Description: With her forces of undead dwindling, Franziska has resorted to replenishing her ranks amongst the barrow downs. The skeletons of the warriors of Illyria are a viable choice to rejuvenate the armies of the necromancer, and her soldiers spread out to dig up the corpses for 'enlistment.' But the cries of the spirits are not easily ignored. Renka, a rank-and-file member of the Novus Orbis Librarium, intercepts Franziska within one of the barrows, disrupting the spiritual flow. Trapped away from her core army, the general must battle the kitsune in solo combat. Decapitating their commander won't destroy the army of the undead, but the chaos may buy enough time...
From digging holes to patrolling them, Renka Kaneko is definitely not getting the experience she dreamed of when she appeared out of no where to enlist in the Novus Orbis Librarium half a year ago. But the sprawling underground barrows were deemed a priority at best, a vulnerability at worst, so SOMEONE had to keep an eye on them. Moving with a small group of three other NOL footmen, the fox-eared young looking woman navigated through the dark tunnels with a quiet, bored look.
Two of the others carried torches, leaving her hands free to lightly grip the lengthy naginata she has propped against her shoulder. The smell of the place is dry, stale, dead. Boring. She sniffs again, dust swirling through the torch-lit catacomb chamber the small group stands in now, only to feel a tickle in her sensitive nose.
"Hey, keep it down," hushes the young blond man at her side, his hand on the hilt of his saber, the weapon rattling in his grip as he struggles to steady his nerves, clearly not at ease in the sprawling tombs.
"Ah-!" Renka repeats, face twisting unflatteringly as one eye closes, the other squints, one side of her mouth open, the other twisted closed.
"Come on, you need to quit-" The young woman with short black hair behind her chides.
"ACHOO!" Renka sneezes, leaning forward into the outburst, the sound barely seeming to travel at all so dead is the underground region that even noises find no strength here. Standing up straight, one hand bracing her weapon, Private Kaneko's other hand goes to rub at her nose, eyes half-lidded and watering slightly, looking largely unapologetic for the disturbance.
"Jeez, you're going to wake the dead with that kind of noise. Do we need to get you a face mask?" A short but huskily built young man with a short black ponytail gripes.
Lowering her hand from her face after her fifth sneeze in the last ten minutes, Renka sniffs again, "Yare, yare. We already went over this. Those cheap paper ones don't really work for me, you know?" She snaps her finger to point up at her upright ears over her head. "It's not my fault I got assigned to the patrol this place. I tried to explain to my Lieutenant that the dust would be murder on my nose and she rewarded my concern with a double shift instead of single, yeah?"
She shakes her head, hand bracing against her hip then as she glances around the chamber of bones, decaying tomes, and bits of metal strewn about that likely once formed parts of elaborate trappings and furnishings but are now the only lasting evidence of finer decor now that all the cloth and wood have rotted away.
Her protests seem to have mollified the complaints of her fellow grunts. At least they can appreciate what it's like being tormented by a superior officer. "Well, maybe if you didn't walk around with personal dust sweeps for an ass," the blond young man finally comments after a moment, his voice teasing enough to amuse rather than frustrate the darkstalker.
%tRenka glances over her shoulder to glance at her two tails, each looking dustier than when she started this patrol hours ago. She grins faintly, "Yeah, keep bringing them up and I'm going to slap you with one, then you can take over official sneezing duties."
The group laughs lightly, the exchange maybe not helping their stealthy patrol but doing wonders for alleviating the nervousness felt by the more human element of the unit.
"Besides," Renka continues, "We've been down here for five hours. And unless we're bearing witness to the very patient assault of the Undead Lord of Dust, I don't think there's anything to worry about down here. This place is dead. Like, not even a scrap of marrow left in bone dry levels of dead."
"I won't complain," murmurs the other young woman, "Three more hours and we're out." She pauses, sideglancing apologetically toward Renka, "W-well, I mean, except for you..."
The kitsune rubs her face, grousing "Don't rub it in..."
The discourse has taken the group of four around another bend, down another tunnel, up one flight of stone stairs and down another. "There's really nothing special about a tomb this old," Renka continues to explain, perhaps attempting to put nerves at ease. "It's the fresh graves you have to worry about. I mean, you think spirits just sit around for several thousand years waiting for the off chance anyone's going to wander into haunting range? This place is at maximum vacancy, really. I can't think of a single thing to worry about-" her foot comes down on what looks to be a tile like any other... until it collapses out right from under her, cutting off her remark as the NOL soldier plunges through the floor and crashes to the ground twenty feet below, kicking up a massive cloud of dust which sets off a new round of sneezing far more tenacious than before.
"You okay?!" exclaim the others from above glancing down, their torchlight the only light illuminating the dark pit the darkstalker finds herself in.
Grimacing, Private Kaneko gets to her feet and begins dusting herself off, a somewhat futile effort as she continues to sneeze. "I'm fine, I'm fine." She peers up while the others peer down. "Just stay put. I'll figure out how this floor connects up to where you are. Can't be too far away, right?"
Her left hand tightens on her naginata shaft after resting the weapon against her shoulder again while her right hand lifts, palm up, a dark blue spheres of shimmering energy that looks almost like a hovering ball of fire appears over it. It casts a dim light in the room but with her sight it is enough to see nearly every detail plain as day.
Sneezing again, she steps forward, moving her way out of the chamber and into a dark corridor. The air smells different here, she muses, once she finally stops wheezing enough to smell anything at all. Still dead, certainly, but... not /dead/. Now out of sight of her fellow NOL soldiers, she begins to wind her way through the dark. Tombs certainly don't normally bother her the way they seemed to affect people, but she can't escape the sense of growing unease all the same.
How sure is she that this place IS vacant, really?
The corridor continues for some time, bits of broken stone that were probably once part of crudely laid walls occasionally protruding out from the hard packed earth. Faint indentions in the surface of some of the more intact pieces appear to create odd designs and sigils but the masonry is too fragmented to make out anything more than fragments of larger works long since faded into uninterpretable gibberish. Like those who were laid to rest within these expansive tombs, whatever meaning they once held has long since been swallowed by the passage of time.
Eventually, the narrow passage gives way to another chamber. Though little bigger than a modern bedroom, the ceiling rises nearly twice the height of corridor making it seem much more spacious by comparison. However, the room's most prominent feature is the dozens of long narrow slots carved into the walls. Though many of their former occupants have long since crumbled to dust, the remains of human skeletons can still be found here and there. Pretty standard fare for a dusty old tomb, if still a bit morbid; or atleast it would be if it weren't for the fact that all of the bones are scattered around on the floor.
At first glance it might be difficult to spot the ruined shards of shattered skull and broken ribs lying cast about but Renka would find it all but impossible to take more than a few steps into the chamber without stepping on something that goes crunch. While it's certainly possible that this could be the work of callous grave robbers or particularly tenacious vermin, should the fox's curiosity prompt her to look closer at the graves it would be all but impossible not to note that the heavy layers of dust have been disturbed. Thick handprints cover pretty much everything and drag marks across the dirt-covered floor lead from the alcoves to the various piles of bony debris.
Something has been here. Recently.
Before that particularly unsettling thought has more than a few moments to sink in, the sound of a dull moan wafts through the tunnels to brush past the private's sensitive ears. Perhaps it is the solitude or the setting but the noise has a particularly unnatural quality to it, haunting and ethereal despite it's clear human origins. A couple of seconds later it comes again, another wordless groan of suffering or remorse from further into the barrow.
The NOL soldier finds herself faced with a pair of unpleasant choices. Retreat to where she started and try to find some way back up? It's possible one of the others could go and fetch some rope to haul her out, though she'd be in for a long wait as they made the trek back to the base camp. Or forge ahead and investigate the source of the noise? The tomb can't really be haunted, right? Maybe it's just a trick of the wind. Or worse, what if one of her companions has suffered a similar fate as herself and fallen below only to injure themselves. Surely that's a more plausible explanation.
Should she chose to forge ahead, Renka would find herself once more engulfed by the narrow confines of the underground tomb's winding passages. Her keen eyes would likely be able to pick out the traces of several footsteps in the dirt ahead as she forges on, clear signs that she isn't the first person to visit this particular section of the barrows recently. The dull moans continue to assail her as she travels, the steady growing strength of the cries offering reassurance that she is indeed going the right way, pushing through another pair of burial chambers, both likewise ransacked, before something finally changes.
A light that does not belong to her suddenly becomes visible in the distance as she rounds a bend, faint orange torchlight flickering weakly from some hidden source beyond the opening to another room. The dull irregular moaning comes through strongly now and it's distorted sickly tone becomes all the more obvious with proximity. Another sound jumps out at her now, a confident and clearly feminine voice joining the haunting lamenations that are no long able to conceal its presence.
A new sensation assaults her upon this discovery as well, the stench of fresh rot and putrid decay practically hammering her delicate olfactory receptors like a punch to the nose. The aroma is truly awful, something akin to rancid eggs and spoiled milk that's been left to bake in the sun and then used to marinate a particularly foul bit of roadkill. While the smell is bad enough to make most people add the contents of their stomach to this fragrant bouquet, Renka would have it particularly bad. The putrescence manages to go beyond something merely physical in nature affecting the very air that it touches with corruptive magical decay.
A visible miasma of blight hangs in the hallway ahead of the fox spirit, the stone walls already turning black and putrid with stringy mold while the ground seems to glisten with some dark sticky substance. Unfortunately, the only way to proceed from here...is through it.
Stepping into the larger chamber, Renka pauses, moving her right hand around, the small sphere of blue fire moving with it, illuminating dimly everything around the isolated NOL soldier. The broken symbols mean nothing to her. Even if they were whole, they would bear little relevance to her. An academic, she is not, and human history, ancient or otherwise, has never been an interest of hers... But what is of interest is the scattering of bones, the last resting place of a time lost civilization desecrated by another's passage.
Nose tickling, she twists her expression, trying to hold back the next wave of sneezing by sheer force of will. While she was indifferent to the explosions of noise on the higher level, down here the thought of loudly announcing her presence feels riskier. Striding forward, her steps become silent as a ghost's, the only sound the movement of the fabric her NOL uniform consists of, and even that seems to be muted in the stifling catacomb. But even her careful steps cannot prevent her from stepping into shards of bone, her boots crunching the small bits to dust. Freezing, she breathes more life into the sphere of blue fire, casting a slightly brighter light into the room, sharp eyes noticing now the disturbance of dust.
Ears upright and pivoted forward, attention focused, she peels her attention away from the evidence of recent presence. None of the other patrols mentioned this level, and no NOL patrol would have paused to cause such violent sacrilege on the ancient dead. Not unless they had some serious issues, anyway.
And then, breath held, her ears pick up the faint but unmistakable sound of another somewhere ahead in the dark. Gritting her teeth, she decides to press on. Whoever is down here is either lost or a potential enemy of the large collaborative campaign above ground. She can't report back with no useful information and saying she turned around once she heard moaning noises in the deep is just not a situation she is interested in explaining.
Once more into the tight passages. The confines of the tunnels are too narrow for the naginata in her let hand to be much of any use, unless it's simply to use as a spear head to keep anyone from being able to close distance against her. But at her side dangles a sheathed longsword, a weapon she is nearly as comfortable with and easier to swing if she has to. When she reaches the occasional branch, she pauses, focusing her ears down each path in turn until she is secure in the knowledge that she is picking the one that takes her closer... while also making mental notes on how to trace her way back to the break in the floor that landed her in this mess to begin with.
More chambers are passed through, the darkstalker navigating her way deeper, until at last she finds a new light ahead. Her palm closes, the blue fire sphere collapsing into a swath of azure mist. A deep inhale draws the mist back into her mouth and nose, leaving no trace it ever existed. She creeps forward then, navigating by way of the distant torchlight. Even the slightest trace is enough for her to see by... And then a draft of air moves past her going the opposite way, bringing with it an overwhelmingly pungent smell wiping out any other trace of scent, an olfactory flashbang of rancid assault. It does more than just leave her unable to identify other smells, it's sickening, her cheeks paling in the dark, her eyes losing their focus. Her right hand goes to rest against her chest as Renka crouches down to catch herself, ears drooping forward against the bangs of her thick mane of hair.
She's smelled dead bodies before but what she's experiencing now goes well beyond that. It's as if someone took the already repugnant stench of death and intentionally researched a way to ratchet it up several magnitudes of awful. If the darkstalker had normal food in her stomach to purge, there is no doubt she would be adding one more unpleasant smell to the mix. She looks about ready to collapse to the floor all together but instead braces herself, taking in a deep breath of the deathly ill air and then... holds it. Other than breathing in to detect scents or fill her lungs with the necessary air to speak, the kitsune is capable of subsisting without oxygen for quite some time... provided her banked soul energy holds out, at least.
Eyes watering, she blinks them a few times to clear away the tears enough to notice the dark sludge on the floor and the signs of mold growing horrifyingly fast on the walls. Without daring to take another breath, she grits her teeth, tightens her grip on her polearm, and begins to creep forward into the opening, reluctantly but dutifully attempting to get a look at what is responsible for the pervasive blight and noise.
Even the kitsune's unnatural stealth cannot entirely supress the noises that she makes as her feet press down into the gooey carpet that covers the tunnel floor. Soft wet sucking sounds fill the air as the gelatinous mass adjusts to her footfalls and even the thick soles of her short boots cannot fully protect her from the awful sensation of sinking into that rancid slime. Every step becomes a chore as she presses deeper towards the light, thick strands of the dark goo clinging to her shoes as if intentionally trying to hold her fast.
Nevertheless, progress is slow but steady. As she draws nearer to the far end of the tunnel the flickering illumination of firelight grows stronger casting dancing shadows against the archway. So too does the strength of the voices grow. The deep wordless moans continue to float hauntingly to her ears, however, it becomes obvious that the other voice, that belonging to the woman, is speaking something more recognizable.
"Nein... versuchen sie. Ach, nicht gut... Mach es nochmal!"
The gutteral language clashes rather strangely with the speaker's gentle tone. Despite the obvious presence of something terrible and foul, they seem undisturbed by the surroundings, pleasant even. Another gruff moan answers the voice each time followed by the sound of something heavy hitting something solid, another detail that distance and the creepy coating on the tunnel had obscured until now.
The conversation carries on as Renka slowly slinks her way ever closer, if it can be called that. Though she may have buffered herself against the smell, the miasma of raw putrefaction is so thick that it clings to her skin and clothes like a mist steadily building up a thin coating of disgusting grime. Gross. Those clothes are probably going to be ruined after this. And who knows how long it will take to clean out her hair and fur.
It is only when she finally draws near the end of her horrible journey down the long tunnel that something seems to change. The owner of the voice makes a thoughtful sound, interrupting another one of her harsh barks in German mid-sentence. After a moment of silence, she speaks again, this time in heavily accented English.
"One more time, if you please."
A deep moan answers her once more and another dull thud fills the room. This time the sound is more distinct, a harsh wet slapping sound as something soft hits something far more durable. A soft tremor runs through the crypt and the sound of cracking rocks answers its.
"Vell, you are makink progress atleast. Keep at it! I'm sure it iz only a matter of time."
The shadows on the wall shift as the lone figure in the chamber turns, her voice clearly projecting towards the corridor where Renka is currently hidden. The already lilting chirp takes on an even more cheerful aspect, genuine eagerness laced through it like frilly bits of silk.
"But, until zen, it seems I haf un unlikely guest to entertain! Please, come in. I insist."
The ancient fox would have all but no warning, save that which her instincts might provide, as it becomes obvious that she has been found out somehow. The layer of coagulated goo on the ground shivers as if alive, disgorging a dozen bony skeletal arms into the air like porcupine quills. The gore-encrusted limbs reach out at her from below, attempting to latch onto Renka's legs with impossible strength, while countless others spring up from the sea of slime behind her, waving about with hungry snapping motions and cutting off any pretense of escape.
Should she find herself at the mercy of this trap, the clutching arms would carry her forwards into the light, their grip steely but not crushing. If her supernatural reflexes prevail, the result will be much the same. With her path of egress filled with more of the haunted arms, she has no where to go to escape except into the eye of the storm.
he chamber turns out to be much the same as those she has already passed, dozens of burial niches filled with dust and faint traces of moldy bones. If there were ever anything more substantial to be found there it's impossible to tell for the entire room is covered in a carpet of the same awful ooze as the tunnel. The bright light of a pair of torches make it more plain to see this mysterious substance for what it is: blood, dark and stained with festering black rot. It seethes and burbles as if alive, slowly shifting as it probes at the various nooks and crannies of the old crumbled ruin.
The owner of the voice is revealed in that same instant, a gorgeous human woman with long blonde hair and a uniform almost a century out of date. Though the kitsune may not bother to involve herself with the history of man, it's likely that even she would recognize the bent-armed cross upon the mysterious spelunker's sleeve.
"Ah, velcome, fraulein!" The woman offers a formal bow, one arm crossing over her waist as she bends forward. Pale eyes the color of a clear morning sky sparkle with delight as she settles them upon the private's countenance, ignoring whatever look of anger, confusion, or panic might currently be consuming the girl's features. She smiles, her lips twisting up ever so slightly in a manner that seems both earnest and mischievous at the same time. Despite the horrific surroundings, this anacronistic officer almost seems to radiate charisma in an aura as palpable as the stinking miasma, a rather unsettling juxtaposition to be sure.
"Come now, let us speak. I must confess I vas not expectink company in such a dreary place but life always seems to throw me such...pleasant surprises, hmm hmm hmm..."
She may not have signed up for ditch digging or tomb exploring, but this? Even as the miasma begins to saturate cloth, hair, and fur, she can't deny that this is in fact what she signed up for. The presence of supernatural threats is undeniable. Magic - twisted, violated, and corrupted - but magic nonetheless is at play here. Normal military, everyday police, they aren't trained or prepared to deal with this kind of threat. These are the scenarios where NOL has risen to the challenge, spearheading efforts where others would be ill equipped to tread...
The German utterances are lost on her ears. For most of her existence, the lands of Japan had been her home. Just leaving the island nation to be sent to the Librarium Academy in Switzerland had been a lifetime first. But the sound of that harsh language, undecipherable as it may be, is familiar to her. There was a time when it was spoken more commonly among the powerful and influential members of Japan's governments and military, back when it was known around the world as The Land of the Rising Sun, when the nation burned with a fervor for war and conquest, caught up in the mad dream of the distant European. Just hearing it spoken here, deep beneath the earth far around the globe, brings to mind memories of war and great ruin.
She wants to creep forward a little further, to better see what dark magic has wrought. But then the woman switches to thickly accented English, a language known to the lurking spy, and Renka's brow furrows. Why the shift?
She realizes too late the implication when the viscous goo beneath her feet surges to unlife with the array of animated skeletal arms. Not expecting anything of the sort, she's caught before she can even react, emerald green eyes widening as she begins to thrash against the tight holds on her legs, glancing over her shoulder to find the way back already blocked by the fence of bone. Given a chance, she might be able to break through with her weapon, but that's irrelevant while she finds herself rooted to the ground.
Teeth grit, she begins slamming at the clutching arms pulling her forward with the blunt end of her naginata's shaft, looking up to survey the room between slams to find it coated in corrupted blood far too animated by the German woman's presence and power.
Speaking of the woman, Renka's eyes snap to her after a moment, pausing in her bashing efforts to take in the unexpected sight. In spite her intention to hold her breath, she sucks in a wisp of additional air in alarm, looking at the woman with a bewildered, shocked expression. The style of uniform, the symbols on it... like the language itself, the memories associated with the regime they represent summon dark thoughts of when the land she called home was brought to the brink of ruin.
"You," she gasps out the declaration, working venom into her tone with even the single word. Her exposure to the sticky blood has taken its toll on her appearance, but even marred as it is, the contours of the NOL footsoldier uniform are unmistakable. The blues may be black now, and the whites dark red, but the single piece short skirted dress, detached sleeves leaving her shoulders bare, tall stockings and boots are still clearly defined. Her hands are bare, the young looking soldier evidently eschewing the gloves normally worn with the female foot soldier's uniform.
Atop her head, two fox-like ears lean forward, echoes of the aggression she was feeling up until the moment she was shocked to see the magic user's appearance. And from behind her back, two blood-stained vixen tails extend backward, lowered slightly from the hole in the rear of her dress designed just for them.
She bashes at one of the gripping arms again, trying to keep herself steady as she does so, "Are not authorized to be here." This woman must be an unregistered magic user. The first one she's ever come face to face with since completing her coursework! No listed magic user with a hint of sanity or self-preservation would be lurking down here, with both the NOL and SO above, actively working her dark art so brazenly and without even attempting to hide it!
"Release me," Private Kaneko demands, "And I won't add assaulting a Librarium officer to your list of charges!" Parceling out her breath as she is, she may not be the best at conversation right now. Cutting straight to the point is more a necessity than a elective tactic.
"Librarium? Goodness. I know it is said zat knowledge can be dangerous but zat's taking it a bit far, don't you sink?"
The woman lets out an amused chuckle, her warm smile never fading despite the obvious aggression in her guest's voice. She's pretty much used to the whole shock and outrage at first glance thing by now. It would seem despite nearly a full century passing since the end of the War people still have rather vocal opinions on Nazis. You'd think there would be more pressing contemporary issues to worry about.
The look of recognition on Renka's face, however, is quite intriguing. Only one other person had reacted to her outfit with a look like that and it had been an old werewolf in service to a vampire. Immortals both, who very well could have been alive long enough to actually experience the German empire's rise and fall. That begs the question why this fox-tailed girl seems to know it too.
The Nazi officer lifts a hand, her own soft skin covered in thin white gloves. Despite standing right in the center of the pungent mist, she seems not to suffer from the same fate as Renka, her outfit, skin, and hair noticably free of any stains or blemish. Infact, she looks surprisingly clean in general for someone who's been mucking around in a tomb long enough to make their way to the bottom levels; unnaturally so, like the dirt and dust refuses to stick to her. She gestures in the air with a dismissive wave and the clutching hands release the kitsune, retreating down into the depths of the blood-stained earth once more.
"Zere is no need for hostility, fraulein, I merely wished to ensure zat you safely made it past ze wards."
She points a single finger at the wall behind Renka, drawing her attention towards a complex looking sigil scrawled on a large patch of smooth stone. The symbol looks clearly arcane in nature, looping circles on top of angular shapes with odd unrecognizable writting scattered all throughout. It's also entirely drawn in the black-flecked blood and it glows with a sickly red etheral light that makes her eyes water, should she stare at it too long. A quick glance around would reveal several more of these marks, one on each wall, placed wherever space could be found.
"You see, I haf been stuck here for a fair few hours now and I took ze liberty of ensuring zat none of ze locals vould disturb me. Tombs like zis are home to some razer unpleasant sings on occassion and zis isn't precisely ze most suitable location for zat kind of trouble."
A loud crashing sound fills the chamber before she can elaborate further. The woman turns her head to regard the far wall, where another archway to one of the tomb's many winding tunnels sits nestled in the wall. Unfortunately, it seems that the way out has been blocked by several hundred pounds of fallen stone. The debris shifts under another heavy impact and the now-familiar sound of groaning comes from the far side.
"Oh, zat was a good one! Zey are getting better at using ze tools I brought. A few more hours, I sink, und ze way should be clear."
At the rhetorical question regarding knowledge, Renka blinks, mouth opening as if to answer, then closing again without making a sound. To say she isn't really getting the reaction she had anticipated from the blond European is putting it mildly. As Franziska continues, the flustered NOL soldier starts to feel almost as if she is acting the part of a rude guest who has intruded uninvited into another's domain only to be received with gracious consideration rather than animosity.
It's ridiculous, of course, and her conscious mind rebels at the notion the moment she becomes aware of being lulled into letting her guard down by the woman's calming words.
The skeletal hands release their hold, vanishing back into the depths of the shallow layer of blood, leaving the fox-tailed interloper the freedom to stumble a half step and catch herself with the shaft of her naginata, glancing all around beneath her as if trying to figure out how such a threat can even exist in the viscid blood coating everything.
Her attention snaps back to the German as she mentions the wards. Renka's brow furrows, hesitant to take her eyes off the woman long enough to glance over her shoulder, instead turning her posture so that she is only half facing away, affording a quick look without letting her guard down overly much.
Eyes narrow, flicking around the room, taking in the evidence of a very intricate ritual already prepared throughout the room. Pivoting back on the magician herself, her hold on her weapon tightens, teeth grit as the woman continues to talk. "I said-" she begins to assert, leveling the blade of her polearm toward Franziska, "That-"
She's cut off by the loud crash, recoiling and drawing her spear back as if going on the defensive, preparing to ward off some unanticipated attack, eyes flicking toward the collapsed exit from the chamber, ears upright and alert.
She leans her head to the left slightly, right ear straight forward, left ear pivoting a little away, a subconscious effort to separate out the sounds pouring in from across the obstruction. Just how many things ARE there on the other side?
"Cease your necromancy." she barks out, not seeming remotely as excited about the progress being made by the unseen servants beyond the debris. "You haven't done anything too bad yet -" Oh, if only she knew. "But you'll need to come with me back to the camp." Her voice starts to lose some of its projection toward the end as the air she stored up before being 'invited' in dwindles. She is NOT thrilled with the prospect of having to inhale the noxious air for another lungful, but what choice does she have?
The only alternative is to let her weapon do her speaking for her, but since she did at least get released from the clutches of the bony hands, she still seems like she's trying to settle this matter with words and a projection of authority... though even there she's starting to realize she's horribly outclassed.
The woman's eyes go wide and she puts a hand to her chest, taking a step back as if to stagger. The gesture is clearly done in jest, her expression exaggerated to the point of being comical.
"Fraulein, you vound me! Necromancy is a tool for fledglink occultists und mindless cults, a crude and inefficient binding of dark magic to veak flesh. Most necromancers can barely manage to animate a single corpse on zere own, much less do anysing useful vis it!"
Rising to her full height with a clear bit of pride in her stance and tone, the German smiles radiantly as she wanders over to place her hand upon one of the glowing sigils. Her fingers trace the lines of the swirling pattern with slow deliberate motions, swooshing with the grace of an artist's brush as she replays the motions that had created it.
"Vhat I do is /art/. I need not beseech dark powers in ze dead of night, hoping to draw a schliver of zere strength to fulfill some petty vish or twisted ambition. Hmm hmm hmm! Undfact, it is entirely possible zat I could be considered one of zose eldritch creatures now, for ze power of life und death lies..."
The woman turns back to Renka, her lips curling into the slightly mischievious smirk that had first greeted the private upon her sudden invitation into the chamber. Her other gloved hand lifts up, fingers splaying outwards as dark red energy gathers around it, flecks of black corruption floating in the pulsing light as if a reflection of the vast layer of blood coating the cave's floor; or perhaps it is the other way around.
The ground next to the fox-girl shifts beneath the surface of the sticky carpet, rippling and swirling as something begins to rise up naught but a few feet away. The thick jelly seems to flow upwards, a crimson inverted waterfall stretching slowly higher and higher. The twisting pillar of corrupted fluid churns for a few seconds and then immediately collapses, several gallons of the vile stuff splashing down to rejoin the small lake.
In its place, a skeleton stands. The ancient bones look weathered and battered by age, a hundred tiny fractures marking the lines where thousands of fragments are held together by the caulking of the coagulated blood. Twin points of red light flare to life within the skull's eye sockets, tiny balls of angry otherworldly fire burning with fresh malice and suffering. The skeleton wobbles a bit as the magic takes hold but quickly gathers its composure. It stares at the wall for several seconds before suddenly shifting it's gaze towards Renka, the simmering coals of its eyes burning into her like a hot iron. Raw unfettered hatred stabs like a blade into her soul, resentment borne from a hatred for the living and a desire to see that life rent asunder until nothing remains to tear apart.t
"...in ze palm of my hand. Hmm hmm hmm..."
The necromancer, or mage, or whatever she is, holds the spell in place for a short while, giving her guest time to admire the craftsmanship of her artifice before she lowers her hand. As the blood-fire she'd be channeling fades away, so too does the baleful light in the skull's eyes. It collapses like a puppet with its strings cut, the old bones falling apart into piles of useless shards and chips that quickly sink below the surface of the bloody floor.
"Quite impressive, ja? I am still exploring ze extent of my own strength, truth be told. Ze past century has left me viz little time to indulge in research."
Private Kaneko balks a the unexpected outburst her accusation necromancy provokes, the expression on her face easily read as one of uncertain surprise. She had just taken a stab in the dark with the declaration based on what she was seeing and recalling some vague details from the courses she attended on the different types of magic use and their associated threats and vulnerabilities.
But it was quite clear for as long lived the supernatural demi-human might be, the arcane arts are definitely not in her wheelhouse. The thought that any magic user would take umbrage at having their particular flavor of power mislabeled clearly caught her off guard.
"Eh?" is her laconic grunt of a response as Franziska begins to educate her unwitting witness. When she moves toward one of her sigils, however, Renka response by leveling the bladed end of her naginata again. No doubt fearing a return of the touchy skeletal arms, she protests immediately, "Hey! None of that now-"
Her voice cuts out as the blood begins to move at her side, the NOL soldier far more alert for such disturbances now as she springs back, pivoting as she lands so that her weapon is now menacing the... blood fountain. Lips drawn back, long canines visible now, a low growl is heard in her throat. And when the blood splashes down to leave a seething skeletal figure behind, she certainly doesn't get any more relaxed, looking like she's just shy of stabbing out at the still unliving bonework, the emotions radiating from its ember eyes readily felt.
She maintains her guarded pose until the profane construct is allowed to collapse back to useless, inanimate debris before she turns back on Franziska, her expression more incensed than before.
"I said..." she croaks, the last of her stored air just about used up, "No more..."
Wait, what was that she said? Past century? Renka blinks, the statement finally sinking in. Just what IS she? She looks human, dated as her attire and possibly associated philosophies may be. If her ability to smell anything more than the bile-summoning blood rot filling the room was available to her, she'd be able to better suss out just what it was she was interacting with. But as it stands, she's left to only her sight on this matter.
One thing's for sure, she decides. She's done asking nicely.
Bracing with her polearm leveled toward the blood weaver, she focuses, drawing out the energy that sustains her, giving it form in the appearance of seven spheres of dark blue flame. One by one, they shimmer into existence around the bloodstained harried foot soldier. Individually, their glow is almost completely overwhelmed by the burning torchlight, but collectively, they cast a perceptible dark blue light around the darkstalker.
This is her last warning, her last attempt to get this difficult woman to stop ignoring her commands. Of course, she'll have to speak to make that clear, which means...
Bracing herself, looking preemptively disgusted, she opens her mouth to breathe in deeply, filling her lungs with the sickly air. The reaction is even worse than before, her knees shaking, her complexion paling. Even breathing through her mouth rather than her sensitive nose seems to have done little to mitigate the effect of breathing in such spoiled air.
Eyes watering, she crumples forward slightly, right hand falling from the shaft of her weapon to rest against her chest. Again, she looks as if the only recourse available to her would be to purge her guts on the bloody floor, but she holds the lungful of air in all the same.
"No more warnings," she wheezes out with an almost squeaky, pained voice, definitely sounding far less imposing than she had undoubtedly intended. "Stop your magic..." She coughs slightly, struggling to keep the rest of her air in so that she doesn't have to take another breath. "Drop the wards." She scowls, unfolding a little from having crumpled up. Her eyes blink, trying to brush away the tears.
The dark magic-user lapses into brief silence as Renka struggles to be intimidating, one eyebrow quirking up in curious amusement at the appearance of the hovering blue fireballs. She'd been aware that the fox-earred interloper likely possessed some form of magical power. No mundane mortal would have been able to make it as close as she had without being incapacitated by the rotten miasma, though it is becoming increasingly clear that the soldier's fortitude is being pushed to the brink by continued exposure. Interesting. She makes a mental note to explore further possibilities surrounding that particular avenue of magical defense later.
As an avid student of the occult in the days before her transformation, Franziska is rather well-versed in the various mythologies and superstitions of the ancient world. Every culture on earth has its own spirits and monsters, tales long thought to be little more than the primitive conjurations meant to explain a world they could not understand. Ah, but how little the modern world knows, blinded from the truth by the light of scientific arrogance.
Renka's conjurations of spirit fire earn her nothing but another smile and her feeble attempts at threatening the other woman cause her to sigh heavily. She shakes her head slowly from side to side, striding closer to the NOL operative without regard for the deadly blade or the magic poised to strike at her.
"Surrender? My dear, don't take zis ze wrong vay but in your current state I vould be more intimidated by a vet kitten pawing at my boots. You're lookink razer pale, I must say. Perhaps you need some fresh air?"
The woman chortles at the weak pun but almost immediately waves her hand dismissively, sighing again.
"Ach, sorry. It's not polite to poke fun like zat. Undfact, I just realized I haf yet to introduce myself! Really, such bad manners. You develop ze vurst habits vhen isolated from ozers for so long. I do apologize."
The woman doffs her officer's cap as she gives another bow, sounding sincere in her remorse. She takes a moment to readjust it upon her brow, wiggling the brim a couple of times until it settles into a comfortable position, then clasps her hands behind her back in a relaxed military stance that Renka would certainly be familiar with.
"Franziska von Valken, German citizen und officer of ze Third Reich. Vell... former officer, I suppose. From vhat I understand, ze var ended razer badly for my side. Probably for ze best, all sings considered, hmm hmm hmm."
With her own expertise and skill with such matters, Franziska would sense the truth of the blue fire spheres upon drawing nearer to the beleaguered NOL soldier. In closer proximity, she would discover the seven orbs arrayed behind Renka to consist of that all too familiar essence of the soul. There would be traces there, indelible fingerprints, of not just one individual, but dozens.
Soul fire - or, as it's commonly known in Eastern countries, fox fire, is tool, weapon, and sustenance for the long lived fox spirits known as kitsune. Normal mundane needs like calories, water, and oxygen do not apply to her, affording her the ability to hold her breath without any upper limit and to go weeks without any need for a meal as long as she paces herself.
Of course, like any other creature, she does have to renew her supply of that sustenance and the only viable source is to draw from the soul of living human beings, making her an essence vampire with cute, distracting ears and tails. Knowing that might afford one explanation of why the darkstalker has come to insert herself into the ranks of the largely human para-military force.
Of course, the creature is able to keep up appearances well enough - eating a little food here and there, drinking water, and engaging in the cyclical breathing process to deflect any thought that her nourishment comes from those living around her. And it IS something she can control... if she is proactive enough, careful enough in her planning, she is able to avoid drawing anything from her fellow soldiers in the slightest.
She backs up a step as Franizka approaches, but doesn't go any further than that, blade leveled at the time lost German though not showing any inclination to strike with it. Is she a reluctant fighter then?
She's declared awfully unintimidating, and worse, compared to a /cat/, drawing a flush of pink to her pale cheeks, a defensive growl her only answer at first as the magic user shifts from teasing back to being formally polite and even a touch apologetic, the transitions between postures further confusing the struggling soldier caught apart from her pack.
She's offered a bow and considerate introduction and looks even further disconcerted, mind struggling to sort through the fog of misery inflicted by the magically tainted atmosphere. With Franziska making no overt attempts to direct any more of her spells at her, answering with the lethal force implied by her bladed weapon feels disproportionate. But she IS under attack, isn't she? Just not in the traditional sense.
An outsider even in her homeland, she knows little of the Third Reich or the philosophies the war mongering dictator that led them, only that their presence in Japan precipitated a dark era for the nation. She does know the more commonly expressed terms, however, having picked up on them in her interactions with the island empire's populace.
Renka spits out, distaste in her voice as she echoes the Japanese pronunciation of the word that has become analogous to 'basically the worst' since the rise and fall of the regime.
She tenses. Push much more and she might just finally retaliate with desperate aggression. But for now, she continues to balk under the oppressive aura, magical and otherwise, of Franziska von Valken.
"Wait," bleary green eyes blink, Renka shaking her head as if trying to keep focused in spite the pressure, realizing she almost missed something that seemed contrary to expectations.
"Did you not want your cause to succeed?"
Franziska's smirk remains steady in the face of the accusation of that single word, horribly mangled by the foreign tongue as it may be, one which holds nothing but connotations of horrific atrocities and willful evil taken to an almost cartoonish degree; atleast to the average citizen of the world. To her and those who shared the experience of growing up in a post World War I Germany, however, it is a far more nuanced subject.
The woman's eyes narrow ever so slightly, but it is with intrigue that she sharpens her gaze, not malice. The smile on her face is reflected in the calm blue puddles as she gives another of her soft closed-mouth chuckles of amusement.
"Hmm hmm hmm! Strange, is it not? Here I stand, arrayed in full military regalia from a long dead regime, yet I hold no regret for its downfall. Most odd..."
Her torso swivels and the rest of her quickly follows after, a loose but clearly military pivot to the left turning her away from Renka so that she can casually stride forward without provoking further response from the high-strung fox. After only a few meandering steps she does a lazy about-face, striding in the opposite direction, pacing back and forth as she speaks.
"You see, vhat ze vorld experienced of ze Nazi regime was but one head of a great und terrible beast. It did not start out zat vay und ze German people certainly had no vish to start anozer Vorld Var. Unfortunately, ze circumstances zat vere forced upon as after ze first var all but orchestrated it."
She takes a long deep breath and lets it out slowly. Her smile does not falter but the expression changes somehow, taking on a melancholy aspect that is reflected in her speech. The almost lyrical beauty of her voice amplifies the impact of this emotion, weaving it into the tale as skillfully as any performer might upon the stage of a grand opera.
"Ze sanctions upon my homeland vere strict und severe. Zough I did not experience hardships myself, I clearly remember seeing ze almost endless lines of people vhen I vent into ze nearby town. Hundreds of families vaiting to receive a single loaf of bread zat had to last un entire veek. Sometimes more. Zough it was politicians zat had been ze cause of ze var, it vas ze innocent commoners who paid ze price."
Franziska gestures with one hand, sweeping it around to embelish her words.
"Everyvhere I looked, I saw sufferink und starvation. Desperation und fear. Ze spirit of ze German people, a proud und mighty warrior race, vas all but crumbling away. I saw neighbors turn upon each ozer for scraps of moldy food or moth-eaten blankets. It was... quite bad."
Her smile regains some of its former glow as she continues, coming to a halt before the dark stalker and turning to face her once again. A gloved hand goes over to the red band upon her arm, tapping it.
"So, you can imagine zat vhen someone as bold und charismatic as der Fuhrer stepped forward vis promises to right ze wrongs und reclaim our former pride as Germans, vell... plenty of people jumped at ze opportunity. Und zat's all it vas at first, an attempt to free ourselves from ze yolk of ze oppressive retribution meted out against us by ze rest of Europe. To do zat, ve needed to expand, to take territory zat could be used for growth und expansion."
She waves her hand again, waggling it back and forth in an almost dismissive fashion infront of her face as if to shoo away a bad smell.
"Ze part zat came after, ze part zat you und ze rest of the vorld like to rememeber... zat was not somethink zat very many of us vanted."
Having asked her question, Private Kaneko seems content to let Franziska speak. Breathing in the toxic air clearly takes its toll on her each time she does it, and there is no doubt that even the smothering magic pressure filling the underground chamber is slowly sapping her strength, but she had started this patrol with a full 'stomach' and the fire in her heart continues to scorch away the contamination little by little, the cost small enough to certainly hear out this strange woman for now.
It's a shame, really, that the one seemingly most willing to hear out the 'living' representative of the world's greatest anathema is one who understands the historical circumstances the least. Complicated human society and all of its... nuances. But she tries to follow all the same, looking sincerely interested rather than simply trying to stall for time.
Though she never lets her guard down, she does seem to relax a little as Franziska begins pacing back and forth, only to tense slightly each time she draws nearer. But most of her focus are on the history as told by one who lived it. Of a war torn nation, suppressed by mechanisms unfamiliar to one who only vaguely understands the concepts of governments and national borders to begin with.
Whatever sanctions are, they sound pretty bad.
She never takes her eyes off the pristinely dressed woman, though now and then her gaze seems to lose its focus, staring off past the narrator and beyond the walls of the tomb, perhaps imagining the plight of the suffering commoners the woman speaks of.
When she reaches an end of speaking, explaining away the atrocities that followed as something entirely apart from the spirit that started the world shaping movement, Renka blinks, standing up a little straighter, bracing the butt of her spear against the floor so that her right hand can slip away, stretching out toward Franziska as if imploring her to listen.
"Do you still care about freeing people from oppression? The world has changed a lot since that time, but- but even today, there are so many that languish, downtrodden and victimized. Come back with me to the camp. You could find a place in the Novus Orbis Librarium. Someone with your knowledge and power could help a lot of people if you lent it to our cause! Being part of a greater whole, you could do so much more than you could ever hope to do on your own."
She sets her jaw, hand coming back to clamp over her weapon's shaft again, "At the very least, come back with me. You don't have to enlist if you don't want to, but... There are laws concerning magic use now, you need to come learn what they are so that you can operate within them. It's how we'll keep everyone safe, those with and without power."
She shakes her head then, knowing she was once again running up against the limits of her stored breath, "Either way, I can't leave you here to do whatever it is you're doing. I will stop you if I have to, but I would prefer you come back with me peacefully..." Her voice fades to almost a whisper as the last of her air runs out a second time.
Franziska's brows rise slightly at the sudden shift in posture, her gaze dipping down to peer at the outstretched hand for a moment as if expecting something unusual to happen before returning to the fox's face. Her smile widens as the young girl launches into her spiel and she's forced to stiffle another chesty laugh at the appeal to her better nature. So naive.
During her little history lesson, she had taken great care not to say anything regarding her own feelings on the matters. Sure, she had insinuated that the terrible circumstances of the German people's plight that caused them to throw in their lot with one of the worst dictators in human history was one that she sympathized with; perhaps she even had, when she was still alive.
While the memories of her former life remain clear and strong, the emotional ties to them are as rotted as her soul. The Undying Battlefield had changed her on some fundamental level, peeling away the layers of her being until only that which made her strong survived. Empathy serves no purpose for a being such a her, for what precisely in existence could possibly hope to understand what it is like to experience the forces that had shaped her into the immortal abomination that she is today? Only those who had come before might be able to understand her outlooks and motivations and all of them were properly dead, destroyed by hunters or consumed by the madness of that hellscape.
Still, while she does not /feel/ emotions any longer on a deeper level, she can certainly understand how they work and how others react to them. Franziska's story had been carefully crafted to evoke the very sense of righteousness that cute little fox now appealed to. She had intended to use it as a way to disarm any potential violence, preferring to win her battles with words, but even she is caught momentarily off-guard by sudden offer of membership.
Goodness, her acting skills must be even greater than she thought.
The woman looks contemplative once Renka finishes speaking, her arms crossing as she rests a thumb upon a chin almost as pale as the glove she is wearing.
"I suppose zat it is inevitable zat I vill run afoul of zese laws wizout proper education as to zere nature. If I am to reintegrate into modern society... hmm..."
She trails off as the possibilties dance around in her mind. If magic has truly become mainstream, as would seem to be the case, then there might be a great deal that she could learn from an organization dedicated to its oversight. They're called the Librarium, after all, surely they have a tome or two that she might pour over. On top of that, getting a liscence to practice might give her more leeway to act without drawing suspicion. At the very least, she'll get a better idea of one of the major players at work in her field of expertise.
"Very vell... I accept."
Franziska offers another faint smile that seems to radiate charm, clasping her hands behind her back again in a non-threatening manner. The vast pool of squirming coagulated blood begins to retreat from the walls, dark red ripples forming along its surface as it flows like ocean waves towards the base of the Nazi's pristine combat boots. The sticky gunk washes over the lower half of her shoes, sinking into the shiny surface as if pouring into invisible drains.
Within only half a minute the great red carpet has completely vanished and with it the horrid miasma of rot and death. The strange glowing sigils around the room continue to glow, however, whatever magics she worked into their making keeping them alive even without her direct intervention. After all, just because she's agreed to leave peacefully that doesn't mean the spirits that haunt this place are in on the deal.
"You can breath again, fraulein. I doubt musty crypt air is particularly appealing but it shouldn't make you ill."
Private Kaneko is quiet as the relic of Germany's darkest hour seems to think about the options on the table before her. Technically, the young recruit's attempt to entice a powerful individual, be it a mage, darkstalker, or some kind of horrifying mixture of both, is by the book. Unless someone is already identified as having a bounty, encouraging them to come peacefully is the intended protocol.
Of course, almost anyone BUT the culturally naive creature would probably think twice about taking the standard approach with someone clearly steeped in blood magic, the manipulation of life, death, and armed with powerful charisma. Every instinct the charming but astute sorceress has would suggest that there isn't a trace of guile in the NOL foot soldier's invitation to accompany her safely back to the camp up on the surface.
There is relief in her eyes when she hears the woman declare that she accepts the invitation, but she stays quiet otherwise, clearly not eager to gulp down another couple lungfuls of the miasmic air. And when the bloody treatment of the chamber begins to withdraw, she starts to glance around, looking even more relieved. Before long, the partially coagulated rot only exists near the uniformed woman's boots. It is an unpleasant thought, to consider that she is just storing the awful stuff up for later, but the soul sucking kitsune isn't one to judge the taboo quirks of others. As long as there exists no line in the regulations forbidding them, of course.
When told that the air is no longer nigh venomous to her senses, Renka opens her mouth, breathing in deeply, then exhales. Then she sniffs at the air a few times, before turning her focus back to miss von Valken once more. Eyes blink a couple of times, but it's her nose that's busy, opening up her awareness far beyond what her sight alone can provide her.
Her head cants to the side slightly, clearly considering the nature of the unexpectedly agreeable being straight out of the pages of human history, but she seems to decide it's rude to stare before long, her expression breaking into a smile.
"Well, that's much better." She pivots her polearm to rest against her left shoulder, her right hand propped at her hip. "How... long have you been away from the world, anyway? You know, I had to do a lot of catching up, myself, over the last half a year. There was this whole misunderstanding with a tribal sealer... and then suddenly, here I am, half a century later!" She brushes over her own circumstances quickly enough to avoid getting mired down into anything unpleasant. "I figured it all out, I'm sure you will too. Things are waaaaay easier these days than they used to be."
She lifts her right hand from her side to brush some stray locks of hair back over her shoulder. And as she relaxes, the seven blue foxfire spheres begin to collapse into a mist that becomes difficult to see by torchlight. The perceptive would notice that the substance is drawn right back into the fox-eared creature, however, energy no doubt being stored rather than allowed to go to waste just because she didn't end up in a fight.
"So, uh... we need to find our way up one floor. I know the way from there. The others will be really surprised to meet you!" Uh huh. "And when we get back, I'll take you to the command center where recruits and mercenaries are managed. They can explain all you need to know there."
She moves her right hand in front of herself, fist clenched, as she gives her arm a quick pump in victory, "You'll be really glad you decided to stop whatever you were doing here to... wait, what WERE you doing?" Her brow furrows, attention flicking back over to the caved in tunnel where the loud moans and moist slamming sounds had been emanating from.
Franziska smiles back at the furry-earred soldier, resisting an urge to pat her on the head. It's just so adorable how excited the girl is about 'convincing' her to meet with her superiors, like a puppy that's found a new friend to play with. Perhaps when the inevitable happens and she takes her leave from this Librarium organization she'll bring the little fox along with her. Now that the thought strikes her, she rather misses the dogs that her family kept. Friendly, loyal, and excellent hunting animals. It could be pleasant to have a pet again.
"Hmm. Vell, ze var vas still goink stronk vhen I found myself vhisked away. I guess that puts my disappearing act at somevhere around eighty years. Quite ze little vacation, ja?"
A grin and chuckle accompany the jovial question, its nature obviously rhetorical. Most humans are lucky to live much longer than eighty years in total, yet with her apparent physical age this one would have to be atleast a century old. While creatures such a Renka getting sealed away is fairly common in mythology and lore, very few stories about humans being cast outside the stream of time exist. Those that outlive their natural life cycles are almost always changed in some way, very rarely for the better, such as is the case with vampires and werewolves.
As Renka brings up the problem of their manner of egress, Franziska just smirks and shifts her gaze towards the collapsed tunnel. As if on command, the heavy pile of rocks shudder with a loud thump that sends small reverbertions through the old crypt. A large chunk of the debris shifts and groans as it is slowly drawn away leaving a gaping hole into the pitch blackness beyond.
This small chink in the armor of the chamber's soundproofing is enough to allow the noises that had formerly been muted out to flow through the gap: low-pitched moans and the click of metal on stone. Franziska perks up as the first real sign of progress becomes obvious, clapping her hands together a few times with applause.
"Ah! Finally! Zey are startink to break through!"
Shapes move in the darkness beyond, the sound of shuffling feet scuffing on the hard floor replacing the clatter of picks. Without warning, a large arm suddenly thrusts into the room through the hole. Mottled skin already turning gray with decay hangs loosely on the muscular limb, save for the large patch of raw exposed flesh along its forearm. A hand big enough to engulf Renka's entire head with ease paws around clumsily, its cracked and dirty fingernails leaving thin scratches on the surface of the stone.
"Zat's it, Jorg! Just pull ze loose rocks avay."
A bellowing groan answers her and the arm suddenly grows tense, muscles bunching up visibly beneath the loose skin as it applies pressure to the blockage. Unfortunately, it pulls at the rocks beneath, rather than above. An ominous cracking sound fills the air as the entire pile of debris starts to shift and Franziska's eyes widen in sudden alarm, her hand lifting out towards the open as if to stop the inevitable.
"Nein, not zat...!"
Predictably, the rocks react to having their support suddenly pulled away by tumbling down into the freshly created opening. The hole suddenly narrows as the stone takes the path of least resistance, crushing down around the soft flesh and leaving it trapped, much to the officer's chagrin.
Franziska sighs and stares up at the ceiling with a long suffering look as the voice groans at her again, the arm twitching slightly as it its owner is trying to move it without much success and is confused by this turn of events. Jorg, apparently the person to whom the arm belongs, bellows another dull groan after several seconds of trying to simply pull the trapped appendage out, managing to accomplish little more than shift the rocks around a bit.
"You haf to /lift/ ze rocks on top first. Understand? Aufheben!"
There's a momentary pause and then more sounds of rocks being moved around. Eventually someone on the other side seems to grasp the concept and Jorg's arm is freed, allowing him to pull it back out. Soon after the sound of the picks and dull fleshy smacks start up again, along with a chorus of emotionless sporadic grunts and groans.
"Vell..." Franziska turns to the kitsune with an apologetic look, though her cheerfulness undaunted by the stupidity of her minions. "Ve might be vaiting a bit longer, hmm hmm hmm."
"Oh. That's even longer than my nap!" Renka replies as Franziska considers just how long she spent segregated from the normal flow of time. How or why she somehow survived this long doesn't seem to be a particular interest to her now, though the recruitment officers are likely to be far more thorough in trying to piece together the story of one of the last few remaining Nazis from the original regime... and course the years have been drastically kinder to her than the other old rotting bags of bones still clinging to life for what can't amount to more than a few more years yet.
Private Kaneko's attention lingers on the pile as it begins to shudder more, greater attention put to trying to break down the debris blocking the way. Leaning her head to the side, her ears pivot, tracking the individual sounds through the pile of ancient stone and dirt. "They are?" she asks, hand having returned to her hip. "Who ARE they?"
Finally, the limb breaks through and her eyes widen, hand coming off her hip to grab protectively against the shaft of her naginata though she leaves the weapon resting against her shoulder for now. A quick glance to the side has her observing the blood weaver encouraging on the rotting thing which seems to calm the NOL soldier slightly, looking back toward the arm with a degree less reservation, a toothy grin working its way into her expression. "You've got this, Jorg." she agrees.
Seconds later, and catastrophe has struck and Renka balks, right hand coming up to smack against her forehead. "Oh man, who could have seen that coming?!"
The status quo is returned eventually, though, the moaning mob back to work at trying to open a way out from the sealed off chamber. "You really should consider leaving your zombie minions behind when we go back. Not only are they going to stink up the place, they're going to make explaining things a lot more difficult."
Relaxing her stance, her hand is back to her hip, her eyes narrowing, brow furrowed as a thought clearly seems to settle in. "Say, all the dead down here are just bones. Where'd you find fleshy ones?" Revering the dead is one of the many human conventions that simply haven't been adopted by the newly integrated wild soul and other than the fact that they stink, she doesn't seem particularly perturbed by the ghoulish horde of helpers working, however ineffectively, to dig them out.
"If they take too long, my patrol will come find us," she adds after another moment, "So we don't need to worry either way!"
Franziska nods at the suggestion that marching into an armed camp with a small horde of zombies would likely prove unwise. She'd already been pondering what to do with the small army she's accumulated by raiding the local villages. Her magic can preserve their bodies for a time, provided she renews the dark energies keeping them animated, but even with constant upkeep they'll fall apart eventually. She'd learned that particular lesson during her first attempt to test out her new powers after escaping the dark forest surrounding the mysterious castle she'd found herself in upon escaping the Undying Battlefield.
"Zat vould be for ze best, I sink."
Leaning towards Renka, the woman cups a hand against the side of her mouth, 'whispering' conspiratorily as she eyes the collapsed exit.
"Don't let zem hear zat though. I vant to break it to zem gently. Jorg has a short temper und he might get jealous."
She maintains an utterly straight face as she relays this warning to the fox, waiting to see just how gullible Renka is by how she reacts. Eventually, though, she allows her smile to shift into a mischievous smirk and gives a playful wink.
The question as to the origins of her companions, who are noticably a great deal fresher than the mottled old bones lying around, gives the blood mage a moment of pause. Most people probably aren't going to react terribly well to the knowledge that she'd slaughtered a few hundred people wholesale and then turned them into a bunch of shambling monstrosities. It sort of makes her look like a hypocrite in light of the whole 'suffering peasants' sob story too.
In practice, Franziska has found that the truth is often the best course of action. Lies tend to get found out, particularly big ones, and the bloodbaths she'd left behind weren't particularly subtle. On the other hand, being completely honest never really works out the way moral busybodies claim it does. The true art of deception comes from using the truth to distort perceptions and lead someone to making the wrong conclusions on their own. People are always more much reluctant to second-guess their own thoughts.
"Nearby," she says, shrugging slightly. "Zere are quite a few villages tucked away in ze mountains und any settlement is bound to haf a cemetery or two. I just acquired some of ze recently dead bodies for my own purposes. Hmm hmm hmm. Not like zey needed zem any more, ja?"
There is a slight nod in agreement on Renka's part, eyes and ears still focused on the debris pile, though her right ear twitches toward Franziska as she speaks. But when she's whispered to conspiratorially, her eyes widen as she looks toward Franziska, the expressive soldier looking briefly alarmed. "Oh? I should have been more considerate of their feelings..." Her voice is apologetic as she shifts her right hand to resting at the back of her neck beneath her thick, reddish blond hair. Hesitantly, she looks back toward the debris pile as if to make sure there don't seem to be any zombies taking umbrage.
Research indicates: Very Gullible.
She glances back at Franziska in time to catch her smile and wink, eyes blinking a couple of times as she comes up to speed on the joke. "Oh. Right." She laughs lightly, eyes closing as she looks away, "Ha ha ha."
Concerning the source of zombies, full disclosure would definitely sour things. While the creature lacks any concern for the remains of the deceased, wholesale slaughter of innocents is exactly the kind of thing she's in theory enlisted to prevent. It's probably good to leave that out of the paperwork with NOL as well. While covering up past atrocities is not unheard of for particularly interesting new additions, it certainly complicates matters by a lot.
"Ah," she responds, nodding agreeably about using the bodies from village graveyards. "Yeah, they certainly weren't using them anymore." Once more demonstrating a complete lack of concern over things most people are going to find thoroughly disgusting or distressing.
"Just so you know, you might be asked to, uh, not pillage the grave sites of the recently dead anymore. People tend to get a bit funny about that kind of stuff." She isn't completely unaware of the potential hangups there even if her own moral code doesn't include compunctions about such things.
Hand dropping back to her hip, her weapon braced with her left hand, she looks back to the excavation efforts, releasing an exaggerated exhale, "Come on, Jorg, put your back into it!"
Franziska grins at how easily the fox falls for the joke, taking intense pleasure from the interaction. It's been a while since she's been able to converse with someone like this. People tend to scream at her rather than talk and it's pretty much always the same things - Nazi this, racist that, oh god she ripped my arm off, why is there so much blood, blah, blah, blah. It's not like she particularly cares about what others think of her beyond the illusions necessary to keep people off-guard, but even a black-hearted demon gets bored. It may come as a terrible shock but zombies aren't the best partners for engaging in vigorous discourse.
Renka's failure to take umbrage with her admitted graverobbing is curious but she says nothing more on the matter. Perhaps as a member of a group dedicated to policing the supernatural such things are less revolting or shocking. Or it might just be that the fox doesn't understand human values. She certainly seems easy to manipulate. Any child older than five would probably have caught the obvious humor in her claim that a shambling corpse could feel anything, much less jealousy.
The former Nazi smiles thinly at Renka's casual suggestion that graverobbing might cause a few weird looks, apparently failing to note the humor in such a vast understatement. Definately naive.
"Yes, zey certainly do."
It takes the better part of an hour for the team of zombies on the far side of the debris to clear an opening, no doubt spurred on by the words of constant encouragement from the two women. While it's only just big enough for Franziska to slip through, the fox's smaller frame could easily fit into the gap. The German leads the way, crawling over the mound of rocks without the help of Jorg's assistance. The darkness on the far side swallows her whole but after a few moments she pokes her head back into the chamber and motions for the private to follow.
"Grab one of zose torches. It's pitch black on zis side. I'm pretty sure I remember ze route I took, zere vas only a couple of side passages on ze vay down zat veren't cut off."
Upon climbing through, Renka would find herself among the company of a half dozen of the Nazi's minions. Most of them look fairly normal, save for discolored skin and bloodshot crimson eyes, but a few sport more obvious signs of damage in the form of gaping holes or ragged wounds. One of them is so bad off only a liberal application of duct-tape keeps its guts from spilling all over the floor. The zombies stare at Renka with lifeless expressions, their heads sitting at odd angles on their shoulders like mannequins frozen in twisted poses, but none of them make any sort of aggressive moves.
One of the corpses stands out from the rest, towering nearly a foot above even the tall European blonde. While death has done quite a number on his physique, his broad frame is covered in thick cords of heavy muscle that bulge beneath the loose skin. A mop of frayed black hair protrudes sideways from his gaunt head, almost as if he, or more likely Franziska, has slicked it into something resembling a wind-blown style on purpose. Judging from the smell, she probably doesn't want to know what was used for the gel.
"Zis is Jorg." She pats a gloved hand on his thick biceps and grins. "He's my favorite."
Jorg bellows a groan at this, his voice much louder up close. Franziska puts a finger to her lips and makes a shushing sound, prompting another zombie-like moan but much quieter. Taking the torch, she shuffles past the big brute to the front of the line and starts to make her way back up the long passage, trailing zombies behind her in single file like a herd of ducklings waddling after their mother. Jorg takes up the rear.
True to her word, their path to the upper levels is short and without incident. Within only ten minutes or so she comes to a steep incline, the ground around it laden with the chaotic jumble of shoeprints that could only be the result of passage by an army or a small group of zombies.
"Ah, here ve are. Zis vill take us back to ze main crypt."
The hour passes mostly uneventfully while waiting for Jorg and company to break through the debris a second time. Renka doesn't really know much about the world Franziska grew up in and doesn't ask much about it, nor does she talk much about her own history other than to touch on things at a high enough level to gather that she was likely alive sometime before the Meiji era of Japan. Otherwise, she'll talk about things going on in the modern world, dwelling mostly on whatever impressed her most about it. Computers, digital electronics, some crazy internet thing. The enlisted NOL soldier will happily ramble across topics concerning the modern world but it's always clear that she can't or won't speak to most subjects to a particularly in depth degree, leaving the usefulness of her information fairly lightweight overall.
Finally the way is open again, narrow but serviceable in nature. Continuing to extend trust that will almost definitely backfire on her someday, she shows no reservations with Franizska going through first, leaving the potential risk of being double crossed and closed in entirely unaddressed. She fetches a torch when asked, passing it through the opening then scrambling through afterward, coming out in the narrow corridor with the gang. She immediately makes a face, nose scrunching up as she sniffs at the air a few times, giving the minions a disapproving look.
"I'm starting to think somewhere along the line, you lost your sense of smell. No offense." she remarks to Franziska, taking notice of the undead brick house that is Jorg... his frame uncomfortably large for the tight confines of the catacombs tunnels.
"Oh, hey Jorg," Private Kaneko remarks right as the unfortunate ex-villager makes a loud zombie groan until shushed by the one that has defiled the body by animating it as a tool for her own purposes. She waves her right hand, giving the zombie a toothy grin before falling in with the rest of the line like she's just one of the gang when the German woman starts to lead the way back through the winding crypt tunnels.
"And I thought my double duty shifts were rough," she remarks to the zombie at her left in a conversational tone, "And here you guys are, dead, and not even getting a break. Kinda puts things in perspective, yeah?" She doesn't seem to be expecting a reply.
The group finds their way back up to the main level of the barrows under Franziska's guidance. Already, there are the distant echoes of shouts, some of them calling out the missing private by name. It seems that an hour was long enough for her fellow patrol soldiers to get antsy and go back for help.
"Ah hah. I guess everyone's worried about me." Renka remarks. How legitimately the concern is in those searching for her likely varies heavily from individual to individual. But a missing NOL soldier is a missing NOL soldier, and the rank and file of the enlisted ranks do have a sort of brotherhood that exists among militaries around the world.
"If I'm lucky, this whole ordeal will be a reason not to make me do my second shift tonight!"
She's probably not that lucky.
Log created on 23:52:24 04/03/2018 by Renka, and last modified on 23:57:19 04/08/2018.