Trouble occurs at the manor.
Was it all a dream? she wondered as she sat up. Acute recollection of the walls of the cave. Then, more faintly, the combat knife on her skin. It definitely felt real.
Taking a moment to survey her surroundings, she recognized her location as Silivia's Metro District. Savannah was not overly familiar with this part of the city, but she could make her way back to Warren's place. She got up off the bench and began walking down the sidewalk. Something caught her eye as she walked: a storefront, with rows of televisions on display. Walking closer, she stopped next to a young dark-skinned man who held a broken radio. Each television showed an overhead view of a bridge reduced to smoldering rubble. Savannah read the scrolling caption: "-emilia Corporation facility near Port City destroyed."
A newscaster read off a list of names of the "Port City Eight", the suspected perpetrators of the attack. Lee-something, a scientist. Blossom Cane, his assistant. Those names meant nothing to her, but upon hearing "Marshall Rooke," she froze.
"Are you alright?" The young man asked, breaking Savannah's focus. "Did you have family there?"
"No, I'm not. I, uh..." Savannah stammered. "I think I recognize some of those names. Marshall, Atticus — didn't know them that well and not for very long."
"Atticus Rosington was a very close friend of mine." He looked down. "He ran off a couple months ago, and I thought he'd died from his decisions," he declared, looking at her again. "Do tell... how do you know him?"
"I was taking shelter from a storm in an old barn when I found him, this girl Melissa and an android called Chris. None of them had any memories beside their names, though Chris said his 'father' left him there." She could be honest about that, at least.
"On the way here we found Marshall, who joined us. All was going well until we encountered a demon pack. We had to run, got separated."
"Interesting," he replied, smiling slightly. "Well, I've known him since we were twelve, and now that I know he's alive — I'm going to find him."
One by one, the group filed into the manor. Even in the early morning light, the place was certainly not one to feel relaxed in. Furniture remained knocked over, lamps broken, piles of trash littered the walkway, and the only light shined in through cracks in the dirtied windows.
"How much longer are we going to stay in this dump?" Marshall whined as he and Atticus lifted a large chandelier off the dining room table and placed it on the ground, per Samuel's orders.
"Yeah, what's the plan for us? Where are we even going to get food from?" Atticus asked, rubbing his palms together in an attempt to clear dirt off them.
"Well, better get moving soon," Samuel spoke up. "Nothing's left here and the snow doesn't look like it's stopping. I think it's best we start heading north. Eventually, we'll make it to the Smithson-Reed Ferry, which will get us to Aiola. Gonna be safer there."
"Um, what is Muné like generally? And if this place is so bad, why did we fly here?" Blossom asked, wheeling herself near Samuel.
"You really wanna know?" he said. "We are now in the most war-torn continent on Euclid. Absolutely littered with demon settlements. You might find some places that are fine, but you definitely won't be finding any Silivias here. Only landed here to avoid suspicion. Going straight to Aiola would be obvious, but no one would think of us coming here and then going there."
"Landed? More like crashed. This is a nice boring chat and all, but I'm getting hungry. Are we gonna need to hunt or something?" Marshall interrupted, faking a yawn.
Melissa spoke up, her voice still meek but calmed and steady. "I think there's some food in the cellar." She stood and walked to a broken door, with a lock and some chain on the floor nearby. The girl held the loose and rickety banister as she walked downstairs and into the manor's depths.
Melissa took notice of the area's features, the basement extended further down than she had thought. Around her were tall shelves of darkened wood, stocked full with various cans of fruits and vegetables and assorted wines. It had almost appeared as if it was a wine cellar in which someone had refurbished into a bunker, perhaps shelter from demons or warring factions. She dropped to a sitting position on the damp wooden floor and buried her face in her hands. For a few moments, she was alone in silence — silence that remained unbroken until one hand wrapped itself around her throat and another covered her mouth. Not even attempting to scream, Melissa opted to faint and allow the basement to fade to black.
After some time had passed and Melissa did not return, members of the group began to feel restless, some sitting in dirtied off-white chairs.
"Should somebody go after Melissa?" Chris asked.
"She is likely getting a few extra cans of fruit. Let's just leave her be. The worst that is down there are durables, I am sure," Li answered.
"Durables?" Marshall asked.
Li bent down, gripping his cane, and picked up a tiny bug from the floor. "This is a durable. Tiny, purple beetles that march together foraging for food. They cannot die and this one is likely hundreds or thousands of years old. They're essentially harmless, too. Part of the nicer side of Muné."
"Marshall, go check on Melissa," Atticus ordered, bending down on one knee and clearing debris from around the table.
"No, I don't think I will," Marshall refused. "Didn't you just hear Li? She's fine."
Through the wooden walls to the wilderness, the unmistakable sound of a pistol firing was heard. With no time to prepare, Atticus attempted to jump backwards as bullets ravaged the wall and shot through. For a second everything seemed fine, and nobody had been hit. All of the bullets had managed to embed themselves in decaying support beams. Almost instantly, the roof began to come down.
When the dust settled, the group discovered a wall of wreckage separating them. Half found the front door was now blocked off, the others similarly stuck. No one considered going outside with the gunman still at-large.
"We're gonna get cornered if just keep standing around here. Come on!" Samuel yelled. After briefly looking around, he started to run for a nearby doorway.
"Where did the others go?!" Atticus called out, standing next to Samuel and Li. "What if they're under this debris? We can't leave yet!"
"It's not safe!" Samuel shouted, beckoning for the other two to follow him.
The group was careful to avoid the manor's large windows as they ran, fearful of more shots firing. Soon, Samuel led them to a dusty kitchen, wilted lilies sprawled on the old ceramic tile. The chamber had various large appliances: an oven and stove, a microwave, and a fridge — all with small cabinets interspersed between them. What once were a clinical white had become yellowed with age, resulting in a nearly golden hue.
Li scanned the room for items. On the wall, he spotted some rusted kitchen utensils hanging from rusted nails. He opted for a saucepan and a wooden spoon and handed them to Atticus and Samuel and took them into a bigger room: an old art gallery and statue room.
They steadily walked inside the room, their steps occasionally pushing pieces of aged floorboard downward. "This might be the safest place to regroup," Samuel said, noting the room's lack of windows.
A second of awareness washed over Samuel, Li, and Atticus. They had barely a second to react to the floorboards pushing down under another pair of feet. The sound of a creak rang out before a shadowy assailant jumped at Samuel, light glinting off of a knife as it revealed itself in the attacker's hand.
Samuel felt his jagged-edged spoon slip out of his grip as he was shoved to the floor, ripping through a sliding rice paper door that divided the room. Now without a weapon, he readied himself to evade the figure's strikes as they quickly rushed towards him.
Pulling out his gun from his right side, Atticus attempted to fire at the being, only to realize that he was out of ammunition. The adversary spun himself around Samuel, wrapping one arm around his neck from behind and aiming a knife at the others. Samuel buried his chin into the assailant's bent elbow to protect his throat. With one hand, he tried to free himself from their grip, and with his arm, he attempted to elbow the figure in their stomach.
Thinking quickly, Li pushed a heavy, hand-chiseled marble statue over onto the assailant, slightly scraping Samuel's leg and hip. He ran over to Samuel, pulling him out from under the god-like statue.
The sound of the statue hitting the cold floor simply left uncertainty. Nobody was crushed underneath, in fact, there was no trace of any attacker.
"Where did they go? Did anyone see where they went?" Atticus asked, quickly glancing all around the room.
"Gotta keep going," Samuel told Atticus through slow, heavy breaths. "Doesn't matter. Let's keep our focus on getting out."
Unsure of how to proceed, Atticus nodded, heeding the older man's advice. "Let's continue then, keep an eye out for that person though. And be alert, they might have done something to Melissa or the others."
A glint of light came from the shadowed corners of the room, and for a moment Atticus caught a glimpse of the attacker. Sunglasses, a leather jacket, and various small buckles and straps throughout his outfit. Apart from his questionable fashion choices, the person seemed completely human.
The massive knife that had been used to hold Samuel hostage had now slipped across Atticus' face, leaving a nasty cut from cheek to cheek across his nose. The figure skidded to a halt, turning around as a glass object made contact with his face.
Samuel kept his distance as he held a wooden stick behind him, his other hand held up to defend himself.
"We're destroying priceless artwork that has likely been in your lineage for generations, Samuel. Perhaps be a little more careful," Li said, picking up his cane and hiding behind a large artisanal vase.
The environment around Atticus shifted and swirled into a silhouetted simulacrum, as he slipped into another vision. Every shadow of the room illuminated itself as he saw a creature slither underneath the floor and through them. The serpentine figure emerged in the corner of the room, next to a large statue of a spartan-like man.
Returning to reality, Atticus leaped forward to the statue, grabbing the spartan's sword, and pointing it at the darkness beneath it. Taking a deep breath to prepare himself and as blood poured down his face and onto his body, he closed his eyes and plunged the blade forward, making contact with flesh.
The assailant's mouth, as he emerged from the shadows, was lodged open both by the sword and by shock as it stuck through the back of his throat. His glasses fell as he writhed in pain, revealing no human's eyes, but a pair of black, round orbs devoid of color.
Li and Samuel were taken aback after witnessing what had happened. Samuel placed one hand on his knee, taking a breath and letting off his shock. "Well," he said after a brief silence. "Guess that's been taken care of. But still, we need to try and get out of here quickly. Come on." Li nodded at Samuel and walked over to him.
Atticus let go of the blade's handle. After taking a sharp breath, he turned around and followed behind the other two.
Kicking at the pile of rubble in front of him, Marshall resorted to the only tactic he had left.
"Damn it, damn it! Why does this always happen to us?! First, we run out of fuel and we're stuck in this dump, then we have no food, and now we can't even leave because some bastard is shooting at us!"
"Calm down," Blossom snapped, surveying the area. "It seems like the front door is blocked by all of this. I figure the others are either stuck under this or on the other side. Getting angry isn't going to help the situation."
"Maybe I could calm down if I wasn't stuck with wheelchair girl and tin man," Marshall snapped, kicking at the pile again.
"We don't have time to just sit here," Blossom remarked. "We could be shot at again!"
"That attitude is extremely unnecessary, Marshall," Chris commented.
"I'm getting the hell out. Come on!" Marshall yelled, running through a large library into a nearby room that contained a pool table and some small black stools.
As the other two followed him into the room, he grabbed two billiard cues off of a rack and handed them to Blossom and Chris. "Take these, be quiet, and be aware of the shit around you."
Chris grabbed the cue as he looked around at the room. It had trophies, plaques, records, and a painting of a sports star hung on the wall.
"Where are you even taking us, Marshall?" Blossom asked, having slight trouble in keeping up with the boys. "Shouldn't we try to find our way outside of here?"
"What do you think I've been doing?" Marshall said as he walked to the other end of the room, which was decorated with a Halan vase. He quietly motioned for the others to follow. Manuals, recipe books, novels, calendars, and the like filled the shelves.
"Samuel would love this place."
He pulled a rusty cart of decaying literature that blocked the entryway to the next room out of the way. "Hope they're doing alright," he muttered under his breath.
"Maybe we'll get lucky and find an escape route," Chris said as the three of them left the recreation room. "You know, as opposed to continuously running from room to room when we can't even hear the gunshots anymore." This next room contained a desk and chair, but was mostly barren and dimly-lit.
Blossom shivered, dust filled every crevice of the room as if nothing had touched the space in ages. A decorated door caught her eye, a wreath hanging on it. "Maybe this is a way out...?" she grunted as she rolled herself over to the door. Before she could open it, Marshall stopped her.
"Wait a second," he yanked at his holster and pulled out his pistol, preparing himself for whatever lay behind the door. "Now go," he told her.
Blossom hesitantly followed Marshall's orders and opened the door. It revealed itself to be nothing more than a portico and brick patio, with a nearby shed that sat on the wrought iron fence. The area was silent except for the sounds of birds chirping. Moving past the girl, Marshall stepped outside and looked around. It was clear. Nothing more than gardening tools, a hose, and a rusted wheelbarrow. Remains of a garden hung on lattices and in raised boxes.
"There's nothing here. They left," Marshall said, surprised. As soon as he finished talking, gunshots rang through the air and landed next to the door — missing Marshall by only an inch. Marshall yelled an obscurity and jumped back into the room, slamming the door shut.
"That isn't going to work," he said. "The gunman is still out there, get away from the wall!"
Blossom and Chris quickly backed up, with Chris dropping to the floor. "What are we going to do?" He asked.
"Stay there," Marshall answered as he bent to the ground and slowly opened the door. He aimed his pistol outside of it and fired a few rounds.
"Did you get him? Can you even see where he's at?" Blossom asked, tightening her grip on her billiard cue.
"No and no, but I can guess due to the direction his shots came from,," Marshall said, readying his gun again. He instantly fired a few more shots, and was gifted with returning shots. The bullets lodged themselves just above the doorway, causing dirt and small pieces of wood to rain down.
Ducking behind the door again, Marshall counted the amount of bullets he had left. "I only have a few more shots left, we need to get lucky," he coughed.
Standing up, he bolted out the door and fired at a group of trees that were in the opposite direction of the incoming shots. After a moment had passed, Marshall heard a faint yell in the distance and knew he hit his target. Smiling, he called out for Chris and Blossom to come outside. As they slowly exited the manor, they both scanned the horizons.
"What happened? Did you get him?" Blossom asked.
"I got lucky," Marshall replied. "Let's go find the others."
Hidden from the trio's view, a young man sat on the ground. His leg was injured, with his gun and backpack placed by the trunk of a large tree. Cursing under his breath, he stood up and grabbed his equipment, heading deeper into the forest.
After the three managed to find their way out of the manor and meet up with the others near the entrance, a small reunion was held. As each group recounted their time apart, they learned of an assassin slain by Atticus and of an assistant who fled after being wounded by Marshall.
As the group prepared to leave the manor and explore more of the environment around them, Li suddenly remembered something the rest had forgotten.
"Melissa must be getting every can of fruit down there. I'll go check on her and see if she needs any assistance," the old man said as he got up from the porch bench and traveled back through the kitchen, marching towards the entrance of the cellar.
Walking down the damp steps, Li tried to maintain his balance as he gripped his cane and the moldy banister. Mildew lined the wall. The stairs fell into darkness, and he began feeling his way down. Upon reaching the bottom, a thin chain collided with his face to which he pulled and a single dim light turned on. In front of him, the cabinets of wine and fruit and vegetables stood tall, with Melissa bound by rope next to them. He ran over to her, muffled screams of help filled the room. Before long, he had untied her and they began walking back up the stairs.
"Where were you?! I thought he was going to kill me!" she asked, both frustrated and relieved.
"We just were exploring the place," he responded, smiling.
|Season One:||Catching Smoke • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Ceasefire • Hide & Seek • The Hounds • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Primo Victoria • Don't Fear the Reaper|
|Season Two:||Crumbling Castle • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better • Riding the Wave • Centuries of Damnation • House of the Rising Sun • The Master • Everybody Plays the Fool • Loyalty|