Scene 02: Wipeout
Cold as hell.
These weren't new feelings for Gerry, and in fact, were partially good news.
Since he knew just how cold his bits were, he wasn't succumbing to hypothermia or frostbite.
He wasn't dead, since people said the Other Side left you feeling empty-headed.
That it was white meant he was near the surface of the buried snow, because snow blocks light well.
He angled his head and wiggled his arms about to try and get a sense of where everything was, and a few seconds later another thought hit him.
He'd been able to block his face from most of the snow as it'd hit him. Practice pays off.
Chalk one up for self-defense instincts. He drew back a breath of air and then spat as hard as he could; he felt it drop straight down, practically turning to ice right as it left his lip.
His mouth was pointing down. That meant he was roughly prone.
That was everything he needed to know. Taking a deep breath, Gerry adjusted his position what little he could to shift towards his head, then he reversed up and out with as much strength as his arms could muster, exploding through a few inches of snow and into the bright sunlight. All was pristine, untouched, and white — save for the occasional outcropping of green-and-red kosso foliage and snapped bamboo. The ground — well, the snow — here wasn't level, but it was a lot less angular than it had been higher up. Must have hit a plateau.
"Shot right p-past th-the alpine zone." He looked back up at the distant peak — it'd probably take the better part of a week to climb that from here if he started right now.
Gerry pulled himself up to his feet, only to immediately sink another foot. Damn. No snowshoes. He shook his head, but then an idea hit him. The trip down must have been rough on the enchantment, but if he clicked his heels...
It took some effort to pull off clicking his heels, given that he was sunk so deep, but once he managed it, the enchantment weakly sputtered to life in the form of a glowing force around his feet. The surfing and avalanche had blown out the bulk of the magic, but there was just enough left there to spread his weight out — and that was all he needed.
Gerry dragged his feet out one at a time and experimentally placed them on the snow, which didn't seem to crumble under his weight. The boots did give a sparking whine, but they also seemed to hold well enough. It'd do for now.
Once he was out of the snow, he didn't feel cold at all — he felt rather warm. That only confirmed his initial thoughts — they were well below the frostline now, and back in a tropical climate. He brushed some more snow off of his ragged uniform, then snapped loudly. "I t-told them, don't do an airdrop a th-th-thousand ocks up, you'll c-cause an avalanche! I told them! Nno, they've g-gotta have their d-damn ship safe."
Furious, he wrung his hands and then shook his head. But he wasn't gonna leave anyone to die out here. An avalanche was a terrible way to go. Besides, you let a witch die — who knows what she'll do from the Other Side? Just the thought of her and her crazy eye peering at him from beyond the veil... oh, it made Gerry's teeth hurt.
He looked around to make sure he was alone; seeing no one, he looked around again just in case. His nerves finally satisfied, he pulled a knife from his belt and slit across his wrist, a cut an inch across. It was one cut among the shadows of many; his inner forearm was criss-crossed with similar faint marks, easy to miss at first glance. A few drops fell onto the snow between his feet and spread; the rest he cupped into a small blue canteen, and then shook the contents tightly.
A few seconds later, the canteen began to tug urgently to the side, the fluid sloshing around inside. What's more, it grew warm. Dark. Hungry. He never quite got used to that effect of the charm; it hungered for the blood of others nearby and let you know exactly where they were. Someone was nearby — but of course, he couldn't feed it. He never, ever fed it. And that made the charm angrier and stronger every time he used it.
He followed the pull of blood an octometer or so to the side, when the canteen began to pull down almost exclusively. Someone was down there. He stowed the canteen, tugged on his gloves to make sure they were extra tight, then knelt down and began to scoop.
It was only half a minute in when his gloved hand was met by another's — one that gripped his strongly and threatened to pull him down as she worked to pull herself up. Clad in brown leather more than red cloth, it was unmistakably the Sergeant-Major. And she was digging herself out.
"Thanks, darlin'," she drawled as she slowly rose out of the snow. Her eye flickered with violet sparks. "Crackin' a mountain... really takes a lot outta ye."
"D-didn't know witches could do that before, mma'am." Nuts. She had to be the first one he found. He averted his eyes from her face. Did she know, could she tell? Covens hated blood alchemy.
Well, they hated people that weren't them using it.
"Can do... all sorts of things," she said. "Though... takes a lot out the bones... t' do it." Now that she mentioned it, he realized she sounded exhausted, even for someone pulling herself out of an avalanche. "Find anyone else yet?"
"Nnn." Gerry shook his head, bits of snow flying from his long hair. "Just you."
"Alright. Tell 'em it's witch magic... No reason t' be afraid a' both of us."
Gerry started to protest, but Camille shook her head.
" ...Don't look so surprised. Noticed the way 'at canteen moves."
Shit. "Just a l-little trick I picked up sommewhere, mma'am."
"Bullshit." Camille leapt up onto the snow, towering over Gerry — and he was not a small man. Not tall, but not short, and with a barrel chest of his own. For whatever reason, she didn't seem to sink into the snow, either. "...But not my problem. No issue with what ye do, long as ye follow the mission. Got it?"
Well, what the fuck was he supposed to say to that? He saluted.
She waved it off and stopped for a moment to place a hand on the hilt of her rapier; Gerry flinched reactively, but she didn't seem to have any intention of drawing it. "Later. We need t' hurry; only so much air down 'ere. I'll go this way first," she nodded behind her, towards the rest of the plateau. "Ye go back up the mountain. Be back by sundown."
Back... up the mountain. Gerry took a long look up the peak again. He didn't have a solid idea where they'd been when they'd jumped, or how far the avalanche had carried them. Sometimes he thought it was his lot in life to suffer. But she was right, there wasn't a lot of time — if anyone else had ended up submerged in the snow and had had the good fortune to at least get an air pocket, half an hour was still their maximum.
He exhaled, gripped his canteen, and started trudging back up the slope; for the moment he could only feel the container being pulled towards Camille, but that would stop as soon as she was farther than any other source of human blood. Hopefully soon. And if he was real lucky, his makeshift snowshoes wouldn't give up before he found someone else.