Description: The ritual was complete. Nightwolf assumes the guise of his spirit totem to dive deep within the Egyptian Underworld, known as Duat, to follow the trail of the lost Interpol Agent, Daniel Jack. As he reaches the detective, he finds that he is ready to face the final trial: to have his heart weighed against the feather of truth. Nightwolf can do many things as a shaman. But can he convince a god to stay his hand at the first soul he's tasted in centuries?
Although the passage of time is meaningless in the realm of the dead, Nightwolf knew that the clock was ticking back in Earthrealm. It wouldn't be long now until the candles that the miko Ayame would blow out leading to the closure of the portal and his means of escaping this realm.
The Shaman was not scared for his own life. Better a quick painless death here where he could peacefully travel to the great plains, than risk more absorption of Sin and one day turn into a demon. It was the fact that another innocent's soul was involved that worried him. He had made a promise to bring this hero back, so that he would not need to pay such a high price for defending Earthrealm and essentially doing Nightwolf's job. This man, he had done a favor to the Sin Eater, and he would return the favor by saving his life. It was only fair.
Determined to not fail in this mission, Nightwolf immediately attuned to the realm of the dead to pierce through the veil of deception that is natural in this realm. A normal person, not one with the spirits would be at quite the loss when traveling this realm meant for only the souls. But Nightwolf, being a shaman, could device a few ways of how to travel unperturbed by the guardians of this place whilst still on the search for the Interpol agent.
Nightwolf tapped into his animal totem and took the form a wolf. He slipped past the many challenges of the place as dogs and wolves were seen by spirit guides in this realm and would be thus ignored by them, not realizing that he was in fact a human in disguise.
Being in wolf form also gave him an added bonus when tracking his quarry. Souls were difficult to discern here as there was nearly a limitless amount of them. But a human being, made of flesh and bone, would be easy to smell. Living things were not supposed to be here at all.
Catching Daniel's scent, Nightwolf continued his hurried mission to find the lost soul of a man. He would think of a way of how to actually pry him out of the underworld later, first he needed to find him.
The trail is strong.
Swamp fades to desert, desert fades to sea, and soon sea fades into the depths of the underground. The passageways are limestone blocks, the depths of a tomb. Guardian after guardian is bypassed, each one trusting the guardian wolf. And yet, wary, watchful eyes were on him. These were the guardians of the Egyptian Afterlife, and wolves were a rare, wayward sight. While they did not dare to act against the psychopomp, they did not show any amicability to Nightwolf as he prowls through the masonry and the tunnels, to the final chamber of the great tomb.
And here, the trail ended.
The final gateway to paradise was here. The grand chamber is impossibly huge, stretching beyond the horizon, to house the countless souls that were destined to come here. But it was too bare now, the dead refusing to pass through these passages anymore. Standing upon a great throne, the jackal-headed god of the dead, Anubis, sits regally on his throne, twisting up his nose into a snarl as the wolf arrives. Before him, was a massive scale, one end holding a feather, another being empty, awaiting the content. Curled around the base of the massive scale, was a foul creature, some kind of cross between a crocodile, a lion, and a hippopotamus. Twisting its tail, the creature's eyes were fixed on a nearby stone slab, where the most recent arrival was being prepared for the final judgment.
The dark-skinned agent is stripped to the waist, his jacket and shirt is tatters on the ground near the slab. Over him are several jackal-headed men, armed with ceremonial knives. Daniel is not tied down on the slab, but judging by his body, there is no need to. His skin is wrinkled and desiccated, with one of his arm clearly twisted and knotted from a badly healed arm. His eyes are distant.
He responds, however, by the yowling of cats.
Dozens of cats, all near the stone slab, begin to yowl furiously, jumping into action by the intruder. Falling into formation, they begin to join together into a mob as they meow and hiss at the wolf that has come into their presence. Daniel Jack however, moves. He turns his head over. Looking at the wolf that has entered the room, his dazed, distant eyes blink weakly. He mouths something, silently, at the wolf-creature that has come.
It's meaning is lost.
This is really bad.
There is no use trying to deny that when the man is found is at the worst possible situation, short of walking past the gates that would lead to the great plains. It was a good thing that Nightwolf had acted wisely and took the guise of a psychopomp lest he had wasted time fighting off the guardians of the Underwold, had he taken even a minute more, Daniel's soul would be forfeit. Because when he finally found him, he is before Anubis and Sobek, where his soul will be judge to see if he is worthy to pass to the plains, or go deep into the bowels of the Netherrealm.
Nightwolf senses that something is amiss in this desolate realm. The souls of the dead should be lining up here to await judgment and yet he finds the place nearly vacant of people, souls or otherwise. At a glance, Nightwolf would guess that it is because the Egyptian faith is a dying one, but the mystic cannot stay and try to deduce if there is anything wrong with this realm or if he can do anything to help it. Any manner of hesitation from him now could lead to Daniel's soul being lost forever.
The Shaman turned wolf looks up first at Anubis who snarls at him. He bows his head in respect, never wise to disrespect the spirits even if they do not follow your own faith. Sobek is looked at and it is then Nightwolf's turn to snarl noticing how focused the twisted God seems to be on the most recent arrival, the Shaman sincerely hopes he does not try to interfere. He's ill prepared to fight a God right now, let alone in his own realm.
The mystic turned wolf approaches the man there standing to be judge only to be intercepted by a mob of angry cats. He stares at them, not issuing a challenge just yet, as he doesn't know if they may be agents of Baast or they simply dislike his current form. He'd hope that he could have at least gained /some/ favor from the cat goddess after he offered to help that cat-kin Felicia the other day. Alas, he's always known that cats are capricious creatures and he attempts to ignore them, focusing on the man who is trying to speak to him.
"Daniel Little!! Agent of Interpol!!" The wolf's snout does not move but Nightwolf's commanding voice echoes through the halls of the dead. He speaks the man's true name and what few facts of his life he knows to wrest power away from the Egyptian deities that are apparently trying to claim him.
"Come! It is not yet your time! We must leave this place at once!"
As his name is spoken, the agent of Interpol twitches. Strength begins to fill him, as he begins to move upon the slab. The jackal-headed guardians begin to hold him down, as Agent Little begins to struggle. He continues to repeat the words on his lips, louder and louder, the sounds escaping him. "I'm... not... dead."
" I am not dead!"
The cats, the guardians of those who pass through the underworld, encircle the wolf. Sobek, the fat creature, watches lazily from his post. But as some of the guardians wrest down Daniel, some turn towards Nightwolf himself. Armed with the knives, they begin to join the cats in entrapping the intruder.
That was the thunderous boom from Anubis, who stamps his rod upon the limestone stones beneath him. Both the guards and the cats recoil, drawing back away from Nightwolf. Sitting regally, the god of the underworld stares fiercely at the wolf. "These are not your lands, traveler." The deity speaks with stark tones. "You are far from your realm. Why have you come to steal this man away from me? He has proven himself worthy to be judged. I will have his heart cut out, and weighed against the feather of truth. This is the honor kept for pharaohs! And yet, you have come to deny him?" The god's golden eyes narrow, as he leans forward on his throne. "You are no psychopomp."
"Who are you, traveler?"
The time has come to reveal himself.
Nightwolf wished not to revert to his true form unless completely necessary, and it looked like that became less and less of an option as time went by. When he was circled by the yowling cats, the mystic turned wolf held his ground and growled fiercely, warning the cats to stay back lest they wanted to taste his fangs. It was only when the guardians of the Halls approached him with knives that the Shaman truly considered reverting to his true form, it would be the only way he could defend himself from these fiends.
It is only, and only when, Anubis speaks, that the Shaman does away with the charade of being a spirit guide.
Energy swirls around him and where there was once a wolf, now there is a man. Clad with the trappings of a Native American warrior, the Apache looks decidedly out of place in the Egyptian setting. Almost as much as Daniel, really.
"Venerated Anubis." Nightwolf speaks in a formal tone, far it be from him to dismiss spirits or deities from any religion. "I am Nightwolf, a Sin Eater and Demon Hunter. I come bearing grim tidings, for you see.. there has been a mistake. It would be folly for you to welcome this man into your sacred plains. This man that you have before you; Daniel Little."
"He is not dead."
"He is not dead?"
Anubis brings a hand to his cheek, slouching in his throne. The god is deep in thought, mulling over this revelation. Daniel Jack sits upright, chi energy flowing at his hands. "I am not DEAD!" He belts, as one of the guards lashes out with a knife. The detective lashes back, knocking the weapon from its hand... before collapsing on the slab again in an exhausted groan. Anubis watches the struggling agent of Interpol, before straightening his posture.
"He is as good as dead."
"Let me explain, Nightwolf." The deity states, bringing his hand from its face. "He is a gift from the honorable and loyal Anakaris. He has proven himself worthy to pass through the 12 gates of Duot. He has overcome countless challenges. If a man has come to the underworld, is he not as if he is dead?" He glances at the cats, who nod along in agreement. "This is no mistake, Nightwolf. This is a blessing." And with his hand, he stretches it out, gesturing to the expanses of the interior grounds.
"Look around you, Nightwolf."
%My realm has no new souls. No one believes in the gods, in the journey of Duot. No one believes. And now, my kingdom stagnates. This new soul is the chance for new life to flow within the afterlife, to renew and glorify the gods." The Anubis gestures to the dozens of felines that watch Nightwolf grimly. "Even the cats, having long lost anyone to guide through my realms, has rejoiced at the opportunity to show this man the way. Whether he is dead or not is of no importance to me. He has come here with his heart. We will weigh his heart against the feather of truth. If he is worthy, he will enjoy a bountiful afterlife in our realm. And if he not. . . " He glances at the gluttonous creature at the base of the scales.
"Then Sobek will, at least, break his fast."
Dealing with deities is never an easy matter.
Nightwolf is a man of the spirits, aspects of nature with more primal thoughts and emotions. They are either angry, neutral or satisfied, hardly anything else and stranger still with hidden agendas. In his many years as a mystic, it has always surprised Nightwolf how capricious the Gods can be, particularly the forgotten ones. They can be consumed by plenty of human fallacies.
Nightwolf knows the Gods well, even if they don't happen to be of his culture. Where a mortal try to deal with them, they would be consumed by just as many emotions as them. Rage, indignity, horror at the very thought that they could do something as thoughtless as lay claim to one's soul, as if it belonged to them. It is natural to try and violently resist, much like how Daniel acts out of instinct and defends himself from the guardians of Duat.
Nightwolf acts not of instinct, but of reason. He shakes his head and tucks his thumbs in his belt when Anubis explains the plight of his Pantheon. Maybe surprisingly, Nightwolf has heard this story before.
"No, Anubis." The Sin Eaters voice is serene but unyielding, having the respect needed to not belittle a God, but the firmness to let them know that theirs is a flawed thought process. "I can assure you that claiming this man will have the opposite effect of what you want."
"Yours is not the only Pantheon that has suffered from a lack of faith as the spirits' power in Earthrealm wanes. No longer are there great battles for the Norse Gods to reap their harvest and fill their halls of Valhalla. No longer are there Flower Wars for the Gods of Aztlan to be offered as sacrifice. Even in my own realm, I am but one of the very few who still follow the path of the Brave, so that perhaps one day my soul may reach the sacred plains of Wakan Tanka and reunite with my ancestors."
"But.." Nightwolf pauses here to see if these seemingly uncaring deities are following. "Things are changing in Earthrealm. The return of Anakiris has marked a new beginning for the realm of man. A time where the spirits have returned and have begun to reveal themselves to us mortals. With their appearance, it is certain that the old faiths will be revived, and your people will be returned to you, so that you may once again honor them for their faith, or punish them for their misdeeds as you see fit."
"Unless, of course, you take this man into your realm forcefully, spreading fear to your would be subjects. You must remember that mortals will not willingly follow a deity they abhor. This is why Sobek and Set have so very few followers in comparison to you or Ra or Osiris."
"Believe me, Great Anubis. Take this man's soul as your own and your hallowed halls will remain empty for many generations to come. Spare him and your true people will return to you as they are remembered of your mercy and just cause."
Anubis listens patiently.
In spite of his ruler as the underworld, or maybe because of it, Anubis was no wicked god. Nightwolf intervening on the soul's behalf was not treason, but council. As the native American explains why he, a god, would be interested in the words of a Sin Eater. He waits, and listens, until the wanderer finishes his words.
And yet he has no response.
That god's expression is blank, his golden eyes just staring. Sobek begins to stagger from the scales, eyeing Nightwolf hungrily in response to his insult. Anubis was not the only deity present, after all. On the stone slab, it seems that there no more time left, anyways. Daniel is rolled aside, chest exposed. The guardians raise their knives, and one begins to run the knife across the chest. . .
Anubis raises his hand up, and soon stands tall. The guardians cease their extraction, as Sobek unleashes a deep growl like a bull crocodile. "Your words carry great weight, Nightwolf." The god begins, look down upon the spirit walker. "For if he returns to the land of the living, he will share stories of his journeys here. And should he share in those stories. . . maybe others will learn to embrace the gods they have long forgotten." He sweeps his arms to the table, pointing at the man who laided upon it. The guardians step aside, as Agent Little sits upright.
"He is free to leave my realms."
Impassively did the mystic awaited the judgment of Anubis. He refused to move from the spot where he stood, staring up at the thoughtful Anubis, unshaken by Sobek's growl and even when Daniel was laid on the stone slab. He knew that a rash act now would mean showing that he doubted his own words. Nightwolf trusted in the truth of his message and in the wisdom of the Egyptian God of death. And it turns out he was right to trust in his plan.
Nightwolf brings a fist to his chest and nods his head, a warrior salute of respect as it is Apache custom. "Your wisdom is great, Lord Anubis." Says Nightwolf who is purposely not addressing Sobek for a reason, although he won't openly say way unless directly asked. "Rest assured, I too will tell tales of your generosity. Balance is returning to Earthrealm, and with it, so will your people."
The spirit walker straightens up and feels a great pull on his back all of the sudden, his dead eyes widening. Beyond the portal and back in Japan, the black candles around Ayame have been lit, he is running out of time. Nightwolf moves towards the stone slab and reaches for Daniel, helping him back to his feet. "Come, we must hurry. Our souls are not safe yet." He hopes the man can run because they are going to have to make a dash for it.
Raising again to Anubis, the shaman nods as he bids farewell. "Goodbye, great Anubis. May your halls remain forever hallowed."
Agent Little had no idea what was going on.
It was like he was being woken from a fever dream. Someone was helping him up. Around him, the guardians of the underworld were dumping him from the stone slab. The cats all mewl, weeping at the lost of their chosen soul. Body broken, bloodied, and wasted, he mindlessly gathers the remains of his shirt as Nightwolf urges him on. The mustached Agent of Interpol just looks feebly up at his rescurer, eyes blearly as he stammer out.
"Who... who are you?"
Sobek growls again, writhing suddenly in rage. Anubis looks down at his fellow god. "Calm down, Sobek." He states. "You will soon have countless souls to feast upon." The golden eyed god watches the shaman, as he bids farewell. He does not acknowledge him, but only coldly warns. "You better hurry up, Nightwolf."
"I cannot contain Sobek's rage for long."
No need to tell him twice.
Even if he didn't have Sobek's impending wrath bearing down upon him, Nightwolf was still conscious of the portal closing in front of him. Looks like staying to be judged has stopped becoming an option, that ship sailed as soon as Nightwolf decided not to address Sobek directly and accidentally incurred the crocodile God's wrath. An inevitable occurrence as Nightwolf was concerned, like Anubis, he was just trying to contain it for as long as he could before it was unleashed.
But it gets worse. The Shaman had hoped that Daniel could run after him, he had planned to turn into a wolf again and have Daniel follow him in an attempt to fool the guardians of Duat with the same psychopomp disguise again. Problem was Daniel couldn't run.. it looked like he could barely walk.
Guess he had no choice.
"No time to explain!" Nightwolf yells, his ever unflappable visage starting to show signs of worry. He ducked low and scooped the Interpol agent on his arms carrying him bridal style, fully intending on running the distance with the man on his arms.
Clenching his teeth, the mystic went into a full run to make it out of Duat in time. Hoping that any lingering spirit wind that heard him could fasten his steps. Now it was just a matter of somehow dodging the guardians.
Daniel stares at Sobek.
"No, seriously, what is going scuzzy!?" The Interpol detective was slowly beginning to remember piece by piece. He remembered being thrown into this place. His arm felt wrong. He remembered a swamp, and a mummy. The images rushing through his head were flickers, dim and distant things. He was in no mental state to wake up.
But he still didn't believe he was being carried.
Having been lifted up into Nightwolf arms, he grunts. And the pair were off. He could have complained, or interjected. But instead, the weakened detective buried his face into the shaman's naked chest. Clutching him tight, he mutters to himself. "Thank you. Thank you so much." He clings on to his lifesaver, as they begin to flee down the depths of the underworld.
And the guardians move.
Not the jackal-headed ones, no. But new, muscular humanoids, stepping out from the gate of the tombs, leading out to the sea. Crocodile-headed guardians, armed with bronze swords, acting as servants for the jaded Sobek. It seems that Nightwolf's insult was held with great personal issue by the devourer of souls. Six of the guardians stand in the path between him and Daniel. It seemed that even if Nightwolf could defeat them, time was of the essence.
And from behind the duo, something leaps at the guardians.
A cat. And then, a second cat. The pack of cats from the judging grounds had followed the duo, and were now hurling themselves into the six crocodile guardians. Hissing and spitting, they tear into them, flinging blood and fur as they battle the guardians, More of the cats stand by Nightwolf. Waiting. Watching. Ready to follow him back through the gates.
To act as his guardian through the underworld.
Dignity is of no consequence when one is about to lose his soul.
Nightwolf is far too concentrated on keeping his breathing and running to pay any heed to the Interpol agent's concerns at first. He ran like the wind, past the Halls of Duat, past the desert, and now quickly the river that would lead to the swamp. Green after images of the mystic were seen behind as he ran, feeling the black candles that held the portal open drawing close to burning out to leave them forever trapped. Daniel really shouldn't thank Nightwolf just yet, because he may have just doomed the both of them. If they don't make it back to Earthrealm in time, Sobek was going to have both of them for lunch.
Nightwolf hadn't expected these many guardians to bar their way. Two or three could be avoided, but a cadre of Sobek henchmen would be far more challenging. The mystic came to a screeching halt, and it looked like the best he could hope for now is to stall the Duat guardians while Daniel made a run for the portal. He only hoped that he had enough energy to make it out the rest of the way.
Just as soon as he was putting the Interpol agent down so he could summon his chi axes, reinforcements came, in the form of the spirit guide cats. The shaman exhaled heavily and nodded to the cats before hauling Daniel back up on his muscled arms. "Thank you, friends." He said breathlessly. "I'll fulfill my promise to the cat-kin." Maybe Nightwolf's karma was starting to pay off. He might as well stay in the good side of the felines from now on, he really doesn't know when he'll ever need them.
Waiting not for any more unexpected surprises. Nightwolf kicks in the after burner and dashes past the river, through the swamp, and back into the darkness where the swirling portal that shows the view of Southtown floats in the distance.
Just as it begins to close, Nightwolf dives in, throwing himself head first and tucking Daniel close to his body.
He lands with a hard roll, crashing into the sands of Japan and sprawling over and knocking the candles of the ritual used to keep the portal open. His insides felt like they were burning, and there he laid in front of Ayame and with Daniel Little on top of him, breathing out a sigh of relief at last.
The fever dream comes to a close.
Daniel Jack watches in brief glimpses, turning away from Nightwolf's chest, to see the landscapes play in reverse. The sea. The desert. The swamps. And all along, the cats run with them. There is fighting. There is screaming. And yet, he thinks, he remembers. He remembers who is he is. He is Daniel.
He is not dead.
And then, he falls. He falls into sands again, falling into the ground with a tumble. And on that beachfront, he lays, his bundled clothing spread out around him. With a sigh, and a moan, he very gradual, very slowly sits up, the sounds of the ocean filling his ears. He looks around, placing a hand on the side of his head. He looks at the strange girl, the one who started this journey to save him. And there, he says aloud.
"Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on, scuzzy?!"
Log created on 20:28:50 11/11/2014 by Daniel, and last modified on 01:31:41 11/12/2014.