10/13/16 & 10/18/16

Jim: “He certainly doesn’t belong in Monterey!”
Me: *flips Jim off*
Jim: “I love that all the heat fell onto Tom for that one, considering Anstis was equally responsible.”
Me: “Yes! I know!!”
Jason: “And you wanna know what else? Same thing at the San Leandro reservoir. Everyone blamed Tom, even though Anstis was a little bit responsible.”
Me: “YES!!! I KNOW!!!!”
Jason: “But Tom was too.”
Me: “I DIDN’T LAUNCH THE MISSILE!! I WAS JUST STANDING THERE!!!”
Jason: “You were ‘just standing there’ after kidnapping the primog–”
Me: “I!!! 👏 WAS GOING!!!! 👏 TO BRING!!!! 👏 HIM BACK!!!!!”

***

MOUNT DIABLO: ANSTIS

Mist-form Anstis barrels through the unnatural night, battered by winds and thermals rising off the mountains. The Flowers’-possessed vozdt beats laboriously behind him, alternatively laughing and screeching from its dozens of mouths. Some unholy magic keeps the massive thing in the air, aloft on shredded leathery wings. Slowly the Anstis mist starts to pull ahead, but not fast enough to make a clean getaway.

As Anstis traces a dizzying flightpath up the slopes of the mountain, the light from the summit catches his attention. The werewolf ritual is nearing its climax, with the fires raging high and monsters writhing around it in a heaving, snarling mass. The skin-cloaked sorcerer leading the ritual stands in a circle of dead bodies, blood streaked down her fur, claws raised in supplication as she howls to the night.

Anstis twists in on himself and sails toward her. As he moves, the mist alternately condenses and expands, forming a shape….

The sorcerer snarls a command. One of the other werewolves steps forward. In an instant, she tears the wolf open, adding his body to the sacrificial pile. Claws dripping in flesh, she climbs up onto the stone altar, opening her jaws to roar–

–Then stops as she sees the murky outline of a pirate ship tacking toward her from above.

She howls and gestures sharply. Roots and branches surge from the clearing around the bonfire, braiding into a high wall before her.

(Jim: “She’s using wood…to block mist?”
Jason: “She doesn’t know what the hell is going on, she’s using what she’s got!”)

Anstis flows easily through gaps in the wood and collects to hover above her.

She snarls up, jaws dripping with blood and saliva as they struggle to form words.  “Your time has ended here, leech! Let the world be cleansed of your filth!” She turns away, back to the fire. “Rise, Andrea! Rise and purge this world!”

Still in mist-form, Anstis attempts to siphon some blood from her. Before he can get far, though, she shrieks and blasts a bolt of magic at him, forcing him back into human form and dropping him to the dirt.

Werewolves loom around him, eyes mad with rage. The sorcerer stands above them, snarling in triumph–

–Until, with a rending scream of a thousand souls, the vozdt bursts through the encircling hedge.

Growls turn to screams as the wolves turn on the new monster. It meets their challenge with claws and teeth to match their own. At the battle erupts, Anstis dives behind the sorcerer and plunges into the soil, smirking as the protective embrace of the earth closes over him.

#

 

MOUNT DIABLO: GAVRIL

Gavril, meanwhile, is climbing back up from the town, looking for Neshka and his skull.

He finally reaches the area where his last body died. The remains have long since crumbled to ash, but bits of torn clothing mark the location. His skull itself isn’t as important as the dirt that was stored inside it–dirt from his homeland, as befitting the customs of the clan of Tzimisce.

There’s plenty of dirt around but Gavril can’t tell which of it is his special dirt. As he pokes around, though, rustling in the brush behind him makes him freeze. Carefully, he creeps away to hide in the shadows nearby.

A direwolf appears, sniffing at the ground, apparently having followed his trail up the mountain. It pauses nearby, sniffing at the shreds of clothing and the dirt Gavril just disturbed as part of his search. The wolf tenses, hackles raised. Running won’t do, the wolf will just follow, so Gavril goes on the offense, slowly attempting to sneak up behind it.

At the last minute, though, the wolf turns and sees him.

Gavril erupts up into Zulo-form at the same moment the wolf explodes into full-werewolf form, both instantly throwing themselves at one another.  Claws and talons tear against flesh and bone, but Gavril gets the upper hand, clamping his elongated hands around the werewolves jaws. In the span of a moment, he vicissitudes them shut.

The werewolves’ eyes go wide. It struggles to slash at Gavril’s chest, but he catches the arms and melts their flesh together as well. Unbalanced, the wolf falls. Gavril looms over it, calmly kneading and stretching the flesh until it’s formed into one giant, quivering werewolf sausage.

(Jason: “You are beat to shit, got a stack of ag damage, but you have successfully subdued a werewolf. …You are BIG MAN!!!”)

The spines and plates of the zulo-form shrink in themselves as Gavril settles back into his regular human-form. Smirking to himself, he kneels over the dying werewolf and begins to drink.

Until something heavy and angry smashes into him from behind.

Taken unaware, Gavril is rent to pieces by yet another werewolf, again, tearing him down into a pile of flesh and bonebox. Satisfied that it’s avenged its packmate, this werewolf lopes off into the night, leaving the blearly bonebox slowly passing out from lack of blood.

Before it loses consciousness, though, the last image it sees is a new shape looming over it. A shape wearing a cowboy hat.

#

THE UMBRA OR WHATEVER: TOM

I climb behind the bar of the dead club and grab a bottle at random. Whiskey, and not a bad one either. If this whole Ghosts of Christmas Past tour I’ve been on isn’t real, maybe that means I can drink? Carefully I take a sip.

Then immediately vomit it up all over the counter.

Grumbling, I suck some water from the sink to rinse the rest of the alcohol out of my mouth. The nausea passes quickly, but my stomach feels hollow in its wake. A reminder that my hunger is growing uncomfortably strong.

As I’m futzing behind the bar, piano music starts playing through in the dingy club air.

(Me: “What? This club didn’t have a piano. What are we, gay? Come on.”)

Still carrying the whiskey, I leave the bar and approach the dance floor. The DJ stanchion has been replaced by a shining grand piano. Sitting at it, playing with all the flair of Liberace’s ghost, is Emperor Norton. Because of course it fucking is.

He continues to play as I approach, not looking up. “Mr. Lytton,” he says seriously. “How is it it’s come to this?”

I lean against the piano. “I don’t know, you tell me. What is all this? A dream? Though if it was a dream I’d hope I’d at least be able to drink.” I toss the bottle away to smash somewhere in the darkness.

“A dream? In a sense. What is this city if not a dream? For all of us who have come here.” The tune he plays is odd, like snatches of familiar things strung together, but as soon as you think you’ve identified it it it shifts into something else. His eyes are closed in rapture as his fingers meander through the piece. “But this place, no. A reflection. As if a mirror. Twisted perhaps but showing truth nonetheless.”

I stare at him a long moment. “So…how do I get home then? Do I click my heels together or….?”

“And return to Kansas?” One eye opens to look at me. “Or Ohio?”

I tense. “I’d rather not there.”

“Then what would you rather do?”

“Well I was a little busy in the real world with Boss and the spiral hive and Perpenna. I gotta find out if anything worked.”

“They escaped.” He closes his eyes again. “From the frying pan into the fire, of course.”

I groan and slouch against the piano. “Isn’t everything fire to you, Norton? That’s what you’ve been saying the last few weeks.”

“No. Not everything is fire. It spreads and it recedes.” The tune finishes, trickling off into oblivion. Norton sits back and turns to me. “You think that I am insane,” he says matter-of-factly.

I pause, considering my words carefully. “I think…you are an excellent specimen of your kind, sir.”

“It’s alright. I am insane. I for as long as I can remember. Before my embrace, before my coronation.”

A snort escapes from me before I can stop it. Norton frowns. “You laugh. You imagine a coronation as what? Alley cats presenting a crown upon my head, screaming at the police and the garbagemen as they went about their routes?”

I can’t keep the grin off my face. “I don’t know, that sounds kinda adorable.”

Norton, though, nods seriously. “I did these things, yes. But my coronation was not of the flesh. It was of the spirit. And of that coronation none may remove my crown. Not even Caine. Though he may try.” He smooths at his coat. For some reason it looks far less threadbare here. “But you are no emperor, Mr. Lytton. What are you?”

I shrug. “Just another asshole like the rest of them.”

“Really? Do they all burn towns to the ground? Do they all become confederates with werewolves and elder vampires of the Sabbat?”

I glare. “No, they do worse.”

“Some. Not most. So then what are you, a sodomite? A king of sodomites?”

I fold my arms. “Pretty sure the formal designation is ‘queen.’ Why does it matter?”

“Yolanda wishes to know.” Norton smiles a disturbingly self-assured smile. “But if you cannot tell her then she has no use for you.”

“Well, actions speak louder than words, and if she sends me back–”

“Your actions? You wish them to speak for you?”

For once, I see where this is going and stop. “…Not my past actions–”

“Then which?”

“The ones I’m trying to do!” I groan and throw myself off the piano to pace the dance floor. “So let’s see, on my to-do list–besides still trying to find a new apartment, that’s tabled for now–I got to figure out a way to cure the vampire-super-AIDS rampaging through the city, I need to help Sophia with whatever werewolf bullshit is going on, I gotta help Marcus kill an ancient vampire even worse than Rabenholz, I gotta help Paul go public with his company or whatever the fuck thats about, and on top of all that, I gotta rescue my own sister from the predatory asshole who’s apparently had her enslaved for three decades!”

Norton watches me with the same bemused smile on his face. “That is what you are trying to do. What are you trying to be?

I stop and shrug. “…Myself?”

“And you have no conception of what that is.” He shakes his head sadly. “She has wished to know what you are. And I do not gainsay her. With a thought she will burn you to embers, till your very name be forgotten. Would you have her do so? Is that why you came?”

I hesitate. “All irony aside, I didn’t come to this city to die–”

“I did,” he says, and his serious tone kills any protest left on my tongue. “I was a ruined man. I had lost everything in speculations. I came to this city to spend what was left, in hopes of rekindling my fortune. I failed. I lost all. Even my mind.” He sits back on the piano stool, chest thrust proudly. “And yet, here I am. Emperor, in my capital. The imperial city, on the gate of gold.”

Before I can respond, he lifts a finger, leveling it at me. “But the city burns. The werewolves in the east will raise Andrea. The dancers in the north pour into the streets. they seek the cub, they seek your friends, and they will devour them all.”

I gape at him. “Then why the FUCK are we still sitting–”

–In an instant, the club is gone. I’m standing on the roof of a skyscraper, cold wind whipping at my clothes. By its height, it’s the top of the unfinished Salesforce tower, having recently surpassed the Pyramid for tallest building in the skyline. The whole city is laid out before me, spread under a black sky. Not black like night, matte-black like…something else. My eyes, though, are drawn to the hills where Sutro Tower is lit up like a light show. Energy races up and down the legs and beams of rainbow color blast in all directions at unseen targets. Even from this distance, I can hear a distant mechanical-voice booming about deathrays and etheric science.

I stare a long minute. “What. The fuck. Is that teutonic idiot. Doing.”

#

SUTRO TOWER: PAUL

Chaos and battle rages around the tower while Paul stands in the control room, frozen at the epicenter of it all. Fomori dive-bomb the glass from out of the the darkness, only to be incinerated by death-ray beams fired by the various antenna and arrays. Carefully, Paul approaches one of the windows and peers down. Werewolves pour from the treeline below, throwing themselves at the tower girders and beginning to climb, but they don’t get far before energy races up the leg and torches them as well.

Meanwhile, the golem’s voice still booms into the night, “QUANTUM PHYSICS IS A LIE!! ETHERIC SCIENCE IS THE ONLY TRUTH!!” As Paul watches, a deathray streaks across bare dirt below, leaving a line of cabbages blooming it its wake.

Marcus is also visible, or just barely, barded in shadow and tearing through werewolves with equal ease as his sword cuts an obsidian path through the air. Sophia, though, isn’t visible. Paul assumes her werewolf blood helped her survive her fall but still watches nervously for sign of her.

In the midst of the chaos, a new form emerges from the treeline. It’s the Black Spiral Dancer Paul saw at the head of the column advancing across the Golden Gate Bridge, massive and black and carrying a barbed whip. She howls to the sky, loud enough to be heard over the voice of the golem. Paul braces for another etheric bolt to cut her town too.

But the tower doesn’t shoot her.

Nearby, Marcus is standing over a werewolf corpse, tearing his sword out of its flesh and bent over in apparent pain. The dancer snarls and stalks toward him in ground-eating stride.

“Shoot that!” Paul cries, pointing at the werewolf. No shots come, even as she comes within close range of the tower.

“Look!” Paul yells, “Quantum physics!” But the tower still ignores him.

Paul scrabbles against the smooth-panelled surfaces of the control room, trying to find a button or latch or something to reveal a set of controls, but everything is oddly featureless for a Dr. von Natsi invention. Paul is struggling between frustration and appreciation of the clean aesthetic when something about his groping finally makes a glowing circle appear on the dash in front of him and a hologram of Dr. von Natsi shimmers into life.

“Ve see you are searching for ze control protocol of the Etheric Golem,” the hologram says calmly. “In order to access zis operating system you must present your credentials!”

Paul eyes the figure seriously. “I have presented them and you accepted them and they meet your requirements.”

“NEIN!!” the tiny figure shouts. “Zis must be done through ze dictates of etheric science!”

(Jason: “The light goes out, the sound fades away, and you suddenly find yourself in a Jurassic Park video. That DNA creature shows up and starts to–”
Me: “MISTER DNA, sir! Please!”
Jim: “Mr. Etheric Science!”
Jason: “Yes! Mr. Ether shows up and starts explaining to you how to request access to use the golem controls–”
Me: “In the same Texan accent!”)

Indeed a moment later, a voice with a vaguely-Southern accent speaks. But it’s not coming from the control panel. Paul turns.

It’s Jeremiah Flagg.

Paul stares at him a moment…then runs from the control room.

#

TOM

As I stare up at the tower looming over the city, I become aware that Norton is standing beside me, staring up as well.

“Mr. Lytton,” he says seriously. “This is your life. These are your choices.”

“You sure I caused this? You sure this wasn’t predestined somehow?” I stab a finger toward the tower.  “Cause I’m pretty sure that mage would have done all this even if I had died in Marin.”

“Predestined? No. But you had a hand in all of it. All of it.” Norton turns and looks the other way. I follow his gaze to see a glow of fire building at the summit of Mt. Diablo, far off in the east bay.

“All is chaos, all is disorder,” Norton says, turning to me. “And yet you stay. Is the best you can do just to burn with everything? Is there nothing else?”

The world around us spins and suddenly we’re at the base of Sutro Tower as the battle rages around us. Monsters swirl in the skies and tear out from the treeline as beams of energy lance off the tower to strike them down. Marcus is here too, armored in shadow and cutting down the things the tower misses.

My gaze, though, is drawn to a small crumpled shape in the shadows of the tower, barely visible under an army jacket and Cubs baseball cap. It’s Sophia. And she’s not moving.

I start to run toward her–

–But Norton grabs my arm, shaking his head sadly.

“You’re not really here,” he says.

“Wh–” I tear my arm from his grip. “–Then why. Why. Why do any of this then!?”

“To determine if you can see,” he says, strangely calm in the midst of the battle and my rising anger. “Because we all have our parts to play. And because I was asked.”

“Asked? By whom?”

“By one who may outrank an emperor.”

His gaze slides past me. Yolanda is standing there, watching passively. Norton nods at her, somewhat reverentially, then turns and walks away.

Yolanda comes up, examines me with a soft smile. “You are so strange. More than all of you put together.”

I stare back. “Thank…you?”

New movement draws my attention back to the battle. A massive black hyena-headed werewolf steps from the shadows under the trees, jaws already slathered in blood and wielding one of the largest whips I’ve ever seen. It throws its head back and roars.

I fight between instincts: to run, to fight, to feed, but I remember Norton’s warning and instead pace ineffectively. “Goddammit! I should be doing something!”

“Why?” Yolanda asks calmly. “That thing will kill you.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what they said about all the other werewolves I dealt with!”

She smiles and nods toward it. “That is not like the other werewolves.”

The werewolf–a Spiral Dancer, by my undereducated guess–stalks toward Marcus. Marcus turns at the last minute to see it, then rolls out of the way as the whip comes crashing down, striking a deep gouge through the solid asphalt ground.

I grimace. “Yeah but it’s the same sort of situation.”

Yolanda laughs. “Really? Fighting side by side with The Devourer of Innocence and a teenage werewolf whose destiny is to die in the service of her god?”

I wince and glance at Sophia. Thankfully she still seems to be out of the main chaos of battle, and even more thankfully, I think I see her body stir. “Well. If it is Sophia’s time, that’s not my decision. But supposedly I have free will so I might as well do what I can while I can, and if I don’t have free will, then eh, fuck it.” I hesitate. “Paul could probably explain it better….”

The Spiral Dancer opens its hand, conjuring up a ball of balefire the size of a bowling ball. It tosses it at Marcus, who dodges again. Green fire explodes against the ground, burning the cracked asphalt with no signs of dispelling.

Yolanda watches dispassionately. “You are a creature of free will. But there are certain things that cannot be avoided. If you fight that creature, someone must die here.”

I stare back at her, for a moment forgetting everything around me….

(Me: “Do I still have Vera?”)

…Then I shrug and heft Vera into my grip. “Whatever. I already have.”

Yolanda lifts an eyebrow, but before she can speak I continue. “Look, señora, this tour of the city has been nice, maybe next time we can take one of the open-top busses, but there’s other things I need to be doing!”

She’s silent a moment. “Then is this where you belong?”

(Jim: “He certainly doesn’t belong in Monterey!”
Me: *flips Jim off*
Jim: “I love that all the heat fell onto Tom for that one, considering Anstis was equally responsible.”
Me: “Yes! I know!!”
Jason: “And you wanna know what else? Same thing at the San Leandro reservoir. Everyone blamed Tom, even though Anstis was a little bit responsible.”
Me: “YES!!! I KNOW!!!!”
Jason: “But Tom was too.”
Me: “I DIDN’T LAUNCH THE MISSILE!! I WAS JUST STANDING THERE!!!”
Jason: “You were just standing there after kidnapping the primog–”
Me: “I!!! 👏 WAS GOING!!!! 👏 TO BRING!!!! 👏 HIM BACK!!!!!”)

Yolanda frowns. “I am not someone you must impress. I am not some man in a bar you wish to fuck. I am not your boss, or your friend. I am simply asking you. Do you belong here?”

I look around again at the chaos, the monsters, the werewolves, the tower spouting off like a deranged Christmas tree, and the vast spread of the city, so vulnerable below.

Yes!!!” I shout.

Yolanda stares another moment. “Okay,” she says, then turns and walks away.

I watch her disappear down a turn in the road, then glance around. The battle is still raging, nothing seems to have changed.

(Me: “…What? Am…I, like, back in phase yet?”
Jason: “You have no idea.”)

I heft Vera and shoot the trunk of a nearby eucalyptus tree. Bark shreds and spouts through the air, followed by a gust of fragrant oils. For a moment I relax. Finally, I’m back in reality, back with my gun–

–Then Marcus is thrown into me and we both tumble to the ground.

“Boss!!” I shout, scrambling back to my feet.

Marcus’s chest is rent open by claw wounds and his sword arm seems dangling by a thread. His eyes open slowly, but his gaze is dim and unfocused.

Still half-crouched, I whip Vera around and unload a burst of slugs into the werewolf. 50-cal rounds thud into its flesh, knocking it back a few feet, but the moment I stop it starts forward again, skin healing before my eyes.

Another orb of balefire flies at my head. I duck just as it screams past and incinerates a tree behind me. I click Vera into full-auto then sit up to launch another attack–

The werewolf is stalking away.

Toward Sophia.

Yards away, Sophia is now fully awake but frozen in fear, still huddled against the ground. The spiral dancer’s whip cracks at her as it approaches, snarling. Hands trembling, Sophia suddenly conjures up a ball of fire of her own, but it’s small and weak and splashes off the dancer’s fur like water.

“HEY!!!” I shout, climbing to my feet, but the spiral dancer ignores me. It stops over Sophia, conjuring an enormous mass of balefire. Sophia stares up in abject terror as the thing lifts it over head….

(Me: *hands tented in front of me, thinking carefully* “…Okay. I am going…to do a thing.”
Jason: “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”
Me: “Is Marcus’s sword nearby?”
Jason: “Yeah, he always has it, why?”
Me: “Did he drop it?”
Jason: “Why?”
Me: “Did he drop it.”
Jason: “…Why?
Me: “Did. He. Drop. It.”)

Quickly, I unsling myself from Vera and drop her to the ground. Marcus’s sword is on the ground, a few inches out of his reach. Before he can react, I grab it. The blade practically glimmers in obsidian darkness and weighs heavy in my hand as I stand and turn toward the werewolf.

(Me: “Okaaay…so…I need to move fast. I’m going to dump blood points into Celerity 3, and then put one more blood point into buffing Strength.”
Jason: “Okay. So you’re going to bum-rush a werewolf with nothing but Marcus’s sword.”
Me: “And the force of Frenzy. Cause that was the last of my blood.”
Everyone: *stares*
Jim: “Oh shit….”
Jason: “Oh…oh fuck….”)

The chaos around me fades away as I walk toward the spiral dancer, each step landing with the weight of a thousand moments. My remaining energy coalesces into a sudden moment of clear focus, then dissolves. I feel my consciousness fall back and the demon within surge up to take over, just like it did in Monterey.

But this time I step back to let it.

(Jason: “…Did you just go Full Brujah?”
Me: *slow intake of breath* “I think I just did…”)

My last wisps of control evaporate, but I don’t panic. Maybe it’s because of my willingness, but this time I am at least aware of what my body is doing and the events around me. I watch, dreamlike, as the spiral dancer lifts the fireball over Sophia, then in the next instant my body is right next to it and lifting the sword–

(Jason: “Roll me Dex + Melee.”
Me: “…Eight successes.”
Jason: “…Eight!?
Jim: *stage whisper* “I think you hit the werewolf.”
Jason: *flabbergasted. “…So…I guess…roll me Strength?”
Me: *rolls* “…That would be…ten successes. On six dice.”
Jason: “…”)

As if in slow motion, the werewolf turns to look at me, opening its jaws in a roar. My body roars back, a primal inhuman scream that tears itself from my throat as I takes a running leap. The wolf tries to turn, bringing the balefire around to ward me off as my body sails through the air, the sword held high overhead–

–Milliseconds before my body plunges all twenty-four inches of the sword right through its face.

#

PAUL

Paul’s footsteps clatter against the catwalk as he runs. Light and chaos rages around the tower but he ignores it, heading toward the industrial elevator embedded in the east leg. As he runs down the last catwalk toward it, though, he slows. One of the etheric batteries is located right next to the entrance and is currently crackling with energy that arcs and spits across the metal. Paul turns to find another way down–

–But Flagg is there, behind him on the catwalk, blocking his escape.

Flagg grins and raises his arms. “I have ascended into the heavens, for all the people is one, and have but one language. Let us go down now to the people and confuse their speech lest they tear the foundations of the heavens.”

Paul watches owlishly as Flagg approaches. “Are you an etheric scientist?”

“I am that I am.”

“You sure are. You very, very much are.” Paul sighs and makes a go on gesture. “Now you’re gonna do your thing, aren’t you? Threaten to kill everyone except you’re going to draw it out and talk a lot cause, I don’t know, it works for me sometimes, why wouldn’t it work for you….”

“Are you a god-fearing man?” Flagg asks, still grinning.

“Which god?”

“The One.”

“Sure.”

Flagg smirks knowingly. “You fear many things, but not what things you ought.”

“Perhaps. I’m afraid if I deny you, though, you’re going to talk more.”

Flagg doesn’t respond. Instead, he slowly reaches into his long black coat and pulls out his Bible.

With equal weight, Paul reaches into this pocket…and pulls out his cellphone.

Flagg eyes it disdainfully. “Wires in a box, versus the word of the Lord. Behold the servants of ignorance! I shall smite you with–”

Paul chucks his phone at Flagg’s head. Flagg bats it away with his Bible. He turns, ready to launch into another tirade–

–But Paul grabs the Bible from his hand.

Paul dances back. His hand clenches in agony, skin writhing with the sensation of burning, but he forces his way through it, reminding himself it’s not really real. He holds the book aloft. “You can have this back if you leave.”

Flagg snarls. “You shall never be rid of–”

Paul reaches forward and slaps Flagg with his own Bible.

Flagg hesitates a moment, then his face breaks into a slow grin. “Though I shall walk through  the valley of the shadow of–”

Paul slaps him again.

(Jason: “Does Paul take satisfaction from this?”
Chris: “Oh yes.”)

Paul glares. “Your god has forsaken you and is letting me beat you with your book. Get out.”

Flagg’s grin vanishes. “I SHALL NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY THE UNRIGHTEOUS!!!” he scouts to the sky, raising his arms.

Paul lifts the book again…then turns and throws it into the arcing energy of the etheric battery.

Flagg shrieks, an unholy rending sound. He twists and writhes, falling to his knees on the catwalk–

–Then is gone.

Paul stares. “…Well. I’ll need to remember that.”

#

TOM

Sated, the demon inside me slowly recedes, letting my full consciousness bubble back to the surface. I’m standing over the torn remains of the spiral dancer, Marcus’s sword still buried in its skull. I’m drenched in blood, chest heaving without breath. My own body is torn in places, but not debilitatingly-so, and without thinking my body begins to heal, drawing on the energy from the werewolf blood surging through me.

And I feel really, really good.

Sophia is still crouched on the ground, gaping up at me, speechless. Marcus is there too, still grievously damaged but back on his feet at least and staring at me in open-mouthed shock.

I pull the sword out of the carcass, chopping of its head to be sure. I make a half-hearted attempt to wipe the blood off the blade with the remains of my shirt, but all that does is put more blood on. Finally I give up and hand it out. “Sorry I didn’t ask to borrow it first.”

Marcus takes it automatically, still gaping at me. “Tom….”

“Yeah Boss?”

“If you turn out to be a god I’m going to be very upset.”

I walk over to pick up Vera from where I dropped her, hoisting her effortlessly up and onto my shoulder. “If I turn out to be a god, we’re probably all in a lot worse shape than we thought we were.”

#

PAUL

Paul hurries back to the control room. Unfortunately, during the run-in with Flagg, he missed the entirety of Mr. Etheric Science’s instruction spiel and the hologram projector has now auto-played itself into a documentary about Dr. von Natsi. Paul watches helplessly as various images of etheric devices flow past and tinny music fills the control room.

Outside, though, the chaos seems to be dying down. The sky seems clear of fomori and no more werewolves are barreling from the trees to attack from below. However the tower continues to launch colored bolts off into the darkness. Occasionally, lobs of balefire launch back in response.

“Tower?” Paul calls to the room. “Tower what’s happening?”

“ENEMIES OF ETHERIC SCIENCE. WIELDERS OF BASE MYSTICISM,” the tower’s voice booms back.

“Okay, well if you let me have access to the controls, I’m sure we could find another way to locate and subdue them–”

“ENGAGING SEEK AND DESTROY MODE.”

A shudder suddenly rocks the tower, followed by another. Paul freezes, a horrible suspicion suddenly rising in his gut.

“Oh no, nonono–”

He runs to the window to look out. Unfortunately, his fears are confirmed.

With a third shudder, the last massive leg of the tower uproots itself from the ground. And the whole tower begins to move.

 

END OF NIGHT

***

EPILOGUE:

Me: “Bet you weren’t expecting me to actually go Full-Brujah!!”
Jason: “Yeah, about that…that was actually more effective than you realized.”
Me: “Uh, more effective than stabbing a bitch through the face?”
Jason: “Yeah, so…you had no way of knowing this, but…the Spiral Dancer was protected with something called a Contrepasso Curse.”
Me: “That like an Unforgivable Curse?
Jason: “Sort of. It’s a fairly high-grade Wyrm Gift for Spiral Dancers. It’s like a revenge curse that bounces back on whatever kills you. It consumes the spirit of whatever kills you and feeds their essence to the Triat Wyrm. Eater-of-Souls, most likely.”
Me: “…But…I’m fine?”
Jason: “Well that’s the thing, you didn’t kill the Spiral Dancer, technically. You were in a frenzy, so your Beast did.”
Me: “…”
Jason: “The curse ‘killed’ your Beast and dragged it down to meet the Eater-of-Souls, but unfortunately your Beast IS basically a fragment of the Eater-of-Souls, so that did precisely jack shit.”
Me: “Did it destroy the Beast? Omg, am I cured???”
Jason: “No. The Curse of Caine is more powerful than the Contrepasso. Basically the curse just fizzled out and did nothing.”
Me: “Ha, sucks for the Spiral Dancer. So what you’re saying is I accidentally found the exact loophole I needed to win?”
Jason: “One of them, yes. You asshole.”
Me: “…#GameWritesItself.”

 

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4 Responses to 10/13/16 & 10/18/16

  1. “What. The fuck. Is that teutonic idiot. Doing.”

    I probably shouldn’t laught my lungs out at 2:39AM, yet, in a very Tom-esque fashion, I do anyway.

    Tom going full brujah. God, I missed that.

    An excellent write-up as always.

  2. blindinkpoet says:

    I have to look up that Contrepesso Curse. I’m sure my players will love it xD

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