So, before we start...I briefly mention the mission River Monsters (where you deal with the yao guai in the cave). But I didn't want to call it the "yao guai cave"...because that sounds pretty lame. Instead, since it is near Pine Creek...I decided to call the cave Pine Creek Caverns. Just to clear up any confusion.
Also...something that really bothered me about the whole Honest Hearts DLC...you're helping them so you can get back to the Mojave. They act as if you need a map...but the whole reason Jed wanted you to go with them was because you have a pip-boy...which has a map built in. So I tackle that in this chapter (doesn't explain the plot gap in the game...but it explains it for the story).
You might also notice that when they reached the Dead Horse camp, I went out of my way to mention that there were children. I also did that because it really bothered me that there wasn't any. The reason there wasn't any is mentioned...they've been evacuated. But if they've been evacuated...why do I need to get a map of the Grand Staircase to help him evacuate the others? It doesn't make sense to me. So I'm going to be doing a little something with that...I won't spoil it, but you'll see soon enough.
Despite the fact that the water was fresh and clear – Six found himself missing the Mojave. He missed a lot of things, but particularly he missed being dry. Between the intermittent rain and the lush river valley, he often found himself hanging his duster out to dry…when it wasn't raining, of course. Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing…
The group followed the woman back the way they came, along the winding riverbed, up an incline and into a cave…Sweet Flower Cave, she called it. The inside of the cave was spacious; large enough for a trio of tents along the south wall. Pale moonlight shone through cracks and gaps in the cave's roof. Water dripped through…luckily there were no gaps over the tents. A number of skeletons had been stowed away in the north eastern corner, out of sight, and a campfire – complete with makeshift tripod and cooking pot - decorated the middle of the cave.
The inside of the tent was lined with makeshift bedding…dried hay and twigs. Six grimaced…the Lucky 38 had spoiled him. The woman motioned to them…
"You may sleep here for the night. None of my brethren have used it since the Mole Rat incident…the cave goes further, but I'm afraid there isn't much to be found. The rear entrance to the cave collapsed some time ago," She turned to the campfire. "There are provisions in the tent…beans, gecko eggs, and a variety of smoked meats. When Joshua sent word that you were to come here, I saw to it that the cave was stocked with fresh food."
Six smiled at the woman. "You're too kind."
She returned his smile. "I will inform Daniel of your arrival. Until we next meet."
With that, she made for the cave exit – leaving the group to situate themselves. After a rather mediocre meal – although a step up from the MRE's Boone had been toting around, it still failed in comparison to the delicacies of the Strip – Six folded his duster across the top of the tent and somehow managed to find sleep.
He awoke to the smell of frying eggs and gecko meat – stumbling out of the tent, he found Graham seated quietly by the fire pit. Six rubbed his eyes and sat across from him.
"I fear your friend still has little trust of me," Graham spoke softly. "He left a while ago with Follows-Chalk and the ghoul at Daniel's request. To evacuate Zion we must pass south, near Pine Creek Caverns. The area is infested with yao guai…Daniel has asked them to eliminate the threat."
"Why didn't they wake me?"
"You were exhausted. You do not sleep peacefully."
"I sleep well enough."
"Of course," Graham laughed. "In any event, did you gather the supplies?"
"Yeah…" Six responded. "In a scout lunchbox in the tent."
Graham nodded, seemingly pleased. He stood and walked to a nearby crate. From within he removed a few plates and eating utensils. He ambled back to the fire and removed the cooking pan. After a moment he reached a plate to Six, who graciously accepted it. Then he returned to his place by the fire.
"So explain something to me…you seem well educated. You seem like a genuinely good person. What the hell possessed you to work with Caesar?"
"A series of small mistakes before a great fall," Graham parted his bandages slightly. His eyes winced in pain. He leisurely began to pick at his food. "I was born in Ogden…what people now know as New Canaan. My childhood was quaint, peaceful. As a New Canaanite, I was taught, as all missionaries are, varying dialects and languages of the land. When I came of age, I was sent out into the world to do God's work. I traveled along the Long 15 and followed 89 south into Arizona. It was in Arizona that I met two men from a group called the Followers of the Apocalypse."
"I'm familiar with them."
Graham scratched his forehead and continued. "Caesar was known as Edward back then…Edward Sallow. He was traveling with a man named Bill Calhoun. Calhoun was a good man…and, at the time, I believed Edward to be also."
"So you knew him before he became Caesar."
"Yes. They were doing missionary work of their own…in a way. They came to teach the tribes to be self sufficient…and Edward, a linguist, was sent to study their dialects. Seeing as I was already familiar with the dialects, I elected to travel with them. To teach Edward what I knew. We decided to hike into the Grand Canyon to talk to the Blackfoots. When we did, we were greeted kindly…they were friendly enough, at first. But…" Graham swallowed and shifted his gaze momentarily from the fire and towards cave ceiling. "I've thought back to that day so many times…something must've gotten mistranslated. The Blackfoots decided we weren't going to leave."
"I'm not entirely certain. What I do know is that Edward decided to help the tribe. The tribe was at war…and they were losing. Edward saw this as an opportunity and taught them how to maintain their weapons, advanced military tactics, demolitions…Divide et impera. He taught them to attack their weakest enemies first. Divide and conquer. Then introduced the tribes to total warfare. Before long, he became more than teacher. He became their leader – he became Caesar."
"And he used you. For translation."
Graham nodded lightly. "This way lies the path to hell. Things evolved…translation became giving orders. Giving orders became training…which in turn became leading. Punishing…" He paused, taking a deep breath. "…terrorizing. Power changes people. You lose sight of who you were. Who you are."
Graham trailed off a long time…losing himself in the flames before him. "When I failed Caesar at the Battle of Hoover Dam…he tried to execute me…I'm alive today because the fire that burned inside was brighter than the fire that burned around me. I fell down into that dark chasm, but the flame burned on and on. Do you know what that fire inside was?"
Six didn't answer.
"It was love. The love of the New Canaanites. God's love…I was baptized twice. Once in water. Once in flame. 'I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God...'"
"Galatians 2:20," a voice from the cave entrance said. Six turned towards the source – Graham did not. He simply nodded.
"Daniel," Graham greeted the man. "Please, have a seat. Help yourself to some breakfast."
Daniel, followed by the woman that had greeted Six the previous night, did just that.
"Joshua, you remember Waking Cloud?"
"And this is?" Daniel asked, motioning to Six.
Six extended his hand and introduced himself.
"You're here for the supplies?" Six asked. "You'll be happy to know we found everything on the list."
"Well I'll be…" Daniel laughed, shaking his head. "I was starting to doubt we'd be able to get any of it…much less all of it. The tribals have a difficult time letting go of their taboos…It is difficult for Joshua or I to find time to scavenge for supplies. Looks like all it took was the touch of a gentile…" Daniel's enthusiasm quickly faded. "Or…uh…What I mean to say is…"
"No worries," Six said, holding up a hand. "No offense taken."
"You should have more faith in your fellow man, Daniel," Joshua jibed.
"In any event, these supplies are a godsend…" Daniel was hesitant to continue.
Graham laughed. "This is the part where he asks you for further assistance. In order to evacuate Zion…" Graham shot Daniel a glare. "We'll need a map of the of the Grand Staircase."
"But…where we'll find one…" Daniel began.
Six, laughing, shook his head. "You people and your maps…do you think my group stumbled into Zion by accident? I don't need a map to get back to the Mojave. It's as simple as the twist of a dial."
Graham studied Six for a long moment. "If you didn't need our assistance to return to the Mojave…"
Six cut him off. "I never said I needed help getting back. You assumed it. You know why I'm here…" He smiled. "The good news is, we don't need to find a map…" he tapped his pip-boy. "We need to find a printer."
"Stone Bones Cavern," Graham's voice was as chilling as the breeze flowing out of the mouth of the cave. "When Daniel and I first arrived at Zion, I explored the caves around the Narrows…it is always good to know your surroundings. Especially in times of war."
He began towards the entrance. "Mind the traps…follow closely. I disarmed a great deal of the traps, but still more may remain." Six fell in line behind Graham and they traversed deep into the cave. The air swept through its cracks and crevices – recreating the eerie howl on the night of the ambush.
"There are a number of caves across Zion," Graham continued, "But some of them hold particular significance. They are marked by the Sorrows. The white hand prints on either side of the entrance, did you see?"
"Yeah. Chalk pointed the same thing out to me on other taboo places."
"Other taboo places have red prints as well. The caves are holy…hence they have only white. They mark the caves of Randall Clark."
"Yes. A survivalist from just after the Great War. I have not read all of his journal entries…but I have read a fair number of them. He used this cave as well…come, this way." Graham guided Six through the winding cavern. Before long they ventured into an open area – stocked with assorted supplies, munitions, and tools. Including a bed roll, a work bench…and a terminal. Six hurried past Graham and to the terminal. He flipped through the screens on his pip-boy before settling on the map. Then he scrolled through to the Grand Staircase region. He linked the pip-boy to the terminal and began the process.
"You're sure this will work?"
"These terminals have basic printing capabilities built in…some of them anyway." Six began flipping through the journal entries; hungrily absorbing more of the story of Randall Clark. He had just finished with the last entry when the terminal beeped in protest. He checked his pip-boy.
Six turned back to Graham, "This isn't going to work…but Clark wrote here that he was ambushed. Went to a cave south of here…doesn't say which, though. I imagine out of the Narrows…he was worried about being followed. What's the closest cave to the south?"
"And out of the narrows?" Graham searched his memory. "Cueva Guarache."
Six shook his head. "Already been there…that terminal is being run by a couple of jury rigged fission batteries. It's in bad shape…any other?"
"…Ah. Morning Glory. Just west of North Fork Bridge."
"Then that's our next stop." Six stood, as he did something caught his eye – a set of armor, closely resembling his own. He stuffed it into his bag.
Graham chuckled softly.
"What? Not like he needs it," Six defended himself.
"You speak the truth," Graham acceded. "I'll talk to Daniel. I'm sure he can spare a scout to accompany you."
"Waking Cloud is my name. I am midwife to the Sorrows," The tribal woman smiled at him. "It sounds ill-omened, no?"
"…'Midwife to Sorrows'…" She repeated.
"Ah…" Six nodded. "Yes, I suppose it does. Well Waking Cloud, I'm…"
"Six," She cut in. "I remember. Daniel has instructed me to guide you to Morning Glory Cave…" her voice sounded discontent. "Is this pleasing to you?"
"You don't have to, if you'd rather not."
"No…I do not mind. It's just…The Morning Glory Cave belongs to the Father. We should not profane it with our touch. The Holy Father punishes those who trespass into his sacred grounds."
"I understand…Look, you don't have to accompany me into the cave. But I need to investigate it. It may be our only shot at getting your people safely out of Zion."
Waking Cloud frowned. "Daniel is a wise man…he has asked me to keep you safe. If that means traveling into the forbidden areas, then that is what I must do."
Six smiled at the woman. "Please," he motioned for her to take point. "After you."
They traveled south quite a ways. Waking Cloud moved like the wind…or as she put it, like moonlight on water. They passed several scouts and parties of White Legs who were never the wiser to their presence. Six wondered if Boone and Raul were having such luck. Of course…something told him that between the two of them, their group would be okay.
When they were clear of enemies – which Waking Cloud seemed to be able to sense from insane distances – she spoke. "Six…do you have a family waiting for you in your lands?"
"Family?" Six shook his head, briefly thinking back to Cass. "No…no I don't."
She smiled. "You will one day."
"I do. A fine husband and three children…I miss them dearly every day, but take comfort in knowing that they are safe."
"Yes. Daniel sent them in the first evacuation…"
Six raised a brow...
"When we learned that Salt-Upon-Wounds had defiled Zion with his presence, Daniel ordered the evacuation of many. I was away…scouting the valley for the herbs I use in my medicines."
"You're a doc…a, uh…healer then?"
"Yes. I tend to the hurts and sickness of others. Six years ago…during the birth of my third child, the river nearly carried my water to the Father…and my child's with it. Daniel attended that birth…he stepped in and saved both my life and the life of my child. I asked him to teach me the ways of New Canaan's medicine…so he did."
"You seem to be fond of him."
"Daniel is a wise man and a great friend…he has taught my tribe much. He has taught me much. He taught me the language of the New Canaan…the ainglish from the holy books."
Six grinned…her accent was charming in a way. "Holy books?"
"Yes…the books the Father in the Cave brought to the New Canaanites after the End That Came in Fire. The books are written in the sacred tongue of the New Canaanites. The Father in the Cave punished the world when the Sorrows sinned against him…made us forget the holy tongue." She paused, "The Morning Glory Cave is on that ridge…come."
The Earth shook violently beneath them. The cave entrance toppled and collapsed filling with rock, dust, and debris.
"Whoa…" Chalk struggled to keep his balance. "The fire clay of the New Canaanites isn't something to be trifled with, eh?"
Raul smirked. "No, kid. It's not."
They traveled west, along Route 9. They were about to venture off on a trail leading north – towards the Sorrows Camp – when Boone stopped. He raised his rifle and peered through the scope. Further west, along the road, was a platoon of White Legs.
Boone grunted. "Do they normally travel in groups so large?"
Chalk followed his gaze. His eyes widened at the sight. "No…no they don't."
Boone scratched the stubble around his chin, then turned to Raul. "Head on back to the camp. Warn them…something's going down. I'm going to go have a look."
"Be careful, cuate."
Boone wandered from the road – electing instead to use the wilderness as cover. He quickly – and quietly – navigated through the brush. He found himself sitting atop a rather large rockface…judging from the sun's position…just north of an old bridge. The bridge was littered with White Legs; tents peppered the river's southern bank. He lay flat, peering through his scope. The White Legs were planting traps…bear traps, mines. Digging pits to fill with stakes. The Dead Horses would pass right through here…
He could see a man barking orders – adorned with a fearsome helmet. "That," he thought aloud, "must be the infamous Salt-Upon-Wounds…"
To the south-east, along the ridge he could see a ranger station. Dead Horse prisoners were being marched into it.
"Oi! Halten no te donde! Stay!"
Boone flipped around to see a duo of White Legs charging his position. He stood – greeting the first one with a hard right hook. As the next one charged him, he fell to his back, planting his foot into his attacker's sternum, flipping him off the precipice. Boone quickly made his way to his feet and began his descent. A sound of thunder filled the valley – Salt-Upon-Wounds shoved a rifle into the hands of a nearby tribal – Boone fell to the ground, holding his thigh. The White Legs chief strode confidently towards him, cracking his knuckles. The powerfist on his hand decorated in war paint…
Boone struggled to his feet. The bullet had grazed his thigh…nothing serious, but enough to keep him from running. He fumbled for his side arm, but the White Legs drew their own weapons – taking aim. Boone halted…cursing under his breath. Salt-Upon-Wounds stood before him and ordered his subordinates to disarm him. They happily obliged. The chief paused a moment, examining the bowie knife…then tossed it to the ground at Boone's feet. Boone looked at it, then back to the tribal.
"You fight," He spat. "You fight well…you might live."
Boone took a breath and reached down for the blade. Salt-Upon-Wounds charged immediately – as Boone expected he would. Boone rolled to the side and swept his legs out from under him. The man stumbled forward and face-planted into the ground. Boone dove forward and planted a firm boot into his opponent's gut. The chief cried out in agony and rolled away, struggling to his feet. Before he could stand, Boone hit him with another fearsome kick. He fell to one knee. Moving in for the kill…Boone felt a fierce pain in his side. He looked down to see the red wrapped handle of a throwing knife. He pulled it out and tossed it aside. He stepped forward, then stopped. His vision pulsated. His legs grew weak.
Salt-Upon-Wounds struggled to his feet. He marched indignantly towards Boone, planting a firm punch into his gut. Boone gasped for breath and stumbled backwards. Something held him up…he could see what…his vision was blurred and his mind foggy. But he could guess…whoever had thrown the knife.
One of the tribals held him…lifting him to face his attacker. Salt-Upon-Wounds tilted his head to the side…
"Hijo de hundin…"
Boone felt the force of the powerfist as it smashed into the side of his head. Then nothing.
Okay, I know that there's nothing to suggest the terminals have printing capabilities...but there's never any printers around in the Fallout world, yet there are always posters and fliers, and documents...so I figured what the hell, I'll take some creative liberty. So that's what I did.
So I'm diverging a little bit from my original outline for the story...but when I have an idea I like, I just kind of go with it. We'll pick up the next chapter soon...I know I have been sidetracked lately, but blame it on Borderlands 2...and next week Resident Evil 6. Yeah...I'm going to go ahead and apologize in advance. But I'm excited as a school girl at a Justin Bieber concert for that game. I played the demo...it was different, but I enjoyed it.
I'm also kind of taking it slow on these chapters. I really want to adequately capture Joshua Graham...and I'm doing my best to capture the animosity between him and Boone...and the depth of his character...without fucking it up. Hopefully, I'm doing that well enough.
And as far as the delays between chapters go...just bear with me. When I beat Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6, things will pick back up again. At least until Assassin's Creed III comes out...Then Dead Space 3 next year...yeah. I'm a horrible person for making you all wait, but I can't help myself.
I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. Until next time.