Jump to content

World of Darkness: Attrition - Live Action [FIN]


Recommended Posts

{Saturday, 13th August, 2011}

Adanedhel finished his preparations and sat back on the throw-pillow, looking at the tools spread out before him. Tonight was the night! A full moon, when the gateway between the worlds was at it's narrowest. After tonight, he wouldn't be Evan Nelson anymore. Poor sad Evan, with his greasy hair and coke-bottle-lens glasses, would fall away from the shining truth of his soul like a husk, and only Adanedhel would remain.

It had taken so much work. The labour of months, years even, ever since Adanedhel had realised his true identity whilst attending a Lord of the Rings LARP in San Diego. The way his peers had marvelled at his grasp of Qenya, at how melodically and fluidly he had spoken it. He had read them poems he'd crafted in the ancient tongue, and they'd applauded, and the lady playing Galadriel (who'd looked much more lovely and ethereal than the woman who'd played the role in the movies, but Adanedhel still considered Cate Blanchett as very fitting for the role) had kissed him on the cheek and told him he had a truly Elvish soul.

An Elvish soul! Of course he did - it made perfect sense now! His whole life had been one of loneliness at best, torment at worst among the brutish, unrefined herd of humanity that had been his lot. His father had called him a faggot for wanting to study poetry and literature, and his mother had just fretted and sighed that her son was a dreamer. Of course he was a dreamer! Who wouldn't want to dream of something better than this inelegant, mundane pigsty.

Well, tonight that would be over. No more dreaming. It had taken him a while to find the right rituals, pieced together from fragments of so-called 'Satanic' texts, truths hidden in 'fiction' and even some passages of the Bible! The truth was indeed there to be found, if one but wanted badly enough to perceive it. He picked up the knife and examined it carefully. It was perfect, a shining steel blade with silver Qenya runes etched into the blade near the hilt. It was a reproduction Elven dagger, but the runes were Adanedhel's own addition, signifying transformation and new life from death. He was proud of the work. He set it back onto the cloth roll with the rope and ceremonial robes. Outside in the van was the final component for the ritual - a tormented but pure soul who needed to be released into the grace of the Valar, who would receive her and in the process grant Evan his release from this ugly, frail mortal shell.

He'd watched her for weeks. She was a film student, and she was beautiful and good at heart, but tormented. He'd followed her on her visits to her doctor, seen her leave with troubled expressions on her face. He'd watched closely as she seemed to recoil at things that were not there. Poor fragile soul. He knew that he was doing her a kindness, and that she would be better off in the afterlife. Earlier this evening he'd caught her as she'd come out of the doctor's again, taking her by surprise and pressing the chloroformed pad to her face. She'd gone limp almost immediately, and he'd dragged her to the van. Before she woke, he would have to change her into the simple-yet-lovely Elven gown he'd bought for the occasion of her escape from this horrible life. He looked at his clock: a half hour till midnight - time to go. He gathered up his robes, the gown, the rope and the knife, and left his shoddy, shitty little apartment for the last time.


It was a full moon, a bright night despite the permanent haze that hung over L.A in late summer. Owns-The-Night was enjoying the night air in one of his favorite lazing-spots, a dense thicket of trees and bushes near the girl's dorm. There were other reasons besides the cover that he liked that spot. He was looking at two of them now. The vargr may not have been a gentleman, but he knew what he liked. Besides, the night was quiet, all the pimps and dealers seemed to be indoors or doing business well away from the campus, so really what better use was there for his time than to watch young women flitting around their dorm rooms naked but for a pair of panties.

The freshman drew her curtains, ending the peepshow, and the huge wolf whuffed softly under his breath and flowed to his feet with a grace eerie in an animal so unnaturally large, shaking himself lightly before heading off on another round of his territory. He moved with uncanny silence and stealth, barely seeming to disturb the gloom between the trees as he ghosted past two young lovers walking along a path, holding hands and talking about the movie they'd seen. The humans never had a clue he was there, and beyond the ring of light thrown by the lamps lining the path, silver eyes watched them with a sense of proprietary satisfaction. They could walk aboard safely because of him, and that was worth all the work of the last eighteen months. This campus, and the blocks surrounding it, were his, and he guaranteed safety to the inoffensive and death to the intruder with equal fervor. Vampires, drug dealers - it was all the same to him. No-one fucked with this place unless they wanted a faceful of vargr. That was something to be proud of.

He was moving with a steady, ground-eating trot along the western rim of the UCLA campus near the graveyard when the wind shifted, blowing from the west now rather than the north, and carrying a familiar scent to his nostrils. August, and she wasn't far away either. The vargr's head tilted as he considered that. She must be across the street, and that meant she was in the cemetary. What the hell was she doing there at night? Junkies and bums sometimes crashed there, and whilst it wasn't a terrible place to wander and think, it wasn't exactly safe after midnight on a Saturday. With a low puzzled growl in his chest, Owns-The-Night waited for the road to be clear before bounding across, clearing the wall in one leap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The snow stank, a fetid, chemical odor. August couldn’t breathe right, as she dashed through the shin-deep mounds of white. She was cold and couldn’t walk straight, swaying back and forth.

And then she was naked.

“Cold,” she muttered aloud, her body twitching as she started to regain consciousness. That odor came back, along with a voice whispering in her ear in a soft and melodic language. And behind that voice was a familiar one that whispered, “Soon, Tilly.” She fought to wake up, but sleep dragged her back into the dream.

She ran from her father again, stumbling in the snow. Her body didn’t seem to work right, and she kept waiting for the wolf to come and rescue her. But there was only her father screaming behind her, the too-deep snow and her struggle to flee.

The snow faded, melted, perhaps and August was lying on something hard. She was cold; shivering, she reached to pull her blankets over her. Instead, she found she couldn’t move her arms. This was confusing; August pulled weakly against whatever was holding her, to no avail. Groaning, she began to stir into true wakefulness, feeling the same restriction from her legs as her arms. Her green eyes finally cracked open, immediately trying to make sense of what was happening to her.

She was lying on concrete or stone, her arms drawn over her head and her legs held at the ankle. August twisted and looked up, her green eyes widening when she saw the rope that bound her wrists. A single Coleman lantern glowed to the right of her bound arms, dispersing the darkness. “Oh, what the fuck?! Oneca, if this is you…”

Air gusted over her skin and August looked down, lifting her head off the hard surface. She saw several things, and it was hard to say which were the most alarming. First, her feet were bound at the ankles with more rope. This fell deep into the ‘extremely alarming’ category, but even more ominous, August could see tombstones stretched out around her. She was resting on a crypt, another thing that wasn’t comforting. Then there was the dress – if something that was as thick as tissue paper could be called clothing at all. She was almost naked; the only reason she wasn’t, was that technically the dress did leave some things to the imagination. Worst, there was an audience, only when she took a second look, August realized that the ‘people’ she was seeing here more of her hallucinations. She’d gotten good at knowing when she was seeing things and when she was seeing real people. These were all ‘hollow-looking’, so she was having a massive hallucination, the largest she’d ever had.

Then August had to revise worst, because there was one non-hallucination there. A young man, vaguely familiar to her, hovered nearby. His dark hair lay on his head with greasy weight; he wore thick glasses. He was a normal-looking young man, singular in how ordinary he was. He wore some kind of costume, maybe something from Lord of the Rings. To be honest, August wasn’t paying as much attention to what he was wearing because he was carrying a knife. The blade was as long as his hand, held in a downward grip that was much more menacing given that she was underneath him. August felt her heart slam into overdrive, not that it wasn’t pounding already. “Please let me go,” she begged, the words popping out of her mouth without permission from her brain.

“I can’t,” he told her, his voice gentle. “I need you. Your perfect, fragile, being. Your good, assaulted heart.” He put a clammy hand on her forehead. “I’m going to take that all away.”

“Oh, fuck you!” August snarled. “Don’t fucking sound like you’re doing me a favor! Wanna do me a favor? Let me go!

“I’m sorry, but I need you and you’ll be happier when I’m done,” the man said. “You’ll be free of the things that torment you.”

“But I want to live,” August moaned, her voice cracking as the specter of her own mortality loomed before her. And it was true – tormented or not, she was not done with her life.

“You’ll see.” He wasn’t listening to her; he couldn’t, not and proceed. She could see it in his eyes, in the vacant stare. He rewrote reality to fit what he needed it to be. Shifting, he moved away from her head, further down her body. He stopped over her heart, and began to chant in a fluid, unknown language.

“Help!” August shouted, pulling against the ropes again. Her captor frowned but didn’t stop his chanting. “Fire!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs, not even sure they were anywhere near the edge of the graveyard. If it was the one near campus, it was huge.

Something manifested over her; a streak of blackness in the utter darkness of the night. August blinked, wondering if she was going to fantasize that the Predator was here. Then the form solidified into a young girl with dark hair. Her coat was pink where it wasn’t stained with blood, her boats were red and snow clung to her. She stared at August; the woman knew her eyes should be green, but they were black holes in her head, fathomless and impenetrable. August felt her mind struggle to accept the impossible; as she stared, gaping in horror, the form bent down and touched her chest with a finger of ice. The childish mouth quirked up into a hideously gleeful smile. “He’s going to stab you here, Tilly, and then we’ll be together again. Just like we promised. Forever and ever.

August screamed. There were no words, only shrill cry of mindless horror. That got the man to stop chanting; he glared at her. “Do you mind? I’m forgetting the words,” he told August irritably. But she ignored him as she screamed and fought against her bonds with the single-minded determination of someone rendered senseless with fear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She was ruining it all! The raw fear in her voice was cracking his concentration, and her squirming was so mindlessly ferocious that she was cutting herself on the ropes. Adanedhel considered taking the time to gag her, but if he did that he might miss the window for the incantation to be complete. He redoubled his concentration and raised the knife up over his head, staring up at the moon as he let the beautiful, world-altering Qenya words spill out into the night.


No doubt about it, it was August's scent, and all was not well, either. As Owns-The-Night slipped, shadow-like, between two large tombs he lifted his nose to the wind once more, zeroing in on his quarry and trying to determine her state. Was she here to pay her respects? Making out with a guy? Doing some weird-ass college-girl Wicca shit? But even as he caught her scent afresh a scream for help sounded through the faux forest of stones and tombs, and without even a pause to consider the vargr leapt forward, great paws eating up the ground in a flat run and silver eyes narrowed. Another scream, this time without restraint, a sound of a girl terrified out of her mind that went on and on. Her panic and fear flooded the air as the vargr emerged from the gravestones and took in the scene before him.

August, wearing some kind of nightdress-type-thing and tied to a slab. Her blood-scent was in the air now as she wounded her ankles and wrists trying to escape, and standing over her was some nerdy-looking kid in a white dress and holding a fancy-looking knife over her heart and chanting some shit in Latin or Sumerian or some shit like that. For a second only, Owns-The-Night was startled into pausing. Human fucking sacrifice? The world got weirder all the time. But August's screams cut through his moment of what the fuck!? and jolted him back to reality. One thing was for certain, the greasy-haired kid looked serious, and that knife looked real. The thought that it might be some film-student project occured to him for all of a nanosecond. but August's pain and fear was all too real. Head low, the large dark wolf moved forwards.

Adanedhel's chanting and August's screaming were both cut across by a deep, rumbling snarl that reverberated in the still night air. August still saw the hollow-eyed girl standing over her, but there was a sense of a withdrawal, a disappointment as she faded into the ether once more. The guy with the knife was staring across her at something that made his pasty face take on a a sick moon-like pallor.

"Draugluin! The agents of Morgoth sent you to stop me. No. Not now!" he almost moaned. "I was too close. So close!" August twisted her head to see what he was looking at, sea-green eyes widening at what she saw.

A wolf, impossibly large, stalked forward out of the night into the circle of candlelight her captor had set up around the tomb she was strapped to. The beast dominated the tableau for a long moment, eyes shining like molten silver coins as they fixed on the man with the knife. Black lips writhed back from fangs like white knives, and Adanedhel took a step back from the bound victim as a second, louder snarl resounded in the night air, sanity making a desperate bid for control over the reins of his consciousness. But the need that burned within Evan was too strong for reason. It had carried him this far beyond reason's call, and now it pushed him over the fatal edge.

"She is mine. Mine! My route to shining immortality! Whatever your foul masters have ordered you, beast of darkness, I abjure you to stay back." Evan chanted under his breath, waving the knife, his eyes bugging out even further as he realised that the giant wolf was still coming forwards in spite of the incantation. With a frantic cry, he raised the dagger and lunged for August. At the same moment, the large wolf leapt. August was aware of the huge dark shape blurring over her prone form and shut her eyes on reflex, opening them once more as she heard a scream. She shouldn't look, she knew she'd regret looking. But terrible fascination and a need to see- no, to bear witness, forced the girl to turn her head and watch as the impact of the argent-eyed wolf carried the maniac a full six feet from where she lay.

Owns-The-Night was angry. A direct threat to a friend was a challenge, the more so because he had so few friends at all. August wasn't his the way a mate would be, but she was his in a rudimentary social sense that the wolf understood better than the man. Pack, at least of some kind. Someone he could talk to, relax with somewhat. Maybe even trust with his secret if he didn't feel it would be too much for her, what with her problems and all. And this weird Satanist freakazoid was going to stab her as part of some ritual to call up whatever? Huge paws roughly pinned the unwashed moron to the ground, forcing the breath from his lungs under the impact. Not fuckin' likely.

A snarling, tearing flash of white teeth and a crunch of bone and Evan screamed, a high breathless sound that was almost a wheeze. His right arm lay on the ground a few feet from his body, fingers twitching around the hilt of his ritual knife as blood pooled on the ground. His good hand flailed at his attacker and fastened onto the powerful neck, trying to keep those jaws away from the rest of his limbs. But a 160lb student was never going to win that sort of competition against 400-plus pounds of wolf. The muscles under the thick fur bunched and tightened, and the last sight Evan Nelson saw was blazing silver eyes over a gaping maw filled with fangs.

August couldn't see the death blow, but considered that a blessing. There was a sickening sound, kind of a *squish-crunch*, and the body under the giant wolf flopped like a fish, legs beating the ground spasmodically for a few seconds before subsiding into slight twitching. The wolf rose from the kill and turned, pacing around the tomb she was lashed to, it's muzzle damp and dark with blood. It grumbled softly deep in it's chest before moving to the top end, by her hands.

Owns-The-Night considered the knots. There was no way in hell he was shifting to pick them apart, so he did the next best thing and applied his teeth to the problem. A combination of sharp fangs, powerful jaws and human intelligence worked wonders when it came to severing bonds, and August felt the merest touch of the damp muzzle and hard teeth before her hands were freed. Hoping to make a getaway before she recovered too much, Dec turned and headed over to the body of her would-be killer. He'd need to dispose of the body safely, before some bright forensics expert could analyse the wounds and start hypothesizing about pony-sized wolves. Standing over the corpse, he glanced back at August for a moment, eyes gleaming in the dim light. He wondered how the hell she'd deal with this, and regretted not maybe tackling the killer as Declan. Though having her friend show up naked in the cemetary at midnight might also cause comment, now that he thought about it. Shit. One thing August really didn't need was more weird shit happening to her. Stupid fucking Satanist weirdo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

August was weeping, even she sat up and started to pull at the knots on her ankles. The crowd of delusions around her were still watching, even if Tyla wasn’t there. Her fingers were numb, and pulling the knots apart was damned hard. She just wanted out-

The wolf. August lifted her head to see the great beast staring at her. “Are you real?” she asked softly, her green eyes wide. There was no answer, save the silver eyes that stared at her. “Thank you,” she said, rubbing at her tear-filled eyes. He was beautiful to her, just as large as the one that had saved her before. It wasn’t the same; this one was darker and of course, the eyes.

August sniffled hard enough to make her cough. Stubbornly, she started to work at the bonds again, only to have her attention caught by one of the hallucinations. The man was staring at her, the night beyond visible in the bullet hole through his skull. His head tilted to the side, his expression forlorn. But there was a spark of interest in the dead eyes as he said in a voice like the winter wind, “You can see me…”

“No, no, no, you’re not there,” she whispered, dropping her eyes to the bindings at her ankles. Her fingers pulled futilely at the knots, her fingers feeling stiff and painful as the feeling returned to her digits. The knots started to part due to her efforts; the forms were drifting closer. August heard herself whimper as she tried to free herself.

There was a sigh that was almost frightening in its volume; then a great black nose shoved against her leg and she felt the press of teeth. The great wolf didn’t free her this time; the rope frayed, giving enough her enough room to wiggle her bare feet loose. That took several moments, and by the time she looked up again, she was alone. Even the body was gone; if it wasn’t for the welter of blood smeared across the grass, the knife and part of an arm and her wounds and clothing, she’d never known he was there. Well, she was alone save for the deranged illusions of her own mind. They can’t hurt you, she told herself, wrapping her arms around her. Not only tried to kill me, but he’s dressed me like a Victorian whore. Asshole!

August picked up the lamp and stared around; there was no good way to determine which direction she needed to go. The forms were coming closer to her and she didn’t have much time. With a grimace, she picked a direction and started to go.

The forms chased her. August moaned with fear as she tried to hurry, but she was barefoot. In the dark, her footsteps landed on sticks, weeds and other unpleasant objects. By the time she reached the outer fence, she was limping heavily – but she hadn’t slowed her quick near-run. Gasping, she turned right and followed it until she came to a gate. She grinned with relief, but that smile faded when she saw that the gate was locked. “Shit!” she hissed, rattling the gate. Beyond the bars, she could see the buildings of Weyburn Terraces, the quarters for single graduate students living on campus.

Behind her, her imaginary dead moaned.

August began to try to climb the fence; each gate had a concrete wall reinforcing it. There were indentations in the concrete; little more than hints of handholds. That was her best chance to get over, as the rest of the iron had three inch spikes that rose from the top, making it impossible for someone like August to climb. That Kaitlin girl might have managed it, and Aradia probably would have skipped right over, but August was not an acrobat.

She wasn’t a climber, either. The green-eyed girl hadn’t gotten very far before she felt something cold touch her back. August lost her progress as she dropped off the wall and turned to face the imaginary things crowding. Whining to herself, she pushed at them - and her hands passed through. They’re not there! Just your imagination! That didn’t stop her from running.

The girl caught her first break not far from there; a ladder on this side of the fence. August gasped with relief as she used it to get over the fence, wondering who had left it here. It didn’t even occur to her to wonder how she’d gotten in there; all she could think was that Weyburn Terraces would have phones that connected to campus police.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The huge wolf leapt onto a tomb near the south wall of the cemetary, carrying the limp body in it's jaws as easily as a cat carries a kitten. Owns-The-Night considered that he'd done his dashing and chivalrous duty: he'd beat the bad guy, freed the damsel, and then gotten the fuck out of there. August would be running for the nearest phone, and ten minutes after that the place would be crawling with cops and Animal Control guys. Luckily, there was no Were-Animal Control Department, or he'd be really worried. With another mighty bound, he cleared the wall and hit the ground running. He took the back route: across yards and through alleys, running flat out for the junkyard on the corner of Cotner and West Pico. It was roughly six miles, and took him ten minutes. As August managed to drop over the wall and started running towards the lighted windows of Weyburn Terraces, her rescuer was clearing the chainlink fence around the junkyard and looking for a nice wreck in the crushing pile to dump his grisly burden into. The chemical and rust stink of this place was offensive in the extreme, but it had suited his purposes before, and the guard dobermans that roamed the site stayed out of his path, as they had after their first swift, snarling encounter, whining placatingly as the huge wolf padded past them. He found a likely looking jalopy and dumped the body into the empty space under the hood where the engine had been. Satisfied, he turned to head home, and stopped dead.

Fuck, the arm. Great paws kicked up dust and rust as the wolf tore off north again, almost abandoning caution in his haste. The return journey was even faster than the outbound, and Owns-The-Night breathed a sigh of relief as he arrived back at the scene to find the arm still laying there on the ground. The knife wasn't important. That a man had died here was never going to be a secret: all the vargr cared about was the evidence of a giant wolf's involvement. A few half-tracks in the dry, hard earth were nothing too serious, he hoped, but bite wounds were another matter. He scooped up the arm and made another trip down to the junkyard. By the time he'd disposed of that and returned to the UCLA campus area, he noticed blue and red lights outside the graveyard and breathed a sigh of relief. Now all he had to do was hope the cops thought August was crazy. As he trotted home, the werewolf felt kind of guilty about that. After all, she wasn't crazy, at least about the giant wolf. He felt like kind of a shitheel for inflicting scepticism and scorn on the girl. But he'd be damned if he was going to expose himself any more than he had, and he damned sure wasn't going to come out of the shapeshifting closet. Nossir.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The blanket was warm, but August didn’t care. She was back in the hospital. It wasn’t the mental health facility, yet, but it could be, if she wasn’t careful. So she was being as cautious as she could be, which was why she was lying her ass off to the police and doctors. She wasn’t sure she was doing a very good job of it.

After getting to a security phone, August had been gratified by the response. Campus security had arrived almost immediately; taking in her appearance, there’d been few questions at first. She’d been given one of the officer’s jackets while a lot of them went into the cemetery to investigate. They hadn’t made her wait for them; she’d been hustled to the hospital for treatment for her injuries. She’d found a whole new world of embarrassment and invasion; apparently the police had reason to believe she’d been chloroformed. Mortifyingly, the police wanted to do a rape test. August couldn’t bring herself to agree; she knew that she should, but she wasn’t sure she could handle that on top of everything else. Not knowing was better than having another indignity heaped upon her.

Everyone was being nice and sympathetic – right until she met Det. Bart Judiesch and his partner, Det. Sarah Thyfault. Judiesch was tall and lanky, easily topping six feet. His thinning hair was a red-going-gray, giving him a faded appearance. He had sharp eyes though, a piercing dark gray that made her uneasy. Thyfault was a small black woman with a soft smile, but her dark eyes were as hard as Judiesch’s. August watched them approach her in their cheap suits and overly-polished shoes and felt a shiver of fear. She wasn’t sure she could lie to them.

She tried.

“Tell us what happened, Ms. Turner, in your own words,” Judiesch asked in a gentle voice, but his eyes didn’t soften; they bored into her like daggers. Thyfault merely had her notebook ready, pen poised over the paper. Her smile was encouraging but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“I was coming out of the doctor’s office,” she started, only to have Thyfault interrupt.

“Ms. Turner,” the black woman said with that same smile, “I’m sorry to burst in like that, but more details will help us catch the killer.”

“I’m not…” August cut off her statement. She didn’t want the killer caught; the killer had killed to save her. “I’m sorry.” She tried to go for a new angle: sympathy. “I’ve never done this before.”

“We understand,” Thyfault replied. “Just try to remember to give us as much information as possible.”

“I see Dr. Hillinger for nervous issues and school-related stress,” August said, shivering under her blanket a little. “I came out of the office after a session and someone grabbed me. There was cloth over my face. I don’t remember anything clearly after that, until I woke up tied to a crypt in the graveyard. Some guy was standing over me wearing robes and holding a knife. He wasn’t making any sense – something about freeing me. I called for help, and someone came.” So far so good – she’d committed lies of omission only at this point.

“Who?” Judiesch’s question came out sharply.

“I don’t know,” August replied, starting the direct lying. “I didn’t see his or her face. I saw a blur of movement, and they fell outside the lights. I heard cries and screaming, but I couldn’t see anything. Then it was all quiet.”

“How did you get loose?” Thyfault asked.

August had a second of panic and she could tell she took too long to answer. “I wiggled out,” she blurted, her eyes darting over Thyfault’s shoulder nervously.

“According to what we saw, the ropes had been cut with something dull, like a rock,” Judiesch replied. “Did the killer cut you loose?”

“No, no.” August’s denial was too quick and she fought down a surge of panic. She was not good at this! “Like I said, I didn’t see him!” She was getting defensive.

“Him? How do you know it was a him?” Thyfault asked, her brown eyes locked on August.

“I think it must have been, he won a fight against an armed opponent,” August replied. It just went downhill from there; the only thing that August did right was cling to her story. Somehow, she managed to keep it to an unknown attacker, who she hadn’t seen clearly.

After thirty minutes of grilling, Judiesch cleared his throat and closed his notebook. “If you think of anything else, please call,” he said, handing her a card. August took it, but he didn’t let go immediately. “Ms. Turner, I know you feel grateful to the person who rescued you. But just because he killed for a good reason doesn’t mean he should get away with it. No one is above the law.”

August told one last lie: “If I had a name to give to you, I would.”

After they left, the doctor told her he wanted her to stay the night. August threw a truly epic fit about that; her delusions were worse here. She had already seen several of the delusions, which she had diligently ignored. One had been particularly horrible: a terribly-burnt woman wondering around with a limp child in her arms, begging people to help her son. August couldn’t stay here another hour, much less an entire night. Thankfully, Oneca had arrived and helped, pointing out that they had a pre-med in the house and not pointing out that August would sooner be tended by a rabid wolverine than Satan. She also charmed and cajoled the doctors into releasing August in her own Oneca way.

Oneca was just as curious as the detective had been, but she sensed that August wasn’t up for discussion. Instead, she took her home, where she sat up with her until August passed out from sheer exhaustion. Smiling sadly, Oneca draped blankets over her and let her sleep.

Manipulation + Subterfuge: 0 sux

Carver *rolls* 3d10: 3+1+2: 6

[Carver] 9:51 pm: Oh... fuck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sunday was unpleasantly tense. Dec slept lightly, one ear metaphorically up for the sound of pounding feet, cocked weapons and angry mobs, only to wake up at midday with his yard remarkably empty of burning torches and pitchforks. He went about his usual Sunday routine, heading out for a run before breakfast. His circuit of the campus took him past the cemetary, the white forensics vans and the yellow police tape unwelcome reminders to the vargr that he'd left a witness.

A fucking witness! Even if it was August, who was sweet and all, it was still someone who'd seen the big-ass wolf. He wondered if perhaps she would think her memory of his size was exaggerated by fear, or whether the cops would think the same. It'd be nice to have the authorities looking for someone's runaway St Bernard. As Dec continued his run, he moodily reflected that if he hadn't wanted to tap that harder than the Riverdance guy on a cocaine bender, he likely wouldn't have risked getting close enough for her to see his eyes.

But would you have still saved her? he found himself asking as he finished his warm-up run at the gym, barely breathing harder as he set himself up some weights. It was something he considered as he started to pump the iron: did he regret saving her?

No, he decided. No regrets. And it wasn't just because he got to see August dressed in cheesecloth, either. If it'd had been that annoying Jeremy guy strapped down and about to be gutted - hell, if it had been Farquad! - Owns-The-Night would still have killed their attacker and set them free. He might not like or want to fuck them, but nobody and nothing deserved to die like a strapped-down sheep. Even a sheep. Every creature deserved a chance to fight or run, to spend their last moments striving for life with every fibre of their being. To die trapped or caged was... unthinkable. Humanity was good at that, though. Caging members of their own kind they considered dangerous, rather than killing them cleanly. Or sealing them away in a mental hospital. It made Dec growl quietly just thinking about it.

And what would they do to him, should they catch him? A lab, for certain. They wouldn't accord him any of their vaunted rights. Even animal protection laws wouldn't apply. He would spend the rest of his life in a white room with needles in his skull and doctors slicing him open to discover how he worked, to reduce the wondrous to the commonplace and explainable. As he set the bar back on the rack with a loud clank, his skin gleaming with sweat, Dec privately vowed that they wouldn't take him alive, should they come for him. He would fight so fiercely that he would either win free... or die trying.

His resolution not doing much to dispell the hackle-raising sense of tension he felt between his broad shoulders, the vargr went to work on the bag.


{Monday 15th August}

"Hey, Dec!" Terry called as Dec came in to the staff lunchroom. "Your cute film grad got attacked Saturday night."

"What?!" Dec said, feigning surprise and concern. He'd been expecting this all Sunday, and was proud of his prepared dissembling. "August?"

"Yeah." Terry watched Perault carefully. Everyone watched Perault carefully, especially when they were bearing bad news. "She's not hurt bad, or at least that's what Paulvitch from security said. Just shaken up." The other grounds staff wore expressions ranging from the cautious to the sympathetic. "Thought you should know. I'm surprised she didn't tell you herself."

"It ain't like that." Dec said with a shake of his head. "She and I, we're just friendly-like. She's got a bunch of BFFs livin' with her for moral support. But thanks, Terry. I'll give her a call later, see how she is." With a wave of his hand, Dec left the others to their lunch and jogged home.

Once there, he sat in front of the phone and stared at it. He had August's number. He could call. He should call - it was the sort of thing a friend did. Not to call with the news buzzing around would be odd. And he did want to know if she was okay. Just a quick phone call, say "Hey, heard about what happened, you okay?" It'd be easy. He picked the phone up and dialed. On the other end, someone picked up and August's voice said "Hello?"

"Hey, it's Declan." The other end of the line was quiet but for her breathing. "I heard about what happened - the guys in the lunch room told me. Are you okay?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sunday passed quietly. August made it clear she just wanted to veg and not deal with last night, and her roommates complied by dragging her into a marathon of chic flicks. Even Saja was pleasant to her, offering her medical advice with her wounds. The rope burns ached fiercely; Aradia scrounged up some Vicodine from an injury she’d had years ago, which helped.

Only two things interfered on her peace; the well-meaning people who kept calling and her shrink. Dr. Hillinger called to check on her, then offered to meet August for a session first thing Monday morning. Reluctantly, the woman agreed, unsure that she wanted to but knowing she should.

That night, she had trouble sleeping. Something kept interfering with her sleep; some sound that she half-heard just as she was drifting off. It happened over and over, until August fell into a sleep deeper than the sound could reach.

At her morning session, she was exhausted. Dr. Hillinger noticed, of course. “I take it you’ve had trouble sleeping since the attack? That’s normal, you know.”

“Yeah, I guessed,” August sighed, rubbing her face. She felt fragile and brittle, like she was going to snap apart. Her hands reached up to touch her wolf’s head, only to remember that the cops still had it. They’d told her that they’d found it in the guy’s van, but it was evidence for now. She could get it back, they promised, but until then, she felt naked.

“What happened? In your words.”

August licked her lips, staring at the clown for a moment. In a soft voice, she revealed all to her shrink. The delusions. Tyla. The wolf. Dr. Hillinger’s sympathetic frown deepened as August spoke but she remained quiet, scribbling an occasional note. When August was done, the doctor asked, “This has been getting worse than you let me know, for a long time, hasn’t it?” August nodded, feeling her lips start to quiver. “You have been seeing things still, haven’t you?” August nodded again and burst into tears.

Dr. Hillinger set aside her notebook and rose. Grabbing Kleenex from her desk, she moved to the couch next to August, offering them to her. As the girl grabbed at them blindly, trying to stem the flow of her pain, the psychiatrist put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She said nothing else until August was done sobbing. “I know you don’t want to take medicine, August, but it isn’t working,” Dr. Hillinger said softly. “It may be time to try.”

“Please, no, I hate those,” August hiccupped, still rubbing tears and snot from her face.

“Alright. I suggest you start confronting these issues then. First step is to release the wolf obsession. Give all of your mementos of the wolves away,” Dr. Hillinger suggested.

“Can’t I just put them away?” August whimpered, thinking of all of the pictures, shirts and jewelry she had with wolves on them. The thought of losing them made her feel like she was cutting a part of herself off.

“No, if you do that, they’re still there,” the older woman said. “Next, I suggest you dedicate time to remembering the man who saved you. I’d focus on the silver eyes. That’s not normal for a wolf. I suggest that your mind is trying to tell you the truth. Listen to it.” She smiled at the look on August’s face. “I think I’ve given you a thought.”

“Yeah, you have,” August replied.


She’d been trying to get up the courage to call when he called her. Still, she wasn’t happy to see him calling. Swallowing hard, she picked up and said, “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Declan.” August’s throat tightened as she tried to speak but nothing came out. “I heard about what happened – the guys in the lunch room told me. Are you okay?”

“No.” It was easy to say. “I’m really… I’m fucked up, Dec. I’m thinking about going back to the hospital for a week or two. I’m… I can’t-”

“August…” She jumped and looked around the room. She was alone, but goosebumps crawled up her arms. Ask him, ask him now before you are so bad you can’t function.

“Was it you?” she squeaked, her voice showing the strain of asking. “Did you rescue me? I don’t remember… I was having… one of my spells. But… I remember silver eyes.” He was quiet and she blurted, “I won’t tell anyone. I just don’t know what happened.”

“He killed me.”

August heard herself whine deep in her throat as she went completely still. Just a delusion. Just a delusion. Just ignore it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Was it you? Did you rescue me? I don’t remember… I was having… one of my spells. But… I remember silver eyes. I won’t tell anyone. I just don’t know what happened.”

The words, and more importantly the tone of them cut hard enough to make the vargr, hardened killer that he was, wince. August sounded on the edge of her sanity, frightened and alone. She'd narrowly escaped death, she'd seen something impossible to add to the things she saw all the time. Dec gritted his teeth and fought the urge to cuss. He'd been prepared to lie, to claim that he was in bed that night and that talk of giant wolves with silver eyes was craziness, but hearing that fragile, brittle tone in her voice didn't just pluck at his heart strings, it yanked them up and tied them around his throat. Fuck! Fuck damn goddamn fuck! He closed his eyes and counted to five.

"Fuck it." he finished quietly, barely above a mutter of resignation. "Yeah. It was the Yard Snake, okay? I... saw the guy carry you over the wall. I mean, I didn't know it was you at first, but I was on a run and saw some skinny fuck dragging what looked like a body over the wall. So I followed him and... lost it a little. When I saw what he was doing and, well, who he was doing it to." Silver eyes roamed the sparsely-furnished lounge. He could pack and be gone in twenty minutes.

"You seemed pretty out of it, so I untied you and got the fuck out. Guess I was hoping you wouldn't remember anything." He paused for a long moment. "I'm sorry I didn't stick around. But... well, there was blood and stuff. And I didn't want you to see me like that. Dumb, huh? I was sure you'd be alright, though." August seemed to have stopped breathing on the other end of the line. Dec sighed. "Listen, I'll be... You won't be hearing from me again. But you need to know something, and I want you to grab this thought and hold it tight, okay?" He took a deep breath.

"You're not crazy. Not at all. What you saw last night was real. Really real. And I'm going to guess that what you see, those spells you have, those are real too. Science being the be-all is bullshit, August. I know that. Man doesn't have all the answers: he just likes to think so. I'm not going to explain more than that, but I swear I'm not shitting you. You are not crazy. Please take that as I mean it - a goodbye present. Be strong, girl." Dec's voice was curiously gentle. "Take care." Those words galvanised August out of her trance-like listening state.

"Dec! Wait! What do-" But the receiver had already clicked down in her ear.

Declan Perault turned and looked around at his house once more. The work of two years, leading to his own place in the world, and now he would have to leave it. Maybe August wouldn't turn him in. Maybe she would if she rethought it. But he'd told her too much, now, and there would be too many other questions to answer. It'd be best to be gone, far away from cages and those who knew too much. Yeah, it was the sensible choice.

Why the hell did it pain him so?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a long moment, August stared at her phone. Then his last words sunk in – a goodbye present… take care. “Fuck!” she snapped, still not sure what was going on. Declan had just confessed the craziest shit to her, then announced he was leaving town. “Fuck!” She called him back as she glanced at her floor. A quick survey of the clothing ‘stored’ there rendered a pair of shorts that didn’t stink. She yanked them on as she stumbled out of her bedroom, listening to Declan go to voicemail. “God damn you! Don’t you dare!” she seethed into the phone, her voice suffused with outrage. “Declan, you do not get to make cryptic statements and then leave! No! I will kick your ass if you do!”

Her challenge delivered, she hung up and raced for the garage, pausing only when she realized she was out of gas. “FUCK! Oneca!!”

“August, calm down,” her roommate chided as she came out of one of the house’s many rooms. “What is wrong?”

“Car, you drive, no gas,” August demanded, grabbing her arm and dragging her toward the door.

“Wait, where? What? August, are you alright?”

“Not if Declan leaves town because of me,” August said, sorrow and fear mingling with the anger. “Drive. I’ll tell you what’s going on on the way. Just hurry!”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oneca snagged her purse off the kitchen table and headed out with August, beeping the doors open on her midnight-black Prius; she slipped into the driver's seat before asking, "Declan? The groundskeeper at school?"

August grunted an assent, then stared moodily out the window. When they didn't move for several seconds she looked at Oneca, who arched a brow at the scowl she was receiving but only quietly asked, "Direction, love?"

"Oh! Sorry..." August rattled off the directions and they rolled onto the street.

Silence. August stared out the window again and Oneca debated if this was the time to talk about a few things. Remy had said at the party that August had changed since he'd last seen her. Lucien, too, and stronger, but other than that Remy couldn't tell her what had happened. Or what was going on with the two of them now. He called it the most interesting, useless gift ever and then he always asked to switch.

She shook her head a little at a stoplight. Focus. August needs help. And since she lives in the house, Oneca needed answers.

"August, I need to ask you some questions. They're probably going to sound really weird, but bear with me, okay?"

Her roommate gave her a guarded look. Great. This'll be a walk in the park.

"Alright, has anything strange happened to you in the last few months?" She bit her lip and fought to keep her eyes on the road. "I don't mean the kidnapping, at least, not just as a kidnapping. Oh, dammit, this is always so damn hard to do. Have you had weird things happen around you? Or have you been able to do things that seem impossible or crazy? And I'm not asking for your shrink or anything like that. I mean it. Weird, impossible things. Things you're only supposed to see in movies or books...."

Oneca trailed off as she realized she was babbling and gave August a chance to answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

August was staring at her by the time Oneca was done talking, her eyes so wide her irises were ringed with white. Her looked was pretty much exactly like an animal staring into the light of an oncoming car, frozen with fear and indecision. Then August sagged a little in her seat, clasping her hands tightly. “Why? Why are you asking that?”

Oneca looked sideways at her for a moment, a gentle amusement in her eyes. “Auggie, love, you’re a wonderful person, but you’re terrible at hiding stuff. You’ve been acting weird and unhappy lately,” Oneca said carefully. “I’m worried, but I do have eyes. Plus a friend of mine who has a sensitivity to such things has gotten a feeling from you recently. Just over the summer.”

August visibly tensed at the mention of the timeline. Oneca wasn’t surprised when August said, “It wasn’t just stress, on the internship. I saw things when I was a little girl. Now I’m seeing them again.”

“What things?”

“People. Who aren’t there,” August admitted.

“Ghosts,” Oneca corrected. August shook her head but it was more denial than a negation of what Oneca had said.

“Please don’t,” August requested, her voice dropping to a whisper.

“Don’t what? Talk about it?”

August voice shook as she said, “Don’t make it real.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She wanted to reach over and pull her friend into a hug; instead she just glanced at her and sighed. "I wish I could. I really do. But it is real, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Don't let that shrink put you on meds. It doesn't make it go away, it just makes it worse because you can't control it at all then. You can't tell what's the meds messing with you and what's real."

Oneca took a breath and gave August what she hoped was an encouraging smile. Peter is so much better at this... "Besides, you're not alone. I've even met another medium before. He was kind of an ass, but still; he'd learned how to deal with it and still have a life."

She turned onto the next to last street, taking a hand off the wheel long enough to squeeze August's shoulder. The other girl flinched away from the contact, but Oneca let it go; this was always the hardest time. "Look, we need to talk a little more, and then there are some people I want you to meet. If you're up for it. Remy's one of them. He's the one that can tell if someone's got a gi- an ability. He's been asking about you since the party, wanting to make sure you were okay."

Oneca hesitated, then added, "I have abilities as well. I can't show you them here, but I really meant it when I said you weren't alone."

She held her breath, hoping August took all this a lot better than many the Chantry found did. There was always an adjustment period for those that accepted their gift; there was usually an extended stay at a sanatorium for those that didn't. And the worst were the ones that disappeared or showed up a few days or weeks later in the obituaries. Please let us help you, Auggie. You've already committed yourself once.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

August was quiet. Oneca glanced at her between driving, worry on her face. “I saw my twin sister last night.” Oneca blinked; she hadn’t know that August had any siblings. “She wants me dead.”

“Why?” Oneca’s reply didn’t have a lot of disbelief in it, as some would have; Oneca had her own sibling issues.

“She wants me to be with her,” August answered, staring down at her hands. “When that guy was getting ready to k-kill me, she stood over me and told me we’d be together.” August’s face twisted. “I left her, when Father started to beat her. I left her and I ran. I abandoned her.” August had spoken of her father once before, when drunk, so Oneca knew he’d been abusive and had been killed trying to kill August. “Now she wants me to join her.”

“I hope she’s prepared to wait a long time,” Oneca said softly.

“She’s waited thirteen years already,” August replied. “It was her, it was Tyla… but it sounded so awful. Like it hated me and had some really unpleasant reason for wanting me to join her. It. Her. God, I sound insane.” She buried her face in her hands and said, “God damn it, but this would all be so much better if I was insane! Then I’d have hope that I was getting better.”

Last night was real. Really real… you aren’t crazy…

“I’d have hope,” she added, her voice forlorn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oneca turned the last corner and spotted the Declan tossing bags in his truck in very much the 'pack and get the hell out of here' manner. She pulled the Prius up just behind his truck; before August got out she reached over and grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly. She didn't say anything, but August had seen that expression in the mirror for years. Somehow, in her own way, Oneca understood.

"You're not alone," she whispered, then let her go so they could both get out of the car and do what they came to do.

Oneca eyed Declan cautiously; she didn't really know why he'd be leaving town over August - maybe they'd been closer than she'd realized and had had a fight or broken up - but August wanted him to stay. So here they were.

"Uh, going somewhere?" she asked brilliantly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

August gave Oneca a wan smile; despite her doubts, the green-eyed woman truly hoped that Oneca did understand what August was experiencing. It would be nice not to be alone; a moment later, Auugst chided herself for that statement. She shouldn’t wish that Oneca was insane for company. She also, she reflected a moment later, shouldn’t wish that she was haunted. In a way, Oneca was just as bound by her sister as August was by hers.

August didn’t bother with talking – not at first. She dashed around the car and threw herself at Declan, as if he wasn’t strong enough to pick her up and set her aside like a kitten. Her arms caught him around the chest in a bear hug; her fingers dug into the fabric of his t-shirt. “Don’t,” she said, speaking mostly into his chest. “I don’t have enough friends to lose one just because he helped me. I’m not going to tell anyone what you did for me. Just don’t go!

Oneca’s eyebrows rose as she put two and two together. August had staunchly denied knowing who her rescuer was, but it was like the black-haired film student to hide a friend helping her, especially to keep someone with Declan’s reputation off the police radar. Dec sighed, “August-“

“He’s not gone,” August blurted, green eyes peeking up at him through her hair. She was scared and her arms were wound around him tightly enough that he’d leave bruises pulling her off. She was probably bruising herself right now, given the stranglehold she had on him. “You said you bet they were real – I heard him talking to me in my room.”

She’d pretend the delusions were ghosts if it’d get Declan to slow down and stay instead of running away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Okay, so it wasn't the most insightful, calm or reassuring thing to say, Dec knew even as the word left his lips. But on the other hand, August was currently doing her level-best impression of an anaconda and blurting out stuff within hearing range of Oneca, who was now watching with keen interest as opposed to the mild interest she'd shown on getting out of the car. He realised his hands were currently dangling stupidly to the sides and tried to bring them into play by firmly grasping August's waist and moving her away from him. After about three seconds of gentle pushing, it became obvious that August would let go only with the possible aid of a crowbar or a breaching charge. If anything her arms tightened. Jesus, that's a hell of a death-grip she's got there.

"I heard him. Just now, while you were on the phone. It was that guy from... the one you.. you know." August looked up at Declan, feeling the reassuring solidity of him, as though there wasn't anything more real than him right now. And warm. So very warm. She rested her head on his chest, her voice low. "You can't go. You can't just... rescue me and then drop cryptic shit like you did on the phone and leave me with some crazy guy's voice haunting me."

"Shit." Declan muttered, silver eyes glinting in the setting sun as he looked helplessly at Oneca, who managed to look both amused and intensely curious. "Alright, alright." he told August. "We'll talk." Green eyes peeked up at him again.

"Promise?" she asked, sounding mildly distrustful, as though he'd bolt as soon as she let go. Dec sighed exasperatedly.

"Shit, frail, it's not like I can drive away with Oneca's car there. Besides, you could probably outrun my piece of shit truck." he shook his head, a wry lopsided smile curving his lips.

"That's not a promise." August said levelly, eyes narrowing. Dec radiated an feral wariness some instinctive part of her was responding to. He was skittish, poised to flee. Like the wolves in the hills when they sensed the filmmakers. They were ready to fight or run at the first sign of a threat an unbidden thought wormed its way into her forebrain. Declan looked up at the sky, then down into her eyes, his face amusedly resigned with a touch of frustration in his silver gaze.

"Fine." Dec said, his voice reverberating through her torso as she hugged him. "I promise we can talk. But that's all I'm promisin'. Now are you gonna let go or do I carry you inside?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I can walk,” August said, slowly letting go of him. When he didn’t immediately bolt, she relaxed. It was only then that Declan could see how upset she’d been at the thought of him leaving, and how exhausted she looked. It wasn’t physical; it was weariness from deep inside. She’d had too many punches from life and not enough time to recover.

Her black hair fell in unbrushed, unruly waves around her face as she stepped back. Her stomach hurt a little and she looked down to see his wolf buckle; it had dug into her stomach. Her fingers dropped to the hard silver lines, brushing over it in a light caress. The touch of any wolf iconography was a comfort, especially with her necklace denied to her. Then it dawned on August that it was a belt buckle and therefore right above Dec’s junk. The black-haired girl blushed as she looked up at Declan, who seemed to be torn between enjoying her attention and confusion about her focus. “Let’s get inside,” August said, trying – badly – to cover. She turned to the truck and reached into the bed, grabbing the kitbag. She pulled on the straps – and stopped with an odd grunt. “Uh, what the hell do you have in here?”

“Stuff,” Declan grunted. “And I promised to talk, not unpack.”

August narrowed her eyes at him, considering what to say. A silver gaze met hers, challenging and stubborn. Pick your battles. “Fine.” She released the kitbag and waved for Declan to lead the way. August looked around with rapt attention as they entered; she’d never heard of anyone getting an invitation inside his house. It was almost grotesquely ordinary in here: oversized beanbags strewn around on the floor in addition to a large couch that dominated the center of the room in front of a TV / stereo system setup. A low coffee table was mostly bare save for a phone and some remote controls. A large blank area furthest from the door had a body sized workout bag as a centerpiece. The place seemed clean, with a polished wooden floor and very little clutter.

Before Dec or Oneca could say anything, August said, “Declan, Oneca knows about the ghost-thing, and I think she suspects that you were the one who helped me in the cemetery.” Her green eyes bore into his, trying to pass on the silent message that she hadn’t said anything else. “I don’t know why you believe that the ghost-thing is real, but Oneca does, too. Look, you don’t have to go, Dec. I won’t tell anyone that you were there. I don’t want to tell anyone. I don’t want you to go. You’ve become my friend. I don’t want you to feel you have to flee because you saved my life. That is shitty beyond words.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He watched her for a moment, his gaze shifting to Oneca as she took a seat, then back to the standing August, that tension in his body and soul thrumming through the air, felt but not heard. Then the silent thrumming ceased, or at least slackened to near nonexistence, and his shoulders relaxed a bit. Both girls felt as though the air had become breathable again.

"Okay." he said quietly, turning slightly and pacing as he talked. It felt odd to have them here in his den; strange but not unpleasant. "I believe you won't turn me in. I do. And I really, really don't want to run and start up somewhere else. But what if you slip up? What if she does?" Silver eyes regarded both women as he moved to and fro, his quiet agitation obvious. "What if you get scared of me and feel that the only way to feel safe is to turn me in?"

"I'll be honest with ya both." Declan told them, plumping down into a beanbag with a sigh. He looked at his hands for a long moment, then up at them both. "I'm not scared of much. Hardly a thing that walks or crawls. But being ca-" he shook his head and changed what he was going to say. "Being in prison? I'd rather die. The mere chance of it scares me." He gazed at August levelly.

"I don't want to go. But if people know about... what I did... well, they won't be kind, August." he said frankly. "I don't regret it, but I don't want to wait for the cops to kick the door in either." He held her gaze a moment longer, then sighed and shook his head, a grumbling sound in his chest. "Fine. I'll go against every instinct that's tellin' me to get the fuck outta Dodge. But you better be on my prison-break planning committee, girl." he said with a mock-scowl, pointing at her before smiling wryly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I won’t tell them,” August vowed. She meant it like she’d meant few things in her life. “And I’m not scared of you, Dec. After everything, I can’t be scared of you.” She had no idea what she was saying, truly; she had no concept of the being that Declan was, particularly since she was still sure that she’d imagined Declan as a massive wolf. Only a whisper of a doubt was there, spawned by Dec’s attempted parting gift: “Last night was real…”

Declan looked concerned at her statement but didn’t say anything; August pushed forward quickly. “Anyway, since I have you here… thank you, Declan. I really didn’t want to end up stabbed in a graveyard, particularly dressed like a Victorian whore.”

“I thought you looked rather nice,” he told her, giving her a toothy grin.

August made a moue of mock-anger and smacked him lightly on the arm. “Bastard!” she snapped, but she was grinning.

“What about you?”Declan asked Oneca, who’d been silent until now.

“I won’t say anything. Some people just deserve killing,” the darkly beautiful girl told him confidently. “Hell, I have someone I’d have you kill, if you would.”

“Can we put Satan- Oneca?” August cut off her own question as Oneca winced in pain, her hand going to her chest. “Oh, no-no-no, please, not that again, hon!”

“What’s wrong?” Declan asked, frowning as the dark-eyed woman doubled over, drawing breaths with clear difficulty.

“She had a heart attack before,” August said, hurrying to her side and kneeling next to her. “Oneca? Do you need the hospital?” She had her phone now, fingers ready to dial.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oneca's whole world had narrowed down to the painful half-beating of her heart and remembering how to breath. She barely heard August explaining to Declan or asking about a hospital.

I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't have thought it. She's still pissed about the part-

She wheezed again, focusing on breath-in, breath-out until she could mumble, "No. Hospital. Be. Fine."

She gathered up her thoughts and her emotions and used a meditation trick Yolanda had taught her. It helped enough for her to focus on feeling contrite and affectionate, which rather quickly set her heart back to its normal thump-thump rhythm. She didn't mean one iota of it, but faking emotions, even just inside herself, was another trick Yolanda taught her. Empathic librarians, bests friends in the world some times.

Her breathing settled and her tone returned to its slightly tanned complexion; she took a moment before shakily unfolding herself. "Sorry about that. I'm...I'm fine now."

The awkward took up residence on one of Declan's beanbags and waited for the next piece of drama to fall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Weak heart, huh? That's gotta suck." Declan observed not-unkindly. As someone who'd never been sick in his life, not including injuries, he couldn't really relate to the feeling of having a body that betrayed it's owner so callously. But he imagined it would really, really bite the big one. "You want a drink of somethin'? Got milk or OJ here."

"Milk's good." Oneca replied with a smile. Dec looked at August questioningly and upon receiving a nod disappeared into an adjoining room, returning with a jug of milk and three glasses.

"Okay." he said after everyone had a drink. He settled back down onto his beanbag and looked at August. "Now it's your turn. Crazy Satanic dude is whispering to you? You'd think one terminal butt-whupping was enough for his scraggly ass. Have you seen him yet?" He asked matter-of-factly, then narrowed his eyes a little and looked around as though he was trying to discern beyond the veil of death himself. "Is he here? Cos I really don't need ectoplasm or whatever messing up my floors every time he pisses his dead self." The broad-shouldered groundsman bared his teeth in a grin that was, despite it's overt menace, strangely reassuring. After all, he wasn't dismissing the concept of ghosts, but neither did he seem particularly impressed by the revelation that his victim was still hanging around, treating it as more of a frustrating inconvenience than a source of fear. Of course, as far as Dec knew all a ghost could do was hang around and make woogie-woogie noises, maybe throw some shit around poltergeist style. Hardly something to terrify a vargr.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I… seen him? No.” August looked lost for a moment before it dawned on her that Dec was taking this ghost thing as gospel. “I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what a ghost can do. If anything, I mean in the movies, it varies based on the plot-“ August realized that was possibly the stupidest thing she could say and stopped her mouth before she committed more acts of dumb. “All I know is that I thou- I heard something say my name in my room, then when I told you on the phone that I didn’t know what had happened, I heard a voice say, ‘He killed me.’” Her arms goose-pimpled again, just thinking about that moment. She folded them and rubbed her hands up and down, hoping to dispel the cold chill that was slithering down her spine.

“Honestly, the worst threat is possession, I think,” Oneca said, her hand still on her chest, though her color was better. “I know a medium and she’s mentioned a few times where a ghost has possessed a person and made them do their bidding. You could both be in danger, if the ghost manages that.”

“Great!” August sighed, rubbing her face. The exclamation was as much frustration at the ease with which her friends were accepting this rubbish as reaction to Oneca’s statement. “So… what the hell do I do? This bullshit is ruining my life. I want it done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Maybe there's a way." Dec said, taking a drink of his milk, regarding August with his luminous eyes. "I know shit about ghosts and mediums, but if Oneca has a friend who knows stuff, maybe you should talk to them." He glanced at Oneca, who nodded in agreement. She'd been trying to steer August this way on the drive down here.

"But that's crazy." August protested. "There's no such thing as ghosts. I'm just having waking nightmares or hallucinations. It's the only thing that makes sense-"

"Bullshit." Dec said flatly, his voice dropping to a soft growl. "It's the only thing you want to make sense. As a man who's spent time in the crazy-house, lemme ask you this: do you want to hand over control of your life to some fuckin' orderly who'll give you two happy pills and a thorazine chaser every day, then talk to you like you're a flamin' retard nine to five?" He stabbed a finger in August's direction. "You ain't crazy, girl. Crazy people, the type of people that see shit and hear voices, have a smell - you don't."

"A smell?" Oneca interjected, eyes narrowing despite her agreeing with Dec's assessment that August wasn't crazy.

"Get up close to a full on schizophrenic sometime, one that doesn't bathe much." Declan replied. "They've got this weird scent in their sweat, cause of chemical imbalance and shit. Kinda goaty. The orderlies at the VA called it the smell of nuts, and thought that was fuckin' hilarious. You don't smell like that, August. I don't think you're crazy: I think you're haunted, and you need to see a different kind of expert." He looked over at Oneca. "This medium pal of yours. Assuming she's on the level, is she any good? That you've seen or witnessed?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Maddy?" Oneca asked rhetorically as she decided to avail herself of a beanbag. "She's great. She's also not in LA anymore, unfortunately. She said she hated all the shades still around from violent deaths. She exhausted herself, first trying to help them and then just trying to get them to give her some personal time. She moved to, uh, Plano, Texas. It's basically the anti-murder capital of the US." She gave August a sympathetic look, "I know she and Peter - a friend of mine and Remy's - still keep in contact. He probably has her number or email, if you'd want to talk to her. She could help you understand your g-ability and give you tips on how to stay safe."

She still felt weak, but Peter had taught her to keep her mind going even if her body wasn't always hers. So, information so far: August is a medium. Declan killed a man and doesn't seem upset by it. He's also spent time in a mental ward, believes in ghosts and August's gift without hesitation. He has silver eyes, which is hot and strange. The article about the murder said no body was recovered, just that there was enough blood to know someone had died. Declan can also smell the difference in sweat between a mentally healthy person and an insane person.

Mn. I'm going to get August to the Chantry, and I've already talked about members to Declan. Maybe I should see if he'll come along, too. Remy could at least tell if he's just a kind of strange and possibly mildly sociopathic person, or one of us freaks. She smiled at her appellation, and waited for August's reply.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This was absolutely insane. It was crazy and bizarre and unbelievable and unreal – and she wasn’t going to fight it. It wasn’t because it would keep Declan here, or because her friends were suggesting it. It was because she was simply desperate. She needed something to help her, and if that something was talking to another crazy person talk about how she handled the insanity around her, then August would do it. And on a purely selfish level, she was very happy to let her friends think she wasn’t crazy, even if she knew she was.

“Damn it.” Those two words held a world of defeat and unhappiness in them. The sag in her shoulders signaled that August was going to do as they’d requested. “Yeah, I’ll talk to her. But I am not moving to Texas.”

“We wouldn’t want you to,” Oneca assured her, smiling. “We want you here.”

August nodded, rubbing her face warily. “So, if I am haunted, what can she do over the phone? Or do you think that we’d need to take a road trip. I mean, I’d rather not go to Texas at all, if I could avoid it. It’s kinda life goal of mine.”

“I think the phone call is the first step,” Oneca said, nodding. “Once she’s talked to you, you should have a better idea. And I’d like you to meet some other people, people here in LA.”

August frowned. “Who?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Peter, for one." Her eyes flicked over to Declan, "Are you coming along, too? It's fine, I just like to give them a heads-up when I bring new people around."

At the groundskeeper's nod Oneca pushed herself up off the beanbag and shooed them both towards the door. "No time like the present, then. Um, August, you should probably drive. The directions are in the GPS under Peter Erastes."

August scrolled down to the name once they'd made it to the car; they were less than a mile away. Meanwhile, Oneca pulled out her cell and hit the autodial on 1.

She smiled when someone answered, a male voice. "It's me."

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"No, I'd totally forgot. Sorry, it's been a week. Yes, I'm still fine. I wanted to bring some friends over. My roommate's a medium and she's having problems; I though she could get Maddy's number from you and get some pointers on what to do."

"Yeah, I know. I want her meet everyone else, though. She's still in the "what-the-hell-am-I-crazy?' mode and I thought meeting some others like her could do some good."

"Remy cusses!"

"You're insufferable sometimes, you know that?" Oneca's smile had moved to an outright grin; she looked almost completely recovered from her episode inside. "Oh, and another friend is coming with us. He's helped August out recently - twice now - and I figured since he's already in the know that Remy could give him the tour and answer any questions he has while August makes her call."

"Actually, we're pulling up now. Meet you in the front foyer or the Yellow Room? Okay. See you in a minute."

Like most homes in the general Bel Air area, there was a large gate; this one was standing wide open and you could have probably fit two Hummers through it side-by-side. There was a short drive that ended in a circle around a simple fountain; the house extended almost uncomfortable far in both directions. Driving up felt more like coming to a resort than someone's home: there were even benches on the sides of the driveway. Oneca hurried August just park, and then similarly herded them inside, past the foyer and a half-dozen other opulently built and decorated rooms into a large, well, yellow room. It was obviously a living room; the shape was right, it was filled with very comfortable and expensive looking furniture arranged in one main socializing area and two small ones. Almost everything was one shade or another of yellow: the walls were a pale, nearly white yellow, the carpet was several shades darker, and the furniture meandered through the white to yellow spectrum in good taste and with appropriate accent pillows.

Occupying said furniture was a woman of Asian descent that August recognized, Yolanda. She was also a grad student and worked in the library; August mostly knew her from checking out materials at the library. Another woman and a man, both African-American and older-looking shared the couch with Yolanda; one of the matching chairs was filled by a sultry looking Caucasion woman. Off sitting in a loveseat in one of the other social spaces was a young Caucasion man with his head in book. Remy was already standing, along with another intense-looking man just behind him.

Remy grinned and pulled Oneca into a tight embrace before she could even begin introductions; August's turn came immediately after with a whispered, "It'll be okay." Declan was given the one-then-two-handed handshake; the sensitive vargr could feel a slight jump from the man when they first touched, but he was still genuinely smiling when he let go. Oneca shot Remy a dirty look, at which the man just shrugged unapologetically, and then she began the introductions.

"Everybody, this is August and Declan. Guys, these are Remy, - also known as scamp and rapscallion, because he is - Peter, - this is his house - Yolanda, Dahna, Davon, Erica, and over there Alex is being antisocial." She pointed out the people, who nodded and made polite social noises (save for Alex, who just waved a hand and continued his reading).

Peter stepped forward and smiled at August, his accent thick but clear, "My dear, we are having a meeting and a social afterwards. Would you care to join us and then make your call to Madelaine, or would you prefer to call Madelaine immediately? These gifts, they can be burdensome when untamed."

Remy had kept his place by Declan and leaned over to ask quietly, "So, wanna look around? The place is huge and there's all sorts of neat stuff to play with." His look at the groundskeeper was almost pleading, "That and it'd get me out of the meeting. What d'ya say?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Sure, I guess." Dec looked over the strange assemblage, most of whom were looking him over in turn. The burly man looked out of place here amongst the luxury, and the raw elemental force of his presence was a jarring counterpoint to the smooth manners and cordial good-nature of his hosts. It wasn't just his silver eyes: it was the way he stood, the timbre of his voice, a dozen other tiny cues. This was a room of sensitives, of people who looked for and felt the uncanny in their everyday lives. The presence of the vargr was a lead weight on the rubber sheet of the room to such people, and they reacted differently, some with fascination, others with unease. The sensual woman in the armchair was staring at him through lowered eyelids as Remy offered to show him around. Dec looked at August. "You okay with that?"

"I'm fine." August smiled bravely, sticking close to Oneca. Dec's concern for her wellbeing was... heartening. And sobering too, remembering what he'd done to protect that wellbeing in the past.

"Indeed." Peter said gently. "You're among friends here, both of you."

"Alright." Dec shrugged, then nodded to Remy. "Gimme the grand tour while these guys have the meetin'. I'm guessin' it's secret stuff they don't want me to know, and that's cool by me."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Secret? More like boring stuff I'd rather not subject a guest to," Remy told him with a grin. Peter gave Remy a 'couple's glance', that magical communication that only couples could really manage. "Necessary stuff," Remy said with a good-natured smile, "but not for you."

Oneca borrowed Peter's phone and led August to a side room. A landline was there, and Oneca found Madeline's number for August. "Whenever you're ready," she said softly, handing it to her. "Do you want me to stay?"

"I... I don't know. No, I think," August confessed. "I think I'm going to feel weird and self-conscious with someone else here." She already felt weird and self-conscious, her expression tight with her discomfort.

"Alright." Oneca had done this before and understood, in a way, what August was going through. "I'll be right outside."

"Thanks," August murmured, smiling at her friend.

"You're welcome," Oneca answered and was gone.

August sat quietly for a while, staring at the phone. She drew a deep breath, picked up the receiver and dialed. There were a couple of rings; then a voice saying, "Hello?"

"Hi, my name is August, and I'm a friend of Oneca's." That seemed as good as any way to start. "Is this Madeline?"

"Yes, I am. Are you her roommate?" Madeline asked. She sounded kind, to August's ears; older and used to life. Her voice was solid and sure over the line.

"Oh, yeah. I'm that August." It made sense that Oneca would talk about her to her friends.

"What can I do for you?" The tone was warm and open, but it still took August a moment to talk.

"I... I've been seeing things. People who aren't there," August admitted. It was getting a little easier to say it each time, a little easier to confess, even if she still couldn't say 'ghost'.

It was really easy when other people would say it for you. "And Oneca thinks they're ghosts." Madeline's response wasn't a question.


"What do you think?" Madeline asked.

August thought of Tyla standing over her, touching her breastbone and promising that they'd soon be together. All the people she'd seen, and how hollow they looked. And yet saying 'yes' would make it all real. "I don't know," she said. She didn't know if what she saw was ghosts. She didn't want to believe.

But she'd seen a wolf with silver eyes. And Declan had said that was real. She'd seen Lucien float a sandwich. His words rang in her mind, too: "And your not accepting that is why you're losing your mind."

"Fair enough. I was there once too." There was a beat, then Madeline said, "You're having trouble controlling it?"

"I don't control it, it just happens," August answered, looking tired. She sounded tired too, and Madeline seemed to catch that.

"Was there an accident or has this been with you all your life?" There was sympathy in the woman's voice, even over the phone.

"All my life, though I managed to turn it off when I was eleven." August felt her stomach tighten as she remembered those awful days - seeing Tyla still, her sister following her around all the time. And then there was seeing her father - twisted and rent by his trauma, weeping constantly. That's what had driven her to get rid of it, more than the other scary things she'd seen.

"Before you turned it off, what was it like?"

"It wasn't that strong until my sister died," August confessed. "I saw things, but not very well. It was easy to ignore them. And after she died, I saw her everywhere. My father too, for a while, until he disappeared."

"I see. Did they die at the same time? And I had to say this so bluntly, but violently I assume?" Madeline's voice was hard but not unkind.

"My father killed Tyla, then he was killed by a wolf," August said. Despite her attempt to be casual, her voice shivered with emotions.

"I'm sorry," Madeline said sincerely.

"Thank you, but I really need to know how to get rid of this," August replied, hardening her voice. Her fingers tightened around the phone. "That's really why I'm calling. I need to get this under control."

"You are what sounds like a natural medium, August." Madeline's voice had shifted to something more business-like. "For you, there are few options for getting control. You're open to the spirit world, all the time. You're going to see ghosts, all the time. If you really want it gone, my recommendation is to find a witch-doctor and get them to cut off that connection."

"That can be done?" August asked, feeling a spurt of hope.

"Before you run off and do it, there are a few things you need to know. First, you are a medium August, it's a part of you. You'd be mystically cutting a part of yourself off from you," Madeline said. "I don't think I need to say it, but I will: this is a bad thing. Also, some mystics are not good people. They may ask for something that seems relatively harmless but isn't. They can really mess you up. You need to be careful and do a lot of checking into a mystic. More than you would for a doctor, because they're licensed and regulated. A mystic isn't."

"I used drugs and therapy to make this go away once," August said, feeling sick at what Madeline was saying. This woman was crazy and this was a waste of August's time. It was only the memory of Tyla, a floating sandwich and the silver eyes in a wolfen face that kept her on the phone - those kernels of memory that created tiny doubts, slowly growing.

"You might be able to do that again," Madeline conceded. "The human will is strong, and you've done it once. But whatever you did before that veiled your sight has been ripped away. It's like a broken bone - it's not going to heal the same way. And children have a much easier time rewriting the paradigms of their world. I doubt it'll be as easy this time.

"But your best bet is to accept it, August. It seems hard to do, I know," Madeline continued. "The ghosts will figure out you're a medium, and they do talk to one another, in their own inhuman ways. I'd get used to them coming around, because they will in greater numbers. There are things you can do for yourself, to create safe spaces. Ghosts don't do well around lots of people, so gatherings, particularly in the daylight are helpful to go to for some relief. Avoid older places, places that feel wrong, or places where people have died violently. It's the medium's equivalent of not walking down dark alleys. You have to remain aware of where you're going and what you're doing." August, feeling a little overwhelmed, didn't reply immediately. "Have I lost you?"

"Just... trying to absorb it all," August sighed.

Madeline chuckled. "It's a lot, I know. Look, go off and think if you need to. Call me anytime you need to talk."

"I will, thank you," August said and hung up after exchanging farewells. She sat in silence for a moment, then programmed Madeline's number into her phone. Rising, she left the room, smiling when she saw Oneca camped outside.

"Did it help?" Oneca asked eagerly.

"I dunno yet," August confessed, handing Peter's phone back to Oneca. "I've got a lot to think about."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ebullient young man stepped up to the older gentlemen and kissed him, quickly but ardently. "Enjoy your meeting; I've got a tour to give."

Peter rolled his eyes, but waved the two of them off with a polite, "We shall see you in a bit, then. Declan, I do hope you will stay for the social; we're barbecuing."

Remy pulled him out of the living room before he could replay, beginning a whirlwind tour of the house. With over thirty bedrooms and even more bathrooms, two more living rooms, an industrial-sized main kitchen and several smaller 'personal' kitchens, multiple dining rooms, three libraries (one larger, two much smaller), and rooms left with no specific use, the building wasn't a house so much as a compound or very expensive co-housing community. And there were the people. The only place that ever felt crowded was one of the other living rooms where a gaggle of kids were playing some multiplayer video game; everywhere else it was simply that there always seemed to be at least one or two people nearby.

Once they'd traced a path through the public rooms Remy took them outside, passed the pool currently being used as a tanning bed by three mid-teen girls, through the immaculately landscaped lawn, and down into the sunken tennis court. Here there were no sounds of the numerous people they'd been around; the tall shrubs on the outside of the fencing cut off the view as well. Remy strode over to the tennis netting and leaned against it carelessly, looking Declan over with a speculative expression.

"So, August sees dead people. What's your deal?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Declan had stayed more-or-less quiet through the tour. It was a damned impressive place, that was for sure. It put him in mind of a self-contained cultist compound, like Waco or something, only the vibe here was different to what he expected a bunch of religious loonies to feel like. It felt like a safe haven, a place of solace from the world beyond. It was similar to (though not exactly the same as) the feeling he got when running free up in the forested hills or down in the Sonoma Valley. And Remy was cool, for a swish. Unpretentious and chatty, he didn't seem to mind that Declan wasn't as talkative. Not that Dec had been maintaining sullen silence or anything - it was just his way to take in new surroundings quietly. This wasn't his place, and though he felt welcome he didn't feel totally comfortable as he would, say, on the campus or in his own house.

And all the way through the tour, along with the friendly good natured chatter, he'd gotten a sense that Remy was casing him. Not sexually so much as curiously, as though he were trying to determine something about the athletic groundskeeper that he couldn't put his finger on. And so, when he'd leaned against the netting and casually asked his question, Dec hadn't been completely taken by surprise.

"My deal?" he said, squinting quizzically. Remy shook his head and chuckled.

"Come on. Okay, cards on the table, then. In case you hadn't figured it out, most of the people in that room have 'talents'. Like August does. Mine is telling when someone's not altogether normal." Remy said with an easy smile. "And when I shook your hand, it was like touching a live wire."

Declan frowned, his head lowering on his shoulders as he stared at Remy. The sunlight flickered in his silver eyes, and the young man became aware of just how isolated the tennis court was. Why that occured to him, he wasn't entirely sure. But there was a sense of undirected menace about the big man now - not hostile, but wary and ready to take action. He hastily raised his hands, palms outward.

"It's okay." he said softly, keeping his voice calm though something about Declan suddenly made him very, very nervous. It was the stillness in his body language, Remy decided. A people-person, he was skilled at reading shifts in posture, the fidgeting and eye movements that were tells. Declan was looking right at him, and was perfectly still, statue-like. It wasn't a human way to stand - not at all. He shoved that aside and concentrated on reading the larger man. "You're a friend of August, and Oneca too. That makes you my friend, Declan. Whatever it is, whatever you decide to tell or not tell, that's your business. I was just curious."

Mercifully, his words had the desired effect. Declan relaxed somewhat, shifting his feet as his head came up and, hesitantly, he smiled.

"Sorry." Dec said, then rubbed the back of his neck as he relaxed. Remy got a sense of hackles being lowered, and wondered the hell why that image occured to him. "You kinda took me by surprise there." He glanced around the tennis court, then looked up at the sky overhead, then back at Remy with a lopsided smile. "I'm... complicated. But I'm no medium. I'm more of a large." he grinned at the old joke. "No hard feelings?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Remy shook his head, "No hard feelings. I end the tour here so if there's a reason to talk, it's private. Everyone here, everyone involved with the Chantry, has a story. And usually at least a secret or two. We're about making a home for all of us, making safe places and learning what we can, but we respect each other's privacy."

Remy motioned towards the door in the fence and followed Declan out, angling them back towards the main house. "So, any questions? You may get at 'can't say' on some things, but you can ask anything that comes to mind."


The meeting seemed to still be going on in the Yellow room, but it felt like it was winding down. More people were drifting through from farther down the house, headed for a huge circular balcony that was off the other end of the main entrance hall and was larger than August and Oneca's rooms put together. Several grills had been set up, along with tables and the accouterments of a gigantic picnic. The balcony had staircases on either side that descended to the massive lawn where several teenagers were already playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Oneca linked her arm with August's, "Well, we're about to have dinner. If you're up for talking with me, or just want to get away to somewhere quieter, we could grab some plates and go wander into one of the gardens or out into the wilds." She smiled at the confused look on her roommate's face, "The property has four acres of land. There's a section that Peter's just left to go back to whatever's natural for the area. One of the kids nicknamed it the wilds; they go camping out there sometimes when they can't do the real thing."

"So, what'll it be? Socialize with the strange and strangely inclined or go grab a bit of quiet?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Declan nodded thoughtfully as he waited for Remy to exit the court behind him, then fell in alongside the other man as they wandered in the general direction of the house. He kind of liked the idea as Remy sold it - a place for the outsiders, for the people with gifts. It was a logical idea to his way of thinking - all of these people knew what it was to be strange, so banded together as a kind of pack. They all seemed pretty individualistic, not like a cult sort of thing at all. Yeah, he could dig the sentiment, but a place for humans with psychic powers or what have you was not the same as a place for a predator. They could well be (and seemed to be) decent people, kind without being cloying or preachy. But they were human, and when all was said and done he was not. All the respect for privacy in the world wouldn't allow him to fit in here without something slipping, and once that happens the wolf would be out of the bag and he'd get to see how tolerant these folks really were. It'd be silver bullets and bottle rockets in about ten minutes he thought to himself, wryly. Still, it'd be a cool place to visit.

"That Pete guy funds all this, huh? What do you guys do, exactly? All I gathered is that you're all special, and not in the short bus kinda way." he said as they walked past the pool. "Do you study your, uh, gifts I suppose you'd call 'em?" The three teenage girls looked up as he and Remy passed, and waited until they were safely out of earshot before commenting. Safely out of human earshot, that is.

"So do we have a new guy?"

"I hope we do. Did you see those arms?"

"Arms? I was too busy checking out his-" Whatever she'd been checking out was lost as the two men walked around to the rear lawn, where the sounds of Ultimate Frisbee and people chattering. Besides, Declan was mostly concentrating on what Remy was telling him about the Chantry. Mostly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“I need quiet,” August said softly, her eyes downcast. “I need to think. This is all way too much information for me. It wasn’t like Madeline was that helpful. She mostly told me I’m screwed. That I could stop all of this, but it was mystically like cutting off a hand.

“The thing is… everyone’s acting like this is real, Oneca,” August sighed. “I mean, I get that people believe in this stuff, but it’s a long way from believing in it and letting it ruin your life. I know you guys believe in this stuff. I don’t begrudge you that belief. I just need this to go away. It did once and I got to be normal. I want it be normal again. And everyone except my therapist is telling me that this is the new normal. I’m just not convinced yet, Oneca. The real world is still there. It’s still bills and fuckers who tie me to crypts and school… it’s not ghosts and giant fucking… things in the graveyard.”

“Things?” Oneca looked concerned.

August sighed and twisted the truth slightly. “After I was rescued, I saw things… and they chased me all the way out. It was almost worse than the guy.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Remy shrugged and shook his head, "We're not all special, at least, not in the weirdness meter. Some people are just researchers that were willing to take a leap of faith, or families caught up in the supernatural by personal entanglements or being the bystander in some sort of supernatural crossfire. That happens more than I think anyone really wants to admit. The ones that find us find someone they can talk to. We've actually been able to save a few shattered homes, but usually what we get is what's left behind after all the damage is done. That's...eh, that's dark talk, for another time maybe."

They took the stairs up two at a time and back down a few minutes later with plates overflowing with classic picnic fares of burgers, chips, dip, and a half dozen other dibs and dabs of food. "C'mon, let me introduce you around. No one else is like me, so you can say or not as you want. People that have been here a while won't pry, and I'll keep the newbies from being too curious." He grinned up at the tall, muscular "man". "Besides, I'll get clobbered by the girls if I keep you to myself much longer. And they hit."

True to his word, Declan found himself and his tour guide being ringed by curious young women just a step out of polite social range as they made their way down to the lawn. Remy paused once they were away from the steps, then bowed theatrically and motioned to the groundskeeper. "His name is Declan, and lest I lose a limb, he's all yours, ladies."


Oneca frowned and bit her lip. "We believe in it because it is real, and it's not going to just wander off, August." She took her friend by the arm and steered the two of them through a maze of halls and up to one of the second floor master suite bathrooms; the bathroom itself was larger than the dorm room August had initially been assigned to a UCLA. Oneca turned on the water for the sink and then pulled out several kleenexes from a holder on the counter. She balled them up and then laid the ball gently on the palm of her left hand. Her eyes never left August's.

"We all have our oddities, Auggie. Sometimes it's just a little more than odd." The kleenexes in her hand suddenly burst into flames, all of them together as if they'd been doused in kerosene and, well, lit by something.

August let out a startled yelp and jumped back; Oneca never moved. The kleenexes stayed in her palm for an impossibly long couple of seconds before the largest remnant lifted itself off her hand and slowly made its way to the running water. There was a hiss from the water and Oneca closed her hand over the last few embers of the paper-thin cloth. She then opened her palm, which should have been red and blistered from the fire and the embers and was instead as perfectly smooth and soft as it had been before the insanity had started.

"You're not the only one."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I doubt that." one woman smiled at Remy. "I haven't been good enough in any of my past lives." Laughter followed her comment, and then the two men were clustered with girls, Dec raising a plaintive eyebrow at Remy as female arms linked with both of his and drew him along to a bench table. It was not unlike being thrown to the wolves, except the mauling was more gentle.

"Come along." the first speaker told him with a playful grin. "We don't bite."

"She lies." Remy said, being similarly towed along. "They do bite. I still have scars."

"Okay, some of us bite. But only a little." she said, then stuck her tongue out at Remy. "I'm Julia." she told Declan, her hand warm on his arm. The other women likewise introduced themselves in a babble of voices and scents, flirtatious looks and warm smiles.

"Stacy, hi." A shy, cute little wave.

"Lauren." A hand on his left shoulder. "You've got a lot of vital energy. I'll bet you've never been sick."

"Monique." A faintly accented alto by his right ear, sounding vaguely French.

"Ignore her, it's Monica, and she's from the Valley. And I'm Nadia." A more normal voice and a pair of laughing brown eyes, and a small hand on his right arm squeezed slightly. "God, what do you feed these things?"

"Uh... meat, usually." Declan managed brilliantly. Remy tried not to laugh at the way the larger man's silver eyes darted around, trying not to miss anything.

"Odette. I've seen you at the college, running." Dark eyes and a sly smile on full lips. "We should work out sometime."

"Not your type, Odette. She's a vegan." Stacy told Declan with a grin as they all sat down.

"Only when it comes to food." Odette laughed wickedly.

"Ladies, please." Remy scolded. "It's not nearly late enough in the day for that. Wait at least..." he pantomimed looking at his watch. "Another hour. And let go of his arms. The man's got to eat."

"We could feed him. And you." Nadia giggled.

"Thanks, but I like to feed myself." Declan grinned a little at the mock-pouts of disappointment and laughter as everyone got comfortable.

"So what do you do?" Monique/Monica asked, having abandoned the accent.


"He was a soldier." Lauren said. "You've had a violent life, and it clings to you. Defines you even as you define it." she told Declan, her eyes wide. Some of the others shifted and exchanged glances.

"Lauren, honey." Remy said. "No prying. We've talked about this before." Declan had frozen halfway through biting into a chicken leg.

"I wasn't!" she protested, then turned her gaze back on Declan. "I'm sorry. Sometimes I get really strong hits off people. I didn't mean to pry." Dec chewed and swallowed.

"Don't worry about it." he told her with a smile. "I'm not here to be violent, though. Everyone can breathe. I'm just having some chicken and talkin' to some pretty girls."

"Oh, you're no threat to us. I didn't say that." Lauren said, relieved. "You're just... fierce. It's there in your aura."

"Well, I'm feelin' pretty unfierce right now." he replied, his smile warmer. "And yer right, I was a soldier. Now, though, I'm a gardener. And it's better."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“What the fuck!” August shrieked, throwing herself backwards until she bounced off the wall. “What the fuck?!

“August, calm down,” Oneca said, having predicted that she might react like this. It wasn’t an unusual response; the two most popular ones were fear/panic and wonder. Oneca had hoped it would be the latter but she was prepared for fear, too. This wasn’t the first time she’d dealt with someone freaking out on her.

“Calm down?! You just lit your hand on fire!” August’s fear turned ‘fire’ into a longer word, drawing it out. “And you floated that stuff in the air!” August hugged herself. “It was bad enough when Lucien did this!”

“Lucien?” Oneca asked, her eyebrows rising.

“He didn’t set it on fire but he made the sandwich float,” August said, her eyes wide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Ah. Interesting." Oneca's clipped reply was moderately annoyed. Lucien had been a friend for years. How had she missed him? How had Remy? Although Remy had said that people felt different at the party. Maybe something had happened, there or over the summer. "He's, uh, never floated a sandwich for me." She paused for a second to actually here what she'd said, then flushed and laughed. "I mean that literally."

"Look, Auggie, the world's full of weird. Good weird, bad weird, and just weird weird." She sighed. "I'm sorry if I'm freaking you out, but I thought you should know. All cards on the table, y'know? And Aradia doesn't know. Sat-Saja does, but it's best you don't tell that you do. You know how she is."

She made a gesture back towards the rest of the house, "This place, Peter's made it a refuge and network for those of us that are different, and people that have been....affected....by the weird in the world, enough to make them open-minded and aware of the weird. It's called the Dark Flame Chantry, when we bother to use a name. You're welcome to join us, or even just to know that you've always got an open door here."

She watched August, trying to gauge her level of freaked out at the moment. "And if you tell us sod off, we will. As a group. I still get dibs on watching out for you as a friend and roommate." She fidgeted with her fingers, feeling exposed at the moment. "That is, if my weird doesn't run you off....."


The group became food-quiet as the girls drifted to the grill and back again. There was more flirting and prodding, though the prodding was much more gentle than the flirting. Remy acted as a strange sort of chaperone, pulling the girls (and others that drifted over to say hi and check out the newcomer) back when they pushed for more about Declan's past or why he was at the house. For being, as far as the Vargr had been told, a collection of the slightly supernatural and the collateral damage of the way more supernatural, the picnic/grill out was surprisingly apple-pie American: there were games of ultimate frisbee and impromptu football going on out on the lawn proper, and clusters of women and girls gossiping along the stairs and on the sidelines. Declan himself was a point of attraction, with mixed reactions to his Wild nature; some seemed as put off or vaguely frightened as usual, while others were apparently blithely unaware of the vibe he naturally gave off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“No,” August said, her voice shaky. “I can’t leave – I can’t afford to live anywhere else.” It was an old pseudo-joke in the house. Anytime Oneca suggested she might not be able to handle Oneca’s weirdness, August pointed out that she didn’t really have a choice. It was one of those jokes that wasn’t really a joke but still got laughs. Usually.

“August, if this is too much for you, we can figure out the money,” Oneca told her seriously.

“No, seriously, even with Satan there, I like living with you and Aradia,” August said sincerely. She smiled at her. “This is fucking wigging me out, but honestly, I’m alright with you.” Oneca was her best friend, almost her only friend.

“Good.” Oneca tilted her head. “And keep what I said about the Chantry in mind, ok?”

August nodded. “I will. What the hell is up with the name anyway?”

Oneca turned bright red. “Uh… it’s a long story,” she hedged.

“That’s an interesting reaction,” August said with a big grin, sensing prime teasing material there.

“Peter named it after me,” Oneca said, “since ‘Oneca’ means flame.”

She looked so adorable as she blushed and fidgeted with her fingers that August laughed. “Alright, let’s go find Declan,” she said, putting an arm over Oneca’s shoulder. “I’m sure he’s wondering what’s become of us.” The two girls left the room, following the smell of food and the sound of voices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...