Late Afteroon, Day 17
Having barely finished restraining the five remaining Japanese commandos with their own tent rope, Rydell and Roland were troubled to see Shiva vanish in an increasingly familiar rush of displaced wind. Only a moment later two new Survivors appeared. One was a mousy, scarred woman with bleached bone feathers in her mask’s headdress – like Roland – and the other was a slight, handsome man with aquamarine feathers – like Brittomart.
They introduced themselves as Mirabella and Calidore, respectively. They had nothing but their masks and black jumpsuits. After a degree of comfort amongst the four, currently present, Survivors was reached – and Gregory’s jaw was picked up off the floor – this problem was addressed. Fortunately for Mirabella and Calidore the group had just secured the greatest bounty ever achieved in all their travelling south from The Lighthouse. Commandos are not known for a lack of equipment with which to do their work!
Soon enough all of the Survivors had precious, precious boots along with gloves, compasses, a few rations, sleeping bags, pistols, rifles, shoulder holsters, bandoleers, a new first aid kit, grenades and more. Securing the prisoners, the group laid down for a night’s rest in sweet, sweet sleeping bags.
On the first watch, Roland peered eastward, towards the great desert whose fringe they were camped on, and despite the late hour he swore he saw the kind of haze on the horizon normally brought about by great heat. Grabbing a new pair of binoculars, he looked again and saw nothing. The others took their turns at watch with no further event.
Deciding to travel back towards The Pilgrim Village to deposit the prisoners and acquire much needed food, the group tied the commandos into a line – taken by Mirabella – before heading off. The weight of their new treasure of equipment and the slowly healing inury of Roland’s foot kept them from making much more than half the distance in a single day’s travel.
Luckily, it was an uneventful day.
Further travel brought the group to the village a few hours past dinner, when Roland showed nobility in giving his last rations to the other Survivors. Gregory kept his food to himself. The Japanese prisoner’s stomachs rumbled.
Met with the Governor, his guards and a few villagers, the group were quickly led to the Church/Town Hall structure they knew from their first visit. The Priest was happy to see them, quicly serving a simple carrot-based soup. There were some mutterings between Gregory and the Governor before the prisoners were led away by two of the latter’s guards.
After a failed attempt at Bible instruction and an attempted introduction to Mirabella & Calidore, the priest led the Survivors back to the bunk beds adjacent to his own chambers. As ever, these were a welcome sight after travelling among the ashen wastes.
A second Bible instruction was attempted over a simple breakfast. Further stymied by the Survivor’s lack of comprehension, he had an idea and left the Church just as the Governor, his guard and Gregory returned. The Governor gestured to Roland for his map, which Roland provided. The Governor pulled out two large sheaves of well-folded paper. One showed the village and a large surrounding area, most of which had been scrubbed black with charcoal. The other was blank and it was on this that The Governor quickly began to copy to from The Survivor’s map.
As he did this the Priest brought back a red-haired woman who had been seen during the previous visit. After being presented to the Survivors, she attempted some rudimentary language instruction. They hadn’t much time and it took a moment to establish what was even being attempted. However, by the time The Governor had had his fill of copying, they had at least established a mutual desire for the Survivors to learn the language of the pilgrims.
But that would have to wait for later. Very quickly, Gregory (seemingly) followed The Governor’s order and brought the Survivors out of the church. At it’s doors they were greeted with a hearty amount of simple rations – apples, bread, cheeses – and a clear imperative to finish their investigation of the fates of the pilgrim scouts. Some quick gesturing established Roland’s need for a crutch, which one guard literally hacked together from a loose beam he quickly grabbed nearby.
Off they went south, having calculated approximately a five day journey ahead. Several miles south of the village, they set down for the night. Mirabella successfully removed sand from two of the pistols but failed to unjam the single malfunctioning rifle. Again, Roland was humble. He took the jammed rifle and made sure the others, including Gregory, all had working firearms.
As they fell asleep, the Survivors couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the Japanese commandos.
Day 21, 22 & 23
One cloud one day, two clouds the next and then bleach rain on the third. Eating. Sleeping.
Light bleach rain continued to fall as, around noon, the group approached the point on the map where the southern heading pilgrim scout had been sent towards. From afar it appeared to be a lumber yard, which would make some sense as the areas border of chain link fence extended from the edges of the dead wood.
As the sneakiest survivor present, Rydell volunteered to scout ahead. Roland agreed to this. Leaving his new commando backpack with the others, he did just that.
His feet fell softly and, even with the steady sound of the rain falling, his ears were keen. Standing near the gate, Rydell could have sworn he heard the sound of large animals digging…somewhere nearby. Having seen what looked like evidence of dogs trying to work their way beneath several points in the fence, he fancied that perhaps hungry dogs were scavenging in the small graveyard he’d spotted at the back of the camp.
Working his way just past the gates, Rydell was understandably taken aback when the earth collapsed around him in a roughly six yard circle. Falling five yards to land flat on his chest, the wind was knocked out of his sails as a large quantity of dust swirled around his prone form.
Standing in the ashen grass a ways north of the camp, Roland looked through binoculars to see Rydell enter the camp only to be obscured by one of the several shoddy looking bunkhouse structures they saw. As far as he was concerned, everything was cool and the others felt the same way.
Sitting up, Rydell further disturbed his new floor so that it too collapsed. Plummeting another ten yards, the spry, athletic Survivor would have died if not for the protection of his jump suit. As it was, almost every rib was bruised by the time he once again landed flat on his chest. A high pain threshold is all that kept him from crying out and laying stunned for some time. A soft drizzle of bleach rain continued to fall down upon him, slicking the sides of the brand new pit and muddying the earth around his outline.
After very carefully running his hands over the walls and floor of his new environment, Rydell deduced that they had been packed and shaped carefully. With little confidence and much hope, he managed to crawl forward a few feet down the tunnel he had dropped into. Seeing nothing but darkness ahead, Rydell had a clever idea. Taking out his Swiss Army Knife, he went back to the dimly lit opening and carved a ‘1’ into the wall. Taking out his new zippo lighter, more Commando treasure, he flicked it on and forged ahead.
Meanwhile, the others waited. Calidore began to tap his toe.
Forced to crawl along at the relative height of a dog, Rydell began to wonder just what he was going to encounter as he went down one corner and then another – marking junctions with ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ and so on. He eventually came to one slightly larger, squarish chamber with casually placed human skulls all along the edges of the walls as a kind of macabre trim.
The others, deciding they should see what was taking so long, began to head south towards the yard.
His zippo flickering, Rydell wished he had any faith in the odds of his crawling back up the hole he’d created earlier. But the combination of height, his injury and the slickness created by the rain combined to make him decide to take his chances by pressing onward. Facing a choice of left or right from the chamber, he chose left.
This path very quickly narrowed until he was almost convinced he would become stuck in it’s increasingly winding walls. Eventually they opened up dramatically, exposing a room in which one could actually stand. Peering in, Rydell tried his best to make out what he could by the dim light of the tiny flame he held in one hand.
He seemed to have stumbled across some kind of grotesque parody of the welcoming church he’d left only a few days ago. There were several crude pews with over twenty people in humble, patch-worn uniforms sitting at them – all facing ahead. Way back at the end of the room was a large painting of some stern looking man with a thick, well groomed mustache. He seemed to be looking ahead to some unimagined future.
The man standing beside the painting, wearing what seemed to be a kind of priest’s robes, was staring right back at Rydell. It was hard to say, but something seemed to be not quite right about the man’s flesh, eyes and teeth. Too grey. Too large. Too exposed. In fact, the same could be said about the entire congregation when they all turned to look at Rydell as well. Forty-two eyes with irises like a cat stared at the dirt covered Survivor in unison as