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World of Darkness: The Academy - Chapter 6: The New Old Dalton

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As Lucia broke into a run, Sylvia turned to look... and saw the bloody mayhem that was behind her. Blood-soaked straw and dirt, a shattered stall door, the smell of gore washing over her in a sickening wave. Her stomach lurched, and it was all she could to do keep it down as she saw a dead horse being dragged away by a massive black panther... a panther about to be tackled by a schoolgirl.

Her body shook as she pulled herself to her unsteady feet, but connections were clicking in her brain, and it was the voice of authority that called out in a loud shout: "Ravi! Drop the horse!" Only after the yell did Sylvia wonder how she knew that the huge cat was - impossibly, but still was - Ravi FitzCoventry.

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Snarling in frustration and confusion at the constant interference, Ravi dropped the horse...

... and in the space between one eyeblink and the next, half-turned and leapt straight for the oncoming Lucia. There was a second between launch and impact, a single second stretched out by shock and fear. Both Sylvia and Lucia barely had time to register the sudden, deadly change in the great cat's intent before the huge black form landed on the slim girl like a thunderbolt. Lucia was aware of heated fur and the sensation of being hurled to the ground with bonerattling force, the wind blasted from her lungs. Gasping, brain yelling at her to do something because she was in trouble, she opened her eyes to find herself staring right into the face of an enraged predator. It's hot breath was on her skin, it's jaws mere inches from her tender flesh. A paw the size of Lucia's head rested on her chest, pressing hard, and through it she could feel as well as hear the loud, menacing snarl that rumbled through the beast on top of her as it's eyes bored into hers.

After a moment the panther roared in her face, ears laid back and blood-flecked jaws opening wide enough to take in her whole head. It was a warning, a threat, a promise of violence, pain and death to any and all challengers. It was Nature, red in tooth and claw, and in this it offered no negotiation or compromise.

Click to reveal..

Fighting Style: Tooth & Claw - Pounce maneuver

Strength + Brawl - Lucia's Defense = 7 dice

1d10=9, 1d10=10, 1d10=8, 1d10=10, 1d10=8, 1d10=8, 1d10=3

poppin' 10s

1d10=7, 1d10=10

...

1d10=6

7 succs on the Pounce. Lucia is size 5, so is knocked prone and looking at the business end of Ravi's teeth.

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The shadows that had been surrounding them suddenly flowed into the slender girl, her cocoa colored skin crawling with black veins as she glared up at the panther on top of her.

"You have a whole damned forest. Find. Something. Else. To. Eat."

She didn't make a move, didn't cover her face from the fangs above her, she just stared back, black eyes to green, and made her edict.

Click to reveal..
6/10 Power

Intimidation roll with +1 intimidation from Shadow Play: 1d10=1, 1d10=8, 1d10=8, 1d10=8

3 suxx

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The snarl faded to a rumbling growl as the panther gazed back at the strange young woman. In the swirling chaos that passed for Ravi's thoughts a cloud of bafflement grew. He could kill this female, SHOULD kill her, ending her life with a swipe or bite, yet something inside was holding him back. He couldn't kill her, and she would not be scared away from pestering him, and so the beast did the only thing that made any sort of sense to it's rudimentary fragment of reason.

It left.

With a final, sharp growl he was gone, the weight of his paw leaving Lucia's chest with a slight push that was enough to make her gasp. The sleek black form bounded away: away from the strange girl and the other female, away from the scent of blood and terrified horses and the lights and shouting it could hear. A silent bolt of black fur, he raced on swift paws for the woods, leaping a fence and crossing the horse paddock in an eyeblink before leaping into the trees on the other side with hardly a sound to mark his passing, and all before Lucia could even finish sitting up to watch him go.

Click to reveal..

Resolve+Wits to resist the Intimidation

1d10=2, 1d10=4, 1d10=8, 1d10=7, 1d10=2, 1d10=3

1 succ

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Horrified by the sight of Lucia pinned beneath the enormous cat (Ravi, a voice in her mind insisted), Sylvia's heart leaped to her throat. By all rights, she should have looked around for something to grab - a pitchfork, a shovel, anything to use to drive off the ravening beast.

She didn't, as the unexpected happened: Ravi backed off, turning to bound away into the woods.

Without thinking, a naked Sylvia rushed over to the prone form of her student, dropping to one knee beside her and a hand - without claws, thankfully - placed on Lucia's shoulder. "Are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?" she asked hurriedly, worry thick in her voice.

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Lucia nodded at the naked teacher, the promptly rolled over and puked. The black veins were receding, the eyes doing the same much more slowly. "C-Call the vet. Sh-she's on call. Some of the...the horses were hurt. Only hurt."

She took a steadying breath and pulled herself to her feet, "And Kristin and Alex shouldn't have to see their horses like this..." She looked down at the corpse that she and the panther had been fighting over and swallowed hard. "They shouldn't have to remember them like this."

The black had finally released her completely and she blinked in surprise at Syvlia. She made her way cautiously over to the stables where the horse were still high-strung, but less than full out panicking now that the predator had left. She spared a moment for her Aphrodite and for Rosa's Sakura, then picked out the cleanest horse blanket she could find and helped Sylvia wrap it around herself. Her expression was pensive.

I'm still a monster.

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Nodding in half-numb response, Sylvia didn't really come completely back to the here and now until the warm fabric of the horse blanket was draped around her shoulders. Pulling it tight around her, she stood once more and surveyed the slaughter.

"W-we'll have to call from Lancaster; no phone out here, and I don't have my cell." Or the pocket for the cell. Or the pants for the pocket.

She shuddered again, then looked Lucia in the eye. "I... I was like him, wasn't I? A..." she trailed off, not willing to say it. Monster.

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"We've all had an........" She trailed off for several long moments. "A traumatic and strange night. Let's just leave it there for right now. Oh, and-"

She dipped her hand into her the pocket of her jeans, the cellphone battered but came back on with the Sprint chime. She handed Sylvia the phone, the number on speeddial. "They'll believe it from you. I'm...I'm still officially a runaway."

She lapsed into silence as Sylvia woke up the vet, her eyes watching the shadows as they laid placidly on the ground in front of them as they walked. What is Ahvia going to think of me?

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“People don’t turn into panthers, Renata!” Mari said more loudly than she’d intended. A few students looked her way and then back out the window. “It was just...you imagined it,” she insisted, dropping her voice to a whisper again. Mari felt a coldness growing in the pit of her stomach as Renata stared unflinchingly back and shook her head.

“I know what I saw.”

“Look, this is dumb. Let’s just go to Ravi’s room and knock on the door. He’s probably just still aslee—“

“Mari, look around!” Renata swept her arm around the foyer. “Nobody’s still asleep. There’s not a single person in the whole fucking school who didn’t hear that roar and I don’t care if you don’t believe me!” Renata answered heatedly. “I was there and you weren’t. I saw it!”

Renata’s vehemence stunned Mari into silence. She could only shake her head in mute denial.

“Fine! You want to go to Ravi’s room? Let’s go to Ravi’s room.” Renata shot to her feet like a spring, grabbed Mari’s wrist and started pulling her down the hall...only to stop abruptly. “Where’s Ravi’s room?”

Before Mari could answer her, the door swung open and slammed shut again and Trevor Kim walked briskly through the crowd of students flooding him with questions.

“What happened?”

“Where’s Frida?”

“Did you see the panthers?”

“What is that on your leg? Is that blood!?”

Trevor shoved his way to the stairs, waving his hands in dismissive irritation. “She ran off okay? I’m going to bed.”

“She’s still out there?” Mari asked as Trevor stalked past her and Renata.

“Yeah, she is. And she can fucking stay out there for all I care.” Travor snapped back, his face colored from an embarrassed blush as he bolted up the stairs, two at a time.

Mari turned to look at Renata but was again interrupted, this time by the two girls who had gone to find Sylvia Dorn.

“We can’t find Ms. Dorn!” Lisa Putnam shouted.

“Yeah, she’s not in her room.” Patty Olsen echoed.

__________________

Height: 5'1", Weight: 102 lbs, Hair: Dark brown, Eyes: Hazel, Striking looks 4, Dexterity 4, Presence 4

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Frida didn't really notice where she was going.. she only knew that the image of all those dead faces was far more terrifying to her than a pair of great, stalking black panthers. Whether it was a fear of the unknown or perhaps a horrifying realization that an agonizing death wasn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to you. But it drove Frida on, as far away from the source of that image as she could possibly get.

Still, it seemed too close, her infallable memory bringing the images to mind as clear as when she'd seen them. She had found her way inside a building by this point, but it didn't register until she'd slammed a door behind her and leaned against it that she'd made her way to the place where she felt most comfortable... Dalton's art classrooms. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing the images away, but like always they stayed vividly etched. So she did the only thing she thought might help chase away the nightmares... se tried to purge them.

Frantically, Frida's eyes flicked around until she found some supplies. And then, she began to paint...

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"Dorn's outside," Renata said, letting go of Mari's arm. She looked around and suddenly called out, "Hey! Has anyone here called the cops yet?! Anyone?"

Someone called back, "I saw Tani calling them!" Someone else added, "I called nine-one-one, they said someone was on the way."

Renata nodded, calmed a bit by the news. The jangling of shock and disbelief in her nerves was lessening, and clarity was returning.

"Mari," she said, looking over at her classmate. "Go ahead and look in Ravi's room. I'm going outside. Those cats, panthers, whatever...I dunno...they seem like they like me. I'll be fine. Maybe I can keep them from hurting anyone else...or keep the cops from killing them."

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15 or so miles from Dalton:

The panther slipped through the Colorado forest like a part of it, free at last to run simply for the joy of running. All of the commotion, the screaming and the strange female and her unnatural shadows:they were left far behind as he bounded effortlessly through the night with huge loping strides. For a time Ravi just ran and ran, feeling the wind in his fur and the scents of the wilderness in his nostrils, Man and Beast exulting together in their freedom and power. A looming cliff and tumble of rocks blocked his path, but Ravi went up it in a short series of bounds: one, two, three then a scrabble of claws and he was at the top. A ravine appeared, then went soaring underneath him as the panther didn't even slow before leaping over it at full stretch.

For all the thrill and heady sensations, the beast's instincts were still unerringly focused on finding food. Most creatures it had scented so far were small, barely a mouthful, but suddenly a stray breeze carried the scent of something bigger to the sensitive nose. Ravi slowed to a stealthy padding trot and altered his course, homing in on the prey.

It was a mule deer, a young adult buck who had lost out during the rut and wandered from the herd until breeding season was over. From the scars on it's neck and shoulders older and larger males had won this year, but age and experience would have allowed this buck to compete in the future. This, however, was not to be.

It was barely even a contest, and would have been no contest at all if Ravi had not been just as young and unseasoned as the buck in his own way. Hungry and overeager, the young panther's lack of patience during the stalk caused him to brush against some dry brush a touch too hard. The buck's ears twitched once and it was off like a shot, the panther hard behind it.

Around trees and deadfalls, over logs and streams the buck jinked, Ravi scant yards behind it and reeling in the distance with every bound. Some element of Man's reason kept the panther's leap in check as the buck zigzagged, kept the Beast waiting for the right moment. In this moment, Man and Beast were one, anticipation of the impending kill bringing their hearts and minds into alignment.

Inevitably in such a headlong chase the footing became treacherous. The panicked deer made a rash choice and zigged the wrong way, catching it's antlers on a low-hanging branch. For a second, it's dash was slowed. It was enough, and Ravi leapt, bearing the deer to the ground and clamping huge jaws around it's throat. There was a single, terrible snap, and the hunt was over.

Dragging the kill clear of the entangling branches, Ravi settled down and feasted...

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Aside from a call to that poor unfortunate who was designated as the on-call vet (and who would be well-rewarded via triple-rate hours), Sylvia and Lucia walked back toward Lancaster in near silence. Their experiences for the evening didn't lend themselves to conversation; after all, how exactly does one talk about being a monster?

By the time they approached what passed for home, the quad was alive with red and blue lights chasing the shadows. Prudence led the pair to a rear utility entry; experience led Sylvia to the key kept well-hidden within a loose brick by long tradition amongst some of the senior students. With as much care as possible, they entered the dorm, the elder of the two eager to find her way to her room and clothing that didn't smell of equine.

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“Wait, you can’t just...” Mari trailed off, looking toward the door. It isn’t possible. But what about the dream and that strange girl calling Ravi’s name at one of the panthers? And that roar. Why had it made her think of him just then? None of it made sense. None of it seemed real. Mari pinched her arm, just to be on the safe side, but to her chagrin she did not awaken in the blanketed comfort of her bed. This can’t be really happening.

“I’m going.” The words brought Mari out of her stupor. She saw Renata turn and leave Lancaster at a quick stride. After a moment’s hesitation, Mari raced after her.

“Renata wait,” Mari called, jogging to catch up and reaching out to take Renata’s hand.

Renata shook free. “I’m doing this Mari. Go back inside if you’re scared of the panthers.”

“No—“

“YES.” Renata scowled at her so fiercely that Mari took a step back, half-fearing she’d be slapped.

“No, I mean, wait cuz I’m going with you.”

“Oh.” Renata’s expression immediately softened into an embarrassed blush. “Well. Then. I guess you can hold my hand if you want to.”

“Okay.” Mari took Renata’s hand again. It was a comfort to feel Renata’s palm, warm against her own. It made her feel the smallest bit safer.

“Okay.” Renata had a hard time tearing her eyes away. Mari’s expression was so trusting. Her hazel eyes so full of some tender promise that Renata knew she could unlock if she just said the right words or gave the right touch. But the words weren’t there...and if she wanted to help Sylvia and Ravi she had to find them before the police got there. “Let’s go, then.” She trotted out to the middle of the quad, tugging Mari along behind her.

* * * * *

Minutes later the police would be swarming all over the campus, the quad would be cordoned off and a dozen officers, detectives and forensics specialists would be standing where Mari and Renata stood now: before the ruined remains of a human body, innards torn from its torso and spilled like messy flesh-confetti over the blood soaked grass, limbs ripped and mangled like beef shoved too hastily through a meat-grinder.

Renata covered her mouth, the color draining from her face. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Mari was sick. She took one look at the grisly tableau of giblets before her and turned away, dropping to her knees and doubling over and dry-heaving. Renata was slapping her back and murmuring awkward encouragement, “okay, come on, you’ll be okay” when Mari spotted the glint of metal in the grass. Keys. She reached for them as her gagging coughs subsided and saw something else. A wallet. Fine calfskin leather embroidered with a familiar crest.

“This...this is Ravi’s.” Mari took the wallet and the keys.

“Yeah? Okay, that’s cool, come on though, we really need to keep going.” Renata hauled Mari back to her feet.

“What if something happened to him?” Mari exclaimed. The look of agonized concern on her face made Renata want to puke all over again.

“Something did happen to him. He turned in a big giant scary panther. Now let’s go find him before the cops do.” Renata looked around the quad, trying not to see the bloody mess at her feet, and then turned and started off toward the woods.

“Renata!”

“Mari, what? Come on. We don’t have a lot of time before the cops get here.”

Mari tried to swallow down the heavy lump that had formed in her throat. She could scarcely make herself speak. “We can’t. We can’t just go chasing after Ravi—if it even is Ravi—or that panther or whatever...even if you’re totally sure they won’t hurt you and how can you be sure of that, I mean....just, just look at that...” Mari choked up, not trusting herself to say anything else without bursting into tears.

Renata stalked back over to the little Freshman and grabbed her by the arm. To her surprise, Mari dug her heels in and pulled back. “Mari—”

“Look, please. Just...even if everything is like you said. Even if...how are we going to find those panthers? It’s really dark in the woods. I mean. They’re way faster than we are. They have a head start. I think we should um...”

“Um what?”

“Go back to Ravi’s room.” Mari stared at Renata imploringly.

“Why? What for?”

“To...to see if he comes back,” Mari answered in a voice so whisper soft that Renata had to strain to hear it.

“Okay, Mari, I’m going to go look for the panthers, you just go back to the dorm and...and sit tight. Or whatever.”

“Please, Ren. I don’t want to be alone right now.”

Renata thought of saying, ‘You won’t be, because there’s about a hundred other kids in that dorm’ but Mari’s eyes were shining with unshed tears and her bruised lower lip was trembling and her vulnerability was so naked and raw that Renata felt like someone had reached into her chest and squeezed her heart and she almost felt like she was about to start bawling herself.

“Fine.” Renata finally relented.

__________________

Height: 5'1", Weight: 102 lbs, Hair: Dark brown, Eyes: Hazel, Striking looks 4, Dexterity 4, Presence 4

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