Day 007: Dungeon Crawl
Summary: A scouting group ventures forth and discover a set of caves, a stream of water, and a stalking guardian.
Date: May 11, 016
Related: None
Alison Cameron Cassandra Devin Evie Martin Ruth 

Round Hill Caves
Deep in the Eastern Forests, this small network of caves provide sanctuary to a variety of fauna. They are nestled into a hillock that is part of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A small stream from the divided Potomac trickles in through this region of the forest. The water is calm and clear, revealing a pebbly bed filled with swaying green plants and algae-covered rocks. Parts of the stream feed into some of the caves, and one cave possesses a very deep pool of cool, peaceful water. The caves themselves all vary in size from small little hovels to large shelters. Some of the caves are blocked off with heavy rocks and driftwood.
7 days after landing


While the discovery of, battle with, and capture of Grounders has been dominating the headlines of the Camp Tattler, that doesn't mean the other necessities of the Camp are on hiatus. Food still gets foraged, water carefully gathered at the river, and latrines dug. Among these necessities is exploration of the surrounding area to find more food to forage, more water to gather (preferably without danger), and more space for latrines. As part of that project, a group of volunteers has set forth to explore the area beyond the mushroom fields to see what lies beyond. Rumors are that there might be some water.

As the group moves out of the fields of glowing fungus near midday, the come across a field filled with groves of trees and in the distance, snaking around a particularly large hillock, the glistening of water can almost be made out.

Cameron isn't really sure what they'll find, but he's taken to being prepared every time he goes out of the camp these days. Being prepared means he looks something like a medium sized compact psychopath, with his grounder light armor looking all makeshift but kinda in a fierce, hot way. Hanging from a sling is his grounder sword, tucked into his belt is his quote-unquote 'knife'. Then there's his half-tanned animal hide sack, which is rough and deeply suspect, but might carry a thing successfully. Maybe. This over his new shirt. Oh, and he has nice, grounder boots. They're too big for him but that's okay, that's what stuffing is for. He absolutely is not stuffing anything else. As they moved through the fungus, he'd pause to examine it briefly, here, there, and always came away dissatisfied. "Not edible," he'd declare. "But pretty." With a quick, dimpled smile.

After a heated night before the expedition, Devin has been spending a bit of time outside of the camp, occasionally returning when needing to. When word of the expedition came to him, he volunteered to get away from the camp once more. He moves along with the others, using his spear as a walking stick. Two makeshift knives are tucked into his belt on either hip within easy reach for him. He has his pack and waterskin along with him. He doesn't have any of the newly acquired Grounder gear with him. Just the gear he had with him when he was captured, minus the bracelet that had been removed from his wrist. He remains silent as he moves along with the group, looking around the area around them.

Is Ruth leaner, or is it simply the dirt that makes her look mangy? It's caked in places that aren't easy to pick, like underneath her nails, in the roots of her hair, in the lines of her palms. She walks with a particular care that wasn't present at first landing, her trusty parachute-made bag slung across her person. It holds only the necessities; a makeshift knife foraged from the remains of the dropship's scrap metal, a waterskin from the Grounder ambush, bandages bound together to conserve space, and a Ruth-made sling with several stones to match. In all, she still hasn't converted to full-on Grounder couture. She keeps to the fringes of the group, right hand gripping a long stick that she picked up somewhere along the way. She's taking no chances with tricksy roots.

Cassandra is as usual up bright and early, rising with the light of dawn and out for adventure. What makes today different, for her, is that this time she has agreed to join her fellow teen delinquents on a social expedition of sorts. She has a certain confidence in her swagger, for though by no means experienced down here on Earth, she is already growing quickly accustomed to exploring the wilderness on a daily basis and has taken it upon herself to fill the role of 'person who seems most likely to know what they're doing', given her broad knowledge of Earth Studies. Heavy competition may come from Cameron and Evie, but that by no means stands in the way of her cocksure attitude and urge to show off. So there she stands at the top of a stone mound, like a proud meerkat, one hand on the hilt of a Grounder machete she barely knows how to use, the other on the strap of a Grounder-made bag. Inside is some food, a hydration pack and Asher's sharp knife; the one she borrowed yesterday and promised to return, but has rather coyly chosen not to. Aside from that, she wears the same ratty hand-me-downs most of the Skaikru came down in. "I hear water!" she calls out, a smug smile on her face. It is her every intention to be the first to declare this.

Martin sticks to the rear of the group, using his survival skills to keep an eye out on any herbs or berries to forage. So far he has gathered a couple to join the food ration he has brought with him. A small bit of water is kept in a makeshift waterskin and he has a small bag for carrying the food and other tidbits he may find. He's using his long spear as a walking stick as they maneuver through the mushroom fields. As Cassandra announced the presence of water, he perks up a bit and tries to hear what she hears.

Traveling somewhere in the middle of the pack is Evie, dressed in her mud-caked and bedraggled Arker clothes. She carries neither Grounder weapons nor wears Grounder armor, but at least finds herself armed with a knife — a gift from Faolan — and one of their makeshift spears — again, another gift from Faolan. The spear she uses as a walking stick, prodding the ground in front of her to scare away vile creatures and to check the level of the terrain. Slung over her back is a makeshift pack stuffed with basic (oh, so very basic) medical supplies and two canteens sloshing merrily; one is a tea whose medicinal properties are dubious at best, and the other carries water. Her interest lies not with the river ahead but, like Martin, with the plants around them; like a squirrel, she darts forward every now and then to puck up an interesting specimen. The call for water draws her attention however, and she marches ahead to draw up even with Cassandra. "Is it? Oh, it is. Good catch."

Water? Cameron perks up, and stops worrying about glowing fungus. He's pretty sure glowing is bad when it comes to food, anyways. "This is closer than the river, isn't it? I think? I don't do judging distance. It doesn't sound like a river, does it? So its probably not big enough to have a giant maneating seamonster, which would be a decided improvement over the fucking river that I'm tired of marching to every day."

And, oh, Ruth's reaction is much unlike that of her first expedition. Rather than racing like a squirrel herself to be the first to reach the water itself, she simply places the side of her hand against her forehead to ward the too-bright light of the sun and gives a dip of her head in acknowledgement towards the sound. "We still need to be careful," she reminds him simply. Cassie's back earns a smoldering glare and a twist of her mouth. "Water or no, it might not be safe."

Alison walks a bit slowly, her gaze slipping between the sights now that she is out of the camp for pretty much the first time since landing. She procured a parachute cord, bound it up and has it slung over her shoulder. She brought a cloth wrapped stick she expects to turn into a torch. Alison has sturdy combat boots on her feet, and they actually seem decent for Ark clothing. A grounder knife was tucked into her belt, a spool of copper wire tucked in a pocket. A nice water jug is carried empty. A swallow and she just tries to keep up, she's an electrician and computer tech, not warrior-ninja-scout.

Devin pauses for a moment as the call for water is called out, glancing up in the direction that some of the others are going towards. He doesn't spot anything for a moment nor hear the water source, so he keeps his attention focused on the area around them in order to keep an eye out for an ambush from the Grounders.

"Hon, I wasn't planning on closing my eyes, holding my nose and jumping in without like, looking around. Tasting a little teeny bit of it. Exploring. You know. Stuff you do when you find a thing," replies Cameron with a soft laugh, his dimples showing as he shakes his head, "Water is, at the very least, likely to draw animals I expect, and I'm still kinda surprised we haven't run into any giant mutant predators that live on land."

"Don't worry, Cameron," kind Cassandra is quick to reassure. Ha! Kind Cassandra. A nickname unlikely to stick. "I'm sure we'll find a small mutant seamonster." She hops on down from her earthen platform, giving the glaring Ruth a smirk as she walks past her. Instilling her recently-accosted arch-rival with yet more fear would only please her, and so she's happy to switch roles with the formerly eager water-hunter. "What do you think?" she asks, eyeing her fellow Farm Station kids specifically. "Fertile ground? Good water quality likely?"

Perhaps it's pride or something else, but Cassandra's smirk (such a simple motivation!) puts a bit of a surge in Ruth's step. She doesn't stop to wait for the others to deliberate their situation. She keeps on towards the sound, her grip on the long stick that's been guiding her step rather tight at this point.

"Don't sass me," Ruth shoots back to Cameron with a low snort. "You weren't there for the death snake."

"I reserve judgment," Evie murmurs in reply to Cassandra's query, despite the fact that they were not well-acquainted growing up. Her gaze is trained upon the ground to watch for holes, snakes, and tricksy tree roots, but she glances up as Ruth marches past. Opening her mouth to reply, Evie is cut off before she can speak as Ruth barks at Cameron and earns an arch of one of Evie's brows in reply. She glances sidelong to Cameron and opts to quietly fall behind and let the other two stampede around as they will. "Well, this is going to be a super pleasant outing."

"Did you just say 'sass'?" Cameron looks around, steps over towards Cassandra, inquires, "Did she just say sass?" He glances over to Martin, brow arched. "You heard it, right?" He's following along towards the water. "I did help hold the guy down who had my uh something something cut into his leg and then burn his flesh, which was a result of the death snake, so I think I'm slightly aware of the consequences."

Oh, and this is totally while following the lead ladies towards water.

When it comes to ganging up on Ruth, Cassandra is most cooperative. "I have no idea what she's saying half the time," she confides in Cameron with a dismal shake of her head. "By the way, I heard that death snake was really a dolphin." She glances over her shoulder to observe the resident physicist, Alison, and checking that she does not fall behind. The two may not get along well, given their vastly different stations on the Ark and all the stigma that comes along with both, but hey — every able-bodied cannon-fodder still alive helps.

Devin looks up at the others as they surge forward, moving pace to keep up with them. He idly listens to the conversation around him, but doesn't say anything about it. He wasn't there, so he didn't see anything and only knows what was said around the camp. His grip on the spear does tighten a bit as he hears the talk about the giant snake.

"Asher," Martin offers to Cameron as the name of the man that got bit. "Cassandra, you were there for the river snake. You kept goading Ruth into going swimming, and you fell on Silas." He shakes his head at the woman. "You should know better than to think it was a dolphin."

The look Ruth offers Martin at his words to Cassandra is one of appreciation, however muted by both the task at hand and the looming threat of her response to the pair behind her. Without turning around, even, she voices, "Boner, he's not interested in you. Stop trying so hard." For all her efforts, her toe is stubbed by a root. Always with the tree roots. She sounds a low grunt, but that's all. Her toenails are probably shredded at this point.

As Cassandra, Ruth, Cameron, Evie, Devin, Alison and Martin in that order head in the direction of the of the sound, the stream gradually comes more fully into view. It's not a particularly wide stream but it is deep and full of water. Coming closer still, one can make out the algae covered rocks sticking up from the water.


The hillock is covered in grass and trees, and the water heads to the other side where one can just make out the fact that a rock outcropping has a large gap under it — a cave, going into the hillock itself. A small trickle of water branches off from the stream and heads inside.

Alison is more listening and watching, it is her first outing. Most of them seem to be more used to this, she keeps up, but doesn't rush. "What's a dolphin?" Maybe it is worse than a snake. At least it is not a giant rabid dolphin. A quick stop to study ahead.

When Cassandra turns her head back to Martin, it is as if she has rolled her eyes full-on one-hundred-and-eighty degrees from where she was looking straight ahead to where he walks behind her. "You always spoil my fun, Marvin," she chides the blonde, with an obscure reference to a space novel that preceded true understanding of space exploration. But though her smile has faded, it's still said affectionately rather than with true indignation.

"I know his name, man," replies Cameron with a wry grin at Martin. "I was making a statement piece." As they continue on, he carefully slips his sword out, and tests its weight in his hand. A bit awkward. He's not used to it, but still. "Wait, who is Boner, and who isn't into him? I can't keep up with who is sleeping with who, mostly because I don't really care but I do like to have the air of being aware of my fellow wo-man." His eyes turn and focus off towards the cave then, blinking. "Great, spelunking. This can't end badly at all." Rolling his shoulders, he shifts his knees and crouches. "I vote I scout ahead, and that any screaming on my part be interpreted as a brave call for aide."

Slow step by slow step, Evie is falling behind the group. As the others forge ahead, she can see both the stream and a cave, but nothing else of great import. Whatever has the others drawing toward it like iron fillings to a magnet appears to not be affecting her; more likely, she just isn't aware of what else is there except, hey, fresh water. She trips a step and slows, realizing that her right boot is loose on her foot and the laces untied. Evie stops dead and props it up onto a rock and focuses rather intently on double-knotting the lace.

"A dolphin is an animal that lives in the water," Ruth tells Alison with a firm nod of her head to indicate her certainty. She has no idea what a dolphin is. She just wants to make sure she answers before Cassandra can get her slimy, disgustingly useful Earth-knowledge all over this expedition. She's likely starting to regret stepping so far out of her element here. "I second your motion." This is said once Cameron has offered to scout ahead. "You or Boner." She indicates Cassandra when she mentions this particular nickname. "Since she's such a good explorer and all." She lowers her hand from her forehead and absently observes, "There are four entrances. Look at that."

Devin moves over the hillock as he follows the rest of the group. His eyes scan over the area, but something catches his eye and causes him to stop in his track. He looks at it for a moment before he looks towards Cameron, offering himself up as tribute. "I'll go."

Cameron pauses, pulling up short a moment, blinking at Ruth, "…did you fail anatomy classes? Or…" A sidelong glance at Cassandra. "Do I not know something?" Don't get him wrong, he's not judging, his eyes are wide open and accepting and everything. That said he nods an affirmative to Devin, clearly approving of the idea of he join Team Scoutahead.

Martin gives Cassandra a cheeky grin back, seeming to have enjoyed poking a hole in her ballon. Then he looks to Cameron. "That's what Ruth call Cass, since her last name is so close. As for who is sleeping with who, I just assume everyone is sleeping with everyone else. It makes it less complicated that way." He looks to the cave then and scratches his chin. "I hadn't considered coming across a cave."

Does the nickname 'Boner' bother her? Yes, it does, though she tries her best not to show it. Kids can be cruel, and Cassandra is no exception; the best defence is a good offence. Staring straight ahead, there's a beat of hesitation before she decides, "I'll go with Cameron. We just got Little Brother and Mercer back; no need to go throwing their lives right back to the wolves." A noble, altruistic gesture. Perhaps she just doesn't want to be near the rest of the group right now. There's a lot less risk of rejection and mockery from a male least likely to swing her way.

"Wait." Ruth steeples her fingers underneath her chin, her stick leaned up against her shoulder for the time being. "So we're actually exploring these caves?" She eyes the entrances before gazing at each face in turn. "What if there are more Grounders in these? I would live in a cave if I were a Grounder. We should have more…" She glances now to each of the weapons in hand, her mouth twisting with discomfiture. "What if something goes wrong in there? They won't know where we've gone."

Evie slips her backpack off her shoulders and sets it on the ground to riffle around for her water canteen. She snatches it up from the depths of medical supplies and tucks it under her left elbow. The pack remains on the ground as she scans the group — both those who are waiting and those who are hanging back. After a moment of contemplation, she decides to leave the bag behind for the others and turns around to head back toward camp. Caves are definitely not her thing.

Cameron sighs softly, "This is the point of scouting. I, and someone else maybe, sneak very, very quietly, and without being seen, take an initial lookout. Then I, and someone else maybe, come back and report on what I see. Then, armed with information in greater abundance then cave-is-there, we decide what to do. I am very, very good at not being seen when I do not want to be seen. Anyone else have ninja aspirations?"

"Good call," Alison chimes in on Cameron's offer. She stops. "Which tunnel are you starting with?" she asks, curious. Ruth's definition works as well as any other. "Oh, okay. Are they edible?" Now though things are more urgent. "I really hope there aren't grounders… Shouldn't we check the water first though?"

Devin starts moving towards one of the cave openings, looking back towards Cameron to check if it's he's going to follow or if he's going in alone. He's not worried if there are Grounders or not it seems. He glances towards Alison. "Why don't some of you go check the water, some stay here as back up and we'll go in here and check it out?" He offers as a suggestion.

"I don't like the idea of splitting up," Ruth decides, once more clutching her stick with purchase as she maneuvers her way towards the water. Once crouched down, she retrieves her water skin, drinks what's left in it, and makes to refill it with a smooth dunk.

Devin's total lack of concern, compared to Ruth's apprehension, is noted by Cassandra. She slides her eyes between the pair, then nods her head in silent assent of his insistence on joining. "Well, there, Evie's gone. She knows where we are," she says. Though reluctant to agree with Ruth, she eventually concedes, with a glance back to Cameron, "Yeah, why are we splitting up? Do you know something we don't know?" Always Machiavellian, this one. Always suspicious.

Cameron lifts a hand up to Devin in a 'just a sec' gesture if one ever saw one, who then sighs and rolls his eyes, shaking his head. "It's called scouting. I'm good at certain things. You're good at certain things. One of the things I am good at is scouting. Scouting means someone goes first, gets some intelligence, returns, so that people can make plans. Are you good at sneaking?" He looks between Ruth and Cassandra. "I'm really good at it. If there's a bear or grounder, I can probably get close enough to see it, and get away without alerting it that its there. That way I can be back and say, like, hey, there's a bear. Maybe we can alter our go-together plan, you know? If we all go at once, bumbling and loud, the bear might be all, look-food, and then our plan is limited to running away really fast or fighting a bear. I like knowing things before I commit to an action." Cameron sounds annoyed.

Martin watches Ruth for a moment as she collects some water, then glances between Cassandra and the other men. Looking to Alison then, he notes, "How are we going to see in the cave. Alison is the only one with something like a torch. Any flashlights?"

With the Boner banter having fallen to a lull, Cassandra shrugs. "Your funeral," she says to Cameron, in a tone that implies it's one she won't be reciting poetry at. "I'll hang back here. See if I can find some bear tracks. Because I know how to do that." And though he sounds annoyed, her tone remains quietly confident and uncontentious as she turns back to the rest of the group. At the mention of Alison's torch, she peers over at the petite physicist to see what proof she might produce.

"Um, calm down," Ruth bids of Cameron, speaking wryly. She leans on her stick in her crouch once her waterskin is filled and put back away into her crossbody bag. "I'm sure Grounders are great and have ninja aspirations, too. Don't underestimate them. If you do, you're an idiot and you'll deserve to get skewered." Wow, harsh. She bops at the ground with her stick before using it to aid in rising. "You can't do this alone. Is there anyone else here that can go places quietly?" She looks at each face in turn once more. She's certainly not counting herself.

Martin shakes his head at Ruth's question. "I'm pretty sure I am least stealthy person here."

Devin does stop in his movements as indicated by Cameron. He waits, leaning against the spear as he listens to the others as they discuss the options and who is good at doing what.

"I dunno, Martin. 'Is it dark in there? Do we need to go back and arrange torches?' are two of the many questions that are the reason why scouting is what I'm advocating," replies Cameron to Martin with a slightly amused grin, before he turns a flat stare at Ruth that extends several moments. "You haven't ever seen me not calm. You'll notice because while I was killing the man who had you tied to a horse, I was also perfectly calm. I don't do not calm." He shakes his head and looking between them, "Since you people don't think scouting is a good idea, what do you want to do? Retreat and come back in force? Go in there together? I'm trying to be a team-player here and operate on a concensus, though that's increasingly seeming like it was a bad idea to start with."

"Eden. Go." Ruth makes a shooing gesture towards Cameron, her upper lip curled a bit. "If you're so turned on about sloshing through potential death, go right ahead. We're trying to be careful, but if you don't want that, then just do as you will." She gives a jerky shrug of her shoulders, hunching briefly over the stick. It's not hard. She's a bit tall.

The mention of Cameron having killed the man who had Ruth tied to a horse has Cassandra turning her back on him fully and walking away. She doesn't say anything, and strives even to say nothing about it non-verbally; but here's a topic she's as yet unwilling to process. The hand on her Grounder-made bag strap makes a tug of adjustment before she releases it, accepting her fellow killer's proposal as she moves to position herself closer to Alison and Martin. "Let the man scout," is all she offers, quietly.

"You can not possibly be this dense. Scouting before advancing is the definition of being careful," says Cameron with an arched brow at Ruth, shaking his head again and turning to pad silently towards Devin, crouching and moving differently as he does so. To the other guy he says in a low voice, "Slow and quiet to the opening, see or hear anything we retreat immediately, check? Don't say anything at the cave opening, might carry. Then back. Yeah?"

Devin readies himself as he sees Cameron move towards him and nods his head once at the instructions offered to him. "Got it. You can have the lead." He offers before he lets him move ahead of him before Devin follows in behind him, trying to move along with him as carefully and quietly as he can.

Ruth is nervous. Paying little attention the coarse bark, her hands twist at the branch in her hands as she watches Cameron approach Devin. "What an ass," she mutters, prodding sullenly at the dirt with said branch. "Whatever. I can wash my hair." Priorities, priorities.

"I say the rest of us —" Cassandra starts to suggest, upnodding Martin, Alison and even Ruth, "Go search for an above-ground source of water while those two scout. See if we can find the mouth." She pauses, then condescends, "That's the part of the river where it starts."


Cameron and Devin head off from the group as Ruth considers washing her hair, Cassandra debates traveling upstream, Alison holds onto her torch, and Martin just watches with a touch of amusement at the party dynamics. As Cameron and Devin sneak over to the first cave and peer inside they can see about twenty feet inside before the darkness is too much. What they see is a mystery known only by them. The stream heads around a few more hills in the direction of its origin and disappears behind one of them.

"Wait, you want to leave them behind?" Ruth indicates the cave mouth with a jut of her chin, her brows raising inquisitively. "Even when they call for help? Nice." The word is voiced as if it's not 'nice' at all, despite her own agitated state with at least Cameron. "I'm staying right here, for now. We can always scout the river later. We have water here, now, and we're extra hands in case they screw up."

Martin walks over to the water and bends to cup his hands and get a drink. "I don't mind either way. Though, we probably shouldn't wander too far." He then looks to Ruth who crouches nearby and looks like he is trying to decide something. "Nah. Pushing you in would be mean." He turns his attention then to Alison. "Come get a drink of water. It's better fresh."

At the opening of the first cave, Cameron is crouched low and quiet, and after a long moment, he makes a gesture to Devin to the other one, but he awaits a confirmation before moving.

Ruth's concern for her fellows earns a scoff from Cassandra. "When did you become Your Moral Highness?" she states dubiously, but opts not to argue. The moments to enjoy Earth in all its green glory without rush and panic have been few and far between; she takes now to seat herself down on the ground, tilting her head up to the sky and wondering how far away the dying Ark might be. Not far enough, she presumes.

Devin moves along with Cameron up to the opening of the cave managing to move without making much noise, keeping low. He kneels down at the entrance of the cave and peers inside before he looks back to Cameron, nodding his head to the gesture, waiting for the other boy to move before he follows him to the next entrance.

The observation has Ruth uncomfortable. "I've always been nice and… moral," she shoots back, nails scratching absently at the bark on her branch to chip it. Slowly but surely. "You just don't know me." Well, there's also the possibility of finding neat Earth treasures within the cave. She may or may not have seen movies that hint towards that prospect. "Just try it," she challenges Martin, that stick hefted as a weapon. "I have a big stick. You don't."

Martin holds out his spear. "I have two sticks! One pointy! The other…" He pauses then looks down at his pants. "Can be in the right circumstances." He is totally filling in for Lip right now.

Cameron moves back slowly from the first cave, waiting for Devin, nodding with a quick smile at the young man and then leading off over to the next cave. He slows down near the entrance, though, looking back to Devin and making some gestures towards the ground.

Devin follows along with Cameron towards the next entrance, stopping as Cameron slows down and points at the ground. It takes him a moment before he spots it, nodding his head to acknowledge that he sees it. He looks back to Cameron and lifts up his spear slightly before nodding towards the object that was pointed out. He positions the spear so the blunt end of it is pointed in the direction of the object they're discussing silently.

Cameron lifts one hand, tapping his ear a couple times as his other hand points at the spot on the ground, and shaking his head quietly. Instead, he looks off towards where the next cave is, hesitates, and points back to where he thinks people are. His head then tilts to the side, questioning.

Inevitably, Ruth's eyes drift where Martin indicates. She looks quickly away, but not before a flush claims her pale face as its bitch. She has nothing to say to that. Eventually, she moves over to the water and begins soaking her hair, working out the knots with her fingers in the process.

Devin nods again in agreement before he looks into the cave the best he can then to the next entrance and lowers his spear back to how it was. After a moment he glances back in the direction of the group then turns back to Cameron, holding up a single finger to signal 'one more' then points back towards the others.

Cameron looks thoughtful a moment, then nods slightly to Devin, but points at the ground and makes a rounding gesture. He then moves very carefully around the spot he's been pointing at and quietly approaches the cave entrance.

Cassandra stays mostly silent, enjoying the green and the show Ruth puts on as Martin drives her to blush. Her voice finally carries from the hillock where she's resting, sly and idle as it wonders to the group at the water, "Why is it men always insist on talking about their sticks?"

Martin watches Ruth for a moment as she tries to clean her hair, before turning his attention to Cassandra and shrugging. "We don't always insist on it. It's just fun to point out from time to time and see the reaction." His green eyes then shift to the scouts to see how they are doing.

"Float yourself." Ruth's sentiment loses some of its verve due to the fact that her chin is pressed flush against her chest in the position she's currently in. Wringing long hair of dirt and grime without proper product isn't the easiest job. Finally, though, she shakes her hair free of water and throws it behind her with a sudden head-flip. It lands with a smack against her back. "We should definitely go after them if they take ten more years," she decides with a sniff. In all actuality, it's probably only been about ten minutes, tops. She's not known to be the most patient, though.

Devin nods his head at the motions and moves to follow Cameron around the object that was pointed out and towards the entrance of the cave, peering inside. He glances up at Cameron again before he motions inside with a slight shrug of his shoulders before he motions towards the next cave, seeing where Cameron wants to go.

There's a slight shake of Cameron's head again at Devin's wordless question, though there's a slight smile on his lips. Instead, he cocks his head over towards the next cave in the system, and carefully circles the danger spot and then silently pads off thattaway.

"You should go after them," concurs a casual Cassandra, wearing a Cheshire cat-like smile. "Alison and I will stay here. We'll keep Martin company." A pause as the proverbial claw is dug in; she waits and watches for her blue-eyed nemesis' reaction.

Martin looks between Cassandra and Ruth and decides to just keep his mouth shut for now. Nope, not going to get in the middle of this one, even though, for some reason it sounds like he is being forced into the middle of them.

A stormy expression dominates Ruth's features. She huffs out a breath as she sits back fully in the dirt. There's her answer.

And there's more stalking, and near to the final cave, peering in, and suddenly Cameron's backing away, waving at Devin and pointing backwards, like, NOW, says the expression.

Devin follows along with Cameron towards the next cave entrance, trying his best to avoid the troubled zone as they move. He keeps low and tries to keep pace with Cameron as the pair continues on down the line of entrances. As Cameron stop and starts backing away, his eyes widen and he moves quickly to go back the way he came.

Finally, Cassandra rises to her feet. "Right, that's long enough," she decides, and starts to step on down the hill. "They're probably dead by now," she calls over her shoulder. "I'm going to collect their corpses so we can bury them before dark. Feel free to stay put and enjoy the sunshine though." And though she doesn't wait up, that challenge is as clear an invitation to join her as any.

Ruth is hesitant, admittedly. She lingers in her seat on the ground for a few moments before that stick is gripped with vigor, her position urged forward so she's trotting after Cassandra. "I'm only coming to make sure I don't have to drag your corpse back, too." She eyes the other girl flatly. "You look like you'd be too much effort to drag back."

Cassandra doesn't have to wait long at all to get her answer, as Devin and Cameron come running as quickly yet stealthily as they can manage. Whatever it is that they saw doesn't seem to be coing after them. Maybe they saw nothing?

Cameron's arunnin', arunnin', arunnin' he surely is, though he manages it without making a lot of noise, which is something.

A witty comeback does not await Ruth. Cassandra's knees and elbows bend into a defensive stance as she draws her machete from her waist, holding it defensively up in front of her as she faces the mouth of the cave at Devin and Cameron's backs. "Spears," she instructs, cold, quiet and quick. She may not know how to fight, but she has instincts, and she's seen enough these last couple days that whatever has her on alert does not daunt her.

Devin is right on Cameron's heels, occasionally looking back over his shoulder towards the cave they just came from. His eyes widen as he sees something come out of the cave and moves quicker towards the group, getting his spear ready to be used as soon as he stops.

Ruth is shameless. She stops almost immediately with some space to spare behind Cassandra rather than beside her, large stick cast aside in favor of her sling (and an accompanying stone) being hefted and prepared in one hand. "I knew it," she hisses out. "I knew Scott was an idiot."

Martin has no clue what is going on, but he gets his spear ready just the same. "What is going on? Who is Scott?" He is so lost right now.

By the time Cameron reaches the group, he's got his sword out and turns around with calm, cool eyes, despite heavier breathing then usual from the running. "Sorry, my foot slipped," he says with a certain breathlessness, though otherwise he doesn't seem panicked as he perhaps should be.

Everyone manages to hear the sound of the rustling of leaves in a bush about 30 yards away halfway down the hillock. However, no one sees anything. Then it is quiet. Something is there waiting, stalking them, hunting them.

Devin reaches the group just behind Cameron, coming to a stop and turns to hear the sound of the rustling in the leaves. He readies his spear as his eyes scan over the area, trying to find the creature that he had seen leaving the cave, his breathing heavy from the quick escape.

"Form a semi-circle," says eighteen year-old Cass, who is suddenly impersonating a war general. "I've seen one of these before." She stands her ground, blade still in front of her, willing the approaching hunter in the bushes to recognise itself as the hunted. Were this a video shown in Earth Skills class, or biology, she might be excited, but for now her priority is to be on guard.

Ruth starts to do as bid, but the ominous rustling seems to get to her. She's had enough of waiting. Her sling arm goes wide, and with a swoop of stone and cloth, she lets her chosen projectile careen towards the underbrush with no lack of speed… but an awful lack of precision has it going way off. "Seriously?" Her alto pitches a bit higher as she fishes in her bag for a new stone, backpedaling over roots and dead leaves alike.

As the stone sails over the bush, the panther decides that it has lost any advantage and charges out down the hill at the group, roaring at having its rest disturbed. Since Devin is the one that woke it up, the large black cat focuses on him, or maybe Devin looks the most delicious. It leaps into the air at Devin, avoiding getting cut by any of the teens' weapons.

Cameron doesn't hesitate nor complain about who it is giving orders, he immediately follows Cassandra's instructions, fanning out a bit to form his part of the circle, his eyes flickering from place to place among the trees. Then there's an extra-large furball flying at Devin, and Cameron is not cool with that, but the swipe of his sword tastes only air.

Devin's eyes widen as the cat leaps at him, being caught off guard as he manages to stumble out of the way of the cat, but looses his aim on the cat as well, missing the beast with his wild thrust of his spear. "Holy shit!"

That was not false bravado from Cassandra; the Earth Skills enthusiast really has seen one of these before, only she neglected to mention that the one she saw was dead. Nothing could prepare her for the sight of such a majestic, resplendent, exquisite… utterly terrifying creature charging its way up that hilltop, muscles rippling beneath its sleek black coat and paws gliding soft and deadly with each leap above the ground. For a moment she's stunned, but her instincts in calling for a semi-circle, she feels, were good. Here is one lone predator; a deadly one, but only one. It stands against a pack, and like a laughing hyena, she lunges to close in on it as it dares target one of her group.

"Hey! HEY!" Cameron shouts, trying to draw the attention of the panther, "HEY YOU FUCKING IDIOT BEAST. OVER HERE." Again Cameron steps forward, swinging his sword again, but the beast is limber and fast and easily avoids him.

Okay, Ruth is shaking just a bit. Just a bit. Screw semicircles, honestly; that's all well and good for people with reaching weapons, but her long, dull stick has been cast aside and the knife in her bag is one she can barely use to open suspicious ground fruit. She bounds away from the others with a few steady leaps, working at pressing the stone just so into the sling so the weight is distributed properly. She's been practicing, but obviously not with such… immediacy.

The panther turns from its leap over Devin and makes another swipe at the man, growling some more with its ears back. It's eyes are red, obviously a mutation, but it certainly doesn't make it any less threatening, if not more so. The swipe is a miss thankfully, and Martin is able to score a hit to the belly of the beast, while Devin lands a wound to the body. It growls in pain and tries to maneuver away, putting some distance between itself and its assailants.

Devin is better prepared for the cat's second attack, being able to step out of the reach of the cat before thrusting his spear at the animal, finding the target as the point of his spear digs into the animal's hide.

Martin grins a bit at having scored a hit for the first time in his life. "Whoo!" He is now quite happy and feeling a bit manly right now.

The sight of blood stirs something in Cassandra, and that something is not pleasant. Her eyes go wide as Martin and Devin both find their mark in the beast's black hide, as red stains its coat, and she abruptly steps back, sword held aloft. Hers remains clean, and it seems like now it won't get its chance to be put to use. She stands there, frozen, willing herself into action but simply failing.

The panther might back away, but Cameron is not having that, at least not right now. He takes three quick steps forward, and roars. Its like, "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO," really loud and furious like, to try to get its attention again. And he swings with his sword, and this time finally manages to meet panther flesh. Not, like, you know, impressively, but hey, there's blood on his weapon now.

The panther snarls as a spear and a sword connect with it. It doesn't attack anyone this turn and instead turns its tail and darts off into the trees at a full run, trying to put as much distance between it and the home invaders.

Martin misses with his spear this turn. That's odd. Few can avoid his spear, as all the ladies know.

Devin keeps his eyes on the cat and goes in for another thrust with the spear, causing a nice gash on the cat's face before the beast turns tail and runs away. He holds his defensive posture for a moment as he watches the cat run off, waiting to see if the cat will return.

"Okay, I'm…" That sling is held close to Ruth's person as she continues stepping back and in the general direction of camp. "I'm going. No more stupid guys poking panther nests." Panther nests? She really is a bit shaken up.

Cassandra barely has time to process what just happened when the injured panther turns around and flees. Her face is white as a sheet, her sword still frozen mid-air. Her breath catches in her throat, and as she turns to finally watch it disappear, she tilts her head to the ground. She feels dizzy. She feels sick. Her legs have simply ceased to cooperate with the rest of her body.

Martin looks to Ruth and Cassandra as they both seem to be taking the sudden fight with the panther poorly. "Alright. We can head back. We found this place and some water, so that's a good start. Plenty of news to take back to everyone." Then he notices Cassandra, "Cass. You alright over there?" He starts to approach wondering if she is about to fall over.

Cameron pauses, blinking, and looks briefly puzzled. He did not expect the big cat to run away, "…Okay." He shakes his head, "I was just trying to get it to attack me instead of Dev, not scare it away." He shakes his head, and turns an apologetic look at the ladies and Martin. "Sorry, my foot slipped," he repeats. "But, thanks for having my back."

The sassy brunette raises a hand to her face, trying to rub away the shock. It's all coming back to her now, two dead people she killed the last time she saw her fellows spill blood. "I'm fine," Cassie says to Martin, hazily turning to push past him as he approaches. "Let's get back to camp. We should let them know we found water."

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