Wolves at the Gate

3) Dawn of Doubt

Lucian's Point of View

Well… J.J. is pissed…

He returned from his scouting, not too happy about the media circus. And he went downright ballistics when he heard that we not only practically formed a band, but also listed him as a keyboardist. Guess he was a guitar kind of guy or something…

He has been drilling us for the past thirty minutes. And I felt that it might have lasted twice that, but his harangue cut off as we all looked into the distance. Raze, out on patrol, was softly howling. It wasn’t a sign to alert us of danger, it seemed more… questioning? Something was amiss, and he wasn’t sure why.

He approached a few minutes later, and informed us that he felt a spiritual disturbance at a compound near the border of our territory. They were excited about something. J.J. looked at Ryven and me, and motioned for us to go check it out.

We nodded, then simultaneously shifted the blood in our body to go full Wolf. We turned and darted off into the woods, looking like Ying and Yang.

We stepped over to the spirit world through our loci, nodded to the church spirit, then moved off in the direction Raze mentioned. As we neared the compound we noticed spirits darting about. I analyzed them for a few seconds and didn’t see anything necessarily trying to harm them.

We reverted the blood in our bodies to shift back into Hishu, and walked into the clearing. I saw one spirit kinda off by itself and I approached it. It looked up at me expectantly, and I smiled at it. “Greetings, I offer you an essence to inform me of the conflict that caused you spirits to gather in mass.”

It nodded and accepted the essence. “We are gathered because Luna is blessing someone and there will be an explosion! She is…. Wait… Did you say conflict? I didn’t know about the conflict… What kind of conflict is it?!? Is it a fight? Oh man I bet it’s a fight! FIGHT!!! AN ALL-OUT SLAUGHTER! WAR IS UPON US!!! AHH!!!” And it stormed off, screaming hysterically.

I blinked once… Twice… A third time… Annnnnd… once more for good measure. “What in the hell just happened?” I looked over at Ryven, but she wore a dumbfounded, shocked expression on her face that I knew must have matched mine perfectly. My gaze slowly drifted to the other spirits darting around, and realization hit me. “That must have been a Lune… Damn, I forgot how crazy they were.” I needed to clear my head, and stay mentally focused when I negotiated with the next one.

I shifted my cloak, and started to head towards another Lune, only to notice the absence of footsteps accompanying me. I turned, and saw Ryven still staring where the Lune had been before it darted off. “Ryven?” Slowly she turned her head towards me, and then she began to follow.

We approached the next Lune and it glanced at me hesitantly. “Hello, I offer you an Essence to tell me what caused you Lunes to gather.” This one accepted the essence as well, and I mentally braced myself as it spoke:

“Luna is blessing someone, yes she is! Not only that, but someone is about to EXPLODE! Also, did you hear about the fight? A total war was happening somewhere!” It slowed down it’s verbal tirade and eyed me. “You are not part of the fight, are you?”

I quickly dismissed the claim, and tried to steer him back to the topic at hand. But somehow it got into a conversation about a guy named Carl who makes a mean grilled cheese, and asked if I knew him. Finally I managed to get him back on track:

“Oh, yes. Everything in the physical world has a matching spirit in the Spiritual world. Yup, yup. Everything, that is, except humans. No, humans carried theirs around with them. Queer creatures… yes, they carry them around with them, and sometimes they grow. Grow and grow and grow! They grow until it reaches the point where they explode! A lot like you did, yup yup.”

Say wha…? I glanced at Ryven, but she was at a loss, still dazed by the previous Lune I’d imagine. I looked back at the Lune. “I… I exploded..?”

“Oh yes. Yes! Big bang, lots of blood afterwards. I got pictures, wanna see?” At my nod, it looked dismayed and stated that it didn’t really have them. And then it went on and on about camera phones not being cherished enough to make spirits, unlike cameras in the olden days. No… they were amazing with all the attachments and-

I was mesmerized by his speech, but in the back of my mind it felt like J.J. was screaming at me to get him back on track. I shook myself, ashamed of my mental lapse. But looking at Ryven, I guess I wasn’t the only one.

“You were saying something about an explosion..?”

It looked at me, then continued with the original topic. He explained that some humans explode, like me, then anger and violence occurs, Usually followed by deaths…

Seems very familiar… I had a hunch what was happening, and after bidding the Lune farewell, I left with Ryven in tow. We shifted to Urhan, then left to talk to the group. After that, I think we needed to each go somewhere quiet to clear our heads. Lunes…

We arrived back at ‘home-base’ and the pack confirmed my suspicions when I relayed the details of my day. Someone was about to make their first change. And since it was in our territory, it was our responsibility to deal with it. As they discussed the news, I took my leave to go meditate in quiet under a tree. After communing with Lunes, I needed to clear my head.

Blessed silence… I sat there in a peaceful state of tranquility. Birdsong a pleasant backdrop noise. Normally I disliked falling back from the world and retreating into my mind, lest I drown myself in my painful past. But this blissful state of in-between nothingness was alright. It removed the need to think. I could ignore all the problems surrounding us and just be me. To just sit here and exist was enough for me in this state of mind. ‘There was only one issue with it’, I thought, as footsteps intruded and broke my meditation. “It never lasts…”

The pack appeared and said it was time to go. Together we left for the compound, me in a much better state of mind. They informed me on how they planned to deal with the aftermath of the future Uratha after it changed, then they began conversing among themselves. Even that dwindled down to a brooding silence after a bit.

I began to think back upon my first change. It was a traumatic experience that left scars upon my life. I believe the attack on my family that night caused me to shift earlier than expected, not having help from the territory’s Uratha pack until after I killed all in the vicinity. That was not going to happen this time. I was going to make sure this one was assisted even before the shift came.

We arrived at the compound, and scanned the area. The ‘target’ was standing on guard, alone and looking mad at the world. Good, we’d made it. J.J. and the rest shifted to Urshul, but I remained as Hishu, should conversations prove mandatory.

I glanced at him. He was military, and he looked the part. I waited until his gaze shifted, and walked out and stood in one of the entrances to the compound, in perfect view of him should he look. I stood slightly sideways, with the wind blowing my cloak. J.J. howled in the background. An eerie backdrop to the moonless night.

The target’s eyes shot towards the sound and his eyes widened upon finding me there. I lifted my hand towards him, as the rest of the pack stalked forward, standing around me. The target’s face filled with absolute and utter terror and took off. I wondered how we looked exactly, considering he was military grade and still not only broke his composure, but took off rather than fire at us.

The dire-wolves around me took off, and I ran forward. I leaped off a ledge and completely shifted my blood to only contain Wolf. I left the ledge on two feet and landed upon the grass on four. I took off, to catch up with my allies.

I caught up to them shortly after, and noticed the target was also in Urhan form. I completed the box we had around him, and we ran with the guy, content to stay with him until he passes out from exhaustion. Much like how the Uratha pack had done with me.

After a while, he slowed down. Exhaustion taking over as he lied on the ground, panting. We stood over him as his consciousness slowly lapsed, shifting him into Hishu.

J.J. looked at him then announced that we were to camp here until he awoke. “Get the lad a blanket, then make yourself comfortable. Raze, you can continue your patrols, then meet back at the house.”

After we covered the Military-Man and set up a makeshift camp, I Shifted into Urhan and lied close to the guy, keeping watch over him. I wasn’t really ordered to, but being this close to the borders bothered me greatly. But it proved unnecessary, because he awoke about an hour later.

I raised my head, as the Military guy stood up, sporting a blanket. Irrationality was obvious on his face, as Vincint attempted to rationalize to the guy that the world is occupied by far more than he ever knew. Oh goody…

I stretched and padded nearer as Vincint went on this long, complex monologue that had me confused, much less leaving the new guy at a complete loss. J.J. stepped in and gave him the neat, short description on how his life has changed. The guy looked bothered. That was good. Hysterics showed his mind couldn’t comprehend the unnatural. Choosing the comfort of a lie rather than trying to rationalize the truth. Being bothered was a rather nice reaction that showed his military training. But under it all I still saw a trace of doubt.

He introduced himself as Carl, and everyone else introducing themselves. Once it got to my turn, I calmly walked towards him. Once I had his absolute attention, I shifted all the blood in my body to go full Human. The guy’s eyes widened as the snow-white wolf altered form, slowly contorting until I stood where it was in my full body White attire. “… And I am Lucian. A pleasure to meet you. Are you perhaps the Carl that makes fantastic Grilled cheese for crazy Lunes?”

He didn’t answer, nor did he make a move to shake my hand, figures.

Over the next half hour, I helped clear out the signs of our camp while J.J. taught Carl the basics of being an Uratha, and thus the importance of being in a pack. “I will allow you to join our pack, seeing as how you shifted within our territory. You do not have to join us, though. The compounds are close to the neighboring Pure pack. If you wish, you can stroll over there and see if they either induct you into their pack, or kill you. I’d pray for the latter, if you ask me…”

Carl accepted the offer to join us, and together, we returned home.

Upon arrival, we showed him where he was to sleep. And then we passed out.

The sound of hammering caused me to awaken. I glared at Vincint as I walk into his room. “Who remodels at noon-thirty..? People are trying to sleep!” Vincint shrugged, then grabbed a pair of animal hide clothes he made during our last hunting trip. Walking past me, he gave them to Carl and explained the laws of shifting and the usefulness of natural animal clothing. Carl questioned why I was exempt from the rule, and I started explaining about my rituals. But partway through the conversations, the lights suddenly turned off…

“Be right back guys, I have to go kill some guy at the light company…” J.J. called, then walked out the door. Goody… But a minute later, we were called outside. Upon arrival, I saw an axe stuck through the power box… Why would someone DO that..?

Raze pulled out the ax and attempted to pinpoint the scent of the attacker. J.J. looked at us and spoke: “Carl and I are to return to the compound and grab his gear. The rest of you, follow the scent trail.” At Raze’s nod, we split into the two groups and left.

We followed Raze as he tracked it to the end of our territory, where it continued onto the next. After a small discussion, we realized we had no clue whom’s territory we were about to enter. So Ryven howled to get J.J.’s attention. We conversed casually while waiting for the two to join us.

J.J. and Carl appeared, and as they joined us, J.J. looked off into the distance. He knew immediately why we called. “That is someone named Phase’s territory. I don’t know much about him.” And with that illustrious description, we ventured into the next territory.

After a bit of walking, Raze lead us to a big city. Oh sure, we live in the dump, and maybe an hours walk from us is this huge city with a nice, quiet community. So unfair…

A short ways in Raze announced that tracking the scent is nigh impossible from this point on. While we were discussing our next course of action, both Vincint and I spoke at the same time, with the same idea leaving our mouths. “We should introduce ourselves to the territory’s leader and ask his opinion him upon the matter.” J.J. nodded, and we made our way into the city. Asking around lead us to a predominately empty bar, containing only us and the barkeep. There was a set of stairs on the opposite wall, leading up to a second floor.

Vincint shrugged, and walked up to the bar, ordering a brew. His face slacked with contentment upon consumption. Curiosity won over, and we followed suite. The guy didn’t even I.D. me. Either he was an indifferent human, or he knew I was more than my appearance revealed. Either way, the brew was excellent.

J.J. walked up to the barkeep and demanded to talk with the patron of the bar. The barkeep remained calm as he rejected the demand. “The man you seek will be down in 30 minutes. I will have to ask for you and your party to wait down here until that time arrives.

J.J. shook his head, then predictively grabbed the guy buy his shirt and made his demands again. Finally the guy looked at him, and shrugged. “You may proceed if you wish.”

J.J. smiled, and sat the guy down. Patting him on the back as he made his way to the back. Upon reaching the base of the stairs, he stopped. He stood there for a few seconds, then returned to sit beside us. All eyes were on him as he said: “It’ll be rude to wake him up prematurely. We’ll wait the 30 minutes, like the nice barkeep asked.” What sorcery is this? But J.J. just sat back, consuming his brew. Okay……

So we waited until a man descended the stairs, stopped at the bar, and began to eat a plate of eggs that the barkeep handed him. Odd considering we have been here for the last 30 minutes and never saw the guy make any. Were they made before then? Ewwww…

But as I focused in on the guy stuffing himself with the eggs, my eyes widened. He had energy simply pouring from him. I glanced at the party, seeing that none seemed to notice. “Guys-” I warned. “The man has energy practically leaking from him. We need not to be foolish in our discussion with him…”

J.J. smiled, then suggested that: “Perhaps I’m not the best man suited to talk with the man, then.” I barely caught my laughter in time. Yeah he had a point… So we got up and converged onto the guy.

We introduced ourselves, and when asked for his name, the man stated. “Many have been killed seeking the very information you ask. No, my name is knowledge that I shall keep to myself. Though, you may call me ‘Phase’ if you desire. Most do.”

…Ok?

We told the guy why we were here, describing our current situation about the attacker fleeing into this territory, and everything else we considered ‘need to know’.

Phase nodded, then stated that he sanctioned the attacker as much as he sanctioned us. There would be NO fighting while in his territory. If we could come up with absolute proof that revealed whom the attacker is without question, then he would deal with it personally. Otherwise, we were to investigate or leave.

J.J. nodded, then motioned for us to leave. We thanked Phase and said our goodbyes. As we walked out of the bar, J.J. suggested we run home, grabbing Carl’s gear along the way, then figure out what to do next. “Odds are we won’t find answers here…

I was told to stay out of sight when we arrived at the compound. Apparently my attire attracts unnecessary attention… Well who asked you!

Carl returned a few minutes. He answered our hail, but he seemed to be mentally distracted. Brooding over his past life, perhaps? We headed back in silence, showing respect to the loss he had recently suffered.

As we returned to the trailer park, we entered a random house to discuss our future in an air conditioned house. We went over many plans. From grabbing a random electric box and replacing ours with it, thus catching the perp in the act; to retracing the perp’s tracks, asking spirits if they were coherent and curious enough to be paying attention at the time of the vandalism… yeah that was dropped pretty quickly…

Upon discussing watching the house from the spirit world, someone suggested getting “Jaws Like a Vice” to watch it. Carl looked at us questioningly, and it dawned upon us that we never truly inducted Carl to the pack. Seems a trip to visit him was in order. Off we were to the Church-bound Loci then!

I was slightly worried about bringing Carl too deep into the spirit world this early, but my musings proved fruitless. Jaws Like a Vice must have senses our need of him, for he was waiting for us as we shifted over. J.J. hailed to him, then lightly pushed forward an understandably startled Carl to the bear-sized honey badger. “Greetings, Jaws Like a Vice, Meet Carl!” The honey badger eyed Carl; “You brought me food?”

J.J. blinked, and pulled Carl back slightly. “Uh, No. This is Carl. He experienced his first change like twelve hours ago. We would like to take him as our own. To induct him to our pack!”

“You wish me to bite him to induct him to the pack?”

“No biting desired, no…”

“But I want to bite him…”

They continued like this for a time, a rather bothered Carl between them. Finally J.J. said “-Fine. Bite him if you wish.”
Jaws Like a Vice Walked up to Carl, who predictive dodged back when the bear of a honey badger attempted to bite him. Jaws Like a Vice looked back at J.J, then began to question his integrity, Since one whom he wanted to induct refused to ‘follow simple orders.’

J.J. went to argue the point that while he said Jaws Like a Vice could bite Carl, he never said that Carl couldn’t dodge. “Him evading your jaws is all on you.” Jaws Like a Vice snarled, then pounced Carl. Carl tried to jump back, but he gasped as his side was ripped open by Jaws Like a Vice.

The Honey badger jumped off Carl, and walked towards J.J, Carl’s blood still on its tongue. Carl was panicking as he saw his side laid open. A faint oath escaped his lips as he witnessed his wound starting to stitch itself up. Upon which he just stared at it with wide-eyed amazement.

Jaws Like a Vice stood in front of J.J. and tasted the blood soaking his tongue. After a small amount of time, The honey badger proclaimed that Carl was alright, and had his blessing. We nodded our thanks and bided Jaws Like a Vice farewell, pulling a bemused Carl behind us. Him still absorbed in his rapidly healing side. We shifted over, and headed back to the Trailer park.

No one was really in the mood to discuss more plans, so we decided to simply invoke one already thought up. In the end, we settled on using bait. Replace the Electric box, set up sentries in both worlds, and perhaps catch the perp in the act of doing it again.

While we were getting everything ready, we heard a knock on the door. We looked up, startled. We were in a random house, not our own. There is no one policing the area. So whom is knocking? J.J. walked to the door, us right behind him. He opened it, and revealed a guy holding a miniature white board with the picture of a bunny on it.

My eyebrow rose… Jehovah Witness, perhaps? ‘I would like to use this time to ask you if you’ve met our lord and savior, Bunny Crist.

I backed up, barely containing my laughter. Oh god, I’m going to hell…

Vincint seemed bothered by the picture, but the rest seemed merely confused. The man began writing on the white board, then revealed it. ‘Hi’

Was he a mute? Or was he insulting us? At the obvious silence, he went and started writing on the whiteboard again. Revealing to us that he knew someone is hunting us, Which J.J. replied Duh. The Man stated that it was a Ridden, which immediately caused me to perk up. A ridden is a spirit whom invaded the physical world and hijacked a human body, essentially ‘riding’ them. He was either a human hunter, or perhaps he was some supernatural like I.

He was still writing on his white board, stating that he knew not where the beast laid hidden, lest he would have eradicated it already. It dawned on me that he was an Uratha, taking it upon himself to banish the spirits from this side of the lines.

Nodding, I looked to Raze and told him to fetch the Wooden Axe. (To fetch the “Stick” Hehe) and he left to do so. We went to introduce ourselves, and the man just stared at us. Then wrote down the question: ‘Your names?’ We raised our eyebrows, and started to repeat ourselves, only to be cut off by him shaking his head, followed by more scribbling. ‘No. Your DEED names?’ We stood there, a little awkwardly as J.J. explained how we were a new pack full of new Uratha, and thus didn’t have deed names just yet. We were formed a whopping ~12 days ago, and our attention has been occupied since day one. The man looked at us, pity in his eyes.

Raze returned shortly later and produced the axe, but it became obvious that it no longer retained a strong enough scent to track by, being handled by our hands and all. Now that I think about it, I should have been the one to grab the attacker’s scent… Worst case scenario, I could just share it with my pack-mates ritual style… Whelp, the opportunity had come and gone. No used crying now over missed chances.

So we were back to square one, only this time we had a mute Uratha willing to help. We began discussing what to do next, when Ryven asked why not investigate the church, since it got broken into. All eyes turned to her. “… Did no one else notice it but me?” I just stared at her. “It was when we went to meet Jaws Like a Vice, kinda obvious if you were looking. :P ”

I winced, feeling the sting. “Yeah, I’d say that is worth investigating.” J.J. proclaimed. He looked at the Uratha, and the guy motioned for us to proceed, so we headed off towards the church. The Uratha motioned that he would meet us there, and took off. Damn he’s fast… Vincint attempted to match his casual pace, but it wasn’t happening.

So We continued on like this, The Uratha jogging in the lead, Vincint all out sprinting behind him, and the rest of us running a steady pace in the rear. I stared at the Uratha. Now that I’ve had the time to study him, I believe I recognize him. He seemed familiar, like a story book hero. Wait, could he be… Yes, he is!

He is Caleb, aka Vengeance-With-Mercy. He was the Bone-shadow Rahu that the ‘Elder’ kept referencing. From what I recall, he was in the Harbinger Lodge. Wonder why he is here, because I doubt it is to eradicate the Ridden. Moreso he is using the excuse of the Ridden to interact with us…

That I’d Believe.

We arrived shortly at the church. Neither Caleb, nor my cluster showed signs of fatigue. Vincint, on the other hand, stood there panting hardcore, a slight moan escaping his lips here and there, though he took a stance like it affected him not. Riiiiiight…

We went in. While J.J. and Vincint confronted the pastor, the rest of us glanced around the room. The place wasn’t thrashed per say, but there were empty spaces where electronics once stood. From what the pastor was saying, some expensive T.V.s, and 3 blue-ray players had been stolen. Pretty high-maintenance equipment considering the area’s state of poverty currently…

We thanked him for the information and bided him farewell, saying we’ll let him know if we find anything. We got out the door and J.J. said we were going to check the local Pawn shops. If this was just a casual theft for cash then the equipment would turn up to a pawn shop eventually. Seemed reasonable enough. My family spent much of their lives hawking stuff to the pawn shop for temporary cash. It worked, I guess…

We walked into a pawn shop a few minutes later, and miraculously, found the equipment just sitting there. Well… that was easy. J.J. walked up to the guy standing behind the desk, and dinged the bell a few times, much to the guys annoyance.

The guy just stared at J.J. “Do you really have to do that, sir? Can I help you?”

J.J. asked whom sold the missing gear, and as the man shrugged his question off, J.J. slammed the man’s head into the bell, producing a clear ‘ding’ sound. Holy shit…

J.J. spent the next few minutes trying to get the description of whom sold the equipment, banging the man’s head when he didn’t produce answers J.J. wanted. The side of the man’s head was bleeding slightly as he stated that the one whom sold the gear wore a hoodie and glasses, but he saw the man had goat-like eyes.

“Contacts. Kid’s these days and their Halloween costumes… It’s not even October, haha.” I proclaimed, giving the man a pleasant lie to wrap his mind around, ignoring the ugly truth of the matter. Vincint asked if they had a security camera. “Yeah, but the man came out as a blurred image. Much like you guys now that I look at it. Why are you guys blurry when my image is crystal clear?”

I casually reached over and shifted the screen he was staring at. “Smudged lenses, and shoddy equipment. Being a business, you really need to invest in better equipment in case a situation happens like it did today.”

“But it worked perfectly bef-” Vincint leaned forward and rung the bell, causing the man to flinch. J.J. asked if they had sales logs, and the man nodded to a book. “Get the serial numbers on the stolen gear, and lets cross match them.” We did, finding that the gear was the last transaction made. J.J. looked at the names, and stated that they were fake, naturally. If only we were so lucky…

Vincint told the guy to inform the police about the stolen gear being sold to him, and we moved to leave. We stopped, looking at Caleb’s widened eyes. “What?” J.J. asked amusement coloring his voice. ‘vengeance-With-Mercy’ shook his head, then moved to doctor the man’s head. I wasn’t too fond of the methods we used either, but J.J. is the Alpha and he seemed happy with how he went about things…

When we got outside, Vincint called the pastor to inform him about the gear. He had a strange look on his face as he spoke, finally shutting the phone off. “Ty Honey; I will when I get home; I love you. He kept saying that in response.”

“He isn’t alone…” We all said simultaneously. He was being held by someone, and didn’t want them to know whom he was speaking too. Curious. We rushed back to the church.

As we neared, J.J. gave the commands. Carl and Vincint were to go to the left, Raze and Ryven were to go to the right, and J.J. and I were to go through the front. Once all were in position, we charged in.

Emptiness. No one was in the church besides us. Raze and Ryven walked up and stated that the pastor’s fancy blue car was gone. Damn, they must have grabbed him and drove off in his car… How would we follow them now?

We discussed for a few, then came up with a course of action. The car was a newer model, according to them. Thus, perhaps it had OnStar. Vincint called OnStar and filled them in on the situation. Raze recalled most of the licenses plane numbers when asked. And when matched with the car’s description, they were able to piece together and find the car. They informed Vincint that they would phone the police and get the pastor the help he needed. Then they hung up.

J.J. smiled, and said “Then we shall follow the sirens.” I nodded.

We were alone at the church, so I went ahead and shifted the blood in my body to contain only that of the Wolf. I shrugged into my new form, and opened my ears to catch the whisper of sirens. The others were doing the same, and after a few minutes our ears perked when we detected the sound. We nodded to each other and took off towards the sirens. Caleb took off at a dead sprint, disappearing almost instantly from our sight. Damn that wolf could run… I looked over to Vincint, and saw he was content to stay with us this time. Smart lass…

After a while the screech of tires joined the wail of sirens, and we all halted when a car zipped past us, tailed by a few police cars and a supercharged Wolf. We charged after them, putting on a burst of speed upon hearing the sound of a crash. Please let the pastor be alright…

We were dashing full sprint, but as we neared a clearing, we yielded at the sight of police lights permeating the area. We approached the clearing and took in the situation: The Ridden was there, and he held a gun to the pastor’s head. A group of policemen had their guns trained on the two of them, though they fired not. Caleb was nowhere to be seen. My brief worry for him died when I realized that he must be holding back, prepared to witness how we handled the situation. It still bothered me that a Harbinger has taken an interest in our little group, But truth be told, this wasn’t exactly the best time to ponder on that. I would question him about that whenever all of this business with the Ridden was settled. Until then, I had to remain focused on the task at hand, which was securing the hostage…

We all fanned out, while J.J. jumped on top of the police car, gathering the attention of every humanoid in sight. The Ridden immediately shifted his focus to J.J, while the policemen talked among themselves, their aim drifting between J.J. and The Ridden, unsure whom to target. Carl, Vincint, and Raze were in position to attack The Ridden from all directions. I snuck behind the cluster of policemen and prepared to startle them, causing them to shift their focus to me while the rest of the group went in to take out the Ridden. All that we waited for now was J.J’s signal.

J.J. began growling at The Ridden, causing it to shift backwards, closer to the woods behind him. The very same woods that housed the rest of our pack, waiting to ambush him, I might add. Once he herded the Ridden as much as he dared, his ears went back and he bunched up his muscles to pounce. Game on!

I howled directly behind the officers, causing them to curse profusely as they all turned around. I then charged into their line while they panicked, trying to put the car between themselves and I. My pack mates were assaulting the Ridden from all sides. Raze managed to sink his teeth into the Ridden’s gun-arm. But try as we might, the Ridden managed to knock us aside mid-pounce for the most part. The Ridden attempted to shake Raze off, but he merely latched on harder. Vincint and Ryven both managed to sink their teeth into the spirit, but the rest of our attacks were evaded, deflected, and shrugged off. Though we tried our best to distract it, the sound of a gunshot clashed through my ears, causing them to lie back upon my head. Dammit!

We continued to mount our attacks even as the pastor’s headless corpse fell to the ground. Raze managed to jerk, causing The Ridden to lose his hold on his gun, as Vincint jumped onto The Ridden’s chest, sinking his teeth in and causing him to fall back onto the ground, gasping. I ran over and bit down on the creature’s neck, then I jerked to snap it. ‘Coup-de-Grace, bitch!’

Immediately we bolted out of the clearing as the policemen recovered from me startling them. Bullets sounded as we ran into the woods, but none landed. The fight had lasted less than 5 seconds. We were in and out that fast. Unfortunately, the victory felt empty since the pastor didn’t survive the encounter. We were all slightly depressed, while at the same time repressing anger. We weren’t skilled enough to stop the Ridden in time. Our ambush was flawlessly set up, but our execution thereafter was lackluster, and the Ridden took advantage.

The aspect of returning home to brood over the failed mission did not really appeal to anyone, so we decided to take carl out to his first hunt. What a great day it was for him… He finds out he is a monster, joins a group of monsters like himself to best deal with it, only to find out that being a monster wasn’t enough to save a life… If that wasn’t a downer, then I don’t know what is…

Perhaps we weren’t good enough to run this territory. Everything we try to accomplish seems to produce more trouble in the end. If it keeps up like this, then we may have to step aside and let a better suited pack take up the mantle…

I pray our time to shine comes soon…

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