Description: "What have we here? a man or a fish? dead or alive? A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell; a kind of not of the newest Poor-John. A strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver: there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lazy out ten to see a dead Indian. Legged like a man and his fins like arms! Warm o' my troth! I do now let loose my opinion; hold it no longer: this is no fish, but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a thunderbolt." - William Shakespeare: The Tempest
Southtown Harbor PD, Precinct 39, 10:41 PM.
A light, chill fog blankets the streets of Southtown's Harbor district, pushed in from the bay on a bitter wind that smells strongly of dead fish and motor oil. It is the sort of weather that encourages long coats and gloves, lending the mostly dark streets a gloomy Crime Noir air. Though the majority of the dockside lots are dark after hours, Precinct 39 remains a beacon of light, tall street lamps casting a yellow glow down upon the sea of mist. A little island of warmth and life in an otherwise uncaring world.
Passed the heavy double doors with their double-paned safety glass, the interior of the building is several decades out of date. Thick grey carpet is mounded in sad shag piles several years out from their last raking, and a thick layer of dust coats the base boards and high corners of the rooms. The ever present smell of burnt coffee hangs in the air, and the furnishings are broken down throw backs from the late seventies.
An enormously fat man in a strained to bursting police uniform sits behind the desk listlessly fiddling with a pair of twist together rail spikes, his sad black eyes gazing down at his work, jowly face caught in a perpetual frown. Between the build and the long topknot that sticks out of his head, he gives the impression of someone who might engage in a little sumo as a strictly recreational hobby.
Beyond the desk SGT, down a short hallway and through the fourth door on the right, a little cluster of four holding cells fills the interior of an otherwise unremarkable room. Walls built of dull grey cinder blocks, and the only light provided by a couple of buzzing bulbs set between each of the 2 sets of facing cells, it's a wholly unremarkable space. Each cell is fronted by a set of vertical black bars cross sectioned every 2 feet to create a series of long1 by 2 rectangles. Each has a solid steel door set into the right side. And each has a prison style sink/toilet, and a double bunk of thin mattresses mounted on pipes protruding from the walls. All of them are empty, but one.
Having refused to give his name, or even to speak at all, the single occupant has remained utterly silent during his three weeks stay with the police. Clad in a dark grey jumpsuit without shoes or other luxuries, he lies stretched out upon the bottom bunk of the first left hand cell, 6 foot frame long and visibly muscular even beneath the baggy outfit. Twin black braids dangle off of the head of his bunk, his hands tucked behind his head and light grey eyes glaring up at the bunk above with a single-minded sort of focus. Soon, the lights will be turned off. The desk SGT will make some sort of cruel joke, and he will waddle off to eat all of the rice on the planet. He will not notice the sudden spike of activity near the docks. He will not ask questions.
He is not a good cop.
Naval operations were never a strong point for them
Infilitrations, amphibious assaults, all kinds of sea to land activities was hardly a proper effort. Add in a civilian population, in the hardest part of an urban operation, and you would have a suicide mission. It wasn't fit for the Bastards. It wasn't fit for the hunters. But it was dark. It was foggy. And he was important.
And that's what they needed.
It begins with a power outage, a localized blackout. Typical commando operation; a single outline of a man descending from the rooftops, to disable the power system. Only to vault up and over the fencing, back to the roof tops. A garble of an alien tongue over CB, old technology with functional usage. There were no jammers. They would have to do it with all the old ways. Quickly. Emergency lights would come on, for the building was old, but not that old, and it was still a police station. Red lights would come on, the emergency gleam. It would only be a few seconds.
Then, the doors are busted in.
Knocked clean off the hinges, blown down into the lobby. An impact and a click, click, click sound, metal on tile, moving around unseen within the darkened interiors. Not just the double doors, with the glass unscathed, no. Emergency doors on the inside fall off the hinges, tumbling over. Windows, even the local vending machine just outside has the glass fall off. Not even a shatter. All while the click, click, click continues, rattling in the shadows of the night. The fog rolls in.
And the purple-blue gleam begins to burn, as the come in.
Four figures, their outlines in the moonlight the only color bearing out. Two were coming on all fours, scrambling fast and low as they enter in. The third, gripping the top of the doorway, pivoting and vaulting into the air as he comes across the ceiling. THe four comes on two legs, running. THeir faces were not human, the visage of avian creatures in the red emergency lights. No eyes. And claws, at the tips of their fingers. There is a rattling, alien shriek, of foreign tongues unfit for human ears. All were darkness with shapes. Their blue-purple lights falling from their claws, as they begin tearing apart, tears through hinges, the edges of glass. But nothing breaks. Things fall, but nothing breaks. Everything, in a click click click, with the rare thump and bump. And then a fifth arrives, a true shape of a blowing cloak, almost gliding from the mist.
His steel blue eyes burning in the darkness.
He enters the building, moving like a spectre. His gait is low, he was running swiftly, the outline of his teal-blue cloak falling behind him. His face was stone, his silver mustache hiding the cold expression on his lips. In the emergency lights, his unnaturally pale skin gleams, as he moves, swerving around, sweeping around. This place was still secured, as locked down as it could be. A sweep of his sword, and the entire shape... blurs, as another door falls down. They were spreading out. He would give no attention to the desk SGT. There would be no time. He was rushing down the hallway, his steel blue eyes scanning as fast as he could.
For one of the darkness with shape would be throwing his own body into him, a flying knee into a mounting takedown.
Light dies in the prisoner's cell at about the same time it has every night. With no window to the outside, this cycle has been his primary way of keeping track of time. The beat by which he has lived his life. However, this time is different.
Lifting his head, the prisoner cranes his neck to peer through the pitch darkness, ears perked at the sudden and intense lack of sound. The hum of the heater and quiet woosh of circulating air. The faintest buzz of electricity that normally hums through the old building. There is nothing.
Swinging his legs over the edge of his bunk, the black-haired man stands and pads quietly across the length of his cell, bare feet silent against the cold cement. There are other sounds filtering their way toward him now. A constant low clicking punctuated by louder thumps and bumps. The high, wailing ululations of shared orders filtering through the cracks around his door.
Working his jaw slightly, the prisoner allows his wintry eyes to narrow, before lifting his right hand to his face and spitting something out into his palm. In the pitch blackness it would be difficult to see the tangled twist of wires and straightened paperclips that he now holds, its metal surface bent and worried, scraped and twisted by the slow, methodical grind of perfect white teeth. It would be easy enough to hear the soft scrape of him sliding it into the lock, followed by a satisfyingly sharp click.
In the lobby outside, the desk SGT is just beginning to react to the sudden flood of alien creatures through the door, surging to his feet with enough force to topple both desk and chair with a muted series of thuds, everything crashing down into the dirty piles of shag.
"We ain't seen nothin'! NOTHIN'!" he bellows into the darkness, black eyes wide with panic and hands coming up in surrender. Though he's dressed like a cop, he speaks like a thug, Japanese slurred and trashy. And, as it turns out, he has about as much spine as a thug, hands remaining thrusts overhead in surrender even as he topples over backward beneath the wait of an alien bird demon. He only starts to struggle once the beaked silhouette registers as not something your typical Yakuza would wear, attempting to slap and punch it off of him as he is quickly subdued.
Back in the cells, the prisoner pushes the door open with a soft squeal of neglect, padding out into the short hallway that divides the guest rooms. Ears perked, he steps carefully up to the hallway door and listens, gauging their approach, even as a second tangle of metal is spat out into his hand.
"Fegh."he scoffs with quiet contempt, imagining a world in which these pathetic locks were capable of keeping anyone contained. The people of this land must truly be sheep if...
The memory of having his nose broken by a little girl's palm strike sours any feelings of superiority he might have, deepening his glower. Despite that he slides the tooth-crafted key into the lock and gives it a slow turn, lock clicking open. Then, standing to one side of the doorway, hand on the door and body shielded behind the wall, he waits. Waits for the approach of those who seek the cells, preparing himself to fling the door wide and throw himself bodily on the first unfortunate person to approach.
A patter of shrieking laughter erupts from the figures still in the lobby.
Two of the shadows with shape scatter into the building, going in separate directions of the charging figure. But one remains with the other, the duo hanging over the policeman in the dim red lights. The cop's pleading seems to get a reaction... as the two chatter back in their alien language, their expressions blank behind the avian faces. The first, the who did the takedown, pivots, moving into a leg-lock pin to keep the cop in place. The other? Pulls out a strand of wires from his waist. Another mocking chortle in the alien tongue, and the first actually slaps the officer on his buttocks, with a response. That earns a growl from the second, and the pair begins to twist the cop around, as the second begins his mount.
He begins to tie up the man.
For the steel-eyed stranger, we was advancing down the hall; the sound of doors smashing to the ground is heard, first door. Second door. Third door. A methodology, to secure moving forward. Ejnar's door was next. The action would be obvious to a craftsman. The door wasn't being smashed in. Something was slipping fast inside, moving along the hinges. Slipping over them, and -ripping- the bolts out from them, low to high. Something thin, and metal. After the hinges are stripped... well, the man approached. Ejnar explodes out before he can even recover from his hinge strike, and he is knocked back. There is a grunt of pain, as the creak of bones comes. The steel-eyed stranger hits his back against the wall as he brings his plain longsword up, violence in his eyes...
And he stays his blade.
Now, his profile is clear. In a clinch like this, even in the dim lights it was clear. He was a silver-haired man in his late middle ages. He body is narrow and fit, his shoulders broad, and stands at a clean two meters tall. He wears a teal-blue armored coat covering his whole body, all the way to his heeled boots of gold and steel straps. His arms are peppered in scaled plate, bearing a feathered motif. His legs are similarly armored, though only the faintest hints of this can been seen with the longcoat in place. A singular black tie hangs from his neck, with the white collared shirt giving a formal air to his armor. A massive cloak, studded with gold buttons, carries around him, the exterior silver white, while the interior is rich crimson. The cold eyes look over the unkempt man, face is lean and narrow, with a long chin, high cheekbones. A silver mustache garbs over his red lips, which never so much as hint a smile. He doesn't push the man off, but doesn't release him. Contempt? No. He mutters in a strange tongue. His tone is deep, with a gravelly air of command that rumbles deep in his lungs. And suddenly, he speaks aloud. "Ejnar?" He asks, a thick accent over his lips.
"Of The Flames of Creation?"
More ululating jabber reaches the prisoner's ears as he lies patiently in wait, interspersed with the rough protests of the desk SGT and the steady BOOM, BOOM of falling doors. One, two, three doors fall from their hinges to smash heavily to the ground, and the Viking holds, grey eyes alert and attentive.
Slithering like a shadow, the sword blade emerges on his side of the door and cuts a path upward, popping the bolts free in a manner that very much catches the eye of the craftsman. There is no time to be distracted, however, so he files the detail away and prepares himself to lunge, holding until the sword has slipped back through the crack, at the point when the wielder should feel he is most safe.
A view from the other side of the door would show the black-haired man exploding through it into the hallway with the sudden, intense ferocity of a crocodile catching a deer. Slamming shoulder-first into the mustachioed man beyond, he carries him backward into the far wall and smashes into him with his full weight, filling the hallway with a prickling wave of heat. As close as the newcomer is to the jumpsuited man, it's like standing beside an open fire. The wash of heat, the warm, soul-soothing radiance of a campfire at night or a hearth at Christmas. An internal fire that is both physical, and spiritual.
The sword is lifted, then halts. The name 'Ejnar' is given.
Rebounding away from the taller man, Ejnar Valgrimsson, craftsman of the gods and Reclaimer of the Forge of Creation, glowers up into his face with all the social grace of a wet cat. Remaining slightly crouched, legs and arms spread, he seems oddly unafraid of the threat poised by the clearly magical sword. He also seems none-too-thrilled that this man knows who he is , wolfish eyes locked on him with open suspicion.
"Fegh." he grunts, the noise emerging quick and spitting from a mouth unskilled to the subtle kindness of language. His own accent is thick enough to cut, voice a more moderate baritone but rougher, uncaring, "Is pointless question. Why have you come with work of pretender? Have no love for clan of thieves."
The steel-eyed stranger glares coldly at the man, but makes no attempt to keep his loosens his grip on Ejnar. Pushing away from the wall, to steady his feet, he stares across at the smith. Behind him, the chortling of the avian faced creatures gives him rise as well, his nostrils flaring. Discipline. He demanded discipline. What's more, the unkempt man was quick to act as a low-born beast. And worse, the crude figure has the audacity to call his words pointless? And to insult his sword? No.
And he insults his clan.
The steel-eyed stranger growls a curse in that alien tongue, before shaking his head, raising his blade. To strike him? No, to show him. The weapon is... hardly the work of the gods. A clear cast work, it seems forged in a single piece of steel. The pommel, the handle, the blade, and the hilt all are part the same piece of metal. Bandages are wrapped around the handle, giving a grip for the man's gloved hands. And yet, a strange inner light glows in it, unnatural soul energy flowing from the steel-eyed stranger to and fro. "You know this. It is not yours, for you are Ejnar. The legendary craftsman." The steel-eyed stranger sweeps his cloak, and he places the sword back into his scabbard. Then, the man bows his head as he brings a clutched fist over his breast. "I will keep this short. Your service is requested. I have come on behalf of the House of Podiebrad." He does not mince words.
"We have one of your artifacts."
Off in the distance, ravens cackle and a bellowing voice starts to shout in Japanese, a roaring, then a coughing as the desk SGT is put through some form of unspeakable torment. But whatever might be happening in the lobby, Ejnar has eyes only for the man before him. His supposed rescuer is taller, older, and has more resources at his disposal. Not to mention the man is armed.
In contrast, the Viking outcast is alone in the world, has little more than an oversized jumpsuit to his name, and clearly hasn't been shown a shower in at least a couple days.
"Could forge better sword in sleep." the words are spat to one side with the blunt ferocity of one who either doesn't understand how conversations normally work, or doesn't care. Whatever the case may be he doesn't seem afraid that the weapon might suddenly find its way into his throat.
There is no softening of expression or posture once the stranger sheathes his weapon. The Viking doesn't even incline his head in acknowledgement of the respectful headbow, or the reason that he is being saved. He just stares, tanned features caught in that same ill-tempered glower. And as he does, the emergency lights kick on overhead, lighting the hallway with a strobing series of dull red flashes.
"Of course Podiebrad has artifact. Is way of thief to have what is not theirs. You call me donkey? Fegh! You are snake, not Raven. Why would Noble family willingly give up thing they have kept for centuries? What is real reason you are hear, Bird?"
The steel-eyed stranger refuses to let his composure crack.
Barbarians. Master craftsmen, yes. But Ejnar proved himself the worst of the barbarians. Some grow out of the phase. Others revel in it. To claim his family a thief, was discounting the nature of plunder. An awful lot of blood was spent and taken to secure the artifacts of power. Under less trying times, with less talented craftsmen, there would be a split throat and a murder. Insults against the family were only tolerated when it was suitable for it. And yet, in his anger, the steel-eyed stranger is quickly caught in his own mistake, on the mention of the donkey.
The craftsman proves his use in the tongue of the Podiebrad.
The steel-eyed stranger stares furiously, the blue-purple light flaring in his eyes. A faux pas, that was his own fault. The steel-eyed stranger shows intensity, if not hostility. Grave insults to the House. But he was not here to punish insults. "This is the reason you are needed." He responds, his composure still unmoved by Ejnar's lack of manners.
And he speaks, firmly, in the alien tongue, directly to Ejnar, as his response.
He turns his back to Ejnar, stepping through the hall. He was not a social butterfly either. But he had stated the truth. "I have delivered the invitation. I have cleared your way to freedom. And I have explained why. Decide what you will with it. I guarantee safe passage if you come. I promise nothing, if you go." He begins to walk away, his armor clicking with every step. He would not choose to kidnap this man. This was not why he had come. He had delivered the invitation.
It would be Ejnar's choice to act on it.
If you say one thing for Ejnar Valgrimsson, say that he's a man of hidden talents.
The look of impatient disregard remains fixed on his face throughout the stare down and the frozen moments of danger. Passed the flaring of blue fire and right up until the Nobleman speaks in that odd alien dialect, forcing the frown of indifference to slowly shift, transforming into a frown of irritable doubt.
"Is not possible," the once prisoner snaps back, though they both know that little tidbit of information has captured his attention in a way most things could not.
The representative of the Podiebrad has taken a good few steps away before Ejnar's stubborn stance finally breaks, and he steps forward to pad after the man with a grunt of grumpy discontent. Shabby, shoeless, and weaponless, he trails after the silver-haired man on their way back down the hall, passed the fallen doors, and out into the lobby full of warbling bird demons.
"Do not threaten, Bird Man. Will go if I wish." he grunts toward the larger man's back, grey eyes narrowing slightly to peer about through the gloom. Even at a distance the dual sensations of heat and Warmth radiate from him as clearly as any beacon. "You did not Clear Way. Could have left at any time."
If you say a second thing for Ejnar Valgrimsson, say that he can be awfully petty.
The steel-eyed stranger does not look back, as Ejnar follows.
He was right, of course. To find the wandering smith was a fortune, to catch him another story. He could always leave at any time. Not even death could keep a perpetual hold on him. It simply depended on when he arrived in history again. Sometimes it was during times of great upheaval, when men and gods would battle for destiny. Sometimes, it was at the dire moments, when the percipt of history sits within the hands of great evil, or heroism.
In this case, it was at a podunk holding facility in some Japanese city.
There is a furious squawk from the steel-eyed stranger as he enters the front lobby. The two shadows with shape immediately leap to attention. By them, in front of the coffee machine, they had the sumo cop hogtied, blindfolded, and gagged with a donut. The poor man had his shirt unbuttoned, and a styrofoam cup half filled with hot coffee on his back. The two figures stand at parade rest. The steel-eyed stranger continued to trill in that strange tongue, and the two others return, giving brisk reports before audibly -sighing- at the scene. They turn their heads towards Ejnar, and there is a short mutter before the steel-eyed stranger curtly responds, stepping towards the open doors.
The four figures quickly assemble behind him in formation, as they move into the fog.
There is a crackle of radio static.
And the power is suddenly restored.
If Ejnar is surprised at the sight of his rescuer's minions, it doesn't show on his face. Two shadowy bird-faced creatures tormenting a veritable pig of a cop is apparently just another Friday for the Viking, as he breaks away to pad across the lobby toward them without hesitation. Feet step uncaringly over tossed papers and spilled pencils, grey eyes flicking from one bird man to the other.
While the Bird Boys part around him to rejoin their commander, the craftsmen continues passed Mr. Pig Cop on his way toward the vending machine beyond. The soles of his feet smudge the large pane of glass now lying in front of the dormant device, the hard surface oddly springy upon its bed of shag. A moment is taken to peer through the darkness toward the rows of packages within, before he reaches in to collect a large hand full of Mayor Mike's Famous Turkey Sticks, two bags of honey almond crunch Muscle Mix, and a single champion sized Squared Circle snack pie.
"Fegh," he grunts over his shoulder without bothering to look back, words cutting through the room even as the lights begin to flicker back on. "Bad smell is temporary. Your stupid is forever."
Turning away from the looted vending machine, the ill-tempered guest of this strange and alien Nobleman wanders out through the front doors in the wake of the warbling formation, tearing open the first of his stolen turkey sticks.
Log created on 13:37:55 01/31/2020 by Ejnar, and last modified on 22:12:04 02/02/2020.