2019-10-28 - The Jackal Hungers


Fenris sends the Trio of friends in search of Gae Bulg.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Oct 28 05:09:44 2019
Location: Isle of Skye

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On the northwest corner of the Isle of Skye there is a ruined castle known as Dun Scaith. Supposedly it is at this place that the legendary warrior maiden Scatha (or Scathach) taught the hero of the Ulster Cycle to fight. And possibly to do other things, the stories are slightly unclear on that point. In any case, if this ever was her home there's not a whole lot left of it. Just a tumbled down outline of structures perched on a rather precarious (if fairly large) rock at the ocean's edge.

Being in the autumn it is grey and cold here and the wind is whipping little bits of sea spray around. It's far too cold for tourists and getting out here is kind of a pain which is why Fenris had opened up a Way for the travelers to get here. Appearances may be somewhat deceiving though as there is something most decidedly magical about the old ruin and given that the name of this place means 'Fortress of Shadows', guessing that something might be hidden here isn't too much of a stretch. The question really is how does one get the attention of 'The Shadow'.

Given that she is a legendary warrior, perhaps she might be called in the same way that one might call one of the Aesir. Both Sif and Astryd should be well familiar with traditional manners of announcing one's presences.

Dear Ambrose and his luck with the Ways of the Wolf God. He exits this latest portal looking moderately seasick and immediately steps off to one side with his palm firmly clapped over his mouth. A hard and almost audible 'gullup' of a swallow means he has his stomach under control afterwards. Inhaling hard through his nose, the master-thief then straightens in place. Fisting his hands on his hips must be a thing of the adage of 'fake it until you make it'.

"Yes, this place is bracing," he insists to himself. It does smell heavily of sea salt and hazy memories of the briefest childhood in England scuttle at the edge of his attention. In his thick and warm trench coat, revolvers out of sight at his hips and with knives stashed in places any assassin would be proud to acknowledge, he glances back at the others.

"There's no one here." Even if the statement seems trite, there's a sharp amusement to it. Something prickles at his senses and the Bane curls in his blood to warn him about it.

Having been warned that 'over there' is colder, Sif prepared by adding warmer elements to her armor. Things like sleeves. They arrive on the Isle of Skye, and she looks around. It's … not what she was expecting. It's chilly, yes, but she has perhaps let her time in Manhattan lead her to believe that all of Midgard is a bustling city. It's like arriving on a different realm, and it's a bit refreshing.

Seeing the old ruins and getting that feeling that there's more to this place, she looks to Astryd and Fenris before stepping forward and speaking in a clear voice. "We come to seek audience with Scathach of Midgardian legend."

There's nothing wrong with announcing oneself, right?

Astryd loves Scotland and is eager for this trip. She's dressed in a fur lined coat that hangs to her calves but won't hamper her movements should she need to fight.

"It's beautiful here, it really is. Last time I was in the part of the world …." she shakes her head. It was a long time ago.

Given Sif has announced them, the blonde moves off to the side, grey eyes watching the area for movement.

Rather than a verbal answer the air near the castle shimmers and the ruins are replaced entirely by a rather formidable looking dwelling surrounded by a stone enclosure. There's a fire burning on the inside of the enclosure, clearly, as there is smoke rising. The smell of cooking meat fills the air. Near Ambrose there are hides that are drying after having been tanned.

A dark haired woman who couldn't be more than 20 or so comes out from the enclosure and bows to the visitors. "Hello, Visitors from Far Away Asgard. And slightly less far away Britian. I am Uathach, daughter of Scathach. What brings you to our home?"

Sif gets a look betrayed from the master-thief, very used to NOT announcing himself in any manner whatsoever against his druthers. The look fades, however, as the shift in reality fades in. Swift side-steps bring him away from the drying hides and more into clear camaraderie with the small collection of Asgardians. Ah, the joys of being the one Midgardian out.

After a glance to the others, Ambrose affects a courtly bow. However, he doesn't say a word, trusting the Asgardians with their Announcing Voices to speak properly for the collective rather than flummox it all up.

Sif offers Uathach a warrior's bow and then addresses the topic at hand. "We have been tasked by the Finder to speak with the Lady Scathach regarding Gae Bolg." She figures that WHY the Finder would be asking after the spear would be more than clear enough.

And as much as she wants to look at the others to gauge their reactions thus far, she keeps her eyes and her attention on the young-looking woman before them. After all, that is the simplest way to show the respect that a warrior is due.

"Greetings Uathach, I am Astryd, Valkyr of Fenris. These are my travelling companions Lady Sif, of Asgard and Ambrose of Midgard. Thank you for the welcome to your home." The Valkyr inclines her head and nods to support what Sif asks.

"We come with guest gift." The blonde adds at the end, holding out a small flagon to the woman. "Only the best that Asgard has to offer."

"Well met indeed Astryd, Valkyr of the Old Wolf. And welcome to you both Ambrose and Sif. If you are here to speak to mother you are in luck. She is here. I might almost think she was expecting you. Come."

The young lady accepts the gift and leads them inside the enclosure, where there are animals - sheep mostly - and into the building at it's center. In here the smell of roasting meat combines with the heavenly aroma of baking bread. The furnishings are rustic. A far cry from the splendor of Asgard this place really does look like a 9th century dwelling. Well, a very CLEAN 9th century dwelling.

The lady of the house is not entirely unlike Sif. Tall, dark haired and well muscled. She is clearly a warrior by both the way she carries herself and the way she looks to them as they enter. She is also, it must be said, near heart breakingly lovely.

"Hello travellers from a far off land. Welcome into my home. Come, sit at my table and let me offer you bread and mead."

Earth mead, not Asgardian mead though a good honey mead it is. Uathach helps serve that and fades into the background when all are served.

"So. Two Asgardians and a man of Britannia come to my home inquiring about the legendary spear. There must be quite a story to this. I heard someone say the Finder set you on this task?"

Falling into place beside Sif, the Jackal remains silent yet during the escorting into the building. He eyes the entrances and exits, glances up at the ceiling to consider the beams and architecture, and keeps his hands in his pockets. Nothing like the supernatural and unknown threat to keep him on his best behavior.

Someone might notice him swallow at seeing Scathach herself. That is…some physique. She's granted a courtly bow from Ambrose before he seats himself. Another glance over at Sif and Astryd checks to see if the food is indeed edible; experience with the Fae has led him to be chary about such things.

Finally, he speaks up. "Yes, the Lady Sif did mention the Finder. She suggested we speak to you of your legendary spear." Ambrose favors Scathach with his most charming smile now.

Sif follows Uathach into the keep, looking around curiously as well until they're in Scathach's presence. She again offers a warrior's bow, but is almost unable to conceal her fascination at this warrior with hair as dark as hers. She accepts the offer of bread and mead as it would be dishonorable to refuse — hospitality is a Big Deal with Aesir.

"She did, yes. She bid us to speak with you about waking Gae Bolg to send to her." She doesn't admit aloud that that phrase doens't exactly make complete sense to her. Though, perhaps the spear is somewhat akin to Mjolnir in that respect?

"Our guest gift to you, Lady Scathach. Mead from the halls of Asgard and the cellars of my Lord." Astryd hands the flagon over and takes a seat when offered, accepting the guest meal as well.

"Ambrose has been tasked with a Quest, for which the Finder feels the Spear of Mortal Pain is required. It is part of his journey that he seeks it. The Lady Sif and I are his Companions on this journey."

"We seek to … disrupt those Who Sit Above In Shadows."

"That is a rather dangerous game." Scathach notes to Astryd. "As they see much from their hidden perch."

She accepts the gift and even takes a sip. It's quite good and it's clear she'll savor it. The woman pauses to sort of push her hair back out of her face and hook it behind her ear and it might be a trick of the light but it seems to turn from a pure, gleaming black to a deep auburn color. Scathach gives Ambrose a sidelong look and winks.

"Fortunately for you I am quite willing… to part with the spear. But it does need to be woken and as such things happen there is a test of worthiness that is involved. The spear will only suffer to be held by one worthy of the legacy of Cu Chulainn. The Finder was wise to send three of you as the spear judges a man by his companions as much as by his own heart."

There's a short pause as the Warrior-Witch watches the three who have come beneath her roof. "It is well named, the Spear of Mortal Pain. I warn you, the test it sets before you will prove painful indeed."

Ambrose slows in chewing his polite mouthful of bread upon seeing the shift in color and the wink to follow. He swallows his mostly-masticated bite with some quiet effort and there's a wisp of Kent's wisdom through his mind —

— shoved aside with a firm hand because old habits die terribly, terribly hard.

A sip of non-Asgardian mead wets his mouth and loosens his tongue a little more. "I suspect that my companions are of great merit and worthy to be judged as beyond simple company alone by leaps and bounds." He barely arches an eyebrow at Scathach even as his lips begin to curl into another smile, once more agleam with curiosity and the idea that a laugh lies just behind his teeth. "I fear no pain. I would not have accepted the Finder's quest without great forethought."

Or, really, grand self-confidence and actually very little forethought.

Sif also samples the bread and mead and … finds both quite acceptable. No, she won't suffer any ill effects from this mead as it's far too weak comparatively, but it has a good flavor. And the bread? It's enough like what she's accustomed to on Asgard that it actually causes a brief pang of homesickness. All told, it's vastly superior to the soft colorless foam that Midgardians in Manhattan seem to prefer.

When the fact that the spear will exact a test from them, she can't find it in herself to be surprised, but at the same time, she has to glance at Ambrose with perhaps a hint of concern. He is, after all, the only Midgardian amongst them, and as such the only one deemed 'mortal' by Midgardian reckoning.

"Yes, they do, it is true." Astryd says easily as she sips from the mead that is offered. There's the slightest of smirks as she sees the hair colour change and she looks to Ambrose, raising a brow.

"I expected test, Lady Scathach and I expect that Ambrose will meet it. What is it you required of us, his Companions on this journey? Pain …. life is pain I believe a rather an insightful Midgardian once wrote."

"I have heard that as well. The great midgardian sage Cary Eweles I believe." Scathach smiles and rises from the table to go to the wall. The spear is there. It's a plain looking thing. A shaft of reddish wood surmounted by a blackened iron head. Barbs run around both edges. She stabs it into the floor and it sinks in as if it were made of soft earth.

"Simply place your hands on the shaft when you are ready. How it will test you I do not know."

Though the lady of the house does not push them she does wait by the spear. Once everyone is ready and has their hands on it she steps back.

And that's when ALL of them feel Ambrose's Bane. The hunger within him seems suddenly powerful and intense. It reaches out toward both of the Jackal's companions to feed.

What is the measure of a man? What he will do, or not do, for the sake of his friends. What is the measure of his friends? What they will allow for the sake of the man.

"And anyone trying to convince you otherwise is attempting to sell you something," Ambrose idly notes in a near undertone, smugly smiling to himself. Someone is at least up to date with that particular film. Blame Kent and Sterling, Kent's son, the true movie aficionados in the household.

He pauses in lifting the mug of sweet mead to his lips when Scathach rises. His eyes follow her motions, including that of anchoring the spear itself within the floor with little to no effort. Throat moving in yet another swallow, the Jackal then rises to his feet. His steps over to the weapon are cautious and for all he keeps his poise loose-limbed, there's still the impression he might fly back like a scalded cat at the first sign of anything weird.

"I believe the saying is 'no time like the present'," he comments, looking to Sif and Astryd.

When he wraps his palms about the red-wood shaft, it feels to warm to his skin immediately like a pleasant bath. Then comes the luxurious curling summoning of the Bane from beneath his skin, where it usually lies dormant in his bones. His sigh is nearly sensuous, as if he'd popped a joint back into place. Half-lidded eyes with pupils blown wide and gleaming carmine glance over at the other two women.

Then comes the sudden upsurge of influence to make his throat close off. He grimaces and shudders, eyes rolling up into his head before flat-out baring his teeth in vibrating reaction, sight scrunched to darkness.

Desire. Want — desperate need to take — to slake, he's so thirsty, and gods below, both of the women are nearly endless wellsprings of life-force so bright it makes to blind his inner eyes. If he didn't stop — if he let the Bane run its course — would he attain a god-hood of his own by dint of sheer stolen energy alone?

The Bane whispers to the women: Shhhh…lay down…bow your heads and close your eyes for a time…rest is within grasp —

— before it screels as Ambrose firmly yanks back on the curse's needle-clawed attempt to pull from them. His palms get to burning as if he were holding a bar newly-pulled from the flames, but he doesn't release the shaft of the spear, even if this brings forth echoes of his oldest fear: fire.

Cary Eweles? This is not a name Sif has heard before, and should any of the Midgardians who work in the Embassy ever learn this, she would likely be forced to sit down and watch a particular film. But that thought doesn't actually occur to her as Scathach stands and brandishes a fairly plain looking spear. She's done her share of tests in the past, this one holds no surprises so far as she can tell.

Dusting off her hands, she stands and approaches the spear, gripping the reddish wood without any trepidation. She doesn't even shy away from the sensation of the Bane, having felt it before without realizing what it actually was. She can only associate the sensation with Ambrose, and she's learned to trust that his actions can be honorable even if his intentions seem questionable at times.

Her eyebrows draw together and she frowns at the Bane's whispers, but has never been one to just lay down as it seems to be trying to persuade her into. No, she will stand. The abrupt retreat of the Bane startles her more than anything else, and her eyes snap over to look at Ambrose.

Now, her expression is clear. Concern.


"Indeed he did, Lady Scathach. Only with a series of other great utterances." Astryd inclines her head. She loves that movie.

When Ambrose takes the spear, the Valkyr turns to watch with those stormy grey eyes of hers. The whispering is soft, barely noticeable but she does feel the need to rest …. no, that's not right. Steeling herself, wincing at the screel, Astryd stands so quickly she knocks the chair over. Hands close over Ambroses as she holds his gaze. "Look at me, Ambrose. You *can* control this."

Ordinarily that would be the end of it. Ambrose's control over his Bane is considerable. He's had a lot of time to practice after all. But this is not just Ambrose acting. Something within the spear itself seems to call to the Bane and point it at the women he's with and that HUNGER gnaws at him. It's like he's been starving this entire time and only now just realizes it.

Fire. He can feel the heat. Smell the smoke. Now Sif and Astryd can too. The smoke of Asgard burning as Fire Giants push through it. Would it indeed not be easier to lie down? All is lost anyway. Ragnarok has come and nothing they could do was enough. Fire shall consume everything.

Or was that Ambrose? Is it Ambrose that is going to consume everything?

Sweat has sprung out on Ambrose's brow. He thinks to hear his own teeth creak in his jaw as the heat on his palms grows hotter yet. From a far, far distance, he hears Astryd speaking — is that Astryd? — the Bane overlays atop her voice in a manipulation of pitch. Opening his eyes in a flutter of agony, the Valkyrie gets to see the master-thief's pupils blown wide to make his irises thin blue rings. Entirely red now, as deeply hued as fresh blood and glimmering like the facet of a garnet, his gaze. It can't be certain that he's even seeing Astryd in front of himself.

His mouth moves to form words, but they can't be made out given it falters into a rictus of his stomach seeming to attempt to gnaw through the back of his spine. It hurts on par with few things he's experienced in his long-lived life. Smoke curling up to brush at his temples and fill his nose has him gasping all the faster. The shaft isn't hot anymore: it's gone beyond that, to where nerves are convinced it's cold instead, cold enough to burn him to the bone. His very grip trembles against releasing, with nerves seizing tighter to the star-chilled wood.

Tears fill his purblind, staring eyes. He's going to die — no, he's not, the Bane will keep him alive — no, it won't, not without a host body — it will, forever healing him and preventing it — extending his suffering — peace — he wants peace — life — he wants to live — for friends to live — to see Kent again —

Shuddering harder yet, the Jackal digs in his heels and promises himself just a little nibble later — anything to slake the Bane's insistence to glut itself. A whimpering growl can be heard with every hard exhale now as he yanks HARD for control.

The sensation of experiencing Asgard burn is horrific, and Sif is by no means immune. The only thing she has in her favor is the knowledge that this is a test. What was it she heard one of the Embassy staff? 'Fear is the mind-killer.' She refuses to let this scare her into letting go of the spear and leaving Ambrose and Astryd to deal with the consequences on their own.

Without really putting any thought into it, she puts her free arm around Ambrose in a potentially damaging embrace. It's as much for herself as for him.

Astryd's nostrils flare as she smells the smoke. Sweat beads on her forehead as she feels the heat. Then she laughs. A long raucous laugh. "Is that the best that can be offered?" She challenges. "This is the worst vision you can think to give to me?" It's not *easy* to do this but she can do it. "I laugh in the face of this disaster. Come … give me a *real* challenge."

Sif will think the Valkyr has lost her mind.

As to offering the Bane a nibble, Astryd looks into Ambrose eyes - she can sense the hunger within him. "Feed if you must, you are my friend."

And then …. it's over. The burning stops. The scent of smoke completely gone.

The three are left in Scathach's house, with the Witch and the spear.

"Congratulations, Ambrose of Brittania, you have awoken Gae Bulg. It is yours to deliver to the Finder."

"Would you all care for more mead?"

Someone's holding him up against complete collapse — thank god for it, because Ambrose's long-bones feel like they're about to disintegrate within his own limbs.

Someone's speaking to him again and even as he peels the Bane away into himself like he would a blood-soaked bandage from a half-clotted wound, the words comes more into focus — out of the sullied curse-touched madness, he recognizes Astryd —

— Sif, he can feel her strength pressing into his outer bicep and ribs —

— and the sudden cessation is so much a counter to the overwhelming sensory tsunami that Ambrose can't help the quiet shout. His palms must be melted to the spear — but they aren't. He stares at the reddish wood staff and blinks, feeling water leak at the corners of his eyes. His hands are fine. There's no smoke.

There's Astryd still, holding his gaze, and it's uncanny. Something in his soul quivers at the Valkyrie's intense focus. His throat can be seen to move again as he tears his gaze away from her to look at Sif and then at Scathach, as if their existences were now confirmed once more.

"…the good stuff, please, milady," he whispers reedily.

Apparently, in his success, the Jackal would very much like a glass of Asgardian mead.

Sif grits her teeth and keeps a near death grip on Ambrose, even after the stench of fire and the pain abruptly stops. She suspects he'd collapse to the floor if she let him go, but also knows if he's anything like the warriors of Asgard he'll refuse to admit to it. Thus, she keeps her arm around the Midgardian as he asks for some mead, and leads him back to the table to sit.

"Astryd?" She's not even sure what she wants to ask of the Valkyr, but…

"Of course…" Scathach answers pouring from the flagon that Astryd brought with her. "Sit and dine. Recover before you leave."

Astryd helps Sif to get Ambrose to a chair and then takes one herself. "We can speak on this later, Lady Sif. When Ambrose is recovered."

Ambrose will look forward to that, won't he?

For now though, they'll recover and then go home.

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