Spending the rest of the night in the city their dreams were plagued by the lone scavenger. Both of them waking to the realization this phantom had somehow infested both their minds. Resolving to check the last place marked on the map, what looked like an old bunker, they had found Sera and Rebekka made their way back to the outskirts of Tiergarten.
Collecting what supplies they had Rebekka collected her knives and a few grenades she had squirreled away in case of emergency. The Wastes was a dangerous place and what was the phrase? Luck favors the prepared?
Asking around it didn’t take long to find someone heading into the Wastes. While not past the bunker, he got them close. From there they were on their own. Several kilometers from their destination they began their trek.
Barren fields still scorched from the War. At points it was hard to tell if the occasional abandoned vehicle were from soldiers or scavengers who ran out of luck. They walked through the hard places of the earth. The places man had poisoned that refused to die but were left scared.
Prying open an the old hatch Rebekka led the way down. Week old chem lights still resonated with a faint green glow. The bunker seemed to radiate with Verdant force. For a moment she though she saw the spirit of the man walking ahead of them. The image fading as they rounded stairs down.
Cut from the earth the bunker had been reinforced with steel. four gun slits had been blocked by dirt but the mounts were still in place for machine guns. In the center of the bunker protected by a short guard rail was a hatch. Here the bunker became more earth than metal. Ladder rungs bolted to stone led down to a small carved out barracks.
Long since ransacked all that remained were bunk bed frames and rotted matrices. at the far corner the ground had given out and a tunnel opened up. Barely a crawlspace, still chem lights marked the way. On all fours they followed. Again it was as if they could see the man who had burned up not three days prior.
Down, always down, the tunnel was wet and earth gave way to mud as the slope increased. Sliding down Rebekka and Sera were deposited in a natural cavern. At the far end a small aquifer bubbled up. The water was crystal clear and inside floated what looked like a marble.
The image of the scavenger waded out sending ripples through the pond. Reaching for the gem just under the surface he was drawn in vanishing. The women stood there unsure what to do.
Cautiously they fashioned a net to retrieve the marble without touching it. Pulling it from the tiny lake saw it clearer now, a sphere of water. Skittishly Rebekka poked at the marble with a dagger. It did not pop, bowing to the blade it rippled as she pulled back.
After a bit of experimentation Sera cautiously lifted the sphere. Touching it she could hear the spirit of the scavenger in her mind begging to be set free. Inside this drop Verdant Essence was the trapped soul of the man who had found it.
Unsure Sera forced it into an empty canteen. Much to their surprise it quickly filled with water. Pouring it out the gem was stuck inside but the bottle quickly refilled itself. All the while the cries of the scav rang out in her mind.
Taking the canteen hesitation gave way to curiosity as Rebekka drank the purest tasting water of her life. Strangely refreshed she watched as the canteen began to refilled itself. This however did nothing to settle the trapped spirit.
Stowing the canteen with the marble still inside the pair slogged their way back up through the mud. Up from the barracks it was as if they had stepped back in time. The sounds of gunfire rang from outside the bunker. Checking the hatches out they could hear people on either side.
Uncertainty returned and Sera and Rebekka fled back down into the earth. Sera tried to seal the hatch behind her but the lock had been forced and no longer sealed. Lower the dropped back into the cave hoping to wait things out.
Tense minutes passed but fortune was not on their side. Soon came the sounds of boots hitting the ground and men in the tunnels. Scared the women prepared for the worse. taking up positions on either side of the cave tunnel’s opening hoping to use the muddy slide to their advantage.
Soon enough men in dirty camo outfits came sliding down. They held their rifles above their heads and before they could react the women truck. Knives and claws make short work of the men. One does manage to fire off a shot before Rebekka brought his life to a close.
The exchange had been quick and vicious without a word spoken. Sera fell back, the wound in her chest should have been fatal. Had she not been infused with supernatural force herself it would have been.
Laying her friend out Rebekka remembered the purity of the water. Pouring out the canteen she tried to clean Sera’s wound. As the water touched flesh it began to burn washing the worst of the hurt away. Half in amazement Sera pulled herself up looking at the now spent canteen begin to refill itself. Intentions began to shift as they looked at the canteen.
“Can you imagine how much we would make using this with my medical skills?” The question resonated between them and the voice of the trapped Scavenger seemed to fade. There wasn’t much time to think about things like that though. They still needed to get free.
Collecting what they could from the bodies Sera and Rebekka began the journey back up. While in the tunnel they could hear others in the barracks. They froze. Turning Sera whispered back to her partner, grenade. They were underground but having been shot once she knew there was no surviving a firefight with more of these gunmen.
Throwing the explosives the chamber around them shook filling with dust and debris. In the confusion Sera took aim with the rifle she had taken off one of the men. In the confusion though she couldn’t get a clear shot off. Having never really fired a gun she wasn’t expecting miracles but it was a useless attempt. Turning the women quickly tried to get back down below hoping they may have goaded whoever was up there into coming after them.
As they fled a shot rang out rearing through Rebekka’s throat.The woman fell and the pair slid back down through the mire. Frantic Sera pulled the canteen off her body but it was still mostly empty. Grunting she drug her partner into the pool dropping the canteen hoping that the magic would work again.
Blood drifted out along the aquifer. The canteen filled. The gem began to turn the water. With a gasp Rebekka found herself pulled back from the edge of death. They were trapped though. Unable to leave they waited. Eventually a voice somewhere closer to a growl echoed down the tunnel.
“Give us the gem and I’ll allow you to live.”
“What gem?” Sera eventually called back.
“Don’t play coy, we’ve come for the same prize.”
“How do you know we have some gem?” There was laughter at this question.
“Do not be a fool girl I sensed it just like you have. Now give it to me and you can live.” This was the first time ether Sera or Rebekka had encountered another Lucid. There was a quick realization that this was not a man who needed to hide. He did not fear and they suspected lived better than inside a gutted van.
“We’re fine down here.”
“You’ll starve to death.”
“You’ll need to eat too.”
“I can call for reinforcements.” His statement was followed by a laugh that resonated in mire. “Just give me the gem and you can walk away.”
“How can we trust you?”
“That is something you’ll have to decide for yourselves.”
Backing away from the tunnel the women talked going over their options. Asking era for her last grenade they came up with a plan they thought might work.
“Alright, you come down alone, tell your men to leave.” This time it was Sera and Rebekka who were met with silence. Then they sensed him, the powers of the Grave seemed to swim around him. They knew he was coming.
When they finally saw the man he was unlike the others. Wearing a nice black suit, although frayed he seemed to somehow be above everything going on around him. There was no malice in his expression when he looked at them. Holding the canteen with the gem in one hand she held the unpinned grenade in the other.
“Now we walk out together.”
“As you wish.” Stepping aside he motioned for them to go first up the incline. While a struggle to hold everything Rebekka helped Sera up and out of the tunnel. The barracks was empty save for the remains of those caught in the explosion. Rebekka finally spoke.
“You’re not angry about your men?”
“They are mundane, what do they matter?” There was an amused expression on his face. Rebekka couldn’t tell if it was from her question or from watching Sera attempt to navigate the ladder with a live grenade.
“Aren’t you worried we’ll attack you?”
“No, that would be a mistake.” Again the meaning was lost.
Outside they saw the remains of the battle that had occurred. Bodies littered the scorched earth. There was a small camp where the remainder of the surviving combatants waited. It looked like this is where they had taken cover during the battle above. There were several cars and vans that had been moved near the makeshift camp.
“Now, I have been accommodating, it is time for you to hand over the gem.”
“How do we know you wont just shoot us now?” Reaching into his pocket the man fished out a set of keys.
“Take my car. The gem is what’s important to me, not you.” Reaching out Rebekka took the keys from him. Sera handed the gem before sliding the pin back in the grenade.
“The gem, the spirit of a man is trapped inside. He’s haunted us for days.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him anymore.” With the statement Sera could sense his power.
“What’s your name?”
“It does not matter to you what my name is.”
“What, what if I wanted to work for you?” Again the question was fallowed by laughter.
“Most people call me the Barron.” Turning his back on them he crossed the filed signaling to the men it was time to head back down.
There was a moment of relief with the Barron gone. The man hadn’t asked for anything else. It was obvious though that this was a man who cared little for human life. Yet, at the same time he seemed to be the first that might actually be able to protect them.
As the drove the world seemed to stretch out before them. Had they made the right choice? What would it mean to align themselves with such a man?There was a relief and they both felt it, but what would the ultimate cost be?