Blinking in the harsh light, Todd gripped his throbbing head in his hand and sat up awkwardly, his other hand ripping the scarf from around his handsome face forcibly. "Was ist dies?" Todd growled as he took in the surrounding landscape, not recognizing anything in the vast desert and hastily bought his goggles to his eyes, shielding them from the harmful rays. Whatever this place was, it was far from him home. Standing carefully, Todd shook his scarf, removing the dust and sand that had clung to it and wrapped it in his hands. Scanning around, the German man took in the two other people lying unconscious in the blazing heat.
One of them, a man dressed in a dusty trench coat and an old pinstriped suit, came to with a groan and a raging hangover. His hand patted around for his hat, but came back with only sand. Now his eyes opened and were punished by the violent light that exploded in his skull. Blinking it away furiously, he squinted to see the desolate landscape he woke up in. He sat up and groaned, confused, but his heart just sighed and said to itself, So it's gonna be one of those days, is it? His hand finally found his dully-colored fedora. He dusted it off and shoved it on his head to relieve his eyes a little from the cackling sun. He got to his feet, his back to Todd, and rummaged through his coat, suddenly wary--ah, there it is. The smooth handle greeted his rough hand with reassurance, still safely stored in its leather holster.
Todd watched with leery eyes, taking out a weapon and letting the blade slide out. The familiar and undistinguishable ssschink that the end of the metal made when it came to a halt sounded through the hot, still air. It was a voiceless challenge and question. Who the fuck are you? Although yes, the edge was out glinting in the light, Todd held it at a neutral position and made no attempt to stalk forward. He simply... held his ground.
The man whirled around at the sound, the revolver out of its holster in a heartbeat, and the hammer cocked its own grim reply as he stared down the sights at Todd, as dressed as oddly as the surrounding landscape. He looked almost like he belonged here. Seeing the blade, his stance became that of a lawman...I will kill you if I have to.
Asking carefully in several different languages, Todd spoke the obvious question, "Do you speak English? Do you know where we are?" He knew very well what was aiming his way, knew, but didn't flinch. His German accent wasn't very heavy, but it was still apparent and would be more noticeable if he encountered "th".
"Yes," The man sighed in relief, lowering his gun. Todd didn't seem any more in control than he was, so he relinquished his threat. "I speak English, but as for where we are, you know more than I do." His eyes never left the German's.
Smiling slightly, "Well, I don't know anyt'ing, so we're bot' on the same page." Todd retracted his blade as well and fingered the carvings on the housing, "T'is place I do not recognize, but I believe it to be a desert. I've never seen one before, except in books." The glaring sun was annoying him, but Todd gracefully stepped through some thorny bushes and knelt at the side of the third person. He was still unconscious.
The man holstered his revolver and followed him, standing on the other side of the man's head. "I've only flown over them. I'm not familiar with where this is." He gazed at the man's face, then at Todd. "Do you know who this is?"
"I haven't a clue." Todd pushed at the nose guard of his goggles before touching his forehead lightly, then putting it over his mouth to feel his breath. "He's alive, but we should probably find some shade, and soon."
Solomon glanced at the landscape grimly. There were a few sharp-looking shrubs here and there, but no trees big enough to give any kind of shade. "Over there," He said. "The rocks. About a mile or so, I bet there's a cave, or at least a bigger rock to hide under." He smirked at Todd, then stared down at the unconscious man. "Hey, he's got a sword, too," He noted. "He must be from the same circus act you are."
Glancing at the weapon, "I do not know about t'is... circus act... but t'at sword is quite old." Todd looked at his own for a moment, "Mine weren't made where his was." The German sighed and shifted his weight. Then, "You want t'eh feet or head?"
"I'll take his feet," Solomon resigned, reaching over and untying the belt that held the strange man's sword and secreting it away into the folds of his trenchcoat. He grabbed his legs near the ankles and looked to the German. "Ready?"
"Ja Herr," Todd replied politely, then grunted as they lifted the third man into the air. "So... why have you not tried-" He paused and reworded his question, "...not taken my weapons away?" Narrowly avoiding a crag of brush, Todd caught his footing again.
"Watch it--" Solomon warned, walking around the spiky plants. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't seem the sort to pick a fight with a revolver in some godforsaken desert," He explained, sweating through his shirt. "You are also not possibly drunk or drugged off your ass."
Todd kept his gaze on the other man before nodding, then added, "I'm Todd. Would it be safe to assume t'at you are some sort of... Polizei?" Being careful to keep avoiding the nasty plants that somehow survived in this heat, the German man wished he could take off his hood but at the moment, it was more important to reach shade then his own comfort.
Solomon snorted. "Not anymore." He stared past Todd to the rocks, which didn't seem to get any closer. A long moment passed climbing over nasty shrubbery before he said, "Solomon Ash. Nice to meet you, Todd."
"It is good t'at we have met," Glancing over his shoulder, Todd kept his footing for the rest of the trip, by that time his breath was coming in ragged and once they reached the small outcropping he set down the man as fast as he could. Stripping, Todd went down to his pants, laying the rest of his clothes along the rocks to dry. Without the clothes, it showed that he was a very lean man, young and pale.
"Circumstances leave a lot to be desired," Solomon quipped, setting the man down and shedding most of his clothes as well. It was evident he was an older man than Todd, and tanner, and developing a bit of paunch. He sat down in the shade and took off his hat, trying to run the sand from out of his hair.
The necklace around Todd's neck glittered in the bright sun, making him look strange along with his dark goggles over his eyes. "What... what are we going to do out here?" He asked Solomon, not sure how to respond to the situation at hand.
Solomon squinted at the inhospitable landscape, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well..." He pondered, gritting his teeth. "We're going to need water very soon. You know anything about wilderness survival, Todd?"
He shook his head and put his hands on his scrawny hips while looking around. "Not out here." However then, "What about t'at darker splash of land over t'ere?" He pointed to the right slightly, away from the sun.
"Hmm," Solomon mused. "Could be worth a try." He looked down at the unconscious man and kicked his foot. "I'll stay with him. You go check it out."
Staring at him, Todd suddenly chuckled and pulled out one of his weapons, leaving its twin behind. Wordlessly he left Solomon behind and sauntered off in the direction said. He wasn't worried about safety out here, but whatever it was he saw, it couldn't be that far away, right?
With an open invitation to fate like THAT, Solomon wasn't surprised when an hour had passed with no sign of Todd or the stranger waking up. He sat on a small boulder and stared at the wilderness, keeping his clothes--and the stranger's sword--on the other side of him. They still had a full afternoon between them and evening, but the shadow of the rock was growing, not shrinking. Thank God for little favors.
He checked his revolver. Still clean, with all six shots. Good. He set it back in the holster at his hip and looked at the unconscious man lying a few feet from him. He didn't seem any more prepared for this climate than he or Todd were, so it was likely he'd get no answers from him. His clothes were dully colored if they weren't pitch black like the hood obscuring his face, and it would be ludicrous to be carrying a weapon like Todd's or like this sword alone unless he knew how to use it. Likely he had other weapons on him, a hunting knife at least.
Solomon pulled his wifebeater and shirt back on, but didn't button the latter. Rifling through his coat, he found a half a pack of cigarrettes and a book of matches, hitting the bottom of the carton against his palm before picking one and lighting it. He took a drag, savored it, blew out a silver stream of smoke, stared at the unconscious man. It was going to be a long day.
In the distance the soft sound of crunching sand drifted through the air, and finally Todd came into view. "Found water... an uh... an oasis." Shrugging his shoulders, he apologized, "I didn't have anyt'ing to hold water, but it isn't too far off." Todd didn't mention the problems that arised there, and why it took so long, instead he motioned with his hand, "Es ist t'is way." He took up his articles of clothing and put away his weapons before grabbing onto the still knocked out man's shoulders. He waited for Solomon.
Solomon ground out his third cigarrette and stood, hiding the sword again in his coat and swinging the old duster over his shoulders, buttoning at the top so it hung loosely like a cloak. He lifted the stranger by the ankles with a huff. "My question is, what is this bastard taking and where can I get some?"
"Taking?" Todd was confused, and grimaced from the weight but did not complain about it. "It is about a mile to t'eh East, and keep an eye out for anyt'ing... suspicious."
Solomon cocked an eyebrow. "Raiders?" He growled. Even if the man was conscious, it was very likely they wouldn't survive an attack. He swallowed drily. They wouldn't last long without water.
"No... not raiders." Todd replied after a few minutes of lugging the dead weight up the side of a slight gorge. "Lions. Hungry ones at t'at."
"Jesus," Solomon shook his head in disbelief. "We should be fine, what with carrying a defenseless and cumbersome body around. How many?"
Todd looked away for a moment before answering, "Well, t'ere were sieben, that I counted. But possibly more."
"Keep moving," Solomon told him, and quickened his pace. He looked past him at the splash of color on the landscape. It was getting closer, but very slowly. "If they attack, we drop him and fend them off. Got it?"
"Best plan I've heard yet," He replied, adjusting his weight for the increase in speed before he made sure one of his dowels was within easy reach. "Dat gun will only be good for a few rounds... better to use t'is fellow's sword if you have to."
"I'm a better shot than fencer," Solomon replied. "I can hold my own. With any luck we'll avoid them entirely." He kept his sentences short, as the quickened pace took more of his breath to maintain, and also to keep his ears keen for warning signs.
Todd nodded in response, turning around and taking the knocked out man against his back so he could see in front of him. "Not far now." That was when the sound of a roar drifted to them on the breeze. "Gott..." Todd mumbled, annoyed, "Drop t'eh guy, we can't protect him at t'eh same time."
"Sunuva..." Solomon set his end down. This wasn't a very defensible point. The oasis was still at least half a mile out, surrounded by wilderness. He drew his revolver and cocked it, standing with his back to the body, his eyes scanning the horizon.
Also standing with his back to the man, Todd pulled out both wooden sticks, unsheathing one blade while the other he kept hidden. "T'ese lions... Ah... t'ey have large teet'." He warned.
"Oh, Jesus," Solomon moaned, catching sight of movement. Striped movement. "Those are too big to be lions, Todd." He kept his gun trained on the brush but lost his target.
"I have never seen a lion before, so sorry I don't know what t'ey are exactly!" Todd yelled in reply, then grunted as a tan force slammed into him. The creature roared in his face, roared with quite large fangs on either side of his face, "Holy Fuc-" Todd hit the button on his weapon, sending the blade into the sabertooth's brain.
"TODD!" Solomon yelled, having only the time to look behind him to see a glimpse of the huge animal on top of him before the roar in front of him harolded another galloping sabertooth. He heard the crack of his revolver before he realized he'd pulled the trigger. The huge tiger stumbled, blood spurting from its eye, and fell to the ground. Before it could skid to a halt, Solomon had half a second to glimpse the huge knifelike fangs before they sank into his left shoulder, and no time at all to anticipate the impact of the huge animal as it barreled into him.
Under the carcass, Todd scrabbled to get out when another beast pounced on it, snarling and tearing into it's dead comrade mercilessly. Cannibals? he thought, surprised, but put the thought away while he tried to escape. Another one some feet away hissed at him while slinking around to also tear at the fallen beast, "We should go, now!"
Solomon cried out as the sabretooth pulled its fangs from his shoulder, now on top of him. It sank its teeth directly into his chest, apparently set on stabbing him to death. He was faintly aware of something tugging at his neck and snapping. His own screams of pain ringing in his ears, he grit his teeth and rammed the revolver into its eye, blowing its brains out the other side of its skull. "GODDAMMIT--" he groaned, pushing the head off of him. The fangs slid out of his chest with a sickening sound. In the back of his mind he wondered how he had the strength move it, but that was pushed even further back by the fact that he had a fucking tiger still on top of him. He pushed it further off and wriggled from underneath it with great difficulty, his eyes trained on the other tigers. He was wounded prey now. Get up, he thought, on your feet, you sunuvabitch, NOW! He half-crawled towards Todd, stumbling to his feet.
The only sabertooth not occupied took a growling step toward Solomon, then stopped when the unconsious man groaned. Todd, his hand grabbing onto his companion's shirt with one hand, froze. Latching onto the body, the man was dragged away, waking up screaming. Todd did not want to think about being eaten alive at the moment and instead lifted one of Solomon's arms around his neck and dragged him away from the blood and gore.
Solomon took ragged breaths, leaning heavily on Todd as blood poured freely from his chest and shoulder. Darkness crept in the corners of his eyes, and he could only hear enough to hear the screams stop suddenly. Oh, God, is this what dying's like? he wondered hazily. Every step had an extra jolt of pain from his wounds as its reward. They had to keep moving.
Making it to the oasis, Todd set him down by the water, tearing off the end of his cloak and soaking it, before pushing it against the older man's chest forcibly. "Make sure to breat'."
Solomon nodded slightly, his breath haggard and unsteady. The shock of cold water against his wounds caused him to cough violently for a few seconds before he regained control, inhaling shallowly to avoid provoking another fit. Further from danger, his mind began to clear and the pain became more bearable, but he didn't risk speaking.
Tearing off another strip, Todd wrapped it around his wounds and kept the pressure on, not sure what else to do.
The bleeding slowed, then stopped. Solomon's breathing became easier and clearer. The pain was still there, angry and pulsing with his heartbeat deep in his chest, but it had retreated from overwhelming to very distracting, and continued to ebb. "M'arright," he croaked, and struggled to push himself up on his elbows.
Shocked, "How t'eh fuck are you gonna' be alright!?" He pulled the clothe away, staring at the wound. His mind throught back to his own abilities, thinking for a minute then blinking hard behind his goggles, could this also be someone with the same... powers?
Solomon propped himself on his elbow and stared numbly at the two gaping wounds on his chest. One hand hovered over the holes unbelievingly. "Don't know," He replied, his voice rough and quiet. He looked up at Todd, his eyes probing for an answer. It seemed more likely this was all a dream now. First the sabertooths, and now this? But the pain was all too real--he couldn't have imagined being stabbed like that, not unless the war fucked him up more than he thought. He looked down again at his bloodstained shirt, and at Todd's soaked scrap of cloak. "Something in the water..?"
In the water? "What are you talking about?" Todd's frown deepened as he looked around, getting his bearings before returning his gaze to Solomon, "Prepare yourself..." The German man mumbled, standing and pulling off his cloak fully, setting down on the ground. Carefully, he lifted the extremities of his companion so that eventually he was on top and dragged him away from the edge of the water to a sandy hill, so that he was semi upright.
Solomon assisted as best he could, shifting his weight onto the makeshift gurney with a groan. He touched the bit of cloak wrapped to his chest that Todd had soaked with water. "Something in the water, keeping me from dying," he rasped, frowning at his chest. The darkness cleared from the corners of his eyes. He brought his knees up and leaned forward tentatively. His chest felt the same painful throbbing as when he laid flat. Bringing his arms around his knees to keep himself stable, he looked at the clear pool of water below. "Only a scrap of cloth's work of water...If this isn't a dream, Todd, we may have stumbled on the goddam fountain of youth."
"I... I don't t'ink so mein freunde." Todd answered quietly, "No dream." He didn't know how this man was still alive after wounds like that, but this was eerily similiar to the powers his stone gave him. "Solomon, are you carrying any trinkets, any stone of any kind?"
Solomon frowned and raised his left hand, wiggling the gold band on his ring finger with his thumb. He narrowed his eyes, suddenly remembering the crucifix underneath his shirt. His fingers probed for it, but found nothing. He seperated the buttons with a look of alarm until his shirt was almost completely unbuttoned. Below the tourinquet around his ribs dangled a thin, bloody chain. He cradled it along his fingers. "...My father's crucifix..." He tugged on it, thinking maybe it was just caught beneath the cloak. The sharp tearing sensation it had on his heart told him otherwise, and he caught his breath suddenly. "Oh, Jesus," He exclaimed breathlessly. "It's lodged in my chest." He leaned his head back, shutting his eyes and inhaling deeply, holding it for a moment before his eyes opened, staring hard into the bright blue desert sky.
Todd cringed, "...Ouch. I can't take t'at out, I'm sorry." He wasn't one to be afraid of blood, but there was no way in hell he was reaching in his chest! Dabbing at the wound with the clothe, he settled for cleaning it, "I don't want to risk taking it out, and I don't t'ink you would want me to cut it either." Rewrapping the bandage, he encircled his torso with a new strip and sat back to survey his handiwork.
"No," Solomon agreed, lifting his arms to allow Todd to rewrap his wounds. "I'd remove it myself, but this is more complicated than a bullet wound." He set his arms on his knees again, caving his shoulders gently. "It'll hold until I find a surgeon," he told Todd. "Thank you." He squinted in the sun, then suddenly looked around, touching his brow lightly. "Sonofabitch."
"Hmm?" Standing, he realized he was missing his hat. Tossing his shoulder back, he didn't know what to say to that and instead went back to the water and wet a piece of clothe, bringing it back so Solomon could wet his face.
"Goddamn beasts," Solomon swore, moving to his feet in one swift motion. He made it about three steps before the suddenness of motion and loss of blood brought him down to his knees in the sand. "They maul me, they ruin a perfectly good suit, they destroy my father's crucifix, they kill that man, and now they've stolen my goddam hat," He snarled, struggling to his feet. Glancing down he realized his revolver was still in his hand. Good.
"I'm sure t'ey didn't steal it." He replied, almost on automatic, "I don't know if we should stay here long, t'ere might be more of t'ose... lions."
Solomon strode unsteadily in the sand back where they came. "Goddammit!" He swore, wiping the sweat from his face with irritation. His chest began to bleed a little again, causing him to sway.
"Solomon!" Todd grumbled, "You're hurt, you should lay down, I'll go find your hat for you." Murmuring about being crazy, Todd walks off where they narrowly escaped the beasts, keeping an eye out for any suspicious movement.
"I'll be damned," Solomon wheezed, "if I let--some goddam kraut--" He stumbled and fell into the sand, panting hard. The crucifix dug deeper into his flesh, causing his breath to catch in his lungs as he watched Todd stride off in the distance. "Fuck it," he swore quietly.
He went cautiously, keeping his blue eyes peeled and aware of all the sounds around him. There could easily be some lions still around and Todd did not want one to sneak up on him. If he could see it coming, there was no way the beast would have the advantage if he saw it coming. Each step he took was light, barely making a footprint and the dry weeds he passed didn't move as he walked through them. It was startling to him how far they had actually walked from the place they attacked them, but Todd found it, trying to ignore the blood spots as they had dragged their meal away, and looked around. Wasn't hard to find the hat, though dusty, stood out like a sore thumb. Todd grabbed it and turned to go, uncomfortable with lingering.
Solomon had managed to drag his wounded self over to the edge of the pool, drinking deeply and splashing the grime off his face and neck. He half-expected it to heal his chest wounds, but it did nothing further...or maybe it bought him minutes more. He reached into the left inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a small metal flask. Unscrewing it, he took a swig, grimacing as the alcohol seared the back of his throat. He looked at the flask, then at the pool, then back at the flask. The water may be keeping him alive, but there might not be any decent booze within a hundred miles. "Best not to risk it," He muttered to himself, taking another swig and putting it back in his jacket pocket.
Finally finding his way back, Todd basically shoved his face into the water, taking huge gulps before pulling out for air, "Here..." Todd tossed the hat into his lap, "...t'eh hat..."
"I owe you one," Solomon said gruffly, dusting off his beloved hat and fitting it on his head. He stood up, more steady on his feet now, and besides the sharp ache in his chest he was no more worse for wear. "You weren't followed?"
Todd shook his head, "I don't t'ink so..." He turned and looked to his path, "T'ey dragged off t'eir kills." Feeling bad over the unamed man, "You still have his sword?"
Solomon took it from its place in his coat and held it up to the light. He couldn't help but wonder if the man would have survived if he hadn't taken his sword. "He won't be needing it anytime soon, I suspect," He murmured, drawing the blade from its sheath. It shimmered in the sunlight, reflecting runes and intricate carvings. "A little ornate for a letter opener," he said, sheathing it again. "I'll hold onto it for now. It might fetch a price if we ever reach civilization."
He nodded at that, "I don't have anyt'ing t'at I can bear to part wit'." Todd admitted. The German man took another drink of water then stood, looking around to the scenery, "I t'ink we should try to get out of t'is desert, we don't stand much a chance if t'ose lions attack again."
"Good idea," Solomon agreed. He splashed his face and drank deep from the water one last time. "It looks like the land changes over there. We should give that a try." He started walking, his coat swaying behind him like a cloak.
Nodding again, Todd followed him, watching him incase the older man swayed or looked like he would faint, "Just... Don't push yourself too hard."
"I'm fine," Solomon dismissed. "Oddly, I've felt worse." He led him across the wilderness, hand always hovering near his revolver, eyes scanning the horizon for any sign of danger.
To continue... Group 5.0
Back to- And so it began
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