by M.D Schultz
An overview of the investigation team sent to explore the parallel realm of Jotunheim
The appearance of a Prism Gate is as random as the weather. Up until recently, nobody could accurately predict when or where such phenomena appear. The London Rift was a perfect example of pure chaos. Based on our limited readings, we knew a gate would open somewhere on the continent of England. With this statement alone you would assume that we were correct. While that is true, there was no way for us to know that the Gate would appear in the heart of London and be over a mile wide. The sheer scope of the incident was the only reason we had responded so quickly. Some rifts have come and gone without our noticing leaving not but the faintest traces of existence. The Jotunheim rift was different because it appeared in the midwestern United States at the center of a Hospital.
Hospitals have always made me uneasy. Sterile and unnaturally clean environments, there is something about the sights and smells that always put me on edge. This one was no different. It always amazes me to see how many beds could be crammed into a room the size of a college dorm. Most were empty but there was an elderly man that lay dead next to the room window. Flowers and cards of sympathy decorated the bedside table and desk. I didn’t know how he died but it was likely that he passed in his sleep. His expression wasn’t that of pain and there was something comforting in knowing that. I spent time flipping through the cards and was particularly fond of a childish drawing of rainbows and a family of stick figures. A grandfather maybe? Such affection was a stark contrast to the labs of the Fifth Chapter. Sometime after my escape from Niflheim, I was nearly shot to death by my own officer. It’s hard to blame him considering what I’d become. The hospital I woke in wasn’t one surrounded by flowers or cards but scalpels and rib cutters. The fact that I was alive proved that I wasn’t human anymore. I had the Basilisk to thank for that. Even alone with a dead man I wasn’t truly alone. The hairs on the back of my neck that stood end to end told the story. It was there whispering in my ears. I would be lying to myself to believe that the Basilisk hadn’t drawn us to the veteran’s hospital. We had heard the reports but I knew instinctively that the Gate had remained stable. And so it was that just outside of the hospital room was a Rift as wide as the hallway. A shimmering mirage that lead to another world. The building had evacuated to another site and we had been dispatched to investigate the Prism Gate and rumors of a bizarre creature, the Blood Moth. Indeed, we found the organism not far from the gate itself. The staff had locked it inside a janitorial closet and, with the power cut, the colder temperatures had slowed its frenzied behavior. The blood moth was about six feet long and had an engorged red abdomen with a needle-like proboscis. The name was given for its unique leathery wings that were decorated with eye patterns like some moth species. Interestingly, the creature didn’t appear hostile towards the living and only attempted to escape from its cramped space. Based on its behavior, I surmised that the blood moth was, in fact, a nectar-feeding organism. Despite this, the creature was neutralized and prepared for shipment to the bunker. To be honest it was the gate the truly drew my attention.
The Jotunheim rift was the first stable Prism Gate that led to a world that clearly had life. The true intentions behind our presence was to investigate the parallel realm. That was my newfound purpose. Ten years after the Niflheim investigation, I was named the first member of Triumvirate and lead investigator for exploration beyond the rifts. Who better to send than a near-immortal subject? For a position of such high merit, I freely volunteered but not without reservation. If Niflheim proved anything it was that these worlds were very dangerous. In addition, I feel that the investigations help further the Basilisks ambitions although I can’t say what they truly are.
The hospital had been deserted before our arrival and made set up very simple. This was the first time we were using the Orsinium rods to further stabilize a Prism Gate. Thanks to the second member of the Triumvirate, the Cathedral, we had compelling evidence to suggest that uniform pulses of rift energy could provide stability and prevent a rift from moving or closing. The Orsinium rods mimicked a stable Gates pulsing energy. Theoretically, this would prevent a repeat of the events of the Niflheim investigation. The rods themselves were a golden color that held an immense electrical charge. Two were placed on opposite ends of the Jotunheim rift and we spent several hours analyzing the Gates activity. The rods were working and so our investigation was greenlit.
Fear is an intense emotion meant to further our self-preservation. A sixth sense that gives you a heightened awareness of situations that may cause stress or harm. Such a simple summary for one of the worst emotions you can experience. An emotion that I have become disconnected from. I still feel fear but not on behalf of self-preservation. I promise that this emotion is very different for one who cannot die. As such, I requested another to accompany me beyond the rift. A young woman who was classified as a type C combatant. She had received very little training as part of the order and was a field surgeon for the military. It was very important to me that she remained untested for the new combatants are stripped of emotion. She was to be my cannery and her fear would give me a sense of danger on the other side that I, because of the Basilisk, could no longer trust. Don’t take this to mean that the woman didn’t have a backbone. As a surgeon, she had seen the worst humanity could dish out and was no stranger to death. She hid her fear well but, nonetheless, I could sense it. Few could maintain their composure in the presence of the Basilisk and it was so very close to her. That fear gave her a sense of a monster she couldn’t see. The eyeless cat that whispered of ruin had taken her measure from her shoulder length brown hair to the scar that traveled along her right cheek. She wasn’t a particularly handsome woman but war often has that effect on people. Together we carried enough provisions for a week but the first trip through the Gate I was to do alone. My preliminary investigation was meant to determine if the atmosphere of the parallel realm could support human life.
I still remember the first time I traveled through the Niflheim gate. That chilled feeling that left you shocked just before plunging you into darkness. Jotunheim, however, was a different world. A world with a soft porous floor and a cave-like ceiling that stretched for miles and miles. The air smelled stale but with a hint of sweetness and the atmosphere was warm and humid. A strange blue chemiluminescent light lined the walls, ceiling, and floor and almost looked like starlight given the distance. This wasn’t a cave for it was too big and it breathed as if alive. In a uniform pattern, the realm would contract and constrict filling the immense passageway with warm air. When I pressed my ear to the floor, I could hear a thunderous pounding miles below. This world didn’t breathe as if alive, it was alive. We often speak of our own world like it is a living organism but to witness one that draws breath in more than just symbolism is truly unnatural. As jarring as this discovery was, I was happy to note that the air was breathable. The atmosphere was mostly composed of molecular water and oxygen. Just to be sure, I took several samples for study before heading back to the hospital. Our team was waiting as they had been trained to do, poised to strike at whatever danger may pass through the gate. Preliminary studies revealed that the air was relatively pure with no sign of toxin or disease. This news was welcome but not entirely unexpected given proof of life. By the morning hours, we were set to travel into Jotunheim.
I was not alone the second time I traveled through the gate. My cannery passed through tense and unprepared for the jolting feeling of jumping worlds. She looked disheveled as if having woken from a nightmare. The world around us heaved and the floor was like a wet sponge that gave way to our weight. She was far from Earth and the unnatural world put her on edge. That’s what I wanted. That fearful state that allowed her to sense hidden danger. That’s the reason I had brought her along or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. With the Basilisk, I could no longer trust my own senses.
The world of Jotunheim was vast and the landscape was decorated with rolling hills. The chemiluminescent light was enough for us to easily navigate our way. We kept a scanner on hand to lock the entrance of the rift and provide comfort to my partner. In truth, these instruments were near useless to me now. I could hear the rift even from a distance and the sounds of a hospital PA system paging Dr. Venlo. Perhaps, through the Basilisk, I was given a window into the past. As we progressed, it took time to get used to our footing. In addition to the soft floor, the constant contraction and constriction of the environment did much to trip us up. Things were easier when scaling the hillsides. These rolling planes had sturdier tissue and reminded me of transitions from a smooth to rough palette. I came to call this living world of Jotunheim the Leviathan. Such a creature was astounding and, given its size, I had no inkling as to our location nor its anatomy. What soon became clear was that we were not alone in navigating this strange place. Blood moths filled the air as we came upon the top of one hill. We had discovered a bowl-shaped valley miles across and filled with strange red flowers. The moths were drawn to these flowers using their needle-like proboscis to siphon nectar from the plants. My hypothesis was correct and the creatures themselves ignored us. Closer inspection revealed that the flowers were as large as trees and the stalks were made of the same spongy tissue as the floor. These weren’t plants but projections of the Leviathan itself. With each thunderous heartbeat, a pale liquid oozed from the deep red petals. This liquid was the source of the faint sweetness in the air and was likely the blood of the creature of Jotunheim. The moth’s fed voraciously lapping at what spilled to the ground in a crazed fashion and using their enlarged red abdomens as clubs against any competition. Some of the liquid pooled were the stalks were thickest and the creatures were unable to move their clumsy bodies through. We took shelter near one such pool and I was able to collect a few samples of the Leviathan’s blood. The pale liquid was warm to the touch and, in my hands, had a strange almost metallic sheen. There was something about this blood that was alluring to me. The smell was sweet and beckoned for a taste. That’s when the Basilisk screamed. Its voice was like a sharp nail dragged across a chalkboard and caused my ears to bleed. The eyeless white cat was there watching and in its voice, was a warning. Do not drink and do not touch. We were here for something else. The Basilisk led us away from the pool and the forest of red iris. By the end of the day, we were overlooking the valley and our presence was ignored.
The lights never go out in Jotunheim and the pulsing landscape made setting up camp difficult. We sat for a time chewing on the dried meat and bread that made up our rations. My partner was withdrawn and not very talkative. It didn’t matter, her dossier provided all the details I needed to know. A military surgeon who worked the front lines, blood and pain were commonplace and it wasn't unusual for her to choose who lived and who died. This, at one time, made her numb and callous and so she remained introverted. She did so as a necessity to survive. Far better to keep your distance and shelter yourself from the pain of losing those you know and love. In truth, these are traits that the Fifth Chapter grooms in its recruits. Most of us have such short life expectancies that it’s advised not to get close to anyone. That’s why we often don’t even bother exchanging names. However, humans are weak and she eventually broke her own rules. The scar she bares across her cheek was a self-inflicted reminder of a lost loved one. She had nothing left to lose and that is what our organization requires. And yet military training hadn’t prepared her for this. The blood moths that flew overhead and the sounds of the Leviathans pounding heartbeat left her uneasy. This woman was no fool and she knew she wasn't here to protect me. I was the immortal Rift Walker and there weren’t many who hadn’t heard the rumors about me.
“Do you see it?” She actually asked me that. Is water wet and snow cold? Of course I see the Basilisk. It dwells in the corner of my eyes and flashes in my reflection. When I looked up at my partner her brown fearful eyes were gone leaving only bloodied sockets and a cold endless abyss. The Basilisk spoke in a deep echoing tone that mocked and chided me for foolishness. Why had I brought her? She would only slow us down. Kill her. Its voice was unusually strong making demands and threats. I shut it out focusing instead on the stale bread. I brought her because of her sense of fear. Her gut instinct that acted to protect and shield her from danger. The Basilisk’s laugh was haunting. The only real reason I brought her here was that I was afraid of being alone. Being alone with an eyeless abomination. I didn’t need her so long as I had the Basilisk. Its words mocked me but there may have some truth to it. I wasn’t afraid of dying but I was afraid of relying too much on its power. I could trust her instincts where I couldn’t my own. But what of curiosity? Could I trust her fear to overshadow man's insatiable curiosity? Its laughter left me with that very question. A question I was left to ponder most of the night. Sleep wasn’t easy after that. The sounds of Jotunheim continued without the cessation from the pounding heartbeat to the rapid symphony of flitting wings. When I focused hard enough I could hear the hospital PA system in the distance paging Dr. Venlo.
Have you ever done something for so long that it becomes routine? So much so that you don’t even remember doing it? I first experienced this phenomenon when I was a child walking a paper route. I did this for years and there were some days that I couldn’t even remember doing it. Now there are many moments in which I fail to recall large segments of time. However, my lack of memory isn’t due to familiarity or a sense of routine. That’s when the Basilisk takes over. When I awoke, we had already broken camp and traveled deep within in Jotunheim. My companion seemed more on edge than usual. When I asked her, she said that I hadn’t been myself. That I’d been cold and had all but ignored her presence. During our journey, we had come across several valleys some larger than others. Each one was filled with the same flowers and blood hungry moths. Yet this wasn’t what I was looking for. In truth, I didn’t know what I was looking for. The Basilisk seemed to be directing us to the edge of the rounded walls. There at the base, we could just make out what appeared to be a cave. That’s where we were heading but we had to cross another valley to get there and there was something off about this one. The forest of crimson iris had begun to wilt. Many of the stalks were collapsing and the blood had dried up. There was an immediate effect on the behavior of the moths.
Metamorphosis is a process common to many species of insect. The most popular and well-known form of metamorphosis is the life cycle of the butterfly. It’s not uncommon for children to raise caterpillars as science projects to document its changes. However, this task is often far more complicated for a child's mind to grasp. Many species of butterfly require a specific catalyst to complete its transformation. For example, certain butterflies need sudden drops in temperature to trigger the final stages of metamorphosis. Without this catalyst, caterpillars will never emerge from the cocoon and will die a juvenile. I never imagined the blood moths to be juvenile and underdeveloped but this seemed to be the case. These insectoids were undergoing rapid physical change molting their outer skin. The wings and proboscis were the first to be abandoned. In turn, some of the creatures developed elongated snouts with glittering razor-sharp teeth. Starvation must have been the catalyst and the newly emerged blood eagles tore at each other with the viciousness of a cornered animal. They ripped open each other’s engorged abdomens to get at the precious blood inside. Fortunately, we were a distance from the bloodbath and decided to take a long way around to the cave entrance. As we walked, we could hear the screams of otherworldly creatures locked in combat. From my observations, the females were far more aggressive and the adult males appeared stunted with shorter snouts and underdeveloped limbs. The males sole purpose was to breed and, like species of praying mantis, was killed during the process of mating. The pregnant females then engorge themselves on the Leviathan's blood from her mate’s abdomen. This is likely to nourish the now fertilized eggs that she soon lays in enlarged sacs. That is assuming, of course, she doesn’t run into a bigger more aggressive form of her species. It was survival of the fittest in its truest form. Interestingly, the creatures completely ignored the egg sacs despite the tantalizing blood that was likely feeding the young. I couldn’t help but think that there might be some repellant produced by the eggs that blinded the adult blood eagles. Either way, we thought it best to leave well enough alone and kept our distance.
Despite our caution, we eventually came face to face with a female blood eagle. She had traveled up the valley to escape the fighting and was clearly injured. Even dragging two of her six legs behind her, the creature caught up to us quickly. We were no match for her in terms of speed or strength and yet she displayed none of the violent behavior we had just witnessed. Perhaps our blood was of no interest to the creature. However, she seemed fixated on me. The blood eagle tasted the air with a split tongue and had six unseeing white eyes. She could clearly smell something that was attracting her. It was then that I remembered the four vials of Leviathan's blood that I had taken with me. Several moments later I tossed the delicate glass tubes to the ground and barely had time to watch the creature greedily lap up the blood. We were of no interest to them.
Later that day we reached the cavern slipping inside to escape the ongoing carnage. Perhaps I had been too focused on the blood eagles for when we reached the cave I noticed something off about my partner. She seemed deeply pale and was running a fever. Never once complaining, she had traveled the length of the valley fighting an unusual illness. Fear had likely blinded her to her own symptoms and she acted hysterically whenever I inquired about her condition. I felt it was best to investigate the cave and set up camp for the day. To my surprise, the cavern was deep and it spiraled into a narrow uneven passageway. We had trouble climbing due to the waxy epithelial surface and some openings were fit only to crawl through. We were lucky that this cavern didn’t branch and we eventually reached the end into a small rounded chamber. The atmosphere was a bit stifling but there was enough oxygen to breathe. However, down there we were in complete darkness and had to use artificial light sources. For the first time since arriving in Jotunheim, we felt safe. The narrow passage of the tunnel was likely impossible for blood eagles to navigate and it felt good to be in a smaller enclosure with one exit. Whatever the threat we knew where it would come. When we set up camp, I had more time to assess my partner's condition. It wasn’t good. She complained of the heat and her body was sweating at an alarming rate. Patches of skin had begun to bubble up like welts or blisters and she began losing her hair. Was this some strange illness or virus? I knew better than that. The Basilisk’s words came back to haunt me. “But what of curiosity?” I knew then what it had been referring to. Sometime during our journey, my partner had tasted the Leviathan’s blood. She confirmed it herself. Back when I was taking samples, she too had been drawn to the pale blood and, ignoring her instinct, had pressed a blood-soaked fingertip to her lips. Ever since she had taken a taste her body became host to a terrible urge. A part of me knew I should have killed her then. I’m surprised that the Basilisk didn’t make me. Perhaps there are some things that it simply can’t force me to do. Whatever the case, I did my best to treat her. We had some basic medications and the antihistamines did stall the inflammation. I was in for a long sleepless night.
When I awoke in the morning, I could barely remember anything from the night before. This day reminded me a lot of Niflheim for, just like then, my partner had vanished without a trace. Also, I found myself covered in brown waxy tissue and black ichor. Sometime in the night, using several tools, I had dug my way through the skin at the back of that small chamber. I could still see the hole that had already begun to heal. In my right hand, I held an unusual white bone. It was y-shaped and giving off a frequency that vibrated in my hand. This is what the Basilisk had come for. A fragment of the Leviathan’s bones. Knowing this, I wanted to drop it and leave this place but that was something the Basilisk could control. I couldn’t act on my desire and my right hand was no longer my own. That white bone had become a part of me. With the Basilisks prize, I was ordered to leave and so I did. That morning I packed up what I could carry and left that twisted cave behind. On my way out, I found pieces of torn clothing littering the cave floors. My partner had come through here sometime in the night. I thought perhaps she had succumbed to the bloodthirst and left in search of Leviathan’s nectar. A part of me felt I would find her dead among the violent eagles. I was wrong. When I emerged from the cave I was greeted with a gruesome sight. The valley had become a graveyard of twisted corpses with no sign of life. The Eagles had all but killed each other and only the eggs remained untouched. This time, I made my way down into the valley. I wanted to find my partner and bring closure to her story. Yet, finding a single human amongst the sea of dead was like looking for a needle in a haystack. For a time, I traveled through the wilted forest looking through the broken bodies of the eagles. Many of the corpses had already begun to decay and the stench was nauseating. Interestingly, many of the bodies were being taken up by the Leviathan's epithelial tissue. It looked like Jotunheim was feeding. How this world worked suddenly became clear.
Jotunheim was a realm within the Leviathan, a creature so unimaginably large that it was itself a world. I came to believe that the blood moths were not originally from this realm. The relationship between this world and the smaller creatures reminded me of the endosymbiotic theory. A theory that was used to describe how tiny machinery came to exist within eukaryotic cells. I, of course, am speaking of the mitochondria and chloroplasts but will focus on the former. Most basic biology courses describe mitochondria as the powerhouse of a living cell. These tiny organelles exist within the cytoplasm and pump out an immense amount of energy for the survival of the cell. What makes these organelles unique is that they possess their own DNA outside of the cellular nucleus. This suggests that, at one point, mitochondria were once separate organisms. In fact, mitochondria share many traits with bacteria including the lack of a nucleus. The endosymbiotic theory states that eukaryotic cells entered a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that would later adapt into mitochondria. This relationship has existed for so long that it has become permanent and neither party can survive without the other. I believe a similar contract had formed between the Leviathan and the blood moths. Regardless of whether the smaller creatures had come from another rift or had been swallowed, they are now completely dependent on Leviathan’s blood. The life cycle of the blood moth is completely in tune with the blooming and wilting of the Jotunheim Iris. Without the blood source, these creatures enter their final life stage for the sole purpose of breeding. The blood eagles are either killed in the fighting or soon after laying a clutch. The corpses of these creatures, in turn, feed the Leviathan. Once complete, the blood Iris will bloom, the eggs will hatch, and the cycle will begin again. In truth, Jotunheim was as much of a prison as Niflheim for any who tasted the blood became dependent on it. A haunting thought considering how close I came to trying it myself.
I eventually had to give up the search for my partner as there was quite a journey ahead. As I left the valley, I noticed the ground had become sticky in addition to the regular pulsing motion of the world. It was only a minor nuisance but I couldn’t help but feel that I was being tasted. I wonder if the Leviathan only fed on dead flesh like maggots. This would certainly explain why the world made no attempt to consume me. Not that I’m complaining. Before leaving the valley, I did have a chance to examine the egg sacs. As I had suspected, there was an unusual smell surrounding each ootheca. Since the blood eagles appeared to rely mostly on scent, this odor likely repelled the adults and kept the young safe.
I passed several valleys that day and noticed a change in the air. The scent of rot was in the wind and I found several corpses covered in tentacle-like projections that dragged them below the tissue surface. In no time at all the bodies would be gone. It was then that I heard the PA system paging Dr. Venlo in the distance. I no longer needed my tracking instruments and was going in the right direction. The rift was less than 24 hours from my location but I needed to rest. I found the remains of our first campsite above the valley and decided to stay for a time. It was best to take only short breaks until I made it back to Earth. Together, my partner and I had brought enough rations for a week and I was in no danger of running out. As I rested, the Basilisk returned flitting from one side of the camp to the other like a phantom. Its presence reminded me of the Leviathan’s bone that I tightly clutched in my right hand. I had barely noticed it was there for most of the journey. Even now, I couldn’t drop it or even loosen my grip. On closer inspection, I finally recognized why the bones structure looked so familiar. This piece was very similar to the mammalian stapes bone.
Do you know where the smallest bone in the human body is located? Despite popular belief, it isn’t in the digits of the hands or feet and is in the most unlikely of places. The human stapes bone is found in the inner ear and is used in the conduction of sound vibrations. What makes it so unique is that it is the lightest and smallest bone measuring several mm in length. In addition, the stapes is stirrup-shaped with two arches connected by a base. The bone I held was different in that it was more y-shaped and didn’t have a base but I couldn’t mistake its function. The closer I got to the rift the more intense the bones vibrations. It was amplifying the sounds from both the Prism Gate and the world beyond. Through the Leviathan’s stapes I could hear not just the hospital but many other worlds. Worlds that sung and worlds that burned. I couldn’t say for sure then but I believed that using this bone we would be able to detect the presence of rifts and accurately determine where they might appear. This was a powerful instrument but what was the cost of acquiring it? The Basilisk would gain much by knowing the location of the rifts and where they lead. When I looked up from the bone, I could see my partner again as she was the night before with graying blistered skin and small tufts of brown hair hanging from her head. It was a gruesome sight and when I closed my eyes she was gone again. Hallucinations were not uncommon for me especially as the list of people I had lost grew bigger. As I lay down to rest I could hear laughter through the stapes bone. The laughter of my lost colleagues from the world of Niflheim.
I only slept for several hours before the Basilisk woke me. Its shrieks are enough to send ice cold shivers down my spine. I didn’t understand why but I had the sudden urge to get out of there and so took what little I could in a hurry. I had no intention of spending another night in Jotunheim. Using the stapes bone, I could track the location of the rift easily and didn’t have to concentrate hard to hear the amplified sounds. Halfway down the side of the valley, I felt as if I were being followed. From my location, you could just make out the campsite above and there was a tall dark shadow hovering over where I had slept. This was no longer a hike but a chase. I hadn’t run that hard since the time of Niflheim and nearly stumbled over the awkward terrain more times than I care to admit. The creature that chased me, however, was faster. It traveled in minutes what took me hours on foot and It was on me before I had time to react. How do you hide from a hound that has your scent in a world made only of rolling hills and now empty valleys? Running was all I could accomplish and it wasn’t enough. Standing my ground was the only option I had left and, for a moment, nothing happened. The creature stood 10 feet tall with two powerful hind legs and crouched on the knuckles of its forelimbs. It had an elongated snout with swollen nostrils and the creature's ribs were protruding from its body as greying flesh hung loosely to be shed and replaced by the growing exoskeleton. However, most striking was its face. The creature's snout had torn away much of the more delicate features but I could still make out two brown eyes and a now distorted scar across the right of its jaw. I was looking at what remained of my partner. She had undergone some type of metamorphosis. Just like my earlier encounter with the blood eagle, she tested the air and her nostrils flared dramatically. I didn’t have any of the Leviathan's blood left and feared that she was attracted to the stapes bone. The one object that I couldn’t toss. When I tried speaking her head snapped in my direction. That was a mistake. In an instant, the serrated claws of her forelimbs were flung in a sporadic motion that sent me several feet in the air. The shock left me numb to the jagged gash in my right arm but, even broken, I still grasped the stapes bone as if my life depended on it. The creatures split tongue lapped up the blood that spilled from my arm. She wasn’t drawn to the Leviathan but the blood of her own species. I had been wrong, the nectar of the Jotunheim iris simply suppressed a distorted urge to feed on each other. I didn’t have time to regain my senses before my assailant was on me again. It let out a warped cry before bringing its claws down upon me but, this time, the outcome was very different.
I have only witnessed the Basilisk’s scream several times in my life. Before Jotunheim, the last time was when that officer attempted to take my life. The sound of its screams is ear piercing and often cause internal hemorrhaging not just to my attackers. The worst of it is that it lasts for what feels like an hour. My ears were bleeding when the Basilisk finally stopped and the creature lay stunned as I stumbled from its grasp. Any ordinary human would likely have suffered significant brain damage but my assailant was anything but normal. After several minutes, it wobbled to its feet and, with a defiant roar, it pursued me. She was slow at first and tripped over herself in a dazed state. I was further ahead but the world spun around me and the pain of my right arm was now throbbing. Even weak I was still no match for her speed and strength and had to think of something fast. As the creature closed in I stumbled into one of the many egg sacs that littered the ground. That’s when I had an idea. With my left hand, I tore a hole in the ootheca and crawled inside. The pungent odor was near unbearable and the juices stung my open wounds. To be testing a hypothesis in such a situation was foolish but I had no other choice. Fortunately for me, it worked. The creature was blinded and couldn’t find me. Her sense of smell was strong but the odor masked my presence. In fact, the scent of the eggs even looked to harm her. Either way, she couldn’t stay near me for long and abandoned the hunt. As it left, there was something in its eyes that was haunting. They were human and I could see fear reflected in them. She even recognized me hiding amongst the eggs and yet the creature remained unaware. Was it possible that they were two separate entities? A fate far worse than death. For the time being, I was safe and, given my injuries, I had no choice but to hibernate. Most of my blood had already dried up which made binding the wounds useless. Such was the nature of this unusual form of healing. I’m rarely conscious during the process of dehydration and was only out for about thirty minutes. When I awoke the ootheca had become a shriveled husk. To complete the regeneration, I took moisture from the surrounding environment. However, the healing process wasn't perfect and my right arm was still broken. I secured the stapes bone in my left hand and continued toward the rift. There was no sign of my attacker but, just to be sure, I kept myself covered in the ootheca scent. There were plenty to choose from and it helped ease my mind on the way back. Twelve hours passed before I made it to the rift but I wasn’t alone. She was waiting for me and I learned that the creature had another sense that I was yet unaware of. She was drawn to movement. The scent before was enough to overpower her but, this time, it wasn’t enough. Starvation had pushed her and the creature charged me before I had a chance to reach the rift entrance. I dove to my side to avoid her frenzied attack and she tore into the ground where I once stood using her jagged black teeth to rip apart the Leviathan’s flesh. The tissue may as well have been dirt for she spit it up in frustration. I lay as still as I could mere feet from this starving beast that pounded the ground with heavy forelimbs and howled like a wounded animal. She wanted me to panic. She wanted me to move. With my scent masked and wounds healed, I may as well have been invisible when lying still. After a few minutes, she stopped her rampage and tested the air with flaring nostrils. Her attention turned to the rift. She could smell human blood beyond the gate. I was forgotten almost immediately as she bounded towards the opening. This was a disaster. How many lives would she take on the other side? How many people would become infected with the Leviathan’s blood? I did the only thing I could do to stop her and, using my teeth, I opened the skin in my arm and let blood trickle to the ground. This had an immediate effect on her. She tumbled over herself and charged towards me with renewed speed. It was like facing down a charging rhinoceros. The hunger had driven this creature mad and my only salvation was to rely on that which I feared most. The Basilisk’s voice erupted across the landscape as she leaped forward with reckless abandon. The ear-splitting noise threw her aim off and I slid under her just as she struck the ground. I didn’t have time to look back as I tore my way to the rift entrance. No matter how many times I think back to that moment I can still hear the howls of her pursuit. The gate shimmered like a mirage and, as I passed through, I could feel the heat of her breath on my neck. For a moment, everything was frozen as I passed from one plain to another. This time I felt the leap like diving into a pool after a hot shower and then I was back. I tumbled into the hospital head first next to the crackling Orsinium rod. Members of the Fifth Chapter called out and raced to my position. I had no time to explain and did the most reckless thing I have ever done. With my bare hands, I grabbed the Orsinium rod and the resulting explosion sent sparks from the tips of my fingers. Pain is a relative term, but believe me when I tell you that being shocked with that kind of amperage was worse than being shot or lit on fire. My interference caused a surge of electricity that destroyed the Orsinium rods and destabilized the gate which instantly collapsed. I still remember the smell of burnt flesh and the feeling of paralysis. Somehow, I was still conscious where anybody else would be dead. Though I was blinded, the other members spoke of an elongated five-foot claw that lay severed next to my ankle. The Jotunheim rift had closed just in time and, through the Leviathan’s bone that lay next to my ear, I could hear the pained screams of the species we now call Nosferatu.
That was the end of the Jotunheim investigation. It took several months for me to fully recover from my injuries. However, in that time we made great strides in understanding the Leviathan's blood and the artifact from Jotunheim. The stapes bone has proved to be indispensable and by tapping into its power the Fifth Chapter now knows where and when rifts will appear. We have been given a semblance of control and it has proven the usefulness of these investigations. However, we must remain vigilant. I now know why the Basilisk sent me to Jotunheim for, with this power, I suspect that rifts can not only be found but opened. For a creature that seeks the end of time, this can only mean ill for mankind. My only solace is that these investigations have also made us more prepared and given us the means to shut rifts. I just hope that this will be enough. As I write this I do so knowing that it will be up to someone else to stop me. The more I resist the Basilisk the more I fall under its control. I’m trapped in a spider web with no escape. It’s very likely that there will be more investigations before my story is closed. For more information on the Leviathan’s stapes bone and the Nosferatu see case studies 365021 and 365022. All matter pertaining to the Jotunheim rift is now closed.