[RO] [M] The Songthorn Papers. Ep: 1. Wendigo
#1

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: Blood, gore.
[+1387]
The network of bunkers had been a vast, sprawling system. Sometimes thought to be a superfluous extension, it made sense that only a catastrophic invasion would serve to demonstrate that the bulkheads, layers of concrete and steel were warranted. Many rooms had become crowded. Some were unsealed for the first time in years to become occupied by personnel, refugees, and tacticians attempting to break the iron grip on their beloved Realm.

This room was cracked in the late stages of the conflict. It was first opened almost a month ago then taken over by the scientist Councilor Songthorn. He would reemerge in the first days. He would be scarcely seen two and a half weeks in. He was never heard from and forced his peers to hijack the door after the fourth week of silence, throughout which, by all accounts, the Councilor never left his laboratory.

The party that entered the room found no signs of Luperci life, which could not be said for signs of frantic work. Disparate, increasingly disorganized research logs, various recordings, empty petri dishes, a picture taken at the Councilor's wedding. It seemed the room had somehow been decontaminated. Likely a process launched by someone automatically. It left no organic matter to salvage or identified. Several empty ampules marked “Z456” were regarded with particular suspicion, as was a specific voice-locked data pad.

It was only the arrival of Dr. Dawnrunner that provided the key. As soon as she said the word “Sastimos” near the pad, it unlocked, uncovering a disturbing voice-log from the missing Councilor.

“Councilor Bellad Songthorn. New Caledonia, Circle of Athelas. Date… Irrelevant. Sólveig, seeing as you are the only one who could have unlocked this recording, it is my hope that you are listening. The privacy of this information is to be decided by you at your own discretion. For me it is highly probable that it will be posthumous and therefore... Well, I will not be there to judge you for your decision whatever it may be. Nor to find out if you or the others will judge me for what I have done.”

Visual data on the pad only contained images. Some were close-ups taken from microscopes. Luperci cells, viral culture in various stages of growth. Though Bellad was only heard but not seen, his voice occasionally fluctuated, much as he seemed to be trying to convey information in an official manner.

“In the wake of the invasion we have spent much of our time tending to the wounded. But with dwindling supplies it was becoming obvious that an alternative solution was needed. The samples of Z456 recovered years before this began seemed key. If the virus had affected our kind, brought us to the forms and levels of cognition that we now possess, I theorized further manipulation and application to our DNA could provide… Something. An immunoboost, regenerative properties when bound to proper agents – something. I was wrong but… also I was right.”

“We still bear traces of the virus in our bodies, hence our ability to uplift other Canis into Luperci. Trials using samples from Kule Pana produced little to no result. I theorize this is because they’ve been infected in their own generation. Those born from Luperci parents however… I thought the virus would do something to them. But somehow it was the opposite. They did something to the virus. Before long whatever I was dealing with was no longer Z456. It is… something else. I have dubbed it Z456B in my logs.”

“I extracted this new strain and applied it to other blood samples. It didn’t work at first. The strain is extremely short-lived outside a specific environment. We are the environment. It came to a point where it… pulled the surrounding cells with it. Started amassing them, fortifying them into something, inducing cellular growth. In one of the petri dishes it got to a point where it… developed into muscle tissue. Once formed, Z456B protects itself by reshaping, perhaps even enhancing available Luperci cells. I thought if that was the case, then we had something spectacular. Could it be used to regrow damaged tissue? Create transplants? Enhance regeneration just as I had hoped?”

“Sadly it’s… not what happened. I know this because I have… injected myself with the strain. I could no longer get sufficient data, and I could not possibly expose the rest of the bunker to Z456B. My body is… changing. I can no longer shift at will. It’s doing something.”

The log was interrupted by a strange sound. Further examination seemed to indicate that it had been present throughout the entire log, but only now increased in volume sufficiently to be singled out. The sound had been described as “wet”, “tearing”.

“I cut off the blood-flow to the limb that I injected. This ah… this allows me to observe the effects. Muscle mass is increasing but it’s… It’s not made for this body. Abnormal bone growth. My claws don’t retract anymore. They don’t fit in my… in my hand... I can’t keep this down indefinitely. I can feel the pain even through an ample dose of painkillers. Z456B is not… viable. But… maybe it can still help. I have automated the decontamination systems in the lab. After I leave they will destroy all samples. Even the original virus samples I had. This must not repeat… Nor should the violence our people have endured.”

“I have gone this far in my research… All that is left now is to… field test the only existing prototype of Luperci infected with the Z456B. One last precaution. I have reassembled one of the explosive collars originally used by the invaders. It will be around my neck along with a nav beacon. Its frequency is in this datapad. You’ll be able to use it to find the collar on radar. The codes to the detonator are there as well. If you see that the dot is moving anywhere near the Bastion, detonate it immediately. All that remains is to be incinerated. No exceptions. Even if I try to return I must not be allowed to come back. It is too risky to allow a living carrier of Z456B in.”

There is a heavy pause, but the recording still shows a few more seconds of voice file left.

“I am sorry, Sólveig. As of now you are the last surviving member of the Circle of Athelas. I swear I… only did what I did because I wanted to help. Although… perhaps I also wanted revenge for all we’ve… I’ve lost. Goodbye, Sólveig.”

“Bellad Songthorn. Signing off.”

***

Elsewhere outside the Bastion the remains of an enemy patrol lay tattered on the ground. Mangled, broken bodies, shredded armor and flesh. Blood dying the snow a deep, dark hue of red. A soldier with the mark of an eye on his helmet fired frantically at a figure at least three times his size closing in. It reflected in the lens of his visor. A thing of bare muscle and sinew, torn black pelt draped on it like an ill-fitting tattered cloak, outgrown and stretched across an almost skeletal head with too many teeth and horrid bloodshot amber eyes.

He screamed, hearing the bullets sink into the thing’s dripping muscled frame, but seeing no change to its steady pace. The monster’s mouth split, gaped, too wide, dislocating the lower jaw, expelling a horrid stench of blood. The living bear-trap closed on the soldier’s entire torso, teeth digging in as it shook its prey around like a ragdoll. The screams resonated into the mouth that nearly swallowed the upper half of the Tear trooper. When it stopped, what fell to the ground was horribly mutilated and disfigured.

The monster panted, groaning at the sound of its own crackling bones. Even the vapor coming from its mouth seemed like a blood red mist.

“Feh… nohr…” Its mouth and throat were no longer fit to pronounce it. Still the thing made its utterance of the name of the recently deceased queen. Then it departed, leaving a bloody trail as it vanished into the dense Caledonian forest.

In the following days rumors rose among enemy ranks. That something they dubbed a “Wendigo” roamed the Caledonian wilderness. Some platoons were ordered to hunt it down. Some vanished. But never without a vengeful crimson trace.
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