Hidden 20 days ago Post by Decimate
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Ludolf Reinhardt had never thought much of dreams. They were illusions, distractions of the mind that took place in the void between sleep and wake. Utterly meaningless in every sense of the word.

But the dreams that consumed him now were different. Like claws from the void, the foggy visions drug him down, deeper and deeper, and with a painful lucidity that resisted any rational thought or attempts to fight back. His skin simultaneously felt as though every pore had been set aflame and then dunked within a vat of frozen ice. Little by little, he struggled, feebly, to remember. To recall the circumstances that led him to this peculiar predicament. But try as he might he could remember nothing. Nothing but blood, fog, and snow.

Snow?

Ludolf opened his eyes. The haze, thick as mussel soup, lingered for a few seconds, before finally giving way to reveal his surroundings — that of a desolate, empty field covered in drifts of freshly fallen snow and further surrounded by an almost impenetrable wall of mist. Overhead, the moon was shining bright, but there was something about it that appeared almost obscene to his eyes. Had it always been so ... oppressive?

"The Sky and the Cosmos are One!"

The sudden familiar voice piercing through the tranquility made him tense. He twisted, reaching for the blade in his coat but found that it was no longer there.

"Who?"

His voice came out as a hoarse grunt, the harsh sound of it echoing through the mist. No one answered, but he kept his hand inside his coat just the same. Though everything was quiet beneath the moonlit sky, the hair on the back of his neck slowly began to stand on end. The seconds began to pass in the stillness. One minute became another. Nothing moved, but he could feel something stirring beyond the wall of vapor ahead. And before long, the shadows began to shift, darkening into the veiled shapes of men, women, and children from a time most had forgotten.

Some were ravaged beyond recognition while others appeared almost living save for their opaque, sightless eyes and hideously gaping jaws. Some crawled like worms through the dead earth, their legs gone, their arms grasping and reaching through the banks. But whether this was meant as an attack or a plea for help, he did not know. In a sluggish mass, they moved towards him, their agonized cries growing ever louder.

With his heart leaping into his throat faster than a speeding bullet, Ludolf attempted to shrink back before the growing sea of ghosts but found that the strength in his legs had deserted him. He couldn't move! His veins turned to ice water. Any second they would be on top of him. He had to move, even if it was just a fraction of an inch. Ludolf writhed ... twisted ... and finally took one step, then another, and another before he lost power in his legs. He collapsed, gasping and soaked in sweat, onto all fours in the snow. Howls still rang out accusingly over his shoulder, but all his strength was gone, sapped by just that one move. But just before the calamity threatened to consume him, a new sound shattered the illusion. BOOOOONG! BOOOONG!

A beast?

No, said the dry, rational part of his mind that still worked. Bells.

And, indeed, there were bells. The noise was soft at first, nearly drowned by the cacophony, but it steadily grew louder and louder until the thunderous toll was all Ludolf could hear. The sound of it breathed new life into his veins — a fire that burned so hot that he wondered how it didn't sear him straight through to the marrow of his bones. Slowly, he found his feet and turned towards the darkness, his blood coursing with defiance. He opened his mouth in a roar, but just as he did something exploded from above, sending a massive wall of white-hot flames raining down upon his would-be spectors. They burned and writhed and shrieked, and the smoldering of ashes filled his nose. Yet even as the shades shrieked their last, the bells rang on, and on, and —

"Any of you lot awake?"

The vision faded.

But the sound of tolling bells did not.

Dizzy and with his mouth dry as dust, Ludolf Reinhardt slowly opened his eyes. Gone was the hellish, barren landscape he had viewed from his dreams, but in its place he found himself confronted by a new one that was equally as strange.

He was laying on his stomach with his cheek pressed against a wooden floor. From what little he could see in that position, there were makeshift cots lined in purposeful, orderly rows. The whole place reeked.

Maybe that dream hit a little closer to home than he'd thought.

Groaning softly, he pushed himself upwards, first onto his knees and finally all the way up to sag against one of the nearby cabinets.

"Unfortunately," he croaked in response to the voice from before — a voice which he could now see belonged to a large, apish-looking man who appeared as if he could knock the head off a wild beast with only his bare hands. A boon in these uncertain times . . . and yet —

Ludolf's eyes narrowed.

"Don't mean to be ill-mannered, friend," he said slowly, "But where . . . are we?"
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Hidden 20 days ago Post by Dark Jack
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Eastern Yharnam, Hunter's clinic, back room

Victor and Torquil's attention had strayed from the figures occupying the back room of the clinic after the one aptly described as the “Screaming Man” had turned out to only have stirred momentarily from his slumber. Victor was just about to resume his search for anything interesting in this place with a newly determined priority to find a key to this place, and Torquil had noticed the new Messengers offering them their message. But barely had the two made a move to go through the door to the reception before a voice – a new voice – called out behind them, stopping them dead in their tracks. They both turned around to face the speaker.
But a moment later a second new voice replied to the first, and the two Hunters at the door turned their heads in unison to look at him instead, Victor with an expression that betrayed shock and mild panic, Torquil with surprise, but also joy and relief.

The two men likely made a strange visage, standing there next to each other, particularly with Arcturus' tall, lean figure with them for comparison. Victor was fairly tall, only a little shorter than Arcturus – though both of them would still have to look up at Nigel, had he been standing – while Torquil was rather short. The comparison almost made their relative proportions seem exaggerated; Victor and Torquil both being somewhat burly, though neither could once again compare to Nigel – likely made Arcturus look obscenely thin, and Torquil standing next to his tall companions would make him seem tiny.
Of course, a lot of the attention that might have been directed at this, as well as to the fact that Arcturus and Torquil were both dressed and equipped in such a way that it would not betray their inner nature as Hunters while Victor wore the uniform of a church Hunter, might have been distracted by the fact that Victor was still completely drenched in impossible-seeming quantities of blood. His efforts to wipe his face and gloves had only lessened the red tint there, but not removed it; blood was notoriously difficult to clean off, and there was a lot of it.

“You're at a clinic for blood-ministration,” Victor replied to Ludolf's question, eyes shifting between these newly awakened fellows in a way that might suggest paranoia. Noticing Nigel's foreign-looking attire, he elaborated: “In Yharnam. You're probably Hunters now. So are we.”

As he spoke, a crowd of four Messengers – invisible to Victor but ironically visible to everyone else present for it – emerged from the floor around Ludolf's feet through what seemed almost like tiny puffs of mist. Their grotesque, eyeless and remarkably dissimilar faces turned towards him, their tiny little hands extending towards his shins, palms upturned, in an almost pleading gesture.
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Hidden 10 days ago Post by Decimate
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“You're at a clinic for blood-ministration."

Ludolf's gaze snapped from the giant over towards the door. The speaker, he saw, was a tall man garbed in robes that might once have been ivory, but had been stained through with blood. So much blood, in fact, that the smell of it was almost dizzying in the confined space. There were two others with him though neither one of them spoke before the first piped up again.

"In Yharnam. You're probably Hunters now. So are we.”

The introduction was a simple one for what it was but it caused Ludolf to freeze and go still just the same.

Hunters . . .

Oh yes, though his mind still felt full of fog, the word brought with it memories — no, understanding of the term. Images appeared in the back of his thoughts. Strange spectors in black armed to the teeth with cleavers, swords, and axes. Corpses . . . of beasts mostly, but also of men. There were other memories, too. Ghosts and shadows. A courtyard drenched in blood. Fuzzy sketches akin to a Rorschach test penetrating in the darkest corners where he dared not tread.

He glanced over to Nigel, but when the tall stranger did not speak, Ludolf straightened and dusted off his frock.

"You say this rather casually," he drawled, making an effort to keep his tone light. "Yet, I've never known a gift to come for free. Not in Yharnam at any rate. What is it you want?"

But before Victor or anyone else could answer, something bubbled at his feet. Astonished, Ludolf stepped back, but just where he had been standing, creatures began to emerge. They were small and hideous, with grotesque mouths and empty eyes, but it was their hands that attracted his attention the most. They were straining for him, their palms turned upright in a position that bore a striking resemblance to the monsters from his dream. With a slight hiss, he leaped back, his expression flickering from guarded to outright disgust faster than a set of traffic lights. No one else had reacted, but even so, the appearance of the unsightly creatures immediately set his heart to his racing.

Hidden 9 days ago Post by Dark Jack
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Eastern Yharnam, Hunter's clinic, back room

This new Hunter in particular was bad news. Even before jumping in shock and disgust at nothing – or at least appeared to Victor as nothing – and thus confirming that he, too, was in all likelihood an immortal like these others probably were, the man's words caused Victor to frown. So few words, yet so much revealed about the man's personal opinions and beliefs.
For starters, he referred to becoming a Hunter as a “gift,” which was an unusual stance to take on the subject. To most citizens Hunters were a necessary evil; violent, bloodthirsty demi-humans that were only slightly better than actual beasts, and easily as dangerous. Most Yharnamites both feared and derided Hunters, which they made no secret of and which was one of the main reasons that Moira and her Black Church had gained traction in the first place. To most people, including Victor himself, becoming a Hunter was part of the price they had to pay for blood healing, not part of the reward. For someone to consider becoming a Hunter a distinctly positive thing, they had to have a great desire for power or thirst for violence, enough so that they were essentially willing to risk losing all other aspects of their life to achieve that.
The other statement that revealed his personal beliefs was what Victor would paraphrase as “nothing is free in Yharnam.” While Victor probably agreed somewhat with the sentiment, at least as far as the Healing Church was concerned, saying it out loud still revealed a particular dislike for Yharnam.
And this, he thought grimly, is who Dietrich, or Harold, or whoever made the decision, decided to turn into an immortal soldier. Great.
Finally and much less damningly, the Hunter's lack of awareness of the “price” he had paid for the “gift” of being made a Hunter revealed that he had some unusually extensive amnesia. It was not uncommon for Hunters to forget parts of their past during metamorphosis, but this man did not even remember the treatment or the bargain that resulted in it.

Victor turned to Torquil next to him, pointing at the spot on the floor that apparently shocked and appalled this stranger so much. “More little men?”
Torquil nodded, confirming Victor's suspicion. He turned back to the distasteful immortal, going his best not to outwardly sigh in exasperation over having to have this conversation.
“So you see little men,” he remarked more loudly, making it clear that he was once again addressing the person in the opposite side of the room. “That means you're special, too. Congratulations. Seems like there's an awful lot of special Hunters here.”
It was not until he had spoken the words out loud that Victor realized just how bitter he sounded, which probably did not make a whole lot of sense to these people, considering that as far as they knew – or he wanted them to know – they could just see things he could not. Hopefully they would not discover their own immortality until they were well and truly under the control of the Healing Church.
“And I don't want anything,” he continued, only a little less bitterly than before. “I have offered these guys that they can follow me to the Cathedral Ward for briefing and equipment, and I suppose the same offer extends to you two.” He indicated the two newly awakened Hunters by pointing with his sword.
“But we all fill a contract before becoming Hunters,” he finally reminded the other. “I don't know what your contract said, but it's usually something like 'become a Hunter and hunt beasts', and maybe 'don't make a mess of Yharnam'.” He shrugged. In truth, Victor had no idea what was in the contract he had signed back then; he had been much more concerned about not dying or living in constant agony at the time than the consequences. He figured it was something like that, though.
Hidden 5 days ago Post by rocketrobie2
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Nigel lost himself in thought almost immediately after he spoke. The stranger's query registered in the disoriented man's mind but it was too late for him to reply with the arrival of two new strangers to the fold. The trio exchanged a few words while Nigel eyed one of the newcomer's attire, trying to figure out what was wrong with it. The crimson dye it held was off-putting but Nigel's fog riddled mind couldn't connect the dots for a good few moments. It wasn't until examining the crimson clad stranger face did Nigel realize the cloth held blood, not dye. Nigel's eyes went wide as the scope of that much blood dawned on him. Surely it wasn't really blood? There just seemed to be too much, an unnatural amount.

"Pardon my interruption" Nigel began, turning his attention to the blood drenched man "but is that blood you're covered in?"

With this question out in the open Nigel's mind began to work in overdrive as he processed all the information he had just heard. There was panic wracking his mind but he pushed through, focusing on the facts given to him rather than the fear of uncertainty. He remembered heading to Yharnam in search of healing, the blood-ministrations must have worked, but the mentioning of becoming a hunter or signing a contract rang no bells in his mind at all. Perhaps this was all still part of his nightmare? He was certain he was awake but in dreams that was usually the case.
Hidden 3 days ago Post by Decimate
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Any thoughts of being caught in a lingering nightmare were soon dashed. From out of the corner of his eye, Ludolf saw the blood-drenched stranger turn and gesture inquiringly to his companion.

"Little men?"

The second man nodded and the first turned back, appearing to be more irritated than alarmed — a reaction that caused Ludolf to lower his boot back down to the floor. His eyes slid — not to Victor who began to speak — but over to Torquil who had thus far not said a word. Upon closer inspection, however, it appeared that this was more practical than unwilling; the man's jaw had a strange crookedness as if it had been impacted by some kind of blunt object. Everything else about the man appeared nondescript and plain. Even the man's eyes were just a calm, muddy brown. This was a "special" hunter?

Deciding to withhold his judgement for now, Ludolf focused his attention back upon Victor in time to hear him explain about a . . . contract. He racked his mind. Try as he might, however, he could remember very little that took place before he signed it, much less the specific conditions he had signed. But at the same time, it hardly even seemed to matter. In his heart of hearts, Ludolf knew he would have signed that document no matter the costs to his body, mind, or soul. He had only one goal left to him now and, as far as he knew, it lay deep within the beating heart of Yharnam's beast-ridden streets. If becoming a Hunter meant gaining the access to the tools and information that would allow him to survive for that long, then it was worth it. Plain and simple.

"Very well," he decided aloud. "I'll accompany you back to Cathedral — "

He didn't get to finish. The large stranger, who had been quiet since Victor's first introduction, suddenly spoke.

"Pardon my interruption but is that blood you're covered in?"

Ludolf glanced over at him. "It is," he confirmed. "You can smell it from here."

Along with something else.

He hadn't noticed the pungency before due to the appearance of the Hunters in the doorway, but he certainly did now that the topic had strayed to the blood congealing on Victor's robe. It was a foul scent akin to sweat, pus, fur, and rotting meat. For the first time since he had awoken, Ludolf began really paying attention to the clinic around them, his eyes darting quickly from the Hunters to the bodies strewn across the floor, to the little men from before, and finally to the doorway from which the three senior Hunters had emerged. Had there been an incident before he had awakened?
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Hidden 20 hrs ago Post by Dark Jack
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Eastern Yharnam, Hunter's clinic, back room

Upon hearing Nigel ask whether the substance Victor was drenched in was blood, the Hunter frowned before glancing down at himself, confirming how thoroughly soaked he was, and then swept the room in front of him – looking at the dead beast, the several human corpses, the blood-splatters and the dangling bits of intestine hanging off some of the furniture – before looking back at Nigel. His expression had gone from annoyance to disappointment, though he seemed somewhat mollified when Ludolf confirmed that the substance was, indeed, blood.
Because Nigel was expressly looking at Victor:
Though Victor seemed to look down at himself with an air of sarcasm initially, he seemed momentarily surprised with what he found. His eyes quickly scanned his entire body, especially noting the tears in his clothes from the times he had been wounded earlier, but generally just seeming to gauge the spread and quantity of blood covering him. For as attentive as Victor was of everything around him, he also curiously seemed to avoid eye-contact with anyone.

“Yeah,” Victor confirmed grimly, looking once more to the beast with its obviously broken neck sprawled across the floor at one end of the room. “Seems the clods running this place bolted when the bells rang, and someone thought they could help themselves to some sleeping Hunters.”
He gestured to Torquil, Arcturus and through the doorway behind him to Marcus. “These guys woke up and held them off until I got here. Also killed that one.” He pointed at the dead beast. There was a note of approval in his voice.

About at this time, Torquil pointed with his left hand – his right hand holding his hatchet – towards the cabinet that Ludolf had been learning against before jumping away to escape the Messengers. “Little men!”* he garbled.
Over there, still plainly visible to all of the Paleblood Hunters and invisible to Victor, the four Messengers that had crowded around Ludolf's feet had seemingly taken to try to communicate. One of them had turned its face – void even of the sockets for eyes, and with but an empty round, somewhat wrinkled mouth-like hole – to Ludolf once more, and was gesturing with its hands for him to come closer. The other three Messengers had moved to the base of the cabinet itself, with two of them throwing their tiny bodies flat against the front of its wooden doors, raking their hands down the side soundlessly and powerlessly. The last Messenger instead laid low against the floor, as if trying to look under the cabinet, while reaching into the gap created by the stubby wooden feet of the cabinet with its hands, as if trying to reach something.

(What Torquil actually sounded like:
*“E'hl meh!”)
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