The Wraith of WWI

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The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:03 pm

PROLOGUE

Kinsmir: The deadly blending of vampire and werewolf that, until their appearance, was thought to be impossible. A terrifying abomination with incredible power. Only fifteen of these dread creatures are known to have existed and of those all but one are confirmed to have been destroyed.

Alone and hunted John Sterling, the last of the Kinsmir, had slipped into the Alps and disappeared nearly a thirty years ago. There, as time wore on, he lapsed into a torporic slumber and was lost to all but the darkest legends of The Veil, where he remained undisturbed.

Until now.

The year is 1917. The Great War rages across Europe and one lost Mountain Patrol from the German Empire flees from their enemy, struggling to find shelter in a driving blizzard.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:12 pm

CHAPTER 1: UNEARTHED

The driving wind battered five staggering figures as they struggled up the steep rocky face toward the only shelter they could see, a small cave entrance barely visible between two large, shattered rocks. Flurries of snow swirled and whipped around their thick white woolen cloaks pulled close over heavy packs and worn brown uniforms as they climbed. One of the figures was struggling with a badly injured leg.

Reaching the cave entrance at last they separated in a well-rehearsed ritual of securing their surroundings, two of them taking post at the entrance and peering deeply into the growing darkness as the others pulled back the heavy hoods of their cloaks and moved inside cautiously, long rifles at the ready as they checked for danger.

The cave interior was larger than the tiny nook that it appeared to be from the outside, the floor sloping downward from the entrance only a few feet inside as the rough granite walls expanded to each side, the roof angling upward to allow more than enough room to stand. At first glance there was little remarkable about the cave, but as the three exploring soldiers worked their way around it became clear that the space had been artificially modified. Rough gouges that nearly blended into the natural cracks in the stone became visible revealing where the rock face had been broken away and contoured, forming an oval-shaped room.

As the flickering light of the single kerosene lantern carried by the injured soldier cast about and no waiting ambush or sleeping wild animal was revealed. The area was by no means clean as it was littered by scraps of degraded cloth, unidentifiable rusted metal pieces, a broken barrel, and a small heap of rotted and collapsed boards or beams that lay in one rounded corner.

“It looks to be clear,” one of the soldiers, a graying, heavy-set veteran said gruffly.

“Thank god,” the injured man said, then turned toward the entrance and called out for the two standing guard to hear. “All clear.”

“Ya,” came the reply from the front, barely audible over the wind rushing by the rocks.
The injured soldier settled to the ground as the other two inside the cave began clearing a space near the rough center of the floor and collect bits of broken wood to build a fire.

“How’s the leg Clemens?” the taller of the two, a young man with sandy blond hair asked.

“Still shot,” Clemens said, pulling aside his cloak to look more closely at his blood-soaked pant leg. A makeshift bandage of torn cloth was wrapped tightly around the wound and fresh blood was showing clearly through the dirty cloth. “And it hurts, but the bleeding is slowing down I think.”

“Do you have any flint Gunter?” the older veteran asked, looking at the young soldier as he hunched over the small pile of wood he’d made. “Mine is all wet. And hand me that lantern, I’ll need a bit of fuel to get this going.”

“I lost my pack in the ambush,” Gunter replied. “Shot to hell by that machinegun.”

“I have some Rand,” Clemens said as he shifted and rummaged through his pack upon which he now sat. “Give me a second. Here.”

He tossed the small tin containing flint and steel over to the veteran. The older man wasted no time in slopping some of the kerosene from the lantern over the wood and expertly striking a spark into it. It caught with a small “whoosh” and burned brightly for a moment before the wood picked up the flame and it settled into a pleasant glow.

“And you boys thought that survival training was for nothing,” Rand chuckled.

“Yeah, yeah,” Gunter said dismissively. “If you survive to use your survival training. What the hell was that back there anyway? There aren’t supposed to be enemy forces in this area.”

“Someone screwed up,” Rand said. “As usual.”

“No kidding,” said Clemens as he re-dressed his wounded leg. “I wonder if anyone else made it out.”

“Possible,” replied Rand. “We were near the front of the column, and they hit right behind us. Maybe the others escaped back down the road. We’ll go looking for them in a day or two, too many enemies out there looking for us right now.”

“Yeah,” sighed Gunter.

“Don’t worry boy,” said Rand. “We’ll get them. For now go and get Mort and Harold, tell them to come in and get warm. Nothing is going to be coming up a mountain in that snow after dark.”

“Yes, sir,” said Gunter as he got up and moved to the entrance to retrieve the other two soldiers.
Soon all five of the survivors were ringed around the small fire taking inventory of what they had left to them following their flight from the ambush. One of the two newcomers, the taller of them, motioned to the heap of debris in the corner.

“What’s that?” he said.

“Junk most likely,” Rand said. “Check it if you like.”

“Sure,” Clemens said, motioning to his leg. “Not like I’m good for much else like this.”
He stood with some effort and hobbled over to the pile of debris. His leg was still bleeding worse than he would admit to the others and he was worried that the damage may be more severe than they had first thought. Blood was already seeping through the new dressing.

The pile of debris, however, was more interesting the closer he came to it. It looked like a collapsed structure of some kind, some kind of box or possibly a bed. But what would a bed have been doing in a cave? There was rotting cloth draped over the majority of the jutting wood pieces and little was distinguishable under it. He reached down slowly to pull the cloth away. What it revealed made him yelp in surprise.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:11 pm

There was a body in the wreckage. It looked like an emaciated man, one that had been starved for a long period before he died. His chest was bare, as were his legs but for the remains of trousers decayed to obscene ‘shorts’ over his hips. The pale flesh of his chest and one upper arm were crisscrossed with myriad of old and nasty-looking deep scars with a long vertical one over his left eye and cheek. The leather of his belt was wide and molded. Long, dried hair framed his head and fell over his shoulders. His face was strangely peaceful.

In the flickering light of the small fire it was hard for the men to see the subtleties of his form, the shallow breaths that passed as a puff of unseen steam past thin lips that marked that he was not truly dead, only appeared as such. Even the small twitch that happened when the cloth was pulled away was dismissed subconsciously as a trick of the light.

The others, having heard the yelp from Clemens, came over to investigate. They stood around the wrecked bed in a loose half-circle.

“Huh,” grunted Rand. “Must have died in his sleep.”

“Jesus...” added Gunter.

“Bodies aren’t anything new to us.” This from Harrold, one of the soldiers from outside.

“But in caves?” The other soldier from outside, Mort.

“Can’t help the bastard now,” said Rand, turning to go back to the fire.

“But just look at him,” said Clemens, leaning over the body. “He looks starved.”

“So what,” said Harrold, also turning away to go back to the fire. “Not much food up here, of course he starved. I don’t see a rifle for hunting. Or maybe he was too old.”

Then things went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

The blood seeping from Clemens’ wound had soaked the bandage to saturation and a drop of it fell to spatter over the corpse’s hand.

The eyes of the corpse flew open wide, eyes that burned a bright and hellish red. It drew a horrid, ragged, breath. The head snapped upward and oriented on Clemens. The desiccated lips pulled back to reveal long fangs. The monster had awakened and it was hungry. Two screams echoed in the cave; one from Clemens, one from the body, one of pure terror, one of ultimate fury. The soldiers scattered for their rifles.

Faster than the eye could register the body moved, hands gripped Clemens’ shoulders and pulled him down with incredible force. The wide mouth clamped around Clemens’ throat, cutting off his scream, and long fangs sank deep. The thing wrapped itself around Clemens and drank the hot red spill from his neck that had been nearly bitten through.

The other men came up, all pointing rifles but were unable to get a shot around Clemens.

“Don’t shoot!” shouted Mort. “You’ll hit Clemens!”

“He’ll die if we don’t!” Rand yelled back.

“What is that thing?!” Harrold screamed.

“Wiedergänger!” yelled Gunter.

“FIRE!” Rand yelled. “FI...”

His order was cut off. The thing ravaging Clemens exploded. The shockwave was like a bomb-blast in the cave and threw all of them hard into the stone walls in a hail of rotted debris and Clemens’ body parts. Only Rand was still conscious and what he saw through pain-glazed and stunned eyes in the swirling wreckage as he tried to relearn how to breathe was a vision from the darkest corners of nightmares revealed by the dying remnants of the now scattered fire and overturned lantern.

Where the body had savaged Clemens stood a huge werewolf. It nearly filled the cave standing almost eight feet tall. Thick gray fur covered it with darker, then black fur at the tips of the ears and tail. The scars that had decorated the body were lighter fur now. The eyes burned the same hellish shade of red that they had before and incredibly long canines showed that hung past it’s chin. Thick chains wrapped around the powerful upper arms of the beast and hung down to encircle both wrists, chains that seemed to glow with black power.

The creature turned it’s burning gaze on the men, looking long and hungrily at each of them. Two were dead, killed by the stone walls and the blast, two were broken and dying from internal bleeding, one of them impaled in several places by wood debris.

Rand looked back at the beast, his left arm broken, both legs broken, back broken, and bleeding from a thousand cuts. He mouthed one word, silently, over and over as he tried to pull his pistol from his belt with his one good hand.

“Monster.”

His dying screams were lost in the howling of the wind outside the cave.
~
Sterling

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Dec 06, 2011 3:07 pm

Chapter 2: Awakening

Elsewhere:

Deep beneath a fortified and warded sanctuary, down in the archives, a young apprentice sat studying and copying manuscripts. In the dancing light of the many candles he didn’t even notice the first faint flicker from a dusty orb in the corner on a small pedestal.

The object was hundreds of years old, a pure ball of crystal about three inches in diameter with a band of silver etched in warding runes around the middle with a small pointing arrow on one side. Suspended in the exact center of the sphere was a tiny void.

It had sat peacefully between three potent crystals for nearly a three decades, it’s extremely faint glow unchanged. Ten years ago they had brought it down here for storage thinking that it must have malfunctioned or that the creatures it tracked were all dead. Now it flickered, once. Then again.

The second flicker made the apprentice look up and search for the source of what had distracted him in his peripheral vision.

The Orb flared to life, blazing as bright as the sun for a brief second. Two of the crystals around it exploded with sharp bangs sending needlelike pieces flying in every direction. A small stack of scrolls near the orb caught fire from the intensity of the flare and the apprentice was thrown over sideways in his chair from the blaze of light and flying pieces of crystal.

He recovered quickly, staggering over to the burning scrolls and conjuring a minor spell to extinguish the fire. When the light was not diminished, his eyes locked onto the orb and widened in shock and horror.

The silver band on the device spun around, the Orb levitating even as the glow faded to the level of a single candle, and pointed off to the south-west. The etched runes in the silver band pulsed softly.

“Gaia, no!” he whispered as he turned and ran from the room, kicking open the heavy door and screaming for his master.

---

John Sterling sat alone in the middle of the cave, the faint warmth of the fire that had been there seeping into him from the stone floor. He was still in half-wolf form, massive and muscled, furred and terrible to behold, but quiet and contemplative for the moment. His mind was slow, filled with the deep fog of his long sleep, as he tried to make sense of the surroundings. The last lights of the scattered fire had died and the only illumination was the weak glow from the lantern on its side in the far corner yet he could see everything as vividly as if it were high-noon on a clear day.

Where am I? What happened? He thought.

His massive shoulders flexed, ruffling the fur over them, and he stretched, arms out to the sides, back bowed. He was still getting used to the feel of his body again having been unconscious for such an extended period. Everything ached, everything was tight, and everything hurt in the vague way that it does when a muscle is too long unused.

“How long?” he asked aloud though there was no one left alive to answer him, and nobody who would know the answer if they were. His voice was low, guttural, fitting to his bestial throat and canine muzzle.
How long have I slept this time? He thought. How many years?

He looked over the dead men, staring long at each in turn, his gaze lingering on the shredded throat of the oldest man and the half-eaten form of the other that had still been alive when he transformed. Living meat had appealed to the beast, and live blood to the vampire, that was why they had been savaged so. The other corpses were just corpses and remained untouched. He pitied the ones he’d slaughtered without knowing it but he didn’t regret, not anymore, not after so many deaths, that part of him was numb now. He’d woken as a Revenant once before with much the same result long ago.

Wrong place, wrong time. Never stood a chance. But who were you and what were you doing here?
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:05 pm

He roused himself from his repose, moving on all fours in a slow graceful glide over to the corpse of the old man, the thick, black, chains on his arms clinking softly in the near darkness. He sniffed him, close under his ear, then down his front, gathering information with his nose as well as his eyes.

Blood. Sweat. Uniforms. Gun Powder. Military. German by the make and markings. He turned one of the long rifles over in his hands. Don’t recognize the weapons but they look new, and powerful. And these strange devices, masks, what are they for?

He sat back on his haunches and looked at the dead man steadily, his eyes glowing with a soft menace in the darkness. He sighed deeply, a strange sound from his massive supernatural form.

More will come looking for you I imagine. I’ll have to leave. But where to go?

He sat thinking for a time, considering his options. His blood thirst and hunger were slacked, for now, but he they would return, and soon, depending on how long he’d been asleep. His head was tilted slightly to the side and his eyes unfocused as if he were listening to distant music. In truth he was listening but not to music. The ever-present whispers were still there, muted, just outside of hearing, like the murmur of a crowd behind a curtain, indistinct most of the time and ethereal. He shook himself, re-focusing on the present and his situation.

If there’s a war on here I have to get away from it. I could feed freely but with so many soldiers it could draw attention. Too many questions. Perhaps England. Or... America if they’ve finished with their Civil War. But to get there I have to get to England. So... north.

He blinked, long and slow, then rolled his wide shoulders and stood in a fluid motion that betrayed the wicked grace contained in his monstrous form. He closed his eyes and focused inward, pulling the portion of him that contained what little humanity he had left to the surface.

The fur covering his body rippled and began to recede, vanishing back into his skin, the thick chains on his arms evaporating in soft smoke that trailed from him. The large, wolfish muzzle pulled back and the evil glow faded from his eyes. He shrank in size, now standing only about six feet, as the change completed.

He was as human as he could look any more. His skin was lightly tanned, its permanent color since he’d become what he was. His face was neither handsome nor not, masculine features but not chiseled. Long brown hair flowed over his shoulders and down his back to his hips in loose waves. He was fit, well muscled, but not overly so.
Scars crisscrossed his body over his chest and stomach, some trailing down over one thigh, some reaching over his shoulders and upper arm. One scar, over his left eye and down his cheek, stood out as a defining characteristic. His ears were longer than normal and his teeth were wickedly pointed and vaguely animalistic. Standing there, completely nude, in the chill of the cave he wasn’t cold due to the hot, fresh life running through him.

Can’t go out like this... he thought with a soft chuckle and moved to the bodies to begin collecting clothing and equipment.

He salvaged what he could, discarding the items that were beyond salvaging or completely soaked through with blood and in short order had assembled a complete uniform that almost fit. He was lucky that one of the soldiers had feet that were the same size so that the boots fit him. He collected equipment, filling one pack with the items he gathered, gathered ammunition for the rifle he kept, and slipped two of the knives from the men into his belt along with one long bayonet that fit smartly onto the rifle if needed. He tied his hair back with a salvaged length of cord and put on the best-fitting helmet, tucking the tips of his ears under it to conceal them. He shrugged into one of the long woolen cloaks and pulled the hood up over the helmet.

Looking around once more he picked up the guttering lantern and extinguished it; he could see in the dark and it would give him away.

“Sorry,” he said softly as he moved to the cave entry. “No time to bury you. Hopefully your friends can when they come looking.”

He stepped out of the cave and into the night.
~
Sterling

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:22 pm

Chapter 3: The Patrol


The wind was still howling through the treetops as Sterling walked along in the forest below the cave but was less severe at ground level. The driven snow had obliterated the tracks left by the patrol that he’d killed when he woke so he had no idea what he was walking into and only a vague sense of where he was going. Though he could see as well in the darkness as in the light the droning of the wind and flurries of snow that it tossed about limited the usefulness of his other heightened senses. Scent was confused and chaotic on the wind and, while he occasionally would catch just a hint of something other than nature and the wildlife in it, it was gone before he could isolate what it was much less get a directional bearing. It was an hour or more into his walk over the treacherous and uneven terrain before he sighted the barest hint of light through the trees ahead.

His keen eyes narrowed as he focused on the light; a low and windswept campfire.

The wind was at his back, blowing the thick cloak close around his body, as he crouched down automatically and made himself as small a profile as possible.

Careless of me, he thought. Walking upwind. Fortunately the snow keeps scent down. Who would be out this far in such weather?

He crept low, staying crouched, moving closer to the fire by sliding like a ghost from tree to tree, his senses now on full alert as he sought any sign of who it could be.

A small movement, barely distinguishable from the sway of the underbrush in the wind, drew his attention to a dugout and fallen tree about twenty yards ahead of him. There was a man there, huddled low and wrapped tightly in his own cloak, and he was holding a rifle. His helmet was different than those of the German soldiers he’d killed. It looked French.

Must be a guard, he thought. I suppose Germany and France are at war again. They won’t like me being dressed like this. Best to avoid them.

He was set to slip back into the forest when the wind shifted. He smelled blood, fresh blood, and it was coming from the camp. His breath stopped for a moment and he was completely still against the trunk of the tree he hid behind. Then the hunger rose hot and fast inside him, an overriding need that would not be denied. He hadn’t fed enough.

I must have been asleep for a long time. Longer than I’ve slept before. How long?

Another gust of wind blew over him from the direction of the camp carrying with it more scent information and a inciting a fresh wash of need that gnawed through his veins.

Someone is close to death... Guns. Sweat. And fresh food.

The distant whispers that lurked just beyond perception most of the time came clear for just a brief moment and spoke one single word into his mind.

“Eat.”

The one word was not referring to the food cooking in the camp.

He closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to clear it of the whisper, his breathing low and quick. He’d hoped that the long sleep would get rid of the voices, the whispers, apparently he was wrong.

The movement must have been too rapid because only a moment later came a challenging call from the sentry in the dugout.

“Who goes there?” he yelled in French.

French was one of the several languages that Sterling had picked up over the long years of his life, one of the early ones, and he knew it well enough to speak without accent if he wanted to. The question now was what to do. Hide? Let the man think it was the wind? Reveal himself?

Again the whisper came, stronger and clearer this time:

“Eat.” It insisted.

He slapped his hand to the side of his head, trying to think straight, and stood, staggering a step to the side away from the tree. One hand was held out in front of him, but he’d forgotten he was holding the rifle he’d taken and wearing a German uniform.

The guard’s rifle leveled on him immediately and he tensed visibly.

“Wait,” Sterling said in French, loud enough to be heard but it was too late, and speaking in the language just seemed to infuriate the man.

Even from where he stood he could see the guard’s pulse speed, watch his breath catch, and saw the dilation of his eyes. The Frenchman’s body tensed. Things were going downhill fast. Time seemed to slow as Sterling’s body and mind alerted to each sign and brought him into his preternatural senses.

“Stop,” he said, the words drawn out in his perception, but the guard didn’t hear or didn’t listen.
~
Sterling

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:55 pm

Sterling may not have been familiar with the modern rifle that the soldier carried but he was versed enough in firearms to know that the more modern the gun the more dangerous it was. The muzzle flash bloomed like a flower opening in front of him and he watched as the spire-tipped bullet emerged and flew toward his chest. He was so transfixed by the beauty of it that he didn’t move; he just stared at the bullet until it hit him.

Pain brought him back to his senses. The bullet tearing through his chest just above his heart was exquisite agony, pain unlike he’d felt in decades, and focused him into a single purpose; To Kill. The bullet passed through, cracking through a rib and exploding out his back in a spray of blood and shredded lung. The force of it made him cough but neither killed him nor knocked him down. A thin trickle of hot blood tinted the edge of his lips as they widened into a snarling smile.

Again the echo of thoughts in his mind clarified for an instant and commanded him.

“EAT!”

The soldier was going through the motion of cycling his weapon, a motion that Sterling himself had puzzled out with the German rifle he now carried, pulling the bolt of it back and sliding it forward. The guard seemed shaken, his eyes wider, his breath faster. Sterling hadn’t fallen when he’d been shot. Others were coming up behind the Guard now, yelling and all carrying rifles that were pointed in his direction.

Time slowed further. In Sterling’s eyes they were all running as if under water.

He moved, faster than any mortal could, faster than most supernatural beings could, the fury of his being coming to the fore. His hand flipped the rifle he carried and pointed it at the Guard, his long-nailed finger already on the trigger, aiming into his chest exactly where he himself had been shot. The Guard was still sliding the bolt of his rifle forward to reload it.

Mustn’t kill them all immediately, Sterling thought as he pulled the trigger. Still need to feed...

The pain in his chest was already receding as the wound started to close while he watched the flash of his own weapon blossom in front of him. The light of it illuminated the evil smile he wore when fighting, showing his horrific teeth and long fangs for the briefest of instants to the mortals coming toward him. His bullet flew slowly out, and out, and into the chest of the Guard that had shot him just as he managed to close the bolt of his rifle.
Another flash shown behind the Guard; one of his compatriots firing at Sterling. He watched the bullet come while blood began to spray from the Guard’s back as his shot exited the man with his life in tow.

The area around Sterling darkened, visibly, as he gave himself to his nature and summoned forth his tainted essence. The bullet flying toward his head came almost lazily through the air, spinning elegantly, and he was tempted to let it hit him. As it came within a foot or so of his eye he moved his head to the side and let it float past his ear.

The mortal men coming were almost painful to watch in their slowness. They were like flies trapped in amber, dolls suspended in their running movements, toy soldiers posed to fire.

Sterling didn’t bother to cycle his rifle. Bullets, as they had been from the days of the earliest muskets, were just too slow for what he’d become. The power coursing through him demanded action, violent action, and fanned the flame of his hunger.

He slid his hand up the rifle and threw it underhand like a spear into one of the men running toward him. The strength behind even that simple movement sent the rifle like a blur of brown and black to impact the man’s stomach and impale him down to the end of the stock before it caught and carried him over backward and pinned him to a tree with a gore-muffled crash.

Three of the other men stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of their compatriot impaled so but one brought up his weapon and fired. The bullet was inconsequential. The miasma that surrounded Sterling pulsed with the attack, a flicker of darkness like a shadow passing over the moon. The laws of normal physics altered subtly and the bullet turned away at the last moment, sliding over the shadows that surrounded him, emerging from the other side on its original trajectory.

Sterling grind awfully, every one of his bestial teeth displayed in a rictus mask of enjoyment and insanity. These mortals could no more hurt him than they could reach up and take the moon in their palm. He was beyond them, they were food.

“EAT!” his mind shouted in a whisper. With the thrill of a fight coursing through him, he agreed.

One of the men made as if to run away. It attracted Sterling’s attention. It called to the Beast. Things that run are prey.

The flow of the wind in the forest altered as the edge of the Beast began to emerge, now flowing around and away from Sterling noticeably as the wake of the spiritual transformation began. His features began to become more bestial, his already pointed ears lengthening, his teeth growing, his fangs sharpening, his nails blackening and forming points. He didn’t completely become the Wolf, the fur hadn’t flowed over him, but he was no longer very human in appearance. He was the monster he’d become.

The darkness too seemed to flow and coalesce toward his skin, sinking in and becoming visible markings, two solid bands of it shimmering over his upper arms, two more shimmering around his wrists. A wave of dread radiated from him with the wind, tangible emotion that sank into every one of the men in front of him.

The soldiers stared, their minds reeling at the sight before them, stunned to stillness.
~
Sterling

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:02 pm

The man about to run bolted in terror and in a blur of motion that barely registered to the eyes of the horrified onlookers Sterling was upon him, his clawed fingers striking down hard into the tops of his shoulders, his teeth tearing into the side of his neck. The force of the impact took him from his feet, the toes of his boots dragging in the earth between Sterling’s feet, his body only held up by the wicked claws and teeth. He struggled for a several seconds before going limp in Sterling’s grip, his life slipping in a hot stream down the monster’s throat in long, sucking gulps.

Sterling let go and dropped him heavily to the snow before the last beat of his heart. He landed with the sickening thud of the already dead.

He turned toward the others. The motion was so simple, so fast, that it looked to the men as if one instant the monster was savaging their friend, the next he was staring at them with fiercely glowing eyes.

One of the men’s will broke, his mind shattering at the sight, and he collapsed in screams. The second began to back away, then turned to run, seeking nothing but an escape from the horror before him. The third broke in a different way, shouting an incomprehensible battle yell and bringing up his rifle to shoot.

If there was one thing more appealing than someone who runs it was one who stands and fights. Sterling focused on the fighter, taking a step toward him, smiling.

The soldier fired.

Smoldering black chain formed around Sterling’s left hand as the man pulled the trigger. Using the same supernatural speed he swatted the bullet aside as it flew toward his chest, the projectile disintegrating into shards as it touched the manifestations of pure chaos.

Sterling took another step toward the man as he cycled his rifle.

The solder fired again.

Sterling again swatted it aside, and took another step, his smile widening.

“Yes,” he growled. “Fight. Resist.”

The soldier slammed the bolt of his rifle home and screamed, firing again. Again the bullet was swatted away as one would an annoying insect.

Sterling stepped up in front of the soldier putting his finger in the barrel of the rifle. He grinned at the terrified look in the soldier’s face.

“Again. Try it.” He said in French. “Go on.”

The soldier pulled the trigger.

The explosion of the discharge was fantastic from so close, like a blow to the ears from a sledgehammer. The bullet blew Sterling’s finger completely away to the wrist, the pain of it making him gasp from the piercing sweetness.

The soldier didn’t move, just held his rifle, didn’t cycle it again, only panted in panic.

Sterling drew his hand back, spreading his remaining fingers to show the extent of the damage. Even as he did so the incredible rate of his healing was beginning to knit the torn skin of his wrist. In seconds it rebuilt the bone, muscle and flesh slithering over the exposed whiteness, until barely moments later the finger was whole again. His smile widened, impossibly so, giving him the look of a demon. He curled the other fingers of his now whole hand and gave a tut-tut gesture.

“My turn,” he said through gritted teeth, his fangs prominent and horrible.

The soldier’s rifle was sent flying with barely a flick of the wrist, Sterling’s horrible strength on full display. In the blink of an eye he was standing, pressed close to the man’s chest, his arms wrapped around his midsection. Baleful eyes glowed just before the man’s horror-widened gaze.

“Don’t feel bad,” Sterling said softly, his voice not bestial but calming, as he brought forth more power from within. “You tried. Let me reward you.”

“No...” breathed the soldier. “No...”

“It won’t hurt,” Sterling countered. “I promise.”

“No...”

“Hush now,” Sterling said, the edge of power and command dripping from his voice as he stared deep into the man’s eyes. “Relax.”

The drowning deep red of Sterling’s eyes pulled the man under, swamping his mind, devouring his consciousness, leaving him pliable in his hands. He leaned in, gently, almost like one would embrace a lover, and spread his terrible jaws. They closed over the soldier’s throat and his fangs sank deep. The soldier gasped in mixed pain and pleasure, his head falling back in the thrill of it, his hands convulsing at his sides with the sensation.

Sterling drank deep, pulling hard, his pulse matching the quickening of the man’s while he drew his essence in and fed. His hands gripped the man’s back low, just over his hips, pulling him deeper into the deadly embrace. The soldier sighed, longer than he should, his life’s breath escaping from him.

It was then that the formerly howling and helpless man struck from behind, a long knife driving hard into Sterling’s back and straight into his heart.

“DIE MONSTER!” the man screamed.

He let go the now dead man with both his teeth and hands, the soldier falling in slow-motion to the snowy ground silently with wide unseeing eyes, and screamed agony and rage up at the wind-weaving canopy of the forest. Even as his clawed hand reached back to grasp at the handle of the knife buried in his back black mist formed around him and manifested into smoldering chains that shot backward, wrapping around his assailant and burning into his flesh through his heavy clothing as if it were tissue paper. They bound the man, wrist and ankle, and yanked him upward.
The chains hoisted the man over Sterling’s head, screaming now in pain and fear rather than fury, as Sterling grabbed the knife and pulled it free in a spray of hot blood. The wound closed almost instantly in the rush of power from his fresh feeding.

The offending soldier now hung upside-down before Sterling’s face, his eyes wide with panic and pain, helplessly bound. Sterling regarded him carefully, his burning gaze burrowing into his eyes.

“You surprise me,” Sterling growled, dropping the bloodied and steaming knife. “Careless of me to forget you. For that a quick death.”

“NO!” the man screamed.

He didn’t reply, just drove his hand hard and deep into the man’s chest, his clawed fingers finding his heart. He pulled the spasming organ from the man’s chest in a spray of gore that soaked him from head to toe. But as he’d promised, the soldier’s death was quick.

The chains evaporated, dropping the now dead man in a heap atop his compatriot with a soft, wet, thud.
“EAT!” screamed the voice in Sterling’s mind. Being exposed to so much slaughter wasn’t healthy for him, not when hungry.

Without even thinking he brought the heart in his long-fingered hand up to his mouth and took a bite. His eyes scanned the darkness for any sign of threat or prey, but found none. The last man must have run as fast as his legs could carry him away. He almost regretted that. Then something else caught his attention.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:26 pm

He took several steps forward, moving farther into the small camp toward a lean-to tent, casually discarding the half-eaten heart as he moved with slow and silent grace through the calming wind and snow. Soft whimpering was coming from the little tent, and sounds of pained struggle. It had to be a wounded man, one they were protecting, one he’d smelled before on the wind. He folded away the rush of combat and became almost human in appearance again as crept up on the flap and pulled it back.

Inside was a soldier, struggling to pull a long knife free of its sheath under a heavy pack, his abdomen was thickly bandaged and dark stains were visible through the wool. The man looked up and his eyes widened. He jerked the knife free and pointed it at Sterling, the motion forcing a pained grunt from between his clenched teeth.

“Stay back,” the man said. “Stay back or I’ll kill you.”

Sterling looked calmly down at the man, a smile curling his blood-stained lips.

“How?” he asked simply.

“I’ll try,” the man said, his voice thin with pain. “I won’t let you kill me.”

Sterling just looked at him for a long moment, taking him in head to toe, his eyes lingering on the bandages at the man’s stomach, and sniffed the air in the tent in a long breath without moving farther.

“Someone else already has,” he said at length. “All I could do is make the end come faster.”

The wounded soldier seemed to take this in slowly, his eyes looking past Sterling outside, before he spoke again. The knife was still level and steady in front of him as he propped himself up on an elbow.

“Where are the others?” he asked.

“Dead. One ran. He’s alive as far as I know.”

“You?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“They shot me.”

“But you’re not dead,” the soldier said, his eyes looking over Sterling. “Or wounded.”

“Doesn’t stick,” Sterling said wryly. “Never does.”

“What?”

“Nevermind. I’m going to come in. I won’t hurt you unless you try something. Now...” Sterling’s eyes grew deep, darkness flickering through them with a soft tint. “Put down the knife.”

Involuntarily the wounded man lowered the blade until it was resting on the ground in his hand, and relaxed back against the bedroll under his shoulders.

Sterling moved into the small tent, bending double to fit, and let the flap fall closed behind him. The soldier just watched, his face very pale, his eyes filled with both pain and confusion. Sterling settled at the entry to the tent, still looking at the man.

He wasn’t young, but he wasn’t old either. His features were soft, not weathered, and his eyes held intelligence. Sterling took in his scent again, and under the blood and looming death he smelled the man. This was no warrior.

“You don’t look like a soldier,” Sterling said, his voice soft, his head cocking slightly to the side as he regarded the man. “Why are you in a uniform?”

The soldier coughed before answering, the action causing him obvious pain, but he met Sterling’s eyes.

“Conscripted,” the man said when the fit had passed. “I’m a school teacher. Was a school teacher.”

Sterling paused then genuinely surprised. He thought for a long time before he spoke again.

“They sent a teacher to war? Why?”

The soldier seemed surprised that he’d asked, and confused. Sterling could see the thoughts moving behind his slightly glazed eyes.

“The war is too big,” he said. “Too many needed. We all have to fight now or we’ll lose. They’ve backed off now that the Americans are here but they took me before.”

The war is too big? Sterling thought. How?

Outwardly he said, “The Americans are here? Who is fighting?”

“Everyone,” the soldier said, his posture relaxing further. “The whole world. Britain, France, Canada, America. Even Russia before the revolution. Against Germany, Austria, the Ottomans... how could you not know? You’re German.”

Sterling looked away for a moment while he took in the enormity of the situation. In his time he’d seen wars, vast ones, but nothing of such a scope that the entire world was involved. It was enough to ground him in the present and push back the distant call of the voices in his mind.

“No,” he said. “I’m not. The uniform is... borrowed.”

“Borrowed?” the man said, looking hard at Sterling. He seemed to come to a realization then, taking in his features, and the look on his face said it wasn’t a good one. Sterling just looked back at him, and waited for him to speak. He relaxed his control of his ability, letting the man see him for what he was with no glamour or shadow filtering it.
“You’re not... human.”

“No.”

That made the man pause, but he seemed to rally his courage and let go of the knife, bringing his hands to rest on his bandaged stomach.

“I’m dying?” he asked.

Sterling just nodded.

“You’re not an angel.”

“No.”

“A demon come to collect me?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“Something that should have stayed lost,” Sterling said before he thought about it. He paused, his eyes softening as he looked at the man. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not here for you but I can stay with you for a while.”

“Until...” the soldier began, but Sterling cut him off.

“Yes.”

The man seemed to become peaceful as the realization of what he’d said sunk in.

“How long?” the soldier asked.

Sterling looked long and hard at him, his unnaturally acute senses evaluating him, his air of power and long experience taking in the totality of the man.

“An hour. Maybe two.”

The soldier sighed. It was a long sigh of acceptance.

“Ok. Then we’ll talk. I don’t want to be alone when... I don’t want to be alone. What do you want to know?”


They talked until the soldier slipped from consciousness. Sterling learned many things about the situation as it was now and the war, about the world as it was now, and about the teacher from a small down just south-east of Paris. Even when he stopped speaking and drifted into his last sleep Sterling stayed. He stayed until the last, long, rattling breath slipped from the man and his heart thudded slowly to a stop.

The wind outside had quieted and he was again alone with his thoughts.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:22 pm

Chapter 4: The Great War


Twenty Four hours later:

A small group of mages stood in a loose half-circle around the elder of the Sanctuary and his chief adviser. They ranged in age from barley eighteen to nearly forty and were from all casts.

The Battlemagus stood proud and tall even though he was only five-foot six. A chiseled chin and perfect Japanese features were highlighted by his jet black hair was tied back in a traditional knot of the Samurai. His eyes were completely black and sparkled with incredible perception and intelligence. His kimono was pleated and perfect, woven with silver runes along the fringes, and he carried a potent artifact at his side: His sword. A Gaian Blade.

The Machinist was a stark contrast to the Battlemagus. Her clothes were functional but stained, runed but frayed, and she carried numerous tools and implements on not only her wide belt but the straps that crisscrossed her chest, each one a specific magical device with a purpose. Tall and thin, she stood nearly six feet, her blazing red hair in a long braid down her back to keep it out of the way, her jade green eyes darting from place to place.

Behind the two stood two more men, one tall and thick with muscle, bearded and blonde, the other shorter and slightly rounder with a pleasant face and balding dark hair and moustache. They were clad in the robes of accomplished Adepts, the plumper man carrying a satchel stuffed with scrolls and quills, the larger one having two ceremonial daggers at his hips and a sheathed wand.

Next to these men stood two more, young Initiates. The taller of the two was African black, with a head completely free of hair, and eyes that sparkled with an intellect and curiosity that was dangerous. The other was a frightened looking tan boy, middle-eastern in heritage, who gazed around with wide eyes. Each of them had two packs next to them filled with supplies and sundry items that the group would need on their journey.

The Elder looked them over then spoke.

“Master Akiyama,” he said, nodding to the Battlemagus. “Your team is assembled and ready. They are the best we can assemble to aid you in your quest. You have been briefed on what and whom it is you are hunting?”

Akiyama nodded curtly. “Hai.” His voice was deep, but curt, one that clearly brooked no nonsense and demanded obedience while still conveying respect.

“Then you know that once you leave here we can monitor but not aid you?”

“Hai.” Akiyama nodded again as he spoke.

The Elder looked at the Machinist.

“You have all you require, Master Pinkerton? I trust you have found our archives adequate?”

“Yes Elder,” she said, her voice smooth and slightly husky, her piercing eyes meeting his evenly. “I have all I can think to bring.”

The Elder nodded slowly and then stepped back spreading his arms wide.

“Then I entrust to you both the care of the Adepts Farstadt and Romero Salazar,” he bowed his head very slightly to first the bearded blonde and plumper man. “They will assist you and support you, chronicling your quest for us. The Initiates Din Tau and Waseem Ibn Adeel will journey with you to offer what assistance they may as they have both proven exceptionally skilled. May Gaia guide and protect you on your quest.”

With that he bowed deep before the party and turned to depart, his adviser following close behind him.

The Party now alone in the chamber, Akiyama turned to the Machinist and spoke.

“You can take us to him now, Master Pinkerton?” he asked, though the question had the edge of an order.

She looked over at Din Tau.

“Call the circle,” she said evenly. “And I will take us to the source of the signal. And call me Torra.” With that she pulled the same sphere that had flared so brightly before from a deep pocket and held it in front of her.
The sphere flickered, then rose from her hand, hovered in the air for a moment, then spun as it had before and pointed with its runes glowing.

Din Tau, meanwhile, pulled a small pouch of fine powder from his robes and began to trace a circle around the party, one lined with intricate runes. As it closed a small shock of power fed through all of them.

“Do it, Torra.” Akiyama said calmly.

The Machinist looked at the Battlemagus for a moment, nodded, then lowered her head, closed her eyes, and spoke a soft incantation.

The party vanished in a flash of soft light and a swirl of wind from the vacated spaces they had stood in.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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