corporal" I address my companion, "have you often been there? To that... church, I mean." He barely glances at me, all intent on keeping pace. "Why yes, ser. I attend to function every day, like a proper follower of the doctrine. Why do you ask?" he answers. I smile. "Marcus Jenkins, Witchfinder Corporal. In a Church." "Why yes, as I said. What of it? Do you find it strange? Is this some kind of jest?" he asks, starting to sound irritated. Which only adds to his nasal voice, rising the pitch a notch. I chuckle.

Not strange at all, no.

"She rides to the Sabbath..." I begin. Not sure if I remember all the words. They are indeed ancient. He suddenly scoffs. "Will you please address my question? I don't like being mocked, ser. I must warn you. What would all this mean, again I ask?"

"Absolutely nothing, Corporal, I beg your pardon. Consider it a fool's jape, nothing else. No offence meant. I thought you knew the poem." I conclude. I see shaking his head, maybe a hint of reproach in his looks, then we proceed.

When we reach the front door, the rain is already falling heavily, and the thunders roar aloud. My time is running short. As I enter the main hall, I can only pray it's still inside. Stress on the last word.

Mission Entry: None
Log Entry N°: #01/003

Day 01, Hour??

Well, it was inside, all right. That said, it's also an oversized rat, and like most rats, it's an apt climber. A swift, agile, apt climber.

Unluckily for it, I happen to be a decent climber myself, and it's running out of maneuvering space.

Unluckily for both, this last bastion of his happens to be a parapet close to the bell tower, high enough to mean serious damage, should any of us slip and fall below, for the stony floor is wet from the heavy rain.

Unluckily for me... it means that yes, we're not inside anymore. I've counted three roars in the last minute alone, and I can feel the ionized atmosphere all around. I don't have time. I just don't.

As I swing my claw, I miss the target by a mere inch. I swing again, and this time the creature parries with its small spear, but the blow is so strong that it gets bounced against the parapet. My eyes widen in horror as I see its clawy paw extend slightly above it, the device leaning dangerously to more than a hundred feet of a fall. I release my fear in form of a scream of anguish. As the rodent regains some form of posture, I feel my heart almost bursting out of my chest.

We both stare at each other, for a single, eternal second. It knows what it can do to save itself, I know what it can do to doom me. All I have in my veins, now, is adrenaline. The rat begins the torsion.

I jump forward, stretching my claw as far as I can. Something nasal reaches my ears from behind me, from a place out of existence. There's only the target, now.

A lightning bolt hits the tower, a tremendous roar bursting our ears.

The rat changes its motion, in a desperate attempt to shield itself. From me, from the light, as if that even mattered.

I feel the tip of my claw touching something. A single, metallic clicking sound. I curse.

Everything becomes white.

Mission Entry: None
Log Entry N°: #02/001

Day 01, Hour??

As I get back to my senses, it soon seems clear that I'm nowhere near the church anymore.

The first few things I see are the motionless body of the rodent, still holding the device, and buildings of a kind I have never personally witnessed before, but that are strangely familiar. Tall and square and all so bricky, without decorations or carvings, with metallic pipes and tubes all running around. It looks an alley of some sort, narrow and secluded. As I look up to the sky, the setting sun casts an orange tint over a group of hills far in the distance.

A single thing stands out there, grasping and holding my focus, screaming odd like nothing else. An enormous, whitish H letter.

Getting back on my feet, I cautiously begin to move towards the end of the alley, glancing back and forth as I pass close to the buildings, trying to stay as unnoticed as possible. I hear noises in the distance, murmuring, galloping, some sort of engine noises, all banging and humming... this seems so ancient, so utterly ancient. And yet, not the sort of scenario one would find in worlds like Jenkin's. I feel even more out of place now. It feels... wrong to be here. I must take cover. A big, metallic structure, some sort of container, lingering against one of the walls, could provide some form of protection. Placing my back against its side, I tilt my head to get a better look.

I cannot begin to express my stupor. The nearby street has human presence, wearing clothes with a style that I could only define as out of time. Their vehicles, too... carriages, mostly, and odd automobiles, oblong in shape, like cigars or coffins, with silly canopies above them. And glancing upwards... glancing upwards... O. Close to it, a L. All whitish, all of the same size of the H.

I've seen it before. In documents regarding our long lost, prehistorical heritance. That's... impossible. If I wasn't standing here, with my two own eyes wide open, that's what I would say. And yet, here I spell it. And again. And again.

H  O  L  L  Y  W  O  O  D  L  A  N  D.

Mewmperor assist me. This is Terran, and I'm almost forty thousands years in the past.

I close my eyes, keeping them shut, and return my head against the metallic can. I inhale, slowly, and exhale, trying to force my heartbeat back to normal. This cannot be, this must be a dream. I'm dying on that church roof, and these are my last figments of hallucinating thought. I open my eyes again, and I see the alley, with its tall, bricky buildings, and it's not a dream. I shut my eyes, once again, focusing on my breathing.

I barely hear the rustling, and the subsequent scurry.

I open my eyes again, and I see it hurrying in the distance, before taking a left. I realize, with chilling horror, what it all implies.


Device or not, I cannot let this rodent alive and roaming in Ancient Terran.

Praying not to be seen, I jump back on my feet and rush, once again, to chase my nemesis.