Sunday, December 8, 2013


The Book: 16,000 Word Novellete Set In A Near Future Dystopia
The Players: Father Arctorius - Gregory Tenant - Anna St. Santos
Tenth Moon-Knight of the New London Wastelands Gregory Tenant awoke all in a start.
The nightly visions had returned. 
Once more he had dreamed that he was the Wulven beast, once again bounding down upon some poor, panicked victim—again feeding on fresh human flesh. 
Not sure yet was he that he was not that Wulf himself, for he had heard rumours of strange kills coming out of the core that eerily matched his nightly visions. 
But whether the Wulf were his own nightmarish spawn, or another entity entirely, it had become his mission in life to hunt the beast and slay it--even if that meant that he must in grim fact so slay himself—even if that heralded his ultimate undoing by a wild shadow known only as Crucible.”

Blood After Dark

i. In Visions Wild

Tenant rode Fyremane in a relaxed gait—trotting cautiously through New London's most violent central marketplace—Old Black Covenant Square.
News had flown fast of a killing the night before.
Witches infested everywhere between those walls.
Moon-Knights could never be too cautious on a tip.
But he had a job to do, which was all that mattered.
Word was a young female escort had been mutilated.
His duty as Moon-Knight that day was to investigate.
He found a crowd around the body and dismounted.
“Fall back,” he commanded. The crowd divided.
He stepped around the corpse, coldly checking it.
She had been dead for hours. Her guts hung out.
He sighed, unrolling a tarpaulin to cover the sight.
“It was the Wulf!!!” one elder street man shrieked.
The crowd gasped. Everyone knew the Legend of Crucibilus. There was a book written by a local man of letters Stalwart--entitled Lycanthropia: On the Streets of New London--that first started the buzz years back, but since then much word-of-mouth had sustained and embellished the myth beyond measure, to the point where fiction became fact—and every new day, every next kill was increasingly ascribed to the Wulf. The Legend's shadow had spread out through the streets of New London like a plague, until every last living soul trembled under the terror of their own wild imaginations.
According to the book, Crucibilus—or more commonly called Crucible—hunted New Londoners in the dimly lit streets at night--more often on full moons, but then eventually on every night—and it seemed to be only the hard pressed that the beast targeted. It was always somebody down on their luck—or set to extremes—between successes and seeking salvation—or petrified by indecision—apparently all of which were considered soft to the instinct of a Wulf that sought out the weak.
The Moon-Knights had been hunting the hunter for some time now without much luck.
It was their sworn oath to protect the people of New London—and this was their trial.
They had adjourned from silent meetings several times already, vowing to destroy it.
There had been several affirmations by visions in their sleep of the beast being Evil.
They believed that it was sent from the Fourth Field—a curse for their betrayal.
New London had been annexed by Greater Eagalia—against their better good.
Overlord Jinn Mer III had railed and cursed at the Moon-Knights defiance.
A New World now ruled by Scales sought to stamp out every last resistance.
Father Arctorius had already reported Jinn to the Orb under deep trance worship.
The Moon-Knights were well ahead of the Overlord's strategists and managed to fortify the city against all sides no less than a week before the Mermen ever arrived. Jinn was outwitted.
But New London was now a jail behind its walls—and the Knights were struggling desperately to keep people calm and collected, before riots and fire broke out—before people started to starve.
It was not a challenge less than for what Destiny had prepared them—but it was still a war.
It was not just war between commoners and elite—between man and woman—child and beast—but also, perhaps more importantly—between oneself and I—staying sane through the chaos.
This was Tenant's Death Quest. He had been summoned to ritual prophecy on the Night of Prayer—and through his name Father Arctorius and the Summoners had seen a vision of victory over Jinn's hellish oppression—and they saw Tenant rising up tall upon a mountain-top, with Eagalia's Crown Cit--Gold Coast--billowing smoke--in raging flames--of supernatural fire--down below.
“You are the Chosen Light, Gregory. You must search your soul for the way, for we have seen you lead the way in the Past—as is spoken by the Orb—for tomorrow is ever circling back.”
At the time, Tenant could only nod--for he could not start to tell them of his dreams.

He kneeled down beside the girl's body, leaning over to examine bite marks on her neck.
The crowd narrowed in around him as he inspected puncture sites and channelled sleuth.
He pulled her over to see her face and almost fainted thinking he saw his ex for a second.
His ex was already dead, of course, so the illusion quickly fell. She did look like her a bit.
His love Hattie had been lost to the hordes beyond the walls. She had lost her mind and left.
She had fallen ill with a virus, from too many months trapped—and it infected her thoughts.
Finally one day she rose up early, wrote him farewell—and set off to Gold Coast by herself.
Reportedly she had snuck past three different Sentries without a stir of sound or suspicion.
The last man to see her alive was too late, for she was already well across the fields into harm's way. Jinn's men appeared to take her into custody—and from there, Tenant could not bear to think.

He picked the girl's body up and draped her over Fyremane. He would bring her to the Knightmage Barracks at King and Pawn Street. It was best if a Summoner performed autopsy.
He barked at the crowd, suddenly annoyed by their not backing away. They cowed off.
He mounted Fyremane and rode off in a plume of dust. Deja vu was clouding over him.
Memories of dreams were weird. Remembering reality was weird enough—but bringing back visions that never existed in the first place seemed stranger—clouding over everything in turn.
He kept thinking of the visions of murder. One by one victims had fallen at killer claws.
He saw the butcher's body behind his shop. He saw the nun inside her sanctuary dead.
He saw the lawmaker ripped apart on the highway. He saw the merchant slashed down.
He saw many die, but never what did it. Never was there a mirror--nor a name.
There was never any look but terror on the faces of those who lost their lives.
What upon they looked seemed to reflect something as feral as the night.
He kept Fyreman's reigns taut, now less certain of what to expect today.
Onlookers gawked as he rode by, but he noticed not—intent in steely gaze.
He spotted a large crowd up ahead where the market intersected six ways.
He stopped a gypsy to inquire about the commotion. She only glared back.
He dismounted and pulled aside a farmer who was leaving—demanding info.
The man said that someone had summoned a demon—but they had it trapped.
“What type of devil do you mean?” Tenant intoned with a forceful urgency.
“Not one of the nice kind,” the man replied wryly, pulling away to leave.
Tenant began pushing through the crowds, ordering prompt dispersal.
But there were too many to intimidate and no one was listening.
They all seemed entranced by what was going on within.
He was just about to see what they saw when it hit him.
He remembered his last dream before waking was of Jinn.
He pushed two prostitutes apart to see the Overlord himself.
Lord Jinn appeared only in holographic form—but it was him.
He stood there taunting a giant man who looked bitten by rage.
Tenant knew the man as Madigan, an angry, spirited blacksmith.
Madigan charged Jinn, but passed right through the projection.
The real Jinn, meanwhile, stood untouchable back in Eagalia.
He cast his image through astral travel, in order to stir fear.
He wanted to infiltrate New London and instigate panic.
The people were already on edge. They would fall soon.
Tenant read this intent instantly and knew that he must act.
Madigan made another foolish pass, still vying for impact.
But this time when he swung his mace missed and hit another man.
It flew through the intangible Jinn and connected with an innocent.
Madigan's life would never be the same as he looked on in horror.
He had now let his anger push him over the edge for the last time.
His fire, however--or more aptly put, that anger sparked by Jinn—started to spread throughout the crowds—with people beginning to lose their minds to the spectacle. Only the gypsies and wise old freaks understood that the Jinn had started it all. The rest started fighting with each other—arguing for no reason—starting up old beefs without cause—all to feed the sudden need for a battle to begin—that primal urge in all for articulating existence through fray and flesh. Jinn could not only materialize, but control the emotions of the commoners—until all control began collapsing.

Tenant pushed his way into the clearing between the crowds.
Jinn spotted him and scowled, sensing the Moon-Knight's light.
Tenant focused and split into Three—two projections plus himself.
Jinn beat the air with his spear in his fist and stalked in on the trio.
“Even as a shadow of the ether I am more powerful than you Knight.”
“Your kind are all the same, Jinn Mer. Egos exploding out of control.”
“Wit will not save you in the end Tenant. New London will be Mine.”
“May first I perish into dust. One day--Humanity will retake Our Earth.”

The Sea Demons had risen up in the future, reclaiming Land from People.
On Tenant's watch, New London was the last of but a handful of hold-outs.
Humanity had been reduced to slavery in every city but a few last refuges.
They were a Final Hope—fighting a Great Stand—of Spirit versus Scale.

The crowds continued to swarm madly in mob mentality and manic fits. Tenant knew he must act soon to break their trance. He formed into One—and began to push his energy out in a concentrated wave of photons—punching through Jinn's mirage on the level of its plane.
Jinn pulled back too late—and took a hard blow to his concentration—so faltering.
The Overlord's image wavered, nearly scattering to nothing—before shakily holding.
Tenant spun around—swung his psychic sword up slicing through the Dark Green Lord.
But it was all for show anyhow—so Jinn cackled wickedly—vanishing fully for now.
Then Tenant re-sheathed and returned to Fyremane. The crowds stilled and stalled.
The people stood in a daze—unsure of what had just happened—surfacing slowly.
By the time they came around Tenant was long gone, galloping toward the Barracks.

He left the body with his Brother Knightmages for psychic forensics—and returned Fyremane to his stall at the back to feed—deciding to take another tour on foot, having sensed a tracker.
Someone had been following him—something or someone—and he was a hot target.
He crossed over to the nearby vintage clothing and wear sector—finding a hiding spot.
Whatever it was kept pace, however, for he sensed it's energy in tandem at every turn.
He slipped into a change-room—then closing his eyes, he summoned the the Field of the Fold—re-opening orbs just temporarily as wild fire-balls. He folded his arms and armour away under his cape--vanishing them into a side limbo Moon Knights kept for just such times—where they could disappear to—or store their gear for later—in order to blend in with the peasant crowds better. He re-emerged in his simple leather attire. He instructed the keeper to lock up shop, then he slipped out into the alleyway behind. He pulled down an apartment complex ladder and swiftly scaled up the stories.
He came out upon a roof top to the ledge of the Ivy Fields Inn—peering down into the torch-lights as dusk fell hard. He soon spotted his tracker—a woman in black weaving between folk.

Anna found the store shut up and checked the alleyway for the Knightmage she followed.
If anyone had the answers to what she had seen it was him and all she wanted was a word.
She stepped down between the buildings heart pounding wondering whether to turn back.
Then suddenly there was barely a whisper, but she sensed someone behind her and spun.
There she faced Tenant, standing in his monkish dress, disarming in aura and approach.
He stepped to her, not hand held out, but held up in hello—with a slight smile curling.
“I ... saw you ... in the Market. You took the body—of that woman—killed by the Wulf.”
“You're interest is dangerous, my dear. Following me only puts you in harm's way—why?”
“I ... saw something ... something so Evil. It was just last night, out behind Hunter's Pub.”
“Are you being tracked yourself now? Will you come with me to the Barracks for safety?”
“I saw it between the trees. I was tripping. I dashed across just to catch a better glimpse.”
Tenant's mind flashed back to another dream. He saw her on the trail timid yet curious.
Once more he could not be sure whether he were the beast or just cursed by clairvoyance.
“I think you better come with me. Dark is upon us. Every risk from here reaps no reward.”

ii. At First Lust

Father Arctorius's first sight of Anna St. Santos sent shivers spiralling down his spine. He struggled to show no discomposure but sensed something deeply fallen about her.
Tenant reassured him she was just distraught and brought her to a quiet room.
He lit a fire and covered her up in wolf-skin for the night, letting her relax for now.
She seemed as if she had not slept in days. She curled up so small as if safe at last.
Upon leaving the room, however, Arctorius cornered him again, insisting on insight.
The Moon-Knights met over the Orb to discuss the strange vibes she emanated.
“I'm telling you I sense authenticity mixed with vulnerability. She is no imposter.”
“She could be a trick of Jinn. You said you encountered his projection earlier.”
“This is true, but I did not see her until much later. Albeit, she did track me fast.”
“We cannot take any chances bringing a demon into the Barracks at a time like this.”
“The Orb has spoken ... She will be interrogated by Father Arctorius at first Dawn. If it is determined that she is a threat to the Fold, we must turn her loose or risk everything we've won.”
“This is a mistake,” Tenant argued. “She could lead us to the Wulf. The Wulf is causing much distress in the streets. This case I am working on is a key to creating calm again. I am sure of it.”
“Tracker Tenant, we support your singular resolve in catching this Wulf—but her energy signature is far too strong to be merely human. We will post guards at her door until morning.”
Tenant frowned. He felt drawn to this girl. He could not turn her out where the Wulf pr
owled. She said it would come again—that its scent was on her—and hers was on it. She was the key.
“I will arrange guards and deliver her outdoors tomorrow,” he said and stormed out.
Father Arctorius smirked in disappointment. He ordered the Seers to follow Tenant.

Gregory posted two of his trusted ones outside Anna's door and then entered her room.
He approached her quietly, then softly sat at her bed-side, gently shaking her shoulder.
She did not respond at first—lashes fluttering but in dreams—then awoke all in a start.
She gasped and almost yelled out but he cupped her mouth whispering to keep it down.
“A problem has come up. Just listen to me for a moment. You will not be safe in here.”
He released his hand. “What do you mean?” she hissed. Her hair was tussled about.
“I believe the Brothers smell the Wulf on you and mistake you for a Jinn interloper.”
“They think I am the Wulf?” Her brow furrowed incredulously. “I told you I saw it.”
“No, they think you are a Jinn interloper. It has happened before—but none like you.”
“But ... you believe me don't you? I thought I could trust you,” she whispered in worry.
“Yes I do ... I can tell you believe yourself anyway. Father Arctorius has been on a mission of late. He has expelled several Brothers from the Fold and taken to personal crusade against Jinn. But it is all for naught. He is no closer to shedding the Scales from this City than before all the security.”
Just then she grazed his hand by accident on the bed—and their gazes hung naked in the air.
He found himself looking at her lips—which she licked—and then back again to her eyes.
This was not the Way of the Knightmage. Passions were put aside for the greater good.
Emotions were never stirred up and set to fire. Romance was strictly forbidden in heart.
But most of all—intimacy in any form was considered the ultimate weakness—and sin.
Tenant's yearning overwhelmed in the moment, however, for the first time fallen to lust.
He leaned in as she pulled back then dove forward—tongues spiralling inward together.
Their limbs entangled. The tore at their garments feverishly—each in sudden abandon.
Tenant would try to pull back—to respect his sworn oaths—but then he would but look upon her and instantly succumb once more—even deeper into her seductive, entrancing desire carnal.
Even as the Seers burst into Arctorius's chambers to warn him that Tenant was in union with the shadowy woman—as Father and Knightmages quickly made their way down the halls to stop their Brother before he became lost forever—Tenant entered Anna in the manner of the beast—fusing their Spirits into One—unleashing their wild lust and lure—lunging and lashing about—caressing and convulsing in orgasms of animal savagery—to the flutter of bats at the window—and moonlight.
Soon his trusted one Evergood burst in. “Arctorius's on his way, we've stalled him at the north wing with a ploy about a jammed lock. You have two minutes to get out now before they lynch you.”
Tenant rushed Anna back into her closes, shook Evergood's hands they left out the window.
They scaled down an ivy lattice-work into the Barracks' gardens where they snaked across to a short brick wall and mounted it to freedom. He led her through the streets across to the east side of town where only the fringe elements dared to go—where they took refuge at King's Cross Hotel.
They were safe for a time before Arctorius had them found. An hour or so had been bought.
Once again they fell into each other's arms and continued in their forbidden love-making.
He could feel her soul inside of him as much as he was inside of her. For the first time in his existence he knew what the true human condition was all about—and what his Faith had taken from him. For once he knew what true love meant—how it felt—where the mind went—how the heart left the gates and getting the horses back under control would never happen again. He had taken off.
She hardly said a word—hardly needed to—drawing him in with her magnetic allure.
Finally, pulling back one last time—he uttered one final grasp a sanity: “Are you real?”
“I'm whatever you want me to be,” she whispered into his ear—sending him sideways.
They rolled over together—taking turns on top—pushing and pulling—finding balance.
He found it far more natural taking charge—and so she submitted, against her old ways.
“I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this,” he admitted, still in heart shock.
“I've been just waiting for someone like you,” she said. “Soon as I saw it I knew.”
“We will need to keep on the move, for the Brotherhood will not give up easily.”
“Wherever we need to go as long as you promise we go together than I'm good.”
“Arctorius must stopped before he destroys the Fold forever. Madness must end.”
“I do not mean to alarm further, but there is something else, another presence.”
“What do you mean? I watched our trail like a hawk. No one was behind us.”
“I mean, at first sight of you, when I awoke—at first kiss—I could sense it.”
“Sense what?” Tenant sat up, reaching for sword—unsure of what to think.
“I mean ... The Wulf—he has been nearby ever since the moment we met.”
“Well it's just going to have to get in line behind Arctorius and the Overlord.”
She sighed. “Why do I feel like we've met before—that I've seen your aura?”
“I feel the same way. We could just be kindred—or there may be more to it.”
“Everything's moving so fast—I wish we could have more time just to talk.”
“There is no time left in this World—only flashes of what was once Life.”
He was determined not to let anything interfere with his new-found Love.
He got up and began checking over his arms and armour—preparing to die.
He would take a last stand against his closest Brothers in order to save her.
Nothing could have prepared any of them for how the days would unfold.
She was right, choices worked at lightning speed in those times, to infinity.
All one could do was try to ride it out and end up where their hearts chose.

Anna was shaken from slumber once more, with Tenant pulling her up fast.
“Time to go now ... The Knightmages will zero in on our presence soon.”
They rushed down the hallway only to spot the Seeker Winterthorn below.
They turned back deciding to head out the rear exit—breaking into night.
As they sprinted cross streets—through alleys—mixing into crowds—down every furtive way they could find—Anna warned that the Wulf was still close behind. She did not know why she could tell so well—what pact had been bonded between her and the beast that night she saw it—but it served them well for the moment to know enough to keep on moving—never look back.
But just as they turned a final bend toward the Black Arrow District—where Tenant knew many of the underground who could help them disappear—they ran into Winterthorn again—standing now in their path alongside two lower order Moon-Knights—all three clearly intent on ending this chase.
“Give yourself in Brother Tenant—you are a disgrace to the Fold. Let us dispatch this witch.”
“She is no witch—and from today forward I disavow any Fold that calls such love a dark sin.”
“You used to be so strong, Gregory,” Winterthorn criticized. “You were Arctorius's favorite. He really did hone you into the perfect Knightmage—from the time that he saved you from the streets. But for a year now you have been behaving so strangely—randomly submitting to whims and daydreams—like no change I have ever witnessed in a man before. You are clearly possessed by something—and we are here to save you Brother. Please—do not force our hands against you.”
All four Moon-Knights present unsheathed swords in near unison—prepared to clash.
Anna recoiled into the shadows of the alley—now baring her teeth in primal instincts.
Their psychic swords clashed in a fray of precision and counter-plays like in a dance.
They were Brothers trained in common forms—used to sparring but rarely to the death.
Tenant was high level—but nothing compared to Winterthorn—who out-skilled them all.
“Give in Tenant, spare your life and seek salvation at the feet of Arctorius—before you die!”
But Tenant was not inside himself any longer. His mind was hovering above—conducting.
He moved through volleys of strikes like a pendulum back and forth keeping all three at bay.
The two underlings swept in at his feet as Winterthorn struck straight and true at his neck.
But just as all three were about to make contact, Tenant swept himself under his cape and disappeared into the side limbo—vanishing into a singularity of light—all three swords passing harmlessly through the space where he stood—but then he reappeared kicking out the swords of the two underlings and knocking Winterthorn back with one heavy arcing slice—all in one motion.
Tenant blasted one Knightmage with a bolt of photons from his palm—then parried the other with a sudden flash of his psychic-shield—before taking an attack back from Winterthorn in return. Winterthorn's sword fell across his face drawing blood—but he hardly noticed—before blowing up: “ENOUGH!!!” he commanded. The two lesser Knightmages stepped back in deferment to Winterthorn who sheathed his sword and stepped forward.
“Are you prepared to give yourself up?”
Tenant wish he could but he could not.
Anna stepped out of the shadows in step.
So enraged, she could stand by no longer.
She passed before Winterthorn, scowling.
“You dare cross against your own Brother!”
Winterthorn just moved to strike her down.
So then Tenant shot him with a bolt to death.
The two other Knightmages soon retreated.
Anna hovered over Winterthorn's body.
She began to laugh in fits of hysteria.
Tenant pulled her away out of sight.
She seemed to be in acute shock.
“No time for breakdowns babe.”
“How did I fall into you so fast?”
“I was about to ask you the same.”
“It just feels so right somehow.”
“Perhaps I cast a spell on you ...”
“Perhaps I cast a spell on you.”

iii. Fear is Real

Tenant opened his eyes in a fog. He had fallen asleep. He checked for Anna but she was there and the night was quiet. They had finally found his friend Shepherd Dox who put them up for the night in his attic. Shep was a kingpin in these parts and they were well looked after for the moment.
The full moon sat in the attic window. Greg stepped carefully across to look out into the street. Up and down he could see Shep's men everywhere. They would sound a quiet alarm if anything seemed afoot. The Knightmages were remarkably stealthy—but they would be more cautious now after Winterthorn's death. Tenant's wanted status would rise—but also his deadly potential.
He had not meant to take Winterthorn's life—but Anna had seemed to instigate it.
Nevertheless, he loved her—and he was prepared to defend her against all odds.
Stoking the fire and fixing them some tea, dreams from the night flooded back.
He noticed one of the window panes cracked ajar. Blood smeared the frame.
The blood was still drying—and stuck in it were long hairs, perhaps of a wolf.
His heart sank as his mind raced through a thousand thoughts each more horrific.
Was the Wulf there that night? Was he himself the Wulf? He pulled the sheets, right out from under Anna—and tossed every scrap of evidence he could find. By the time she awoke, he acted as if nothing had happened—still trying to sort out what it all meant—before going to extremes.
“You look pale as a winter storm ... Is everything okay? Have they seen Arctorius?”
“No! No ... They have not. Everything is fine. Please—have some tea—here ...”
“Are you sure? You seem so one edge ... And you're cut here ...” she touched him.
“It's nothing,” he said, covering it up. “It was there before.” But he could not recall.
“So what is the plan? Do you think Arctorius will ever stop now after Winterthorn?”
“He won't ... He won't ever stop. But I am hereby sworn never to fell another again without exploring every other option. I will kill them all for us if I must—but first must come communication.”
But the next thing they knew news was travelling fast about the deaths of two other Brothers. According to messengers, something had broken into the Barracks and attacked the Knightmages—then escaped after dispatching a pair of Guards. All reports described the assailant as the Wulf.
Then Tenant had more visions—more memories—resurface—almost as if his imagination were unfolding how it could have gone—to be the Wulf inside the Barracks. It was so vivid, however, so real—that he could almost smell the fear on the Knightmages. It was as if he were really there—bounding about the barracks on the hunt—Wulf in full stride—in deadly form—without restraint.
Several times he had to shake himself out of the trance—and Anna would ask what was wrong.
“Nothing,” he would reply. “I'm fine—totally fine.” But he was not. The visions had begun to intensify ever since Anna—as if she was bringing out the beast in him. They way she would look into his eyes drove him wild as the river-- and probably caused his psychic field to become sensitized.
“Okay ... something,” he finally conceded—later on toward dusk. “There is one thing.”
“What is it? You can tell me,” she said holding his hand—seeming to urge him on.
“Just that ... Well, how do I say this ... As Moon-Knight I have a clairvoyance—and somehow it's been even more heightened this past year—to the climax of when I met you—after which even more so than ever before ... I am having visions of the Wulf—tracking his encounters—often through first-person remote viewing where I am literally living through its eyes as it goes out on the prowl.”
She looked into his eyes deeply searching for some sign he was joking—but he was not.
She saw in his heart that he was telling the truth—and then it all made sense to her now.
“So that is why I was drawn to you—just like I was drawn to the Wulf itself. I sensed it.”
Tenant nodded. “I thought of that as well. All I know is that time is of the utmost essence.
“Time is all we have,” she said leaning into him. They kissed passionately, briefly losing themselves to the passion that had gotten them there in the first place. They had not stopped out of fear before, so there was no reason for beginning to do so now.
“If you can see the Wulf—then we are a step ahead.”
“As long as it cannot see me back. You say it is close.”
“I can sense it all around—like it is suffocating me.”
“I will tell Shep's men to be on the look-out soon.”
“Maybe sooner or later we must just stop running.”
Anna seemed fit to flee—but frustrated out of fear.
“Our fears are real. We must not force any hands.”
Suddenly they heard a scream down in the streets.
Band of Fold rode horses with torches toward them.
Their ominous silence in the dark was breath-taking.
People in the street scattered before them in fright.
All well knew fear for Moon Knights on the hunt.
They were once just protectors—but now tyrants.
Arctorius had turned the Fold into this dark show.
“We cannot make a stand here tonight. There are two many of them. Shepherd will deflect their interests for as long as he can—but eventually he will be forced to let them in—and we will be long gone again. But our flight will be over soon. I have a plan—of how to flush out this Wulf—and finally bring Arctorius back into line—all in one fell swoop.”
“What do you mean? What do you have in mind?”
“The One who wants Arctorius more than any other.”
Tenant knew it was a long shot—a great risk for a man who abhorred risk. But he did not want Anna and him to spend the rest of their days on the run and in fear—just because of Arctorius's wrath.
He had turned—he was a Brother defecting—and so now there was little choice but to finish what he had started. But first—there was one Brother he could not leave behind.
Leaving Anna at a new secret spot—he returned by side limbo stealth to the Barracks—where he trespassed across his old stomping grounds—and right under the noses of the Sentries freed Fyremane from his stall and rode him out of the stronghold—jumping the garden brick wall and down Pawn Street toward the end of the World as he knew it. He was now an outlaw Knightmage about to attempt the impossible. He picked up Anna and headed east toward a set of security gates and beyond that the New London Wastelands no-man's land—through a sea of barbed wire trenches and feather-sensitive mines so dense the going was treacherous. This was the same route his ex Hattie had once taken—and he knew the way of safe passage—but he had to be calm, alert and careful.
But once they were through, the challenge had just begun—for the Overlord awaited. Jinn was the One who could take down Arctorius—even if it meant sacrificing the freedom of the people. Tenant had finally lost all of his former values—now trading in every last one of them for the sake of Anna.
They rode along on Fyremane into Greater Eagalia—several times sensing something following behind—but never actually seeing the Wulf on their continual tail. Finally they crossed over an endless plain of black flower fields--up to the sprawling, dark Kingdom Of Mer—where the Serpentine Aliens had first settled for their capital. The massive reptilian guards halted them in their passage and then took them into custody—to see the Overlord who would decide their Fate at last.
“Why would you betray your Brothers for this one?” Jinn rasped—unconvinced of their story.
“Arctorius has become drunk with power. At least with you in control over New London—Anna and I would have less to fear. My interest is in seeing us live alone—and that is all that is left for me.”
Anna clung to his arm—grinning wildly at Jinn who looked her up and down with curiosity.
“Your actions are more Scale than Spirit—and your female companion is not human at all.”
“We are NOT here to debate,” Tenant barked, ignoring Jinn's hint—taking back his control.
Anna flinched but then began to lowly growl. Tenant held out his fist—opened palm down.
The Serpent Guards jumped to attention--but then stood down at Jinn's command—as they watched the Moon Knight carefully—not trusting the human for a second to be as cold as them.
But then Tenant turned his palm upward instead of out—and the Orb appeared in the air.
It grew in size and on its surface appeared a long off shot of New London in the distance.
“This is what you want. This is the prize,” Tenant boomed. “This is what I can give you!”
Jinn's expression grew very grim—then more calmly intense—before finally now nodding.
“Go on,” the Overlord allowed. “But make it fast before I finish you both before my ride.”
“There is a secret network of tunnels underground—passageways that lead into the city.”
Tenant gestured at the Orb and the labyrinthine underworld emerged before their eyes.
It was complex but contained—and deep enough never to be discovered by chance.
Jinn's eyes widened steadily as his back straightened and he looked on intently.
“That is right,” Tenant said more confidently, now pacing back and forth.
Anna crouched down by his feet, in a tense low tight crouch, waiting for action.
The Serpent Guards closed in on her—but dared not enter her space for Jinn's wrath.
She eyed every opportunity in the room—using her street smarts to plan out the situation.
Tenant stood every ready at guard—but showed no sign of it—for he had to sell this show.
“Only I know where the entrances are to these passageways. Only I am willing to help you.”
It was Jinn's turn now to pace back and forth—until finally granting Tenant and Anna asylum.
They had betrayed their people and won their freedom—but at what cost the yet knew not.
All Tenant knew, all he remembered about any of it anymore, was that he loved Anna, whatever she turned out to be in the end—even if that was the very witch Arctorius had so accused her of being.
So the invasion of New London was on—and at the lead, under constant watch by Jinn's side—were Gregory Tenant and Anna St. Santos—too lost in love to know better—too doomed to care.
But despite escaping New London—despite ditching Arctorius's heavy hand for the other side—the Wulf yet lingered about the shadows. No matter how far and wide they travelled—it seemed to never leave their side—and before everything was over, Tenant swore he would see the Wulf dead. The one tenant next closest in importance to his love for Anna—was despite his defection from the Brotherhood—seeing his duties completed. He still had love for New Londoners—and he had to believe they would be no more worse off under a Jinn tyrant than under an Arctorius tyrant—but for his part—for what he could offer control over--he would die to see the feral hunter brought to justice.
The day before the assault was to begin—Jinn invited Tenant into his inner sanctum—the Chamber of the Overlord—where he offered him a seat by a raging fire—and smoke and drink.
Tenant took some of each out of duty and then settled in to listen about why he was there.
“Tell me, Tenant ... What is the one difference between your kind and mine do you think?”
“I suppose the margin between an ash and an ember. Perhaps your kind is more warrior.”
“We are more real!” Jinn hissed--claws scraping across the hardwood arms of his throne.
“We live in the here and now—visually--believing what we see—believing in action. Humans are weak—for they succumb to feelings—losing their minds over such things as love and loss.”
“If you are referring to why I am here—because of Anna—then I would have to disagree.”
“Ah yes, the woman. What makes you so sure she will not leave you once this is all over?”
“We have a connection you would not understand. Your kind no know of these things.”
“Precisely my point. We see clearly that mating is meant only for reproduction and fun.”
“There are bonds called Trust, Respect and Loyalty that you could only ever dream of.”
“These things will bring you down in the end—and leave the Scales to Rule. We live by a superior set of rules called Hate, Cruelty and Deception. The only Feeling that was ever real is Fear.”
Tenant left the Chamber that night deeply disturbed that he had made a horrible mistake in switching sides—for true nature of the Scales was far more terrible than he had every imagined. If their kind truly inherited the World—then he was now more sure than ever Hell would descend.
He slipped into bed beside Anna--into dreams of redemption and last-minute reversals.
But also he dreamed again of the Wulf—and when he woke to hear of Serpent Guards mauled to death while out on duty during the night—then was able to match that once more to his own visions—so for the first time did he finally look himself in a mirror and wonder—was it really him all along?
“You seemed disturbed,” Anna said, curled up against him like a cub the next morning.
“I'm finally coming to terms with something—something I've been trying to tell you.”
But just before he could go on, Jinn's men came in and ordered them to mobilize—for the the first wave was moving out—and it was time for them to spare their lives by turning in humanity.
“I can't believe we're doing this—feels like such betrayal but it seems like our only choice.”
“I know how you feel but this was the only way. Believe me—if there was anything else we could do ... But ... Wait ...” he said, an idea suddenly dawning on him. “Maybe there is still a way ...”

Love Before Life

i. Fall of the Fold

Tenant had Anna fake a panic attack just before they set out on the mission. In the midst of the commotion then, he slipped into a side room where he summoned the Orb and sent out a call to his most trusted Brother Baedvin.
“Gregory I thought I'd never hear from you again. Word is you bonded with the woman and fled to Eagalia—is that true? Brother—Father Arctorius has gone completely mad. All he does is rave all day about destroying you. The Wulf attacks have died off for now—but the general public is still very much on edge. We've been having riots everyday and I'm afraid the city is going to descend into chaos at any time now. Are you okay? What is going on? What should I do?”
“I'm fine Brother. I have a plan and I need your help. I want you to reach out to Father Arctorius—tell me that I have come around—that I want to surrender—but first, as a Gift to him—in the hopes that he will extend me pardon—I wish to deliver the Overlord into his hands. Listen carefuly—I will be leading the first Squadron of the Serpents into the old abandoned passageway beyond no-man's land—the tunnels that have been locked off and left to rot. These Mer believe they will be marching into the New London underground. Father Arctorius can lead a team with the total element of surprise at hand. I will leave my Orb on low, so they can track our progress in real time—and finish Jinn off for good—once and for all—delivering a terrible blow to the Kingdom of Scales.
“Do you have all this Brother? I need to you understand every word.”
“I have it Brother,” Baedvin assured him. “I will deliver it in detail.”
“Baedvin ... This must be our last stand as well—not just Jinn or Arctorius's. There is more piece to this puzzle that will set us free from all of them—and let us start over with the Brotherhood for the betterment of humanity—not their increased enslavement--how it was meant to be. I need to you to make sure everyone sent with Arctorius to intercept are of his closest supporters solely. Then we will make use of those old blast sticks you put into storage after the last war was won.”
“I think I see where you're going with this,” Baedvin said gravely. “We must have a way to be sure those left behind are also taken out. I will alert the network and find a way.”
“I'm counting on you. Upon my return—we will set forth a new blueprint.”
“You saved my life once,” Baedvin said. “Now I am granted repayment.”
“If Arctorius suspects anything, then I may be saving your life once again.”
“I have been keeping our descent secret this long—what is a few more hours?”
“There is no time left. Here are the final details—and I will meet you at the agreed location.” Tenant went on to fill in Baedvin of the rest of the plan—then returned to help the others 'calm' Anna down—before they all set out on the march toward New London—and supposed invasion.”
As the approach the subterranean entrance, Tenant grew nervous and tense.
Any nuanced expression—any subconscious twitch—could give him away.
Anna was playing it perfectly. She seemed to simply be a cool, natural liar.
He was continually finding her not to be who he thought she was—but then remaining alluring all the more—or perhaps even more-so than before—as he forever spiralled into her mystery. It kept him moving on despite the madness of the moments they were finding themselves in.
Finally, they reached the underground tunnel cover, which had a digital lock.
“Open it, Tenant,” Jinn hissed, growing impatient in the noon day soon—feeling overexposed in such close proximity to New London. “We must not lose our element of surprise!”
So Tenant stooped and knelt—then punched in the code—opening access.
One-by-one they began to climb down into the depths.
Lastly before Jinn himself descended, Tenant helped Anna down—then climbed down himself. As Jinn turned his back to climb down last—Greg subtly checked his Orb was still on low. Somewhere above Arctorius and his team were being led by Baedvin to the ambush vectors. God only knew how the impending chaos would play out—but one thing was for sure, they were taking it into their own hands.
The lead feelers in the Serpent Squadron started combing the catacombs—as they made their way across toward New London—still oblivious to the fact these old passageways were ultimately blocked off from the main city network of subterranean tunnels. Jinn kept shoving Tenant on by the shoulders, clearly impatient with the pace of the line—but aware it took time to do a raid right. He wanted to see Arctorius's breathing his last breaths so badly, however, he found restraint difficult.
“Have patience My Lord,” Tenant attempted to placate him, but only drew suspicion.
“If I find out you are hiding something from me Tenant, so be it I will eat your heart.”
Anna grew angry at this comment—but Greg urged her on before their plan derailed.
Jinn laughed loudly behind them, causing alarm. “Your girl is full of fight like a male!”
This only infuriated Anna even more—but Tenant managed to keep her forward moving.
Finally they made it to the crossways where the Serpents thought they were to turn North.
But before they could turn the corner to see the way blocked off—they saw lights to the left.
“Who goes there?” called out human voices. Jinn sent two down to deal with the situation.
The second he turned back, however, all in a flash Arctorius's team of Knightmages attacked.
They came from all sides—above and even below—striking with full force as Scale recoiled.
It did not take long, however, for Jinn and his gang of fangs to regroup and engage the monks.
Hissing Serpent and screaming Moon Knight clashed in torchlight—in a frenzied bloodbath.
Knightmage swords burned through the air—electrifying Scale left and right in killer light.
Merman crushed monk with hammering fists and slashing claws—decimating in seconds.
Mage fought back and lizard warriors resurged—until each side was cut down to bone.
The Heart of the Fold had now been crushed—and the head of the Serpent cut free.
Near last to fall, Jinn came to face Arctorius—and the two of them squared off.
But Tenant and Anna had slipped out—just in time as Baedvin set blast sticks.
The tunnel blew out, collapsing into tons of boulder and rubble—sealing itself.
Now at last the legacies of two tyrants were ended in one single calamitous kill.
“Let us return,” Tenant said solemnly. “There is work to do--to restore order.”
Anna clasped him tightly by the arm—relieved they had made it through alive.
The three of them felt this was a Fall of the Fold—but beginning of an Order.
Back in New London, the last of those loyal to Arctorius were swiftly finished off.
Father Tenant would now lead New London into a new era of peace—with the remaining loyal Knightmages at his side—and Lady Anna as his living partner, still in step with him every course of the way—still the lamplight to his will to live—other than that slightly lesser will to see the Wulf dead.

The first few weeks of Tenant's rule were tumultuous yet cathartic. The pressure was off from the Scales as Greater Eagalia floundered without an Overlord. Conversely, the citizens of New London came into line as they learned a new Kingfather Knightmage had been crowned and hooded.
The Moon Knights doubled up on critical meetings and tightened security around all gates in anticipation of an eventual backlash from the Scales—and so all things political and tactical were coming into landmark clarity—at least since the last ten years of Arctorius's rule—plus with Lady Anna at his side, his own personal life seemed on the upswing, with a newfound emotional landscape previously banned altogether—now enshrined as the new way forward, for all monks not just him.
But he noticed Anna growing anxious at times—going a bit stir crazy—and so one day he suggested she get outdoors—go back to the old block—visit some friends she had not talked to in ages. It had been a wild journey they were on, but there was no reason now why she could not take a break to get a new perspective on things and let out some steam. “Go a bit wild, be your old self,” he urged.
He just wanted her to feel less confined—but she seemed to agree a bit too quickly and left.
Then when he saw her the next day, she seemed more distant. There was a vacancy there.
Messengers soon started to report Wulf attacks had begun again—bringing back his horror.
Now that he had secured everything he wanted—he was beginning to lose the one love it was all really for—and almost just as bad, he was once more faced with the fact that he may be the Wulf.
Each night brought new visions substantiated by the messengers who would come with news.
Somehow he was slipping out at night, finding clues at his bedroom window—in their bed.
He did his best to hide it from Anna, but she seemed not to notice, so lost in her own ways.
In the best scenario of which he could think, he was simply sleepwalking and having dreams that were still clairvoyant—still just his psychic side seeking out the prey he had for so long hunted.
“I am the Hunter, not the Hunted,” he declared to himself over and over in the mirror each morning, before going out to hear of the latest killings—then having those descriptions every time mimic the visions from his dreams that were still fresh in the here and now of his mind's eye.
Finally one day, he had enough—and he ordered himself locked up over night. The first night he did not explain why. Anna seemed to break her daze, seeming concerned about him—but he simply told them to do as he said for now. A few days passed this way—and he morning he would ask for the messenger to bring him the news. Under his own orders, they freed his hands to feed—and escorted him briefly to the washroom—but otherwise he was chained to his bed under strict command.
At first the killings stopped—and so he was sure that was final proof that it was him.
“What is it?” Anna finally pleaded with him. She lay on top of him, holding him tight.
“I'm sorry I've been so distant,” she said quietly. “It was never you, I was just tired.”
“Tired of living a lie?” he said. “That is how I feel. You see I ... I think that I am--”
Just then the messenger arrived for that morning and informed them that the killings had begun again—and the Wulf yet stalked the streets of New London.
“But ... that's impossible,” Father Tenant gasped.
“I knew you were being paranoid over nothing.”
“I didn't even tell you what I was worried for ...”
“I could read between the lines all along silly.”
“It's so strange—I could have sworn it was me.”
“You almost sound disappointed. I just want it dead.”
“I will not rest until I find it and so destroy it forever.”
“Maybe it's elusive because you don't want to lose it.”
“Nonsense! Why would I want to keep such a beast.”
“Because without it you are just a man—not so wild.”
“Without it I would be at peace—people would live.”
“Then let's get you out of these bloody chains lover.”
So Tenant's exercise was over—and the war begun.
His vendetta against the Wulf only accelerated now.
Finally knowing the Wulf was not him, he released.
He succumbed to a bloated righteousness rising up.
He now led the Fold. The Wulf was his black eye.
Everything he had he threw into finding the beast.
Every waking moment he pursued this final cross.
Anna fell out of touch as he lost grip to his power.

Lost Salvation

Tenant stayed up late so many nights searching the Orb for the Wulf. He could feel it at every turn, sense it in every hour. His dreams of the beast were bleeding through into real-time. He was very close to seeing the feral attacks as they happened—lost to the obsession with ending the visions at last.
Then one foggy evening, he found himself on a walk-about, turning the corners into King's Cross until he came to the Calling Cauldron—the most notorious fight-pub in New London. People flocked here to drink, cavort—and watch warriors match wits with iron will and fists of steel.
He entered under shroud of mystery, dressed down as a pauper, in darkling garments—guarded yet disarming—eyes flashing about for what he was after: the wild thing of fur and fang.
None there would ever guess that it was the Father who walked among them. They simply smirked and moved on—unconcerned with someone so consumed by the shadows.
But he began to see from the Wulf's perspective. The beast was within.
He spun about, glancing into every corner—caught up in a panic.
He saw the Hunter dividing the crowd—coming for its victim.
He madly dashed about yelling—looking for the dog.
Then he saw it, in his mind's eye, about to pounce.
He cried out, uselessly, for it was out of range.
He pushed in the first direction available.
He could sense it was close in his bones.
He pressed on determined to so prevail.
Then finally, a hand fell upon his right.
He spun about, to come to face Anna.
“They told me I would find you here!”
“Anna ... It's not safe here, you must go ...”
“Nonsense, I came for you. This is too much.”
“We cannot let this Wulf continue to kill at will.”
“But what if it kills us? What if it tears us apart?”
“It may destroy our bodies but never our love.”
“How will you catch it? It stays steps ahead.”
“I can sense it better than ever now. It's here.”
She seemed disturbed. She began backing off.
“I'm going Gregory. You're starting to scare me.”
She melted into the crowd, then he saw it go after her.
A vision of the Wulf closing in on Anna ran through him.
He screamed for her, silencing the room. Then he awoke.

Rolling over, his arm fell around Anna. She still snoozed.
He sat bolt upright in bed. Moonlight splashed across him.
Sweat slicked his shirt. He stood skinned it in the mirror.
He wiped down his face with it. His eyes were bloodshot.
He looked over Anna sleeping peacefully, growing enraged.
He had become so lost about the Wulf that he had lost her.
Their trigger was missing. Their fire had faltered fast now.
But these thoughts only made him double down even more.
Ever returned he to the conceit that the beast was the burden.
Ever at war were his thoughts over how to catch the creature.
Ever madness fell as the monster dodged him at every turn.
How something could know him so well, he could not tell.
It would leave in a heartbeat, pass behind him into shadows.
He would be directly upon it, but it would disappear quicker.
Then one day the Crown Psychic Reed broke a vow of silence.
He had sworn to an anonymous confessor that he would not speak.
But in light of Tenant's continued downward spiral—and personal concerns about himself being the Wulf, which he had that past week begun to divulge to Reed—the Psychic told him that one of the guards in charge of watching him during the week that he had himself locked up, had in fact let the Father free for three hours. He said the Father had come out, seemingly still half-asleep—asking to have his chains removed—and to be let free into the garden for a walk, around the midnight hour. The guard had reluctantly agreed—mostly since the Father was under arrest by his own orders. Despite the Father's insistence that he not be let out under any circumstances—the guard had caved.
At first, Tenant waived off this revelation. The memory of the garden walk returned to him. He had awoken dizzy and nauseous and simply needed fresh air and a break from the bed and chains. But he could not remember returning as clearly as leaving. In fact he could not remember coming back at all—so doubts then began to creep around—for once more it was possible, he was the cunning killer.
“We must find out once and for all—what it is I do when I sleep. You must help me.”
Reed agreed and they set about a plan of psychic exorcism to rid him of possession.
The ritual was elaborate, but the process took under an hour and he felt no different.
Next they tried interpreting his visions as they arose—helping him to track the terror.
But even a pack of them could not pin down the dog demon—leaving them empty.
Meanwhile, Anna watched from the shadows, eyes dancing wildly in loneliness.
She wanted her Gregory back—the one that had cast such a passion upon her.
Whatever it was about him that she could not pinpoint had vanished for sure.
All she felt know was a foreigner in her own home—and a sad fake lover.
There had to be a better way forward—she was convinced—a high road.
She would crawl away and let him realize later that she had left early on.
If he wanted her back, he would have to catch her. She would bite back.
Now all she needed to do was just protect her heart and not lose her mind.
So one morning she left the compound and never looked back—aimless.
Her footfalls went missing around the Barracks. Questions arose by dusk.
“She never wander after sunset, ever since I've know her—always afraid.”
“She will show up soon, I'm sure,” Reed reassured Tenant. “Believe it.”
“I so wish I could. I wish this would all end like a horrible nightmare.”
“But it won't on it's own. We must take it a step at a time until the end.”
“Send out two teams tonight. Wherever she is she must be found now.”
“What about the Wulf, will we track it again tonight? The moon is full.”
“Forget about the dog this day! All that matters tonight is Anna is safe.”
So marked a final turn—a brief return to reason—as he saw his fruits.
His obsession with the beast had levelled his romance to the dust.
A single-minded purpose to purge the city had sacrificed his love.
Anna was all he ever wanted—and once he had it he forgot why.
The mind, he finally began to learn, has more than two brains.
An unsteady heart—an unconscious concern—leads astray.
You eventually become crushed by your soul's own weight.
Your subterranean landscapes steer your toward destruction.
You sabotage yourself for the sake of proving one thing wrong.
Then thereby you also in turn tragically make that fear a reality.
Letting go of control—of vexing visions—was paramount if life.
But he had not done that in the slightest. He had seized himself up.
He had allowed his new-found power to be overtaken by insecurity.
Instead of leading, he had been reduced to ridicule for being weak.
Instead of saving, he had been pitied by the people for being crazy.
Instead of living, he had become a zombie for a fleeting phantom.
Instead of loving, he had come a long way away from happiness.

Anna walked along the broken streets bartering with her Fate.
She shuffled through the crowds growing faceless and fearless.
For too long she had been gone from the sides of fellow outcasts.
Now they welcomed her back with mixed reactions and memory.
But soon old tacks and patterns re-emerged and she was one again.
They brought her in, introduced new friends and newborn children.
They fed her and asked her all about the new Father and her choice.
She told them about how she had fallen in love with him by accident.
Some of them grew woeful, suspecting sorcery. Others threw in with it.
All in all she felt odd talking about home, when she was truly home now.
But then she realized Gregory had a place in heart now that was very real.
She had just needed some space to put everything in it's place and think.
It was true he had been out of touch, overblown about the Wulf angles.
Angels were on their side ultimately, however, she felt—and knew.
All of a sudden then she began to grow anxious, fearing for worry.
She did not want Tenant to think she was in trouble or any danger.
“I have to get back to him ... He is probably searching for me now.”
“You sleep here tonight sweet Anna. We will take you back tomorrow.”
So her eyes fluttered shut and she shut out the demons long enough to rest.
Old familiar sounds of the street floated through black and white dreamscapes.
Reed perched on a high ledge scanning for Anna like a dark hawk in the heavens.
He knew her energy signature well but it was murky business remote viewing.
New London was no easy read—no two corners ever telling the same stories.
A psychic could get lost hopping through thoughts with no end point in mind.
He skipped from prostitute to pimp, pauper to preacher—merchant to madman.
He skimmed through brothels and boarding houses—pubs, parties and chapels.
Challenging was an understatement—but he was confident he would find her.
Tenant had some leads on old ties in the southeast she may have sought out.
So the Seer ebbed in that direction—by brick and block—story by storey.

Tenant approached the great glowing Orb—kneeling before it—solemn.
There was little left to say or think—feel or fear—just empty longing.
He had tried for so long not to languish—not to become consumed.
But what you focus on so finds you—and he had created his death.
The demise of his humility—his grounding—was of his conjuring.
His anchor was lost—a fortune in hearthstone—for his heart's own.
“I beseech you,” he pleaded with the Orb. “Lead me back to her.”
The Orb pulsed into a crescendo, as it did just before illuminating.
Images swirled across it's surface—a visual riddle aligning signs.
It showed him the south side—the Smithy's Crawl—filthy thugs.
He saw the Eastern Star Tavern—and then Haven Falls Bridge.
Then he saw Anna walking out along the edge—as if to jump.
“No!” he cried and burst out—breaking out on Fyremane.

iii. Prayers for Prey
Reed hid and watched the flat where Anna was holed up.
To his surprise, he saw her climbing out the window.
She appeared to be awake—but almost in a trance.
She moved along the street toward the next block.
He followed out through the seedier side of town.
Passing by Star Tavern she was heckled by drunks.
She appeared not to notice, however, just pushing on.
Reed was tempted to intercept her but let it play out.
For Tenant's sake, he would see what she was about.
What he noticed was in this state she was untouchable.
Even his highly trained mind could not penetrate hers.
Something about her current level was off the charts.
She was almost too ominous—almost shiver worthy.
Even to a steely soul like his, this was otherworldly.
When she reached Haven Falls Bridge he tensed up.
Soon he would have to make a move to spare her life.
It was clear--whatever the reason--she was disturbed.
Tenant galloped out of the Barracks in a blast of focus.
But he came immediately into two guards in a panic.
They were just fresh in from no man's land outposts.
The Scales were mounting a new offensive right now.
Eagalia had a new Overlord and were marching on in.
According to messengers, the new Lord was all for war.
New London was under immediate attack in that instant.
All forces would have to be mustered—all plans laid fast.
Every inch of himself would have to be spent as Kingfather.
This was his time to shine—but he was torn for Anna's sake.
He sat in that moment—at that crossroads—for some eternity.
He knew he must save Anna first—but every second mattered.
He gave orders to begin alerting the Fold to forge a resistance.
Even as he rode away—he could feel their gazes burning him.
He was the Father—the one to follow—who was running off.
Time was out of slack in both matters—each pulling against.
He had no better choice. He just prayed he was not too late.
Anna suddenly snapped to life as she teetered over the edge.
She stumbled back almost getting hoofed by a rider passing.
Her hands were bloody and she found Reed dead at her feet.
She looked about frantically—confused—unsure--in shock.
Her mind twisted and turned through its own wicked mazes.
She had not—she could not—she was sure—not done this.
But how it would look dawned and old instincts kicked in.
Back in the street life, it was all in on yourself, to survive.
Without thinking it through, she dumped his body over.
Just then, Tenant arrived, galloping up in full on flight.
“ANNA!” he cried out loudly, alighting to the ground.
She ran into his arms sobbing uncontrollably into him.
“What happened? What in the World are you doing?”
“Please just hold me,” she whispered. “Take me home.”
Just then fireballs began rising up from the black horizon.
The Scales had begun invading—turning night to spectacle.
The skies were suddenly alive with war—booming in ears.
The bridge shook with each distant eruption. Siege seared.
Tenant felt relief and profound agony wrapped up into one.
He had secured Anna again—but at the cost of leadership.
Even as they rode away, he knew he had made a choice.
The burden of dead men and women was now on him.
He had faltered at the critical moment he was called.
It seemed like it was always the same thing in spades.
Running after something was also always running away.
He did not dare to ask about the blood on her hands until later.
She admitted to him exactly what had happened point by point.
He helped to comfort by suggesting a regression with the Orb.
The globe showed the Wulf killing Reed—giving them hope.
“You see,” Greg said. “It's been You all along. It wants you.”
“What do you mean?” she croaked defensively, guardedly.
“I mean from the day we met, you sensed it everywhere.”
“I've always felt it was close by just ready to move in.”
“But it never has—like it's been toying with you ...”
“I just want it to be over. I'm so sorry about it.”
“You've done nothing wrong. We will end it.”
“But how? It seems so impossible—a dream.”
“I have a plan—but you will have to trust me.”
“Whatever I must do, I will do it, just say so.”
“It is after you—so you are the bait we need.”
“I don't like the sound of this. Please no ...”
“You must or it will never be over. Listen ...”
“Greg ... I can't ... I don't want to ... No ...”
| “You will be safe at all times. We will simply lure it into a trap—carefully designed—tightly monitored—and then we will have it at last. We will rid New London of the Wulf—from our lives—and then I can focus on the war at hand. The people need us to be strong. You are their Lady Anna, do not forget. If you cannot be strong for yourself—then at least be strong for them.”
He opened the curtain to show her the people gathered below with pitchforks and swords—rusty muskets and bows. Men, women and teens were all ready to fight for freedom. They had been preparing for this for a long time—and despite their rag-tag appearance, they knew exactly what to do next. Their homes had been turned into fortresses, rigged with every conceivable trap. Their stores were all prepared to become weapon rooms—where ammo and arms were forged for the warriors. The city had been warned by many Fathers before, that Eagalia would attempt an annex by force one day on—and they had been weekly reminded to be ready to lay down their lives for humanity one last time.
When the crowds saw the curtain drawn and Anna standing there they roared in approval. Tenant stepped out briefly to address them—but then turned back, offering her his hand. She timidly took it, then stepped out with him—and together as Father and Lady of New London they inspired the people with strength and hope--as much authentic as put on—as much passion as pathos—all in the interest of seeing their common goal brought home—the final rejection of Scales from their eyes.

Anna looked into the mirror until she nearly disappeared. She was vulnerable. She had feminine airs that betrayed a deep longing to be protected. But this was all her new self—or more aptly her true self—while her old self—her street persona—was thorny and thatched over by a caustic independence steeped in survival instincts that matched the most ruthless of punk urban rogues.
She threw herself back there into—back into that old tough skin—steeling her eyes.
Her reflection in the mirror now re-materialized into a darker, meaner self-version.
Mayhem spilled out at her edges, like lava under a boiler plate—but she maintained a cold, icy grip upon that volatile pile. She would let the Wulf hunt her, for Tenant's sake, as well as her own—but mostly for the people of the streets—her family and friends she had left behind no longer. She would let the beast finally face her—and she would take this one pleasure in knowing she brought it down.
Tenant's mantle of obsessed hunter had finally been superseded by his very own woman.
She was now more determined than him to see the Dog of New London dead in its tracks.
It was as if control had finally be thrust back into her lap and she could feel her power again.
She began tying her old gang bands and re-dressing as the Anna once known as St. Santos.
She had not only been a thug for good, but a spiritual healer—one of the natural psychics.
Miracles and murderers seemed to follow her everywhere—living in that dangerous town.
But it was her calling to calm the masses with the blessings she had--despite how it drained.
She would lie awake some nights knowing it was her duty to help--but feeling too run down.
Eventually it became apparent to her that the clock on her time in this field would run out.
There would be a threshold where she could not pass, could no longer give all of herself.
She had read about a Cayce from centuries ago that had accessed the akashic records for thousands only to ultimately succumb to the rigours of such a self-destructive addiction to altruism.
But she was not like that. She was from a place that put self-preservation first over all things.
When needed, at any time in her life, she could now call on that inner force and fortify herself.
Her needs would be met. She would have herself the Wulf—and win back Tenant's adoration.
They were always healing—always reopening the wounds of hearts temporarily set to odds.
It would take time for them to find each other again, but she was sure that it would happen.
In the meanwhile, all Tenant could think of—all now that she could dream of—was death.
The dog would die by one or the other—and they were now both racing toward that end.
Nothing could separate her from this task. She sharpened and strapped on her old knives.
She stretched and limbered up—going for work-outs in the gardens—riding Fyremane.
The Knightmages about the Barracks noticed this third change in her. First she had been shy—then she went blue—now she had risen with a workable rage—with a thirsty look of control.
Even Tenant, when first noticing this worm turn, had been a bit disturbed—to be sure.
But it began to dawn on the Fold that this woman was more than anyone had known.
She was bringing back something so opposite to her current state as to be mystifying.
So then forward she came to be known in hushed circles as Lady Dark Anna the Red.
Tenant came into their private bedroom one night to check on her—when she attacked.
She pushed him on the bed amd took control over sex for the first time in their pact.
Garments were strewn about and flesh on flesh found no fault in anything she wanted.
In spirit and now in tooth and spade she was reborn warrior—wickedly transfigured.
“I will take over now,” she whispered in his ear every night during their love-making.
Even her voice had changed, becoming huskier—slivered by silken wisps of seduction.
“The beast will be Mine. I will let it into Me—so that I may know it better than itself.”
“Do not lose yourself in the process—we must keep our wits about us—our sanity.”
“Sand and time slip faster away everyday we delay. Madness is a small price to pay.”
“I have to believe it is possible to do both, Anna. We've come too far for otherwise.”

Death By Daylight

i. Hunter Hunted

Father Arctorius rose from the rubble, last survivor, victor—and venomous for vengeance.
The Overlord had succumbed whereas he had slipped into sidelimbo in time to escape.
Now he tracked his way back over the sand dunes toward New London—plotting.
He plodded—and he paced himself—planning his subterfuge—fuelling his fate.
Through the Orb he contacted his own close circle of Brothers—giving hope.
They were re-inspired by his return, having never taken to Tenant's coup.
But he made each of them swear, to help him earn back the throne.
They had to be smart, he told them. Tenant would fold before long.
But first, they had to set the trap right so it sprung just once and true.
While the Father and Lady were attending Black Solstice, Father Arctorius and his men seized the opportunity to storm the Barracks and take back command. It fell in only a few hours—with many of Tenant's closest either dying in battle—or giving back control in trade for their lives.
Then Father Arctorius set out on his horse Ricochet—retreading his old lines.
Those who recognized him stood in awe and fear—faces falling pale.
Once more the Dark Father had returned—and with it the iron fist.
No one seemed to know where Father Tenant was at the moment.
The Scales continued their assault—as Arctorius and all defended.
It was a mess of chaos—as men fought and fled and forced back.
Snake and man settled odds in the street and alley by claw and fist.
Arctorius's posse pushed on along the fringe ranks seeking Tenant.
New London would crush again—not by Overlord but Tyrant.

Black Solstice Parade happened once a year at winter. Greg and Anna galloped hooded between the roped off crowds, waving and calling out, exuding confidence in carefree frames—for they were the Dark Lady and Father Tenant—the last shining hopes for New London to set against the Jinn Mer for good—for the final fate of humanity strong. If they could resist—all of Earth could.
It was important that they suited the strong demeanours of noble kings and queens.
But more important, that they knew first a healthy fear for what was yet to come.
Their plan was small and tightly wound. She would bait the beast into their trap.
She would give herself to the crowds—and so give herself out to the temptation.
There she stood on the float—next she floated out into the masses giving mass.
She looked back, but Gregory was gone. She could sense him but not see him.
He was blocked by the crowds—drowned out of the vicinity—but he pressed on.
He pushed his way back in—tailing her frantically—for her life was at serious risk.
“ANNA!” he called out, looking every which way, desperately trying to get through.
Meanwhile, Anna had embraced Her people and please herself with their adoration.
She could hardly forget her immediate danger, but yet felt safer caught in the throng.
“ANNA!” Gregory called out again, disturbed and distraught he had lost her so fast.
Then a vision came, of the Wulf hunting her down, low and steady upon her heels.
The full moon sat mockingly above, wickedly casting down nightshine in sheets.
A dark howl rose up eerily into the growing dusk as bats swooped above around.
Long shivers spiralled up and down Tenant's spine as he elbowed his passageway.
Again another seeing seared into his mind's eye of Anna suddenly running in panic.
Something was bounding after her as the crowds split away in mass level evacuation.
Then he broke through a few final shoulders, breaking in upon where she was at again.
But when he pulled her around, grabbing her and spinning her about—she swung back.
She struck him before seeing who he was, fearing for her life that he was an actor of harm.
Then they locked eyes and he stumbled back a bit dazed. She grabbed him, shook him up.
“I'm so sorry,” she said. After the spins stopped, he began laughing, then looked about.
“It was right upon you. It cannot have gotten far. We should spread out again—net it.”
She nodded, intent edged in diamonds. She was ready for the creature more than him.
She was ready—she pleaded with her inner confessor. She wanted it to come up now.
“Where are you?” she barked in a hush—eyeing the gazes in the crowds—sizing all up.
Tenant faded away—but he was within a few meters—always ready to move in seconds.
This was the ultimate hunt—the hunter hunted—the Moon Knight's prime test of skills.
This time, however, his vision was of himself being hunted, of himself being the target.
He saw the Wulf coming after him—and he kept looking back then forging onward.
He always managed to stay ahead of it—for great lengths of flight and escape.
But then finally he met with an enclosed courtyard proving difficult to leave.
There was an exit into the next street blocked by a thicket of people ten deep.
He could feel the Wulf's presence upon him—and see it closing in on him now.
He turned about, skinning his psi-sword and psi-shield, standing his ground.
A scream funnelled up from the mob—as the gatherings parted way for it.
He closed his eyes—pushing into sidelimbo and deep meditative pre-action.
He could see the energy signature of the thing quickly threading toward him.
He leveled his psi-sword and sunk his Orblight into the bottom of his being.
At the last second, to kill the beast in moonlight, he opened his eyes to see.
But the crowd ballooned about, people swirling around—and there was she.
He pulled his attack and sheathed the psi-sword in mixed relief and dismay.
“It was right here again,” he huffed, settling himself down. “We're so close.”
She looked about, almost frothing at the mouth. “I grow bored of this game.”
She whistled for Fyremane, mounted him and trotted about above all the heads.
She cast her gaze across the masses—throwing her spirit out in the world feeling.
If the Wulf was anywhere nearby, she knew for a fact she would have a lock on it.

ii. Dark Sun Asylum

As the Dark Lady edged her way through the throngs on Fyremane she grew stronger still.
Something about the horse was calling to her inner wild—her veins coursing with courage.
She shunted from scent to scent, as if one of the old time trains, picking up on new currents.
Then her breathing stopped. Her heart halted. Her thoughts vanished. She saw it off a ways.
She urged Fyremane on. The great steed could sense the evil, but only rode on harder after.
Together they divided the people from their path and plunged ahead on the Wulf's heels.
She could almost smell it now, see it's hair whipping about as it paced on weaving full.
Slanting in the saddle Anna slipped her knives free and leaned out for the impending.
Her mind narrowed in on the dog man, who yet evaded her sight for those in between.
At the right second regardless she flung herself off Fyremane--human blade swinging.
Each knife struck true, into the back of the beast—and she fell on top of it to finish.
But to her horror she was it was human—she had attacked a man—and pulling him over her jaw slackened in terrible heartbreak as she saw it was in fact Gregory that she had cut deep.
“No ... no ... no ... no ...” She pulled his head up by the neck looking in his eyes.
He was still breathing, but barely. His eyes were rolled back. She faltered hollow.
She had been so sure. “Please ...” she pleaded as he coughed up blood sputtering.
He came to—more alert and looked at her. “Anna ...”
“I'm so sorry, baby ... It was like I was hypnotized.”
“It has powers beyond our understanding my love.”
He grabbed for her hand and they embraced in blood.
She hunkered over him sobbing lost to the tragic turn.
Fyremane returned—had not been far off—on guard.
The steed's eyes burned red as the embers of dawn.
Anna's eyes also turned red now, as she looked up.
Revenge for all the wrongs still haunted her soul.
She could still smell the beast on every thin wisp.
She stood over her man hissing at the onlookers.
“Go home! Crucible is among us, can't you see?”
At the mention of the Wulf's name panic ensued.
The crowds thinned—when Arctorius rode up.
He and his Knightmages circled the pair now.
“What have you done with him foul woman?”
Anna scowled back, sensing confrontation.
The Knightmages brandished their spears.
Arctorius alighted in a fearsome flourish.
Fyremane neighed and stomped hooves.
The mob cinched in callously curious.
But then Anna dropped to one knee.
“Please, please ... just spare his life.”
They rushed Tenant to medical aid.
Arctorius took Anna into custody.
Returning to base they regrouped.
It was determined to lock Anna up.
They sent her to Darkhill Asylum.
Assessed as insane, put in chains—she lay awake at night to the sounds of madness and mayhem—calling out to the moon and her man.
Eventually, after Tenant healed from his near mortal wounds—and was informed of the coup of the Fold and his Dark Lady's fate—he snuck out of his room one night and intimidated guards under threat of rebuke once he had regained the throne--to let him in to see her—the woman he loved.
When there eyes met for the first time after so long having been gone from one another—an old familiar burn reignited. Tenant could still feel the dull throbbing ache in the back from where she had stabbed him—but even that pain did not drown out the draw she had over him—the magnetism.
She bowed her head in shame—but he lifted it up again, firmly cupping her by her chin.
“Look at me ...” he implored, but she pulled away, now unable to look him in the face.
“It was not your fault ... and I am fine. Look at me ... I'm alive, aren't I? We're here.”
“But I almost killed you, baby. I was wide awake even—yet still in some dark trance.
Gregory leaned back—sighing. She leaned over the table—grasping his hands in hers.
“I don't care about any of it. All I want is you back. I miss you ... We were so true.”
“I miss you too, so much ... It hurts just to be awake—and then I think of ending it.”
“Never! Never say that again—not even think it!” Tenant sharply scolded incensed.
“But why does it happen to us? What does it want with us? Of all it could go after.”
“Nevermind about it now—you are at least safe in here. The killings have stopped.”
“What ...? What do you mean the killings have stopped? Does that mean I ... ... ...”
“NO! No ... No. Anna ... Don't let your mind wander. It doesn't mean that at all.”
“But you know as well as I it never stops—it is relentless, cunning—committed.”
“Yes, but ... It will begin again, trust me. I know. When it does ... I will have it.”
He left her with all the confidence he could muster—putting on a stoic visage.
She saw through it in a flash—but let him think he had done something good.
She returned to her chains—in her cell of wicked shadows dancing on the wall.
He returned to his hunt—in his certainty the Wulf yet stalked—yet thirsted blood.
All the while, the invasion of the Scales continued, firing up in fits and bursts.
New London would repel a wave—only for the Overlord to throw another on.
The Overlord's minions would make head-way—only to be beat back again.
The struggle was epic--and its denouement anybody's bet: a violent backdrop.
But Tenant's inner war—for the final truth—was the real show ripping open.
Arctorius kept him under close watch—a date being set in his trial for treason.
The Old Father would see his betrayer burned at the stake—but by the book.
Tenant took the opportunity to escape—and with Fyremane made the break.
As the city descended into anarchy—he rode out determined to win chance.
He would have the beast's head or die getting it—to show Anna's innocence.
Then he would deal with other matters of less import, like war and tyranny.

iii. Beast Reborn

Riding along on Fyremane through the alleyways--keeping his profile to the shadows—his hood low and his brow even lower—it occured to him that Fyremane had always been there, throughout the years—at every turn a loyal and trusted steed. Through thin and thick and back again, that horse had seen as much bloodshed as the most seasoned Moon Knight among them—and it showed no sign of slowing up, ever ready to set out on a new crusade against evil—and new assault on the darkness.
But something else about the beast that had always disturbed him—which he could never quite put his finger on—was this odd feeling that he always got, whenever he rode the animal—that he himself was somehow being drained by it—or more precisely, consumed by its overall aura.
It got so bad, he had often noted, on long journeys, that he would have to take breaks.
He would dismount for hours, tired in spirit and trying to summon up some new vigour.
Finally, when the soul had surged back into him, he would continue on his way renewed.
But always in the bottom of his heart was this twitch insisting something was not right.
He had found the horse on a vision quest one day a decade ago—when it had appeared all of a sudden out of a dense fog—showing no fear--no fugitive state—in no sense astray—but in fact aimed right at him—for him—into him—and they had never looked back—forever forward companions.
But the quest, inspired by the Orb, had been devised to resolve Tenant's fears and failings.
Prior to then, he had been long struggling to attain Knightmage status—too jinxed in things.
He had been an awkward and clumsy young man—with great apirations but little substance.
Then after Fyremane, everything had changed. He began meeting challenges head on—crafting a reputation entirely opposite to the one that had for so long seemed so hopelessly, immutable, broken.
Each night he would tend to Fyremane long after the other Moon Knights had left the stalls.
On some subconscious level, he knew full well the horse was responsible for his new self.
He did not know why it was that way—but he dared not question it—nor ever let it end.
For all he knew Fyremane may well have a curse of the Overlord—or of his own mind.
But whatever the source, regardless of any side effects—his waking self protected it.
He was a new man—rising the ranks of the Fold with a brisk effortlessness—shining.
None had even questioned it—so strong was he in fortitude for this new future form.
Many indeed had welcomed it—so sick of Arctorius and his heavy-handed ways.
But all the while—Fyremane paced about his stall—in the background brooding.
Tenant leaned down ruffling the horse's many. “You're my friend right old pal.”
The beast gave a shudder, sinewy shoulder blades rippling under his reigns.
At the same moment they both sensed a presence in the silent distance.
Dust kicked up from hooves as they trotted out into the street to face it.
It was Reed—the Seer—and old friend—come to talk sense into him.
This was Arctorius's last concession before an all out manhunt ensued.
The Old Father had sworn off even a trial—at last—after Tenant's bold dismissal of his sundown curfew—in pure defiance of his pending judgement—so the Seer had been sent as a lead messenger—one last ditch effort to end Tenant's imminent peril—to steer the reaper's reach away.
“Greg, there are things you need to know. You must stop this madness.”
“I will not stop for anything, old friend. Stand down or be cut down.”
“This is not a game, Tenant. I cannot protect you any longer, brother.”
“I never asked for your help, noble one. A Father does what he must.”
“He will be upon you soon. He is on his way—and comes to destroy.”
“I will have what I seek before I ever let him have what he so seeks.”
“The Wulf is on the hunt again. There were reports since you left.”
“I knew it!” Tenant burst out—pacing about on Fyremane intently.
“It means nothing, brother ... Listen, there is more—about her ...”
“Silence! This shows Anna's not involved—yet remains chained.”
“No ... Listen, she has--” Reed began—just as riders joined them.
Tenant sensed Arctorius and was off an instant later—aflight--afire.
A chase followed—of Brotherhood for Brother—Father for son.
The raced full out on rain slicked streets pounding cobblestone.
The full moon grinned wickedly over them all—forever amused.
Bands of Scales slithered crossways at crossroads and backlanes.
The Knightmages fended them off when they must—branching off.
Some would fall back to deal with the Jinn Mer—then catch back up.
Arctorius remained ever vigilant at the tip of the hunt—bloodthirsty.
Reed rode behind—reluctantly following—praying Tenant took off.
Tenant felt like he had heard all he needed to finish the job started.
He pressed on making bends and turns in breakneck desperation.
He would throw them off his tail—only to have the make ground.
They would be almost upon him—only to have him slip off away.
Just when he began to lose steam, however, a faint scent drifted by.
It was the Wulf—and he was positive it was fresh. It was so close.
He bolted on Fyremane in the wave of his senses following the trail.
The Knightmages trailed far behind now, in the dust of Tenant's will.
The tracks of the Wulf were seen in the mud. A howl rose up ahead.
He was almost upon the wicked one—within grasp of the feral grail.
Twisting and leaping—they crashed forward—riding hard on its tail.
Arctorius roared in frustration, redoubling efforts to end this toinght.
Tenant slipped out of sight. He seemed bewitched—as if after prey.
“What does he see? What is he on to out here? What must he find?”
“He hunts himself,” Reed responded reservedly. “Beast or no beast.”
“Can you not see into his mind? What use are you just guessing so.”
“His obsessive focus is a firewall that even I cannot penetrate at will.”
“What of the girl? Have you a shred of help to offer us in the least?”
“She also remains blocked. I promise you will know the second I do.”
“Enough!” Arctorius barked, throwing one hand up and riding on off.
Reed found himself rounded up and knocked down from his horse.
He was roughly brought up to his knees—where he closed his eyes.
His end would be noble if not fair—as he sent prayers friends' ways.
They took off his head in a swift execution—coldly killing their own.
Meanwhile, Fyremane put the final legs of their pursuit under them.
The steed would bring its master to the answers he wanted by bond.
Its pact had been to see the man to the precipice of careless wishes.
Its past was shrouded in mystery, yet it had proven itself ever on.
It patterned its primal instincts into men—just as they so tamed it.
It was a loyal companion—a trusted beast—and oft useful friend.
“That's it my friend, right there,” Tenant said pointing to the Wulf.
The dog man had just finished tearing apart a couple limb from limb.
Tenant's heart beat hard at the thought of finally seeing it in bloody fur.
These would be its last victims, the Knightmage settled in his mind now.
Arctorius just made it to the vicinity in time to witness what then unfolded.
Tenant rode by the beast, slashing crosswise with a furious, clumsy strike.
The Wulf leapt out of the way—then clawed back ripping open the horse.
Fyremane neighed in fury---hoofing the beast down—revealing true might.
But the dog man rebounded quickly—and Tenant unsheathed his psi-sword.
The eyes of the monster bled red as the light of the weapon reflected off it.
Tenant lunged in—but a maw of razor incisors took a chunk from his neck.
His psi-sword seared the flank of his feral opponent—but was so deflected.
Arctorius circled in on horse, now waiting for the melee to play itself out.
The Wulf pounced—pinning Tenant to the ground—batting Fyremane off.
The Knightmages chased Fyremane off down street—bent on catching him.
Tenant hit back, summoning thoughts of Anna, driven to fight for freedom.
But the beast must have weighed a tonne and trounced him in a wild rage.
The Moon Knight was beaten bloody and broken down past recognition.
He yet prevailed, however, in spirit—yet would not die, would not pass.
All that remained for him was this one central purpose of seeing death.
Death would come, for him, for Arctorius—for the Scales—and Wulf.
But as far as his concern went this second—he would not be first to go.
He summoned his psi-shield blasted the Wulf off of him—then stood.
The Wulf howled in an unbridled, shrill call of a dark, hollow wind.
Even Arctorius, safe at a distance, shuddered at the inhuman sound.
But Tenant would not falter from his single mission—pushing on in.
He parried and faked left—spun right and fired back—sword swirling.
The beast hesitated—as if in disbelief the man yet lived—then bore on.
Tenant paid the dog back for its scrapes in scars until the two teetered.
They each bordered the brink of oblivion—betting now only on hope.
Anna's voice came to him: “Gregory, please ... Please, Gregory ...”
One final surge so then fired through him—and he brought his sword down on the Wulf's neck—separating its head from body—sending ugly mug rolling through the dirt.
The decapitated body of the dog man crumpled to the dust and stone.
Tenant fell to his knees—knowing Arctorius would upon him soon.
He put his hands on his hidden knives—ready to continue kicking.
Then suddenly he noticed the body of the beast revert to a woman.
The head of the Wulf shifted back into that of a woman—of Anna.
His Dark Lady lay before him—in two halves—so torn asunder.
And so was he torn apart in his heart having killed his own lover.
The world spun around him in a whirling blur of absolute collapse.
The torment would rise and never end in the aftermath of all of this.
The unrelenting guilt—coupled with the ultimate truth of her guilt—would send him to the ends of his wits—to the ends of his soul and back again—searching for meaning.
So he let go of his knives—raising his hands to the air in surrender.
Arctorius approached—beginning to laugh at the tragedy of it all.
“Fool of fools, how you were deceived into losing everything.”
Still processing the turn of event, Tenant could only defer.
“Your lover slipped out of Darkhill this morn—after you.”
Tenant remained motionless—hardly believing his bad luck.
“Everything you've done since you met her has led up to this.”
“She was not a monster. This is a spell. I will not be tricked.”
“Oh—this is real alright, poor Brother. Sad end to a sad life.”
Tenant lowered his head—exposing his neck. “End it quick.”
But then the Old Father pulled back—shaking his head slowly.
“No ... You do not deserve to die—but to suffer with yourself.”

So the days piled on and Tenant lived out his days as an outcast.
He was barred from the Fold—and unaccepted by the commoner.
All he could do was drink himself to sleep and fight to survive.
Resistance against the Scales met success—at least temporarily.
Arctorius continued his rule—and solidified his strangle-hold.

But then one day, in the pub at dawn for coffee, Tenant slipped.
Reality shifted—and he found himself turned over one last time.
Guzzling coffee and downing a plate of pork and egg he perked up.
A group at the next table were atwitter over something they had seen.
The news soon grew that something yet hunted the streets at night.

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