In the dead of winter, Lovell Bergman had a visitor. She was a common sight now, ever since the time she had asked him to help deal with a rogue Sasquatch, and now Keelin Vaughan seemed to once again have urgent business, as she tramped through the yard toward the front door of the house. Her usual converse and blue jeans had been replaced with some thick canvas snow pants and a pair of insulated leather boots, and under her usual green cloak was a middle-weight winter coat, the runic power of her outer covering helping keep her from being too cold even with relatively light clothing compared to the thick snow and freezing cold. Her hair was tied back in a frizzy ponytail and she wore a pair of green earmuffs that matched the cloak in color, and once again she was toting a bow and quiver of arrows.
Upon reaching the door of the house, the redheaded druid knocked a few times on the door, and almost immediately a deep bark could be heard inside. A voice sounded, likely from the opposite site of the house judging by how muffled it was, and was followed by the sounds of foot steps approaching the door. After the sound of a lock switching, the door opened up, revealing Lovell dressed in heavy flannel.
"Well? Hurry up and get inside, the heat's getting out," Lovell told her abruptly as he stepped to the side and ushered her quickly through the door. Once inside, Keelin was standing on a knit mat on the edge of the small house's living room. It was cozy, filled with carved wooden furniture, and layered in numerous heavy blankets. On the adjacent wall was a small wood burning stove with a steaming kettle on top; the stove gave off a pleasant smell of burning cedar, and the kettle was filled with spiced water to get the air from getting dry. With the welcoming party concluded, Lovell moved back in to a chair near the stove to sit down; Keelin's invitation to follow suit was implied.
Keelin took a moment to take everything in- Though she had visited the property on several occasions, this would be the first time she'd entered the residence. it was a little different than her own home, but still rather cozy and rustic, a bit of a stark contrast from the newer homes and modernized cabins most of the residents of Tofte lived in. She stamped her boots off on the little rug at the door, not wanting to track in a bunch of snow, but not bothering to take them off either as she figured she wouldn't be in the house for long.
"Well, I think I'll need your help again..." Keelin began, looking somewhat apologetic, but there was a bit of urgency in her voice. "Siofra's been telling me that the forest creatures have been complaining about some dark presence a little bit northeast of here, and this morning a van full of some very upset teenaged peers of ours arrived in town in a tizzy talking about some demon at Silver Island Lake." She put her hands on her hips and and gave Lovell a bit of a questioning look, as if she had hoped he would have figured out what she was asking for by now, but, not having an immediate answer to her as of yet unasked question, she decided rather than waiting for Lovell to figure it out on his own, she would simply ask it.
"Basically, I need a ride over there and I need to figure out what it is, and probably get rid of it before the authorities get there, or someone else gets hurt"
Lovell looked contemplative as he looked at the stove, one of his hands reaching down to scratch Macy's ear; the dog had laid back down after her earlier barking, lounging by the fire on top of her own blanket. "By your tone it sounds a bit more intense than an angry skunk ape," Lovell responded, and then looked to be thinking for a time. "You'll owe me again, but sure, I could use some excitement. Been sitting around here the past couple days."
Getting up from his seat, he walked into the kitchen in the next room, and it sounded like a couple of drawers opened and closed again. "Feel free to take a load off, I gotta get dressed for the weather," he called back in to the living area.
Lovell's response gave Keelin a bit of a feeling of relief. Her hands went from their position on her hips and draped down at her sides instead, and when Lovell got up to get ready she went and sat down by the fire and began to pet Macy, scratching her behind the ears occasionally.
"Thanks again, Lovell" she responded to the Werewolf, wondering when exactly she had started trusting the hunter enough to call on him first when problems arose. She just hoped that Lovell didn't take too long getting ready- She really wanted to get there and get things taken care of before something was exposed to the nonmags.
"Don't thank me just yet," Lovell's voice called from a back room. "If this trip goes ass up, I'm gonna want more than just information on a sword." A little under ten minutes passed before the wolfman emerged again, this time dressed and ready for heading out into the cold. He was wearing heavy denim pants, and a thick leather jacket lined with fur; all over top a good pair of long-johns. Making his way to the front, he opened a closet and pulled out a heavy pair of winter boots, and set them down with a solid thunk before slipping them on. Standing back up, he looked around, mumbling something, before going back into the closet to grab his sword; Fragarach. He held it inquisitively towards Keelin. "Really think there's a demon out there?" he asked as he pulled out his truck keys.
"I don't know about a demon, but there's a lot of magical creatures in the forest, some good, some bad, and some beyond bad. Hopefully it's just a bad one, because I'm not sure just how much the two of us can handle" Keelin mused in response to Lovell's question, eying the sheathed sword that he carried, which, oddly enough, was a relic from her family's homeland. "Either way, We should get going as soon as we can. Do you know how to get there? she asked.
"Silver Island Lake? Yeah," Lovell confirmed as he put some gloves on and shouldered the sword. "Its got some pretty good back country sites for camping that don't need reservations. Used em a couple times while hunting out that way." Gesturing, Lovell waved Keelin to go through the door first so he could close up, and once back out in the biting cold made his way over to the shed where the spare truck was.
"Another reason I said to hold off thanking me," Lovell started to say as he eased his way into the old Chevy. "The spare truck has a terrible heater, so it's gonna be pretty cold for the first ten or fifteen minutes. So no complaining."
Keelin seemed a bit nonplussed at the warning, as she had walked to Lovell's house in the cold, so it probably wouldn't feel too much worse, she figured. She grabbed the handle and pulled open the old door with a loud groan (From the door, of course) before hopping onto the vinyl-covered bench seat and yanking the door shut behind her. Somehow, she already felt colder just by being in the cold, metal box that was the cabin of the truck, with no source of heat but her own body. It was less than ideal but the runes kept the edge of the chill off, at least for now, though she realized that once her body heat from walking wore off, she was in for a cold time before the heater started working.
"Alright then, let's get going so we can get the cold part over with sooner rather than later."
"Old Bear willing," Lovell chimed, as he worked on getting the truck started; Old Bear being a loving nickname given to the truck that doesn't want to start in the cold. After a couple turns of the key, and some growls that didnt' affect the truck but still made Lovell feel better, the engine finally turned over and roared to life. "There we go," Lovell said as he patted the steering column.
The old truck rumbled out of the shed and onward down the road. For the most part, the duo rode in silence, focused on how long it was going to be until the cab finally heated up. Finally, about ten minutes outside of Tofte, the travelers could feel warmth begin to permeate the air around them. While now they were warm, there still wasn't much talking. Keelin and Lovell still had a ways to go before they would really consider each other to be friends. So Lovell focused on the road ahead, making sure he didn't miss any turns, and occasionally glancing over to the girl beside him.
After an hour or so on snow covered country roads, the sun was beginning to get close to the horizon leaving about an hour before twilight; the angle casting long shadows of the bare trees. "Here we go," Lovell said, breaking a stint of silence to announce the final turn that would bring them into the main camping area around Silver Island Lake. The truck finally trundled to a stop a little ways up the road, leaving the truck near the center of camp until they knew a bit more. With another groan from the doors, Lovell got out of the truck and surveyed the main road. "So?"
Keelin made her way out of her side of the truck, shutting the door behind her with a loud Thud, which sort of echoed through the wintry woods surrounding the bit of clearing they had parked in. Ahead of them was a small thicket of trees in roughly the center of the clearing, with a cabin tucked neatly in the middle of that. A little ways further they could spy a couple of docks, and,with the evening sun to their backs they caught a glimpse of reflected glass from a cabin on the opposite side of the lake.
"Well, We might as well try the cabin, see if anyone's in there, and maybe set up a base camp of sorts?" the redhead suggested, figuring somewhere safe to stay the night would be needed, and if anyone was around they could ask them about what had gone on the night before. Following her own suggestion, the Druid began crunching her way through the snow toward the cabin.
Nodding in agreement, Lovell followed Keelin's lead and switched over to hunter mode. His ears were on alert for any out of place sounds, his eyes scanned their surroundings, and his nose didn't need to try very hard to pick up the faint smell of gore on the air; while he could not tell what the smell belonged to, it gave him an uneasy feeling. He edged his way forward, placing himself off of Keelin's left side on approach to the cabin.
Once the duo reached the structure, Lovell tried to get a view inside, but the curtains were drawn. Instead he put an ear to the glass to listen, and a light twitch hinted at picking something up.
"Something inside," Lovell mouthed more than spoke as he caught Keelin's attention. "Not sure on where inside."
Keelin followed behind Lovell intently, getting to see his hunting skills in action for the first time. Their chance meetings in the forest, and the obvious trail they followed to Ersee's shelter, had done nothing to really showcase his skill, but this small amount of tracking that Lovell did was quite a sight for Keelin, who normally left the observing to Siofra, whom was currently tucked away underneath the druid's cloak, keeping himself warm. After Lovell mouthed about something being inside, Keelin made her way over toward the door, seeing a set of fairly recent prints having come from the lake. She wasn't sure, but they appeared to be snow boots, of a smaller size. The druid pointed these out to Lovell, and then motioned toward the door with a curious gaze.
"should we open it?" she asked, quietly, Hoping that there was in fact a human inside, and not something else.
Rounding the corner to the door, Lovell took a closer look at the prints. There were a good number around, the tracker put the number at around seven individuals. Raising a finger, he motioned for the Druid to wait for a few moments more. He wanted to take a look around the sides, and after a minute or so passed, he returned to Keelin. He was looking a little more grim than he was before, but he gave a sign saying that he was ready to enter the cabin; a second gesture he made could be interpreted as "ladies first."
Satisfied that Lovell had made his rounds of the cabin, Keelin nodded at the hunter's gesturing, and went to open the door. At first, it wouldn't open, budging only a little against Keelin's slight body weight. Looking somewhat perturbed, Keelin produced a small sack which had been attached to the belt around her waist and rummaged through it, finding a small rock with a rune scratched into it. She concentrated on the rune, and it began to glow, before she touched it to the door and immediately the lock clicked open.
"Ah, good, this only works on simple locks. We got lucky!" Keelin whispered with an edge of excitement in her voice. She didn't normally get to do this sort of thing and it was sort of exhilarating.
The door opened with a painful creak due to its cold hinges, so at this point stealth was somewhat moot though still recommended. Once inside, the air was chilled as the two investigators began to look around, though Lovell made a point to give Keelin a thumbs up for getting the door open. The cabin's interior was a mess, looking like it had been abandoned in a hurry. Clothes were strewn about, and many personal affects were scattered across the floor. The wolfman's ears moved slightly, and his nose sniffed at the air again. The smell of blood he picked up earlier hadn't come from here. This cabin smelled only of fear, panic, and... perfume? It had faded some with time, but this cabin definitely smelled like teenage girls had been through it.
Walking through the main space, the two stepped lightly through the chaos. Motioning once more, Lovell made his way towards the kitchen, but along the way his foot found a loose board; the resulting creak resonated through the space, and Lovell froze, angry at himself for not being more careful. The noise did however bring something else with it; a small, sudden, almost unnoticeable yelp of surprise. Lovell maintained his frozen pose, looking over at Keelin to make sure she had heard it as well. It had come from the storage closet in the corner. Stepping with care now, Lovell beckoned Keelin to flank the closet. He doubted it was the demon, in fact he was almost sure, but until they knew what they were dealing with it was better to be safe.
Keelin almost jumped, herself, at the noise Lovell made when he found a squeaky board with his heavily booted foot, but kept her composure, although she did jerk her head toward the source of the other noise- a small yelp from a closet in the corner. Not wanting to cause much destruction inside the cabin, Keelin refrained from drawing her bow, instead fishing through her pouch for another rune, this one a rune of restraint, which could help hold back a potential foe if need be. Silently she concentrated on it as she carefully stepped toward the closet, then, once she had finished charging the rune and finding herself a good spot near the door, she motioned for Lovell.
"On three," Lovell mouthed as he placed a hand on the knob, before silently counting down with his fingers. Once he reached one, he jerked the handle and swung the door open. A shrill scream came from the closet as the next few moments went in a blur, but when it settled down again things became clear. Huddled in the back corner, behind a couple of coats, sat a teenage girl. She was on the verge of tears, shivering, and covering her head as if waiting to be attacked; but when it became obvious no strike was coming she hesitantly peeked out the open doorway.
"Lo-Lovell?" her voice asked, shaking from fear, and filled with uncertainty.
"Melissa?" Lovell asked back with his own bit of uncertainty.
Keelin's rune was raised, and she was ready to throw it, but with a distinctly human-like scream and the fact that nothing jumped out of the closet, Keelin lowered the stone. In just a moment she figured out that it was in fact not any sort of demon or dangerous creature (Depending on who you asked, anyway) but rather one of the girls from the high school.
"What are you doing here?"Keelin asked, dumbfounded. I thought you had all come back this morning?"
Melissa's eyes welled up with tears once more, only these ones seemed to be from a sense of immense gratitude. She stood quickly and rushed out of the closet, throwing her arms around Lovell before crying in earnest. "I was s-so sc-scared! Those bastards left me be-behind," she wept before sniffing loudly and fighting back more sobs. "I thought... I thought I was g-gonna die out here all... all alo-al-alone!"
Lovell's face had dropped when the girl hugged him suddenly, and his eye look to twitch ever so slightly. He had not been friends with Melissa at any point, and if memory served the last time they were around each other she had insulted him behind his back; something he picked up on thanks to better than human hearing. He resisted moving his hands, if only because he felt pushing her back into the closet would be considered rude. Silently he looked over at Keelin, and continued to mouth rather than speak. "Get. Her. OFF."