Scout’s Honor, Part 12: Pit of Snakes

Happy Halloween! I figured I’d celebrate the second-best holiday of the year with an extra early post. The following scene shows Scout’s perspective on the battle with the Settites in the Fort Funston tunnels that occurred on 12/3/15.

This scene is mostly action and abuse themes are minimal, but still present.

***

FORT FUNSTON

Deep in the tunnels, lanterns and flashlights bob in the darkness, illuminating the figures of half a dozen people. Mostly men, a few women, all in dark robes, carrying rifles and large blades.

Fatima suddenly reappears, crouched at a bend in the tunnel, watching them approach. “Are you still here, slave?”

Scout reappears standing next to her, also watching. “Who are they?”

Fatima sneers. “Serpents.”

“How many?” Scout whispers.

“Nine, but not all are visible.” Fatima spits to the pitted floor. “Snakes do not crawl in the light.”

Scout frowns, thinking rapidly. Hunger still gnaws at her, but her success in winning Fatima over to at least a temporary truce is gradually restoring her confidence. If that truce is going to continue, though, she would have to prove it worth maintaining. “Then perhaps we should remove the light for them,” Scout murmurs.

Fatima peers at Scout quizzically. Scout smirks, then concentrates.

Instantly, a cloud of darkness erupts down the corridor, centered on the Settites. Not real, but yet another illusion, learned after her brief alliance with the Carlos creature. During thirty years following Cantor through the dark underbelly of the Sabbat, she had seen Nocturne used before but had never had the chance to really examine one closely before Carlos dropped it that night in San Jose. The key to its power, she’d discovered, was silence, something her adopted skills of illusion couldn’t mimic.

But fortunately, she’d eventually realized her blood-given skills could.

As the illusion of thick darkness expands, she concentrates again, dropping a circle of absolute Quietus silence in the same place, slicing off the Settite’s surprised shouts.

Surprise flashes briefly across Fatima’s face but is quickly quashed. “Impressive. For a parlor trick. But that sorcery is no match for the true art.” With barely another glance at Scout, she stands and disappears.

Scout’s nervousness flickers and dies in an overwhelming surge of delicious, expectant thrill. She grips her knife and moves forward, trailing her other hand against the cool concrete wall. Somehow, knowing Fatima is hidden nearby doesn’t concern her. If anything, it excites her more. Two hunters, evenly matched, working in tandem. It’s a new sensation for her, but something about it feels right.

Scout slips into invisibility, then jogs down the hall and plunges into the fake darkness.

Silence engulfs her. She moves carefully through the gloom, knife gripped loosely, scanning the air for movement. A few steps in, a figure looms in front of her. A man wielding a scimitar as long as his arm, eyes glowing green through the darkness. Carefully, Scout steps around him to come up behind.

Purpose surges through her muscles. With lightning speed, she slashes the tendons in his legs, sending him crumpling, then grabs his head to slash his throat before he has a chance to cry out. Thick, dark vitae gushes forth like a fountain of life and she buries into it, Beast practically singing as it rips through, unrestrained. She drinks deeply, rapidly, tightening her grip on his head as the loss of blood slides him closer and closer to a frenzy.

Finally, sensing the edge approaching, Scout tears herself free, dispassionately eyeing the writhing, gurgling body in her grip. The demon within her mirrors the struggles, screaming for her to finish, to fill the ache that has hounded her for nights–

There’s no time. She slashes hard and fast with the knife, severing the rest of the neck. The desiccated body falls to the floor, followed by the head as she drops it. She turns to scan the darkness, looking for signs of the other eight Settites trapped by her illusion.

A gout of flame erupts from a few yards away, tearing through the darkness in a wide arc. Scout leaps back just in time, but panic takes control and she bolts in terror, disappearing deeper into the tunnels.

#

An eternity later, Scout drifts back to consciousness and the cold press of concrete against her back. She opens her eyes. It’s still dark, but a more prosaic darkness, with enough dim ambient light to make out the shape of the tunnel around her. She climbs slowly to her feet, listening for sounds of movement to lead her back to her prey. Silence greets her.

Dammit. She checks for her knife and phone, then stops, feeling patches of mud caking her new suit. Double-dammit.

Stewing silently, she scans the tunnels again, this time for a way out.  Multiple openings lead off in every direction. None look familiar. She closes her eyes, feeling for changes in temperature, and senses a breeze wafting down down one of the tunnels, its scent fresher than the stale damp around her. She obfuscates and follows.  

This tunnel opens into another large chamber, like the first she found when she entered the caves, but empty and dark. Glimpses of starry night sky peek through holes in the ceiling, but all are too high to climb through. She stares up at them in frustration, then paces the cave in search of another exit. There’s no other doors, but halfway through the cavern she stumbles over something and squats down to see.

It’s a skeleton, half-emerged from the broken soil filling the cavern. She frowns and gropes through the dirt. Clothing wraps the bones, but despite the skeleton’s apparent age, the cloth is relatively new. As she touches it, a piece of metal catches at her finger. She pulls it off the clothes and holds it up to examine in the starlight.

It’s a pin. Of a swastika.

Scout brushes the dirt off and peers closer. The pin is strangely warm to the touch, and as she turns it, the weight shifts strangely, as if liquid was inside. The back post of the pin shifts in her fingers and, realizing it’s actually attached to a tiny lid, she unscrews it. Instantly, the heady scent of very, very potent blood whiffs out from inside the pin. Her head spins, the barely-restrained Beast inside suddenly scrabbling to be released again, but she fights it back and carefully replaces the lid.

She moves deeper into the cavern, eventually discovering another circle, this one inscribed into a patch of concrete instead of drawn in fresh blood. As she approaches, the pin in her hand gets strangely warm to the touch.

She stops, fiddling with the pin while starting at the circle. Normally she pays no attention to Tremere nonsense, but the fact that these tunnels seem full of thaumaturgy with no Tremere in sight is odd, bordering on distressing. After a moment, she pockets the pin and turns to leave the room.

Voices and the distant glow of lights are echoing down the tunnel, getting closer. A thrill races through her, part fear and part expectation. She draws her knife and creeps forward, around the corner.

A cluster of people fill the tunnel a few yards down. Four men, similarly-armed and -garbed as the man she killed, and a woman, black-skinned and bald with gold jewelry draped over her dark robes, shouting at the men in an unknown language. They all bow their heads to her, muttering apologies Scout doesn’t understand, but one word comes up so often it could only be a name: Nitocris.

Scout scans the space. There’s too many in the tunnel to slip past easily, so instead she crouches, waiting and watching.

After a few moments of berating, Nitocris gestures commandingly. The men bow and disappear down the tunnel. Nitocris watches them go, muttering to herself.

The thrill rushes again as the woman turns her back. Scout takes a steadying breath, forcing control back over herself. Do not hurry for the kill, Cantor’s words suddenly echo in her mind. You must build the anticipation, in yourself and the prey, until the time is right. For both of you.

Scout scowls at the memory, but continues to hold back. She flicks her thumb against the edge of the knife, checking that some of the poison laced back in Humboldt remains. Something about the woman’s air, and the way the much larger Setties treated her, says that this is no random snake. She could be someone worth taking–

A thought hits her: —If not for me, then maybe for Fatima. Something to make her strong enough to face Cantor.

Her will rapidly solidifying, Scout moves forward carefully, keeping to the wall, calculating the best approach for another garroting strike.

Nitocris suddenly tenses. Her robes twist around her as she turns, eyes flashing green in the dark. “You think I can’t sense you, fledgeling? ” she whispers, stalking down the tunnel. “Come out, or I’ll cut you out.” She reaches into her sleeve and pulls out a long, curved dagger.

Scout stops, anxiety suddenly rising past the bloodlust. Slowly, she shifts sideways to the other wall of the tunnel.

Nitocris’s green eyes follow.

Shit.

“Come out or I’ll call them back,” Nitocris hisses.

Gripping her knife tightly, Scout moves to the center of the tunnel and reappears. Nitocris’s green eyes blink in surprise, then she smiles. “Now…this is interesting. I go hunting for a rabbit and catch a fox.” She flips her dagger in a tight whirl. “Always wanted to try Caitiff….” she sneers mockingly. “Let’s see what he taught you.”

Scout glares, but inside the anxiety rolls again. She knows who I am. All the more reason to not let her out of this cave alive.

The green eyes follow Scout with reptilian focus, watching too closely to try for a doppelganger. Scout’s mind races. All she needs is one moment of distraction. Gathering some of the precious last of her reserves, she settles on a plan and concentrates.

Shouts and screams suddenly echo from further down the corridor, cast from the direction the other Settites disappeared. Nitorcris stops, but she doesn’t shift her predatory gaze. “Brought a friend, have we? No matter, there’ll be time enough for that.” She reverses the grip on her dagger and lunges forward, lighting fast.

Scout ducks to the side, easily avoiding the strike, and comes in for a counter-slash. A long gash opens down Nitocris’s arm. The Settite staggers back, snarling at Scout, barely even registering the cut.

Then the poison takes hold.

Nitocris’s face twists in pain. She shrieks, her voice joining the cacophony echoing around the corridor, then grabs at her arm and staggers back into the wall. Scout watches coldly, then lunges again.

Scout’s knife plunges high into Nitrocris’s chest, burying to the hilt. She follows the strike forward, pinning the woman back to the wall. Nitocris stares down at the dagger in shock, her pupils snapping to razor-thin slits in her glowing irises, then widening in fear.

Scout’s Beast screams in glee, aching to lunge forward and take her, but she holds it back. Not for me, she reminds herself through her flagging will. For Fatima, to trade for my freedom from Cantor.

The Beast screams in frustration, then suddenly shifts tactics, turning coy. But, surely she won’t begrudge you a few bites…?

Scout hesitates. …Fine.

She leans in, fangs bared, but before she can bite Nitocris opens her mouth, lashing out with a whip-thin tongue. Scout jerks her head away just in time.

Rage breaks through her professional cool, unrestrained by her draining will. Grabbing the knige with both hands, Scout sneers and pulls up. The blade glides through flesh and bone, peeling Nitocris’s throat open, but then suddenly slows. In the wan light of the tunnel, Scout can just make out the glinting shape of thick scales forming across the Settite’s black skin.

Instantly, the rage and demonic instinct battling within her head pull back. Craaaaaap–

Scout pulls her knife out in a quick jerk, spraying dark vitae across the wall. Nitocris stumbles away and falls. The moment she hits the ground, her body bursts into a mass of snakes, writhing and scattering every direction into the darkness….

…An instant later, they’re gone.

Silence falls in the tunnel, Scout’s screaming illusion having dissolved at some point during the fight. She stands frozen, listening for movement. Slowly, her adrenaline comes down, replaced by frustration. The Snakes are sly, Cantor had taught her, but cowardly. There would be no more chance to hunt them tonight, and it was unlikely she’d get another chance to capture one so neatly for Fatima.

The frustration threatens to escalate into shame, so she redirects her focus, examining her knife. Dark gore has replaced the sheen of poison, dripping down the tip and pooling in the fine etchings of Cantor’s sigil along the base. She rubs her thumb along the blade, watching the contrast as the vitae works deeper into the pattern.

Lick it off, Cantor’s remembered voice suddenly commands from her subconscious.

Scout freezes, staring at the knife clenched in her hand. She takes a shuddering breath, then carefully reaches into an inner pocket of her jacket and pulls out a clean handkerchief. Her tension eases as she wipes the blade, taking satisfaction in revealing the clean metal underneath the gore. Finally, she tucks them both away.

A cool breeze is wafting down one of the tunnels, this one carrying the unmistakable tang of fresh ocean air. Scout turns toward it and disappears from sight.

 

END OF ADDENDUM

 

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2 Responses to Scout’s Honor, Part 12: Pit of Snakes

  1. Morienne Montenegro says:

    Tom can learn a thing or two about control from Scout.

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