Dawn
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survival
Displaced from time, people from the earth's history wake up in a past far more ancient than any of them, and must very quickly decide what to do.

Swamplands

The Cretaceous (Modern: May 4th, 2013)

"I am entirely certain this is a dream or it has finally happened and I have finally died."

If you listen, you can hear it.

The sound of the world appearing around you, like it disappeared altogether and has, only now, begun to trickle in again like a slow rain. The gradual hazy noise of existence. It's not loud, it's not quiet. It's the air. It's the atmosphere. It's the Earth itself drawing a breath with you.

Then, the rustle of leaves. The crunch of undergrowth. Is it you, crushing a foreign forest floor you can't yet see? It's someone. Something. You're not alone.

Sound starts to invade stronger as wakefulness takes a truer hold. The droning buzz of occasional insects; chirpers chirping and titterers tittering, calling out in rhythm; the hiss and flap and scratches of tiny bodies leaping and flying up above. The individual songs of dozens of woodland creatures in chorus, waking up too. The world is alive. Pick out a single song, and it sings the loudest. None are unfamiliar — it's the morning chorus of any forest known world-round — yet each individual sound is edged with a faint oddness, an exotic lyric that the brain can't quite place.

They all hear it, each and every one.

The moist warmth of the air upon skin makes itself known just as the sense of smell does; that air carries with it the thick, rich scent of earth, conifers, healthy greenery, and the wholesome decay of leaves with an undertone of stagnant water. Despite the humidity, the air itself is fresh and pure. It's difficult not to take a breath. The lungs are hungry for the clean new oxygen.

They all breathe the same air.

They all wake up to the same world.

The world is green. Vivid, emerald green gargantuan ferns and fiddle-shaped baby ferns, bright green moss climbing the vining roots and scaled trunks of trees that clutch mossier rocks and burrow into slick wet mud, blue-green needled branches jutting out at every angle, and dark deep green palm fronds. The sky can barely be seen through the tops of the tall trees; it's faded in patches, trying for new daylight. The forest is irregularly bathed in half-light, giving it the strange dreamlike quality of pre-dawn.

Buzzzz.

Barely there light finds the scintillating green mirrors of what might be a dragonfly's wing before it vanishes into the forest.

Water: a swampy pool, ten persons wide, its oily surface freckled with ethereal white seeds, dusty pollen, pine needles and rigid, bumpy shapes that could be branches, could be alligators.

Buzzzz.

And people: incongruously thrown into the forest, senses alight, nerves on fire. There's no doubt now: awake!

Among them, the fallen tangle of two men at the foot of a large tree: clad in little but scraps of dark fabric and bits and pieces of armor, the topmost, face-down beast of a man, twitches to life, a series of contracting muscles in his strong, but bruised, back. A rat-tail of braided hair trails down his bent neck, the sides of his head shaved bare and tattooed. His left arm is flung wide; he's gripping the long handle of a wicked battle axe that's embedded invasively into the snakelike root of a hundreds-of-years-old tree.

The drone of insects takes a more chaotic turn, the serene chorus of animal life more agitated. In the distance, something shrieks like a sandpaper on a violin.

In the forest litter is also a young woman in a white polyester dress, pristine against the dark and lush green, as well as her skin. She's crawling cautiously to sit up, her view that of the men and a swathe of ominous — to her eye — swamp. She's curled half on top of a young man with a fabric sling on one arm and a bandage on his abdomen, wearing striped blue-and-white pyjama bottoms. And groaning … in pain, confusion, staring into the unfathomable heavens. His companion's big, dark eyes are that of a child's. Wide-eyed wonder — wide-eyed fear. As she stares at the world in front of her, the immediate question in them isn't where are they. It's why are they?

Against a tree - quite a large tree - is a propped up door. It's thick and well constructed, made of a dark wood with even darker grain. Its panels are etched with representations of knowledge. The borders are surrounded by skillful woodwork of grapes and leaves. Holding on to the etched brass doorknob of said door is one middle-aged man. He wears a brown tweed jacket, brown slacks, a white collared shirt and a maroon sweater vest. Around his neck is a striped blue tie. His white hair is a bit long, parted to the side, currently falling right into is eyes. On his head perches a fez.

Currently, Gerard is held propped up by both doorknob and tree, with his face pressed against a relief of Athena. His other hand holds a briefcase. There is a backpack slung over his shoulder. An umbrella rests on the ground by his feet, where it fell from the crook of his arm. As he starts to wake up, he blinks, hand pressing the doorknob forward as if he is still attempting to open the door that is now leaning against a tree. "Heavens…" he mutters, blinking bewilderedly.

SPLASH! The swampy pool had been a serene array of peace only moments before. The makeshift raft, which in actuality was nothing more than a crate upon which Harriet Ruggles found herself. But then, somewhere between everything, she had managed to lose, well everything. Her very faculties had proven impossible to employ. Hooray for cognition! Well, mostly.

In this case, cognition equated extreme startle. And extreme startle translated into a bath with the water crawlies. The kind of bath that can only serve to make an individual dingier, dirtier, and perhaps a little more annoyed. Following the first splash, comes a deep gasp for air as Ruggles returns to the water's surface. "Unacceptable!" she sputters while her hands fight against the disgusting water surrounding her. She knows, on some level, that she will be filthy forever, down to her very petticoat. The cream-coloured, wide-brimmed sun hat rests upon the crate she'd just found herself alongside her grocery basket full of produce, which she didn't pay, a fact she will most certainly lament later.

Splashing serves well to startle up a face no less than planted in the grimy excess; a boy, lifting and sputtering when he realizes he can breathe— but he couldn't. Features muddled by oily refuge, he claws with a red-and-blue striped sleeve at his eyes, choking out filth-water. Though his torso struggles, he's weighed down on his stomach by a white contraption, rounded behind handles and with a small seat, two wheels, one below an encased motor: a moped. He falls off it, and it on him, but in his disorientation all he can tell is that a weight holds him down and he shouts bloody murder, proclaiming his innocence.

A tree and a gigantic fern over, hidden by green depths, an animal groans its distress followed by a gentle hiss.

The young woman in the white dress startles (IRIS, so says the marker-printed paper English name-tag pinned to her) at every sudden noise, and every big one, as well; anticipating disaster, the newest noise of an unseen creature sends her shoulders nearly to her ears. As she realizes how many people are around her, the wide-eyed girl appears as if she wants to ask if they're okay, but, stunned, she's struggling through fear of the unfamiliar strangers in the unfamiliar land. The elderly lady and the shouting boy stir her, nevertheless, to voice the first word in the new world. "Ar— "

Iris is cut off.

It was just a spark of motion at first, beneath one of the large trees — not the one which the out-of-place door has wound up, but its neighbour. Muscles contracting to find their place. Then, all at once, the first man on the ground is up, the axe thwacking out of ancient wood and his grimy sandaled feet crashing into the ground and snapping twigs like a fearsome beast. He's channeling one, roaring in a rough, deep screaming shout of anger, threat, or battle-cry as adrenaline floods his system — it never left, he was just lying stunned — and seeps out his pores in sweat.

As he spins around, it becomes obvious that the other man who shares his barbaric appearance will remain where he lies: the axe-wielding warrior holds a human head in his other hand by a clutch of dark matted hair, severed from its body. The clear victor's pale but sun-burnt skin isn't streaming merely with sweat, but with blood. It flecks and smears his chest, arms and scaled leather arm guard; even his legs, some his own from cuts and jabs, some clearly spray from a brutal battle. It streaks up and down his face, a vivid and cruel red curtain from which his fearsomely blue eyes stare at every other person like bottled lightning — ready to strike.

The decapitated head, held high — a trophy — oozes, smattering a fresh green leaf below with still-warm blood, drip, drip. The same blood slicks off the curved blade of the axe.

Drip, drip.

"Arrrgghh— " from half-coherent protests, the striped-shirted boy drops to a single, agonized, word. Under mud and unnameable slime, spoiled pale skin whitens, flushing him as wild eyes look not at the barbarian but cannot un-glue from staring into the popping, lifeless eyes of his opponent. It's a losing thing: a staring contest with the dead, and he surrenders to harsh flailing of his arms, splashing swamp water up the reedy sides of the forest shore.

The long petticoat and now-ruined taffeta dress become weighty as they soak in water, prompting Harriet to, in a rather panicked state to reach for her crate — her earlier perch — all whilst muttering to herself underneath her gasps for air. Staying afloat becomes more problematic as layers of fabric threaten to pull her downwards. But Ruggles won't stand for losing layers. Her hands grasp the crate for dear life, clinging with water soaked gloves.

Very quickly, Gerard's 'heavens' is upgraded to a, "Good Lord!" Flabbergasted, his gaze bypasses the warrior and stares straight into dead eyes as the severed neck drips blood and gore. There is something humbling about prolonged eye contact with a decapitated head and then watching the reactions of the man responsible for it. He may not know where he is, but he realizes that he does not want to be near that man any more.

Making a decision to back away from the violent man post haste, he attempts to take the door with him. Unfortunately, it is a heavy thing and all he manages to do is pull it upright and then cause it to fall over backward with a muted thud as it collapses onto the lush, thick grass. Leaving it where it landed, he scoops up his umbrella and stumbles backward. This just so happens to land him ankle deep in swamp. Wild eyed and still holding onto his briefcase and umbrella, he closely resembles an Oxford professor stuck in the mud. Wearing a fez.

While contemplating his options, he spots the struggling Harriet. "Gracious me." He tosses his briefcase backward and then, with squelching steps, moves forward and holds out the handle. "Grab hold of the umbrella, madam!"

The warrior has stopped roaring, but his heavy breaths fill the air, each rigorous exhale threatening. He bends his knees, a fighter's stance, ready to spring; sandaled feet sink into soft earth, but his strength is unchanged. Bits of moss and debris, mingling thickly with blood, fall from the poised, barbaric blade.

Dripdrip.

It takes longer for the eyes of the displaced warrior to register each other individual; his head, and his axe, point at each in turn.

Iris, as it points to her first, starts to push to her feet, but falls back down to her skirted knees; the only thing keeping her there is the young man at her side, who makes no move to do the same; he seems almost witless, immune to the shock of anything but change and pain. The vicious figure is out of his realm of perception.

The armed man's dirtied muscles twitch like a caged animal's — swaying his garish prize — though no fear shows in his eyes, only threat, pushing out into nothing but strange wilderness and every strange face in it as if challenging them to do something: most of all, the man wearing the hat; the end of the axe points definitively at him last.

Beside the faint rustle of ferns, as if submitting to a breeze, "Em hotep!" calls out in a raspy feminine voice, her tongue arranging the foreign words with unflagging command. "Em— " and a slim figure side-steps from out of the jungle brush, "— hotep." Trimmed in khaki, from the wrap of a coarse fitted jacket, to the billow of pantaloons, and the round sit of the safari hat holding in hints of a brunette's hair. Across the dip of her shoulder, a sleek interpretation of wood fit to metal: a grip in chestnut, a grey hammer, and the long black snout of the rifle's muzzle, pointed where the young woman stares unflinchingly down through the two pin-points of scope. "Or hold, if you speak the English language."

A crisp booted seat after another, crunching leafy ground coverage beneath her heels, set her on an arced path towards the swamp, rounding the savage's right side at a measured distance. Closest to her, the useless thrashing of the sweatered boy, to whom she refers: "Someone help this boy up."

With a couple of scattered crackles at the point she appeared, another figure lumbers out into the populated clearing: a dromedary camel, its single hump laden down with travel packets of all sizes, a jug identifiable as for water, and a few sundry others. Two steady steps in the girl's direction, then a single one in retreat, its head low as it groans without breaking stride.

The warrior begins to shout at everything and anyone, obscure words mangled further by the force of the threatening growl they're rushed through.

The newly revealed woman and her dromedary liege has inspired a startled, uncoordinated attempt at action in Iris, meanwhile; she dirties her dress further, a wide pattern of dark mud at the modest hem as well as the opaque hosiery that dons her sturdy calves, in getting up to obey the weapon-toting stranger. She does so though she can hardly bear to leave the side of the wounded man at her side. She deposits a small jar and and folds of gauze she'd been holding onto him and makes a run for the other, the striped boy in distress. She takes a wide berth around the camel, a sight too bizarre to contemplate layered on top of so many others; as a result, she trips over a slippery root, her hand outstretched meaningfully toward the swampy bank.

"Quis— " forms, now, in the warrior's blood-smeared mouth. He spits through his teeth off to the side, pink froth; barbaric, perhaps, but as words solidify they are precisely, boldly enunciated in a language used long, long ago but never wholly lost to the ages: ancient Latin. "Quis enim es tu?" he demands to know, channeling his attention on the female figure who's taken up authority; his eyes blaze right past her rifle, however, not registering the thing as any threat.

The umbrella is grasped tightly by those same water-logged gloves and Ruggles actually shoots Gerry a nearly smile. A nearly smile. Yet she truly appreciates his manners. "Thank you, dear boy," Harriet manages while her grip tightens around the umbrella. "These are not the kind of dreams I approve of," she mutters quietly under her breath while her gaze shoots up towards Gerry.

In her grasp, Ruggles catches sight of the head, causing the woman's jaw to drop and face to pale. "Unacceptable, Ruggles." Clearly her own mind has invented this place, but how did she become so warped in imagination?

Blind self-preservation, the greed of the spoiled youth, sees Travis throwing his arm up to grab onto Iris' outstretched one, ignoring her loss of balance to steal what she's left in order to yank himself up and out from under the gas vehicle, rumbling petulantly. Swamp water sprays up as he staggers to his feet, stomping till he's balance enough for himself and the little pink wallet clutched desperately in his sweaty palm, fingers frozen around the familiar without him ever realizing how tightly his knuckles pale. His entire front and face covered in smeared mud, he looks more creature than boy, eyes wild.

Gerard pulls the umbrella and slowly starts to yank the waterlogged woman out of the swamp. He takes careful steps backwards till Harriet is able to stand again. Then, he offers a hand to help her stand and won't release it again till they are safe on dry land. "I do not believe this is a dream, ma'am." He glances behind him with a worried expression. "Oh, look, there's a camel now." And with that observation, he returns to his assurances as if he did not say anything else. "I quite believe myself to be real and I accidentally pinched my hand when my door almost fell on top of me. This vista has remained stubbornly in place, so I fear this may just be reality. Or some version of it."

A spark; not the flare of the woman's rifle, but a glint in her eye lighting her as good as a firework as she intently murmurs, "Quis… quis enim…" under a low breath. "… am…" The rifle adjusts with a rustle against her shoulder, reflecting the gears turning while a thing mostly seen on paper attempts to translate into syllables. Forming— with growing excitement as she rises up onto the balls of her feet, bouncing once against the grassy marsh-scape, "Who am I! A— Ah— Amelia!" Solemnity grasps her, re-tightening the clutch of her weapon to impress she's not lost focus; she addresses the warrior with sternness of diction, forming dusty unused words with her friendly tongue. "Amelia nomen meum. Vid-e-mus potens… es. Lorem posuit caput…" a pause; her delicate mouth hangs open, "et securis. Aha!" Another giddy bounce jars her safari hat and it slants, "Take that, male dominant society disbelieving of a woman's interest in the ancient languages!"

Mighty warrior, she said. The man's eyes squint, honing in on Amelia with cutting precision. His head tips up, each subtle movement adjusting to a new understanding; he understands. He lifts the decapitated head a few inches higher; his own dark blond, blood-matted eyebrows raise and for an instant, such a fleeting, mercurial, mischievous instant, an amused flash passes through the beastly warrior for just this woman, slipping out through his harsh threat. See, the look says, in that moment, I understand: he slowly, without taking his eyes off Amelia — nor the rest of them, in periphery — he places the head on the ground beside him. Cocky, he defies full obedience. The weapon is lowered halfway, but only a flex of a few muscles away from easy use. "Tu Romanus es?" He challenges, but no longer does he shout. "Non est bonum modum." His Latin flows easier, but it's ironically rougher than hers, older, Vulgar. "Quaero scis ubi ego sum."

A scramble as Iris is struggles upon the mud, writhing on her stomach thanks to the pull from the wild-eyed boy. "Are— " she pants, fighting to her own feet. Modest, practical white shoes stand out surreally against the dark earth. The latter is winning. At this rate, her shoes and dress alike will be painted fully to match the heady swamplands. "Are you alright, mister?" Big brown eyes already dark as the mud itself hop worriedly to the man and woman with the umbrella, gradually realizing they're as lost and confused as she is. "Sir? Ma'am— ?"

She startles all over again when she catches sight of the warrior man in some manner of communication with the woman. She instinctively takes the arm of the swamp-drenched boy.

"Mmm-m-m-m-m— " Twitching against Iris' hold, the boy's stammer frees another mouthful of mud from against his lip. Moisture clearer than swamp-water pools, catching on the streaks beneath his eyes.

Miniscule stress lines crease above Amelia's eyes, illustrating a strain threading through the task of listening to the colloquial Latin. "Non est…" she mumbles to herself, drifting pronunciation telling of a lack of comprehension. Fingers flex more easily on the rifle, never easing pressure but shifting comfortably, her trigger finger unflinching. "No," when speaking up, it's clear again— strong— until she realizes her mistake, switching diligently to, "Non," as her feet lift, re-bracing her stance in the sinking, unpredictable mud pre-swamp. The high cut of her boot features lacing to the hem of her pantaloons, better defining the slim figure of her ankle and calf than the baggy lower-wear. From the giddy triumph of earlier words, she deepens to impervious authority belied by rosy cheeks lightly be-speckled with a light coating of grit. "Rogavi te blande. Sed dic mihi quo appellaris nomine capiat te securi sunt."

The warrior's eyes glint sharper than the edge of his blade. The great alien wilderness is spread around him in every direction, but for this moment, he focuses solely on this pantaloon'd woman in front of him. "Castus." Proud push of his chest out, and teeth, a wolfish smirk, gone in a flash. What was once a subtle hint of entertainment now solidifies, however; smile restrained to just the corners of his maw, the expression on his grisly face is tantamount to a joke. He flattens his emptied hand to his bare chest, indicating himself as his eyebrows raise as if in question, eyes directing at the item Amelia points at her and then precisely to her face. He lowers the weapon, eyes fixed throughout the act — and it is an act, for he is not cowed by her curious authority, and is, in fact, impervious to the knowledge of the potential threat in her hands. Blade touches earth. "Noli… vulneret me?" Sarcasm graces — or disgraces — the ancient language, a human art crossing time and culture.

Safe on dry land or not, undeniably, Harriet Ruggles is caked in mud. A rather shocked, sidelong stare at Gerard is given with mouth open and eyes wide. The shock is extreme. Her eyebrows knit together at Gerard's observation of the camel. "I am entirely certain this is a dream or it has finally happened and I have finally died. Perhaps the grocer's prices have finally caught up with me and have induced a stroke — " Yes. Clearly this is likely.

Iris is cast a similar sidelong glance. "Yes. A stroke," this explains everything. "Which explains why this is oh so real. Perhaps my unconscious mind is reliving some youthful folly." And then, as if negotiating her own distress, she snaps, "It is rude to listen to a lady's maladies without granting some empathy for said conditions." She may be muddied, and possibly bruised, but her manners and policing of said manners, for whatever they're worth, appear to be intact.

Now that Harriet is on dry land, Gerard bends over to scoop up his dropped briefcase. It is now covered in muck - much like his umbrella. He unhooks the restraining strap and then shakes out the umbrella in an attempt to dislodge the mud and wet before tightly winding it back together. "Do you smell burnt toast?" he asks the woman solemnly. If she's having a stroke, that would be an indicator. As Iris scrambles over he straightens and then adjusts his fez, as it has gone a bit askew in his rescue. "Ahem. Yes, I believe so, though a little damp." He starts swiping at his briefcase to clear it of its own dirt and grass. "Are you alright, miss? This is certainly a confusing time."

Though puzzled, he seems calm. Perhaps this sort of thing happens to him often. With a few strides, he gestures toward the fallen door he appeared with. "I'm afraid I don't have much to offer, but perhaps the three— " he includes the stuttering man, " —of you would be so kind as to sit on my door? It's drier than the ground and not quite so dirty. We must remain calm in the face of adversity." He fixes his bow-tie and moves toward Castus, removing a small object from his briefcase. "Do excuse me, but everything alright, miss?" He addresses Amelia now and not Castus.

The approach of the man affects a ripple through the air, a scant but deadly change coming over the warrior. The older man's calm manner of speaking does not factor, nor does the fact that he addresses Amelia instead: Castus, barred by language and quick to roil and tense with distrust, shifts his body in a hundred tiny, subtle ways, readying a potential assault in either of two directions, now. His axe may be on the road to falling at his feet to appease the woman (unclear, still, whether it's a show of good faith or a joke), but he is still a threat unarmed, and his dark look toward the other man would have him know it. Shared language is not needed to read his eyes. Come any closer and pull anything suspicious from that box, and he can still rip your head off.

The face, one might say, of adversity.

Amidst the mud clambering, grasps for focus ripple through Amelia's understanding of a once long-dead language. "Hoc vocatur a gun," she's been explaining while Harriet's voice pricks at the edge of her hearing, "Multum noceat te: sed non ego malo…" A determination, while foreign to him, communicated by an unwavering stance; he may not find her weapon familiar, but a warrior's air sits undeniable. Every cautious but eager Latin word fit with unflagging genuineness. Footsteps, a fez in her periphery, split her attention down the middle and her fingers flex and resettle on the rifle as the left corner of her mouth sours downward a tic before regaining speech: no-nonsense, an expression routed to neutrality. "It'd be much improved, sir, if you did not rile up my good friend, Castus, just as we've come to an agreement." Sardonic or not. If she truly took him for his actions, the gun would probably not still be prepped.

A few feet away, the camel shifts its four, lumbering idly forwards then backwards, eternally on the cusp of approaching Amelia while reconsidering. With a wild flapping of its pursued lips, the animal releases a huge fluttering sound.

The vivid eyes of Castus glide tactically from one thing to the next. The man, with his strange accouterment. The warrior lady Amelia, with her gun — he looks skeptically upon it yet reads truth in her bearing, and reading is as clear as the written word in his gaze; the prim bustling of the old woman, and the less than prim boy; the white-dressed girl; the restless beast; the cautious stirring of the young bandaged man.

"Is…" A groggy mumbled word off to the far side, that young man in his pyjamas begins to push onto his elbows. "Is that Latin… Iris?" He doesn't find his companion; he sees a camel and becomes nauseatingly dizzier than he was before, slowly sinking back to earth.

Iris stirs uncomfortably where she stands, near petrified, eyes glued to the woman with the gun and the man it's pointed at. "No thank-you sir," she murmurs quietly to the older fellow. She bypasses the door, picking her way around the gathering to so, so very cautiously— not wanting to draw undue attention to herself— return to the side of the singular familiar face in her midst.

"Accubuit alienis telum tuis sicut me posuerunt mihi." Castus raises both hands and turns his palms down: empty, but for the blood of battle. His attention always returns to Amelia. His eyes continue their dance. "Venite pervenire feliciter intell├ęctum."

He waits.

"Drat and balls," murmurs Amelia in her elegant accent; even so, to his eyes' vividness, hers alight in possible courtship. Interest getting the better part of wariness. "Now I'm certain I'm getting this wrong, as I just heard that he wants to lie with me. Come on, Millie— context… Lay down— weapon, he laid down the weapon. As others…"

The silence between moments is not silent at all. It's alive. In the seconds each individual stands looking at one another, an animal calls. It's piercing shriek is far off, yet it travels with odd resonance unlike any known creature. Warming beams of hazy new light seep through the treetops, heavenly, catching dancing spores and flower-dust.

"I hope he doesn't mean that head…"

There's a rustle.

A low-lying shrub moves, a short distance from Amelia's beast of burden. Its spidery, waxy leaves tremble.

It does not go unnoticed by Castus. It becomes another unpredictable factor to take into account. His hands raise higher, and — smiling in that scant way — he looks more expectantly to Amelia.

Neither has it missed Amelia — rustle nor smile — and with a prompt flick of her eyes from the spot, she clucks her tongue, cuing the restless camel to pick up pace, trotting lazily closer to its master, who calmly, as if to a friend rather than as a command— though it is still a command: "Colligunt enim securis, Castus."

Which is the exact moment that the swamp-slathered boy in the stripped shirt chooses to loose his chewed-on tongue. "Oh, my God!" he shrieks with a hysterical flailing of his arms, accidentally tossing the pretty pink and sparkle-trimmed wallet straight at Iris. "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!"

"He's saying you should put down your weapon, since he put his down." Gerard translates easily for Amelia, though he has a technology advantage. While Castus was not paying attention to him on his walk toward them, he managed to retrieve a small device that looks a little like a remote control - for those who know what a remote control is. He points it first at Castus - as he's the one that seems completely unable to understand what anyone is saying - and then at Amelia.

"Ah, there, much better, I think." Almost as if by magic, Castus is now able to understand Gerard. Also, anything that he says is shifted to the primary language that Amelia understands. "Now, as you were saying, Mr. Castus. I believe we have all found ourselves in trying circumstances, so perhaps killing each other before we find out what is going on is not the most prudent of choices, hm?" The rustle has, however, gone unnoticed by Gerard. He turns slightly to the freaking out man and adds, "Quite a lot, apparently. But, I do not believe yelling about it will do us much good. Chin up, lad."

"Oh yeah?!" Travis has exactly zip patience for the zen coolness, as he bats as his swamp-sticky, encrusted sweater, "Cause I'm pretty sure that's exactly what we should be doing! How many drugs are you ON?! Oh my God! How many drugs am I on?!"

Castus is pleased to retrieve his axe; this time, it is pointed at no one, simply readied. While he blinks peculiarly at the man who, suddenly, to his understanding, is speaking his language — more or less — the other, noisier male's outbursts … have served to provoke the wildlife.

The scratchy rustling in the shrub escalates. The whole thing shakes, every spindly branch and all. It belies the presence of an animal that, with a powerful burst of flurrying movement — through which Iris half-shrieks in startle, clamping a hand over her mouth — flits out, leaping or flying, a feathery little rocket above Travis, himself. A quick blur of colourful feathers — pheasant-brown, scintillating dark blue, black, red, a shock of white — blessedly no bigger than a large parrot, it disappears up into the next tree.

Evidence of the wildlife lingers only in the form of fluffy clusters of seeds and pollen shaken from the high branches, raining down in slow-motion upon the head of Harriett Ruggles.

Amelia's voice prods Harriet's awareness further. "Forget it," she finally turns to Gerard. "Clearly I am not having a stroke and have instead died. No burnt toast, but if I am not mistaken my purgatory has just arrived." There's a tightness in the edges of her lips with that pasted on high society smile and all-too-prim manner of engaging with the rest of the world.

An eyebrow is arched at Travis, "No hallocinogens, dear boy. Just death. It is best to accept these things early."

The bird invokes a fit of sneezes from Ruggles lips. "Purgato — ACHOO — ry — ACHOO — complete with all — ACHOO — gens."

As the one holding the ranged weapon, Amelia's none too pleased to have a foreign one— presumably; whatever the shape— returned at her, and she shakes her head under observation, stepping back once, "What was that?" to Gerard. The rifle drifting to him arcs on the bird's path, following without getting happy with the trigger. She does not shoot, only follows the vanished trail some seconds after it's gone, blinking back to the survivors at the noise of aggressive sneezes. "And I had— I have— no intention of laying down my weapon," she continues to the older fellow, "I only sought to establish myself as no push-over. It'd be heinous to deprive a man of a weapon in a foreign environment— well," eyes narrow she scans, finding Travis, "Except this boy."

Ignorant to his selection, Travis has eyes— soggy with moisture not just from the swamp— for Harriet as his hesitant lip quivers. "I— I don't want to be d— dead."

"Come on— " Amelia meanwhile suggests to Gerard and, in extension, with a flick of her rifle, to Iris and her companion. A second cluck of her tongue brings the camel ever closer and she lays a palm over its neck reassuringly in absence. "This is a terrible strategic point, and if we've been taken by someone, I don't plan to make it easy on them. Castus— will you come alo— " A glaze fastens the color in Amelia's eyes as she hesitates, chin ticking to one side as she tries to recall hearing herself. "Will…"

The ascent of the colourful creature yet finds the interest of Castus: the man looks up into the tree with wonder, a lovely captivation that washes his bloody nature briefly pure. Amelia garners a similar look not a moment past, his head tipping on a delay to eye her the turn her speech has taken. To his ear, her pronunciation of his language has suddenly improved — but is strangely stricken with a lilting accent and word usage of the like he's never quite heard before.

She may not have heard herself speak it, but the displaced Latin-speaker has clearly understood his language; not only Latin, but strategy. He becomes stern. He places one sandaled foot forward past the head of his fallen foe.

Iris tries to help her companion lift his head, his shoulders, and bit by bit, they stagger together to their feet. Amelia's logic has placed an additional worry under her. "Are we in the tropics?" she asks — anyone, everyone, the humid green world itself.

"It is a translation device, so that we might plan accordingly. Broken Latin and half of us not being able to understand the other simply will not do." Gerard quickly pushes buttons and includes Iris, Harriet and Travis, then stuffs the translator back into the briefcase. "It automatically translates all languages to your native tongue. It, sadly, does not make up translations for expressions that do not exist. I once had a dreadful encounter with a man who believed my exclamation of 'bloody' meant I had ill will toward him when I had merely stubbed my toe on a particularly nasty table leg." He puts his hands up in a gesture off no ill will. "I have no weapons that I can think of, though I do believe this briefcase could brain someone should I have the inclination. You are the one with a weapon and it is quite an extraordinary model, if I may say so. Wonderfully preserved. I must know where you got it from." Apparently, he is not willing to take time travel into account as well as death or strokes. As Harriet receives an attack of allergies, he turns slightly toward her. "I don't believe allergies are a feature of the afterlife. Are you alright, madam?"

"Stiff upper lip," Harriet encourages Travis as she straightens. "Come child, be more like the British. We have endured through worse than this." What? Who knows?

"How would you know?" Harriet snaps as her eyes narrow at Gerard. "Have you journeyed and come back?" Her lips purse expectantly as her hands trail to her hips unceremoniously, "To my knowledge no one has man— "

"HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!"

The scream strikes through the forest like a shot. High above, a hundred unseen creatures scatter and leap; in their wake, branches quake in shock. Terror is a universal language, transcending cultures and species. Even Castus knows the meaning of the word without being attuned to the English word. Even the smallest animals know that's the cry a living thing gives before it dies a painful death.

But the human sound has a special note: desperation. The far-flung, needy hope that someone else is out there and will rescue them from their fate.

Somewhere, a branch snaps with a crack.

A heavy splash, muffled by distance and thick forest, suggests the swamp part of swampland extends quite a bit further than where they've landed.

And that some of the native life may be slightly larger than a parrot.

Fallen twigs snap with answering briskness as Amelia's torso twists instinctively in the cry's direction, her foot following then sliding backwards a step. On her way to the opposite angle, she bares her teeth for two sharp whistles, causing the agitated camel to prance obediently up to her. Rifle slipping under an arm, she tosses up the front flap of one of the animal's canvas bag burdens, "Iris— " dragging something out, she twists and tosses it deftly in an underhanded arc towards the name-tagged woman; it's a metal whistle of some unique design. "Get your lad there on Niel," smacking the camel's back, she gestures forward and the beast lumbers towards the couple.

"Town cryer— Governess Ruggles," gloved fingers jab at them both in brusque double-time, "Go with. Look for high ground or clean water. No caves unless you're willing to make damn sure something wasn't roostin' there first." Speaking, she's dropped the rifle against her leg, tucked a handful of bullets into a small bag underneath the side flap of her explorer's jacket— warm apparel, by the line of sweat under her brow, but not without breathing, "Castus, Professor. Let's go." Brunette bangs bouncing, she jerks her head towards the commotion.

The lame stammering coming from Travis erupted into the sobs he'd been threatening this whole time at the sound of the scream and he blubbers now, continuously rubbing snot on his already dirtied sleeve.

Some spring to action immediately, while, for others, it takes longer, shock trapped in their eyes. For Iris, shiny little whistle in hand, it's so soon after her confusion and fascination with the professor's inexplicable translator — something she can't yet fathom; the big brute with the axe has gone quiet. She stares at Amelia, having no doubt in her mind that she ought to do what the woman says — just look at her — but for that moment, the scream ringing in her ears, bouncing around in her head, she's frozen.

Yet she rushes to dutiful action before Travis; shoving myriad items into the tight pockets of her practical dress, she reaches a hand out toward him. "Mister! Help me get Foster on the camel. He's terrible sick, he's got shrapnel— " Iris hobbles with the young man toward 'Niel'. He seems wary of touching the creature, but grabs one of its great humps when he staggers. The camel, dutifully, crouches onto its calloused knees.

Castus is already running.

His feet crush the undergrowth, but his heavy body leaps and bounds with keenly honed athletics over logs, roots, mossy rocks and every undefinable scrap on the swampy ground. He bounds on with the utmost seriousness, determined lines having struck his forehead upon the scream and the woman's call to action, one he was heeding before those remarkably clear words left her mouth. The severer of men's heads rushes to the aid of another.

A powerful scrrrrrrrrr! of his axe blade severs a low hanging branch, a tangle of vines, clearing their way into the great unknown.

The day is still young.

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