Helluland 2 - Discovery

Summary:
June 30, 2014: The Croft Expedition finds evidence of the Viking presence, and why they decided not to stay on Baffin. Welcome to the Jaws of Winter.

Barnes Ice Cap - Baffin Island - Nunavut Territory - Canada


Characters

NPCs
The Crew

  • Ila (m. Inuit Guide)
  • Giles Everett (m. Mountaineer and Survivalist)
  • Mackenzie Denton (f. Field Medic, Former US Army)
  • Carter DuBois (m. French Canadian Inuit History expert)
  • Henrik Berger (m. Swedish Historian focused on the Icelandic Sagas)
  • Sigrid Hansen (f. Swedish Archeologist, specialist in Vikings)
  • Bobby McGee (m. Canadian Archaeologist, specialist in Artic Culture)

Mood Music:
None


The night passes in the cavern that the Croft Expedition has taken shelter in. Quiet chanting, prayer-like, can be heard coming from Ila's tent for some time during the first watch, then he goes quiet and his tent light winks out. Lara herself sits a watch shift, deep watch in the middle of the night, showing she's willing to do the difficult things she asks of her crew.

When dawn breaks, the camp is filled with the smell of brewing coffee and the sight of a large pot of hot oatmeal on the stove, with scrambled eggs cooking on a griddle. The chef is Giles Everett, their mountaineering and survival expert. "Protein and carbs, to fuel us today," he announces when everyone is up.

Ila comes out of his tent last, looking grim, and moves to the group. "Lara, we are friends, and I respect you greatly, but I cannot accompany you today. I can tell you where you must go, however." He beckons the group to follow him to the back of the cavern, where he had paused a while the night before. He shines a lamp onto what appear to be words and images of some sort carved into the rock. They are faint, but he picks up a handful of snow from a corner and wipes it across the marks, and they show up with the white in the recesses.

Lara peers at them. "Those are Younger Futhark runes, from the Viking age," she whispers, amazed. She leans in to translate, "Enter not the jaws of winter, for there lie the Draugr. We leave this place, and this warning for any who come after us." She looks at the group. "Draugr are ghosts in the Norse beliefs. Ghosts who mean harm to the living."

"The Ijirait," Ila confirms. "Your Norsemen came as you believed, and they wisely left. You should too. But I doubt I can persuade you." He gestures to a drawing of several peaks with definite shapes, landmarks, marked with an X between. "I can show you on a map where these peaks are, but I cannot follow. I will stay here and protect your camp, but I will not risk my soul in a place where Vikings feared to tread."

Lara nods and she looks to the rest. "Anyone else want to back out?"

If asked for honesty, Barton would easily admit that the chanting put something of a surreal covering over this entire mission. Something where the supernatural meets the real, the physical world as he knows it, and it's a little disconcerting to him. So, when watch changes and Clint is ready for bed, he can hear the indistinguishable sounds echoing in his head. That, of course, isn't the only reason that sleep is elusive for the agent. The fact that Domino is there and there is no way he'd close his eyes around her? It's going to be a loooong mission.

Morning breaks, thankfully, and with it, a little bit of heat, real or imagined. Sunlight, however, always lifts the spirits. (Good thing they're not going in the winter when it's perpetually night.) The smell of food is most certainly welcome, and finding a dish, he's ready for his food to be piled on. They not only need the protein, but also the calories. They'll be burning it. "There's something about eating out in the field. Bugs would taste good given the right circumstances. Not that I'm going to go have a chitin and cheese sandwich, but…"

Wiping out his dish and setting it back into his pack, Barton wanders towards the wall where the drawings are, and he simply can't help but to touch the markings made centuries ago. Millennia by now? "Vikings, huh? Be a little rough for the longships, but where there's a will?" He studies the wall, the markings, before he turns to check the maps as offered by Ila. "If we still have a couple of days ahead of your rivals, Ms. Croft, we may want to see if we can't get rid of some of our tracks here." That's not to mention he's a little concerned for Ila's safety if the guide remains here.

"Ila, best advice? Hide the place. Try and cover its existance. I'll be taking the rear and trying to do the same." Preaching to the choir no doubt, but just saying the words makes Barton feel just a little better. And gives the others a chance to add in their own $.02, or specialized aid.

That said, the SHIELD agent begins to pack 'his' Cat.

Chanting like that, even quietly, is enough to keep Domino awake for a time. The cold is nothing unusual. Camping out in an ice cave, no big deal. Chanting? A little creepy. She's more than happy to take watch during Ila's ordeal. That, and she's still not trusting some of the hired help.

Breakfast is claimed with a salute of a survivalist spork to the cook, complete with a thin, pale smirk. At least they don't have to resort to trying to hunt out here just yet.

The lessons that the next day bring only help to make this job seem so much more surreal over anything else she's ever been a part of. Relic hunting, fighting spectral guardians, working alongside two SHIELD agents… Ah heck. You only live once, right?

"Quitting's not part of the job. Just tell us how to put these ghosts down. Maybe a rousing game of flashlight tag?" Perhaps she should have brought one of the reappropriated SRD whump guns along for this, compressed air might be more effective against incorporeal targets.

Through the evening Daredevil stays mostly to himself playing up his role as the quiet one. It's of little use, of course, his mistake earlier in the evening of speaking into an open channel made it clear that he and the Widow at least know each other. But once everyone gets to the camp, his jovial commentary goes back to his earlier stoicism.

It does nothing to dampen his spirits, and though he doesn't respond to Lara's 'last call to get off the ride,' it's clear he's not going anywhere.

The chanting didn't actually disturb Natasha all that badly. But, then, she's had more decades than any of the others — including the guide — to become acquainted with the weirder side of life. After all, she remembers when the Nazis Harper so worries about were current-day news because she lived through it.

Once breakfast is complete and the camp is struck, at least as much of it as is going to be struck, she ensures her gear is gathered and she's ready for the trek ahead. Loading up her own Cat, she moves by Daredevil and gives a light clack of her boots on the snow to help him 'see' the way she's headed. "Time to load up, Red Man."

The chanting is almost a lullaby to Roy Harper, adopted son of the Navajo tribe. A different language, but the tone, the spiritual prayers, those were to the spirits of the land. What he was praying for, however, Roy couldn't tell. It sounded like he was meditating, but to what, and why?

The next morning, however, told the tale, then. While scooping out the oatmeal and eating, Roy nods at Ila. "Yeah, can't blame you. The spirits aren't anything to mess with. I got a question, though… aren't there any -helpful- spirits we can get help from?"

Lara exchanges a look with the archer because she gave him a special task prior to the expedition, and suspects he may know something more about the safety of this place from rivals. To Domino she offers, "We'll need to be sure to bring the floodlamps intended for dig sites. Make sure we have lots of light to see shadows clearly."

The scientific and support crew each vow to continue on, and when the hired mercs and heroes indicate their will to carry on, Lara nods and moves to spread a map out on top of a camp table. She pulls a marker from her pocket, checks her GPS, and circles the location of the cavern they are currently in. "This is where we are now," she announces, looking to Ila.

Ila gives Hawkeye a sharp nod of agreement about camouflaging the camp from view, but to Roy he shakes his head. "Not where you are going. And not for outsiders. Perhaps they won't notice you because you are not Inuit. Perhaps." The guide steps up to the table, taking the marker from Lara. "From the drawing on the wall, I believe that the peaks were this one here, this one here, and this one here." He places dots on the map to correspond."

Lara looks over the indicators and begins calculating things in her head. She pulls out some tools and begins drawing some lines from the two peaks on one side of the valley to where they cross paths to meet the other more distant peak. She puts an X there. "There. That's on the side of the valley wall about twenty miles northwest of us. Let's get there and see what we can see. Let's load up and head out in one hour."

With the Cat packed, Hawkeye looks back at Harper with brows rising. "I'm not packing your stuff, Harper. Prep it, and we trail the herd."

Blue eyes flicker towards the rest of the 'hired' help, landing briefly first on Tash, then Domino. It's only a momentary linger, however, before Barton checks the preparations of the others. He takes a slow, casual stroll away from 'his' machine in order to give the others (NPCs) a hand; a presence and aid. In this part of the world, no one can truly 'go it alone', and a second pair of eyes is usually welcome. "C'mon. This is the easy part," is given lightly to those others, ready to double check packing and knots for the trip.

With the response that she's given Domino's smirk returns once more. "Flashlight tag it is." Seriously, there has to be -some- way to hold ground against these shadow warriors, if they really are a thing. "Hope no one here's afraid of the dark."

With maps, directions, and GPS equipment coming into play she tugs a coat sleeve back to reveal a smaller LCD screen strapped to the bottom of her wrist. It's not a GPS in a traditional sense, rather something of an 'auto mapper' that helps in navigating things such as caves and old sewer systems. Wherever it goes, it maps. Much more convenient than leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find one's way back home. So long as it isn't dead or broken. If Lara can get them all where they need to be, Dom should be able to find at least one way back out.

The glance from Hawkeye is noticed and returned, as stoic as can be. "Nervous, Barton?" (You should be.)

One hour, can do. She doesn't have much to round together.

Daredevil follows along off to the side of Natasha, close enough that she can hear his joke under his breath, "I suppose the outfit was not specifically designed for this climate. I have a brand to worry about, though, you know that. I already changed the outfit once."

The spirits don't particularly frighten him, he knows it will be dangerous and feels prepared as he trudges alongside Natasha, heading to the Cat. He's already gotten his things packed too, so the hour will be plenty.

"As long as you don't end up with yellow plaid or something," Widow quips softly back to the Devil, "you're good." A beat. "Good thing you can trust your tailor." The hour is more than sufficient for them to get loaded up, and once they're ready, she lends a hand elsewhere, as needed. Finally, however, she's more than ready to get on the road… erm… snow. Whatever.

"Up yours, Barton. We've got an hour. Get some food in your mouth if you're gonna be flapping your lips. We're gonna need the carbs," Roy retorts, finishing off the eggs.

Roy glances at the peaks, and then frowns, considering the situation.

"Mind if I go ahead and scout first? I figure I can at least check for signs of creatures and such," he asks, as he gets together his stuff, and then tosses it onto the CAT. And if there were signs to be tracked… well why not.

Lara shakes her head at Roy. Knowing what she and Clint know, she doesn't want anyone separated from the herd, so to speak. "We stay together. Too dangerous out here to go ahead solo. You could fall into a crevasse and we'd never find you." That's a lovely thought.

In short order, the group is on its way, leaving Ila behind with the fancier camping luxuries to guard, an arctic camo cloth covering the cave entrance, and his Arctic Cat tucked inside in case of emergency. His party words to them are, "Use your senses other than your eyes. If the spirits are here, they are tied here somehow. Break the ties." The Inuit guide watches them go with a concerned expression, until they are out of sight.

The travel is cold, but clear, with the wind having backed off a bit, mostly blocked by the walls of the valley. Lara sticks to the sunny spots to soak up whatever little difference in temperature she can for the party, trading off the painful refraction of the light off the hard packed snow. While twenty miles may not sound like much to those who do not live in the Arctic, even while the snowmobiles can fly as fast as an auto on a road, the Snow Tracs top out at about 13 mph in the best conditions and are being cautiously driven. It is a shivering two hours later that they arrive at the GPS coordinates on the map.

Lara pulls out a pair of binoculars and begins looking over the valley wall for any openings or indicators of what they are seeking. "All eyes up, anyone see anything promising?" she asks.

"Nervous, no." There's something in the tenor of his voice, however. Nerves, no. A healthy respect for the mission and the potential outcomes, absolutely. "Eyes wide open, hell yeah."

Rolling his head back at first, Barton starts to shake his head. "No. We all have our place—" and when Lara echoes, while not his words, his intent at the very least, he gestures in her direction. "If you're with me, you're in the back anyway."

Mounting up, Barton's taking the driver's spot again, though the first moment for potential switch-offs, he'll be more than happy to be a passenger. Too damned cold, and with the parting words of the definitely spooked Ila, well.. he has no real clue what— no.. how to 'use senses other than your eyes'.

Okay? Zen archery. Been there. Just have to trust his gut again. Instinct.

Slowing to a halt, there's nothing Barton would rather do than to warm up the tips of his fingers. Cold. Not frostbitten, obviously, but still cold! "Okay.. no welcoming committee. Always a good start."

Use your senses? Fortunately for Domino, following her instinct is something she's gotten to be quite proficient at over the years. When Ila mentions breaking the ties the first thought that comes to her mind involves small rune-covered totems or the like, in which case maybe they -do- need to destroy select pieces of their surroundings. But, who the heck knows? This is all before her time by, oh, several millennia.

As usual the extreme cold is not pleasant to deal with, particularly not while on the back of an open vehicle moving at any rate of speed beyond that of a brisk walk. Lara seems to have her act together but there's still only so much of her to physically block the bitter wind.

Once the Cats all slide to a stop and eyes are brought into play she nonchalantly shoulders the white camo decorated bullpup carbine and flicks the long range optics into position, scanning their surroundings.

It's not too long before she puts a hand on the back of Lara's shoulder to get her attention, then points off to the side. "Cave, four o'clock. Almost a chasm. Looks like we're right on target."

Daredevil's sensitive skin is murder in the cold air. Every gust of wind feels as though small tiny knives thrusting into different areas of his body. He takes a scarf and puts it over the exposed areas of his mouth, muffling any of the conversation between he and Nat. As he wonders why in the world he agreed to do this, he remembers what he told Natasha after the comlink was closed: He's a sucker for a smooth voice. It doesn't hurt that Lara Croft is his newest client and he'd prefer nothing bad happen to her.

He can't sense much on the trip over the loud whine of the engines. He can feel the heat and the cool from different areas enough to get a vague idea as to where the sun is hitting them and the shade masks things. He ponders Ila's words about using senses other than his eyes. Either his power set will be a great boon to these adventurers, or he'll be no worse off than any of the others.

As they stop it gives Daredevil a good enough chance to stop and reach out with his hearing. When Domino tells Lara about her find, he attempts to focus his senses in that direction, but fails to pick up anything concrete at this distance; the sound dissipates before it can return to him.

Natasha pulls the Cat up alongside the others, peering off in the distance to where Domino points. She pulls out a pair of environmentally appropriate binoculars and peers through them, sweeping the same location as the merc, and noting the black smudge that is the chasm cavern. "Oh, joy," she says softly, mic muted, her voice carrying simply to the Devil. "Cave system. I seriously hope the echoes don't play merry hell with you."

Roy gives Lara a strange look - wasn't this -just- the sort of thing you'd want scouting for? Unless they had a fair idea what they would already find there. Mulling this over, Roy registers the sense,

Scanning the area, Roy shifts his attention towards Domino is indicating. Hm. Use all the senses, did they say? So how did the air feel? Smell? Taste? …

… he was probably overthinking this, was he. Ahhh forget it, onwards!

When Domino spots the cave opening, tall and comparatively narrow, the crew are directed to motor over to it. Lara parks off her Arctic Cat just outside, but leaves the engine on, the motor a quiet purring rumble in the silence of the ice cap. She unlimbers a flashlight from her hip and clicks it on before she moves cautiously through the opening. The gap is wide enough for one person at a time, but not the Snow Tracs or snowmoniles to pass. She steps into a wider area a few feet inside, and sweeps the flashlight around the interior. The beam comes to rest on one wall and she lets out a gasp, her breath misting in the frigid temperatures.

Where the light shines is clearly shown what can only be called the (Jaws of Winter).

The icy smooth, mirror-like floor leads to stairs carved from the ice, with spikes of ice hanging from above and sprouting from below, surrounding it like sharp teeth, leading deeper into the rock and ice. Stuck in one wall something glints. It is the large head of an axe, wrought iron inlaid with silver runes. The Daneaxe has had its wooden handle long since disintegrated by time and the elements, but there is no doubt this is the remnant of a Viking weapon.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Lara whispers, "We have arrived." The archeology crew immediately goes semi-berserk with joy as they get to work extricating the axe-head from the ice, while the support and historical crew get to work setting up a base camp inside the cave itself, and covering the vehicles outside with more camo cloth. Lara begins preparing in her own way, gathering tools, devices, and weapons and putting them where she needs them on her person.

"If you see anything relic-like, or more runes, or cave paintings, anything, alert everyone. We'll collect items that won't jeopardize the integrity of the site, and photograph the rest. Sigrid will be filming, as will Bobby. Security crew, you'll be ahead with me. Sigrid and Bobby after, everyone else behind them. You step where I step. Any questions?"

What? Cave, four o'clock? In his scanning, Hawkeye misses that one, but not for long. There, tucked in the glacial ice, is the cave.

Slowing, bringing up the rear, Barton's got one eye to the back, keeping watch for any snow 'clouds' that may be rising.

Slowly, the SHIELD agent dismounts and pulls his gear; as much good as it'll do him with gloves on. But, he's got Heater packs in pockets, and he begins to pull his heavy gloves off, leaving him with the thinner insulation wool gloves. "It's quiet." No, he's not going to say the rest of that. What he does do, however, is look at the sides of the outer cave before leaning against it with a hand. Next, he fusses with the snowpack and then bats his hands together in an attempt to clear the snow from his hands. Then, a little bit of foot scuffing.. and voila! He's got the entrance rigged to give him and Tash a silent alarm.

Now ready to follow the crowd in, Hawkeye's looking up, around, and can't help a shudder in a sudden chill up his spine. "We're here…" Okay. "How 'bout we go in groups. I'd feel better if I was the one bringing up the rear."

(Yikes.) "Well. There's something you don't see every day," the albino's soft voice carries as she loosely drifts the flashlight hooked to her rifle onto the general area that Lara first spotted. Passing a sidelong glance to the younger explorer, she asks "Were you expecting to come across anything like this?"

With the 'we have arrived' Domino has something of an answer, clearly there's something of interest here. That much..is rather clear. "These guys seriously need to check into some renovation. Maybe find a squad of interior decorators. Even a colorful throw-rug would go a long way." On the upside, her drinks should stay cold!

There is another concern crossing her mind, however. Anyone that's obviously carrying some manner of weapon is given close examination. She's looking for those amongst the crew that are packing firearms. Against Barton's wishes, she suggests "It would be wise to let the archers help on point. One shot from anything else could bring a whole lot of unfriendly ice down on our heads." She could easily suppress the carbine but the rounds themselves are still supersonic, it won't cut out the snap of breaking the sound barrier.

"You're such an optimist," Daredevil's muffled voice comes through the scarf towards Natasha. "I always loved that about you." He disembarks the cat and leans back a bit, his lithe muscles are so constricting he's somewhat worried that they'll be full capacity for him in the event of an emergency. "It should be okay. Hopefully it'll give me an even clearer picture," he mutters, trying to not have the other hear.

He enters into the cavern, happy to get out of the wind. As the voices ring out, his mind gets a more clear picture of where it is he's come and he can even sense the Viking weapon relatively easily as the crew begins to extract it.

On the ice, Daredevil seems as smooth as Sinatra, not slipping in the slightest. He twists a bit, trying to make sure his muscles are loose as it looks as though things are about to get more interesting quickly. He's not sure what part of him thought they might not even find anything. Surely that must happen in archaeology more than not. But, as he mentioned to Natasha last night, Lara Croft seems to know her stuff.

"I'd be happy to go first," Daredevil says over his shoulder back towards Clint and then the red eyes of his mask settle on Lara for her response.

"Russian," Natasha softly tells Daredevil, as if that fully explains her cheerful disposition. (And, really, it does.) She moves closer to the center of the group, shouldering her own equipment, though most of it is already secreted about her person in one form or another. "One archer up front, one behind," she suggests. "Barton's right. Scientists in the middle. How about Harper and Devil up front, Barton and I in the rear, Domino as swing?" It really is just a suggestion, but her experience says a front and rear guard really is the safest course.

Roy was, at the least, packing different sort of weapons beside a bow and arrow. Guns, crossbows, knives… at least he was -less- loaded than one of his previous costumes that would have made Slade fall over laughing.

Eyeing the axe head, Roy whistles. "What're the runes on it saying, Lara?" he asks, as he joins in the preparations, unpacking his own stuff. Tracking equipment, the makings for campfires, ice climbing gear, lights.. Picking up a gun, and attaching some rope to his side, and then a flashlight, Roy nods in agreement with Natasha's suggestion. "That's a good idea."

"We'll check the runes back in the States," Lara replies to Roy. The axe head, made somewhere around 980 AD, is carefully photographed, wrapped, and stored in a crate before being placed in the sledge behind one of the Snow Tracs. Sigrid and Bobby are armed with digital video cameras and all of the support crew snap shots with their own personal cameras as well. When the furor dies down, Lara has her goggles on top of her head and her hood down where she stands on the stairs into the jaws. "It's warmer beyond the threshold. Not much, but enough to notice," she notes to the others.

Croft exchanges her goggles for a headlamp which she turns on, coupling it's illumination with that of her flashlight. "No," she responds simply to Domino. "This is beyond my expectations. Carter and Giles, I need the two of you to pull a sled with our floodlights until we find somewhere inside to set them up. Widow's suggestion is how we'll go." She doesn't want to weigh down the hired guns with excess gear; they need to be able to move fast.

With that, the young woman heads up the stairs, which seem to lead into the heart of the peak of a mountain that is buried in the Ice Cap. Every step is slick, but the specialized boots Lara provided have tiny spikes on the bottoms to grip and let them move easily. The darkness is absolute at first, but it brightens as the stairs turn round and finally stop. The view beyond is stunning.

Stretching out across a massive chasm is a bridge seemingly made of ice. At each corner is set a carved statue made out of what appears to be enormous whale bones. One of a bear, one of a wolf, one of a raven, one of a man. Those alone would be enough to stop most people in their tracks to marvel. But there is more, much more.

Hundreds of feet above the bridge, the ice is thinner and reflecting sunlight directed down from dozens of small crevasses reaching the surface. It's dazzling and beautiful, like twinkle lights on a Christmas tree. It is warmer, although still well below freezing.

The most amazing thing though is what lies in the sheer frozen ice wall a few yards off the left side of the bridge. Frozen solid behind that film of ice is something gigantic, monstrous, and terrifying. Straight out of the Jurassic period is a giant Pliosaur, (Predator X,) frozen in time. The fifty-foot dino has a ten foot long, crocodilian head, with thirty-centimeter long teeth.

The other side of the bridge ends at a tunnel opening.

When Tash gets closer, Hawk gives her a flickered glance, and lets it linger a moment before he takes a deep breath and looks out at the gathered. It is true, what Domino says. Arrows here are perfect; no sonic booms or reports. Silent and effective in his hands. "Sounds like a plan," is given with a nod. Stepping backwards now, he doesn't even worry about what is written on the runes; he can get the pictures from those personal phones should he really want them. (By either prying them from cold, dead fingers, or with SHIELD tech. He's not averse to either method.) Let those who do translation for a living work it out.

Harper and Daredevil are perfect for point, and he and Tash bringing up the rear.

"Hey Domino. Have a peashooter? You don't want something that'll go *bang*."

With them moving along the path now, the archer can't help but whistle softly at the marvel. "I.. okay. I'm impressed." Still doesn't mean he's not watching; just.. there's more to look at! With the warmth building in the rooms, Clint is almost willing to remove his gloves completely, though not giving up his Hot Hands <tm> in the pockets.

Following up, the SHIELD archer pauses and stares at the creature in the ice. "What the hell is that thing?"

Moving fast is exactly the sort of thought that Domino has in mind. That Natasha is actually suggesting a group pattern that lets the albino have the most freedom of movement is ..peculiar. It earns Nat a glance, but..it actually works in Dom's favor. She's not about to argue the idea, either.

With mobility in mind she also takes the chance to shed the bulkier outerwear and leave it with the Cats, giving the thermally regulated armor skin beneath a chance to do its job. The auto-mapper is engaged and away she goes.

Back to Clint, her initial response is to twist the suppressor tube onto the muzzle end of her carbine with a soft *click*. "I'm rocking a five NATO, this -is- a pea-shooter for me."

Crossing a bridge made of ice is slightly nerve-wracking, though the sight of the frozen sea critter rather makes the journey across worthwhile. "Big," she automatically replies to Hawkeye. "And very, very dead. Lucky us."

While he can sense the outlines of the sculptures within the ice, Daredevil remains oblivious to the frozen beast that the others can clearly see. He takes up his position towards the front and moves along slowly, reaching out with his senses, using the sounds of voices, shuffling equipment, and the crunches of their spiky steps as light for his internal map.

He picks up the pace just a smidge, keeping his focus on his hearing and any changes in odor or wind. He doesn't ask about whatever it is they're speaking of.

Natasha takes takes up a position at the rear, just ahead of Barton. She knows him. He'll be walking backwards, or at least sideways, much of the way. She glances over at the monster, unbothered by the height of the bridge or the expanse between her and the icy walls. She gives Clint a wry smile of acknowledgement, her weapon of choice the darts in her wrist units and the bite discharge — which isn't quite as loud as a gun report. Nevertheless, her ballistic weapons are muzzled, and near to hand, though holstered for now. Her blue eyes scan the impressive environment, but the rest of her sharp senses strain to detect those minute changes that could signal danger.

Moving along carefully, watching his footing, keeping ears open for any sounds of creaking noises and eyes open for signs of… well, anything that wasn't produced by nature, Roy slows down, glancing up towards the sunlight, whistling softly at the sight, and then the…

"Holy hell, it's a giant fishy dinosaur. Lian's going to plotz."

Softly, whistling, Roy calls to Daredevil, "Hey. Wait up, I think Lara's going to want to examine this a bit more before we go any further."

"From the size of the head and the flippers? That is an intact Pliosaur Funkei," Bobby, the Arctic archaeologist replies to Clint. "Predator X. Had a bite force four times that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. They dug up two partial fossilized skeletons of about six years ago. That thing alone, preserved like that, is worth more money than I can even fathom." He swallows though, in the shadow of the terrifying beast. There is a moment of thankfulness that such creatures went extinct before ever interacting with man.

Lara marks down the coordinates of the Pliosaur for later unearthing, but there is no time to inspect it further. The trip across the bridge goes uneventfully, albeit it very disconcertingly considering the drop into seemingly black nothingness beneath it, and the watchful frozen eye of the extinct reptile. It's damned creepy, honestly, but makes for great photographs and video footage. No one is going to believe them. The tunnel beyond contains etchings in the ice, more of the similar imagery of the three totem animals of the Ijirait. The photographers snap shots with mounting excitement. There are broken weapons as well, both of Viking origin, and ones made of bone or antler. Slate knives missing handles are found and properly packaged for shipment back to the States as well.

Then the tunnel widens out into something even more wondrous. It is a massive, semi-spherical cavern, with the walls of ice entirely carved with images. There are six alcoves carved out of the ice walls, each looking to be some sort of sleeping chamber, each having more bone, antler, and slate weapons. Above each alcove is what looks like a human skull, painted in something dark, images of the totem animals once more. Everywhere there is treasure. Carvings and totemic sculptures, decorated weapons, furs of polar bears and wolves, decorations of raven feathers.

There is an opening in the center of the circular room, which falls into blackness beyond black. There is a swirling inside the blackness, like an unseen cyclone of charred snow. It smells of wrong. Of else. Of "not here." Proximity to it raises gooseflesh and the hairs on the backs of necks with its alien-ness. High above, some fifty feet, is the peak of the cavern, from which dangles a massive ice stalactite.

Lara swallows hard. "Let's set up the spots and begin cataloging and filming. Stay away from that hole, I have no intention of trying to fish anyone out of it." Hells no. She doesn't want to be anywhere near it. She moves to begin collecting some of the figures carved out of whale bone, elk antlers, walrus tusks. She keeps gloves on, not wanting the oils in her skin to damage anything. "Some of these look…" she glances at the others, "Recently made." Gulp.


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