G2A Many GEOs
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The End

flex_puke Aug 1st, 2019 (edited) 2,650 Never
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  1. Introduction - Slow Train Coming
  2.  
  3. October 3rd, 1890
  4.  
  5. The creaking and crying of train wheels against metal tracks alerted me to the fact that I had arrived at my destination. The train station was in the city of San Fernando, California. A good friend of my family, who's also the captain of the police in New York, Omar, had told me that the man I was looking for had fled here not long ago. He told me if he was hiding there, then there was little the police back east could do about him. But, if I looked for a specific bar in San Fernando, the "Tooth And Claw", I could hire someone, for the right price, willing to look for the man I intend to find.
  6.  
  7. My name is Eli Clayborne. I'm looking for John Joseph Riley, the man who killed my family.
  8.  
  9.  
  10.  
  11.  
  12. I - Gun Street Girl
  13.  
  14. As I approached the Tooth And Claw, a few things stood out to me about it; the structure was vastly different from any pub or bar I'd seen in New York. The building was made entirely of wood, with the worn sign on top of it written in such a way that "Tooth And Claw" appeared to be shoddily scratched into a piece of birch. Even though I was twenty feet from it, I could hear the raucous crowd inside. I heard laughter, jeering, cheering, shouting, yelling, all of it under the sound of a piano playing an upbeat diddy. It was the kind of wild west saloon that you would hear about out here through and through.
  15.  
  16. I took a deep breath, and pushed the swinging doors apart. All patrons and staff were anthros of all different kinds. I saw an alligator-man with an eyepatch covering his left eye, arm wrestling a lion who was built like a brick house. An old pigeon missing some feathers, along with a receding hairline plucked away at the keys of the piano. A plump muskrat wearing bifocals sat behind the bar, cleaning various glasses. Two rabbits; a man and a woman, kissed each other deeply. And in between their tong twirling, took long swigs from their drinks.
  17.  
  18. But when I walked in, and they noticed what I was, the music suddenly stopped, and I got mean looks sizing me up from the biggest and baddest in the bar.
  19.  
  20. But I came here with the intent of hiring someone to find my family's killer. I wasn't going to waste the time and money it took to come out here and high-tail it just because of some mean mugging. I slowly walked up to the bar, keeping my head forward to not look at any of the uglier and badder patrons in the eye, and sat down on one of the round stools next to the bespectacled muskrat gentleman.
  21.  
  22. The old pigeon turned the page of his book of sheet music, started playing another upbeat tune. Everyone grumbled, and went back to whatever they were doing.
  23.  
  24. I internally let out a sigh of relief in my head, knowing that I'd made it this far without incident. The muskrat bartender looked at me with a peculiar gaze, but nonetheless still appeared friendly.
  25.  
  26. "What can I get ya, Stranger?" He asked with a distinct Irish accent, putting on a happy smile as he put down the glass he was cleaning.
  27.  
  28. "I was told that if came to this bar, that I could see somebody who'd help me...find someone."
  29.  
  30. "...find someone?" He repeated skeptically, frowning.
  31.  
  32. "And...help them meet their maker."
  33.  
  34. The muskrat let out a deep sigh, he must have known what I was asking for.
  35.  
  36. "Yes, there are several folks like that here. But this is still a business, so before we go further with this conversation, what can I get ya?"
  37.  
  38. "Well I'm not really much of a drinker, I'll take a sarsaparilla."
  39.  
  40. I put a quarter on the bar as the muskrat went over to a cabinet to get out a brown bottle, taking a clawed thumb to the cap, and popped it off. As the bottle fizzled, he passed it along to me. I gave him a nod as I took a sip from my drink, as he leaned closer to me to talk business.
  41.  
  42. "What can you tell me about this man, Stranger? How dangerous is he? Why do you want 'em done in?"
  43. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at me, clearly he didn't take these matters lightly, which I suppose was a good sign.
  44.  
  45. "He's incredibly dangerous, has a string of murders to his name all across the east coast, where I'm from. He's efficient, strikes at night, but loves the notoriety he gets from the papers for doing it, openly putting out his name. He claims he's an 'anarchist', killing those he deems are of American high society, so that those in power will step down and let America truly be 'free', or be killed by his hand. Some of the people he killed that were like that were my father, mother, and sister. His name is John Joseph Riley."
  46.  
  47. "He does sound like the quite the lunatic, even though I've never heard of 'em. I hope you're willin' to pony up big time for a job like this, Stranger, 'cuz someone like this ain't gonna be cheap. You'll be needin' to see The End."
  48. He said, adjusting his glasses.
  49.  
  50. "The End?"
  51.    
  52. "Aye. Called that because if ya see 'er, it's the end of yer life. Quickest shot in California. Got a body count higher than any general in The War. And she's sittin' at that corner over there."
  53.  
  54. He pointed a clawed finger over to a large figure sitting in the very back corner of the saloon, alone, and smoking a cigar. Strange, she didn't look female, but if she's as infamous enough to be known as 'The End', then perhaps she's who I'm looking for.
  55.  
  56. "Thank you." I say to the muskrat, carrying my bottle with slight trepidation, and walked over to where 'The End' was sitting.
  57.  
  58. She was quite the sight, and definitely fitting of the title. She was a wolfess, but not like any wolf I'd ever seen before. She was massive, and even though she was sitting, if I had to guess she was around six feet, seven inches tall. She wore a black Stetson hat, black leather pants, black boots, a long black leather duster jacket with a white buttoned shirt underneath, and a red cravat tied around her shirt collar. Her eyes were covered by circular glacier sunglasses, with orange frames. Her fur looked to be charcoal grey, almost as black as her outfit, but contrasted enough against her white undershirt to where I could see the difference. As I looked up to her face, her snout was shorter than most wolves and dog-anthros I'd come across, but even more vicious. Especially when watching her munch on that cigar, showing her maw of razor-sharp teeth, especially her canines, which appeared to be even longer than a normal wolf's. I noticed as a looked down at her wide hips two holsters sat opposite of each other; alongside two of the largest revolvers I'd ever seen sheathed in them.
  59.  
  60. To put it simply, she looked like death incarnate. The Grim Reaper. The End.
  61.  
  62. She heard me walk closer to her and looked at me as I sat down, and gave a devious smile that could even spook the Devil himself.
  63.  
  64. "You've got to either be pretty brave, or pretty stupid to sit next to me, Human. So I'll save us the effort of introductions, since you already know who I am, and I know what you want. Who is it?"
  65. Her voice was deep and gruff, but still definitely feminine, and even sensual in an odd way.
  66.  
  67. I gulped down the lump of fear in my throat as I looked across the table. From my pants-pocket, I pulled out a small leather sack and with a shivering hand, pushed it across the table.
  68.  
  69. "His name is John Joseph Riley. He killed my family, and I only want their deaths to not be in vain."
  70.  
  71. She took the pouch and inspected it with little regard for what it was, until she opened it. What fell on the table was a tuft of hairs, and a tooth of John Joseph Riley. Coming after I punched and clawed at him when he invaded my bedroom, and escaped out the window of my house.
  72.  
  73. She gave an appraising sniff to the tooth, and then the clump of hair, recoiling her head slightly and scowling as she did, putting it down. She then gave a slight chuckle before putting on the same evil smile, putting down her cigar, and took off her glasses.
  74. I don't know how, if it was because of the type of wolf she was, but her eyes were blood red. It added to the deviousness of her look, and made me question whether or not I was about to be making a deal with Satan in disguise.
  75.  
  76. "Is this all you got?" She asked, her eyes never leaving mine.
  77.  
  78. "Y-yes, other than that he came out here about a month ago from New York. A-and that he only kills those that are the elites of society, l-like railroad owners, oil tycoons...those types."
  79.  
  80. "So you've got some money then for this?"
  81.  
  82. "Yes. The money from my father's textile business all went to me. And I'm willing to part with every penny if it means that this man meets justice."
  83.  
  84. "That's what I like to hear. I know you're the real deal, too. If you were from around here you wouldn't be naive enough to walk into an anthro saloon with this town's most hardened thugs in it." The wolfess said, still smiling with her crimson gaze locked on me, as if she had me in some kind of trance. As much as she freaked me out, I couldn't look away from her.
  85.  
  86. As if on cue, I felt a heavy paw strike down on my shoulder, shocking me out of the hypnosis the wolfess had me in. As I turned around, I looked up to see it was the lion who had been arm wrestling the alligator. He had a menacing look on his visage, and scowled at me, and although my face was far from his, I could smell the liquor under his breath.
  87.  
  88. "Didn't you read the sigh, Skinny?" He said, pointing a clawed finger over to a sign in the same scratched font as the one outside the bar. It read:
  89. "BEAKS, SCALES, SNOUTS, AND FEATHERS ONLY - NO HUMANS!"
  90.  
  91. "U-uhm I was just wanting to-"
  92.  
  93. "You weren't nothin'. But what you're gonna do is get up, and walk on out of here. If not, I promise you I'll tear ya limb from limb and throw your body out of here instea-"
  94.  
  95. *BANG*
  96.  
  97. The lion that had been accosting me now had part of his head blown off, blood splattering about, a dead look in the one eye that remained in his skull.
  98. I turned back over to the wolfess I sat across from, she held a smoking Peacemaker in her right hand, still smiling. With a loud thud, the lion-man fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
  99.  
  100. "I do hate it when they drone on like that..." She said, blowing the smoke from her revolver, then holstering it. Everyone in the bar then went back to their usual business, as if this was a normal occurrence.
  101.  
  102. "So, I'm in. If you want him dead that bad, I'll find him. I suppose since you came all this way out here though you'll be coming along?"
  103.  
  104. "Yes, but I won't be entirely useless. I'm a pretty good shot with a rifle, and I do have the money to supply us to wherever we need to go." I said, now with a stern look on my face, patting the strap on my shoulder where my repeater was slung over my back.
  105.  
  106. She snickered at my statement, but held out a giant pawed hand.
  107.  
  108. "Then we have a deal. We're now business partners. My name is Dia. What's yours, Partner?"
  109.  
  110. I took her paw in my hand, and shook it firmly, but she almost broke my hand as she shook, probably not meaning to do so, she's just that much stronger than I am if I had to venture to guess. But I winced through the pain, smiling in kind as I looked her in the face as we shook.
  111.  
  112. "Eli."
  113.  
  114.  
  115.  
  116. II - Mosquito Song
  117.  
  118. October 25th, 1890
  119.  
  120. I uncomfortably shifted in my seat next to Dia in our train car. We decided that if John Joseph Riley had landed in San Fernando about a month ago, and given how he operates has probably skipped town by now, and that the most logical place to look would be the next town over. Search all the banks, major businesses, and ask if anyone important to them had died. And, if Riley had been anywhere close to there, Dia could pick up his scent and find him, even if he was already in another town. The validity of this claim made me skeptical, but as we searched the next town over, he had indeed been through, but hadn't killed anyone. That led us northward up to Oregon, following his blood trail, asking townsfolk and searching if business owners had been murdered.
  121.  
  122. Turning my head over to Dia, she had her arms folded across her ample chest. Her Stetson hiding her face as she slept in the window seat. We departed not too long after the sun started going down. Every time our train made its way to the next station before the sun rose, Dia asked me if we could find some lodging, claiming that her kind of wolves were nocturnal beings, that moving during the day made her lethargic, and not able to work at full strength. I had never heard of such a thing. But before I met her, I'd never seen a wolf as giant as Dia was. So, I decided it would be easier to change my sleep schedule to accommodate her.  
  123.  
  124. I looked out the window, the moon was full and bright, gently shining in the distance. The landscape was painted with dark shades of blue, with the moonlight streaking across the mountains. Examining the wolfess once more, I looked at her hair. It was raven black, and at first thought it was a part of her long duster jacket. It went all the way down to her spine, and was tied together with a red ribbon. I continued looking her over, noticed her massive bust, even if it was covered by her white buttoned shirt and jacket. The way her arms sat under her breasts pushed them up, making the generally imposing Dia look more feminine and...attractive? I brushed the thought away, it would be uncouth to keep staring at a woman like that, even if she was as imposing as the wolfess.
  125.  
  126. As the train slowly lurched forward, the door to our car that was before only occupied by Dia and I got much busier. Eight men of varying species entered. They were all oddly dressed the same; all black pants and buttoned shirts, along with white bands around their collars, signifying them as holy-men. Some also wore crosses around their necks, and a Labrador-man wore a hat. As they sat across from our seat and filed in, they looked at me, and then to Dia, and didn't seem to care much for us. An owl-man narrowed his big yellow eyes at her, mumbling something in what sounded like Latin before taking his seat next to a balding human who appeared to be in his late forties.
  127.  
  128. The addition of the clergymen added an uncomfortable atmosphere to the train car, but besides the jeers and staring before taking their seats, they left us alone. Dia didn't even notice, arms still crossed and her breathing steady, still asleep.
  129.  
  130. I tried to focus on the view outside our window, but I couldn't shake an ominous feeling I had about these men. Especially looking down a few rows at a brown coated coyote-man sharpening knives, or to another human, younger than the other, chanting something in Latin occasionally. My Latin was very sparse, my family were not the most religious of folks. Only going to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. But I thought I had overheard the man say "diabolus", which I was sure meant "devil", as he looked over towards Dia.
  131.  
  132. The growing tension was beginning to be too much for me, I rose from my seat to head over to the car's bathroom to freshen up and clear my head. As I moved to the back of the car, I half-expected the priests to grab me by the shoulders and let the coyote stab me, but they continued to keep to themselves, as if they didn't notice I was walking to the back.
  133.  
  134. After shutting the door behind me, I looked into the mirror at my reflection staring back at me; I knew I would be in for the long haul. Riley didn't seem to stay too long in any one spot, only long enough for his high society murders to reach the presses. If we were to catch him, it would have to be before he had chosen a victim. I patted my face as I looked at myself; bags were forming underneath my blue eyes, and my short blonde hair was unkempt and matted. Even though I was only nineteen, I felt much older, my journey only just beginning. I still wasn't sure if I could trust Dia. We had been together for several weeks, but she had barely said more than a few words in that time. Only when we stayed in a lodge, she would knock at my door by nightfall letting me know she was ready to head out, but not much beyond that.
  135.  
  136. My thoughts were broken up by muffled shouts from the priests behind the bathroom door, most likely at Dia. I couldn't exactly make out what was being said, but I cracked open the door slightly to peek out and hear better, and assess the situation. I hunched over the wall, peering out just enough to see what all the commotion was about.
  137.  
  138. The coyote-man held out his knives, pointed in Dia's direction, as the balding human withheld a wooden cross, the owl holding a stake, presumably made of wood, and the others grasping various other holy items or weapons, all of them with tense looks in their eyes, staring down at the seated wolfess, who simply looked annoyed at them rather than afraid or intimidated.
  139.  
  140. "Nosferatu! We have come to cleanse you from God's Earth and send you back to the depths of Hell!" The older human said in a thick Italian accent, pointing an accusing withered finger at Dia.
  141. Nosferatu? what the hell does that mean? Was that the name of her species of wolf? Either way, they looked like they were rearing for a fight, not to perform an exorcism.
  142. If things were to get too hairy for her to handle, my repeater's on the rack above our seat, and can be backup if she needs it, otherwise, I'm staying in here. I thought, thinking it be better to let Dia handle her business than get in the way and have her worry about me messing things up for her. She was big, and she knew how to use her guns. That should be enough to get out of this, even if it might be cowardly on my part.
  143.  
  144. "Your talk is cheap, Father. If you believe I'm an evil abomination, than why hasn't your God struck me down yet?" Dia sarcastically asked with a smirk.
  145.  
  146. "We will be his instruments, his will shall give us strength." The owl said sternly.
  147.  
  148. "Fine then, if you believe that to be true. You there, Boy, that holy water that you're holding, dump it on me if you believe it will burn my flesh." She said, pointing at the younger human with a glass flask of clear liquid. He seemed apprehensive as he approached her, careful not to get too close to the wolfess.
  149.  
  150. Uncorking the bottle, he splashed out the water from it, getting Dia's white shirt wet, and giving me a better look at her chest. But I couldn't focus on that, instead seeing the gasps and shocked expressions from all of the clergymen as the water had no effect.
  151.  
  152. Dia merely looked up at them, putting on that same evil, toothy smile she had when she killed the lion-anthro back at the Tooth And Claw.
  153.  
  154. "Well boys, I think it's time you see what REAL power looks like."
  155.  
  156. At lightning speed, her hands went to her hips, unsheathing her twin revolvers, cocking back the hammers in the same motion, pointing her right at the younger human, and her left at the owl. Deafening gunshots went off as both priests fell to the ground, with new holes in the chests of their lifeless bodies, sinking to the floor of the train car.
  157.  
  158. Dia jumped up from her seat, pointing her pistols at the holy-men that scattered all over the car, shooting those closest to her, as the loud sound of bullets flying was amplified in the small space.
  159.  
  160. It looked to be a totally one-sided slaughter, but as Dia cleared out the remaining priests, she turned to see the older human holding the wooden stake from the fallen owl, and stabbed it into her stomach before she could move out of the way. Seeing as how huge Dia was compared to them, I figured she would shrug it off easily. Hell, I expected it to break on her abs, but it pierced through, and as it did, her whole body convulsed, and Dia fell to the floor as if she had become paralyzed, dropping her weapons, along with her Stetson falling from her head.
  161.  
  162. I was flabbergasted. How could that take her down so easily? It must have been poisoned at the tip or something, there was no reason why that should happen!
  163. But it did, and the man stood with a smug look on his face as he looked down at the fallen wolfess.
  164.  
  165. "Bastards..." She said, spitting the word out as if her teeth were clenched.
  166.  
  167. "You put up quite the fight, Nosferatu, but alas, God is on our side. Matthias! Come here, and end this."
  168. The other survivor from Dia's barrage, the Coyote with the blades, knelt down, holding up one of his knives in the direction of her neck, and began saying a prayer.
  169.  
  170. No. It couldn't end like this. We weren't even close to finding Riley, and I wasn't going to let some zealots in matching wardrobes foil my just vengeance. I figured it would take maybe five seconds to get my repeater, and hopefully me springing out of the bathroom would stall him long enough before he decapitated her. With a plan in mind, I burst through the door.
  171.  
  172. Running as fast as I could to grab my rifle, all three of them looked in shock at me as I fumbled to get it pointed at the coyote.
  173. As I did this, the older man slowly walked toward my direction, holding his hands in the air as he did, as if he was going to speak.
  174.  
  175. "My child... please think this through. I don't know what sort of pact this demon has coerced you into, but it is not God's will. Please, let us finish our work..." He said, his lips trembling slightly as he spoke.
  176.  
  177. Did I know what I was doing? Would my soul be damned for eternity for killing two priests? I had never killed anyone before, I'd only used the repeater when I went hunting with my father.
  178. No. As they had their pilgrimages to get closer to God, this was mine, and I wouldn't let anyone get in the way of it. Even two men of of the cloth. Besides, Dia and I were partners, and I would rather be a heretic than be someone who goes back on his word, and my partner was in trouble.
  179.  
  180. And so without a second thought, I turned my gun to the balding man, and pulled the trigger. The recoil from the blast rocked my right shoulder back as I fired, but my aim was true, and the former priest fell to the ground. The coyote had a stunned look in his eyes, and before he could do anything, I pulled back the lever of my rifle, an empty shell falling out as another loaded in its place. Pulling the trigger once more. The result was another kick and a loud blast screaming from the gun, but I was awarded with a clean hit to the head of the coyote, his body collapsing as well.
  181.  
  182. I let out a deep sigh, and sat my rifle down on the closest seat to me. I hurried over to Dia, her head straining over to look at me, a slight smirk on her face as she did.
  183.  
  184. "What do I need to do?" I asked, as I appraised her body.
  185.  
  186. "Take out...the stake." She mumbled.
  187.  
  188. I quickly got on my knees and with both hands pulled on the wooden intrusion jutting from her torso. A splotch of blood stained her white shirt where it was. I struggled to get it to yield, but it eventually did, with Dia lowly growling in pain as it left her body.
  189.  
  190. Dia sat upright and took off her orange tinted glasses, inspecting her wound, then looked up at me. It was the first time I got to see her face not obstructed by either her sunglasses, hat, or both. She still had an intimidating look to her, especially with her crimson eyes, but her face was still very feminine. She had full, ashen grey lips that were currently puckered into a frown, and had lashes much like a human woman would above her eyes. Her hair was tied back, but a single thick strand laid across the right side of her face, just by her eye. Her wolf ears on top of her head twitched slightly as she looked at me, and she crossed her arms as she began to speak.
  191.  
  192. "So, do you expect me to fawn over you now, give you a wet kiss on the lips and say 'my hero~!'" She said in faux praise of me.
  193.  
  194. "No, we're partners. You needed help, and so I obliged." I said sternly.
  195.  
  196. We both got up to stand as we spoke, with Dia towering over me as we did, putting back on her orange glasses. I Noticed that her black Stetson was at my feet, and so I grabbed it and tentatively held it out to her. She dismissively took it, and adjusted it on her head. As she made her way back to our seat, she casually threw one of the lifeless bodies of the priests out of the way, and turned her head, smiling at me, although this time it was a much warmer smile, one that was quite pretty.
  197.  
  198. "Thanks. Maybe you won't just be dead weight after all, Eli."
  199.  
  200. I smiled back at her, and took my seat beside her, seemingly having gained her trust after what had just transpired. I looked out at how beautiful the moon was, how maybe this journey of retribution might not be so hard having someone like The End on my side.
  201.  
  202. Suddenly, the train car door swung open once again, and as if we were a well-oiled machine, Dia and I readied our respective weapons at the intruder.
  203.  
  204. "What in tarnation has been goin' on back here goddammit!? Y'all tryin' to scare the shit outta every other good person on this train!?"
  205. The short, round armadillo-anthro was in fact the conductor, whom we had met when boarding. He didn't even seem phased he had guns drawn on him, but we lowered them as soon as we saw who it was.
  206.  
  207. As he looked out at the mess we had made; various bodies strewn about haphazardly, windows with bullet-holes through them, blood soaking the carpeted floor, his draw dropped as he looked back at us.
  208.  
  209. "I dunno what kinda hell y'all been raisin' back here, if ya had a problem with them fellers, it coulda waited 'til we got to the next station in a half-hour goddammit! Now I got halfa mind to throw ya right off the train, but since we're so close to our next stop, I'll be nice and let y'all leave and never ride my train again ya hear!? And I'm gonna telegraph to all the other Western Railroad conductors that if they see a lil' blonde boy with a wolf undertaker to alert the sheriff!"
  210.  
  211. As soon as the conductor concluded his rant, he loudly slammed the door shut behind him, leaving both Dia and I stunned.
  212. We exchanged a glance at each other, and Dia began snickering.
  213.  
  214. "Little blonde boy!" She repeated the conductor's words, ruffling my hair with her paw. Now bursting with laughter.
  215.  
  216. "I-I'm not a boy! and I'm not little either! I'm six feet tall!" I bemoaned.
  217.  
  218. "The Undertaker, now that sure is a name...'The End' certainly fits, but it has a ring to it." She said as she composed herself once more.
  219.  
  220. "I'm not so sure about that...too bad we can't use the trains anymore now." I said, sighing in disappointment.
  221.  
  222. "There's setbacks to every journey Eli, we'll get there one way or another...little blonde boy." She said, giggling and patting me on the head.
  223.  
  224. I suppose she was right, I was still determined to press on, and we would find John Joseph Riley.
  225.  
  226.  
  227.  
  228. III - Voodoo Lady
  229.  
  230. October 27th, 1890
  231.  
  232. I was sluggish in rejoining the waking world, stirring in the small bed of the lodge Dia and I were staying in after being banned from using the trains. As my eyes opened to the dim light of a kerosene lamp at my bedside, a dark figure with red eyes and and sharp teeth twisted into a crooked smile greeted me as I awoke, with long black hair enshrouding my face.
  233.  
  234. "Boo."
  235.  
  236. "AAAHH!"
  237.  
  238. I yelled and got as far away the back of the bed as I could to get away from the figure, until my waking brain registered it was Dia, the wolfess I was traveling with.
  239.  
  240. She was overcome with laughter to the point of hysterics, falling over onto my bed as she did. I threw a pillow at her head, causing her to laugh even harder.
  241.  
  242. "Yes yes, you're a riot, Dia..." I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
  243.  
  244. I then got up to a sitting position to get ready for our night back on the road. She must have also just gotten up, as she only had her white buttoned shirt on, with her collar still unbuttoned. Along with white panties, the only thing concealing her lower body. Her hair was not tied back either, showing how long and wavy it was when it flowed free.
  245.  
  246. Her thighs were like tree trunks covered in ashen fur, powerful, and taut with muscle.  She turned over on her belly when she finished giggling at my expense, giving me a view of her rump, as her tail wagged lazily.
  247.  
  248. "See something you like, Ellie~?"
  249. Ellie had become her nickname for me, ever since that train conductor called me a 'little blonde boy'.
  250.  
  251. "N-no..." i said looking away and jolting out of my bed, causing Dia to giggle at my embarrassment.
  252.  
  253. "But there is something I wanted to ask about though, regarding the other night."
  254.  
  255. "Oh..?" She asked looking up to me with gazing eyes.
  256.  
  257. "What were those priests up to? Why did that guy call you 'Nosferatu'? Is that the kind of wolf you are? It all just seemed so...bizarre."
  258.  
  259. "Something like that...let's just say the church doesn't take too kindly to my kin." Dia said, throwing up her hands and cocking her head.
  260.  
  261. "Besides, shouldn't we be be getting a start on questioning the townsfolk? In another hour or two, they'll retire to bed, and we'll need to procure a way out of town, unless you'd prefer to walk, partner." She said with a smirk.
  262.  
  263. She was right. Although I got this nagging feeling that she was skirting around the topic, it'd be best to move on with making the rounds in the town we were in, and go from there. Dia had become much more amicable and friendly since the incident on the train, however I supposed she still had things personal to her that she liked to keep close to her chest. But maybe at another time she'd tell me.
  264.  
  265. Like with previous towns in California, we split up to cover more ground. Unfortunately, after an hour of making our way through the few public buildings there, we ended up shorthanded. The small Oregon town was relatively peaceful, at least that was the impression that I got from them. The sheriff even said the last time there was a murder was well over five years ago.
  266. Gathering from all that I had been told, even if Riley had passed through here, he did without killing anyone. That meant it was time to find Dia, and hit the road again.
  267.  
  268. I found her in the shop of the local arms dealer, inspecting what looked to be some sort of shotgun, but with two barrels placed side-to-side, as well as being much shorter than the barrel of the shotgun my father owned. I'd heard of these before, they were called 'Coach Guns' here out west. In coach wagons, the person riding across from the man holding the reins to the coach would be a sort of security for it, as these coaches tended to carry valuable cargo that opportunistic thieves might raid.
  269.  
  270. Dia was taking quite the keen interest in the one she held in her paw, inspecting the wood of the stock, and testing the weight of it. She turned around towards me as I entered the shop, the bell above the door letting out a hollow ring. She pointed the coach gun at me, holding it with one hand, her arm completely straight, as if the gun were as light as one of her revolvers. A devious smile painted on her visage.
  271.  
  272. "Bang!" She said, tilting the gun upwards.
  273.  
  274. "Jesus! Dia, c'mon, don't scare the hell out of me like that!" I said, catching my breath from her mischievous ploy.
  275.  
  276. This caused her to snicker at me, amused at my reaction.
  277.  
  278. "I was thinking that I need a new toy. I do love my girls dearly, but sometimes you need little more...umph." She said, patting her left thigh where one of her revolvers was holstered.
  279.  
  280. "I can tell you that's a mighty fine piece, Ma'am. An Ithaca twelve-gauge, there's not much out there that two slugs from it won't stop." Said the rat-man behind the counter. He wore a plaid buttoned shirt with overalls, and had bifocals laying on the bridge of his nose. A receding tuft of light brown hair covered the top of his grey-furred head.
  281.  
  282. "How much?"
  283.  
  284. "Twenty bucks. I'll even throw in a belt of shells for your trouble, Ma'am."
  285.  
  286. Dia then turned around to me. She had a smirk on her face as she sauntered over and squatted down to meet me at eye-level.
  287. "Can I pleeeeease have it, Eli~?" She said in a sultry voice.
  288.  
  289. My cheeks were reddening at how close the wolfess was to me, I could even feel the warmth of her breath. Sighing, I pulled out my wallet, and handed the rat-man behind the counter a twenty dollar bill. He shook my hand after the transaction, as Dia held her prize in her large paw, before slinging it over her shoulder.
  290.  
  291. We departed soon after, and headed down the road around nine o'clock. Unfortunately, there was no one there who could have taken us to the next town over that had lodging, but we would make do. This would give us around nine hours to cover ground before the sun rose, and even if there wasn't a place that we could find, it wouldn't be impossible to setup camp on the road.
  292.  
  293. The night was a quiet one. The autumn air was cool, but still pleasant on my face as we walked down the paved road. The wind blew from the west, the crispness of it letting me know that winter would be approaching soon. Dia and I walked side-by-side, an hour had passed since we left town.
  294.  
  295. "What do you think will come of all this?" Dia inquired, tearing my mind's focus away from the autumn night.
  296.  
  297. "What do you mean?" I asked, genuinely curious what she was getting at.
  298.  
  299. "What will this do for you, getting revenge? I suppose it shouldn't matter to me, being a hired gun; but I am much older than you, and I know a thing or two when it comes to life."
  300.  
  301. "So what? It isn't about what I *want* out of this. It's about making things right. He killed my parents. He killed my sister. Since I survived, it's my duty to make sure that their deaths weren't in vain."
  302.  
  303. "Do you really believe that?" She asked, not looking impressed by my answer.
  304.  
  305. "I do." I said sternly, staring down the road as I spoke.
  306.  
  307. "Then you're in for some serious disappointment in what's going to happen. That feeling of vindication you're after, I can promise you it won't come."
  308.  
  309. "Oh really? Sure, you're older than me; I've just become a man. But what do you know about revenge?"
  310.  
  311. "Plenty. In fact I know exactly what you're going through. Perhaps that's why I took this job." Dia mused, speaking casually for such a serious subject.
  312.  
  313. She then took off her orange glacier glasses and stopped to look at me as she continued to speak.
  314.  
  315. "I tracked down the lech that killed what was left of my pack. Contrary to you humans' stories of 'lone wolves', my kind are very social and pack oriented. When I finally found him, I did every awful thing I could think of. Scratch his eyes out, tear off his limbs, anything to make him hurt the way he hurt me. But Eli, when he took his last breath, I felt nothing. It didn't ease the pain of my family's deaths, it merely left me vacant. I won't tell you to stop; but heed my words: it won't make the loss of your family any easier."
  316.  
  317. Dia put her glasses back on, and continued down the road. We traveled in silence for a while after.
  318.  
  319. +
  320.  
  321. At midnight, we continued on foot. I heard a rumbling off in the distance behind us, the feint sound of clattering hooves.
  322. Moments later, a black coach drawn by two male horse-anthros sped by us before stopping abruptly. The carriage was quite posh, it was made of black metal, had four doors, and had a gold trim around the body of the coach.  The back right door opened, and out walked a petite fox-woman, unlike any I'd ever seen. Her coat was almost identical to the colors of the carriage; dark, almost black fur covered most of her, with shades of yellow coloring the inside of her ears, her snout, and paws. Her eyes were shimmering bright emeralds, and she had long blonde hair the flowed down her back.
  323.  
  324. The way she dressed was just as peculiar. Her ears were pierced several times over, with gold rings in each ear. She wore many gold bracelets on her arms, and was dressed in a purple cloak that covered most of her small body. She was the strangest fox I'd ever seen, and as I looked to Dia to gauge if my feeling was correct, she even raised an eyebrow at the vixen.
  325.  
  326. "Good evening. My name is Madame Delilah, I couldn't help but notice y'all driftin' along the road, and thought you might wanna hitch a ride?" The fox-woman said with a bow, and thick southern accent. I looked over to the two horse-men pulling the carriage, and couldn't help but notice that something looked off about them. The look in their eyes wasn't right, it was as if they were in a state of catatonia. That they were physically here, but were not present in the moment, mentally.
  327.  
  328. "Oh don't mind them, they came up here with me from New Orleans. I've got some business up here I've been tendin' to, that's probably why I don't sound like you folks from here out west." Delilah said with a charming smile, it put me at a sense of ease, despite the oddity of this situation.
  329.  
  330. I glanced over to Dia, and she skeptically looked back down at me, as if she could smell trouble on this Cajun vixen. But as far as I was concerned, we didn't have much of a choice. We weren't anywhere close to civilization, and with how fast the horse-men were going, we could find some in no time.
  331.  
  332. "Well, if you're offering, it'd be rude of us to refuse your generosity, Madame Delilah." I said with a smile.
  333.  
  334. "It's no problem at all, darlin'. But before y'all get in, I'd like to know your names." She beamed with another bright smile.
  335.  
  336. "I'm Eli, and that's Dia."
  337.  
  338. The wolfess gave a short tip of her hat to the fox-lady, as we all climbed into the carriage. Delilah insisted that I sat in the back with her, as allowing Dia to sit up front would give her more room. The two horse-men driving the carriage took off at a brisk pace, causing the carriage to shake and jostle, but kept the ride relatively smooth.
  339.  
  340. Delilah and I made small talk in the back, I told her about growing up in New York, and Delilah told me about life in New Orleans. It sounded totally different to anything I'd ever heard of, telling tales of decadence and depravity; of people drinking openly in public, and whores on every street corner. Dia sat quietly upfront the entire time we talked.
  341.  
  342. "So if you're from out back east, why'd you come all the way up here to Oregon?"
  343.  
  344. "Well...that's a bit of a personal matter, if you don't mind." I said, rubbing my arm uncomfortably and looking off to the side.
  345.  
  346. "Oh don't worry about that! Ya can tell me, I promise it ain't no thing, darlin'~." Delilah put one of her lithe paws on my thigh, and began rubbing it reassuringly as she spoke, compelling me to look her in the eyes. As I locked eyes with her, it was as if she had put me in some kind of trance, my worries about her telling why I was all the way out here began to melt, as if her gaze was loosening my sobriety and judgement like a stout lager would.
  347.  
  348. "Well...actually, it's because I'm looking for the man who murdered my family. He tried to kill me too, but I got away, and I feel like I'm obligated to make sure that he sees justice as long as I'm around, and they're not."
  349.  
  350. "My oh my, so brave! Goin' on your own 'hero's journey' of sorts? How romantic~." Her voice dripped with seduction as she spoke, it was sultry and low, not unlike Dia when she teased me, but with the addition of her Louisianian accent that made my heart flutter, and turned my face red.
  351.  
  352. For another hour, we rode until reaching what appeared to be an empty ghost town. Although it appeared to be much cleaner, it still had the looks of one that was abandoned. There was an ominous feeling in the air. It had several buildings in it; a post-office that had broken windows, a saloon that was even more rundown and had its doors missing, and a lodge that looked to be in decent shape. The nicest and largest building was a chapel, made of white bricks and with stained glass windows. Delilah assured us that this was where she was staying, and that we had nothing to fear, as she had others working with her in this town.
  353.  
  354. Delilah dropped us off at the lodge, and went to the church to continue her studies, or so she told us. To my surprise, there was someone at the front desk, but the young human man had the same tired, catatonic look as the horse-men driving us here did. At first glance, he looked like your typical healthy young man in his twenties. But upon closer inspection, he had dark bags under his eyes, and his skin was discolored, lacking vibrancy.
  355.  
  356. Dia and I were given keys to our rooms across from each other. But before saying goodnight, Dia pulled me aside.
  357.  
  358. "Eli, I don't like this. Not at all. That fox, she's up to something. I understand that they got us here much quicker than we would have on foot, but I fear at what cost that might have came at." Dia said with a frown.
  359.  
  360. "I hear you, but I think we'll have to reserve judgement until then."
  361.  
  362. "If you think you see anything that's strange or off, please come and see me. I wouldn't be surprised if there's something sinister about our host." She said before shutting the door.
  363.  
  364. I hated to admit it, but I agreed with Dia on some level. The air in this small semi-abandoned town was thick and foreboding. But at the same time, I was still in a fog from conversing with Delilah in the carriage, and part of me thought that everything would be fine. That Delilah the vixen meant me no harm. Then the memories of her rubbing  my thighs, being close to her, the rosy scent that filled my nostrils as I sat by her, all of it flooded back to me. My cheeks reddened once again, and drowsiness was starting to set in. I made my way to the small bed by the window. Thoughts of Delilah put me at ease. I was just being a worry-wart. Clearly she was acting purely out of altruism.
  365.  
  366. As sleep began to take me, I felt a weight laying on me, my mind stuck between the waking world and dreaming. I groggily looked up to surprisingly see Delilah. She was draped in a provocative tight purple dress, that accented her small, but buxom figure nicely. Her furry breasts looked like they were about to fall out of her dress as she straddled me. But as she did, I wasn't alarmed by the sight of her, or the fact that I didn't hear her enter my room. I simply smiled back up at her as she looked at me.
  367.  
  368. "I'm sorry to barge in all of a sudden Eli, but I'm so taken by you. The heroics of your journey, your manly looks, and yet at the same time, the boyish charm about you. I just want to ravish you and eat you up~. I need you, I need your potency, your life-force. Will you give it to me, Eli?" She said in a deeply seductive tone, drawing me even further into her spell.
  369.  
  370. My mind was completely on autopilot, I knew what I was going to say and do before I even did it.
  371.  
  372. "Yesss..." I said, and got up as she took me by the hand. Delilah then spun around to look at me, then brought my face down with her paws to her snout, kissing me deeply. Her tongue attacked mine, her lips suckling on my lower lip, with lewd noises accompanying the display, I moaned into her mouth from the affection. Slowly, the vixen pulled away, until a strand of our saliva was the only thing connecting us. She looked at me again, her gaze even more hypnotic.
  373.  
  374. "Good boy. Now follow me, we've got plenty of work to do~."
  375.  
  376.  
  377. +
  378.  
  379.  
  380.  
  381. Four in the morning. As late as it was, and as likely as it was that Eli was asleep, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. I didn't trust that fox for a second. That look she gave him, how she knew how to get him flustered on account of him being a naive boy, she must be some kind of temptress. Did she truly have him under some kind of incantation, or was he that clueless regarding sex, and even women in general, that it was that easy? He melted like snow on a hot day in her paws. Sure, I enjoyed teasing him, but mainly to see his reactions. This was entirely different, she wanted him for something, and that bothered me. Was it jealousy? Of course not. I'd had many lovers in the past, all great garou from my pack. Mating with a human would be an abhorrence, an affront to my kin and our ways. He was merely a mean to an end. A paycheck. He might be entertaining, but that's all he was to me. Or so I told myself.
  382.  
  383. Sitting and ruminating like this left me ill-humored, and so I got up to at least check on him, whether to alleviate my concerns, or validate them. As I went to open his room's door, it was of course locked. I knocked loudly several times, the boy was a fairly deep sleeper. After a minute with no answer, I brought my foot up to the door, and kicked with some force. Not as hard as I could, that might have knocked the whole wall down, but just enough to enter. Sure enough, his bed was empty. Blankets strewn about, he had gotten up, or most likely, someone had taken him. I inspected his window, but it was shut, and smelling it didn't give the impression that it had been opened. I sniffed the bed, Eli's human, but still very pleasant, scent covered most of it. But a foreign one did as well. Roses and lilac, along with ash. I growled deeply in my throat, that harlot had been in here and taken him. My suspicions were correct, but how did she move the boy without me hearing her enter his room, or close his door?
  384.  
  385. The answer to that was inscribed on the front of my room's door. It was hard to make out, and I couldn't really read it, but it was a rune, one that made noises outside of my room completely silent.
  386.  
  387. "A demon." I said, now knowing what kind of situation we were in. It all made sense now. The dead look in the eyes of the horse-men, the atmosphere of the whole town, it was the classic workings of a succubus. I loaded my newly bought coach gun, making sure the shells for it were easy to grab underneath my duster, checked my girls to make sure they were ready for action, then holstered them once more. I just hoped that by the time I got to the church, that whore hadn't completely sucked out Eli's life energy.
  388.  
  389. I descended down the hallway stairs into the main lobby, stopping only because of the voice of the man behind the front desk who checked us in.
  390.  
  391. "Excuse me, miss. But Madame Delilah told me that you were not to leave your room until mor-"
  392.  
  393. *BOOM!*
  394.  
  395. I pointed my new toy at the blubbering fool, and pulled both triggers, delighting in the aftermath. Was it overkill? Sure, but I had been itching to try it out ever since Eli bought it. I stood and smiled for a second to appreciate the coach gun's handiwork: it had blown the man's head completely off! All that was left behind the counter was a headless corpse slumped over. With blood splatters from where its head once was splashed across the wall behind him. I sampled some of the blood that had flown onto my face with my tongue, but it was thin, and completely unappealing. It lacked the thickness and taste that a mortal's life force added to blood, probably because the succubus had stolen it from him.
  396.  
  397. I pulled back with my thumb, the mechanism that broke the two barrels, as twin smoking slugs hopped out of them, and I replaced them with fresh ones. With a flick of my wrist, I knocked the barrels back into place, my new toy ready to put some new holes into that whore from the south.
  398.  
  399. As I approached the front doors of the chapel, my fangs ached with anticipation at the blood that was about to be shed. A wry smile forming on my face. But something was also welling in my mind; something I hadn't felt in a long while. Apprehension. Was it because of Eli? Was I really starting to connect with him like he was apart of my pack? Impossible. He wasn't even garou. Nowhere close to it. Perhaps it was the unknown of fighting a demon, something I hadn't done in many moons. Either way, I steeled myself for the assault, and kicked as hard as I could on the engraved doors of the church.
  400.  
  401. They forcefully lurched open, and what greeted me inside was a dimly lit cathedral with candles lining the whole room; a candelabra hung above the alter, where Eli was strapped naked to. The whore in question was straddling him, 'dressed' in black laced panties, a pentagram necklace, and nothing else, her breasts hanging free. She had large ebony horns protruding from her golden locks, bat wings connected to her back, and a small spade tipped tail just above her bottom. There was no doubt about it. She was a succubus, and was about to perform some kind of dark ritual to add Eli to her cult of mindless minions that surrounded the alter.
  402.  
  403. The two horse-men were there, holding repeating rifles. Along with ten others of varying varieties of human and anthro men holding guns. All with the same dead-eyed gaze, dressed in dark robes with hoods covering their heads. It was all so trite and eye roll-worthy to me. Why the need for this sort of pomp and circumstance? Why the ritual? If she wanted to steal a mortal's life energy, why not just do it and be done with it? It's one of the idiosyncrasies with demons that I did not understand. But it played to my advantage, giving me time to stop it.
  404.  
  405. The whore turned her head as she saw me invade her dark rite, a look of trepidation on her visage for a split-second, before contorting into a smug grin. She clapped her paws together in sarcastic applause, getting up to stand by the alter where Eli was bound.
  406.  
  407. "Well well well, The Big Bad Wolf finally found her little friend. But unfortunately for you, he's now mine. I do see why you picked him though, he is soooo adorable! I just had to add him to my collection, and since I didn't smell him on you, I figured you wouldn't mind, do you Wolfie?" She said, her tone oozing with condescension.
  408.  
  409. "Cut the shit, Demon-Whore. If you hand him over now, I might be nice and give you and your meat-puppets painless deaths."
  410.  
  411. "Oh-ho-ho! Those are some strong words, Wolfie! And you figured out that I am not a mortal, my oh my, you're smarter than the average of your kind too! It's too bad my boys outnumber you greatly, but your spirit is strong. Maybe if *I'm* feeling nice enough, I'll add you to my harem if you survive." She said with a sinister grin. What I did not expect was to see several doll-like effigies with pins in them floating around her, casting the same purple aura as she. They bared resemblance to each of her followers. I'd heard of this practice before, it was called 'voodoo' and was practiced in the southern United States, originating in the Caribbean and Africa.
  412.  
  413. With a casual flick of her finger, the dolls pointed there arms at me, and in sync with them, the accompanying followers pointed their guns at me. I then saw the flashes of their muzzles go off. Unfortunately, they fired too quickly for me to dodge, I was too caught up by her method of using the dolls, and took the brunt of the bullets. I heard the loud pops of the guns, then I felt the velocity of them enter my body, a dull, small amount of pain with each one. But as they entered into my chest and legs, one even grazing my throat, I knew I had already won. This was the only defense she had. I let her think she was victorious for a few seconds, standing with a dead look. But now it was my turn to show her what kind of magic I had.
  414.  
  415. "Hahahahahah, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!" I began laughing uncontrollably, my fangs were now aching more than they had in many nights, I don't know if I would be able to control myself with how much fun I was about to have. When I saw the look in her eyes, confusion, then turning into terror, that's what stopped me from completely seeing red and mauling all of them right there. The fear, I could smell it in her, someone that was supposed to be immortal, above the beings she controlled, and that fear was delicious.
  416.  
  417. "W-why why are you laughing? W-why are you still standing!?" She cried out.
  418.  
  419. "You don't know who, or rather, *what*, I am. Do you, Little Demon?"
  420.  
  421. "Y-you're a wolf, a b-big wolf, but still just a wolf! No one can survive that many bullets hitting them!"
  422.  
  423. "Yes, but I'm no ordinary wolf. I'm a big. Bad. Wolf. Just like you said. The humans call my condition the 'vampire', though for most of my nights I was called a 'nightstalker'". A devious smile now twisted onto my face as I began to move.
  424.  
  425. I unholstered my two girls, and with lightning speed unloaded, them into the heads of every man sorry enough to have come in contact with the whore, a bullet for each of them. After a minute of furious gunfire, all of her followers laid dead surrounding her. Now the real, petrifying terror set in for the fox. She scrambled to the alter, pulling something out from behind it. The look in her eyes made me salivate for her blood. Pure dread, knowing that her time on the earth was now being counted in minutes instead of years.
  426.  
  427. "S-stay back! T-this is his doll! If you want him t-to live you'll stay the fuck ba-"
  428.  
  429. *BANG!*
  430.  
  431. "-AAAAAHH!" She cried out in pain as I fired my last bullet in the the chamber of my revolver.
  432.  
  433. I do hate it when they drone on. When they try to weasel their way out of their demise. With how dainty her paws were, one round from the revolver in my left hand blew it clean off, the doll landing safely away from her reach at the back of the cathedral.
  434.  
  435. In pure desperation, she was now crawling on the floor pitifully. A trail of blood from her wrist followed her, I could even hear her weeping a little as she did.
  436.  
  437. As much as I enjoyed toying with my prey before I fed, The night was not so young anymore, and the sun would rise in a couple hours. So I holstered my girls, and slung my new toy off of my shoulder, holding out it towards the succubus. Firing one slug for each of the demonic whore's legs. With a loud thump that was more like a cannon going off than a gun, they hit their targets dead-on, and what progress she might have been making to her silly doll was halted. She was now completely incorrigible, in total agony as she laid on the floor.
  438.  
  439. "Tch tch tch, aren't you a little old to be playing with dolls, Little Demon?" I chided, turning her around with my boot to face me.
  440.  
  441. "You know, if I was fighting one of your elders instead of a whelp like yourself, this might have been a challenge. But you're no fighter. Are you, Little Demon? You're a parasite. Stealing the essence of those with weak wills, and those whose innocence makes them susceptible to your trickery, like the boy over there. But not me. I'd venture to guess I've been on this earth longer than even before you were shat out in the pits of Hell that you come from."
  442.  
  443. The whore was now stupefied, instead of crying, she was reduced to mumbling and murmuring in terror. It was now time.
  444.  
  445. "That's the difference between you and I, Little Demon. You are a bottom feeder, I am the apex predator. And now, I hunger. It's been several nights since I last fed, and I think you'll do just fine for sating my appetite."
  446.  
  447. I knelt down on top of her, gently caressing my arms around the back of her head, getting as close to her neck as I could before I would feed. I could feel it flowing through her as I touched her. The crimson nectar I needed to survive. Holding the moment became too much, and I bit my fangs into her. A wave of ecstasy washed through my entire being as I fed. Her taste was very sweet, like the finest of honeys. So delicious, I had to have it all.
  448.  
  449. After a couple minutes of feeding, I drained her completely dry. Her lifeless body now much thinner than before, her eyes sunken in. Normally when I feed, I leave my prey alive and well, and when the ordeal is over, they normally don't even know what happened to them, chalking it up to some kind of nightmare. But for a being as worthless as she, I was doing the world a favor by ridding it of her.
  450.  
  451.  
  452. +
  453.  
  454.  
  455. When I awoke, I had the worst headache I've had in years. My head was throbbing. Thank God I now slept during the day, because the sun would have probably pierced my eyes to the point of it being intolerable. As I was coming back to the waking world, I heard a small knock at the door.
  456.  
  457. "Come in..." I said groggily.
  458.  
  459. In walked Dia, fully dressed in her normal gear, save for her sunglasses and Stetson. I moved over, I sat up moving to the side of the bed, making room for her to join me. I didn't remember much of last night, it was all sort of a blur.
  460.  
  461. "Hey...Do you remember what happened last night? I thought I saw Delilah take me into what I think was the chapel...or maybe that was a dream. Everything else, is completely hazy." I said to Dia.
  462.  
  463. "That did happen. She... drugged you. Tried to make you a part of her cult. That's why those two horse-men and the human at the front desk had that dead look in their eyes."
  464.  
  465. "Oh... Well, now I fell terrible." I said with a long sigh.
  466.  
  467. "Dia, your instincts were right. I'm sorry for getting you into this whole mess, we should have just stayed on the road..." My head hung low as I spoke.
  468.  
  469. "No worries. We're partners, remember?" She said, giving me one of her pretty, genuine smiles that I'd grown to enjoy seeing.
  470.  
  471. "Yeah, partners. And...you're probably right about the whole vengeance thing too but...It's too late now. I have to find Riley."
  472.  
  473. "Indeed. And I'll be there with you every step of the way. Now c'mon, I even got up a little early and made you some breakfast." She said, heading down the stairs.
  474.  
  475. Although we might have gotten off to a rocky start, after our ordeal in the small town in Oregon with Delilah, Dia and I got a lot closer, and could completely trust each other from then on. We'd need it too, especially when we were getting closer to finding Riley.
  476.  
  477.  
  478.  
  479.  
  480. IV - Another Night
  481.  
  482. November 15th, 1890
  483.  
  484. After several weeks of Dia 'convincing' coach and wagon drivers to let us tag along with them, we were now on a trail to find John Joseph Riley that had led us to Wyoming. Unfortunately, that's where it had ended for us so far. Back in Oregon, Dia was able to pick up Riley's scent, and that pointed eastward. However, the scent became fainter and fainter the farther east we traveled. And after arriving in our current location of Cheyenne, it seemed like we reached a dead-end.
  485.  
  486. Dia and I split up once we found a hostel to stay at, going through our now normal routine of questioning anyone of importance in the city about murders, and if they had heard or seen anything, but no one had. After staying a night and feeling demotivated, we split up for a bit to clear our heads, and then would regroup tonight. Dia said that she also needed to eat, that her nature made it difficult to consume food that she had not hunted, and departed for the forest, it's autumn leaves falling for the coming winter. I suppose staying here for some time wasn't a total loss, I was short on cash, and had to make a withdrawal through the local Western Union, and the telegram would take a few days to get out here from New York.
  487.  
  488. So I sat alone, at an almost empty saloon, nursing a bottle of sarsaparilla that had gone flat, gnawing on some stale biscuits. My time here in Cheyenne had left me with plenty to think about; if this journey was for naught and if I was wasting my youth. But my pride as a man told me to press on, that I had made it this far, had harrowed some precarious situations. With the priests on the train in California, and Delilah the Cajun fox in Oregon.
  489.  
  490. And I had Dia to think about. I couldn't just abandon her out here in the middle of no where, tell her I'm bored and don't want to keep going on, and wish her safe travels. I hadn't even properly compensated her yet for her help, outside of paying for lodging and buying her a shotgun, but I would count those more as travel expenses than proper pay.
  491.  
  492. But there was something else about her that I enjoyed, that made me want to stay with her. And made me a little lonely without her at my side here in this shanty bar. Dia understood me, unlike really anyone else. She knew which buttons to push to tease me, how to make me laugh, even imparting some of her wisdom from her travels onto me. I never had many friends back home, I was either busy with my studies or with my father learning the trade of textiles.
  493.  
  494. I loved my parents dearly, but they were never my friends, never made jokes. It was always what was best for the business, and that's what would be best for the family. I enjoyed conversing with my sister, but we were markedly different people. If she were still alive, she had dreams of attending one of the prestigious universities when she grew up, and had aspirations of becoming a scholar of sorts. I was always sort of the opposite. I enjoyed reading novels of high adventure, of men going on and exploring the unknown, carving their own paths in life. I always secretly wanted to do this, to explore the untamed west. But my obligations to my family's business, with me being expected to take over got in the way of that dream.
  495.  
  496. I had heard the phrase said before, 'be careful what you wish for, you just might get it', and I suppose that's the situation I'm in. I got my dream of exploring the west, but at the cost of the lives of my family, and perhaps I'm feeling guilty because of it. Being without Dia didn't help either. Throughout my odyssey, she had been a steady force providing me stability. Even if she had, and still has, an intimidating presence to her, she always had my back. We were partners after all.
  497.  
  498. But there was something else to her, beyond being my safety, and bestowing wisdom. I found myself incredibly attracted to her, physically. She was unlike any woman I had ever met. Human women were expected to be homemakers, caregivers, subservient to their husband, but always providing him support. Dia was the total opposite; fiercely independent, dressing for convenience rather than as a lady 'ought to', and deadly when she needed to be. I wondered if it was because she was a wolfess, if in her culture, wolf-anthro packs had a sort of egalitarianism to them. It was that polarity to what I was used to from women that drew me to her, along with her being very well endowed in her bosom and rear, her tight black leather pants making it hard to look away if I walked behind her. But part of me was ashamed of my attraction, not that Dia was ugly, but because she was a different species. Although anthros were seen as just as American as I was for the most part, courting outside of one's species was still a social taboo. But I couldn't fight my growing feelings for her, but perhaps it was best to keep them to myself. I doubted she felt the same way as I did. She even said she'd had lovers in the past, and if she was as huge as she was, I would hate to see what the males of her species looked like. Pangs of inadequacy gnawed at me as I ruminated on that.
  499.  
  500. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone getting up to sit at the bar stool next to me. I turned my head to see an older human man with thin grey hair making himself comfortable before calling over the bartender.
  501.  
  502. "Scotch, on the rocks, please." He said with a smile. His voice was gruff and deep, and could be heard from the opposite side of the bar because of how dead it was.
  503.  
  504. After grabbing the glass from the bartender and taking a long sip of his whiskey, the man turned to me, looking at me with weathered green eyes.
  505.  
  506. "Are you the young man who's been asking around about murders?' He said, a somber look in his eyes as he did.
  507.  
  508. "Yes...but no one seemed to have heard about them here." I said skeptically, thinking it'd be better to not get my hopes up, he probably was thinking of a different person than I was.
  509.  
  510. "That's because I'm not from around here, either. I heard about a young man with blonde hair looking for the murderer of his parents in Idaho, and followed you here. I own a hardware store, a fella a couple weeks ago came in to get some knives sharpened and buy a few other things. When I looked at him, I almost couldn't believe my eyes, he looked exactly like the man the paper had sketched up who had killed John Truffant, the owner of the largest potato farm in Idaho."
  511.  
  512. "W-what did he look like." I was trembling slightly, this man could be my break in finding Riley, it all came down to how he described him.
  513.  
  514. "He was tall, taller than you or I, or most men. He was clean shaven, had dark brown, almost black hair, and had these sunken in brown eyes. If you looked at him from a distance, he looked like a normal gentleman, but up close, his eyes told you he had a devious side." The old man said, then took a long sip from his scotch.
  515.  
  516.  
  517.  
  518.  
  519. I remembered back to the night he killed my family. The screams from my sister's bedroom, my father going to check on her, only for him to yell out to me to get the gun. It was a cold, dark night. I was petrified, I couldn't move an inch from my bed even if I wanted to. It was as if I was looking down at myself from above, yelling at me to move, but my body refused. I was absolutely stricken with terror.
  520.  
  521. I then heard the shrieks from my mother, though they didn't last long. She cried out to God why this was happening to us, but was soon silenced. For what felt like an eternity, it was completely silent in my home. It was so quiet, I didn't even breathe, to try and not make any noise. That silence was broken by heavy footsteps. Muffled, off in the distance at first, but slowly crescendoed closer to my bedroom door.
  522.  
  523. The footsteps stopped once again. The next thing I heard, was sound of my doorknob turning to open. I then saw my door creak open. At the same slow, foreboding pace. The footsteps continued, and from the shadows I saw a tall man, wearing a white shirt with dark stains haphazardly splotched on it, holding a butcher knife in his left hand.
  524.  
  525. He wore a warm smile as he walked, the smile a parent might give to their child to comfort them in a time of need. But his eyes were pure evil, his pupils like pinpoints, staring straight into my soul as he edged closer towards my bed. I yelled at myself internally to get up, to move, but I still couldn't. He walked all the way to the side of the bed where I sat up, and as he went to grab and restrain me, my mind snapped. All the emotions, the anger, the pain, at what this man had caused, forced me to action. The screams of my mother and sister, my father telling me to take charge, it all welled up inside me, and I attacked him like a cornered, feral animal.
  526.  
  527. I lunged at him, knocking away the knife, scratching and crawling at him like a madman, punching his face until my knuckles bled. He was caught off guard by the assault, but was able to gather his bearings, struggling to knock me off of him. He then tried to grab onto me, but I was able to shake him off in his dazed state. I dropped down to the floor and grabbed the knife he had, holding it out towards him shakily in case he tried to doing anything to me. I stared back at him, seeing the desperation and anger in his hazel eyes, he looked at me for a second, then to the door, then sprinted out of my room.
  528.  
  529. I ran after him, but after a minute of looking for him, he was gone. I went back to my room and found a tooth of his that was knocked out, along with a tuft of hair. I exhaled and splayed out on my bed, crying myself to sleep after the ordeal.
  530.  
  531.  
  532.  
  533.  
  534. "Yeah, that's him." I said solemnly.
  535.  
  536. "Alright, you seem like you've already got your mind made up to find him even before I tell you where he is. But I'll warn you, it's not going to be easy. He told me he had business in Minnesota, and would be there until Christmas."
  537.  
  538. "Where in Minnesota?" I asked, my gut ached with anxiety as he spoke, I knew I had to find Dia and head out that way as soon as possible.
  539.  
  540. "Saint Paul he said, but he didn't specify beyond that. I wanted to warn you though that it's brutal out there this time of year, the wind from the lakes freezes the entire area. But seeing that look in your eye, weather won't stop you, will it?" He said, giving me a warm smile as he spoke.
  541.  
  542. "It won't. Thank you so much sir, What's your name by the way?" I inquired.
  543.  
  544. "Thomas Gatling. I only wanted to do what was right. I'm not young and spry anymore, but you are, and maybe you can rid our country of this devil."
  545.  
  546. "I intend to."
  547.  
  548.  
  549. +
  550.  
  551.  
  552. The cool night air bristled as I made way to dance hall. Eli had grown frustrated at the lack of anything relating to Riley coming up so far, and decided that we should split up for a little bit, so he could figure out a plan. That was fine by me, I needed to hunt anyway. And in a place with nice music and dancing, I couldn't think of anywhere better.
  553.  
  554. I made my way to the door of the establishment, a gentleman at the front to lead people in. The reason why he wasn't disturbed by the appearance of a giant wolfess, was because I was not Dia, the famous gunslinger of the west, I was someone else entirely.
  555.  
  556. "What is your name, ma'am?" The older man asked, never having seen me before, because I'd never been here.
  557.  
  558. "Dianna. My husband's inside, I just had to freshen up a little bit before heading out." I said, staring into his eyes, laying the seduction on thick. It worked, and the man took my dainty, ivory hand and led me inside.
  559.  
  560. For this hunt, I was Dianna, a socialite dressed in a simple black dress, just revealing enough to let the men see a bit of my cleavage. My raven hair was tied up in a french braid, and I had plenty of eyeliner and red lipstick to make my face stand out. One of the perks of my 'condition', was that it allowed me to take different forms. I could turn into a mist, a more feral wolf, and a human. It was only temporary, and came at the cost of making my fangs ache even more than they would on a normal hunt, but it would be worth it tonight, to dine on the the blood of an upper-class gentleman.
  561.  
  562. And I found the perfect prey. He was standing awkwardly by himself, nursing a drink. The lights were bright as the musicians played an upbeat tune, the twenty or so people dancing in rhythm with each other. He was cute, by human standards. Tall, brown hair, had an even, chiseled face, but was a little bit on the thin side. Not nearly as adorable as Eli, but he would do for tonight. I sauntered over to him, making sure to exaggerate the sway of my hips.
  563.  
  564. He nearly spat out his drink as I approached him. I gave him the cutesiest smile in response, batting my eyelashes.
  565.  
  566. "You know, it's rude to not ask a lady to dance if she's available, don't you think?" I said, letting out a fake giggle.
  567.  
  568. "I-uh y-yeah..y-you too..." He spat out awkwardly.
  569.  
  570. "Soooo...?" I said. Would I have to spell it out for him? I hoped not. His blood smelled so sweet, and yet he was so clueless. I goaded him by bending slightly, to give him a better view of my breasts. He looked at them, then back at me in a split-second, a little bit of panic in his eyes.
  571.  
  572. "W-would y-you like to dance w-with me?" He said shakily.
  573.  
  574. "I would absolutely *love* to dance with you~." I said, bringing out a slender hand for him to take.
  575.  
  576. He wearily walked me over to the dance floor. The song that was currently being played was a slow one, and as he took my hands, I knew I would have to do all the work. I guided his left hand down to my hip, and intertwined his fingers in my right hand. We slowly moved with the song, one, and two, and three, and four. Eventually, he got the hang of it.
  577.  
  578. "What's your name, or are you just a handsome face?" I said, making sure to give my most alluring and sultry tone as I spoke to him.
  579.  
  580. "A-Alexander. And w-what's your name, m-ma'am?" He asked. His anxiety was now starting to annoy me. I thought it was impossible for someone to be even less knowledgeable about the opposite sex than Eli, but here was Alexander.
  581.  
  582. "My name, is Dianna. You know, sometimes it's nice for a change to meet a fellow like yourself who doesn't just approach the first dame he meets. It shows that you have some chivalry, wouldn't you say, Alex?"
  583.  
  584. I would continue to tell him sweet-nothings, as long as it meant getting what I needed from him.
  585.  
  586. "I-I suppose. I only came out here because my friends over there dragged me with them...They all had dates, and I didn't..." He said, somewhat dejected.
  587.  
  588. "Well cheer up, Alex, because you do now~." I said, getting closer to him as we danced. I could feel the blood rushing through his veins, how fast his heart was beating, and it was driving me a little mad. But I could be patient, all for his sweet, sweet blood.
  589.  
  590. The night wore on, Alex talked about this and that, eventually warming up enough to me to not stutter through an entire sentence. I lied to him about who Dianna was, that she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant here, that I was bored of staying home, and needed someone to entertain me, and that someone was Alex.
  591.  
  592. As the ball came to an end, I walked Alex out of the hall with me, my arm wrapped around his. It was time. The whole reason I'd gone through all this nonsense, to get what I wanted. Fortunately, Alex had made the move for me.
  593.  
  594. "Dianna...w-would you like to come home with me?" He asked, his eyes darting all over the place, looking anywhere except at me. This was perfect, it meant I didn't have to take him back to the lodge with me, and drag his unconscious body back here.
  595.  
  596. "Of I would... Lead the way...Alex~."
  597.  
  598.  
  599.  
  600. The house was quite nice, his father clearly did well for himself and his family. I don't remember what he said he did, but I'm sure he mentioned it at the ball. He led me to the bed, and I slowly took off my dress. Alex was enamored with my lithe, human body. It had curves in all the right places; from my shapely breasts, to child-bearing hips, and supple, creamy thighs. I gently pushed him back onto the bed, and climbed on top of him, getting close to his neck. I gave it a gentle peck. He gasped as I did, clearly he was in heaven.
  601.  
  602. "I'm going to give you the night of your life, do you want that?" I asked seductively.
  603.  
  604. "M-mmhmm!" He said, shaking his head up and down.
  605.  
  606. "Good... now just lay back and let me take care of everything..." I said, giving a wry smile. My fangs were now pointed directly at his neck, and I bit. He tensed up for a second, they always do. But he then went limp as I took in my meal. I sighed contentedly as I fed, his virginal blood sweet as it hit my tongue.
  607.  
  608. When I was done, Alex now laid there, fast asleep. When he would wake up, he'd be none the wiser, I'm sure bragging to his friends about fucking a mystery lady, and good for him that he could tell that tale, he earned it tonight.
  609.  
  610. It was just another night, after all.
  611.  
  612.  
  613.  
  614.  
  615.  
  616.  
  617.  
  618.  
  619.  
  620.  
  621.  
  622.  
  623.  
  624.  
  625.  
  626. V - See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
  627.  
  628. December 7th, 1890
  629.  
  630. The winter breeze blew harshly as I trudged through the snow to a small ring of rocks with dried wood inside of it. I squatted down by it, and pulled out a sack and sprinkled a small amount of gunpowder over the dry crunchy leaves that served as kindling. I then got out my matchbox, striking a match and throwing it onto the pile of wood. After a minute, the small ring was alight with warm orange flames dancing gently.
  631.  
  632. I pulled out from the sack a recently skinned feral squirrel, not the most filling of dinners, but it would do. It was a curiosity of the world that anthro-peoples that were as conscious as humans lived on the earth, along with feral animals that did not have consciousness, or at least not to the level of humans or anthros, mainly serving as a source of food.
  633.  
  634. The small fire did little to keep me warm as I ate, my nose red and runny, and the parts of my ears that weren't covered by my wool-knitted cap felt like they would freeze off. Thomas Gatling was not wrong when he said it would be freezing up here in Minnesota. I was used to the cold, living in New York, but this was a completely different kind of cold. The air that surrounded me felt as frozen as the ground, chilling enough to take your breath away if you weren't used to it.
  635.  
  636. I wolfed down my food, then threw my rucksack over my shoulder, plodding through the snow to a long stick jutting from the white ground. I knelt down, grabbed at the snow by the stick with a gloved hand. Underneath the snow was a stake connected to a tarp, and I lifted it to see the foxhole Dia had dug underneath. We were by the side of the road, but were still miles away from any kind of lodging, or really any civilization. We were able to hitch onto several wagons, but being this far out and in this type of weather, there weren't many for us to ride now.
  637.  
  638. I quickly hopped down into the foxhole, throwing my rucksack to the side by my rifle, it laid on another tarp that covered the hole underneath. The hole was about seven feet long, five feet wide, and four feet deep. Just big enough to fit Dia and I snugly for when we slept during the day. I put the stake back in the tarp, and sank to a comfortable position in the foxhole. The roof tarp was made of thick burlap, and along with the snow on top of that, made it pitch black inside the foxhole. I blindly shuffled around in my rucksack for my matchbox. Once I found a loose match, I struck it against the box, and my small living area was now alight. I put the end of the match that wasn't burning in my mouth and dug around for my map of Minnesota.
  639.  
  640. Once I found it, I laid down to go over it. I wasn't entirely sure where we were, but i knew the road we were on. We were close to the Great Lakes, and maybe had to go seventy or so more miles before we reached Saint Paul. I counted down the days in my head, I couldn't be entirely sure, but If Riley would be there until Christmas, I didn't have much time to figure out who he would kill next, and then intercept him before he could do it. Time was of the essence. Dia had gone off to hunt for her own food, and it would be dawn soon. I ran a hand through my now shaggy, dirty, blonde hair anxiously. I was so close, yet I felt were still so far from finding him.
  641.  
  642. I put my rucksack away and flicked my wrist to put out the match. Then got into a comfortable position to sleep. It was still bitterly cold, but there was no wind down in the hole, making it more tolerable. It was quite decent when Dia was next to me, her added body heat and fur against my side was pleasant, plus her feminine scent so close to me put my mind at ease.
  643.  
  644. Just as I was closing my eyes, the flap to the tarp opened once more, I looked up to see a tall dark figure with orange glacier glasses staring down at me, Dia had come back from her business hunting. She had a giant grin on her face as she hopped down into the foxhole, and sat upright next to me.
  645.  
  646. "Good morning, Eli" She said with an unusually chipper tone, taking off her orange tinted glasses and hat, then untying her hair, letting it flow freely.
  647.  
  648. "You're in awfully high spirits. Your hunt went well?" I asked, my eyes having adjusted to the darkness of the hole now able to see Dia somewhat clearly.
  649.  
  650. "It did. But I suppose it's where we are that has me in a good mood. It's nostalgic, reminds me of my homeland, where my pack roamed." She continued undressing, folding her duster and taking off her leather pants, stacking them then putting her glasses and hat on them. She then untied her cravat and unbuttoned her white shirt, I diverted my eyes as to not stare.
  651.  
  652. I looked up at the top of the tarp, and decided it'd be best to try and talk to Dia about things I'd wondered of her instead.
  653.  
  654. "About packs, that's something I'd been meaning to ask you. How are they in comparison to human families?" I queried.
  655.  
  656. "They're much more akin to your Indian tribes, but are still similar to a ferals pack structure. Generally, maybe three pairs of garou will unite, an alpha will be determined by who is the strongest of the males, and these pairs have their pups. Our kind are not so confined to monogamy as humans, and the alpha will breed all three of the females if their are three pairs, because more kin means a stronger pack when it comes time to hunt. When the alpha enters his twilight years, he becomes an elder, and the younger ones in the pecking order fight it out for the next alpha, and the elder will give him guidance and wisdom from his experience."
  657.  
  658. She laid down beside me as she spoke, now only in her brassiere and panties. It became hard not to peak as she spoke, her body was hard, athletic, and toned. But it was also soft and supple in all the right places like her thighs, her bountiful bosom, her hips, and her butt.
  659.  
  660. I shook the lewd thoughts from my head, it was disrespectful. I instead focused on our conversation, as it did intrigue me.
  661.  
  662. "Is this how your pack was set up?"
  663.  
  664. "Yes. There were four families, and all of the patriarchs were already elders by the time I was born. My father was the alpha of our pack, and he led us on many great hunts. Being his daughter, I was able to eat first along with him and my mother and brothers, and I grew very strong because of him. I became one of our best hunters, just to make him proud." She said, a smile still on her face as she looked up nostalgically, all those memories most have been coming back to her.
  665.  
  666. "That's one difference, at least where I come from. Women are expected to have kids and take care of the home, they certainly wouldn't do any of the hunting."
  667.  
  668. "As with us, but if a female was strong enough to hunt, she would, and in the season when prey were scarce, that female would then take a partner."
  669.  
  670. "Did you have any...partners?"
  671.  
  672. "Of course, I've told you this before, Eli. Are you feeling some sort of retroactive jealousy that I'm not a blushing virgin?" She teased while chuckling.
  673.  
  674. "N-no it's just...different than what I'm used to."
  675.  
  676. "Well, being the alpha's daughter, I was seen as very valuable to the males of my age and stature within the pack. They would duel each other for the right to take me, and then I would fight them. If they could beat me, they would pin me to the ground, bite me, and have their way with me. I loved fighting back, being feisty, to test their worth as a male. But when they could thoroughly dominate me, and show that they were indeed worthy, there was no better feeling as female, to know that we were doing our duty to the pack." She said, her voice almost a hushed, sultry whisper as she spoke about her kind's lurid mating customs.
  677.  
  678. It made me blush hearing her words, imagining myself on top of Dia, making her mine... It was hard to push the thought away, with her so close, and almost nude. But I pressed on, my train of thought was already lascivious enough.
  679.  
  680. "Did you...ever have any children of your own?" I asked. Dia didn't seem like the motherly type, but maybe she was the perfect mother in wolf society. Strong, bold, courageous.
  681.  
  682. "I had several. It's the highest achievement to have your own offspring, and I cherished them. Unfortunately... they're long gone." She said with a frown and a deep sigh.  
  683.  
  684. "Oh. Damn, I'm sorry for even bringing it up, Dia..." I said, now totally deflated in the way our conversation had gone.
  685.  
  686. "It's alright. We all experience tragedy in our lives, that's why you're on this journey isn't it? to bring justice to your kin?"
  687.  
  688. "It is... but-"
  689.  
  690. I was interrupted by Dia bringing me into a suffocating hug, wrapping her big arms around my chest, and crossing her legs over mine. Her breath was warm as she nuzzled her snout into the back of my neck, and I could feel her breasts compress into my back. I didn't know what to say or do, Dia's sudden actions had me completely paralyzed.
  691.  
  692. "That's all in the past now. What matters is what's here and now. To be honest, I've had many lonely nights as of late, and you've made the past several ones highly enjoyable, Eli." She said, sighing contentedly.
  693.  
  694. "Does...does this mean we're a pack, now?" I asked.
  695.  
  696. Dia giggled at my question, her mouth tickling the back of my neck.
  697.  
  698. "I suppose so. We've been roaming around like one for a few months. Sure, we'll be a pack...~" She said in a silky smooth tone, lightly kissing my neck, causing me to go totally stiff.
  699.  
  700. This caused Dia to giggle more at my struggling, but she held on to me even tighter.
  701.  
  702. "Get some sleep, Eli. We've got a long night ahead of us."
  703.  
  704.  
  705. +
  706.  
  707.  
  708. The bitter winds from the north had picked up since yesterday, and it now felt like we were walking in a blizzard. I had the top of my parka pulled as tight as I could over my head, and wrapped my scarf over my mouth to keep my cheeks and lips warm. Dia was dressed the same as she always was, the cold seemingly not bothering her one bit. She did however keep a hand on top of her head to keep her hat from flying off. It was somewhat of a struggle to stay balanced with the blizzard blowing behind us, especially since I carried our tarps and stakes, among other things in my rucksack, along with my repeater over my shoulder. The sun may have been down because we traveled at night like always, but our path was illuminated by the snow reflecting off of the moon's light, giving us a clear trail to follow down the road to Saint Paul.
  709.  
  710. I took vanguard as we walked, with Dia following behind me. She had told me after breaking camp that the she smelled a snowstorm coming, and she was right. The flurry of snow refused to relent. In fact, it felt like it was picking up even. The wind blew so hard and so loud that I could barely hear myself think, let alone talk to Dia as we walked.
  711.  
  712. I tried keeping up the pace as we walked, but the wind was now becoming almost impossible to move through. I tripped several times, but caught my fall, and still pressed on. That was, until I felt one of Dia's heavy paws land on my shoulder, startling me and stopping me there. I looked up at her, and she had her head on a swivel, sniffing the air and growling lowly.
  713.  
  714. "WHAT'S THE MATTER?" I yelled to her, even though we were right next to each, the blizzard was so furious it came out like a whisper. Dia merely lifted a single finger to her mouth, to get me to be quiet. Something was wrong, something was following us. The fact that it had Dia on such high alert disturbed me greatly. We were in the middle of a snowstorm, I didn't know how well we would do in a combat situation with how cold, and how hard the wind blew. Dia didn't seem like she had that answer either.
  715.  
  716. What happened next is something that I could only explain as a paranormal phenomenon. A howl came from deep in the forest, so loud it literally shook me deep in my bones, vibrating the ground, and causing me to fall to my knees. Dia had her hands ready to draw her revolvers, I couldn't make out exactly what she was saying, but it sounded like 'wendigo' when speaking in relation to the horrible beast making the noise. She had a worried frown on her face, and as the beast finished it's intimidating howl, she looked down at me.
  717.  
  718. "ELI RUN! GET AWAY FROM HERE NOW!"
  719.  
  720. I ran toward the direction that she pointed in, but I was running into the hard wind, and was already out of breath after ten feet of drudging through the snow. That was until I felt something violently throw itself into the side of my ribs, throwing me into the snow.
  721.  
  722. I looked up frantically, trying to gather my bearings. I was paralyzed at what was above me. It was the foulest beast I'd ever seen in my life. It was huge, big as a tree, maybe fifteen feet tall. Had the maw of a feral wolf with razor sharp teeth, and jagged antlers like an elk. I looked down at its body, and it was emaciated, its ribs stuck out among its matted fur. It smelled terrible, like a rotting corpse. The beast then lifted one of its giant clawed hands, blood caked on it.
  723.  
  724. A gunshot went off in the distance, and a hole was now in its rotting paw, black, sludgey blood leaking from it. It howled in furious anger, and turned to Dia, as she held her smoking revolver out.
  725.  
  726. The beast got up, seemingly ignoring me now, and took a defensive stance on all four of its limbs, its hind legs looking like they were ready to spring out and attack Dia at any moment.
  727.  
  728. It was such a bizarre creature, huge, gaunt, and seemingly strong as an elephant, yet it looked like it was starving. It was surreal, and the fact that a creature like this could exist made me question my own sanity, it was such an affront to nature. The thing was like some sort of mythical beast spoken about to scare children at night, something like this thing shouldn't exist!
  729.  
  730. The thing surprised me once more, lowly growling, and then, speaking. It's voice was like several detached voices talking at once, I could make out a little girl's voice, a deep, booming voice of a man, the voice of a small boy, and many more. The timbre of it disorienting to listen to.
  731.  
  732. "Nightstalker... you trespass these grounds, your presence angers the ancient spirits. Leave now, and I will take this morsel as an offering of respect to them." The beast said, the 'morsel' supposedly referring to me, I thought in terror.
  733.  
  734. "You speak for the ancestors of the humans here? I thought your kind ate lost travelers? I know what you are, wendigo. Leave him be." She stated plainly.
  735.  
  736. "Very well then. I will take great pleasure in ripping the flesh from your bones, nightstalker..."
  737.  
  738. The blizzard picked up violently once more, and the wendigo disappeared from where it was. Could it possibly be controlling the snowstorm? Of course not, that's impossible. But...if something like it existed, I wasn't sure what was real anymore.
  739.  
  740. Dia steeled herself for the incoming assault, apparently she thought that it could control the weather here in some way, as she followed the blizzard closely. She shrugged her shoulder and grabbed her coach gun, the more firepower the better for something as foul as this thing. I removed my rucksack, and readied my repeater. I didn't know how much I'd be able to help, but we were out of our element. We were in the wendigo's territory, it knew these woods better than we ever could, and being able to fight it from two angles was better than one.
  741.  
  742. The eeriness of the atmosphere was palpable. The only sound that could be heard was the consistent gusts of the snowstorm. I breathed slowly to try to keep myself calm, it was like waiting for a bomb to go off. We knew it would happen, it was just a question of when.
  743.  
  744. The answer came with a howling breeze that came right at Dia. The wendigo seemingly appeared out of nowhere and lunged at her. Dia immediately fired both slugs at the thing, but it wouldn't get off of her. I aimed for its head with my repeater, but Dia was able to kick the beast off of her, dark blood covering her duster and shirt. Thankfully, it looked to be only the wendigo's blood, and Dia had come out of the situation unscathed.
  745.  
  746. The wendigo had disappeared with the cold wind once more. Dia loaded two more shells into her shotgun and prepared for it to attack. It came much quicker this time, and attacked Dia from the rear, but she was ready, and unloaded the two slugs in her gun was a loud bang.
  747.  
  748. However, the wendigo proved it was quickly adaptable. It easily took the force of the two shots, and instead of disappearing, continued to lunge at Dia, and bit the paw that held the shotgun, tearing away part of her hand. This had the desired effect, as Dia dropped her gun in the snow. The beast aggressively pinned her to the ground, and raised one of its massive clawed hands, each claw looking more like daggers than fingers.
  749.  
  750. Dia was able to get to one of her holsters, and quickly pulled out a revolver, unloading it into the foul beast. But it wasn't enough, and it struck down on her face, Dia's glasses and hat flying into the snow.
  751.  
  752. I started to panic as I saw this go on from about twenty feet away, and knew I had to do something. At this rate, the wendigo would tear Dia apart.
  753.  
  754. I aimed for its head, and pulled the trigger. The shot, while it hit, the blast seemed to do nothing to it. The thing was like fighting a wall, anything we did to it, it just shook off. I fired once more, the bullet also hit it in the back of its skull, causing it to shift in balance slightly.
  755.  
  756. This seemed to give Dia enough space to work with, and she was able jostle the wendigo off of her. It was her turn to lunge at it, more like a feral wolf than her usual tactics as a gunslinger. She raised a paw, a slashed at the beast's emaciated chest, more black sludge leaking from it as she did.
  757.  
  758. But once again, the wind furiously blew, knocking Dia off of it, and the wendigo disappeared. The wolfess stood up, she didn't act like she was in pain, but she had taken a few good licks. Her snout and face were bleeding, three gashes on the right side where the wendigo struck her. The thumb was dangling from her right paw, where the monster had bit it, a good chunk of her hand missing.
  759.  
  760. And yet, she stood tall and confident, ready for whatever the beast's next attack was. Curiously, she threw her duster off, kicked off her boots, unbuckled her holster, unbuttoned her shirt, and everything else she had been wearing, and threw it all into a pile by her Stetson and orange glasses.
  761.  
  762. "Fine then! I'll fight you like a beast if that's what it will take, wendigo. I'm far from being beaten." She shouted into the wind, I didn't know what she meant by that, but she was getting ready to change tactics. Guns clearly weren't going to kill it, but I was anxious about what she would do, she was prepared to fight to the bitter end, and I knew it.
  763.  
  764. The wind shrieked as it blew, picking up speed, as if acknowledging the wolfess's challenge. A sharp gust of blizzard wind came from the north, and the wendigo reappeared, its maw of sharp fangs opened to gnaw at Dia. She gave a confident smile, and then she did something that I couldn't explain. Dia...disappeared. Or rather, she turned into what I could only describe as a mist, an ashen vapor, blowing with the breeze.
  765.  
  766. The wendigo looked on, frustrated at Dia's trick. I had a stupefied look on my face, I wasn't sure what was reality and was fiction anymore. In the last ten minutes, I'd seen a beast from a fairy tale, and my partner turn into mist. If this was some sort of bad dream, I really wished I was about to wake up.
  767.  
  768. I looked over to the north, and the same black mist was flowing in one spot ominously. The wendigo turned as well, and as it did, from the vapor, the largest feral wolf I'd ever seen shot out from it. It growled loudly and ferociously, and attacked the wendigo's long neck, biting into it, refusing to let go. The wendigo attempted to stand, gingerly placing one of its grotesque clawed hands on the white ground for support, but the wolf refused to yield. It sank its fangs deeper into the creature, violently shaking as if it was attempting to tear its throat out. The wendigo was still several times larger than the wolf, which was already several times bigger than me. With its free hand, it balled into a fist and began beating into the wolf's ribs. Each time it did, a loud thump could be heard, like a bass drum in a marching band.
  769.  
  770. But the wolf still wouldn't relent, it held onto the wendigo like a vise. In fact, it tore even deeper into its throat, finally falling to the ground because the skin and tissue of the monster's neck had been torn off. The wolf leaped away from the beast and took a defensive stance, growling at it, ready for the next attack. The wendigo was now visibly hobbled, as what looked like gallons of the black sludge poured from the deep laceration in its neck. It's head drooped a little as well, like it's wounded neck couldn't support its massive head and antlers because of the gash.
  771.  
  772. The wind didn't pick up as violently this time, but the wendigo still vanished. I got a proper look at the gigantic wolf, at its ashen coat, the slashes on its thick snout, its red eyes...it was Dia! She had somehow, through the mist, transformed into a more primitive form, better for fighting a monster like the wendigo.
  773.  
  774. She may have wounded the beast, but this battle was far from over. In the antebellum before it's next assault, I called out to her.
  775.  
  776. "Dia! you can do it! and I'll be here if you need me!" I said, pointing to my rifle. She glared at me, and snorted. Even if it didn't mean much, we were still partners. We were now a pack, and I'd be there for her.
  777.  
  778. The blizzard blasted furiously once more, and Dia growled at it, readying herself for the wendigo to appear from it. But it didn't. We both looked on in confusion, it was no where to be seen. But I looked up at trees, and there was the wendigo. I froze in fear, it was going to lunge down from the tree and stab her with its jagged, razor-like antlers.
  779.  
  780. "DIAAAA!" I yelled to get her attention, but it was too late, the wendigo had shot down like a bullet from a gun, and caught Dia in the side. Once the wendigo connected, it ran with a head full of steam, barreling Dia through the snow and digging its antlers deeper into her ribs, before suddenly shooting its head upward, throwing her into high into the air, and landing a few yards near me with a loud thud. She attempted to get up, but coughed several times, hacking up red liquid into the snow, whimpering. The puncture wounds were deep, but Dia found what strength she had left, and returned to her stance on all fours.
  781.  
  782. I had to do something. I had to give her some time to recuperate, but how? The wendigo had been slowed considerably now, it hadn't leaped at Dia now that she was wounded. I looked over at it, and it was sluggish in getting ready to attack once more, but the thing was preparing. It got its back legs into a leaping stance, and was ready to attack.
  783.  
  784. I only had two rounds left in my repeater, but I had a plan. It was the only thing I could think of, so it had to work. To buy Dia some time to end this. I stood up, readied my rifle, and a took a deep breath. I was reminded of something my father taught me about shooting, that you wanted to be completely calm, the only things that existed in the world was you, and your target.
  785.  
  786. I pulled the trigger, the rifle kicking back with a loud boom. The wendigo stopped suddenly, lurching back and shrieking in pain. I shot it in its left eye, and it had the desired effect. I pulled back on the lever, a smoking bullet casing flying out into the snow, and fired once more.
  787.  
  788. Black bile splashed out from where its right eye once was, the wendigo was blinded. It shook violently, roaring in pain and anger at losing its sense of sight. I looked over at Dia, she was still bleeding heavily from her wounds, but I saw a firey determination in her eyes, she was ready to destroy this monster.
  789.  
  790. She started out at a jogging pace, then picked up the tempo and launched herself into the air at the wendigo. I couldn't see very well from my vantage point, but when she landed, she immediately was digging into its chest with her claws and teeth, tearing open its scraggly thin cavity, ripping away at its heart. The wendigo kicked its legs, thrashed its arms helplessly, but Dia would not relent. The beasts thrashing became slower, until it submitted to Dia's fury, her head wildly biting into the meat of the creature.
  791.  
  792. The wendigo's arms fell suddenly, and it had stopped fighting back. It was over. It was dead. When Dia knew this to be true as well, she moved off of it and unto the snow wearily, going to a sitting position, and held her head high, howling at the moon. It was the loudest howl from a wolf I'd ever heard, I had to plug my ears with my fingers because of how high pitched and intense it was.
  793.  
  794. When she finished, the ashen mist returned, along with a gust of wind, and the wendigo, and the wolf vanished. The blizzard had now stopped, the forest was calm, peaceful. It was still cold, but the chaos of the snowstorm was over.
  795.  
  796. The mist had cleared, and Dia's usual anthro form laid still in the snow, naked. All her wounds from her feral form were still there on her body, as she laid still. I ran over to her as quickly as I could, dropping my rifle in the snow. I looked down at her, and she looked like a lifeless corpse. But her eyes fluttered, and moved to look at me, she still had life in her.
  797.  
  798. "Dia! tell me what do I need to do! How can I help you?" I knelt down to her, removing my parka, getting ready to tear off pieces of my shirt or clothes or anything to get the bleeding to stop from her wounds.
  799.  
  800. "Eli...I-I need...I need your blood." She said in a raspy whisper.
  801.  
  802. "W-what, what do you mean, you need my blood?" I asked incredulously.
  803.  
  804. "I can...explain it later. But if you want me...to go with you further...I need your blood."
  805.  
  806. I sighed heavily. After all the crazy shit I'd seen today, her needing blood to survive was pretty low on the list compared to everything else.
  807.  
  808. "Okay, how do we go about this?"
  809.  
  810. "Drag me over to that tree...sit me upright." She gasped out.
  811.  
  812. I did as she said, struggling to carry her heavy body over to the nearest tree by her arms, several trails of blood from her puncture wounds following. I perched her up at the base of the tree, and she turned her head wearily to me.
  813.  
  814. "S-sit...sit in my lap."
  815.  
  816. I did as she said, sitting to where I was eye-level with her.
  817.  
  818. "O-open your shirt, so your neck is free, and bring it my mouth..."
  819.  
  820. Awkwardly, I complied, unbuttoneing the first couple buttons of my shirt, and got closer to Dia's naked body. In any other circumstance, my face would be flushed, and I would be flustered. But when it meant life or death for her, it didn't matter. Dia shakily brought her hands to the back of my head, to guide me closer to her snout. I held onto her for support, still not entirely sure how this process would work.
  821.  
  822. I found out fairly quickly, as I felt two sharp pricks pierce my neck, and started to feel light-headed. My body suddenly became much warmer, even though I had taken off a couple layers of clothing, as I could literally feel the blood leave me. It was painful at first, but the overwhelming feeling of warmth, in combination with the loss of blood, was very comfortable. My eyes became half-lidded, and I started to see stars, when Dia suddenly stopped. She licked the bite mark, then brought me to look her in the eyes. Her face was totally healed, and her eyes were dilated, her ears drooping as if she were embarrassed.
  823.  
  824. She then quickly brought her lips to mine, running a hand through my hair as she held me tightly, her tongue dancing in my mouth, as she suckled on my lips with hers. After several seconds of kissing, she pulled away.
  825.  
  826. "S-sorry...I think I took too much from you."
  827.  
  828. "Ehhsogay..." I said drunkenly, almost falling onto her after she took her arms off me. Dia then got up, and sat me up on the tree where she was previously. She got my parka and put it on me, before squatting down to look at me.
  829.  
  830. "Just stay here, I'll dug us a foxhole, and I'll explain everything. I've...withheld some things from you, Eli. And if we're partners...if we're a p-pack...then I cannot do that. I'll be back here in a bit, okay?" She said with a warm smile.
  831.  
  832. Then, my eyes got incredibly heavy, and everything went black.
  833.  
  834.  
  835. +
  836.  
  837.  
  838. I awoke in total darkness, with warm furry paws wrapped around my chest, and a wet snout nuzzled into my neck. As I stirred awake, Dia lightened her grip slightly, allowing me to turn to look at the top of the tarp.
  839.  
  840. "So...I suppose I've got a fair bit of explaining to do about our...ordeal." She said. I couldn't see her, but judging by her tone, she was nervous.
  841.  
  842. "Yeah, uh...what the hell was that thing? I heard you call it a wendigo?"
  843.  
  844. Dia sighed, wrapping one arm over shoulder, and began playing with my hair.
  845.  
  846. "It's an evil monster. The Indian peoples of this territory claim that they are the embodiment of mans wrath and terror when stranded in the wilderness. They feast on flesh, and are ferocious, like what we saw. Whether or not that's true, the point is, they exist."
  847.  
  848. "It's hard to take in, but... I saw it with my eyes. And...speaking of that, what of you? The, turning into mist and...turning into a giant feral wolf...and needing my blood to heal yourself?"
  849.  
  850. Dia paused for a moment before she spoke, trying to gather her thoughts on how she wanted to explain it.
  851.  
  852. "Eli, I am much older than you could ever imagine. You know how I am bigger than all other garou that you've probably ever seen? that's because I am over eleven-thousand years old. I believe your human paleontologists refer to my kind as 'dire wolves'."
  853.  
  854. I laid there with my mouth agape, barely even comprehending what she was saying. I couldn't wrap my head around what eleven-thousand years even looked like, what it meant for that much time to pass. It was inconceivable.
  855.  
  856. "H-how...how is that possible?" I asked wearily.
  857.  
  858. "That's where me needing your blood factors in...along with not being able to walk during the day. You see, when I was still mortal, it was during a period great change on the earth. There was a land bridge that connected what you know as Russia and Alaska. My pack had migrated over to the Alaskan side of the bridge for many years, but still had deep ties with those on the Siberian side. When I was born, the ocean had risen to where the bridge was incredibly thin, and when I had matured, it had disappeared, taken by the water."
  859.  
  860. "This was a great loss to our pack, all of our hunts had been beyond the bridge, we were left stranded essentially. But we came together, pressed on, and tried to find new hunting grounds. But they did not come. Many of our kind of the lower rungs died of starvation, and we had become very desperate."
  861.  
  862. "That was until a human from a local tribe visited us. His name was Inua'hwa, and he was unlike any human we had ever seen. Pale white as the snow, and had red eyes. He saw that we were in need, and came to my father with a proposition. To give our pack eternal life, to not have to worry about food to sustain us. In our moment of desperation, he took the human's offer. The man drained him of all his blood, giving him a little bit of his, making him a nightstalker, or as your kind knows them, a vampire."
  863.  
  864. "My father then turned me, and the several others that were left of our pack along with my pups. But Inua'hwa did not do this out of sheer generosity, he wanted us to follow him, to help him gain control of a rival human tribe of his. We did his bidding for a while, but once my father figured out he intended to keep us as slaves, we broke free. One night, we cornered the man, and ripped him limb from limb, drinking his accursed blood."
  865.  
  866. "We mourned to our ancestors the mistake we had made, but there was no going back. We had to press on, to continue to live, and hunt, and we did. We did this in peace for many, many nights. We migrated to Canada, and made our home there. But over time, humans grew weary of us. We weren't able to stay in one place for too long, as to not upset them, we did not want any trouble after all. But word would spread, and as humans made advancements in technology and warfare, they would chase after us, to hunt us down, and find out tactics that put our vampiric nature at a disadvantage."
  867.  
  868. "To keep it brief, they hunted all of us, even my children, until they finally killed my father. I was struck with grief, the humans had taken everything from me. They took away my life, my pack, my family. And so I got my revenge. I sniffed out the tribes that been coordinating hunts on us, saw how they wore my family's skins and furs as clothes, and killed all of them. Women, children, I drank their blood by the gallon. When I found the man that had murdered my father, I spared him no mercy. I tortured him, kept him alive enough to feel all the pain that he had inflicted upon me. And in the end, I was empty. I may have drank more blood than I ever had in the past, but I felt nothing. I was sad, broken, and didn't know what to do."
  869.  
  870. "Jesus...that's...awful Dia. I'm so sorry that happened to you." I said, rubbing her paw with my hand.
  871.  
  872. "Afterward, I traveled alone, finding that nightstalkers weren't the only supernatural things that ran around in the night. I also learned how to speak human languages, how to read, to better be of use in this constantly changing world. I suppose time does heal all wounds, and I became someone that would murder for hire, and that's how I met you." She said, bringing me close to her once again, this time facing her, and buried me in her chest.
  873.  
  874. I got my head out from her bosom, and looked at her.
  875.  
  876. "What do you mean by...things other than vampires?"
  877.  
  878. "Do you remember Delilah, the fox from New Orleans?"
  879.  
  880. "Of course I do."
  881.  
  882. "She was not just a fox...in fact she didn't drug you like I told you at the time. She...was a succubus, a demon that ate men's souls for sustenance, and seduced them to accomplish that."
  883.  
  884. I sighed. Now nothing made sense. If vampires, demons, wendigo were all real, what the hell wasn't?
  885.  
  886. "And what about the priests, on the train in the California, anything special about them?"
  887.  
  888. "Vampire hunters. Low-level ones, but hunters for your Catholic church. I thought they had given up chasing me years ago, but I suppose not. Hopefully they lost their trail and won't find me out here, though." She said, caressing me hair once more.
  889.  
  890. "So...I suppose by tomorrow...you'll probably not want me to continue with you. I'm a monster, after all...You know how to find John Joseph Riley, I-I'd just get in the way an-"
  891.  
  892. I stopped her with a kiss, running my hands through Dia's silky black hair, kissing her deeply. I was inexperienced, but she followed my lead, letting my tongue explore her mouth, and doing the same. After a minute, we pulled away, and I looked deeply into her crimson eyes.
  893.  
  894. "if we're a pack, I can't just let you leave, right?" I said smiling at her.
  895.  
  896. "Y-yes of course..."
  897.  
  898. I laid my head down into her bosom, using her breasts as a pillow as sleep began to take me. We weren't that far from Saint Paul, and that meant we weren't that far from Riley.
  899.  
  900. "Eli...it's been so, so long since I haven't felt...lonely. You don't know how much this means to me." She said, hugging me tightly.
  901.  
  902. "I think I do...I love you, Dia."
  903.  
  904.  
  905.  
  906.  
  907.  
  908. "I love you too."
  909.  
  910.  
  911.  
  912.  
  913.  
  914.  
  915.  
  916.  
  917.  
  918. ✟     Intermission - Celebremos                                                                                                          ✟                    
  919.  
  920. The winter night was calm, all the good folks of St. Paul slumbered, dreams of Christmas and spending times with their families filling their minds.
  921.  
  922. All but one man, knelt in front of an alter where a painting of the Blessed Virgin stood over him. The Archbishop of the cathedral, Gerald Cagney. He was a very busy man, and most of his days during this time of year were spent in this most holy of houses. He held the rosary in his hands as he finished saying Ave Maria, when the sound of heavy footsteps echoed through the chapel.
  923.  
  924. The Archbishop stood up and turned around, and what entered his vision startled him. His eyes widened at the tall figure approaching him, but as it closed the distance between them, he recognized him as a fellow priest. He was a lynx-man; an elderly one at that, his fur was light grey and thin, with a long beard on his chin below his snout. He had blue eyes, and short triangular ears flared at the the top that were so common to his species.
  925.  
  926. The lynx-man stopped and bowed to Gerald, and wore a warm smile on his face. The Archbishop also noticed he wore bifocals, and a black long coat over a black button shirt, with a white clerical collar, and a silver cross necklace hanging from his neck. He had an intimidating aura to him, looking more like a warrior from the Old Testament than a modern day priest, but Cagney wouldn't be one to judge his fellow clergymen.
  927.  
  928. "Good evening, Father. to what do I owe the pleasure of having you visit our church this evening?" The Archbishop asked.
  929.  
  930. "And good evening to you, Archbishop. I am Bertrand Leclerc, and I will be using this cathedral to perform a rite." The lynx said in a heavy French accent. He had a deep booming voice, and spoke with an heir of authority.
  931.  
  932. "Oh...well I was not made aware of this, do you mind explaining further, Father Leclerc?"
  933.  
  934. "Oui. I am from Manitoba, Canada. But I live in Roma, and work for the Order of Saint Michael. Perhaps you have heard of it, Archbishop?"
  935.  
  936. "I'm afraid I have not."
  937.  
  938. "Well I don't mean to alarm you, but there is an evil lurking in your city, Archbishop. Over several months we have been following a monster that has made its way across the country and to St. Paul. A vampire. And I will be using this sanctuary until I have slain the beast." He said, pacing around the pews.
  939.  
  940. "Vampire? that's...that's preposterous! I pray not to offend you Father, but those are merely folktales!" Cagney said, with an incredulous look on his face.
  941.  
  942. "They are very real. And this monster is one of the most dangerous things that stalks the night, preying on God's creatures. It is paramount that I make station here, and I need to do it alone, Archbishop." The lynx said, a stern look in his eyes.
  943.  
  944. "I...understand the gravity of the situation, Father, but this cathedral is incredibly important to the people of this city, especially this time of year! How are we supposed to hold Mass on Christmas, if you're in here hunting a mythical creature?" Cagney pleaded.
  945.  
  946. "These are official orders sanctified by the Vatican, Archbishop. This is beyond your jurisdiction. As much of an inconvenience as this might be, it's far better than the threat of all of your people being potential prey to this agent of Satan. It has already been decreed, so I would greatly appreciate your cooperation." Leclerc said, with an almost threatening tone in his voice.
  947.  
  948. "I-I'm sorry, Father, but I cannot let this happen here! I understand this is from the Vatican, but Christmas Mass is one of the most revered and important events to the people of St. Paul! And to spring this on last minute, with no definite time table, it's just...it's just obtuse." Archbishop Cagney said, sweat forming on his brow, nerves were getting to him as this mysterious paladin from the Vatican stared him down.
  949.  
  950. Bertrand Leclerc let out a deep sigh, adjusting his bifocals that sat on the bridge of his nose. He then stared straight into the soul of Gerard Cagney. The lynx had a zeal in his eyes that the Archbishop had never seen before in a person, and feared he would not be taking no for an answer.
  951.  
  952. "So you would rather doom your flock that you supposedly shepherd instead of getting out of the way, and letting God do his divine work to rid evil from the world?"
  953.  
  954. "N-no, it's just that... can't this be done somewhere else? W-why here!?" Cagney yelled hysterically.
  955.  
  956. "Then you are a Judas priest, Gerard Cagney. By the power of God, and The Church, I hereby expel you from priesthood, and sentence you to death for endangering all of God's creatures. I pray he has mercy on your soul." The lynx said in a menacing voice, but with an eerie crooked smile on his face. He then began slowly walking towards the Archbishop, a grey paw going for the hilt of the sheathed sword on his left hip.
  957.  
  958. "Y-you-you can't do that! I have done no wrong! Y-you invade my cathedral, a-and tell me what to d-"
  959.  
  960. "Lord God, I come to you this night, to cleanse the soul of one of your lost children."
  961.  
  962. "S-stay back! Don't come any closer, y-you beast!" Cagney screamed, walking backwards to the pulpit of the chapel, as Leclerc lurched forward.
  963.  
  964. "I come to you as your humble servant, asking forgiveness for this child, that evil may be vanquished from them."
  965.  
  966. The lynx pulled out a shimmering sword from its sheath, its hilt appeared to be gold plated, and the blade shined brilliantly, even in the dimly candle-lit cathedral. It had gold Latin words inscribed into it like runes, and Archbishop Cagney couldn't believe his eyes as they appeared to glow as Leclerc methodically chanted his prayer. It read "Jesu in caelo desuper", Jesus is in Heaven above. But Cagney could barely focus on that as despair began to take him.
  967.  
  968. "I ask that this is done for all impure souls; that you may do to them what is just, as it is in Heaven, and as it is on the Earth."
  969.  
  970. Bertrand Leclerc now stood a foot above Cagney, and raised his blade to slash the throat of the Archbishop. Gerard could only cower in terror, screaming bloody murder as he knew he was doomed, and no one could help him.
  971.  
  972. Holy flames crackled from the sword, with heat coming off of it. With a swift move of his arm, Leclerc sliced the head of Archbishop Cagney clean off. It bounced and trailed off before landing by one of the pews, a sickening sploshing sound with every bonce, leaving a trail of dark crimson blood. His decapitated lifeless body sulked against the pulpit, as Leclerc had a wide smile on his face, knowing he had done the Lord's work. He sheathed his holy blade, and bowed once more to the body of the Archbishop.
  973.  
  974.  
  975.  
  976. "Amen."
  977.  
  978.  
  979.  
  980.  
  981.  
  982.  
  983.  
  984. ✟                                                                                                                                       ✟
  985.  
  986.  
  987.  
  988. VI - In The Grip Of Winter
  989.  
  990. December 23rd, 1890
  991.  
  992. After traversing the elements for several weeks, We had finally made it to back to civilization; we had arrived at St. Paul. Dia and I were staying in a small wooden lodge. It was cozy, and we even had a fire going in the fireplace. Dia held me tightly as we awoke from the dreaming world, night having just fallen. I thought back on our journey so far, how much I had learned, seen, survived. The war of attrition against the Wendigo might have been the most trying time of my life, but it brought Dia and I much closer together, even to the point that I considered her someone I loved...
  993.  
  994. But it was far from over. I laid on my back and looked up at the wooden ceiling, thinking about Riley. How and when I would find him, *if* I would find him... After doing some investigating around the city, I concluded that Riley would go after one of two people:
  995.  
  996. Arthur Fern, the man who owned most of the real estate in St. Paul, and had a considerable amount of political influence in the town.
  997.  
  998. Or Archbishop Gerard Cagney, who presided over the cathedral in the city, was said to be the most trusted man in St. Paul. He was charitable, and poured his whole heart into the townsfolk, or so pretty much everyone I talked to claimed.
  999.  
  1000. But it bothered me immensely that finding him boiled down to essentially the flip of a coin. If I picked the wrong man, I would be too late, and Riley would get away, to who knows where. I sighed in frustration at the thought, my stirring causing Dia to come to. She held me tighter, yawning and opened her ruby red eyes.
  1001.  
  1002. "What are you so worried about this evening?" She said sweetly, before giving me a quick peck on the cheek.
  1003.  
  1004. "Everything. What if we don't find him, Dia? What then? How could I live with myself?"
  1005.  
  1006. "Well...I suppose you could cut your losses and become a gun-for-hire with me...I wouldn't mind the extra help. Nevertheless, I think you're talking nonsense. You'll find him, don't you worry."
  1007.  
  1008. "If you say so..." I said halfheartedly.
  1009.  
  1010. Dia leaped out of bed, and stared down at me, her hands on her hips. She was completely nude, but I had seen her naked enough times to have it not totally fluster me.
  1011.  
  1012. "I think what you need is to clear your head. You're so wound up over finding Riley that you haven't given yourself any time to relax since we arrived. So, as your partner, and packmate, I'm commanding you to come with me to a bar, to loosen up a little bit." She said, pointing a finger at me as she spoke.
  1013.  
  1014. "But I thought you couldn't drink anything besides blood, because of your...condition?" I inquired, getting up to a sitting position on the side of the bed.
  1015.  
  1016. "i cannot. You, however, can drink alcohol. And I intend on encouraging you to drink plenty of it. In my pack, it was a rite of passage for the males to drink a mixture that consisted of various fermented berries to symbolically 'become a man', as you humans would say. That, and other things." She said with a smirk, folding her arms under her large chest.
  1017.  
  1018. "Other things..?" I asked curiously.
  1019.  
  1020. "Yes, like taking a female as a mate, which I might let you do if you cut loose a little bit and actually have fun like a normal person~." Dia said, sauntering towards me, and bending over to kiss me on the forehead.
  1021.  
  1022. My face turned beet-red at the thought of coupling with Dia; it was something that had been on my mind pretty much ever since I first met the wolfess. And to think that she felt the same way..sent butterflies through my stomach.
  1023.  
  1024. "Now get up and put some clothes on, I might just leave without you if you dilly-dally." She said with a smirk.
  1025.  
  1026. I did as the lady said and grabbed my clothes and entered the bathroom. As I changed I pondered what Dia had said about life after finishing the job. I didn't have anywhere to go, I had spent most of my inheritance. And, if I was being honest, living this type of life is exactly what I wanted. It was dangerous, yes. It had its uncertainties, but I loved that. I loved the danger, of being an 'outlaw', a man who curves out his own path in life. And to do it with someone like Dia...how could I say no?
  1027.  
  1028.  After getting changed, I left the bathroom to find that the wolfess was gone. Instead there stood a much shorter human woman wearing a black dress, that showed plenty of her porcelain skin, including cleavage. She had dark raven hair, with a red bow tying it into a ponytail. At first I was bewildered that I stranger had entered our room, until I realized it wasn't a stranger, it was Dia. What clued me in was her crimson red eyes, and her smile that had made me fall in love with her.
  1029.  
  1030. "Dia...why, er-how did you..?" I said, sizing her current form up and down.
  1031.  
  1032. "I wouldn't want to upset the kind people of St. Paul by being Dia The End, the garou nightstalker. So, I am Dianna the socialite, and you're my date, Loverboy. And how? Well if it's possible for me to transform into a hulking feral beast, how could it not be possible for me to disguise myself as a human fair maiden? She said with her signature smirk, folding her arms. The red lipstick she wore accentuating her pouty lips.
  1033.  
  1034. "Now come, it's time for you to live a little, and that's saying something, coming from someone who's technically dead." She said, giggling at her own joke. She held out a white-gloved hand, and we departed to the nearest pub.
  1035.  
  1036.  
  1037. +
  1038.  
  1039.  
  1040. The pub was a raucous scene with upbeat tunes being played on the piano, beer flowing by the gallon, men charming, and women swooning. All the boisterous bustling made me fairly uncomfortable, but Dia seemed to be reveling in the bedlam. I was staring blankly at a mug of ale; as Dia sat across from me, gazing at me with her ruby red eyes.
  1041.  
  1042. "You know staring at it wont make it go away?" She said sarcastically.
  1043.  
  1044. "I know but...I've never had a taste for the strong stuff."
  1045.  
  1046. "Humor me, it's been so long since I was able to taste it..." She said, batting her eyelashes and looking off to the side nostalgically. I knew she was manipulating me to try and drink it to loosen up; but I didn't care. Dia was right, I should have relax, if I only focused on Riley, I would burn myself out and wouldn't be in the right state of mind to find him.
  1047.  
  1048. I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath, and brought the mug to my lips. I opened up and let it pour into my mouth; gulping down as much as I could, cringing at the awful taste. The combination of alcohol, frothy hops, and barley made me want to gag. But I powered through, and after a minute, my mug was empty.
  1049.  
  1050. I opened my eyes and exhaled, coughing at the burning sensation in my throat, but recovered feeling very light-headed. Dia had a stunned look on her human face, which then contorted into a wide grin, and laughed like a hyena. She lowered her head to the table and pounded a fist, then got up and grabbed my hand.
  1051.  
  1052. "Come on, Loverboy, the night's still young. I'd like to see you do more of that at the bar." She said, pointing to where the bartender stood, cleaning a glass. She had a devious smile, and I knew my inebriation had just begun.
  1053.  
  1054. After an hour, I was several drinks in, and very drunk, with Dia cackling the entire time. I had even opened up to talking to the other patrons of the pub, detailing Dia and I's adventures up to this point without a care.
  1055.  
  1056. "I don't fuckin' believe it! How'd you fend off a Wendigo and live to tell the tale?" An exasperated German shepherd asked.
  1057.  
  1058. "Fffffuck yeh I did...I put two bullets right in each of his eyes...ask her! She saw it." I drunkenly fumbled over my words and pointed at 'Dianna', who merely nodded and shrugged.
  1059.  
  1060. "He's right."
  1061.  
  1062. The whole pub gasped at hearing this; being locals they must have been more familiar with the deadliness of a Wendigo, or the legends that precede them. The older human bartender then put his hand on my shoulder, I turned to him and he had a forlorn look in his eyes.
  1063.  
  1064. "It's terrible what happened to your family Mr. Clayborne, and I would do the same if I were in your position, but alas I'm not a spry young lad like yourself. If I were to guess who this fiend would strike next, my money would be on Archbishop Cagney. Pretty much everyone will be at Sunday's Mass, and you'll do this city a great service if you can prevent that man's death."
  1065.  
  1066. Of course! How come I didn't think of that? In a predominantly Catholic city, obviously most everyone would attend Mass on Christmas day. I knew what I had to do then, I had to go to the cathedral on Christmas Eve, and I'd find Riley.
  1067.  
  1068.  
  1069. +
  1070.  
  1071.  
  1072. Another hour or so later, Dia dragged my slobbering drunken body out of the pub, and we headed back to our lodge. Even with the cold breeze and the snow peacefully landing on the ground, I felt warm, and incredibly content as Dia carried me back.
  1073.  
  1074. When we returned back to the lodge, Dia returned to her normal wolfess form, and gently laid me onto the bed. It was a struggle to not immediately fall asleep, but the prospect of potentially coupling with her was enough to steel my nerves and stay awake. I did nod off for a bit, only to be awakened by Dia sauntering over to the bed after blocking any light from entering the window to the lodge.
  1075.  
  1076. She was totally nude; something I'd become acclimated to seeing, but with liquid courage flowing through me, and Dia's enticing words, my cheeks became even rosier and my manhood was making itself known, by creating a noticeable tent in my pants.
  1077.  
  1078. Dia exaggerated the sway of her hips as she made her way towards the bed, and slowly climbed on top of me like a predator having just caught its prey. No words were spoken between us, but it was the most intimate and vulnerable I had ever been with someone in my young life. She caressed my body and slowly took of my shirt, then pants, until we were both nude. Her heavy breasts pressed against my chest comfortably, as Dia snaked her arms down from my shoulders, to my chest, and finally landing on my crotch.
  1079.  
  1080. She did this without a single breath; as her condition didn't require to breathe like those of us among the living, whereas as my breath was shallow at every sensation she brought forth, as she delighted in teasing me, giggling slightly when I would lightly moan.
  1081.  
  1082. Another difference I noticed was in body heat. I was very warm all over, from both alcohol and arousal. Dia conversely was cool to the touch, even her fur oddly enough was the same temperature as the room if not cooler. The difference in heat was pleasurable for both of though, Dia clung to the heat of my body like a moth to a light; and Dia's large frame and fur insulated my body heat in a way that made us even closer to each other.
  1083.  
  1084. Dia daintily glided her fingers against my glans, causing me to reflexively hump into her as she toyed with me, which brought a smirk to her face. The wolfess brought her lips down to mine; and gently intertwined our tongues as we kissed. Dia greedily lapped up my saliva, tasting my entire my as we mashed mouths. I had to recoil slightly after a minute because of needing to a breath, but the sensation left me even more lightheaded.
  1085.  
  1086. At the same time, Dia slowly stroked my cock in one of her furry paws. Because of our difference in size, my whole penis fit in her hand, and she gently slide it up and down, sending jolts of electricity through my spine, and making me hyper-aware of the moment of bliss.
  1087.  
  1088. She suddenly stopped, pulling away her paw from my member, and gave me a devious look. I was a little weary, but knew she was doing this to bring us closer together.
  1089.  
  1090. "I plan on fully exploring your body tonight Eli... and give you a little lesson in female anatomy, you could say~." She said with a giggle.
  1091.  
  1092. The wolfess then pushed herself off of me, and turned her body around until I was faced with her rear, and got a full view of vagina. Just by looking, I could tell Dia was incredibly wet and aching with need, but I was little confused at what she had planned. I admittedly didn't know much of procreation, but I knew that it involved the genitalia of the male and female colliding.
  1093.  
  1094. Dia furrowed her brow slightly as she looked at me, and let out a sigh. The next thing I felt was her wet nose grinding up against my cock, and could feel her inhale my scent, cooing slightly afterward.
  1095.  
  1096. "Here Loverboy, follow my lead. When you feel what I'm about to do to you, you do the same to me...~" Her words were a little bit esoteric to my inebriated mind, but I quickly figured out what she meant.
  1097.  
  1098. I felt her rough tongue lick my dick from the base all the way to the tip, and gently circle around the head, licking at the bit of precum that had come out. I then felt her kiss the helmet of my member, then nibble on it gently before engulfing her whole mouth onto my cock, causing me to hump reflexively again, and push into the back of her throat.
  1099.  
  1100. This, along with her now sitting on my face, me now kissing her lower pair of hips as she ground her hips on my head, made me get the hint. I lapped up her juices with my tongue against her pussy, licking her labia, and pushing my tongue inside her slightly. My sophomoric efforts were rewarded with a deep purr from Dia that vibrated my whole penis, causing me to moan with her.
  1101.  
  1102. I continued on with this for a while, but Dia did some even more encouraging with me by grinding her folds against me until I was kissing an engorged nub at the hood of her pussy. I understood what she was trying to say without speaking, and targeting what I would later find out was her clitoris.
  1103.  
  1104. I kissed, prodded, nibbled, anything to give her pleasure. She reciprocated my worship of her womanhood by bobbing her head up and down on my cock. Her lips were suction-sealed onto it, and because of her not needing to breathe, she never released her hold on me. The closest she would get would be moaning with her mouth full as a worked at her clit.
  1105.  
  1106. Our combined ministrations were becoming too much for each of us to handle, as I quickly felt a rising pressure in my glans. I grabbed onto Dia's ass as I tightened up, plunging my hands into her globes of ashen flesh lightly covered by fur. Her cheeks clenched as well as I held onto them with each hand, showing how powerful her glutes were.
  1107.  
  1108. Dia smothered me with butt as she came, her strong thighs tightly pressing against each side of my head. I came in kind, bucking my hips wildly into her face, shooting ropes of white hot cum, caking the back of her throat. I felt her lap up and suck out every drop as I came down from the height of orgasm, my mouth and chin drenched in her clear ejaculate.
  1109.  
  1110. The wolfess lazily rose from my midsection, turning around once more and wrapping her hands around the back of my head, pulling my mouth into a deep kiss. She ground her sopping wet pussy against my cock, rubbing her folds up and down, slowly bringing my member back up to full attention.
  1111.  
  1112. It still needed some more encouragement, and Dia was more than willing to provide. She broke our kiss, and raised her body slightly so that her bosom enveloped my view. I eagerly grabbed at her mountainous breasts, touching and squeezing them like a curious child. Dia let out a throaty moan at this, urging me to be even more adventurous. And I was, taking one of her ebony nipples in my mouth and sucking on it, like a baby being fed by its mother. This caused her to moan even louder, and grind her hips into me even more, until I was fully erect.
  1113.  
  1114. As soon as she noticed this, Dia took one of her paws, and positioned my cock to where it would penetrate her directly. Shen then slowly lowered her hips back down to my pelvis, first the head, then the shaft, until I had completely bottomed out inside her. We both basked in the moment of being as closely connected as two people could be, and at a glacial pace, she rose back up, and gently sat back down.
  1115.  
  1116. I let myself be completely uninhibited as she worked her magic, making love to me in a way only a woman as experienced as her could. I let out high-pitched moans that I would in any other situation be totally embarrassed by; but being with Dia, it was alright vocalize them.
  1117.  
  1118. She hooked her arms under my shoulders, caressing my neck with her thumbs. She stared right into me with her crimson eyes, she was letting go as well. The raw ecstasy in her gaze showed me this. Dia was normally reserved and aloof, but she was totally present as we made love.
  1119.  
  1120. Once again, we communicated without having to speak a word. I also saw another hunger in her eyes, Dia needed to feed. I openly invited it, grabbing onto her shoulders as she increased the tempo of our fucking. I was beginning to feel that familiar pressure grow in my loins, and having my cock wrapped up in her tight warm folds made it that much more harder to keep from blowing.
  1121.  
  1122. But I also wanted her to feed from me because it was a high much similar to that of an orgasm. When she fed from me in the snow, my head was light and airy, and I felt like I was in a dream-state. But I also felt what blood I had left flowing through had gone straight to my glans; and an erection for the rest of the night.
  1123.  
  1124. When I gave her an approving look that it was alright for her to take what she needed, Dia lowered her snout to my neck, with me now thrusting into her with as much speed and force as she was pummeling down onto my pelvis.
  1125.  
  1126. I felt her fangs gently brush against my neck and mentally prepared myself for the initial sting of her bite. When I felt her pierce my skin, it was a herculean effort to not cum right then, but I pressed on. We held onto each other for dear life, as Dia loudly moaned into me as she fed. It felt like we were floating in the clouds as my blood left my body. The combination of alcohol, passionate sex, and blood loss was overloading my system with pleasure, and my vision went blurry as I came deeply inside of my lycan lover.
  1127.  
  1128. The noise that came from my mouth was more like an unintelligible grunt than a sound of pleasure, but as I kept thrusting into her, even after cumming, to keep up the intensity of the orgasm.
  1129.  
  1130. Eventually, it subsided, as Dia released her fangs from neck, and licked the two bite marks to make them stop bleeding. I was completely spent, my mind unable to form coherent thoughts or ideas as I held onto Dia as my lifeline to reality. My breathing slowed after a while, and I came back to a state of somewhat sobriety, Dia petting my head gently.
  1131.  
  1132. "Eli...you're unlike any lover...any person I've ever met in my many years on the earth. You're so kind, gentle, and yet so passionate and full of life. If...if you would take me, it would be an honor to continue to be your packmate, to see life the way you do."
  1133.  
  1134. "I love you more than anything in the world Dia. Of course I want to spend as much time as I can with you. This might have been about retribution initially, but I've always wanted to live a life of adventure like this, and you make me want to do it even more." I said smiling, staring into Dia's eyes.
  1135.  
  1136. "About that...I don't mean to kill the mood, but how do you plan on going about it? I can be there...but if this is something you feel you must do alone, to finally conquer the feelings of losing your family...I understand." She said solemnly.
  1137.  
  1138. I sighed at the thought of not having her with me when I would take on Riley at the cathedral, but something deep inside me told me this was an ordeal I had to endure by myself. John Joseph Riley was an incredibly dangerous man, but if I were to truly put this to rest, to avenge the death of my family, it had to done alone.
  1139.  
  1140. "Unfortunately... I think I'll have to." I said curtly. Dia gave an understanding nod, and kissed me on the cheek. We quickly got settled into bed for the night, Dia wrapping her entire body around mine, as sleep quickly took me. Because she was by my side, all my fears, anxieties, they completely melted away and into the night, because I had her with me.
  1141.  
  1142.  
  1143. +
  1144.  
  1145.  
  1146. My mind totally focused as I stood at the tall doors of cathedral of St. Paul. With my rifle slung over my shoulder, I was ready. And it was the perfect night. Not because of it being Christmas Eve, but because everything felt right. The air was calm, the snow on the ground was settled, and the whole city was peacefully asleep. I hoped I wouldn't make too much noise from putting several, maybe the entire clip, of rounds into Riley, but I figured they would understand once I saved Archbishop Cagney. Hell, I might even attend Christmas Mass tomorrow.
  1147.  
  1148. I slowly opened the tall wooden door, and it loudly closed behind me as entered the house of God, as if it was an ominous sign of what was to come. But in that moment, I was completely calm and still. I knew what my task was, and I intended on completing it. I lowered my shoulder and caught my rifle in my hand, as I lurked through the main room of worship. I was surrounded by what looked to be hundreds of wooden pews, and at front and center was a tall pulpit. Every window was stained glass, each a different scene from the Bible. It as a full moon tonight, and it shined brightly through the glass, the different colors reflecting all throughout the chapel.
  1149.  
  1150. The fact that is was so still in the building was slightly eerie, but I knew Riley could move in silence, and assumed that the Archbishop was maybe in an office somewhere. I quickened my pace at the thought that my tormentor might get there before me, and as luck would have it, as if serendipity was smiling on me that night, I saw John Joseph Riley attempting to break into a small office that was at the back of the church.
  1151.  
  1152. I was in complete disbelief. This is where my journey ended. My eyes were wide and mouth was agape, but when the monster of a man turned around, and we locked eyes, everything came to me.
  1153.  
  1154. All the pain, the fear, the screams of my sister and mother, the yelling of my father to get the gun, their blood on his knife, the evil look in his eyes as he planned to deal out the same fate to me as he had to them, it hit me like a brick to the face.
  1155.  
  1156. I gritted my teeth, readied my repeater against my shoulder. My index finger twitched nervously as it sat against the trigger, and all I felt as anger. This man had ruined my life. He destroyed everything that I once knew, because he was some fucking lunatic that had issues with the government, the rich, the people who actually did something with their lives instead of wallowing away in misery, and acting out because they were pissed off!
  1157.  
  1158. Well I was furious, and I let my righteous anger scream out in the form bullets. Before he could even say anything, the wide-eyed look he had was soon replaced by one that was dead, and glazed over. I fired three rounds, one for Mom, one for Dad, and one for Ophelia.
  1159.  
  1160. I heard the loud bang of the rifle before I felt it, as tears streamed down my face. I knew he was dead after the first bullet hit him square between the eyes, but I pulled back the lever, and fired once more. And again. Until John Joseph Riley's head was full of holes, his lifeless body fell over, collapsing on the floor pitifully. The way he deserved to leave the earth, and where his soul was now hopefully rotting in Hell.
  1161.  
  1162. I dropped my rifle, and fell to my knees.
  1163.  
  1164. I bawled, sobbed, cried tears for my old life. At their funeral, I didn't cry once, I was in such a state of shock I didn't know how to respond. But I did now, and it all came out of me at once. Knowing that I hadn't lived up to my father's expectations of taking over the business, that I couldn't have saved my sister or mother, all that remorse poured from every fiber of my being.
  1165.  
  1166. After several minutes of grief, a continued to sit on my knees, knowing that in a way, this was now the beginning of my new life. My life with Dia, the woman I loved more than anything. It didn't mean that I would forget my family, or even Riley, but that I carried the weight of them with me into my next ventures. I looked up at a painting of the virgin Mary that was above the pulpit, on the back wall where the choir would sing, and something about her image made me smile, gave me hope for the future.
  1167.  
  1168.  
  1169.  
  1170.  
  1171.  
  1172.  
  1173. And then I felt a hot, searing pain shoot straight into my hand. I yelled out in agony, eyes wide, stretching my neck behind me to see who had attacked, had Riley brought cohorts? But this person I knew instantly was not a friend of Riley's. He was dressed like a priest, with a black long coat and shirt, clerical collar, and wore a silver cross necklace. But he was not human. He was a very tall lynx-man. And he had a crooked, evil smile on his face. His teeth looked more like white daggers in his mouth as he started into my soul.
  1174.  
  1175. I then snapped my neck over to my hand, to see it had been stabbed through by a sword that the lynx-priest held. Bizarrely, it looked like it had flames licking from it, as there was no blood from wound, like it had been cauterized from the heat. But the pain and the graveness of the situation meant I couldn't ponder that for long. I struggled to free my hand, to get up, but this was met by the lynx violently kicking me in the stomach, causing my head to hit the ground, almost knocking me out.
  1176.  
  1177. I looked up at him horror, as he removed his sword from my hand. Who was this person? What did he want from me? Known of this made sense! I was so close...so close to having a new life...why?
  1178.  
  1179. The next thing I saw was him speaking to me in a heavy French accent.
  1180.  
  1181. "Rest now, my child." He said with that same devious smile.
  1182.  
  1183.  
  1184.  
  1185.  
  1186. I saw him raise a boot to my head, and everything went black.
  1187.  
  1188.  
  1189.  
  1190.  
  1191.  
  1192. VII - Twist
  1193.  
  1194. Christmas Eve, 1890
  1195.  
  1196. For the first time in perhaps a thousand years, I felt something I didn't know an immortal creature of the night could still feel: apprehension. I was worried. Why had Eli not returned? I bit hard on my thumb as I contemplated the thought, cold red liquid dripping down my hand as I had pierced the skin in my fretting about him. The bed I laid in was so cold without his warmth, I needed him, perhaps even more than he needed me.
  1197.  
  1198. Many years ago, that shaman said that my pack would be damned with immortality, not blessed with it. Is this what he meant? I find someone I love, who wants to be beside me at all times and he gets...taken away? Either by a fool with a bloodlust and misguided politics, or eventually by time. No, I wouldn't let the former happen. The latter...is the nature of life. It eventually ends. And I and my fellow garou made the selfish mistake of going against nature, the Fates, and I can hear them laugh at my anguish because of the Faustian bargain I made.
  1199.  
  1200. Even though Eli said he wanted to conquer John Joseph Riley alone, I couldn't let him simply die. We were partners, we were...packmates, and lovers. The bond I shared with him was deeper than any I felt for any being besides my deceased children. It had to be because his blood that was giving me life. I had never had a willing...donor for my condition before, and tasting his blood was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. The fear in a man's eyes when I ravished them was good, it was as addicting as the strongest opium, but its taste was sour, bitter. The selflessness of Eli freely giving me his blood because of love was the opposite, it was like tasting the sweetest fruit, and left me feeling...full, content. Something the nectar from a person in fear couldn't provide. Even after feeding, I was always still hungry. But not with Eli, not with the person I loved.
  1201.  
  1202. I knew something wasn't right. The church was on the other side of the city, so even with my supernatural hearing, I couldn't suss out any gunfire. Eli had said Riley was a crafty man, but I doubted he had the capabilities of beating him. Eli had grown. From a spoiled boy who mustered up just enough courage to come across the country and hire a maniac bounty-hunter, into a man who faced adversity head-on, and was going to finish what he set out to do, no matter what.
  1203.  
  1204. I suspected the vampire-hunters from the Vatican had gotten involved in our affairs once more. I hoped they would have lost the scent on us back in California, but they're a ornery bunch. Knowing the mess I left back there, they probably sent someone who has some real power, an actual challenger to me. Fine. A smile formed on my face at the thought of it. I had not seen the true vampire-hunters in over several hundred years. They were the remnants of the Templars, seeking to destroy anything that opposes the light of God. My heart tremored slightly at the thought that they may have Eli hostage, if the vampire-hunters were there, but they wouldn't hurt him. They're after me, and would use him as bait.
  1205.  
  1206. My fangs ached at the thought of the mistake these fools were making, to even think of hurting MY Eli. I couldn't wait to bathe in their blood, to desecrate their holy house and their false god, on the night of his birth...
  1207.  
  1208. I sighed deeply, frowning.
  1209.  
  1210. ...Or perhaps, I would simply rid them of the earth, and take Eli back with me, to ravish him and enjoy each other. There was no need for the theatrics, the unnecessary gore, simply having him back with me was enough to fill my heart.
  1211.  
  1212. After getting most of my clothes on, I grabbed my duster and put it on, tied my cravat into my shirt, and pulled the ribbon that held my hair into a bow. I took all the necessary tools I would need: both revolvers, shotgun, plenty of ammo, and my claws and teeth were plenty sharp for up-close combat. There was one more thing, an early Christmas gift to myself I bought yesterday:
  1213.  
  1214. I opened up the closet where I kept my hat and jacket, and on the floor sat my piece de resistance; a Gatling gun.
  1215.  
  1216. It of course had been removed from its chassis and wheels that held it to move around when the Union Army fought the confederates twenty years ago, but I added a sturdy leather sling to it to hold it over my shoulder. The gunsmith was kind enough to weld a handle onto it, although he didn't believe I could lift it even with the modified grip and sling. He was certainly shocked at my display of strength, although the gun felt no heavier than my shotgun. I originally bought it more as a novelty, to show Eli, as he liked history, and to scare would-be criminals we would find together as bounty-hunters in the future. But I wasn't disappointed that I would get to give it a spin tonight.
  1217.  
  1218. I put my Stetson hat on my head, and put my orange glacier-glasses on the bridge of my nose, smiling with glee.
  1219.  
  1220.  
  1221.  
  1222. Tonight would be a good night.
  1223.  
  1224.  
  1225. +
  1226.  
  1227.  
  1228. I snapped back to consciousness with a sudden jolt, as my vision came back to me, I observed my surroundings. I was still in the cathedral, but as my senses came back to me, I noticed I was standing, instead of lying down like I was before I had been knocked out. I looked across to the right, and saw that my hand was black, with dried blood, but that it was also tied to a wooden post. Dull pain came back to me as well, as the taste of copper filled my mouth, as I recalled the last thing I saw before now was getting kicked in the head by that crazy priest.
  1229.  
  1230. I looked down at my feet, and they were tied on a post like my hands. The gears in my brain turned as I thought about my situation, I glanced over to the middle of the sanctuary, where that priest was kneeling with his hands to his mouth, saying some kind of prayer in Latin I couldn't decipher.
  1231.  
  1232. Was he going to crucify me? Why? But then I thought about my journey up to this point, and to the train in California. Dia said those were vampire-hunters, and it didn't take a genius to figure out that he was probably a part of the same group. That terrified me, that Dia would rush into here knowing that this was a trap, and try to take him on directly. I didn't even hear or see him before he stabbed me with his flaming sword, either he was incredibly stealthy or could disappear in a similar way the Wendigo could.
  1233.  
  1234. The lynx-priest slowly rose, and he walked over towards me with a smug look on his face, adjusting his glasses as he got up.
  1235.  
  1236. "I see you have awoken, my child. I do hope you are having a pleasant Christmas Eve." He said in a calm tone, with that heavy French accent.
  1237.  
  1238. "Oh please, cut the shit. I know you're a vampire-hunter, here to trap Dia. Maybe if you zealots left her alone, your people would stop dying, did you ever think of that?" I spat back at him angrily.
  1239.  
  1240. The old lynx chuckled and shook his head as he walked toward me, raising his head up and staring directly into me. I moved my head to the side to not look at him, but was startled by him violently jerking my head back to look at him, shocked at his strength.
  1241.  
  1242. "You are so shortsighted, my child. Do you not see how you stray from the path of God? Willingly joining with that demon? I suppose I shall have to cleanse your as well, a pity." He said with a smirk.
  1243.  
  1244. "What's your goddamn problem? She's not a demon, I doubt she even believes in Satan."
  1245.  
  1246. "My 'problem' is that beast has killed hundreds, if not thousands of God's children throughout the years. The Church helped the tribes in the north rid them of its kind, because they are bloodthirsty monsters." He said with a frown.
  1247.  
  1248. "I know that already. Yeah, it was wrong to take revenge out on people that wouldn't understand what she was, or why her pack made the decision they did. I know that now more than ever..." I said, hanging my head down.
  1249.  
  1250. "This tale will fall on the deaf ears of a heathen like yourself, but perhaps you'll consider my words after damning your soul with a monster like that nosferatu, as both of you descend into Hell. My name is Bertrand Leclerc, my father was a great priest, he loved God more than anything on the Earth. He loved the Lord so much, he made it his goal in life to let as many people know about him as possible, and started a congregation in Manitoba. But one night, that beast desecrated our church with its presence, and killed my father in cold blood, because he had a 'bounty' on his head, for whatever reason. She drained his corpse dry, and when I saw the body of my father lay there dead, I vowed I would destroy the creature that did this to him, and all of its kind. And that I did. It is my, and the Vatican's belief that she is the last vampire that stalks the night, and my vengeance will be complete once I destroy it." He said solemnly.
  1251.  
  1252. I stood there dumbfounded at his story, was he really willing to risk his life, just for revenge? My mind had become so clear after killing Riley, in how fruitless it was. I didn't feel any better about it, and Dia didn't either after killing the tribe of Indians that murdered her family.
  1253.  
  1254. Was it just an endless cycle?
  1255.  
  1256. "Hey...I don't know if you saw that guy that was in here as well, but he killed my family, and I just felt like I had to get retribution for them, but you know what? I just felt worse. You're in the same situation I was in, Bertrand." I said to the priest.
  1257.  
  1258. "You...you wouldn't know how I feel, Heretic. This goes beyond you or I, the Earth, this is something I must do for the Lord God! It is divine punishment! Your words won't stop me!" He said, pointing an accusing finger at me.
  1259.  
  1260. I sighed deeply. In a way, I pitied him. But if he wanted to get himself killed fighting Dia, fine by me. I still worried about her though, something ate at me and I had the feeling that Bertrand would be our toughest opponent yet...
  1261.  
  1262.  
  1263. +
  1264.  
  1265.  
  1266. My thoughts were broken up by the sound of loud banging on the church's doors. She was here. I just hoped Dia was ready for whatever this priest was hellbent on bringing into the fight.
  1267.  
  1268. The doors suddenly shot open, flying off of their hinges and and crashing into some pews by the front of the church.  Dia stood in the doorway, the light breeze blowing her tied-back hair off to the side, as she smiled deviously at Bertrand Leclerc. Slowly, she lurched forward into the cathedral, grabbing something strapped to her back.
  1269.  
  1270. "I believe you have someone that belongs to me..." Dia said, I then heard the loud bang of her shotgun, but miraculously, none of them hit Bertrand. I opened my eyes, and noticed that the room had become much hotter, and there was a wall of flames from the sword. I looked at the ground, and saw melted pellets. Bertrand had somehow created a flame so powerful, it melted the shotgun pellets in midair, and was fast enough to prevent them from hitting him!
  1271.  
  1272. I was terrified that he could move that fast, but as I looked over at Dia, she was totally unfazed by it.
  1273.  
  1274. "And a good evening and Merry Christmas to you, Demon." Leclerc said with a wicked grin.
  1275.  
  1276. "That's an impressive trick, Holyman, but will you be able to dodge this!" Dia said, rolling the strap on her back, showing what she was hiding. It was a Gatling gun! It had been taken off of its wheels, and had been modified to where she could freely hold it. I couldn't believe it, those things weighed a hundred-and-seventy pounds! Yet, she moved with ease with it strapped to her, and began cranking the handle. The next thing I heard was like a thousand bees flying at the same time, bullets whizzed past Bertrand, and he ran faster than any mortal, anthro or human, should be able to run. He flew across the pews, and a second after he did, a barrage of bullets destroyed them, sending shards of wood all over the chapel.
  1277.  
  1278. Bertrand then leaped off of one of the pews, and into the second-story balcony of the church. Dia made chase, following him in stride while still blaring away with her Gatling gun. The action suddenly stopped when Bertrand made his way up to the top where the keyboard of the pipe organ was. I also heard a wet, splashing sound. Did that mean she hit him?
  1279.  
  1280. I looked over at Dia, every barrel of her Gatling was smoking, and she was out of rounds. She then turned to look at me, and pulled out a claw from her index finger, and cut off the ropes from my hands and feet.
  1281.  
  1282. "Dia!" I exclaimed, falling into her arms for a quick hug, before she gently brushed me off of her.
  1283.  
  1284. "I think I heard you hit him, do you think he's..?"
  1285.  
  1286. "No, this will be a long fight. I don't know what he's thinking, but grab your rifle, and stay alert. I know what he is. He's part of a secret elite group from Vatican, I've never seen one in person, but I've heard that they're imbued with magic-like abilities through their prayers and faith. So far, our friend hasn't disappointed" She said with an excited tone. Our conversation was interrupted by the booming voice of the paladin, echoing throughout the church from where he was perched at the top of where an organist would sit.
  1287.  
  1288. "It will take much more than that to kill me, nosferatu! I have the power of God on my side, and with my unwavering faith in him, I am unbeatable!" Bertrand yelled, and suddenly began playing a hymn I didn't recognize on the organ. To be fair to him, his playing was masterful, and the volume grew louder as he continued. Dia began snickering at this, and checked her revolvers, getting ready to jump up to him.
  1289.  
  1290. But I noticed something odd as the priest kept playing. In this cathedral, like many of this size, the church's organ is as large as the building, and has pipes of varying shapes and sizes built in throughout it. I noticed a feint rumbling coming from the building, and looked at the pipes that were visible to us from the pews, on the sides of building, and on the ceiling, I saw a glowing blueish aura from them, and they began shaking more as if they were being jostled loose by his playing. I couldn't explain it, but as the playing became louder and the more the pipes shook, and it almost looked like they were shaking off in our direction...
  1291.  
  1292. The hymn was at a deafening volume now, as Bertrand pulled out the remaining stops from the organ. I looked up at him, and his eyes were closed and his lips were moving...like he was saying a prayer! I looked back over to the pipes to make sure, and they were barely hanging on now, and with how pressurized they were from all the air of the organ pumping through them, they would shoot out at us, as fast as a bullet! And I had to guess, there had to be thousands of pipes in here, some as small as a pencil, some as big as the pipes on ships. If one of those hit us, it'd be like getting hit by a missile.
  1293.  
  1294. Bertrand began playing the last notes of the hymn, and I knew I had to tell Dia. Bertrand wanted her to shoot up to try and fight him head on, and right when she would, all the the pipes from the sides and ceiling would hit her at once, impaling her. Well I wasn't going to let that happen!
  1295.  
  1296. "DIA GET DOWN NOW!!!" I yelled to her, tackling her to the ground and pushing her under a a couple pews. When Bertrand hit the final chord on the organ, hundreds of pipes shot out, screaming like eagles because of the high velocity they were flying with, leaving a blue trail behind them as they violently sailed, crashing all throughout the cathedral.
  1297.  
  1298. It was like being in the middle of an artillery assault, with shrapnel, broken wood and glass, and metal, flying everywhere. I turned to Dia, who had tucked me underneath her to protect me. The pew we were under was completely ravaged, and we would have to move our position in a few seconds. I looked back up at Bertrand, who had both hands slammed down on the keyboard of the organ, reveling in the mayhem.
  1299.  
  1300. If I could just get one clean shot on him, just to stop the bedlam, we could regroup and focus our next attack. But the core of the building was shaking as pipes flew in every direction faster than I could see them.
  1301.  
  1302. My rifle was about a foot away from me being able to reach it. I don't think one of Dia's revolvers would be accurate enough to hit him, so I'd have to get a good shot to make this stop. Otherwise, we were going to skewered by the pipes.
  1303.  
  1304. I scooted about a foot forward, my repeater was just within reach. I stretched out to grab up, but jerked back at a small pipe flying near the gun, almost taking off my hand. I would just have to steel my nerves, and assume I was going to get hit. Otherwise, we would be in serious shit if I didn't get my rifle. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and reached for the repeater, grabbing it as fast as I could.
  1305.  
  1306. As I pulled it back, a searing pain ran through my hand, and I was bleeding instantly. A pipe the size of a pen had pierced the back of my hand. I growled in anguish, but pressed on, closing the hand to keep it still and stop shaking from the pain. I then took a couple deep breaths, and positioned my gun to where I could get a good enough angle to shoot Bertrand. I turned over to Dia, and gave her a nod, telling her what I was planning without saying anything, and she nodded in return. As soon as the barrage of pipes stopped when I hit Leclerc, she would climb up to where he was in her revolvers' range, and unload on him. I wasn't sure if it'd stop him, but if it would slow him down from dishing out whatever kind of firepower he had up his sleeve, then that was good enough.
  1307.  
  1308. I closed my left eye, took a deep breath, and aimed to where his furred grey face was in my sights. Everything went quiet, and I was completely calm. When I had him lined up, I fired, feeling the brunt of the rifle kick into my shoulder, and exhaled.
  1309.  
  1310. I heard the round connect, and after a few seconds, the pipes stopped flying. From beneath the rubble of the busted pews, Dia shot out like a cannonball, and on to the perch where Bertrand was.
  1311.  
  1312. I looked up at them, and saw I had only hit him in the shoulder. I watched as Dia landed onto the balcony with her feet, and in a crouched position fired as fast as she could, unloading all twelve rounds into Leclerc. She stopped and held her guns up for second, out of bullets. I couldn't see the priest from the angle I was at, and the atmosphere was tense. As crazy as it sounded, I didn't believe for a second that she had killed him. Did he really have God on his side?
  1313.  
  1314. I quickly got my answer, as I heard what sounded like the crackling of fire from up top.
  1315.  
  1316. As fast as a flash, I saw Dia fly backwards from the organ, all the way into a wall in the back of the church with what looked to be burning phoenix made of fire, biting into her as she violently crashed into the brick wall, falling down thirty feet to the ground in a pile of shrapnel, her body lifeless as it hit.
  1317.  
  1318. The phoenix dissipated, and I saw that it came from Bertrand's sword. It was incredible, he was filled with holes like Swiss-cheese, but stood tall, with what looked to be mist coming off of him from the silver cross he wore, strangely.
  1319.  
  1320. He then jumped down from the perch, landing with both feet, causing me to back away slightly. We were about fifteen feet from each other, and he turned to look at me.
  1321.  
  1322. Leclerc was covered in bullet holes. His glasses were broken, but still hung from his snout, and he slowly walked forward with a hunch. So maybe we had wounded him, but it wasn't good enough. I had to find Dia, and we needed to change tactics, and do it fast.
  1323.  
  1324. I sprinted to the pile of rubble Dia was laying in, but I was suddenly stopped by a wall of flames blocking me off. I turned back to Bertrand who had that same evil smile on his face, holding out his sword.
  1325.  
  1326. "And where might you be going, my child? I still need to cleanse your tainted soul..." He said with a ragged breath.
  1327.  
  1328.  
  1329. +
  1330.  
  1331.  
  1332. I readied my repeater, pointing it at Bertrand Leclerc. But I was feeling dejected, I didn't even know if Dia had survived that last attack, and here I was, facing off a goddamn holy warrior who seemed immortal, and doing it with only my lousy rifle.
  1333.  
  1334. "Perhaps...my child, if you get on your knees, and beg the Lord God for forgiveness, I will bless you with a quick death. There is nothing you, or the Satanic beast that you are in league with can do now." He said, wheezing his words out. I supposed not all hope was lost, we had definitely injured him, if we could just keep the fight going for a little bit longer, we could beat him.
  1335.  
  1336. I looked up at the picture of Mary for divine inspiration, and as I surveyed the cathedral, I noticed something I might be able to use to my advantage. There were several large candelabras sitting by the painting of Mary, the platform they sat under looked like it was in a lot of stress from the barrage of pipes a few minutes ago. If I could get a shot off at that piece of wood, those candelabras which looked like they were made of heavy iron, would fall onto Bertrand. And maybe, in his hobbled state, he wouldn't be able to dodge one of them, buying me enough time to get to Dia, and figure out what to do next.
  1337.  
  1338. It was a gamble, but I didn't have any other options. If he was fast enough to chop through multiple shotgun pellets, he could dodge a bullet from my repeater.
  1339.  
  1340. I took a wide stance across from Bertrand, like we were in a Mexican standoff you would see in a pulp novel about the wild west. I was in Bertrand's range to slash me with a blast of fire from his sword, but could I be quick enough to get a shot off to keep from taking the brunt of it? I'd find out in a moment.
  1341.  
  1342. "Face it, Child, you've met your doom, now come to me quietly, and repent!" He said with mad, wide eyes.
  1343.  
  1344. As soon as he finished speaking I blindly aimed my repeater in the general direction of the platform, hoping I would be accurate enough to hit it. What happened next, was over in a flash.
  1345.  
  1346. I heard the gun go off as I pulled the trigger, then felt a white-hot heat hit my chest, slicing through in what felt like a shallow cut, but still hurt like hell. I got down on my knees in pain, clutching at my burning body. My eyes were closed, but I could hear the sound of something collapsing at the same time, and a loud thud, along with the feeling of dust being disturbed, then settling. That alerted me that my gamble had paid off.
  1347.  
  1348. Where the lynx-priest once stood, was now two black broken candelabras, with Bertrand no where in sight. I turned my head around and saw the wall of fire had disappeared, it hit him! I got up, slinging my rifle over my shoulder, and ran as fast as I could to find Dia.
  1349.  
  1350. I found my partner gingerly trying to get herself out from underneath the rubble. She had a giant gash across her stomach from where the phoenix blast hit her, and looked like she was in terrible shape. But all that mattered was that she was alive. I knelt down beside her, picking her up with my arms and getting her stable enough to stand. She was wobbly, but I was able to get her to move. She was still incredibly difficult to move because of Dia's size, and because I wasn't in the best condition myself. She was sluggish, but I tried my hardest to get us out of the church. Bertrand had wrecked it so bad, that the support structure was ready to collapse any moment, and we would be trapped if we didn't move.
  1351.  
  1352.  
  1353. +
  1354.  
  1355.  
  1356. Eventually, we made it out of the chpael, and I had Dia sitting up beside a house close by. One thing that was bizarre to me was that no one had come out from their homes, it was still completely silent outside. I knew we had been anything but quiet in our battle in the church, how come there wasn't a mob of people out here seeing what was going on? I was hesitant to leave Dia alone, but this was too strange for me not to investigate.
  1357.  
  1358. "Dia, I'm gonna look around the house for something, but I'll be back in a minute, alright?" I said with a concerned look in my eyes.
  1359.  
  1360. "Alright." She whispered.
  1361.  
  1362. I jumped up from where I sat in the snow, and made my way over to the closest window of the house. In there slept a small female bird-anthro, probably a child, as if nothing had gone on at all tonight. I was about to look away and change my thinking for beating Leclerc, when I saw something I shouldn't have. Her beak was open, and a feint, white mist was slowly coming out of her mouth, and floated out through the chimney of the house. I ran to the other side, to her parents room, and they slept the same way, with their mouths open, and a clear mist leaving their maws.
  1363.  
  1364. I looked out into the night sky, it a full moon, and the sky was bright. But even then, I had to focus and strain my eyes to see it, but I was petrified when I did. Hundreds of thin, white mists flowed from their homes, over to the cathedral. I then recalled the cross Bertrand wore, and how it had the same mist, but it was as if it was absorbing it instead!
  1365.  
  1366. I don't know how this was possible, but somehow, Bertrand Leclerc was taking their spirit energy, the souls of the townspeople in St. Paul, and using it to keep himself alive!
  1367.  
  1368. That bastard!
  1369.  
  1370. He calls himself a man of God, and yet uses the people he's supposed to care for as some sort of energy reservoir for him to leach like a parasite!? I looked back over the the little girl bird, she was a blue jay, but her feathers were discolored, muted, and not bright and vibrant like they should be. If he was really taking their souls as energy, he was killing the town! And all for revenge against Dia...
  1371.  
  1372. I ran back over to her, and she was still sitting up, barely conscious. After explaining to her what I had found out, I told her if she destroyed the silver cross, he was powerless.
  1373.  
  1374. "So. how much blood will you need from me to transform into that werewolf form like you had against the Wendigo?" I inquired.
  1375.  
  1376. "I...don't know. I'm very weak right now. I would need enough to be back at full strength in my normal body, and then some more to transform..." She said with a despondent look.
  1377.  
  1378. "I don't care how much it takes, I believe in you, Dia. I love you. I know you won't kill me, and this is our only option." I said, beaming at her brightly with a smile.
  1379.  
  1380. She cocked her head slightly, before looking at me with misty eyes. If wolves could blush, she was blushing right now.
  1381.  
  1382. "Alright, that's all I need to here, now come to me, Loverboy~." Dia said with a grin.
  1383.  
  1384. I held onto Dia in a tight hug, giving her enough room to work with, as I felt her gently nip at my neck, before piercing the skin. The familiar initial pain soon subsided, and I was in a numb bliss. My body felt light as air as she fed, my eyes becoming half-lidded, and I felt incredibly tired. I was incredibly relaxed, and felt like I was floating on a cloud. I saw dark spots in my eyes, and it became hard to hear as she kept taking blood, and I could even feel my heartbeat slow down as it had to let less blood flow through me to keep me alive.
  1385.  
  1386. I was about to pass out, until she stopped, jerking me back to consciousness. She kissed my bite, and gently sat me down where she was previously.
  1387.  
  1388. She looked down at me as she undressed, her wounds now completely healed, ready to take on that vile priest.
  1389.  
  1390. "Thank you Eli."
  1391.  
  1392. "No...I sh-should be...thanking you." I said, willing myself to garner the strength to lift my head up and smile at her.
  1393.  
  1394. "Thank you, for believing in me." She said with a smile, pecking me on the lips.
  1395.  
  1396. Now completely nude, she got up, and the wind picked up greatly. Dia then disappeared into a black mist. An explosion of light came from the church at the same time, and Bertrand Leclerc climbed to the the roof of the building, his jacket, and part of his fur singed off, his silver cross hanged from his neck, and still smiled like a madman. He wearily climbed to a standing position, and began saying another prayer, pointing his sword in my direction. He shouted it out at me, and I could see the light spark from his blade.
  1397.  
  1398. "LORD GOD, I COME TO YOU THIS NIGHT, TO CLEANSE THE SOUL OF ONE OF YOUR LOST CHILDREN..."
  1399.  
  1400. As he spoke, off in the distance, I heard an ear-piercing wolf-like howl, and smiled, knowing that Dia was ready.
  1401.  
  1402.  
  1403.  
  1404. Now, it was the final round, time for one last stand.
  1405.  
  1406.  
  1407. +
  1408.  
  1409.  
  1410. "...I COME TO YOU AS YOUR HUMBLE SERVANT, ASKING FORGIVENESS FOR THIS CHILD, THAT EVIL MAY BE VANQUISHED FROM THEM..."
  1411.  
  1412. My breathing was shallow as I willed myself to stay conscious. I saw what Bertrand was doing, he was going all out, one final prayer, and judging by how much energy he was putting into a sword, the blast would be as strong as a thousand sticks of dynamite, if not more.
  1413.  
  1414. But I wasn't worried. I knew Dia would defeat him. I knew WE would defeat him. He may have had faith in God, and sapped the energy of the folks in town, but we had love, and faith in each other. And that would be enough.
  1415.  
  1416. Shrugging a shoulder, I grabbed my trusty repeater and with weary hands, aimed it one more time. I had one bullet left, and I would shoot his hand clean off. I couldn't have him detonate the house behind me, Leclerc had done enough damage to the people of St. Paul. I took one last deep breath, closed my eyes, and then opened them. I was calm. I may be near death with how much blood I had lost from the battle, and to give to Dia, but I had the resolve to pull through.
  1417.  
  1418. I heard the thumping of Dia's large paws racing towards the chapel, it wouldn't take her long to jump up to the church, I just had to make sure I timed the shot right.
  1419.  
  1420. Within a few seconds, I felt a strong wind fly by me, and saw a huge black frame take flight like a bird into the air. That was my cue, It was time to end this.
  1421.  
  1422. "I ASK THAT THIS IS DONE FOR ALL IMPURE SOULS! THAT YOU MAY DO TO THEM WHAT IS JUST! AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!
  1423.  
  1424. AND AS IT ON THE EAAAARTH!!!"
  1425.  
  1426. The ground near the church was rumbling, and building looked like it was ready to fall. He was amassing so much pure energy into the blade, I was surprised it didn't crack it.
  1427.  
  1428. Dia took off, and soared like an eagle, she shot out like a bullet, careening directly for Leclerc.
  1429.  
  1430. I had my target in my sights, and aimed directly for his hand. I was still holding my breath, as still as I possibly could be. As soon as the lynx open his wretched maw again, I pulled the trigger.
  1431.  
  1432. Dia lunged for him.
  1433.  
  1434. And Bertrand concluded his prayer.
  1435.  
  1436. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
  1437. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  1438.  
  1439.  
  1440.  
  1441.  
  1442. The kick from the rifle jerked me back, and I hit my head on the back of the house. My vision went blurry, and I wasn't able to make out exactly what happened, but I heard the largest explosion I've ever heard in my life detonate against a hill, and could deduce I wasn't incinerated, so our plan must have worked.
  1443.  
  1444. The explosion woke me up enough to see what happened next. Dia knocked Leclerc off the roof, and I saw her rip off the necklace, chewing it to bits, until it didn't shimmer anymore. Leclerc's body was flattened and lifeless, as Dia tore away at his throat. The image was visceral, but I could close my eyes and smile, because I knew we had won...
  1445.  
  1446.  
  1447.  
  1448.  
  1449. We won...
  1450.  
  1451.  
  1452.  
  1453.  
  1454.  
  1455. VIII - My Gift To You
  1456.  
  1457. Christmas, 1890
  1458.  
  1459. "Eli..."
  1460.  
  1461. "Eliii..."
  1462.  
  1463. I heard the voice of my mother as I awoke, stirring from stress and relief of still being alive. My eyes adjusted to the dim light, and I could see that it was night.
  1464.  
  1465. "M-mother..?" I tentatively asked.
  1466.  
  1467. The voice simply giggled at me, and when my vision cleared, I saw it was Dia, with the brightest smile I had ever seen on her face.
  1468.  
  1469. "Close, but not quite. Although I wouldn't particularly mind if you started calling me mommy...~" She said in a sultry voice.
  1470.  
  1471. "Merry Christmas, Eli." She said, giving me a loving kiss on the lips, which fully brought me back to the living world. I tried to sit up in bed, but Dia gently kept me pinned under her. I brought my hands to her mass, and noticed that she was nude, and so was I.
  1472.  
  1473. "Shhh, you still need to get your strength back, young man. That was quite impressive what you did last night, I couldn't have defeated that monster if you weren't there with me...if you didn't believe in me." She said, turning her head away from me slightly.
  1474.  
  1475. "So...he's dead?" I asked, a concerned look painted on my visage.
  1476.  
  1477. Dia giggled at my question, and kissed me on the forehead. "Yes, he's dead."
  1478.  
  1479. "And the people of St Paul...?"
  1480.  
  1481. "All enjoyed a wonderful Christmas morning with their families, all thanks to you, Loverboy~."
  1482.  
  1483. It took my mind a minute to process what she was telling me. It was all such a blur, it felt like a dream, like the past twenty or so hours weren't real. But once my brain straightened out, all I could do was laugh. Laugh like an idiot, at what we had done, how we had won. Dia joined me, and we rolled in bed, hugging, kissing, laughing, enjoying each other's company.
  1484.  
  1485. After laughing like hyenas, I laid on top of Dia, using her breasts as pillows, enjoying her scent, her warmth, everything. This was the life I wanted to live, I wanted to be with her at all times. To go on adventures, get in trouble, even if we got hurt, I wanted to do this all over again, and again, and again.
  1486.  
  1487. I felt Dia rub against my growing erection with her powerful thighs, giving me a sort of 'thigh-job', causing me to go rock hard in process. I looked at her, and she gave me a coy, faux innocent look.
  1488.  
  1489. "I may have said you needed your strength, but there's something about a man who, saves a whole town, saves me, that makes me incredibly horny..." She said with a predatory grin.
  1490.  
  1491. "But we'll go at your pace, you need to know how to properly make love to a woman, after all~." She said, blowing into my ear.
  1492.  
  1493. Dia spread her legs to give me enough room, and I sat up slightly to give myself to her. She was totally wet, and after rubbing my cock against her folds a few times, I penetrated her, slowly sheathing my length into her velvety folds.
  1494.  
  1495. Dia cooed in appreciation at the feeling, laying with her arms folded behind her head. I took a deep breath, and began thrusting in earnest. I hooked my arms underneath her armpits, and got a good, slow rhythm going.
  1496.  
  1497. My breathing became shallow as we made love, the temperature of the room going up exponentially as our bodies met. I got close to Dia's face, and kissed her as passionately as I ever had, intertwining my tongue with hers. I gently nibbled on her lower lip, increasing the tempo even more as we locked lips.
  1498.  
  1499. Dia let out low, sultry moans as we fucked, slowly losing herself to ecstasy with me. But I kept myself close to her, our faces were right next to each other, exchanging fluids, enjoying the intimacy.
  1500.  
  1501. I then plunged into her as fast as I could handle, holding on to her as if my life depended on it. Dia yelled out my name as we made love, and with one final push, I told her how much I loved her, and came hard into her depths, painting them with white, thick cum. I slowed down, and eventually collapsed on her, Dia hugging me tightly, as we basked in the afterglow of the intimacy we shared.
  1502.  
  1503. "Dia...I don't want to ever leave you. I want to be...partners for life, packmates, everything. I don't care what you call it, I just want to be with you. To do what we've done now for months. To go on adventures, fight bad guys, the whole deal." I said, kissing her on the snout.
  1504.  
  1505. "I-if you'll take me...I want to do nothing more than that as well."
  1506.  
  1507. "So...we're still partners?"
  1508.  
  1509. "We'll always be partners."
  1510.  
  1511. And with that, we kissed each other deeply once more, and I let sleep take me, laying in the arms of my partner.
  1512.  
  1513.  
  1514.  
  1515.  
  1516.  
  1517.  
  1518.  
  1519. Epilogue - Anywhere I Lay My Head
  1520.  
  1521. October 20th, 1972
  1522.  
  1523. It was close to daybreak as I laid in my bed, my joints ached, my back hurt, my ass hurt, breathing in was painful. All the tell-tale signs I was an old, old man. The doctor said that my liver was failing, and my heart would probably give out within months. My body was falling apart. But spiritually, I felt great. My mind still felt sharp, even though I tended to forget the little things, like what I had for breakfast, or what day or month it was.
  1524.  
  1525. But as I looked out at the ceiling, around my house, I knew I lived a good life. And it was all because of one special lady, who, in the eighty or so years I had known her, hadn't aged a day. Dia buried her head in my shoulder, petting my thin white hair as we enjoyed probably one of the last nights we would share together. I could hear her sniffle occasionally when i would go into an especially violent coughing fit, but she stayed strong with me.
  1526.  
  1527. About ten years ago, we discussed what we would do when I eventually got to the point where it was my time. It was already too late for her to turn me, and even when I was in my twenties and thirties, I didn't want her to, and Dia agreed, she knew that eternal youth was a curse.
  1528.  
  1529. I wanted her to live on, to do whatever it was she wanted in the world. But she would become incorrigible at the thought of me not being there, even though I'd reminded her that she had for thousands of years prior, but Dia said it would be impossible to overcome the loneliness again. She already did it after losing her children, and didn't want to have to go through it without me. I empathized with her, being a mere mortal, I couldn't even begin to think what that kind of loneliness felt like. Going hundreds, thousands of years without anyone who cares for you. And I was glad I had her in my life.
  1530.  
  1531. We spent the rest of my youth after that night in St. Paul as bounty hunters, working for various counties in southern California, rounding up all kinds of crooks. Eventually, the west became civilized, and we looked for any kind of trouble we could get into, bouncing around the country until the physicality became too much for me.
  1532.  
  1533. We became gunsmiths, and opened up a shop not too far from my old home here in New York, Dia and I enjoyed sharing stories with other crazy people who liked weapons, talking about guns, ammunition, collecting various rare firearms. It was quiet, but she enjoyed it much more than I thought she might have.
  1534.  
  1535. We never had children, considering it was physically impossible for us to. I thought about adopting, but Dia didn't want to go through the grief of seeing them die as well.
  1536.  
  1537. And so eventually we came to an agreement, once I ready to go, she would go with me. She couldn't remember what a sunrise looked like, so I promised her we would watch it together, before drifting away.
  1538.  
  1539. Well, tonight, or rather, this morning felt like the night. The doctors had put me on an oxygen machine, and a catheter, and frankly, I was tired of being hooked up to all this shit. I knew it was my time, my heart felt slower, and I was starting to lose my vision.
  1540.  
  1541. I adjusted my bifocals, and looked down at Dia, barely able to get out a whisper to her.
  1542.  
  1543. "Dia, I think I'm ready...if you are." I said with a small smile.
  1544.  
  1545. She smiled back at me, opened up the thick heavy curtains to the window, and hopped in our bed, it was large enough to accommodate the two of us, with plenty of room. She held my hand as we looked out to the sky, I could tell by how the colors had changed that dawn would be approaching any minute. Dia kissed me on my wrinkled cheek as we laid there in silence, enjoying each other's company for the last time.
  1546.  
  1547. After about thirty or so minutes, it became increasingly harder for me to breathe, and my vision was now a blur. I could make out the oranges and reds in the window, and could barely see the sun poking through. I turned my head over to Dia, she was still with me, and laid my head on her shoulder.
  1548.  
  1549. "Y'know Dia, I'm an old chunk of coal, I'm sorry that you have to spend our final moments with me like this." I whispered to her.
  1550.  
  1551. Dia merely giggled at me, and kissed me one final time on the lips, as my breathing became increasingly shorter.
  1552.  
  1553. "That's nonsense, you're more handsome then you ever were in your youth." She cooed.
  1554.  
  1555. I smiled at her words, my vision now almost totally gone. With one final breath, I asked her a question.
  1556.  
  1557. "Is it...is the sun as pretty as you remember?"
  1558.  
  1559. "It's beautiful."
  1560.  
  1561. After hearing that, I squeezed her hand one more time. I closed my eyes, and let myself drift away.
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