Darkness Calls

The group trudged their way through the Ashen camp following their Ashen guide. The news that Mortimer had indeed been this way had Oaks eager to be moving. So much so that he marched ahead as they closed on the outer perimeter of the Ashen territory and was almost impaled by a bronze spear shaft throw from the top of an outer watch tower.

He came to a jarring halt and almost fell over the weapon with a curse. Gabriel saved him from the fall and caused him to curse further as the man squeezed his arm where they had removed the Elesian device with the tip of the bounty hunters blade. If he were back in Dusk it would have required stitches but out here a tightly wrapped bandage would serve.

Their guide chuckled quietly to himself as he lifted the spear from the ground and waved to his kinsman standing guard on the tower. The approached a tall wire fence now, the view of the Darklands obscured by tin sheeting, painted black. It shook in the breeze making a sound like rolling thunder. Next to the watch tower a high gate stood locked and as they walked towards it an Ashen rose from the ground next to it causing Oaks to gape. He had not seen the man until he moved. These Ashen were bloody unnerving.

There was an exchange of words and then a key was produced to unlock the chains that bound the gate allowing them to move forward. Oaks attached his breather as they stepped out into the Darklands proper. Gabriel placed a hand on his shoulder and gave the distant horizon an unfriendly look.

"You sure about this?" he asked, his voice muffled by the apparatus.

"I am not giving up now." Oaks replied.

The northern vista was bleak. Grey soil crunched beneath their feet kicking up clouds of pallid dust that rose about them as they walked. Up above the Maelstrom continued to boil and in the distant green forks of electrical discharge could be seen striking the barren earth. There was no life, no plants, no animals, no birds. Just the dead earth and the poisoned sky as far as the eye could see.

They left the Ashen fence behind them and struck west skirting the foothills of the southern Mountains. The sight of those tall peaks reaching up into the dark clouds was intimidating in a different way, like the gods of the earth had reached up to touch the wrathful goddess of the Maelstrom and had lost in the exchange. Scorched black and lifeless the bones of the earth were laid bare to the victor.

They walked on saying little as their guide moved them ever closer to the looming foothills. It was about half an hour in that Tesla started to laugh for no apparent reason. Syren muttered something under her breath, like the guide she wore no breather, and Fiasco punched his friend in the arm bringing him to his senses.

"Whats wrong with him do you think?" Oaks whispered to Gabriel, but no response came. Looking over he saw that the bounty hunter was staring off towards the north west, his hand hovering over his gun. Oaks placed a hand on his shoulder and the man jumped.

"Shit! Don't do that." Gabriel bristled.

"What were you looking at?" Oaks asked, but Gabriel would no answer. He kept his head down and picked up his pace. It was then that Oaks heard the voice,

"He hides in the dark." Randall stopped and looked around at the sound of the whispered words.

"What did you say?" he shouted towards the others, but only the guide turned, a knowing look on his face.

"Keep moving." he ordered.

"In the shadows... shadows. He hides in the dark." the voice was unmistakable now and Oaks swore as he looked around again. There was no place for anyone to be and he was almost certain the others had not spoke. He had heard stories about the Darklands sending people crazy. Something in the air...

"In the air." came the voice, not whispered now but deep and resonant. Oaks stumbled and rubbed his eyes. He was finding it difficult to breath in the mask, he fumbled for the strap to take it off.

"So tight... must breath... the darkness calls." Oaks tore at the mask and it came free. He took a deep breath and began to choke. The world swam in and out of focus.

"Child of clay.... clay." hissed the voice. Oaks stumbled forwards.

"Come out to play."
The guide was shouting something but he could not make out the words. The others were turning back towards him. No not the others... he fell back with a scream. Terrible figures of shadow.. warped, nightmare creatures lumbering towards him calling his name. He tried to run but his legs felt heavy.

One of the creatures grabbed him and he lashed out wildly. Sharp teeth bit into his arm.. he remembered the wound where the probe had been... no not teeth. A huge distorted beast grabbed hold of him.

"Seven and seven." the voice hissed. "Seven and Seven? What does it mean?" Oaks screamed as he struggled to get free. "Seven and seven." he repeated over and over as the beast carried him beneath the earth and darkness took him.

OOC: Just to remove doubt Oaks has gone nuts and is totally seeing/hearing things. The others would have just seen him lose it etc...

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