Patrol time! Just something nice and easy...and regular. With Aurore's regular Scooby partner busy, she has been partnered up with Pavel and Aislinn. No doubt there will be long philosophical conversations about the meaning of life.
The trio are in a nice part of town that looks out over the ocean. The houses here are huge. Their gardens vast though manicured so much it may as well be fake grass. Most of them are at least. The three stand in front of a mansion that has not seen the touch of staff for many a year. The grass high and the front of the mansion covered with moss and vines. It's a wonder the neighbours haven't paid to have it cleaned up...or burned down.
This is the 'Chapman Estate'. It is one of the spots that Hunters like to check up on. One of those places where unusual things seem to happen with disturbing regularity. At least the iron gate is unlocked.
Pavel has his night vision goggles with him, perched atop his head. He peers a bit, at the entire place, and then he glances across at the woman and he tells her, bluntly "You outrank me, locally." Whatever _that_ means. "What is your priority here?" He is kicking about in a slouchy poncho with a hood, and very nice vibram-five-finger shoes. Runners gotta run.
Aislinn too has night vision goggles on her head, though they are a slim 'hi-tech' look for the device, used to pull red hair back from her face in the process. She is surveying the Estate with a thoughtful frown, lips pursed as she does so. "The part i don't get is how this place didn't burn own the LAST time we had to check it out..." That is more grumbling than anything. She is wearing her usual trenchcoat but no visible rifle for once. The armory is kept under the coat, no doubt. "Anything unusual, Aura?" She's lowering her goggles now. It isn't dark, though. Aislinn looks the building over carefully. "We could always just knock."
Aurore hunches her shoulders against the chill, hands thrust deep into the pockets of her overcoat as she peers dubiously around. "Assessment, as far as I'm concerned," she says thoughtfully, nodding agreement to Aislinn. "We're unlikely to be able to *resolve* any problems on a first visit, unless we come up against something that we can abjure straight back to where it came from. Which is possible, but it very rarely seems to work that way. Still... I can take the lead in an attempt at banishment, if need be, and you two can assist as best you."
"As for *where* to look.... A little preliminary investigation confirmed the place is odd. Mundane reality's not as strong here as it is in most places. It's weakest in the rear grounds, out of sight of the road. I might know more when we get around there. But I'm not sensing anything close by just yet."
Pavel rolls his shoulders, and considers, head tilted for all the world like a cat. He has his machette on his belt under the poncho, and a suspicious lump over the back, but...well. Pavel says "Let us go through the gate, then work around, I will lead for physical things, eh?" He steps carefully, almost delicately, like some sort of deer, and approaches the gate "Unless it is a big problem, but, eh, I dodge good." Now he pops down those goggles and moves, apparently assuming he is on point.
The driveway that leads up to the three storey house is starting to crack from the effects of grass pushing up from underneath. The occasional creeper vine has crept the whole width and will trip the unwary. There is no fence separating the back yard from the front yard. It's all one overgrown estate. The sound of waves crashing against rocks can be heard beyond the house - it must overlook the ocean directly.
"Well, I suppose we either case the joint in which case I will give the place a quick once over and then... We can go right through the front. That solves a lot of problems really," Aislinn offers simply, considering the building ahead. She takes a deep breath and then follows after Pavel through the gate. "I guess we can circle the building and check out what's in back..." She kicks a creeper vine, stumbles slightly and starts swearing up a quiet storm.
"At least it's the wrong season for *some* of the horrors that come from the sea," Aurore grumbles, peering around warily. "And yeah. Let's not risk blundering around inside the place in the dark unless we have to. Only *some* of us have funky night-vision goggles, and the like." She flashes a warm smile at the diminutive redhead, then nods to Pavel. "Lead on. I'll let you know if I start to feel anything nearby. Or if anything starts talking to me, for that matter."
Pavel is silent, and occasionally, as they walk, he freezes completely still, barely breathing. He tilts his head, jutting his chin forward to listen to the sounds around him at these times, then moves again. While he is, apparently, aware of the women following, he does not respond overall. His feet are placed carefully, this way and that, and he moves towards the back garden.
The cold ground crunches underfoot as they make their way past outdoor furniture covered with mud and leaves. The building looms over them as they pass. Creaking softly in the chill air. It is a long house and takes a couple of minutes before they round the side to see a pool covered with a black tarpaulin. And beyond that is a hedge maze; though it is now more of a tree hedge with the untended hedges pushing branches into the air and leaves almost touching across the entrance path.
"Well, that seems... Promising." Aislinn is staring at the pool for now, though she is sure to edge around it once getting close. "Do we want to check out the maze or the house, though if I get lost in there I am chopping the whole fucking thing down," Aislinn notes rather mildly. She considers the overgrown hedge fora moment before looking to the house. "Still not seeing anything too unusual at least."
"I'm not sensing anything new as yet, either" Aurore muses, peering around dubiously. "I fear it'll be a matter of plunging into the maze. We could potentially hope to find some insight in the house, but the... oddness is focused in this back part of the grounds, so I'd suggest that we have a look under the tarp as a first step. Then we choose whether to risk the maze, or try to see whether anything in the house can help us to figure out what's up here."
Pavel glances from spot to spot, one never really knows what might be around such places. He nods to both Aislinn and Aurore, and notes "Perhaps the house last. Out here, we can scatter, or move more easily. The house makes me feel uncomfortable, without better lighting." After a moment he circles past the pool and gingerly lifts the edge of it with his machete.
The tarpaulin hangs low in the cement pool but it does seem to be floating on a foot of water. The plastic is covered with leaves and the melting remnants of slow and when Pavel lifts up a corner the icy water starts to flow down to the opposite end. The water beneath stinks. A fetid, dark green liquid that defies vision into its shallow depth.
"Pool's been covered forever. Got it," Ais responds to this development, an eyebrow lofted as she considers it for a moment. "Anyway, house or maze, the rest is up to us from here. Pool looks... About how I'd expect or a pool this old. It also stinks about like what I'd expect. I kind of want to see the maze myself, just because it looks like no one has bothered in a while..."
Aurore wrinkles her nose, covering the lower half of her face with one gloved hand as she takes a step back from the reeking slime. "Eurgh. Sorry about the stink. Ahhh. Yeah. Maze it is, then, I think. But *stick together*. And we can mark our route as we go. Whatever you see, no one runs off away from the others, okay? And the instant you think you might be stuck or getting left behind or whatever, speak up."
Pavel does that soft, still thing once more. He does not move. But then he draws back somewhat, and he says "It smells like an old pool," in a low tone of voice to Aislinn "Probably nothing, yes. Possibly anything." He eases back up, as nothing comes crawling out to choke him. Then he nods "Yes," he says to Aurore, and if culture does not make him respectful, the Loyalists have. Onto the maze it is, but this time? Pavel does not strike very far ahead at all "I think it is not a bad thing to push through what gaps we can without going through the ways, either." Then he is quiet once more, machete held low, body in a long, feline slink.
The hedges that make up the walls of the maze are thick, overgrown, tangled and barbed. The paths that they make have long lost their ease of use. Vines happy to snag at any foot that moves long them. Some of the pathways lost to touching hedges. And whoever designed this maze was serious...it is not a walk in the park to fine the center.
And as the trio enter into the maze they hear the movement of plastic behind them. The tarpaulin now lying over one corner of the pool. The dark waters still settling after a sudden movement.
Pavel has a machete so Aislinn holds back slightly to let him lead again once the group has resolved to enter the maze. As a result she is standing beside Aurore when the movement happens. She pauses in midstride and turns slowly to look back at the pool. "Ah... We might have a problem after all." Aislinn turns on her right boot and then reaches into her coat carefully, hand grasping her gun. "We may have dismissed that pool too soon. Take a look at the tarp..."
Aurore whips around in response to that motion... then allows herself a slow exhalation of breath. "...fuck. Ahhh. Yeah. Let's leave the maze for the moment. I'm still sensing nothing," she murmurs. "So... it's either corporeal, or demonic. Yay."
Pavel says "It's too hard to see into the pool from here...it was shallow...ish?" Hopefully? He attempts to get up one of the nearby trees, and pretty much instantly grabs a thorn as his hand slips. Pulling his hand back, Pavel curses under his breath in Romani and then attempts again.
An icy wind blows across the backyard, stirring the grim waters once more. As Pavel drags himself up on the second attempt, blood from his hand staining the trunk of the tree, he finds himself a perch to observe the pool. The shimmering green water slowly growing still once more. The bones and tissue of an arm jutting out in one dark corner.
And then there is a chattering noise in that wind. The sound of teeth rapidly smashing together.
Aislinn, meanwhile, is moving up to the edge of the pool to stand beside the tarpaulin and stare at the water. " do you see anything?" she calls to Pavel quietly, holding out gloved hands like she might be about to pull the tarp off of the pool the rest of the way. She waits for now, however.
Aurore moves to take up the third point of a roughly-equilateral triangle, hanging back a bit between her two (far more martially competent) companions. "Still not sensing anything," she offers quietly, peering worriedly around into the gloom.
Pavel says "...mulo!" And while he was positively sanguine in the face of demonic entities? This is a noticeably different and more frightened Pavel "Time to go, right now," he says sharply, and precisely "We back away towards gate so pool is not between us and it!" He is already suiting word to action, hopping down and sliding his compound bow off his shoulder "Go, go, please, quickly, yes, yes!"
As Pavel jumps down and starts heading for the proverbial exit, the three of them notice something about the tree he was in. Some of the branches are moving. Not like in the wind but rather as humanoid figures wrapped around the wood but almost imperceptible against it. And when they stop moving then they blend almost instantly back into the bark and leaves. Nothing shows up on the goggles - they don't seem to be any warmer than the tree. Aurore does not believe them to be ghosts either.
The shallow waters stir around the outstretched remains of the arm.
"I agree with the gentleman. Let's back away... Carefully." Aislinn has her pistol out now. Pavel would be able to see the laser, invisible to normal vision. She's training it on one of the trees where a figure had last been seen as she walks backward toward the entrance. "I wonder if they are actually hostile," Ais half whispers then. "No idea what it even IS... Invisible room temperature monkeys, maybe."
Aurore boggles at the tree-people-things... and quite fails to find any words. After a few moments, she manages to squeak, then point, then finally get her feet moving as she scurries away from all trees (and the disturbingly-active pool) to get closer to Aislinn. "They... or something... in the pool. With the body," she manages to get out.
Pavel whips his head up, and he _is_ glad to see that he is out of that tree, even if he did just bleed on it. Muttering foul words under his breath - apparently he has broken some sort of taboo - he is moving carefully "Te del o beng ande tute! Is a good plan," he says to Aislinn "They get us to turn our backs to ambush by tweaking tarpaulin. Congratulations. Still probably mulo-fuckers." He loads his compound bow for good measure and he starts that strange, sinuous movement, alert as he backs with the others "You stay between me and Aislinn," he tells Aurore "Researchers always in best spot, eh? Protect those brains." Back away...back _away_...
The tree is still as the water bubbles. The half-rotted arm...or is it half-devoured...rises and rises. A shoulder appears...a torso...half a skull since who knows where the other half of it is. The body rising from the water to an upright position before it starts moving towards the edge of the pool. Chunks of red tissue slide off the yellowed bones as it advances. It does not step but more floats forward though its feet are still under the dark waters.
"Okay, move." Aislinn will let the other two move off ahead of her so that she can cover the things with her pistol, staring at them through the lens of her night vision goggles. She takes a deep breath and plants her feet for a moment, giving them the chance to get a very slight headstart before she follows. "We can bring a team back and burn the place out if we have to," Aislinn continues. "Maybe if I brought grenades..."
Aurore is perfectly happy to comply with the order to get the heck out of there - though she can't help but flit nervous glances to and fro as she makes her way through the grounds back towards their vehicles. "I need to start turning up in a tank, I think. A *warded* tank. Fuck, but I have *no* idea what those things are."
Pavel does not spend any time talking possibilities for the future - he defers to Aurore, for whatever reason, but aside from that he seems to be in the mood to do his planning elsewhere. Probably over a cup of high protein drink substitute. He just says to the woman "Maybe it is the things moving the dead, maybe it is mulo - hungry dead - _and_ tree-things." Pavel does hate to miss a chance to be gloomy. He eyes the thing as they retreat back out of harm's way.
The disintegrating body in the pool splashes into the side. Its rotten, water logged components splattering into a dark red mess over the pale grey concrete. Any large part remaining slides down the wall and back into the dark green water.
Nothing prevents their escape. The house still looks down on them as they pass but now it seems to be smiling...if a house can look like such a thing. The chattering noise drifts off with the wind as they reach the road once more.
The house where so many things happen seems to be living up to its reputation.