1965-01-01 - Project Leo: Missing in Normandy 2
Summary: Templar treasures and ruined churches abound.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
rogue bucky steve-rogers tigra strange 


|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Tigra +rolls 1d20 for: 12

"Sound familiar to anyone?" Steve asks, without a great deal of hope. Four large dark-haired Americans could describe… well, most of SHIELD, for a start. He tries the key on the locker with more optimism.

|ROLL| Felix +rolls 1d20 for: 16

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 16

Lockers. La Caligny Hostel. Carentan, Normandy.

The locker area isn't actually part of the main hostel. Walk outside and go down to the next wooden door scarred by sea spray and time, and the drafty, unheated attachment feels more like a shed than a proper room. The door gives way to a rather square space inspired by a tool crib, absent all the tools. Chainlink fencing surrounds the enclosures where personal goods are stored, and through the slitted doors, most of it feels like excess supplies for the hostel itself. Except one larger space, about three feet wide and five feet tall, a closet more than anything. A heavy padlock rests on that. 16-8-2 on the dial opens it up to reveal… a lot of industrial junk.

Takes a practiced eye to know what, exactly, land surveyors in this area use. In a big duffel bag are shovels, cords, wires, bundles of sticks, the sort of thing used to plot off neat squares at an archaeological dig. Bucky locates the topo maps, French government derived, with lots of marks and details. The journal, leatherbound, is Steve's discovery in another pouch written up by one Roger Davis. He keeps meticulous notes day by day.

There's a few bottles of undrank Coca-Cola, the smell of Marlboro cigarettes gone stale in the past month or so. Most of the kit's in good condition.

"Not anyone that I know," offers Tigra to Steve's question. "At least, not relevant to here. She'll open the locker door and step inside for a look. The padlock she thinks she could have broken if needed. But it's not. The combination is quickly dialed in and the lock popped open. "Well if nothing else I could amusing myself for a few hours with the rope here. Anyone else got something useful?"

The idea of Tigra versus the string is enough to make Bucky press his lips together, the better to suppress a snicker. Not nice to make fun of others 'differences', as it were. "Doc, can't you do some mojo to just find these guys?" he asks Strange, in an aside, as he spreads the maps up against the wall, looking for familiar spots. "Looks like these guys were in search of something left on the battlefield. I don't remember the Germans having anything particularly weird here, at least in what part of the battle I remember." Which is….not all, considering Steve had to pull him wounded off the field. Blue canvas doesn't do much to stop MG rounds.

Steve Rogers stands back under the moth-bumped light and riffles through the journal, apparently skimming it. In reality Steve can take in much more than an ordinary person can with a mere glance. "I might."

Tall enough to see into the moderately lit confines of the shed, Strange elects to linger at the entrance. With arms folded and projecting his usual aloof and distant manner, Bucky's question brings him back to the present. Whatever has been tickling at his Mystical suspicions is set aside for now and he replies,

"The Mystic Arts are a bit more complicated than snapping my fingers and locating your friends. Sympathetic tracking is possible, but only with a object recently utilized by an individual. As a scent trail loses its strength, so do items imbued with an everyday task. Trauma lingers and that's what could be traced. However," and he squints as he quickly glances around the shack, "I see no blood spatters. I can hazard that they ran into no trouble here." Elsewhere? That's another question entirely. The maps, however? The good Doctor seems to note something and steps further into the shed, up and behind Barnes to look over his shoulder.

A soft hiss of concern precedes his murmur: "If your friends were digging at those locations marked on this map… This doesn't bode well in the least." He glances around at each person in turn. "There's a tourist board, up the street, with warnings at each of those locations. Skull and crossbones, the universal sign for death."

Steve Rogers offers Strange the journal. "They used this, at least. The objective was to clear a ruined church in a minefield. Dangerous work even without interference, but an accident in ordnance disposal wouldn't have caused the disappearance of the whole team. What was in the church that might've warranted the work, aside from sentiment, it doesn't say."

The maps line up well enough to a spot not that far out of town. The church is easy to find, beyond having a name of Ste. Marie, and a cross to mark it out. Markings from the team highlight areas conquered and cleaned, others that clearly haven't yet been approached. Dates and times line up to October and November, ending on the 10th. The journal doesn't go beyond Veteran's Day, either. Whatever the men were surveying, they clearly did their work well, marking out piles of swastikas for German occupation, a few stars probably meaning American or Allied spots. The fields surrounding the church are a mess of threats, words like 'Mines' and 'Massacre 12-01-44' and 'Emil says bad road, use donkey' sketched in and out. But they've got a direction to head where the missing four vets were active.

Tigra crouches down by the equipment for a closer look. "Arrr," she murmurs about skulls and crossbones as she picks up pieces of equipment to take a sniff of. "Doc, correct me if I'm wrong here, but salt's an ingredient in some rituals, right? I'm thinking it's a traditional ward against the fay and the like, isn't it?" She takes a look at another bit of gear. "Because some of this stuff smells like salt, and I don't mean briny water. I mean proper salt. Mostly the shovels and such." She frowns a little. "Salt mines?" she asks nobody in particular.

Buck gives Strange a wry look. And what good are you then, complicated wizard? But he's matching up what Steve notes about the journal with the maps. "Sounds like that's the objective. We up for going out there tonight? We've got flashlights, and Steve and I have bikes. No sidecars, but if you kids are comfortable riding double, we can get you there." AT that, he pauses and notes to Tigra, "In the war, they used to store very valuable and delicate things in salt mines. Art, relics. There was a whole corps of guys riding around finding what the Germans'd stolen and where they'd hidden it. The Monuments Men. You think our guys were looking for a stash like that?"

"The sooner the better," Steve points out. "A cold trail can only get colder."

"I remember hearing of the Monuments Men," Strange comments, sounding half-distracted — and he is, by the journal now in his scarred hands. He flips through a few pages, lips pushed into a thin line of concentration, and pauses to glance up at Tigra with a fingertip pressed to the middle of someone's notes. "You are correct, Miss Tigra. Salt is traditionally used to create or bolster defensive wardings against many things, including the Fae." Another pensive read-through of the notes brings him to a conclusion. He closes the journal in one hand before stepping to look at the map once again.

"If there's one thing I can manage, it's saving you the gasoline," and both soldiers get a faint smirk from the Sorcerer. "Sympathetic magic works well on inanimate items, you see. Living beings are in a constant state of fluctuation within their personal line of Fate." The man walks over to the door to the shed and shuts it.

Now they're all inside of it, out of immediate sight of anyone walking past. All the better, since the Sorcerer lifts his long fingers and begins inscribing a circle upon the air before the door. "The church is what I've been sensing all along," he murmurs partly over his shoulder, with the majority of his focus upon parting reality in a glittering oculus of sparking gold. "As Shakespeare once wrote, 'something is rotten', and while we're not in Denmark, that same unease applies." At his whim and through his mantle, the veil between here and the distant locale of the church opens slowly and broadly enough that all can step easily through and into the church proper.


That gate reveals a wavering lens of destruction and darkness. Fallen beams and piles of moldering wood lie upon the dusty flagstones. Many seasons of leaves disregard the sanctified state of the church, and pigeons probably roost in the hole-pocked roof which miserable grey daylight seeps through. The little group will emerge into total shadows at the west arm of the transept, flush up against the chapel. Oddly enough there seem to be crates under the battered plaster arches, somewhat visible beneath the collapsed sections of roof that came down all those years ago.

Ref: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a6/f2/d9/a6f2d9c15f6eefde8e08b11d6447def9.jpg

"I'm thinking salt surroundings makes a little more sense. It's mostly on the shovels, suggesting they're digging in salt. Or were. At some point." Tigra will step through the gate, eyes, ears, and nose peeled as she does so. "Someone's been here," she says, speaking a little quietly without realizing it, in subconscious respect for the church. "Been more than a day or two, but recent enough I think we may have the right place." She starts to prowl around. "No jokes about church mice."

That hissing, glittering gate is enough to put Buck's back up, more than a little. He's got no love for that mode of transport, though Strange has used it to his good, before. He straighten his spine, visibly, but steps through with no real hesitation. "Thanks, Doc," he says, with a sangfroid he surely can't feel. "….do you have a real good sense of smell?" he asks Tigra, curiously, even as he goes for the flashlight in his jacket pocket.

Steve Rogers shrugs his shield's weight into a closer carry on its backstraps and steps through lightly. He peers alertly into the shadowy nooks as he enters the hallowed space, sweeping the ruined chapel for visible threats. Although to be fair, he expects more from invisible ones at this point. "Unease, eh? How do you feel now that you're in the place?"

Once everyone has stepped through the Gate, the good Doctor passes across its threshold and into the church proper. The faint sizzling of contorted reality dies out and leaves them in the silence that does seem to make loud speech rather sacreligious.

"I trust in Miss Tigra's nose." A grand admission, that, coming from the Sorcerer Supreme. "If you've scented that someone may have been present recently, I don't think you're incorrect."

His eyes land on the collection of boxes, off to one side of the collapsed timbers, and manage to both harden and glint with a sudden surge of Mystical energy. Dust motes take on momentary glittering around his person before dying down. "No, Mister Rogers, I feel no more at ease having arrived here. I can hazard that you may recognize the markings stamped upon the boxes?" Inked or burnt upon the wood, it makes no difference. Tentacles and a skull are lurid in the wane light making its way in from overhead.

|ROLL| Felix +rolls 1d10 for: 5

Locating the crates is no difficult task. They're solid and in far better shape than the roof. Throwing aside debris reveals a number of them, all low and solidly secured, not like treasure chests of piratical yore. Bucky and Steve ought to immediately identify the wiggly octopus symbol stamped into the top. Each is brutally heavy. Tigra's nose knows why, at least in part.

To their left, facing north, is the nave. The altar is thrown over in dust and disarray, clearly ransacked with dusty, ruined candles that haven't been lit in a very long time. That would be well and good if not for the deep scratches laid where the altar cloth would be and someone leaving a jagged little arrow pointing off to the floor.

"Extremely good," Tigra answers Bucky. "It's not perfect, though." She examines the crates, lightly trailing a finger over a familiar emblem. "Have these guys to thank, indirectly, for why I've got such a good nose, actually. Smells like salt and sand, for what it's worth."

"Africa," says Bucky, flatly. He's got a whole set of memories of the part of the war Steve didn't see, being busy collecting scrap metal in his little red wagon. Then he shakes himself out of that half-flashback and turns the beam of the flashlight on those crates. "Why the hell would HYDRA leave those just lying around here?" He shoots a look at Steve, like the Man With The Plan has to know. "But this has gotta be what my buddies were after."

Steve Rogers replies with a sensible chuckle, examining the crates to see if any of them contain clues to their purpose.

Pulling the lid off a crate takes about all the strength the two soldiers have. Metal arms are helpful in lieu of crowbars or vibranium shields used in ways that would sicken Howard Stark. Ripping the lid off produces a ghastly noise, no way around that. And reveals… lots of sand packed in, as though off the beach, and piles of salt sprinkled throughout. Digging through the sandy material reveals the substance is packed tight, thus the horrible weight. Only because this is an actual church of great age, the floor hasn't collapsed.

The Sorcerer, for now, is content to stand back and let the two soldiers do their work. He's got half an eye on the wandering tigress, prone to succumbing to feline curiosity as is, and a soft clank makes him glance over and frown — but there's also a small smile lurking about his lips. He's reminded awfully of Aralune, in a way. The sound of ripping wood brings his focus back to the crates. Salt, he recognizes. It's probably not a bad guess that these crates contain something of a Mystical nature. With soft steps in his boots, he takes a few steps closer, silently looking over their shoulders to see what their efforts reveal.

"Hydra was shipping sand?" Steve runs a handful of it through his fingers, smelling it to try to place it. "But sand from where? And why? If it was soil…" He glances at Bucky, remembering that one time with Dracula.

The metal arm is good for something,and Buck tears into the crates like a bulldog confronted with a shipment of Milkbones. "There was that whole thing in Egypt with them trying to find the Ark of the Covenant, remember? I think it's in some SHIELD warehouse, still," Buck says, bemused. "SHIELD never throws anything away." Then he's jamming a hand into the nearest crate - the alloy hand, of course- and feels around a bit.

The nave where Strange stands is in disarray and if there were any stained glass windows, they're long gone, bashed out or destroyed in the bombardment around Carentan. The village has an unhappy history and obviously no one replaced them when the churchyard and grounds are mined to pieces. Behind the altar is an empty space with more debris of the seasons. The vestibule is peculiarly walled off behind a wall of rubble, almost invisible where the collapsed roof spars lie. More digging to get over there.

Handfuls on handfuls of sand cast aside might suggest why the other team of vets from the 107th had shovels. Salt and sand mixed together will soon enough make a heap, and soon enough reveals… a weathered bit of rock. It looks like someone hacked it from a wall, maybe in the vestibule itself. A chunk. Another crate contains another chunk. Get digging, put them together and what do you got? A block with the inscription VAESAC / MIHM.

EF: http://www.mythomorph.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/STONE23.jpg

"This looks more promising," Steve adds, presenting Strange with the stone block. "I hesitate to guess at this one. Seems more up your alley."

"Indeed…" The Sorcerer's voice drops lower still as he steps around to take a closer look at the uncovered block. He doesn't reach out to touch it; rather, he blinks markedly and again, the glow of Mystical power reflects in his irises, turning them a bright shade of frosted-violet. It's a conundrum, but at least he recognizes the language.

"Latin." He glances over at both Rogers and Barnes. "I have many a book on the nature of secretive writings such as this. 'Causaue', better known as 'cause' in today's English. I can hazard that the rest of it is an abbreviation, though of what, I'd need to consider. It…" He pauses, squinting at the block resting in the disturbed sand. "It's not of this place. This region. It should be in England. Why is it here?" By the musing tone of his voice, he's really talking to himself at this point. A grimace takes over his expression, bringing shadows to his cheekbones and further thinning of lips. "Coppery," he adds. "Bloody."

"You know, it's really creepy when you do that, Doctor," Buck asides, all but sotto voce. And this from a cyborg assassin. "So….this is some artifact from elsewhere? And HYDRA would want it why? Asa magical battery?" A dubious glance at Steve. "….this didn't kill our guys, did it?"

"Fresh blood? Or old?" asks Steve, in a hushed tone. Partly he doesn't want to disturb the wizard, but also the place and possibly the artifact demand it. Steve's respectful that way.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 68

|ROLL| Strange +rolls 1d100 for: 88

Those eerily-lit eyes, with no more light within than candles behind a gauzy curtain, flick to Bucky and linger on him.

"If you'd ever like your definition of 'creepy' broadened, do let me know, Barnes. I find that I'm the least of your worries at the moment." To Steve, he nods. "Both. The lingering life-force in the allusion to the blood spans many years. In one particular aspect…" A breath of a pause. "Centuries." His frown deepens as he looks back at the chunks of stone. "In another case, far more recent, no more than seven weeks. Decades on another plane of the Sight."

Another step closer brings him within easy reach of the nearest stone. "Still…the pieces. Let us bring them together and see what comes of it. Gentleman, you may wish to stand back." A final warning glance over his shoulder at them is all that the two men get before he begins to draw upon the Arts.

With hands raised in mudras of completion and harmony, he begins intoning a spell in Latin. Ephemeral werelights in pale green begin to coallesce about his person and funnel towards his palms. A rotational gesture with both hands, counter to each other's motions, is followed by a breaking of wrists and sharp turn of palms towards the pocked ceiling of the church. The spell is cast over the immediate revelation of sandy boxes and their contents.

He gives Steve another look. Like - can you believe this? His life just gets weirder and weirder, these days. But obligingly, Bucky does step back. No coincidentally almost shoulder to shoulder with Steve. Just like old times. Bare is the back without brother to guard it. That note on more recent activities has his lips thinned out, grim. No doubt that's what happened to their missing comrades in arms.

Steve Rogers stands back arms akimbo, weight lifted slightly onto the balls of his feet in a posture of easy, almost-imperceptible readiness. Maybe nothing bad will happen, maybe a hellgate will open, maybe there will be cake. Steve was an Eagle Scout, and a Scout is Always Prepared.

Someone suggest to Strange to have spell effects that mimic Betty Crocker's cookbook along with the tomes of Cagliostrio and Bonneheurs.

Magic burns the structure of the rock together. What's a bit of stone next to the will of the Sorcerer Supreme? The rocky edges seamlessly meld together into what looks a bit like a cornerstone. The words remain fused and unchanged. On the side, however, the broken and missing chunks present before are replaced by a peculiarly flared cruciform symbol. Four triangles converge in one of the more historically significant crosses in European history. It probably confirms what Strange himself guessed. The rock is oxidized around the outline, making the rusted red margins clearer.

Disregard the fact the entire church shakes, bringing down a heavy amount of dust. Another of the shingles slides off the roofline and strikes the floor, smashed to pieces. Tigra might be heard to dodge away, escaping another shudder that drops more pieces of ruined masonry into the aisle. The wall to the vestibule, in such terrible shape, groans as the pressure displaces not a few of the tumbled rocks. Daylight bends. Dust hangs in the air.

'Tis a strange world…

Before it all settles, Taliesin doesn't just smell blood, but tastes it on the air. A wavering flicker of weird candlelight seeps out from the hidden chamber at the side of the nave where presumably priests once stored the altar pieces, and descended to the crypts to bury their dead.

The coppery tang is not much better for Roland or Galahad, for that matter, no matter how strong the scent of steel off their armour and the wool of their cloaks. Back to back, it's only going to be one of them who spots the hole in the ground, off to the back of the sacred chamber.

Symbol ref: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/93/207451030_87bc605cd0_z.jpg?zz=1

"What in the name of the Bright Lady do they have to do with anything here?!"

Strange's voice hasn't changed in the least and neither has his coughing, for all that he waves at the air in front of him to try and clear the dust. No longer a crimson Cloak, but instead a shepherd's-hood, and not battle-leathers, but a doublet in celestine. A lute strung over his back proves his class even as does the dye of his clothing: Pencerdd, highest Bardd in the land, Master of the Arts and the Court itself. Fear his ditties, my friends, for how much faster a riebald tune travels and ruins in this time.

"Of course they'd be involved, what am I saying," he grumbles, glancing over at the two knights. The flicker of ghostly light draws his attention and he gives the completed stone, with its singular symbol in four-flare cross, one last lingering…glare. "Anyone afraid of the dark?" It'd be an innocent question save for the utter gravity in the Sorcerer as he strides over to the nave. "I believe we'll need to continue our search beneath the church."

|ROLL| Felix +rolls 1d10 for: 5

Golden-haired Galahad brings up his shield, unlimbered from his back and in his hand before he can consciously will it, and deflects the impact of a chunk of falling masonry onto the floor beside him. The shield rings musically, the long pure tone reverberating off the stone, and when he lowers it and brushes off the rock dust, it bears the red cross instead of the white star. "The dark itself nev'r did hurt me. T's the dark in men's souls which one shouldst beest wary of. I'll wend below first."

Which is when Buck nearly falls over himself in surprise, but manages not to stumble over his own feet in shock. There's a few uneven steps, though. He's in dark enameled armor, a gray so dark it's nearly black, save for the one pauldron with its scarlet star, though now it's done as an interlace, a la Sir Gawain, rather than a solid shape. Some joker's apparently decided that's his livery. It's on the shield at his back, too, and the pommel of the sword at his side. He unslings the former - the back of it proves to have an image of Our Lady, albeit done in what is most definitely the likeness of a certain redhead. A glance at that, and he stares at Steve, before an incredulous grin spreads over his features. "I always knew you were Galahad," he says, pleased.

Ahead, ruin, behind, destruction and contempt. The shapes of the crates remains unchanged, the stamp of HYDRA well and truly upon them in a stylised octopus with a menacing tangle of coils. Sand lies everywhere and Sir Gareth, a bold and rather lean knight, shall take up the back with his typical light-footed ease. There may be mutterings about pimpernel feathers, but don't listen too hard.

The hole in the ground marks the point where flagstones crumbled in. Absent any kind of cemented cap, the dark uneven route drops into hand-chopped stairs that spiral into the gloomy crypt. Stale air lies below, and even more concerning might be the white crystals licked up and down along the only visible wall. Salt, by the scent, leaving the air terribly dry. Wiggling down there will be a task even for poor Taliesin, and he might want to watch his lute for dissonance. Either way, the stairs turn and turn, spat out into a cleft in the earth that descends up to a wall.

A stony wall, rather than any sort of pleasant door or chiseled stonework. Instead there's all sorts of scratches all over it, and a good many of them clearly emulate the triangular cross. A few birds here and there flicker into vision if someone has a candle, otherwise touch reveals them. On the uneven floor are a pile of stakes and wires, a bit of parchment peeking out under a leather sack.

A quick look back shows that Sir Gareth is present and this be a most wonderful happenstance. The Bardd knows he can count on the limber Knight in the worst of times in defense and counter to his own sparks of quick temper now and then. A quick flash of a sly grin is shot towards said knight before Taliesin looks back at the other two.

"By all means, go first, brave knights. You are better equipped to take the first blow of whatever trap you spring." He strokes a fingertip along one line of his goatee before speaking again. "It bodes well that you lack fear. However, I believe that I can bring a little light to our cause," and within an outstretched hand half-gloved in golden doeskin, a pale werelight in palest bluebird's hues springs to life.

For all his dry realism in perceived outcomes, it seems that the worst to happen to the Bardd is the resonant clunk and complaint of strings when the lute is jostled. Ouch and damn. More tuning to be done later. The glow of the werelight from his palm seems to be magnified many times over until the walls themselves gleam as if shining from within. Anyone who can see the door can now see the birds clearly as well as the crosses drawn into the stone. The tools and leather bag are given a dubious once-over.

"All of this salt," and he waves his non-enspelled hand to include the entire passageway. "This is either a fortuitous natural bulwark or one hell of an elemental shifting that could be meant to safeguard something. I suggest not touching anything further." He says this in his most imperious tone, glowering to boot.

Buck's eyes have gone bright, pleased. It's reminiscent of the King Arthur stories he used to read to Steve, when Steve was a rickety baby lionheart, instead of his magnificent grownup self. Buck's flashlight has transformed itself into a handy torch, and he has that in hand, as he brings up the rear. He's got cloak and tabard to keep him relatively warm. "The mark of the foul serpent is here," he says, quietly. "Perhaps they sought to see why its followers would profane such a place." Sinking into that diction himself, even as he shakes his head like a dog trying to get water out of its ears. At that invitation, he says, "Let me go first." This is the part when Buck and Steve argue over who takes point, like cartoon gophers.

"Well, i c'rtainly didn't. This is new," Steve replies, glancing at Bucky with a puzzled expression as he passes him and leads the way down. It doesn't seem harmful, though. It feels proper. Although his shield precedes him, he doesn't bother to draw his sword. His faith and the blessings of his indomitable spirit will light his way. Also literally, since he can see in nearly pitch blackness. His gloved fingers trace a line across the wall as he brushes it, as if to venerate the ancient stones. "This is int'resting. What doth thee bethink those gents w're doing h're, Strange?"

Salt, the oldest currency in a world without limitless metal for coin, is a prize of itself. Though the shattering white brilliance surrounding them proves unnaturally pure on account of the pillars and walls closing in. Armour might scratch against the narrow corridor, given the corridor does not provide room for more than a person at a time except at the bottom. The ending wall defies convention of any sort of construction, as the bardd implies. Even a neophyte in architecture can feel it's blocking something, standing in the way.

And otherwise, those crystals are surprisingly resilient to being knocked askew by a gauntlet or a scrape.

"I believe they were attempting to reach whatever lies beyond the stone wall," Taliesin replies to the question. "The collection of tools suggests this. However, I highly suggest that no one attempts to breach it further. These birds…" And he reaches out to brush scarred fingertips along the designs, barely touching the salt that glitters on par with diamonds. "Truly, we should not investigate further." The werelight above his palm shivers as if a breeze has crossed it and he gives it a slight frown.

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