Crossing The Rubeh Con Part Deux

Crossing the Rubeh-Con, Part Deux

Ruby isn't the most graceful gal as she heaves the oars up in a double-salute and clambers over the side, still in a uncomprehending gaze. "Ain't toime tha eat. Why ain't tha waters 'igher? Still see tha beach." The boat gets easier to yank when she stops being a hinderance.
When the sound dies down, it doesn't repeat. Whatever the noise signified, apparently once is quite enough. Ruby smacks her lips and even rubs at her tummy, then gives herself a vicious shake. "I swear tha was tha bloody dinnah-bell!"

Once the boat beaches, Cristof rises slowly from the seat and then heaves his satchel onto his shoulder. He swings the quiver's strap over his shoulder and then lifts his bow out of the boat. "You gave us good time at the oars, Ruby," he praises. "We'll have a fine feast, and I'm sure that you'll have a tale to tell when we're back in Amber." Then he looks to Autumn and Gaval. "All ashore!" he invites. He offers a hand to Autumn and advises, "Rise slowly and step slowly. Take your time for now." Back to Ruby, he suggets, "We should stow the boat if possible, so that they can't capture it and prevent our escape."

"I think it was, but there will be time to eat when we reach the shore, there has to something edible here and I think we have some hard tack?" Autumn offers in response. "Ruby, thank you for rowing," She offers. When the hand is offered she uses Cristof's help to disembark. The water the water laps against her legs. She turns her head towards Ruby, "Ready to pull it in? I have seen it done and do not mind helping." Her eyes are bright. She turns to Cristof next, "Thank you!"

Ruby is torn away from her distraught musings as Cristof layers a lot of encouragement and sense upon her. She doesn't even have time to gnash her teeth at it or his thoughtful measures. Suddenly, she's the one absorbing the suggestions with the weight of a shipboard order. She grunts and moves to assist Gaval with the boat. "Got't…Just get yerselves tah tha trees. Loike was said…ex-posed. Don't reco-mmend eatin anything you see. But just lemme check first if ya doo. Nana taught me a few tricks tah not eat tha stoof tha makes tha amulets goo /ckkkssSSsssSSsssSS/." Her hand clamps along the foredeck of the dinghy and the fingers curl around like a hook. She starts half-jogging towards the tree-line, creating feet-marks and keel-marks in the oddly patterned white and grey sand of the beach. She pulls one-handed like a bull with it's hindquarters slapped.
The jungle that creates a perimeter about the rising hill looks impenetrable to anything that is not walking in single-file. When Ruby sweeps the boat up against it, the trunk of a tree gives a slight shudder. The swath of the beach bears a few oddities apart from its colouration. A few divets and depressions that could mean old turtle spawning grounds or hard object impacts yet to be smoothed away by wind and surf.

Cristof nods when Ruby grabs the boat and drags it, apparently with little strain, toward the trees. He trudges after the boat through the loose sand. "It's a good point about the wildlife. We're far from Amber, and things that are wholesome there might be deadly here." He glances to Autumn and notes, "We have more than hard tack. I visited a shop that sells hunting supplies. The owner had a fine shipment of dried and cured meats, vegetables, and fruits." He rummages in the satchel and pulls four fist-sized pouches, each with a draw-string, from it. "It's no feast, but it's enough for several days if you're careful." He scans along the shoreline. Then he adds, "Water can be purified easily enough."

"Ruby my dear I wish I had half your skills and half your strength. Which direction are we heading?" Autumn voice is warm when she announces this. Her eyes are bright when she watches the Amazon. Moving over the shore and following the boat her shoes do not squelch because of minks oil it was treated with. "More than hardtack then we will be eating well tonight. Oh it will be a feast for us tonight, exercise, near death makes for hardy appetite. Water I can help with if my magic is with me." Her small frame moves easily across the sand.

Ruby releases her hold on the boat and peers back towards the ship. She thinks she can make out the two deck hands watching from their floating sanctuary. She raises a hand to give a stiff wave and lopes around in time to have a word with Gaval nearby. Her enunciations to the master of the shadowy blade are full of a lot of 'sss and 'ecks and fff's during the wargggarble of her speech. Ruby eyes Autumn and Cristof's pack and satchel respectively. "You two full 'o good surprises. Unnervin…innah way." The corner of her mouth twitches into a brief grin. She turns about and trots towards the jungle. "Direct route always me choice, if given. We head direct inland. There ain't no roads. We get close an we'll smell copper. Let's goo." Her back turned to the Ambassador and the good Doctor, the sudden wince is probably not noticeable. She reaches back to scratch at a shoulderblade and sets off at a brisk walk.

Cristof says, "If it unnerves you, I'll save your share and you can enjoy the rumble of your stomach," Cristof offers while he stops by the boat. He stuffs the parcels into his back. "They're nothing magical, if that's your worry, only the same kind of drying that our Cookies used on the march," he explains. He nods to Autumn's contribution for the water, and encourages, "Your magic helped to save us from those … things. I don't know why it would quit on us now." He nods and looks to Ruby again. "Should we look for other signs beside smelling copper?""

"Ruby is your shoulder sore?" Autumn asks and there is concern in her voice when she asks this. She is following at an easy pace. "There are no surprises with me, what you see if what you get my friend." Her lips twitch into a toothy grin, though there is still concern in her voice.
"Doctor, you are to kind any good battle mage worth their salt will be able to do it." She tells him with a smile. "I am not ask quick as I used to be."

Ruby starts using her forearm to paw back fronds and other foliage while she leads the venture deeper. She glances back over her shoulder, only counting Cristof and Autumn, though this does not disturb. She tongues her cheek before responding to Autumn, "Itches. I be foine. I've gotten worse from poor choices 'o partner." Eyes flick to the available rations and her stomach does offer a gurgle again. She stamps down the sensation and resists asking for one for now. "Anyone othah than us. Didn't see Felicans, Crabs or Dingledawgs anywhere yet. Not even anything circlin over'ead. I guess they don't got 'em."
Underfoot, the island experiences a small quake. It doesn't dissipate, but remains steady. The sand of the beach sifts amongst itself. A sound like a wet palm wiped against a pane of glass comes from further inland. Ruby starts to double-time it. "Loife fer tha runnahs!" Ready, set, go.

"If you have an itch, when we stop, I'll apply some ointment," Cristof offers after hearing Autumn's query. He shakes his head. "I don't hear sounds of insects or frogs. In a jungle like this, I'd expect both." He frowns. He glances to Autumn. "You were fast enough with those things." Then the earth rumbles and he glances instinctively at his feet without losing his pace. at Ruby's urging, he grips his satchel with one hand while his other reaches for Autumn's arm. "We need to move faster!" he warns.
"Poor choice in partners, oh I am curious, and I hope it is not us." Autumn says warmly. "When there is a chance let him, it is better to not have any distractions." Autumn nods to Cristof. "I was but still not what I was." The rumbling of the earth and she picks up the pace. She is running to keep up with those with longer legs. Her feet pound hard against the earth and soon she is getting a bit breathless and focused on the running.

From behind the trio comes shouts from the ship. Anyone looking back through the jungle would see Pete and Rickerson yelling something. Not in panic for themselves…but in warning to those on land. Looking back would also offer a clue to what they were shouting about. Inexorably, the beach is starting to disappear under encroaching waves.
Ruby isn't looking back, concentrating on weaving her way forward and hoping she's followed swiftly. Reaching behind her waist, she pulls out her Kukri and starts slashing as she runs. The foliage she manages to connect with goes arcing to the left and right or trampled underfoot, reducing the chances of being slapped in the face by a smidgeon. The ground underfoot is roots and occasionally bare patches. The earth is damp and humid, but does have a dank smell even after it is trod upon by the group's tall guide. The roots are hell for those not possessing luck or grace. Some look incredibly treacherous. And thin. And cord-like. Rope-like.

Cristof charges after Ruby, occasionally steadying himself on a vine or limb when his feet catch one of the roots. "You were fast enough. That's all that counts," he tells Autumn. The shouts of the men easily penetrate the eerie silence and he glances behind him just long enough to note the receding beach. "I don't know if it's tide or something else, but we're losing island!" he calls to his companions.

Casting a glance over her shoulder Autumn picks up the pace. Her eyes are wider now and she does not need any urging to move forward. Her feet pound the earth and she is following Ruby's foot path. She begins to breathless mutter an incantation. A bubble air forms around them and moves with them as the wave moves ever closer. She turns her head to look over her shoulder. "Wave on the crest line!" Her words are gasped out.

The ground beneath is becoming more and more a slog. The island is sloping upwards and progress can really be felt within the knees and thighs. The trembling continues as the island sinks and the waters rise. Ruby offers an unbalanced sounding giggle while they outrun the devouring of their real estate. Behind, the bases of trees they've passed are submerged. Ruby yells, "Oop oop!"

The magic comes to Autumn and embraces her like a lover. It caressers her skin and the smell of it is strong. It is whispering quietly to those who can sense and feel it. There is a glow to her skin and the air bubbles shimmers as the wave pushes ever closer to them. The air creates a water tight seal around them and moves with them. She is panting as she continues to run and weave her spell. The earth devoring wave crests over the trees a few feet away form them.

Cristof continues to pump his legs while they literally head for the hills, although from appearances, even the hills on this island soon will be ready to welcome visitors from Rebma. "Perhaps we should tell the hands to weigh anchor so that the ship will come closer. At this rate, we're losing island."

Ruby snags a whip-like tendril from root or underground branch and it snaps against her shin, almost throwing her to her hands and knees. Where it was broken apart, the severed ends glow red hot like embers and fall by the wayside as the group heads further uphill. "I ain't got birds yet, they bettah be smarter than most blokes!" Ruby rasps bounding into the trunk of a tree and nearly uprooting it in her desire for the shortest route possible up the incline. There's a hint of rock up ahead. A clearing or a break in the foliage. The rumbling cuts off abruptly, though the feeling of one's stomach dropping is slower in petering off.

Gasping like out another command Autumn pauses long enough to offer Ruby a hand. She is breathing harder than an apprentice manning the bellows in a blacksmiths forge. The wave crashes into the trees, it glitters in the pale light. "Cristof!" She calls out to get his help. She turns to look over her shoulder. That air is alive now with magic. Her mismatched eyes are glowing with power she is holding to her.

Cristof is near enough to flinch when Autumn shouts, although she probably did not see him due to concentrating on her spell. He draws his sword and slashes at the rope-like vine. "This isn't natural. Someone or something is behind this, trying to trap us," he gasps.

Ruby refrains from yanking Autumn down upon her with that kind offer of assistance. She also does not make a physical connection because Autumn looks like a Boogeyfemme character from her childhood. She crab-walks away and tries to press herself outside the bubble of force and further up the hill, turning her milky cataract towards Autumn's blazing eyes. "Fookin 'ell! Aye…this place be Bog-blasted, 'eresy-soaked! It's all ootah whack. Bonkahs. This ain't when this supposed tah 'appen. Autumn! C'mon…just past tha trees!" The water churns as filters in around the trees. The beach is completely gone, as are most of the jungle, now submerged and almost completely covered by green water. The island stops its descend and marinates. Still again. Up ahead is indeed a clearing. And a series of dark human-shaped alcoves strung out, almost holding hands in a daisy-chain.

Once Ruby is free and moving away from that choking vine, Cristof follows. Autumn's approaching exhaustion does not escape his notice. Grabbing her hand, he tugs gently yet firmly. "Let's go. We stay close and you won't need to use as much energy to sustain that bubble."

"They will not, they do not know what we are or what we have." Autumn voice rings out and she is still breathless. "I think you are right." She sees Ruby crab crawl away form from. "Ruby it is I Autumn, you know my voice." She looks to behind her and then at what is in the clearing and her heart races and pounds against her chest. .

Ruby flips over over so she's creeping rather than back-crawling. The odd feel of magic and the physical display has her own pulse going at a speed that feels like it could rival a hummingbird. A few swallows and she gives a hesitant nod to Autumn, as well as an encouraging one to Cristof for trying to urge the Sorceress beyond and onto the rocky incline. It's a little too manicured for nature, the roots of the trees cease upon an invisible line, having no more damp soil or earth. Only rock before the group. And the humanoid holes like some negative Da Vinci anatomy illustration. Negative spaces that alternate between male and female. Not much wiggle room unless they were in their birthday suits. The necklace of holes in the rock curve around the steeper incline and with distance begin to vary in size and shape. Sizes S to M to L. It's hard to make out how 'deep' they go into the hill.

"Remember the things that tried to climb onto the ship?" Cristof reminds Autumn. "This is as unnatural as those. Whatever this place is, it's someone's creation, and that someone means to end us. Even if you have something in mind, you'll need more time to conjure it, and more time comes with more distance. Let's go!"

Autumn nods her head, her eye are bright she turns her head in the direction of the Cristof and Ruby and the daisy chain of humanoids. She nods her head and moves forward. Her heart is pounding against her chest and the water is breaking through the trees reaching towards them as she moves forward. She is at the daisy chain now. She turns to look over her shoulder at Ruby and Cristof.

Ruby clears a nostril and ventures out onto the rock after Autumn, leaving the jungle and onto the exposed plateaus and inclines. She squints and whispers, "Aye…This ain't where I was before, but it feels close. Gotta get deepah before we see tha metal. Loike…shell 'o egg. Yoke be where we gotta goo tah return tha book…or burn tha lot. There was a slice ootah tha hhhill. Cracked oof or somethin."

Cristof sighs and cautiously creeps closer to Autumn. "All together," he comments. When he draws nearer to her, and to the hollow places, he squints. "Some don't appear as dark as others," he reports. "The 'male' ones look as if soothing is inside them." He shakes his head and worries, "A well-laid trap."

Something moving in the shadows something changing and shifting catches the Retired Battle mages eyes. She is frowning now, her heart still beating hard in her chest. She gathers more magic to her. She is a beacon of magic. It clings to her. She feels it pulsing in her veins she nods her head to what Cristof is saying. She takes a few steps forward to where she the one shifting and changing. "Well laid Doctor, very well laid, over in the shadow do you see it?" She casts a look over at Ruby. "Are you okay?" Her eyes are glowing and her skin that is exposed is illuminous. "What do you two see?" She takes a few steps closer to it.

Ruby moves closer to one of the shapes, placing her hand against the rock with just the tips of her fingers caressing the edge. "We eithah go ovah…or through…or check for crack loike I found before. Unless you gots bettah idea or we say tah 'ell with't and git oot." Ruby grinds her teeth before responding to Autumn. "I don't wanna know."

The obstruction is definitely a body. It's in a poor state. Wedged into the hill, it's an almost perfect fit. It's skin pigmentation would be identicle to Ruby's if it weren't grey with decomposition and exposure to the elements. Somewhere between mummified and a bit shrivelled. No scavengers have been at it. If one wished to touch it, they could reach in and do so.

Cristof frowns and grips the hilt of his sword while he studies the strange formation. He shakes his head. Then he glances to Ruby and nods. "We've come too far to run," he murmurs. "We don't know what lies within, so going over might be best."

Something other than the trio at the hill can be detected. Footfalls and a scraping sound.
Beyond the curve of the hill, obstructed from view.

The hill itself does provide suitable looking handholds for those willing to try and climb it, the incline not so steep as to be impossible without gear.

With a nod of her head Autumn uses magic to manipulate the side of the hill it asnwers to her and steps form in the side. She begins to ascend. With each step she takes another step appears in the rock. She the wind picks up and moves around them.

"I think I recog-nize tha sound." Ruby reaches back to rake visciously at her recent wounds. Her knife is sheathed behind her back. Without further debate, the tall gal is reaching up and pulling herself up with her fingernails and raw strength. Her feet rake at the side of the hill, callouses scraping, before she manages to gain altitude somewhat parallel with the steps. She grunts and hugs against the incline, regretting the extra items strapped to her person.

Cristof takes a deep breath, glances once to Ruby, and then follows behind Autumn, taking the steps with firm feet and a low, aggressive stance as if he is ready to attack. He holds his sword in one hand and his eyes are alert, watching just beyond the mage. When Ruby announces that she might know that sound, he glances to her. "What?" he wonders.

The steps reach the top, Autumn looks over at Ruby. That power she holds to her still. She waiting, "Is it one of those creatures?" She asks her. "The ones that harmed you or the God itself?" She is frowning. The wind moves around them and the steps slightly to the side so that that Cristof can move off the stairs. She continues to frowns. She is peering into the darkness where she is seeing the shifting shapes. "There in that shadows." She points to where the sound is coming from.

The sound of an approaching welcoming committee grow louder. The sun is at just the right position in the sky to stretch the shadows to hideous proportions. Source of sound and wavering shade strides into view around the nearest incline. Ruby freezes where she is, like a coconut crab halfway up a tree. She whispers to Cristof and Autumn, "Femmes. Sistahs from some othah mistah."

A dozen of them are revealed at first. While they don't march, they come in a staggered and easy formation. All ebony-skinned, wearing a bare minimum of clothing to retain some modesty. As the trio watches, one peels off from the group and walks into an available human-shaped hole and out of sight. There's something wrong with their heads. The sun glints off metal and the ear-rings that neither bounce or sway between ear and shoulder. Half their number have their mouths open in a frozen scream. Wedged in their mouths are grills or speculums to ensure rigidity.

Cristof mounts the shoulder of the hill beside Autumn, where the sound is more distinct than it was before their ascent. Still gripping his sward, he watches the dark Amazons. Then he glance stop Ruby before returning his attention to the strangers. He watches the one who walks into the hollow. "It's as if they are returning to a nest of sorts," he surmises. "We should watch and wait, but not attack. See what they mean to do."

"My friend is this where you first encountered them?" Autumn says as she turns her head towards Ruby. Her intense gaze goes back to the strange women and men who have gathered here. Her brow is furrowed as she tries to grasp any language that they are speaking. The wind curls around the four of them as if it waiting with them. Autumn takes a deep breath and let's it slowly out as if to steady her resolve.

Ruby waits from her position, her shoulder just begging to feel the crescents of her nails to dig in along her healing wounds. It would feel so good. Better than a foot rub. Better than chocolate on the tongue. Her teeth press together very tightly and she gives a slow nod to Cristof. "Aye." she breathes and presses her cheek to the rock. "I snuck in through tha crack I found. Didn't see these twisted things till I stole…borrowed…tha book for pro-tection. This was'ah bloody 'uge mistake."

Attrition takes more of the group following the curve of the hill. Just beyond them, a smaller group of two pulls a stockier figure by the ankles, his upper back and head scraping and dragging against the ground. Before one of the holes, the two females drop its feet and the pick up their burden by the underarms and start to press him into the hill. The top of his head is a continuous piece of grey metal that stop just below the nose. A section is missing and within are a myriad of interlocking loops and bands, loose as spaghetti. The two corpse-bearers press their bodies against its back in an almost loving gesture, their cheeks against a shoulder blade each. Within the recess, it is then supported by the hill and the two females face each other. After a few seconds, an oil slick of viscous fluid seeps from the corners of their mouth in slow-mo regurgitation or drooling. Noticeble against their dark brown skin due to the fresh nature of the expulsion. The previous mob disappears around the corner, presumably to find their own niches, leaving the two mouth-weeping figures to their own devices.

Cristof watches the figures and then looks to Autumn and Ruby. "Did you see that? The 'male' one had a hole in his head, and what looked like colored thongs or strings in the wound. Could that be their brains?" he wonders. While the last of the femmes find their niches in the rock, he watches. "What about those last two? They look … wounded." His voice has an empathetic tone, as if these things, although strange, cry to him for healing.

"Are they alive or are part of a hive like mind." Autumn calls out. She turns her gaze towards Ruby. "Give them the book back?" Her gaze moves to Crisrof, "Careful they looks like sacrifices." She tells him, "willing ones and that in itself is frightening enough to contemplate it."

Ruby risks some movement to pull herself up to the same vantage point as Autumn and Cristof. She tilts her head and squints down at the two remaining females. She grimaces and tears her glance away to something other than their orifices. Everything above their nasal septums an abomination to her senses. "They look loike fuel for nightmare furnaces. I swear I recognize one 'o them. Friend 'o one 'o me sistahs. This re-flection close tah me 'ome…in ways." she tongues that back of her front teeth, lip curling. "I don't care. I wanna be gone. Place worse oof than before. Gone /worse/." She scratches at her back again and peers up the slope. "We almost at tha top. If it same as before, there be a 'orrible view from there." Her hand drifts to a trump deck by her side. So tempted to run.
Another fluting sound from deep within the hill. Down below, the ear rings on either side of the remaining figures shudder and then click-clack-clunk into movement. They aren't exactly dangling. More like curled in against the curve of their shoulders. The teak cogs grind wetly as if responding to the auditory signal. The figures begin to move away slowly, feet dragging.

Cristof glances to Ruby when she joins them, and notes her expression. "We shouldn't need to stay here for long," he murmurs to her. "If we give them the book, we should do so in a way that draws their attention to it without drawing them to us," Cristof suggests to both of the women. "Take the book into the open, leave it, and retreat."

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