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Marlena understood Aidan's hand signs and moved ahead of him while he checked his revolver, weapon ready and raised. The source of the disturbance had left quickly, though she was able to tell that it had run back to the canyons. Maybe it had a cave of its own.

She put her curiosity aside. The best move now would be to ease away. She looked to Aidan, who happened to be looking to her at the same time. Marlena frowned and turned away, presenting only her back to the man.

8/18/2011 #61
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan looked confused, and tilted his head to the sign. What was the look for, and the action after that? Did he do something wrong? He didn't have, or remember, anything to compare that to. Frowning, he continued to follow Marlena, making sure that their backs were covered.

The dust lessened over time, and he could see more of their surroundings. The end of the cliff wall came up sooner than he expected, and their was a long... dusty plain? Maybe it used to be green once... Especially since there was a river in the distance! A skimpy, dirty one, but he could see it from there.

Aidan removed the cloth from his lips, stuffing it into his pocket.

8/18/2011 #62
Fleur-de-lis Evans

Cassie bent over the boar, wondering if she could skin it herself. Before she could decide, a tall Walker bounded into the cave. It's feral scream echoed off the walls. Cassie darted back sprinting past the creature as it rushed the place she had been before. She grabbed a lighter bow and a quiver running into the open area outside the cave. There was dry land, which could often be more dangerous than staying within the caves. She ran toward the trunk of a dead tree, toward the river where her and Vince would meet after he had been patrolling.

She skidded to a stop on the other side of two tree trunks that were knotted together. A few yards away, on the other side, were two beings. Cassie raised her crossbow, pulling the spring mechanism and waited for them to charge her. She expected they would. Every other being that looked like them - aside from the Walkers - had charged her and Vince on their long journey.

8/18/2011 . Edited 9/3/2011 #63

The damn dust was starting to ease up. Good; Marlena had had enough of that. The distance that she could see increased.

The nearby cliff wall to their left ended; beyond that Marlena saw a plain, and beyond that a....river? A river! Definitely. It was a bit thin, and looked like it was full of mud, but it was definitely a river. And Marlena would take her chances. She took a step to the river--

There was another scream, unmistakably that of a creature not human, and it wasn't very far away. Marlena spun and aimed the Remington, eyeing the cluster of brush that ran nearly parallel to the cliff wall, only a few yards away.

"S$%#," she whispered the curse word, though not even loud enough for Aidan to hear. They were sitting ducks for anything that wanted to rush them from the cover of the trees. They wouldn't see it until it was on them.

Marlena crouched behind a large rock in the plains for cover, peeking over it to check for the owner of the scream. Nothing came.

8/20/2011 #64
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan looked around quickly, aiming his revolver wildly. He holstered that quickly, and pulled out his Winchester Lever-Action and kept his eyes open. He ducked against a smaller boulder, looking everywhere for the ghoul; given the scream, that's what it was. Thenhe saw a little girl, aiming in his and Marlena's direction. "What the f***?" he whispered, extremely caught of guard.

8/20/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #65
Fleur-de-lis Evans

The Walker would stay in the cave. Or, it would leave. Cassie was positive it would not be smart enough to charge her if it left the cave. She focused on the beings across the stream. They both held weapons pointed in her direction. She was not their target. Anyone, within hearing distance, would know the Walker was around. And, the two were not Feral Humans. They were true adult humans. Cassie felt unnerved by this.

From their distance, they would not be able to see her trembling, but it made her hand unsteady. Her visions has not hinted at the presence of true humans crossing her and Vince's path. The last time the humans they had become attached to had died. They had not been good at surviving.

Cassie's mind immediately snapped away from them. There were two Lower Grade humans stalking their way toward the adults. She took her sights off of the two weapon-weilders and released the first arrow. It sailed close to the woman's ear, but imbedded through the skull of a Silent Walker, a child. The body hit the ground kicking up loose dust behind the woman. Cassie released the second arrow past the man's shoulder. The larger Walker behind him opened its mouth releasing the high-pitched scream. Cassie's whole body shuddered at the sound, but she focused on her task of reloading an arrow.

She would deal with the adults later.

8/21/2011 #66
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan snapped his head to the right, seeing and then hearing the feral ghoul hit the ground. He covered his ears until the shrieking stopped, then looked out through the darkening, it was definitely night now, surroundings.

8/22/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #67

When it came to hunting Morgan was like the keenest of wild predators. She could scent and follow blood from across the valley if need be. Her night vision made out the slightest tracks as though they were illuminated at a 45 degree angle by a spotlight. Even some movements of the air were discernible to her sensitive skin.

She had to grant that wildlife was more scarce than she would have liked. It had been this way ever since the apocalypse. She could always feed on the people but they often became suspicious if a beautiful, white woman cozied up to them and left them feeling weak. There were the other vampires and ghouls and were creatures, but most of them stayed away from this area due to legends of the Nistarim that hunted them here. She could have chased down the herd of deer that fled after yesterday's hunt if she had been hunting alone, but she wanted to remain with Malachi for a time and he was tied to this group of slowly moving people.

Rodents would have to do. She was able to call some of them to her and feed on them. The meat was still good for Malachi's stew, and she was full of oxygenated blood. She tied the carcases to a pole and returned to the camp, offering the food to Malachi, who promptly butchered it, cut off chunks of meat and dumped it into the new pot of stew.

Already the community gathered in anticipation of the entertainment and food. They would have to supplement the stew tonight if it was to be as filling as last nights, but it was still better than what most of the families would have made for themselves. Today the story was about a hero of the faith, Paul, who endured great hardship to get the Word out. The man's adventures were colorful enough as they were, and with Morgan's dramatization the attention of the camp was fixed. Another camp member asked for more detail by the end and committed his life to follow the Christ that empowered Paul.

The community would have to move on soon until they reached an area with a dependable food source or a climate suitable for agriculture. Such places were few and far between these days. Thus the low quantity of communal humans. Malachi could go with them if they would have him, but eventually he'd have to leave their company and seek out others in need. Some could go with him, but he wanted to train up someone to lead them in the things of the Spirit. The leaders of the company thought this a good plan, and promised to support him in it.

8/23/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #68
Fleur-de-lis Evans

Cassie paused in her motions fixing her eyes on the adults. They seemed to be guessing, internally what to do next. She was so focused on them she didn't notice that Vince had sneaked up under cover a few yards away from her.

8/25/2011 . Edited 9/13/2011 #69

Marlena heard Aidan's curse, saw something flying at her and ducked behind the rock, hearing the hiss of --an arrow?-- as she did so. The sound passed by and was replaced by athok, though a bit too far away to hear clearly. Something behind her had been hit.

She turned, still shielded from attack by the rock. A child, right now a few meters away had been approaching her quietly, as for why, she didn't know. There was an arrow sticking from the child's head, and a moment later it simply dropped to the ground, kicking up dust.

A creature behind Aidan screamed. Marlena turned and saw that it had been hit by an arrow as well. She stayed where she was, not wanting to expose herself to the archer.

8/25/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #70
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan didn't know what to do. It looks like there was someone else there, helping them, but what that meant he didn't know.

8/26/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #71

The next day looked like it would pass much as had the last, but one of the camp's more keen--or perhaps paranoid-- watchpeople caught sight of a progression of birds flying up out of the spaces between rocks and sparse brush. It was moving up the valley toward them and would reach them before full dark. This presented a problem for Morgan who, though she could survive the daylight as long as the sun remained behind the clouds, would be nearly as weak as mortals. That meant she'd be no stronger than whatever was coming up the valley, which meant she wouldn't be able to fight or run as effectively as Malachi might have wanted. He left her asleep.

"We ought to make a stand," he suggested to the leaders of the camp. "It's possible they're friendly."

"Yeah right!" said one. "You're the first friendly person we've met in months, and I'm still trying to figure out your angle."

"That's as may be," Said Malachi, but my companion is weak and ill suited to running during the day. I'll be remaining with her and hoping to make friends with those approaching, and I'd welcome any who will to remain with me. You may just see the true power of Jesus, of whom I speak."

The camp leaders weren't happy with him or his plan, such as it was, and decided to move off at least far enough to find a good, defensible and hidden position among the rocks of the other side of the valley. Malachi pointed out a tributary valley through which they could escape if they needed to. They broke camp with amazing speed and were soon gone, leaving only trampled ground, melted snow and burnt rocks as evidence of their passing. Malachi took his place on a large boulder, squatted and waited for whomever it was that approached.

8/26/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #72

She thought to herself. Who killed those things? Marlena looked to the child on the ground that had been killed by the archer. Was the same fate awaiting her if she rose from her cover? What was the angle here? She peeked carefully from behind the rock. A girl on the other side of the river held a bow, obviously the source of the arrow.

Marlena didn't want to leave cover, unsure about what would happen next. She stowed the Remington in a deep pocket on her pants' leg, then pulled out the Glock, figuring she wouldn't have time for more than one shot with the shotgun. With that done, she slowly rose, gun in hand, exposing herself to yet another complete stranger.

For some reason, Marlena had a brief self-reflection in her mind that said she would eventually get killed doing this... Hopefully that day would not be today. An arrow to the face wasn't the type of death she preferred. Actually, anything to the face, for that matter.

8/31/2011 #73
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan stood slowly, staring at the girl. At first he leveled the rifle at him, before slinging over his back, safety on. He kept his revolver loose in his holster, but other than that, he was trusting that the girl had helped him, and wasn't going to kill him. "Hey," he said quietly. "Put the bow down, and we can talk this over. No harm to either side. All right?"

He raised his hands slightly, walking over to her.

8/31/2011 #74
Fleur-de-lis Evans

Cassie kept her bow at the ready, although she hesitated to knock back another arrow. She moved back in quick shuffles her eyes growing wide. They were bright blue, contrasting her dusty frame and dirty laden blonde hair. She raised her hands shaking her head back and forth. She launched backwards trying to make it to the cover of the tree trunks. Vince emerged speaking to Aidan first.

"She won't shoot you," Vince said. "She was aiming for the Silent Walkers," he indicated the dead bodies around the adult, ", because they carry a more damaging strain of the virus."

He turned toward Marlena, "She keeps her bow with her all the time, as protection. You're the first adults who haven't tried to burn, kill, bite, or attack her in several months."

He weighted his options, deciding to offer them their cave to stay in, although he wasn't sure if it was safe, considering Cassie was out in the open before he'd given their signal. "You could come to our cave for rest," he said slowly. "Perhaps I can share what I've learned with you on our travels. I'm Vincent Mercutio."

9/1/2011 . Edited 9/3/2011 #75
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan glanced at Marlena. "What do you think? They're just kids, but then again, calling anything "just kids" is practically suicide," he said softly, rubbing his hands together for warmth. It wasn't too cold, but it was always cool in the nights. Not enough for his brreath to be seen, but enough to cause a few goosebumps on his arms. He rubbed those, too.

9/1/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #76

The terrain was far less even than it appeared, and whatever approached managed to remain hidden in the low and shadowy places as it moved up the valley. Malachi positioned himself atop a boulder overlooking the likely approaches, a steep slope at his back. He had an easy view of the tree under which Morgan slept and all of the approaches to that tree, which was within manageable range of his shotgun.

He cradled it in the crook of one arm when he wasn't following the progress of the unknown coming up the valley through the scope. The entire thing had been built by a lad at the compound who, though he had no more knowledge of these things than anyone else initially, proved to be a quick learner and very adept with his hands. The weapon had been tested at many ranges, in many conditions, and the term "sniper rifle" came to mind. It would fit in a loose sense. The maximum practical range was probably 1000 yards, but that would be a stretch. More practically it was good for taking down a moose or some such from across a valley. The 7.62 mm rounds were hand made by the armorer with a smooth coating that would make it easier for them to penetrate the thick skins and armor worn by many of the hostile creatures that roamed the world.

Due to the nature of the weapon and ammo it was most definitely lethal, and Malachi would wait to use it until it was needed. In this kind of terrain, against whatever was coming, the range of the weapon wouldn't be an asset. Still, it was useful to have it out and visible in first contact with something that might not be friendly if only for intimidation value. Malachi checked to make sure the clip was full and properly seated, chamber empty, safety on. That completed he settled to wait for whatever it was.

9/2/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #77

Marlena didn't answer, but she thought about it on her own. Maybe they could be an aid in battle, but right now, she wouldn't place any bets. A small part of her mind spoke out weakly, saying that she was being unreasonably paranoid. Then the majority shifted back to that night, when she'd been too trusting and let her guard down...

She decided then and there. Any wrong move, any step in the wrong direction, from any of the three...she wouldn't hesitate to put bullets in their heads and walk away.

A weak gust of wind began to lightly brush Marlena's hair. She kept the Glock in one hand, moved strands of hair away from her face with the other. The cool night air sent a prickling sensation up her spine and she noticed goosebumps rising on her arm. Hopefully this would be as cold as the area could get.

9/2/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/3/2011 #78
Fleur-de-lis Evans

"Is your answer yes?" Vince asked. His tone suggested that he had formal training and was used to speaking with military oriented people. "If so we should move into shelter. It gets quite a bit cooler out, not to mention being caught in the open is a bad idea at night."

He turned walking past the trees. He beckoned to Cassie, almost missing her as she raced passed him back to the cave. Her outline was a blur in the darkening surroundings. He shook his head making his way at a fair pace toward their caves. He turned his head to see if the man would follow or not, pausing long enough to gauge the woman's reaction as well. He could tell she clearly did not trust large groups.

9/3/2011 . Edited 9/8/2011 #79
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan hesitantly took a few steps to Marlena."These kids would probably be more of a roadblock than an asset, but they might have useful supplies," lowering his voice to a whisper, getting closer so the kids couldn't hear. "I'm not saying we should kill them, but maybe we could knock them out and take a few supplies. Leave them with enough to survive, but we're low on supplies, too."

9/7/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/13/2011 #80

Marlena turned; her eyes widened slightly with surprise as she saw Aidan advance towards her. She immediately took a few steps back to counteract Aidan's movements, nearly tripping and falling in the process. She didn't see that he was about to say or ask something. All she was aware of was the closing distance between them. Without a word, she leveled the Glock quickly and aimed at Aidan's feet. She slipped her index finger inside the guard. Would Aidan get the message, or would Marlena have to empty half a clip into his stomach?

"Don't....do that," she muttered after a long moment had passed.

9/7/2011 . Edited 9/7/2011 #81
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan cocked his head, confused. Why was she suddenly so upset? Was she aiming at him? "Marlena, what's wrong? Are you okay? Does robbing them sound that wrong?" he whispered. He unconsciously reached out, but held back once he realised what happened. He didn't want to unnerve her. He looked into her eyes, noticing that they were wider, slightly erratic. Was she afraid of him?

9/7/2011 #82

"Just...keep away from me." Marlena lowered the gun slowly, but she didn't take her finger out of the guard. She was going to stay alert from here on out. No more getting blindsided, or shot at, or anything like that...

On that thought, Marlena looked over her shoulder to check her surroundings. Nothing was approaching. She refocused on the possible threat in front of her.

"Stay a few feet away from me," she repeated, "and we won't have any problems. Okay?" Her voice was shaky; it was clear that a simple movement, Aidan's innocent step toward her to convene on something, had rattled her severely.

9/7/2011 #83
Alexander Starkiller

Aidan's eyebrows furrowed, and a look of intense confusion covered his face. He shook his head slowly, not understanding. What had he done wrong, to cause her to react like a trapped animal? He backed away a little, staring at her oddly, hands up in a nonaggressive position. "Okay, okay. Don't worry," he said softly, trying to ease Marlena's nerves. "Um, maybe we shouldn't join these kids. That would be for the best, I think."

9/8/2011 #84
Fleur-de-lis Evans

Vincent watched the adults quickly taking in their strange dynamic. "We've been traveling alone for two years," he stated. "I can tell you Europe was a lot harder to handle than here." He gestured to the surrounding area.

"Did I mention we were trained by military elites? You think Cassie's aim was impeccable by mistake? We may be fifteen but we aren't stupid, and we sure as hell aren't going to double cross anyone."

He turned his head toward Marlena. "I'm sorry if Cassie shooting the Walker frightened you, M'am," he said. "But, she was only trying to make sure you weren't injured or attacked. The silent Walkers tend to be the worst."

He waited for them to answer. He kept his senses and mind focused on Aidan quickly making sense of his intentions. The man seemed to act friendly one minute and shady the next, despite the fact Cassie saved his life. Vincent waited for one of them to respond, hoping they would change their minds. He wasn't going to trust them right off, but he did, at some point, want to have a bigger group than two to travel with. Watches were simpler when it wasn't split between two people, and scouting was so much faster when you didn't have to run long distances and then back track to get the other person.

9/8/2011 #85

Marlena kept the gun ready, but besides that made no move to attack or defend. She looked at Aidan with a neutral expression. He seemed confused, but he had understood what she asked, or rather demanded, of him.

Was the risk worth it? The first person she'd trusted in this ruined world had turned on her. She didn't want to go through that again. If these three suddenly decided to kill her, the chance of getting away or surviving...

She turned to the teens as one of them addressed her and Aidan. Military elites? That sounded like someone reliable, or extremely dangerous. Marlena herself had had training, but from who and where, she couldn't remember. Though it was before all of...this happened.

What do I do? If I go with them, I'm taking a chance. If I don't, I'm still taking a chance...

9/11/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/13/2011 #86
Fleur-de-lis Evans

"It's up to you," Vince said. "But, as far as I can say Cassie and I are trained in marksmanship and the only things we need to be shooting at this point are Walkers and unstable people, you two are neither of those," he began walking backwards keeping them both in site.

"Besides,"he said. "We've been traveling for years alone. The last group we met that helped us was in Europe, and we get back here to fine almost nothing, our parents were soldiers who probably died in the Middle East. We could really use adult help."

9/11/2011 #87
Alexander Starkiller

"Give us time to talk this over, okay?" Aidan said dismissively, walking a bit away, to a tree some distance away. He beckoned Marlena over, knowing he needed to talk away from the kids, as this didn't concern them.

9/12/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/13/2011 #88

Marlena swallowed the spit in her mouth, thinking her choices over and over again. Why was she given a dead end? Trust someone, maybe get turned on by the whole group, die. Not trust anyone, go on her own, get overwhelmed by creatures. Die. Get shot in the back when she tries to leave, so the facade ends. Die.

She figured, what the hell. Any choice could lead to death. It just seemed better to pick whichever held the least risk. She'd go with these three, for now. She went over to Aidan when he beckoned to her. She stayed out of arm's reach.

9/12/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 9/13/2011 #89
Alexander Starkiller

"Listen. You do not seem to like me for some reason, and that is just fine. I just need to know you will no't kill me if I get too close to your personal space, and whether or not you actually want to be a team.

"And when you decide on those, we need to work out whether or not we want to trust those kids. I wouldn't. That crap about being military elites has got to be a lie. They are what, fourteen, fifteen? They are not even finished growing, so there is no way they could be well-trained," Aidan said quickly.

9/13/2011 #90
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