Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gargoyle

So this is something I started on a while back, briefly lost track of (as I was working on paid stuff), and only recently got around to cleaning up to post. I've been thinking of possible future continuation of my "Woodburn Chronicles" games, and decided to throw something together that both foreshadows the next plot I plan to run and gives me an opportunity to introduce an NPC to the setting. I don't yet know how important he'll be to the plot itself or how prominent he'll be, but now that Beast: The Primordial is a thing I've wanted to introduce at least one Beast to Morgantown. And the concept I had for him dovetails nicely with... well, you'll see. For those of you unfamiliar with Beasts, they tend to see most other supernaturals as 'cousins' and often work with them.

Anyhow, here's the story below the break. Cheers.



Early April, 2016...

The Gargoyle perched on the corner of his temple. He looked down through the mists to the labyrinth of narrow city streets below. Nothing moved down there, nothing substantial at least, but he couldn't help but just quietly watch. He thought about where the passageways went; where each of the doors in the walls would go if they opened properly.

He always imagined that one of those doors could open and on the other side would be a realm he'd never seen before. One where he could look down over new vistas, find new stalking grounds. Swoop down on places most beings had never dreamed of. Hunt things never before seen with human eyes.

The feather flew in his face.

He cursed and snatched it with fingers of living concrete. He spun around, sure there was something there, but saw only a handful of feathers drifting along the flat top of the temple like dry autumn leaves. Something like mist or smoke clung to them, and while mist often drifted in from outside there was something unnatural about what the feathers carried with them. The feather in his fingers dissolved into greasy smoke and blew away on a breeze he knew as well as just about everything else in this realm.

It was an owl's feather, and not the first. It wouldn't be the last, either. Just the most recent that he'd been seeing over the course of the last few months. Maybe the last year? Tough to say. One saw so many things in the fog that drifted through his city, over his temple. In the constant overcast sky that muffled an unseen glow that could have been a moon. It was only in the last year he was sure he saw the feathers, and still had yet to track down the source.

He walked to the other edge of the temple roof and looked down. Something like a Mesoamerican step pyramid reinterpreted in gothic architecture, it stood as a wonder to those rare few who'd ever see it. Something to tell stories about, if you made it back. He was pretty sure the feathers had blown up from down there, where he thought he saw another cloud of dissolving feathers.

Was that a bird's silhouette?

His wings spread to control his descent as he dropped down from ledge to ledge, taking steep stairs two at a time, moving to the maze beneath. Feathers didn't just arrive. They had to come from somewhere. From someone. He'd yet to properly encounter Morgantown's Apex, and needed to know why. He needed to know if it was a threat to him, to his hunting territory, to his occasional companions from the Wrong Alley.

He perched on the buildings on either side of the twisting streets, with doors and brick walls and trash cans and the occasional chain link fence closing off this passageway or framing a ragged hole where someone could wriggle through to the next. He jogged along ledges over the gaps, finding a route, following a trail he felt in his gut more than he properly perceived.

Here.

He dropped down into a small courtyard of sorts, a gap between buildings where a couple of alleys came together, rusted metal stairs leading up to a door. He focused on this place, focused on the other half of it, and both halves became one.

People walked through the streets less than a block away, talking and laughing, staggering with drink and spewing breath of smoke and liquor as appropriate for this time of night. He looked around the junction of alleys and remembered the crime he'd stopped here once. The woman he'd saved was almost more scared of him than the man he'd saved her from, but no matter. The Gargoyle had fed, and order had been upheld. That was a good night.

That reminded him; he should consider looking for some action. He wasn't hungry, as such. But he could eat.

He relaxed his 'grip' on the alley, letting the Gargoyle return to its realm. Oscar stood there and took a deep breath, smoothing down his flannel shirt and jeans. He was almost sure for a second he'd find another of those owl feathers caught in the folds of his clothes, or perhaps snagged in his belt.

He took a deep breath, picked up the chill spring breeze and the promise of a dusting of snow, though from the light clothing of the college students wandering the streets you'd never believe it. Something on the breeze caught his attention, and he snapped his gaze towards the nearby High Street. He strolled out into the crowd, watching people passing by, trying to find what it was that got his hackles up.

"You look like you're onto something," came a familiar voice off to the side.

Oscar looked over to see a man in his late 20's, wearing a leather jacket and jeans over compact muscle, a certain degree of natural menace in his gaze. A pair of old, worn dog tags dangled from his neck. Even if he didn't know this particular individual, he'd recognize the scent of a werewolf even through the various aromas.

"Hey, Bernard," Oscar said with a frown as he looked around. "Got a whiff of something that I'm trying to nail down. It can probably wait, though, if you've got something going on...?"

Bernard glanced at his phone. "The rest of the pack and I are tracking a drug dealer. I was thinking of calling you because this guy's been a problem around campus and I know that's part of your deal."

"That's big of you," Oscar said with an appreciative smile. "Jenna's cool with it?"

"She's warming up to you. When her sister gets a good vibe off someone, Jenna takes it seriously."

Oscar nodded. The bonds of metaphysical blood with his distant cousins counted for a lot. He caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye, a feather that appeared to be made of shadow...

"Anyhow, Dan's got eyes on the target. We should move on this if--" Bernard started before Oscar cut him off.

"One thing, real quick." Oscar looked up and followed the feather, seeing a man across the street with brown hair about 5'9", almost painfully average. His shadow trailed behind him like a long cloak, a little longer than it should have been in this light, and certainly not at the right angle. Oscar could catch the musty smell of old death and the hint of dried blood coming off the vampire. "Who's that?"

The vampire ducked into a club called Chemical Reactions, but not before a shadow cast across his back shifted and for a moment Oscar was sure it looked like an owl's head looking back his way. But if anyone else noticed, they didn't say anything.

"That's Derrick. I'm surprised you haven't met him yet. He's the local vampire honcho. He makes it a note to try and get to know everyone and everything that's a little weird." Bernard gave him a look. "Is there something I should know?"

"I'll explain later, I might want to ask Mike a few things first anyways and I can fill you in then."

A slim woman with a tightly-tied red ponytail passed by them. Oscar recognized her, too.

"Move it or lose it," Jenna muttered to the two of them without slowing down.

"Alright, we move," Bernard said, immediately falling into step behind her.

Oscar glanced back at the nearby alleys, quickly mentally mapping out the quickest way up to the rooftops via the fire escapes. Back at the otherworldly temple, his true self stretched its wings in anticipation.

"I'll take the high road," he said before ducking down the alley to take a much more esoteric shortcut.

A few minutes later, Oscar crouched on the edge of a building next to an abandoned lot. The drug dealer Bernard and his pack had been stalking was swiftly trying to get to a nearby gas station, where it would be well-lit and safe. In the meantime, the pack closed in from a couple of different directions. Aside from maybe one or two of the homeless lurking in nearby alleys bellowing gibberish at passersby, nobody was going to notice what happened in the dark gap between Pleasant Street and the circle of light around the gas station.

Oscar pondered just how close to let him get to safety. And if it had been entirely up to him, he'd have waited until just the last moment to make his move. But he was working with the werewolves on this, and knew that there's only so much they would want to risk it.

Below, the Wrong Alley pack spread out. Jenna was in the middle. She was several inches taller now, having grown in size and muscle in the last minute, her form having a distinctly feral cast now. On one side, Bernard and the pack's mystic, Mike, formed part of a pincer. On the other, Jenna's sister Liz and the pack's 'knife guy,' Dan.

Just to satisfy his own sense of theatrics, Oscar licked a finger and held it up to check the breeze before taking a couple of steps back. He rushed the edge of the roof, leaping off with arms spread. He caught the breeze, gliding in and making a beeline for the target. A couple of the werewolves, getting used to working with him, subtly glanced up and saw him coming.

The drug dealer, like most humans, never looked up until it was too late.

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