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World of Darkness: Attrition - The Fourth Test: Purity - Epilogue [Fin]


Sarah Dead-Wolf

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[15 Jun 2009, midnight]

Someone flipped a switch.

At least, that was how it felt to Sarah. She'd been wandering through misty dreams for what seemed an eternity, roaming first through nightmares, then into the strange dreamland hunt for Tipishkau-pishum, and then through endless nights where she very nearly felt as though she were one of the People, running as they do like the wind.

And then, it changed in a sudden realization of something she'd not felt for all that time: hunger.

Sarah wasn't one of those undead who liked to run the ragged edge of famine. She was always careful to keep herself well-fed, keeping the worst of her Beast in check by sating it in the sweet ruby nectar of stolen life. So she was unaccustomed to just how strong the hunger could truly be at moments such as this. While the possessed Swara-Ann had torn her body nearly to the point of final destruction, it was nothing that vitae could not repair... and indeed, had repaired during her slumber. But it had taken so very much, and so little was left....

With a gasp and bared fangs eager for that crimson elixir, Sarah awoke from her first torpor in near starvation. Her Beast flared hot and vicious as she rose from a bed that she only belatedly recognized as Lucien's, in his thankfully windowless bed chamber. A lack of any desire to sleep at all told her that the cursed day-star did not plague the sky above, and in efficient feral motions, she made for the door.

Five minutes later, she recovered from her frenzy at the stout barrier - locked from the outside - enough to remember the meaning of the small box on the wall. Mashing the button with a finger that ached for a claw, she breathed in raspy tones, "I'm awake and starving. Let me out!"

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"The door will open a few moments Sarah." Moments later Lucien's modulated speaker voice provided her hunger little comfort. "When the occupants of the house are someplace safe. The front door will be open. Use it. Return when you are sated. Please pardon the crudeness of the situation, but I can not allow my staff nor myself to be subjected to the uncontrollable thirst I know you must be feeling. I'd hate to see an 'accident'."

Ever planning one contingency or another the Warlock was true to his word and a short time later the door clicked and unlocked. The Frenzied Sarah was free to hunt and feed.

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The part of Sarah that still desperately clung to reason and her traces of emotion managed to tap the button once more, long enough to utter, "Thank you, love."

The part that was dominated by her thirst heard the click of the latch, and was out the door in the blink of an eye.

Lucien's magnificent home was on the edges of UCLA. This wasn't her hunting ground; it was, in fact, pack territory of her small handful of lupine allies. She wasn't supposed to hunt there. The Beast cared for none of this, it knew its need, and wasn't about to give a damn for the markings of some breathing predator.

In her human seeming, Sarah-as-Beast stalked the campus.

Finding a meal didn't take long. Even in mid-summer, there were classes; while the student population was diminished, it was far from vanished, and a group of co-eds giggled their way along the walk from the tennis courts. Most headed west, toward the De Neve commons and the cluster of dormatories there, but one lone sheep broke from the herd, walking across the grass to the north toward the darkened expanse of Marshall Field.

Lone sheep do not fare well against wolves.

The Beast was cunning; it held to the shadows, motionless, listening to the footsteps of the girl, watching her long, confident stride, smelling even from here the faint scent of blood coursing through her veins. It waited oh so carefully, oh so patiently, for the girl to pass by... and then slipped into step behind her, matching pace for pace but with longer steps.

Fangs at the ready and aching for the promise of ruby life, Sarah broke into a sprint when she was less than five yards behind the poor co-ed. The girl had just enough time to turn - and not enough to scream - before she was down on the ground and sharp points of terror and ecstasy drove through skin and into her jugular.

As blood began to flow down her dead, parched throat, Sarah struggled to regain control. It was one thing to hunt here in territory not her own; it would be a far worse thing to kill here.

The Beast shrugged off her initial effort. This mortal in her hands, connected to her by the most intimate bond a vampire could achieve, simply tasted too good. The girl moaned in bliss under the Kiss, unaware that her life was gradually draining away.

Again, Sarah tried... and this time - barely - she regained a measure of control. The girl had now grown a shade more pale in the moonlight, and the Dead-Wolf knew that this had to stop now. Carefully sealing the wound, and with lack of any better option, Sarah kissed the student full of the lips - hoping to seal the memory as a sexual encounter rather than one of prey encountering predator - and dashed off as fast and far from UCLA as her legs would carry her.

Click to reveal..
Sarah needs two successes to get control again from the hunger frenzy.

(19:35:20) ChatBot: (Sarah_Dead-Wolf) logs into the Chat.

(19:35:37) (Sarah_Dead-Wolf): Resolve+Composure:

(19:35:42) ChatBot: (Sarah_Dead-Wolf) rolls 5d10 and gets 10,2,7,7,7.

(19:35:50) ChatBot: (Sarah_Dead-Wolf) rolls 1d10 and gets 1.

(19:37:30) (Sarah_Dead-Wolf): Second test:

(19:37:39) ChatBot: (Sarah_Dead-Wolf) rolls 5d10 and gets 1,3,4,9,1.

(19:37:45) (Sarah_Dead-Wolf): Woot!

Sarah broke the frenzy after taking three blood from the student.

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Well away from the campus, and back in control of herself, a still-hungry Sarah stole through more familiar and safe ground. The Red Dragon had closed over an hour earlier, which ruled out her usual methods. Just as well, she knew; with her blood so low, one wrong move could put her back in the grips of frenzy.

That said, there had been sign - before her world had become absorbed with Swara-Ann - of a pack of strays in the area. If that still held out, some quiet hunting in the wee dark hours was still possible.

Sure enough, fresh signs were found: mostly in tipped over garbage cans, the contents strewn about on the surrounding patches of carefully groomed lawn. This was four-legged work, Sarah realized, and used a precious bit of her thin reserves to shift to wolf form.

The world came alive in scents that were as clear as a symphony concert, as bright as an illuminated map. Following the traces, Sarah took off onto the heels of the rogue canine pack.

An hour of careful tracking and loping runs later, and there they were: making along the southern edge of Holmby Park as if they owned the place. A quick sniff at a tree confirmed that they did believe it theirs; another showed that Sarah's own bloody marks had faded during the weeks indisposed. I'll have to get that fixed soon, she rued... and closed on the pack, her own scent all but absent and blown away from them as she came in from the east.

The first, a Lab-Shepherd mix, never knew what hit it. One second it had been merrily bringing up the rear of the pack, the next some huge dog - no, not dog - was at its throat, teeth sunk deep. A quick shake, and the stray fell still. The other dogs turned to see a nightmare, as the wolf tore into their fallen omega and started lapping up its blood like water from a puddle.

The pack froze for a critical moment, overwhelmed by the pure predatory feel from this thing that held no live scent. Then the big alpha, a St. Bernard with scars across its snout, let out a growl of challenge, tail held in firm threat.

With a wolfy grin, Sarah looked up from her meal into the dog's eyes, and in a single howl made clear that this was her ground, and that they could leave or die.

There was something behind that howl, something that brought fear into the heart of even the oldest of the pack of strays. One by one, they turned and ran for the shelter of the suburban jungle, the St. Bernard being the last to finally break and run. Left to her own, Sarah was able to finish her meal, the cravings of the Beast sated - for now - at long last.

Burying the dead dog was a time consuming job, but a necessary one. Dead mauled dogs found in parks raised questions... and anyway, Sarah had no desire to disregard the life offering of one of the many creatures under Luna's gaze.

It was past three in the morning when Sarah - fed, flushed and in considerably better spirits than she had been before - pushed the intercom at Lucien's front door. "Lucien hon, I'm safe now. Mind if I come in?"

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"I'm in the basement." The intercom replied. "By all means, the door is unlocked."

The vampire was learning her way around Lucien's home rather well and made the short trip to the basement which had enough square footage to be called a second home. After descending the stairs the familiar scent of Swara-Ann filled her keen senses, making her aware the woman was about, somewhere. Lucien sat in a couch, leaning forward towards a coffee table that was covered with several books and notebooks. As Sarah approached he looked up from tapping a pen on his lower lip and smiled. "How was dinner?" He asked. "Feeling better?"

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"Dinner was... well, yeah." Sarah wasn't terribly fond of going into the details of her dietary habits with her boyfriend, despite - or perhaps because - of his own experiences with such.

Taking a seat on the edge of a sofa cushion in her usual ready-to-spring-at-first-notice fashion, the Dead-Wolf looked over to Lucien, an odd look playing across her features. Apparently coming to some form of internal conclusion, she finally spoke again.

"In the torpor, I had a lot of dreams. Some of them were about the gang - you, Amber, Ariel, the whole bunch really. But in one of them, you came and told me that you knew it was a dream, and we went and fought together to save Swara-Ann."

Another few sniffs confirmed the previously noticed scent, and provided an intentional visual cue for her lover. "I smell her here, so... was that real? Is she really OK now?"

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"More or less, yes Sarah," The Mastigos glanced back and forth from his text books to her, trying to politely divide his attention as he finished up a section of his studies. "She'll live, of hat you can be sure. We've kept her sedated while her body recovers from malnourishment and I must say, the Werewolf physiology is nothing short of stunning. No human could have survived what she did, it'd be impossible, and coming from someone who manipulates reality like play-doh that's a high compliment."

He stretched his neck a bit popping it from side to side to work out a kink. "A few hours a night of dream therapy to help calm her mind has seemed to be working, and Ariel and Amber have stopped by several times to make sure she's okay. As for your dream, yes it was real. I pulled you from your torpor into Swara-Ann's dreamscape. The battle, the threat, the victory... all real."

He locked his eyes to hers and his expression became as serious as a heart attack. "We saved her Sarah, but, the bad news is... I don't think she'll ever change again."

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"You don't think she'll..." Sarah repeated the words, her brow knitting with concern. "She... she lost the ability to change? But that... that's core to the People, an innate part of what they are. If she can't change...."

The Dead-Wolf considered the situation. If Swara-Ann really was stripped of her birthright, what was left for her among the Uratha? Would she - could she - ever be accepted among them?

No more or less than yourself. The words came from somewhere deep inside, and Sarah realized that in a way, they were in the same boat. Both were of the People and yet not, caught between worlds.

And if so, then maybe, just maybe....

"Lucien, how close to up and about is she? I... I have an idea. It's not a particularly good idea, but...."

She looked around, almost as if fearing others listening in. Apparently reassured, she went on.

"The Topangas are testing me to see if I'm worthy of helping me find my way on something, something that will bring me as close to the Uratha as I can hope to be for what I am." She glanced off to the side for a moment; while she had no idea where the stricken girl was, it was obviously a gesture in her direction.

"What if they can help her find the gift again? They have very strong ties with the spirits and a long history here; maybe they can help her."

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"It's worth a try Sarah." Lucien stood up and tok a second to let his equalibrium set in; he'd been sitting too long. "She's healthy, just sedated. She's in the storeroom, I converted it into a guest room for her."

He pointed off to Sarah's right to a door which explained how her scent was so close. "Go on in."

He followed a few steps behind her, letting Sarah open the door and enter without him right there on her shoulder. This was her victory, this was a life she saved; a victory for the preservation of The People. This moment was hers. "She's fine," His voice was a calming whisper. "Human willpower is an amazing thing, Sarah. Everything she needs to change is right there within her, but I can not find any of it, she blocks every attempt I make to help her accept her heritige. I admit, I'm not Uratha," his translation of the First Tongue was horribly inaccurate, but about as close as any human could get. "Perhaps they can help her where we could not."

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Sarah nodded, looking through the opened doorway even as she whispered back. "I'm not Uratha either, but at least maybe I can get her to someone who can help."

Stepping in, the vampire stepped lightly over to the side of a bed in the converted storeroom. There was no mistaking the scent here, or the thin girl that lay upon the mattress, a rare look of something resembling peace gracing the clean lines of her face.

"How long until she wakes up, hon? Or do you need to do something to wake her up?"

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"A few thing I need to do, yes." He slid around her and twisted the knob on the I.V. drip. "Like halt the sedatives for one." He smiled.

"Ros has some clothes for her over on the chair," He pointed to the chair in the corner that seemed to have gotten a lot of use recently. "If um, you could help her? I'll be waiting outside. She'll be groggy and hardly coherent for a couple of hours. I doubt she'll fuss but she'll be able to stumble on her own, just with a a lot of extra colors in her world."

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Nodding, Sarah moved toward a chair. If the girl was to wake with someone in the room, better that someone be sitting than standing. "No trouble, love. I'll give her a hand." A quick squeeze of his hand, cold fingers pressing against warm, and she was left alone in the room with one of the more unusual patients in L.A.

By and large, vampires do not sit in vigil beside hospital beds. Perhaps it is because of the inconvenience of daylight. Perhaps it is a general lack of compassion and the willingness to turn from better things to do in the night. Perhaps it is the dangerous lure of a visible pulse on a helpless mortal.

But then, Sarah wasn't the usual vampire. Her host knew her hours and limitations. A sense of duty held her to the bedside. And an oath taken years before meant that whatever Swara-Ann may be, she was not prey.

The first sign of waking was the sound of a deeper drawn breath. After that, everything moved along in short order: slight movements and shifting in the bed, followed by a yawn and fluttering eyelids, pupils going from full dilation to pinpoints at first until her eyes adjusted to the light.

"Swara?" Sarah had summoned up a reasonable semblance of a warm smile, fangs carefully tucked away. "Time to wake up, sleepy-head."

A groggy, "Whaa..?" was the best the poor thing could manage. For now, Sarah felt it best to play nurse - even if the nurse was clad in denim and seemed a bit pale in the fluorescent light. After a few tries, Swara-Ann was sitting up, and Sarah gave her a good deal of help in dressing. The inevitable questions arose - "Where am I?" "What happened?" - but Sarah by and large shunted them to the side, explaining that the girl had been hurt and that this was a private facility. The question of when was the hardest to wrangle with; Sarah really had no idea when the girl had stopped really being Swara and had more or less become the possessing ghost. For lack of a better option, she simply said, "mid-June," and went from there.

It took a while, but werewolves are amazingly resilient creatures, and Swara shrugged off the aftereffects of the drugs far faster than even Lucien could have guessed. Inside of an hour, she was alert, if still a tiny bit groggy, and Sarah was bringing her out into the main house after a brief intercom call to Lucien.

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Not long after they were all sitting in a limo and on their way up the mountain to visit the Topangas. Lucien knew there was a limit to how close he could get but Sarah carrying Swara-Ann through the streets of L.A. was probably not a good idea.

The dazed and confused (even more than usual) Swara-Ann silently stared out the window trying not to fall back asleep. The weight of her sins and her disassociation with Harmony had left an inner turmoil that that the two occupants with her couldn't begin to understand.

Within the hour the limo pulled up just outside Topanga territory, not that it mattered, the Topangas were arrogant enough to claim anything at any time 'thiers' if the mood struck them.

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Sarah called the limo to a stop where road became trail. A deep sigh later, she opened the door, and then Sarah led Swara-Ann from the limo and up the rugged path.

As they approached a very familiar tree, Sarah warned her companion. "No sudden moves, speak only when spoken to. These are Uratha who mean business. And don't freak out; I'm going to shift to call them."

Nothing more needed to be said as Sarah shifted to wolf form. Drawing a good lungful of the mountain air, she let out a howl of greeting in the tongue known to wolves and those who become them. That done, she became her human-like self once more, and waited.

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Something in the back of the young girls mind panicked as Sarah's form molded and shifted into that of her wolf form... from deep within she saw it again.

The Demon. The Devil Hound that tore children apart and feasted upon the flesh of the still living so it could delight in their anguish as it dined.

She saw all these things and more in Sarah's form as bone and tissue cracked and popped into something feral and demonic.

With a scream that would have won her praise from horror movie goers world wide she turned and bolted as fast as she could (which wasn't very fast considering her clumsy and half-groggy state).

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"Dammit!" Back on two feet, Sarah tore off after Swara-Ann, grabbing her by the arm and swinging the slightly-drugged girl around.

"It's OK! I'm not gonna hurt you, Swara-Ann! This is part of who I am, and part of who you are, too. It's not a bad thing. It's not like... not like what you had to deal with." With no better option available, she hugged the frightened girl tight, and made soft "Shhhh..." noises until the worst of the shakes were done.

Taking her firmly by both arms again, Sarah looked her square in the eyes. It wasn't easy; those scared orbs were more like a deer than a wolf, and it took a moment for them to settle on Sarah's.

"Look, hon. There's a lot of bad stuff out there, yes. And there's a lot of good stuff. I'm kinda in-between, but I'm trying, real hard, to be part of the good stuff. Not all shifters are bad; in fact, most of them aren't. You just got really unlucky, and had something incredibly bad use the hell outta you. These folks that we're meeting are gonna seem gruff and scary, and they might even change forms like I did. But they're honestly here to help you." I hope.

"So please, be brave. Don't let this freak you out. Close out the visions of demons and stuff that you've had, and stick with me here. It's the only way I can help you."

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Unable to break free from her undead grip Swara-Ann simply breathed heavily and let her heart rate excel to a point where 'The Wolf' should have out and rending Sarah to shreds out of sheer terror... but it never came. Silent and submissive the young woman was too afraid to talk.

"Way to go, O'Neally," Came feminine tones sarcasm from the shadows. "God, when they suck your blood away do they take your brain with it?"

Kestra stepped from the darkness, the raven haired beauty shot Sarah such an insulting look that Amber would have been impressed -right before throating her. The youngest of the Topanga Pack and by far the most unruly of the lot. Her emerald eye glimmered in the moonlight as she looked to Swara-Ann. "I've been sent for the girl. Shiva wants to see you, alone." She pointed off down the trail. "He's up on the ridge being all Buddhist..."

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"You're just all kinds of funny, Kestra," Sarah managed. "Nice to see that you got at least a bit role in all this."

It wasn't much, but it hit where Sarah knew it would hurt. If the Topangas formally designated an Omega, the odds were heavily in Kestra's favor.

"That said, be careful with her, 'k? She's been through worlds of shit that you wouldn't even begin to understand." Done talking to the bitch, Sarah turned back to Swara-Ann. "Hon, s'ok. Kestra here might not be the nicest person on the planet, but she and her... friends are going to help you out." The vampire tried for a reassuring smile; whether or not she pulled it off was impossible for her to tell.

Handing the girl - literally - over to Kestra, Sarah climbed the ridge trail to go face the music.

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"Whatever." Kestra rolled her eyes and scoffed. Sarah was already well on her way when a stiff arm knocked Swara-Ann to the bed of leaves that covered the forest's ground. "Hurry up already, dumb bitch or we'll fucking cook you..."

Swara-Ann struggled to get back to her feet when Sarah's words stung a bit too deep into Kestra's ears and the young blonde found a dalu-reinforced kick to her mid section less than pleasant, were there anything in her stomach she would have vomited it up. Since Sarah wasn't around she took her aggression out on poor Swara-Ann.

Rolling her eyes she just grabbed Swara-Ann by the ankle and drug the nearly unconscious girl down the trail. "I swear O'Neally, one of these days I'm going to fucking gut you." Kestra growled through clenched teeth

Elsewhere...

The ridge overlooked a beautiful ocean and even at night it captured Sarah's heart and reminded of the beauty of the world she was a part of.

The Uratha known as Shiva sat quietly wearing his hishu form. His long, black hair danced carefree in the gentle evening breeze. "Please," he said softly, extending a hand to his left. "Join me."

Click to reveal..
Sarah was not around for and did not witness any of Kestra's antics. No senses, blood magic, real magic, or Cruac Rituals will change that. So nyah! wink
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The beauty of the sea shining under the moon and stars would have caught Sarah's breath, had she still breath to catch. As it was, it fought a touch battle with the werewolf for her attention.

Finally, with a polite half-bow, the Dead-Wolf stepped carefully over and seated herself cross-legged beside Shiva. Out of some reflex, some remnant of the dream that was far to real to be only a dream, she set her right hand palm down on the ground. There was no telling if the Uratha could see the mark - or if it was even really there - but she didn't really want to have to explain if he did and took umbrage to it.

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Sarah tried to keep it short and to the point.

"The girl, Swara-Ann, who is now in the hands of Kestra. She'd been possessed by a ghost called Tipishkau-pishum. We've rid her of the ghost, but she has locked away the Uratha part of herself. She will need help to find it again, and I hope that your pack might know the way."

There was a tiny pause before she added, "I could not kill her without trying to save her first."

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Siva looked out over the waves his voice a calm melodic thing that seemed almost born from the earth itself. "I knew what plagued the girl, though I knew not whom. Oft times we are given very little to work with and must come to trust our instincts. Had you done what I asked: find her, and destroy her. You'd have been in error for you'd have followed my request in the literal sense only."

He closed his eyes and she saw the hint of a smile. "What she was, is not what she is now. You've shown those who worked with you that one must look beyond the obvious and trust in their hearts if they are to find the truth. A true adherent of Purity leads by example, striving to show by word and deed the proper path for his fellows to follow, for Harmony is a path we must all walk in our way."

"You have completed my test, and I acknowledge your success." He bowed his head politely.

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"Thank you," Sarah managed to reply softly, somewhat thankful that the words actually did come out softly and not as a mere squeak.

She didn't want to press her luck. She wanted to spring up and dash down the trail as fast as possible. Instead, something within her brought more words to her lips.

"I'm glad for the lesson, Shiva. It's a good one. And it gives me hope."

With that, she slowly stood, and with another small bow, backed away respectfully before turning to follow the trail home.

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