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World of Darkness: Attrition - Darkness Without, Darkness Within

z-August Turner

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Gulver's Gulch was quiet, the empty buildings and half-overgrown shrubs attesting to the long neglect of this tiny town. The silence was complete, broken only by the life forms that had made lives here. Suddenly, they all froze, ears twitching. Something wicked this way came.

The SUV crunched into the de facto parking spot in front of the main street into town and grumbled to a stop, kicking up dust and a burst of activity from terrified small animals. As the last rabbit disappeared into the brush again, the door opened and a man got out. He was tall and blond, with a perfect physique. He glanced around the area, peering at the sunlit ghost town through sunglasses. After a long moment, he announced, "Yeah, this is perfect. Come on, let's unload."

August nodded in silent agreement. The place was creepy, and she could only imagine how much worse it would get at night. The hair on her arms was already standing up straight. She glanced at Cal and found him watching her. "How's your ghost-dar going?" he asked.

August restrained a grimace. She never should have told him about the eerie feeling she always got just as paranormal activity picked up. The ghost-dar jokes had started immediately. Then, it had stopped being funny and had become part of the job. She shifted a little on her feet, her comfortable hiking boots smashing half-dried weeds as she moved. "Yeah," she finally admitted. "It's ringing, loud and clear."

"Excellent," Cal said, a big smile lighting up his face. "Marty, let's get set up and get going."

"Right," Marty said, not pointing out that he'd already started unloading while they had been talking.

"I want some daylight exposition shots - August, you film me while Marty gets the gear ready, and then we'll practice some exposition with you, ok?"

Practice my ass, August grumped to herself as she nodded and got out her favorite camera to use. She was just as good at establishing mood and history as Cal was, but he was an ego manic who didn't think that anyone was half as good as he was at anything. But he was the boss; it was his show and he called the shots on-set. He pushed his glasses up into his hair, then used the windshield on the vehicle for a final appearance check, giving her a thumbs up when he was ready. Lifting the camera, August focused on him and did a quick finger count for him so he could have a clean start.

"In 1880, a small town was established during the gold rush. It was named Gulver's Gulch, and for a while, it thrived, thanks to a small vein of gold. Then all news and contact from the town stopped. A neighboring town set some people to see why - and found a massacre. Men, women, children - it didn't matter. Everyone was killed. To this day, no one knows why, who or what-" He stopped. "That wasn't right. Did that sound right?"

August shook her head. "Try... 'no one knows why they were attacked, or by who - or what.' That work?"

"Sure does," Cal said, flipping her a wide grin. "Let's start again. In 1880..."


"Everyone ready?" Cal asked. Marty and August nodded. "Everyone have your cell phones charged? If something happens to you, it's the only way we can find you." Marty and August were already nodding; they'd checked the phones. It was standard operating procedure, but it made Cal feel good to double check and nag them. "Ok, August, you'll be in the saloon. Marty and I will go to the church where they made their last stand and try to get something there, then come back to you later, ok? You be alright alone?"

"Yeah, Cal, I'll be fine," August said, smiling. "I have my phone, and we're in the middle of nowhere. I'm good."

"Awesome." He grinned, his excitement becoming infectious. "Cameras on." He waited until Marty and August were taping before saying, "Ok, August is going to go to the saloon to try to connect to the women who were killed there. Or maybe their patrons would be interested in talking with her. Marty and I will be going to the church were most of the killing occurred."

August was already walking away, and Cal's voice faded into the background. She taped as she walked, keeping half an eye on her path before her. She didn't turn the light on the camera on; you used the night mode unless you absolutely had to see something in the light. The darkness out here was complete, and the young woman shivered as the chill of the night started to set in. Cursing Cal's insistence that she wear shorts as much as possible, she angled toward the saloon.

Stopping in front of the building, she taped all the windows and openings, then said, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is August, and I'd like to make contact with you. Do you see the red light on my camera? That means it's on, and recording. If you'd like to say or do something for me, I'd be very appreciative."

The temperature plummeted and August bit back a whine of fear. This was so bad. Why did she do this?

Fame and fortune. That's why she did it. Shivering, she entered the rotting saloon and was swallowed by the darkness.

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The hills to the east of the ramshackle ghost town were likewise swallowed in darkness, the pines casting long shadows over the ground as the last rays of the sun slipped away like the fingers of a dying man. In the growing darkness, a patch of something darker detached itself from the shadows of the scrub brush and glided over the ground. It moved quickly, furtively, and it's fear was as palpable as it was inhuman as it cast a glance back along its trail. The shape was about the size of a small pig, low to the ground and fast-moving, with the hint of red eye and gleaming fang showing through the shadows that clung to it as though a ragged garment. Those same red eyes focused on the town below, some sense beyond the earthly detecting possible salvation there, and without further pause the creature moved at a steady, fast scurry down the slope, conserving it's strength as much as possible.

All was quiet on the hill for a moment.

Then another shape loped into view. This one was larger, and cleaner-limbed than the first. The moving shadow resolved into a large dark wolf, broad-shouldered, thick-furred and deep-chested, it's eyes gleaming silver as the beast stalked to the overlook and regarded the abandoned dwellings below, sharp nose picking up the trail it sought with little difficulty.

Owns-The-Night growled, low and deep, the nearness of his prey and the scent of it's fear spurring him on. He had followed the spider-spirit all the way from the UCLA campus, driving it before him. The azlu was not in the same class as the queen that had nearly ended his life, nowhere near, but if left alone could readily become so in time. He had harried the spirit relentlessly all through the afternoon, driving it before him in a panic until, out here, the foe could be finally dragged down without witnesses.

The Rahu started down the hill at a fast trot, but paused for a second as more scents reached his nose. He growled again, this time in irritation. Humans? he thought to himself. What the fuck are humans doing out here? He realised that there weren't many different scents: a small group. Group of kids finding somewhere to drink and screw? he mused, then growled again as he remembered a blood-splashed graveyard where another group of kids had gone to 'just have some fun'.

Does. Not. Happen. he resolved as he started moving again, his pace more urgent, somewhere between a trot and a run. He would catch the spider-thing and rip the life from it before it could endanger the Herd any further. This ain't a fuckin' game of chase anymore.

The large wolf, almost the size of a St Bernard, loped down the hill, it's attitude one of deadly intent.

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The wolf would not give up. They were well out of its territory now, and the spirit knew that it was the old ancestral hatred now driving the beast onward. At this point, the spirit just wanted to get away and survive.

It paused as something filled its awareness. Despite the sounds of approach, the spider took a moment to identify what it was sensing. Hope blossomed, or something like hope - it sensed humanity, those adaptable, usable vessels of life. With renewed vigor, the azlu skittered down a steep hill and toward the closest life it sensed. The tumbled boards and debris offered no impediment to the talented crawler, and soon, it could hear its prey.

In the night mode on the camera, the details of the saloon could be seen. Tables and chairs were tumbled around, no one of them still in one piece. Scavengers had long picked over the better pieces, and some of them were just splinters. Rotten cloth and stuffing littered the floor, along with beer bottles, used condoms and even a needle.

August turned in a slow circle, calling out to the spirits and trying not to step on something that might go through her boots. "Can one of you talk to me? Rebecca deFlor, you were the madame here. Do you have something to say to me? Would you like to talk about who killed you? We can bring them to justice, finally tell your story - just speak into the microphone." She pause, then continued, "Does anyone have something to s-"


August froze, her heart pounding. Had she really just heard that? She breathed out, and saw her breath fogging over, a pale green mist in the reflected light from the camera's screen. "Shit," she whispered, then turned on the camera light to find the rewind button. She had to see if she'd really heard that. As light flooded the room, she saw it: the spider.

Calling this thing a spider was simplifying the monstrous eight-legged killing machine that was frozen in mid-creep. In fact, August's first thought, the one that squeezed out before fear took over, was Spiders can't be that big. Then all rationality fled as she shrieked loudly enough to make an opera singer jealous. As the monster flinched from the noise, August scrambled backward. Despite not being terribly athletic, she found herself on the crumbling remains of the bar, balanced perfectly, without removing her eyes from the spider.

Her first shriek was nothing compared to her second as it charged her. The height difference didn't slow it down at all. She leapt sideways, adrenaline again aiding her basic athletics ability. The floor failed her, however; the old wood gave way under her landing, pinning her legs in a vise of splintered wood.

The spider now leapt, mimicking her own arc, landing on her arm. It's weight pulled her sideways and down, and she found her face inches from it's row of eyes. They reflected her terrified expression as she screamed again.

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He was running down the street in the abandoned town, his paws causing little puffs of dust in the mixture of gravel and dirt that made up the road's surface. The night air was alive with scents, both old and new.

Rabbit-raccoon-birds... no. Ahh, there's two male humans... in that old church? No smell of booze or drugs, but they're excited about something. What the hell? He stopped to sniff at the breeze. Female, also not high or drunk, heading... this way. Alone. The azlu will like that. He was already moving towards the run-down saloon when the first scream pierced the night air. Instinct took over and calling on his preternatural essence he sped up, a streak of fur and fang as he hurtled down the street, covering the fifty yards to the ramshackle building in an matter of a few heartbeats.

The second scream sounded just as Owns-The-Night's muscles bunched and he leapt, crashing through the rotted wood of the window frame and sending splintered wood flying as two hundred pounds of wolf hurtled into the saloon's main area. Blazing silver eyes took in the scene: the trapped human female, the foul shape of the spider-demon already too close for comfort to it's quarry. The Rahu snarled, a deep-throated sound of fury and bloodshed that communicated his intention louder and clearer than any speech might have done as he lunged across the room, white teeth gleaming like knives.

Click to reveal.. (Intimidation roll)

(19:20:27) (Owns_The_Night): Presence & Intimidation roll

(19:20:35) ChatBot: (Owns_The_Night) rolls 7d10 and gets 3,10,10,7,6,4,3.

(19:20:44) (Owns_The_Night): popping the tens

(19:20:51) ChatBot: (Owns_The_Night) rolls 2d10 and gets 9,5.

(19:20:58) (Owns_The_Night): 3 succs

(19:27:14) (Owns_The_Night): Spirit resistance: Power + Resistance - 6 dice

(19:27:20) ChatBot: (Owns_The_Night) rolls 6d10 and gets 7,9,8,9,5,6.

3 succs

Spent 2 essence: 1 for Father Wolf's Speed and 1 for Clarity.

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The sound of splintering wood heralded a new aspect to this nightmare, and the light from the dropped camera illuminated it in a strange light. The massive dog pinned freaky silver eyes on her and snarled, showing her more teeth than an Alien movie. August screamed again and tried to throw the spider off so she could focus on pulling her legs free. But it was futile to try to shake it off, and August felt her fragile rationality giving way before panic. In just a few seconds, she was going to lose it and tear the fuck out of her legs getting out of here. That would require surgery eventually, to hide the scars, and she was trying to avoid that.

Her panic didn't cause her to frenzy; instead, when the spider crawled around her, putting her between it and the demon-dog, she froze instinctively. It held itself to her, its long bristles pinching her skin relentlessly. It even tangled a leg in her hair and pulled her head to the side. Then she felt the mandibles that she'd just had inches away from her face touch her neck lightly. Suddenly, she realized that the spider was taking her hostage. Her sanity was now at risk as she took another look at the dog and realized that its silver eyes were abnormal. Tears filled her eyes as she was overwhelmed by the sheer impossibility surrounding her.

When insane, be insane. Her agent's odd advice came back to her and she locked eyes with the dog and whispered, "Hey, Big Bad Wolf, don't suppose you like to kill spiders?"

<"Quiet,"> the azlu snapped in the spirit's native tongue. The living creature wouldn't understand it, but it was silent. As the human trembled in his grasp, the spider said to the wolf, <"You will let me go. Or you will lose one of Herd. If I not have it, you not save it.">

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The azlu had barely enough time to finish it's threat before Owns-The-Night moved like quicksilver. To the terrified woman's dilated eyes, the crouching form of the wolf became a flash of silver eye and gleaming fang that leapt onto the spider-thing like a furry thunderbolt, the impact sending both combatants rolling away from her across the litter-strewn floor as jaws gripped and tore at the bristly bulbous body.

Click to reveal.. (combat)

(16:30:14) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 1d10 and gets 6.

Add base init in wolf form of 7, +5 for Clarity

(16:30:41) (Dec): Initiative 18

(16:30:47) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 1d10 and gets 7.

Azlu base initiative of 9

(16:30:55) (Dec): Azlu initiative 16

Rolling to strike: Str 4, plus Brawl 3, plus 2 for jaws, plus 2 for all-out attack, plus 3 for WP point = 14 dice

Azlu's defense 3

11 dice attack:

(16:46:51) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 11d10 and gets 9,7,4,2,3,2,3,8,7,10,6.

(16:47:10) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 1d10 and gets 1.

3 succs = 3 Lethal damage

The spirit-thing screeched, a nails-on-blackboard sound that was equal parts pain and outrage as it felt the uratha's jaws shred it's physical form. Declan felt it wriggle out of his grasp as his momentum carried him further, skidding through some crumpled beer cans. Before the werewolf could twist to his feet, he felt the hard scratchy hairs of the azlu's legs grasp his back and the hot sting of it's fangs digging into his neck.

Click to reveal.. (more combat)

(17:36:14) (Azlu): rolling power & finesse = 6 dice

(17:36:21) ChatBot: (Azlu) rolls 6d10 and gets 1,10,8,9,9,2.

(17:36:30) ChatBot: (Azlu) rolls 1d10 and gets 9.

5 succs = 5 Lethal dmg

Resolve + Composure roll to resist Kuruth:

(17:46:26) (Declan): Resolver + Composure = 5 dice

(17:46:32) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 5d10 and gets 10,9,9,9,3.

(17:46:39) ChatBot: (Declan) rolls 1d10 and gets 1.

4 succs

Declan half-snarled, half-howled in pain and rage of his own as he spun away from those wicked fangs, leaving a sizeable chunk of his shoulder and neck behind. The ancient enemies stood poised for a moment, each dripping from wounds caused by the other.

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August screamed again as the spider was torn from her body. Finally, she was free to panic, and with a babbling whimper, she pulled at her legs. Gasping hoarsely, she struggled futilely, and her inability to free herself only made her panic more. Worse, each motion tore at her legs more and August didn't handle pain so well.

She glanced over at the combat, her eyes widening when she saw the damp darkness on the dog's fur. She wasn't sure she was rooting for the dog, but it hadn't been actively trying to kill her!

The room was ice cold again. Shivering painfully, every movement a stabbing or freezing agony, she peered around the room for a tool, anything that could help. She spotted her phone lying on a pile of wood and cursed. Was she really going to be this screwed?

Something moved out of the corner of her eye, and she turned to see. The adrenaline coursing through her body made her suddenly aware of what she had been subconsciously ignoring. A spectral man stood there, dressed in clothing from another century. His beard was thick enough to house a kitten, and he was missing several teeth. But his clothes were fairly nice; the image was ruined by his torn throat and silent screaming. He was pointing at the fight; no, August realized after a second, he was pointing at the dog. A woman faded into view next to him, her dress half-ripped away, and her guts hung with lace to her knees. She too was pointing, her finger and gaze accusatory.

August saw another on the far side, but this one wasn't pointing. This man was trying to pick up a bottle; as she watched, he gave up and kicked a beer can at the dog. It bounced off his side, but that was only the start; other ghosts got the idea, and objects around the room began to rattle or roll. Only the lightest objects were making into the air, beer cans and the condoms, but August didn't want to see anymore-

"Tilly!" her father screamed, and there was death in his voice.

-because this was just like before. "Tyla," August moaned as she shut her eyes-


August's eyes flew up and she matched gazes with her six-year-old twin sister. "No! No! Leave me alone!" August screamed, pulling away and ignoring the pain in her legs. "It wasn't my fault! I tried to save you, but Daddy was too big!" She was weeping as she tried to crawl away, trapped in the horror of the past as well as the shattered floor.

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The girl was having some sort of fit, Dec realised as the azlu and he circled one another in a slow waltz of death. The can thumped weakly against his side, and he half-turned his head to see who had thrown it. The spirit leapt forwards...

Click to reveal.. (combat)

(18:33:01) (Dec): Str 4 + Brawl 3 + 2 dice for teeth, -2 for spirit's defense (3 -1 for Hunter's Eye) = 7 dice

(18:33:06) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 7d10 and gets 8,9,3,3,1,5,7.

2 succs = 2 lethal dmg

Azlu rolls 6 dice - 3 for Dec's defense

(18:35:26) ChatBot: (Dec) rolls 3d10 and gets 3,3,7.

0 succs

...only to realise too late that the distraction had been feigned on the wolf's part. Dec's jaws slashed low severing two of the spider's legs with a bite as the now-mortally injured spirit staggered sideways, leaking ichor. The Rahu didn't hesitate, leaping forwards with a snarl of victory and shredding the helpless creature in a motion reminiscent of a terrier shaking a rat. The azlu was weakened by the long afternoon's chase: it couldn't take this punishment. With a final wailing screech it ceased to be, it's Essence scattered to the winds.

Dec turned to the trapped girl, smelling her panic as thickly as the blood from her trapped and torn leg. A beer bottle skittered across the floor and smashed against his forepaw, and the uratha flinched, looking around for the source of that attack. The whimpers of the female called his attention back, even as his shoulder started to heal, and he paced to her side, sniffing at the hole in the floorboards through which her legs had plunged. Lupine teeth were ill-suited to this work, but Owns-The-Night picked out a likely board and bit into it, the age-brittled plank cracking under the force of his jaws. Almost clinically, the large wolf stepped back and paced sideways around the hole, silver eyes intent on the boards, seeking the next place to cut. Another loud splintering *crack* sounded as his jaws did their work, breaking the hole wider still.

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She was still struggling to get away, to run away. Ghostly snowboots clomped around to stand in front of her, and the grown woman gazed up in terror at the ghost child. "Please..." she murmured, but her dead sister just stared at her for a long moment before fading. Freed from her personal terror, August slumped for a moment; when a dried, crusty condom slapped at her face before spinning away, she began to try to free herself again.

A screech reminded her of the other occupants of the room, and she glanced over as the dog abandoned the dead spider. Even in the bad light, August could clearly see that the insect dissolved. What the fuck!?

She had more pressing problems; August froze as the massive dog came back to her, pacing around her. Larger debris began make it into the air as the more determined ghosts got the hang of tossing objects. Another bottle missed the dog and bounced off her shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise; thankfully, it didn't shatter.

Then the dog began to tear the wood away. August stared at the dog, then grinned. "Yeah, good... uh... boy? Good doggie! Yeah, tear up that wood!" When the first piece came loose, she sighed with relief and carefully pulled the freed leg out. Then it tore another piece away, though this didn't quite free her. However, the third board did leave her the way to get herself out of the hole.

Tears began to flow again, but this time it was tears of relief. "Thank you," she whispered fervently, wrapping her arms around the dog's neck and pressing her face into his fur. Her fingers buried themselves in his coat and clung for a moment, drawing warmth and support from another living being. She lifted her head, and sea-green eyes latched onto his silver ones. "I don't know why you did that, but thank you."

A fragment of chair thumped across the dog's back, and August glared that the ghost of the tavern wench who had thrown it. "Stop that!" she ordered, then shakily stood. "Come on, doggie, outside. They don't seem to like you." Moving slowly, she edged for the door.

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No fuckin' kiddin' they don't like me... Wait, WHO doesn't like me?! Declan pranced to one side as a chair leg narrowly missed his head, eyes and other senses scanning the saloon. It was cold, cold enough that the uratha felt it through his thick fur. And objects were shivering and moving, some lifting into the air and flying at him. The aim was bad, but getting better, Dec realised as he ducked his large head to avoid another bottle. The hell with this shit. The large wolf turned and paced the girl out of the bar, the wound in his neck mostly healed over by now, the dark patch of blood-soaked fur hiding that fact from casual sight. Green-eyed chicks. What is it with me and green-eyed chicks? Smells good, though. Cute legs. Hope they don't scar too bad- Ow!

The wolf snarled as, distracted for second as he was, a rotted chair splintered over his head. His ears rang, but that was about all. It was also, however, about all he was prepared to take. One bound took him over the threshold of the saloon's entrance, where he turned and waited for August with an expression that could only mean one thing.

Hurry the fuck up, lady.

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August hurried after him, moving slowly as the wounds in her legs stretched and pulled. As she exited the saloon, the air warmed a bit, but objects continued to be flung out the door. Sadly, she was now in the doorway, between them and the dog, and a tossed table leg caught her in the back. Yelping and holding her hand over the stinging flesh, she stepped out of the door quickly.

"Come on, boy... girl... whatever," August said, reaching out to pet the dog's head. Remembering her lessons from the animal handler in Three Rings of Death, she offered her hand to sniff first. "Aww, you're a sweetie. And a hero," she added, smiling weakly at the monstrous canine. "Even if your father was a horse."

She began to limp toward the truck. There was a first aid kit there and she could see how badly she'd torn up her legs. "Shit," she said as the enormity of the night began to sink in. "Cal's gonna kill me. He's going to fire me, damn it! Lost the camera, lost the phone... but look, Cal! I have a big dog!"

She sighed and looked down at her four-legged companion. "No offense. I think you're great. In fact, you're my favorite dog right now, ever. Lassie? Pffth. Rintintin? Leg-humping wall-pisser compared to you. If only I knew you name."

At the vehicle, she pulled out the first aid kit and a flashlight. When she turned it on, she resisted the urge to cry. Her legs looked awful, but the worst part were the dark splinters that peppered her skin. "Oh, god," she moaned, pinching her eyes shut as she sank to the ground. "Oh, god, this is gross." Whimpering, she found a set of tweezers and tentatively grasped a fragment of wood in her knee. Grimacing, she pulled it out and set it on a bit of gauze. "Ick," she grumbled as she eyed her leg, looking for another one to work on.

She glanced at the dog, watching her with those freaky eyes. "You going to distract me?" she asked him. "Well, you can be one for me." She tilted her head to the side and peered at the dog, nodding when she sexed him. "You're a boy. So, boy, like, do you have a home? Do you need to be adopted? After what you did, I owe you one, so I'll consider it, though my place is pretty small. Would you be able to handle city life?"

She was talking in that rambling way that people do when they don't expect an answer, and they're just talking. As she spoke, she cleared away another couple of splinters.

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As she squinted down in the half-light, the dog looked at her leg in a similar fashion, prompting a small giggle from her as she pushed it's head gently to one side. "Stop that. Anyone would think you're a doctor." The dog whuffed as though impatient and moved to one side, out of her field of vision. August leaned down again, peering as closely as she could at the wounded leg. She was damn sure she didn't want any rotten splinters left in there. In between gritted teeth, she continued to chatter away. "Hey, maybe I can call you 'Doc'." The unexpected answer made her jump.

"That's close, yeah." The voice was a low, rumbling baritone. The woman froze for a second as large, strong hands reached out and took the tweezers. "Better let me do it, girl. Yer angle's all wrong for that." Green eyes swivelled sideways, taking in the hunkered-down shape of a large man who seemed Ohgoddamnjesusshit! to be naked, though the flashlight wasn't pointed at him, so it was hard to tell. What was definite was that the eyes gazing levelly back at her from the shadowed face were a very familiar shining silver.

"Don't freak out, 'kay?" he asked somewhat plaintively as he held up the tweezers. "I just think you could use some help here."

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"Ah-wa-duh-uh-what the hell!?" August's near-shout wasn't that loud, but she scuttled backwards. Unfortunately, she didn't realize how close she was to the SUV, and her head hit it. Hissing with pain, she lifted her hands to press them against her now-throbbing skull. "Ow."

It seemed easier to focus on that, but the naked man-dog wasn't going away, and soon she had to give that some attention. She opened her eyes and peered at him, hoping he'd be the more familiar form of the dog. Nope, still a possibly naked man.

She inhaled deeply and released it in a rush. "Ok," she said, her voice shaking, "where did you come from? How did you get here? Where... please tell me the dog went somewhere else?" The last was a plea, not a question. Her green eyes pleaded with him to make it all normal, or mostly normal, and make the world just a little weird, not really weird.

But she recognized his eyes - they were all too familiar. Hesitantly, she reached out; when he didn't recoil, she brushed her hand down his cheek. It was skin - slightly stubbly, but still human epidermis and not fur. "What... is going on?" she asked, shivering a little. "Who are you?"

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"Call me Doc for now." He told her in a low tone as he shifted position to crouch by her injured legs. "As to what's goin' on, you're a bright girl: figure it out. I can't give ya too many clues." She saw a flash of white teeth in his face as he grinned at her. "And while you do, hold the light here." He passed August the flashlight, directing the beam at her legs, but the jockeying of the light into position revealed that, yes, he was indeed naked. And well-built.

And bloody, too. There was drying blood coating his left shoulder, but her rescuer didn't seem to be paying his own injuries any mind as he bent over her legs, deftly plucking splinters out from under the skin of her knees and shins. He was gentle enough, despite the roughness of his calloused hands.

"What's yer name?" he asked, occasionally pausing in his work to cock one ear to the night air in a definitely canine (or lupine) manner, then resuming.

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Well, that was the first time a guy had called her bright. August blinked at the unexpected compliment; most guys started with her breasts, or her eyes if they were really suave. She held the light silently, thinking about what she'd seen.

It was just so impossible. So are ghosts, or seeing ghosts. A man turning into a dog wasn't normal. Neither are those doodles you do. She thought a bit more and realized: not dog - wolf. And with that word, it all clicked into place.

She wished she had worn some silver jewelry. She wasn't sure she owned anything silver. Swallowing hard, she watched the naked and large man work, his strange eyes intent as he worked. His sudden question startled her.

"August," she said, licking her lips self-consciously. "And you're Doc? Really a doc, or just... named one?" After a beat, she remembered what he said about clues. "I just don't want to pry. You're just..." Freaky. Scary. My hero. "... tweaking my curiosity."

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His lips quirked, and a low rumbling chuckle answered her. "Nah, I said you can call me Doc. It ain't my name, and I ain't a doctor. But I've seen plenty of injuries and know a bit about them." He plucked the last splinter, nearly half the length of a finger, from her calf, then inspected her leg one more time. He half-turned, rummaging through the first-aid box, and August could make out the "Ranger" tattoo on the mystery-man's right arm as he gave a soft grunt, finding what he'd been looking for. "Brace yerself, this'll sting like a motherfucker."

He swabbed her legs gently but firmly with antiseptic, one hand holding her ankle steady, then pressed sterile padding into place over the worst cuts and bandaged over them. "There. It ain't hospital work, but it'll do fer now." He glanced sideways at her, smiling a little as he squinted against the flashlight. "Better get 'em properly checked out, though. It'd be a shame to ruin nice legs." He flashed a grin at her, then offered a hand. "Here, try to stand." He uncoiled from his crouch.

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Whoa! August adverted her eyes before the rise from the crouch turned all the hints she'd seen into hardcore facts. Not that she didn't want to look; it just seemed a bad policy to stare at a guy's junk the first night she met him.

Her internal struggle dulled her to the compliment, so the blush didn't hit her face until she'd taken his hand. "Thanks... about the legs. And the hand. They're important to my work. Uh, my legs, that is." She mentally kicked herself for a couple of seconds, then said, "Don't pay me attention - I always babble when rescued by strange me- wer- uh... guys."

I think you can see werewolf, she chided herself, but her tongue disagreed. Saying it would make it real, and she wasn't sure she was ready for that. Swallowing hard, she asked, "By the way... what was that thing? Some kind of lab experiment gone wrong? I didn't think spiders could grow that big, not without mega-growth hormones or something."

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He regarded August with a slight smile as she verbally danced around the 'W' word. Okay, that's cute.

"That?" he turned to look over his shoulder in the direction of the saloon. "That was..." He stopped and turned back to look at her, obviously weighing what he should and shouldn't say. "That was a spider-demon. Now that ain't the whole story, but it's close enough. That wasn't grown in a lab, but came from... well... the 'other side'." He gestured, a little aimlessly. "It needed a host to survive and zeroed in on you, but I caught the fucker before it could put you on like a suit. Gotta admit I didn't expect anyone to be out here, or I'd have tried to catch up with it sooner instead of wear it down." He cocked his head to one side slightly and regarded her with a penetrating gaze.

"So what were you doin' out here? You and the two men further off that way." He pointed in the direction of the church.

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"Whoa whoa whoa! You can't just... spider-demon? Put me on like a suit?!" She appeared to be freaking out more in the aftermath than during the actual attack. "You mean like from Men in Black? An August-suit?"

He nodded, as that was close enough. Telling her that part of the physical transformation would involve a spider crawling into her ear and eating out her brain didn't seem like it would help her deal, so he didn't detail that.

"Oth-" She stopped. "Ok, I get the feeling that I need to stop asking questions. I'll save them for later." If there's a later. If you ever meet this werewolf again.

"My turn. We're out here filming for our TV show, Ghost Investigators. We go to places reputed to be haunted, lock or trap ourselves in for the night and try to capture phenomena on film," August said, blissfully unaware of how very dangerous her job actually was. 'Haunted' could cover a lot of things, and not all of them as helpless to act as ghosts. But she just cocked her head to one side and said, "So... do all ghosts hate... we-what you are so much?"

Geez, just say it! He's going to think you're an idiot!

Who cares what a strange werewolf thinks?

Revise that - who cares what a hot, well-hung, naked werewolf thinks?

... Oh.

Yeah. My point exactly. Hey, but at least we can talk about ghosts with him and he won't think we're crazy. That'd be a nice change from the 'You don't really believe all that ghost-stuff, do you?' conversation you usually have to deal with when you meet a cute guy. Or cute whatever.

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"Fucked if I know." 'Doc' scritched the back of his head, plainly puzzled as he glanced back towards the saloon. "I'm not a ghost expert. Only reason I can think of is that they got to be ghosts as a result of my kind. That'd make sense. Wasn't me that did it, though." He dismissed that with a shake of his shaggy head, then looked at her from under the frame of his shoulder-length brown (fur) hair.

"That's a dangerous line of work you've got there." he told her bluntly and with characteristic straightforwardness. "Not all hauntin' things are ghosts. Not tellin' ya how to live or work, but that's my two cents. I wouldn't go around alone or unarmed in places that have a creepy rep." He looked like he was about to say more, then stopped, his nostrils flaring. Hurriedly he stepped into the shadows, backing away from August. The last thing she heard him say, his voice hushed, was "I wasn't here, okay? One good turn deserves another, and that's yours."

Then the silver glimmer of his eyes was gone, and August could just about make out a suggestion of fur moving low to the ground and the soft patter of paws. Seconds later, she heard Marty's voice.

"August! August?! Where are you?" The crunch of heavy-soled boots announced the approach of her partners, along with the wavering beams of two flashlights as they rounded the corner. "We thought we heard something and-" Marty's voice trailed off as they came closer and made out the bandages around her legs. "What the hell happened?"

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"Damn it!" she hissed to the shadows just before Marty appeared. "I wanted your number!" Or howl pattern, or urine marker... or whatever he uses to keep in touch. Somehow, I doubt he'll be on Facebook.

It wasn't completely because he was totally hot - it was because he'd saved her life, and that deserved more than a 'thanks' and a slip away into the shadows. Thinking back, had she even said thank you? She didn't remember doing so, and that pissed her off. How rude was that? Plus, she was curious about him - what did werewolves do? What were they like?

Irritated, she turned to Marty. "The fucking floor gave way, and I fell through," she said, which was pretty close to the truth, actually. "We need to go back and retrieve the camera, see if it's busted."

It was; the fall had scrambled it enough that nothing was really recoverable. August was quietly relieved. And Cal didn't mind the camera as much as he was concerned about her. He was driven to succeed, but that didn't make him an asshole. They called it a night and decided to come back tomorrow.

August wondered if Doc would come back again, or if tomorrow would be the same-old-same-old.

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Next night...

Dec knew this was a bad idea.

He'd wrestled with this for the last 20 or so hours. (Well, when he hadn't been sleeping.) The inner dialogue had gone roughly like this:

She might be out there again.

Yeah? So? I saved her ass and patched her up. The ghosts won't bother her.

Might be other things around... Wouldn't hurt to take a run up there and look out for her... and the other two, of course.

Of course. And the reason I want to go up there has nothin' to do with cute legs and green eyes.

Of course it doesn't. You just want to make sure the Herd don't get neck deep in shit poking around a ghost town.


And so nightfall found the dark-furred wolf loping back up into the hills from L.A, heading to Gulver's Gulch and grumbling silently to himself.

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Cal was quiet, waiting for her reaction. August stared at him, feeling trapped. She knew that Cal had known about this, but she didn't think he'd ever ask her to do it. It wasn't very interactive, after all, or very exciting. She couldn't imagine that it would be good on film. "Are you sure?" she finally asked, stalling for time. "I mean... it's not very exciting. And I'm not always very good at it."

"Let's try at least," Cal said. "Worse that happens, we waste some time, and we have some footage from last night to use." Behind him, several ghosts drifted across the open area, walking the same paths that they walked over a hundred years ago. Dragging her eyes away from the horror that they presented, she focused on her boss again.

"I guess," August said reluctantly, frowning. "Are you guys going to watch or not?"

"Will getting too close interfere with your readings?" Cal asked, shifting his weight. As he spoke, he glanced at the rapidly darkening western horizon.

August hesitated, bending down to absently scratch at a healing itch. As much as she didn't want to be alone, she also knew Doc wouldn't approach her if she wasn't alone. That was, if he was out here, and if he was interested in further discussion. For all she knew, he was in another part of his territory tonight. Howling for him would raise some awkward questions that she couldn't answer, so she swallowed her fear and said, "Be out of sight but nearby."

"Alright," Cal said, glancing at Marty.

The heavier man nodded and said, "Let's get her a seat outside the church while you and I resume filming in there."

"Good idea," Cal replied, grinning. "Let's set it up, people."


August leaned back against the folded blanket, feeling the wooden siding pull and catch the cloth as she shifted. Under her, another blanket kept her from sitting on bare dirt. The drawing paper was sitting on an art board across her crossed legs. She was sitting in a pool of light; they'd angled a camera to watch the paper.

Occasionally, she could hear Marty or Cal's voice as they moved inside the building, and once in a while a ghostly whisper reached her ears. With one last futile look at the shadows for a dark, furred form, she closed her eyes and tried to slip into the internal place from where her strange abilities came.

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He slipped easily from shadow to shadow as he left the treeline and ducked around the vacant buildings, his senses alert for anything out of place. Owns-The-Night felt an inexplicable urge to grin as he saw the SUV was still there, parked up in a slightly different spot. Sniffing around, he followed the three humans' scent cautiously into the town. Though one set of instincts told him he could trust the girl not to blab about being rescued by a werewolf, the uratha was also keenly aware that he could end up walking into the business end of a camera. This was LA, after all.

Creeping low to the ground now, he rounded a corner to spy the girl propped against a wall thirty feet away, a pool of light around her and a rigged up camera watching her. She had some kind of sketchbook on her lap and seemed to be concentrating on something. Curious and wary, the Rahu settled down to watch, nose and ears sampling the air around him as silver eyes studied the girl who had brought him all this way.

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Despite her discomfort about her seat and legs, and her anxiousness about whether Doc was out there, August was able to slip into the half-sleeping state that opened her to the impressions from the ghosts. In this deep trance, her hand began to move in slow circles, spiraling across the page.

For a time, nothing happened. August's head remained bowed and her eyes closed; her hand moved across the page in tight, controlled circles.

Suddenly, her left hand snatched away the top sheet while her right began to scribble furiously, her wrist held oddly. To the uratha's watching eyes, it looked more like someone was holding her wrist and doing the actual drawing, not that he could see anything.

Heedless to any other sensation, August worked without pause, her left hand snatching pages away while her right drew tirelessly. Finally, her hand slowed and fell into the looping circles again. Then even that stopped as she started to move again, her hand falling limp to the page.

"Mmm," August grunted as she became aware again - and aware of the pain in her hand. It was stiff from abuse and she grimaced as she rubbed. It wasn't unusual for her to come out of these things with a sore hand. "Ow, hate that."

She looked around at the papers scattered around her. Sighing, she picked them up and turned them over, looking at the images in them. Getting the camera, she checked to see which image was first, and slowly put them in order without really looking at them. Once she had them laid out, she began to leaf through them.

At first, they were fairly normal, if roughly drawn, scenes of life in a small gold town. She wasn't the best sketcher in the world, but she could get the point across. They all seemed normal, until she spotted the darkness. It was a small shadow in the corner, or under a building; just a hint of a malignant watcher. Then it came closer and closer in each drawing.

Then the shadow became a black monster on the page; a two-legged beast taller than a man, with wicked claws and terrible teeth. It was vaguely wolf-like, and August swallowed hard as she remembered the ghosts' reactions to Doc. Maybe he was right - maybe something like him had made them into ghosts.

Or maybe it was him. For all she knew, he was immortal.

She shivered, but discounted the idea quickly. He could have killed them all easily last night, and he didn't have to tape her up and warn her about her work. It didn't fit with his actions last night.

Still, a murderous werewolf could be out here even now.

August turned to the last page. The dark form was gone, leaving only shredded and torn bodies. Shivering, August hugged herself and fought the urge to run for the SUV.

Click to reveal..
August's Trance check (page 35 of 2nd Sight), -2 penalty due to situation: 2 sux


August's Automatic Writing check: 2 sux


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Dec watched her, hackles bristling slightly at the weirdness of what he was seeing as August seemed to be controlled by some other force. He almost growled a challenge to scare off any spirits that might be trying something funny but kept silent, exercising patience, as her hand eventually slowed and she appeared to wake up from whatever trance or sleep she had been in.

He heard her murmured complaint and watched her shuffle the drawings, studying them. He fought the urge to creep closer and look for himself, but the camera kept him at bay, so the werewolf contented himself with reading August's reactions instead. Whatever she saw, that it was frightening her was apparent to him as she hugged herself at the end. Her pale features as she shivered prompted him into action, and he got to his feet.

A soft *whuff* sound attracted August's attention out of her reverie, and the girl looked up to see the large dark wolf standing at the corner of the building she was leaning against, his head and forequarters peeking around the corner at her, head cocked to one side.

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August's heart stopped at the canine noise, as her vision jerked up from the shadowed wolf-man to a real wolf-man. For a second, there was genuine fear in her expression; then she recognized this particular wolf and relaxed. For a second, she wondered why he was hanging back; then she remembered how secretive he was. She reached up and shut off the camera. "It's ok," she whispered, waving to him. "The camera's off."

She held up the papers enough for him to see. "I think I need to ask you about this."

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The wolf slipped fully into view and padded towards her, ears pricked up and nose testing the air as it approached. Apparently satisfied with what he sensed, Doc changed as he moved towards her.

There was no growling, howling, splintering of bones, blood, goo, or any number of other special effects that filmmakers have used over the years. The change was more like a big organic sigh, a stretching out and lengthening of some parts, a shortening of others. Fur receded, the muzzle blurred and shrank, limbs thickened and lengthened as, in a few heartbeats and before August's eyes, the St Bernard-sized wolf became the solidly-muscled large man who was, yet again, naked and apparently indifferent to the fact as he crouched beside her.

"What ya got there?" He asked, curiousity evident in his low voice as he peered at the papers, then stiffened as he saw the story the sketches told. He didn't evince any other reaction, merely studied each one intently before looking back up and meeting August's eyes.

"So what do you need to ask?"

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There were several questions in August's mind as she stared - no, gaped at the man before her. It wasn't that he was naked, really - that was just distracting. It had been the visual, unmistakable proof that he was what he'd implied he was. She'd thought, in the way-back part of her mind, that he'd been a nut with a big dog who liked to screw with people. She hadn't allowed herself to think that much because he was hot and the thought that he was a crazy jerk was very disappointing. But it had occurred to her.

Now there was no doubt in her mind that he could change into a big fuckin' wolf. Again, she reached out and touched his face, as if she didn't trust her eyes and had to confirm with her hands. For a long moment she stared and touched his warm cheek as her fingertips brushed his hair.

A mournful yip from a coyote broke her reverie and August blushed, clearing her throat. "Um, right. I wanted to know... is this you? I mean," she hastily backtracked, "is this someone like you? It would make sense that the ghosts would be angry at you, then."

She glanced at the images again, her eyes drawn to that awful, shadowed monster. "Is this what happens to all of you on the full moon?" she dared to ask. If so, then the massacre may not be anyone's fault - a werewolf in a full-moon berserk may have gotten loose and killed them in a mindless frenzy.

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"It's somethin' we can do, yeah. It's a form we can take specially for killin'. And not just on the full moon. It's bullshit that we lose it when She's full, but dependin' on our moon-sign we can be more energetic and aggressive." Dec said absently. He was still staring at her eyes, her fragrance as soft on the night air as her touch had been on his skin. He forced himself to focus on the matter at hand, looking back down at the pictures.

"No werewolf's a saint, girl. We're predators and warriors. But for one of us to do this? He must have been mighty mad at this town. Or he could have been a nut. Or out and out evil. In that, we're just like humans: we come in all colors, sizes and flavors. Sometimes we can lose it, big time. Like when we're pushed waaay too far, or in mortal danger. We go berserk and take that killin' shape." He shifted position slightly, and shrugged. "We call it the Death Rage, and it's a bad thing to do, so we try to avoid it."

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There was a whole new world behind his words, that much August could tell. There was a place where the moon was a ‘she’ and ‘she’ changed moods depending on her phase. It was a world of animals and predators, prey and the eaten. And August knew that she wasn’t in the first category, not if her drawing was even half-accurate. It was a world where the phrase ‘Death Rage’ wasn’t a joke about anger at careless drivers. It was a dangerous place, and she could leave, right now.

“Do I need to hide these from the others?” she asked carefully. In her words, August heard herself pick a side, to turn away from her people and side with the wolves. “I mean, I… crap. The camera. Shit. I’ll have to… doctor it.” She bit her lip, trying to figure out how to do it without getting caught. “Honestly, we can leave it, the picture could be representative – automatic drawing is hardly a set science. But, would you like to know more? I could come back tomorrow, and try again. I’ll have the day off after an all-nighter. Would it be worth my time to try to figure out which one of you did this, and why?”

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Despite himself, Dec smiled at August as she offered to hide the evidence. The smile loaned a warmth to his imposing features, erasing the somewhat brooding aspect he possessed when his face was in repose. He put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly once before letting go.

"You don't need to tamper or hide this." He reassured the girl. "People can call that a bear, or Sasquatch, or any number of things. And as for coming back here... Well, the werewolf who did this is probably long-dead. We live for awhile, but not more than a century or so. It's an interestin' question as to why he or she did this, though. Maybe there's something here, or maybe the townspeople weren't as innocent as we might think." He shrugged his broad shoulders and looked at her.

"I wouldn't say it was worth your time, unless you just want to scratch the curiousity itch. This is out of my usual territory, so it's not much interest to me." He met her eyes, his own silver gaze concerned. "Seriously, though? I'd leave it alone. Even if you can see ghosts and shit, you want to think hard before you get too involved with the real monsters, August." His voice wasn't condescending or dismissive, but more gently concerned.

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This isn't where he lives? Her first thought was a bit off the point, but his use of the word ‘monster’ brought her mind back to the moment. “Monster? Doc, there are monster among… humans, too,” she said, her eyes becoming more green as she became agitated. “A man beats his daughter to death, in front of her twin sister. Six boys gang up on a girl and rape to death, literally hurting her badly she dies of it. A grandmother has a heart attack in Walmart, and everyone there just watches, afraid of getting sued if they help her.” Her gaze bore into him as she said, “Humanity is monstrous, too. You guys just have an easier time showing how bad you can be. Humans don’t look like monsters, not until it’s too late.”

Her voice had risen as she had talked, and suddenly August heard Cal shout, “Hey, August? You ok?”

“Wait!” August hissed, grabbing at Doc’s arm as he tried to leave. “Here.” She scrawled a phone number on a piece of paper and shoved it in his hand. “Call me. I want to know more,” she whispered to him, then leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, too. Now, hide!” Cal’s footsteps could be heard approaching, and August didn’t watch Dec go. Instead, she reset herself as she had been sitting, pretending to be staring at the pictures when Cal arrived.

“Wow,” he said as he knelt next to her. “This is… wow. Hey, why’d you turn off the camera?”

Thinking quickly, August said, “I just needed a moment… afterwards, you know? This stuff is creepy.” But she wasn’t thinking about ghosts. She was thinking about predators and monsters.

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Dec was home well before sun-up. He had memorised the number, paper not travelling well in a wolf's mouth, and the Rahu scribbled it onto a notepad on his kitchen counter as he wolfed down a plate of cold cuts from the fridge. He regarded the digits as he chewed, thinking about the girl who could see ghosts, who could watch him shift without freaking out, who seemed more curious than afraid. Who wanted to know more.

"Girl, if you only knew." he said aloud to the empty kitchen. He turned to go to bed, musing over her request. He might call her. He might not. Maybe he should think about it for awhile.

Yeah. Maybe I could talk to her a little bit, without spilling too much. Convince her it's a bad idea to get too close to the shadows. No rush, though. I'll think about it.

He went to bed, his last thoughts being of soft lips on his cheek. Worth thinkin' about...

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