Claws and Chaos

Author: Heathen92 <the_heathen2000series[at]>

Spoilers: Season 7 Buffy and Season 4 Angel

Latest addition

Chapter 1

As Faith walked home from her patrolling she thought of Xander Harris. No one had seen him for five years now. Not since He left Cleveland, not five days after the showdown in the hellmouth.

Some of the other Slayers thought he'd gotten tired of the war when Anya died. A few, well Kennedy and Rona, thought he lost his nerve. The original Scoobies didn't really put forth any theories beyond: "He's really gone." Faith wasn't really surprised he left.

She'd seen that he would leave when he lost his eye.

She'd seen it in his eye. He wasn't burnt out. He sure as hell hadn't chicken shitted. What she saw was wander lust. And hey, that's five-by-five with her. She'd caught a bit of that herself afterwards. Robin had taught her that this world did have good men.

Then he left.

Had a life in California. His own friends and a job as principal at a new school. She just didn't want to get in the middle of something like that yet.

She went on her own little vacation then. She'd told B she needed a few days. B told her to keep an eye, didn't say for who. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. She came back and they were starting to get worried sick about her as well as Xander. Angel's law firm sent over a letter a few days before hand. They had handled Anya's will, and apparently it left Xander with close to one hundred thousand dollars. Where ever he was he was taken care of.

Eventually she went off on her own. Found her way to New Jersey.

She'd almost done a spit-take when she saw him in that bar two weeks ago. Apparently he had been busy these last few years. He had a few new scars, as well as guns in his coat. Acting like a big tough vampire hunter. Two nights ago she'd found out he was for real when she saw him dust three of them. The guns wouldn't kill them, but it's hard to walk around, much less fight when your knees have been shot off. Mostly she was just shocked he could shoot so well with only one eye.

She was only a few blocks from home when she heard the sounds of fighting. It sounded like several things fighting just one. She knew she needed to check it out.

She rounded the corner carefully and took a peek. Those several things fighting turned out to be Vampires. Eight of them, and from the ashes strewn on the alley floor, there had been more. That… thing they were fighting was a little more exotic.

The first thing that came to her mind when she saw was Oz. But while Oz put on weight whenever he changed he also seemed to shrink. This thing was huge. It hunched down to get at it's attackers and still came to seven feet. If straightened it would probably stand nine-feet tall. It must weigh five hundred pounds, every ounce was toned muscle like steel. Massive paws ending in long sharp talons. It was covered in silver-grey fur. And it had a wolf's head that was easily twice as large as Faith's own.

Two more vampires became ash while she took this in. It was killing vamps now, but afterward it might get hungry. There was no way Faith could let that happen.

The wolf-thing grabbed a vampire with each of his arms in a paw and brought it's head forward, jaws wide. It literally snapped his head off. It coughed up ash, in what would be humorous if not for the death it dealt. Faith jumped an easy six feet in the air to kick it in the head. The wolf-thing staggered back a few steps and the vampires looked confused as to why a Slayer would help them out. She back-flipped over it's arm as it clawed at her. An unlucky vamp caught the blow meant for her and turned to dust.

She landed on her feet and jumped again as soon as he landed. Only this time it reached out and caught her. Its paw was easily the size of Faith's sternum. It's index and middle finger's came to rest on either side of her neck with the other fingers wrapping around her abs. IT snarled and brought her close to it's face.

It paused for a moment and it sniffed her. "Rrrrr?" It seemed at a loss as for what to do with her.

A bold vamp jumps on it's massive shoulders and bit down. It roared in more Rage than pain. Yes, capital "R." it half-tossed half-dropped Faith and turned to deal with the vamps. By the time she recovered it was finished.

She sat up as the creature seemed to look sniff and mill about the alley. It looked like it was calming down. And without it trying to kill everything in sight, she can see a few details she missed.

Like the fact that it's missing it's left eye.

Chapter 2

Fifteen days earlier.

Tamara DuBois clutched a dossier to her chest and walked down the hallway to Mr. Culliford's office. It was her job to find potential fighters for him, (and for some reason she had been told to stay in good shape herself) and she was well rewarded. The work was honest enough, but Culliford weirded her out a little. For instance, his office seemed very wholesome, but somehow… weird. She was very articulate and that was still the only word she could find.

She shivered slightly without realizing it as she stepped into his office. "Mr. Culliford? I've found another one."

The man in the office was slightly balding with graying red hair and a full beard. He wore a three piece suit that made it difficult to tell his build. "Good. Good, let's see what you have for me." He broke into an easy grin. "This is… This is an incredible find!" he exclaimed obviously overjoyed.

"Your welcome, sir." She turned to leave

"Oh Tamara."

Damn she thought. "What is it sir?" she said.

"I'd like you to approach him. It will give you valuable growth experience. Make the standard offer."

"Oh. OK sir." Tamara sighed inwardly. She didn't know whether to feel jealous of or feel pity for Alexander Harris.


The gang-banger fell to the alleyway floor after the butt of a hand gun was brutally smashed across his face.

He couldn't have been any younger than seventeen. Yet he whimpered like an infant on the ground. This amused his attacker to no end. "Now. As I was saying. Are you two part the gang busting up that bar on West and 23rd? Don't make me get rough." The attacker himself looked to be in his mid-thirties, but he was actually in his late twenties. He was dressed in mostly muted colors and had longish black hair hanging loose. His muscles were toned and compact. Favoring speed and percision rather than brute strength. His good eye was brown.

"I-I don't know nothing about that."

"Wrong answer." He turned and shot the gang banger's friend several times with a small nine millimeter pistol. Then he drew a ridiculously large handgun out and shot him in the heart.

The vampire turned quickly to ash. "The next ones for you."

"How did…?" The Gangbanger/Vampire was cut off by numerous nine millimeter bullets.

"Nevermind that. Answer the question."

"Yeah that was us. You're gonna die anyway. There's twenty more of us."

"Actually more like nine. And guess what? You're the last." Xander Harris pulled the trigger on the large handgun. His faced crinkled in disgust as the vamp turned to dust. From the smell, the vamp had wet himself.


The following night found Xander in the bar on West and 23rd talking to Willy the Snitch. Willy might cater to scum, but then he turned around and gave information to people like Xander. Besides he was a Sunnydale survivor. "So Xand, howzit coming on those guys? You find out where they are?"

Xander took a seat on the barstool by the register "Don't worry about it. They won't be bothering anyone ever again."

"Holy crap! There were like eight of those guys!"

"Eleven." Xander corrected.

"You going to be sticking around town long? 'Cause I got someone you might want to meet."

"No thanks. I'm heading out in a few days. After a few drinks of course."

"On the house."

If there was a gene for becoming a drunk, Xander discovered after his first year on his own, he didn't have it. This didn't necessarily mean he couldn't become an alcoholic, but those were two different things. For one thing, Xander definitely wasn't a drunk, but he was skipping happily down the road to alcoholism. Tonight, the liquor was free. And Xander fully intended to make Willy regret his decision.

He started with a bottle of whiskey. Then a second bottle. All of a sudden the she-demon in the corner was beginning to look increasingly more a attractive. A third bottle. Xander had drawn up a (to him) cunning plan. He would only drink a little more, then smuggle out a number of bottles in his pants. Or may be he would just go hit on that dark haired girl… over near Willy… staring at him…

"Faith?" he slurred and stumbled over.

"Hiii." In his inebriated state Xander saw fit to stretch the syllable paper thin.

Faith looked him up and down with a worried and disappointed expression. She didn't know what she expected after all these years, but this definitely wasn't it. She just hoped he wasn't a victim of the famous Harris family curse. "Where ya been Harris?"

"All over the place!" he exclaimed as he began his fourth bottle.

"You're drunk, Xan-man."

"Yep, want some? It's on Willy." He set down his whiskey, it had emptied very fast. He grabbed another bottle. Faith snatched it away from him.

"I think you might have had enough."

"Nah." He grabbed another bottle and brought it to his lips before she could get it.

"Willy here tells me you took care of some vamps."

"Ahhh, they weren't nothing." he finished his bottle, again with blinding speed. He started his sixth.

"Xan, I really think you've had enough. Come on."

Xander looked up from his booze. "No."

He never even saw Faith's fist as she hit him. "Sorry, Xan." She slung him over her shoulder and carried him out of the bar.


Xander realized he wasn't in his hotel room. Had he gotten drunk last night? Yes. He looked around at his surroundings. An apartment. Willy's? No, he'd never been to Willy's apartment but he had a pretty good idea it wouldn't look like this. It was neat or ordered per se. But not something he would associate with the host of a demon bar. He took a better look at his surroundings.

Most of the furniture around him was cheap, but still tasteful. Like someone who didn't care about appearances so much what was underneath. Or just function over form. There was a half eaten bagel on the coffee table, a crumpled outfit in the corner that looked like something a secretary would wear. Work clothes. Oh crap.

Xander racked his brain trying to figure out if he had slept with anyone. He was bare-chested. Looking under his blanket revealed pants, so he probably hadn't done anything. Further examination underneath confirmed he had had nothing like that last night. And based on the sun outside whoever lived here had probably gone to work. He figured he could probably be safe here for a little while and that he could sleep in for the first time in months. If not years.

He was wrong. Two hours later Faith woke up and padded into her kitchen. Xander apparently didn't keep track of days anymore. Today was Sunday and few office workers had work. She sat across from him with a bowl of cheerios and waited for him to wake up. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her. She set down her cereal and lifted his blanket.

Well, now the story Willy told her made a little more sense. From the way he was knocking them back last night she hadn't believed it.

He didn't have a pack or anything, but there was no beer belly either. His arms were more defined and lean. Now him taking on vamps made sense. Well, that and the guns.

She waited a little longer before getting up to do something else. When she did Xander's eye peeked open. He quietly got up and began to put on his boots and shirt. She came back as he was putting on his coat. "Uhh… hi."

"Your running away again. Does that seem like a good idea to you Xand?"

"Running, yeah. It's this away thing I'm having a problem with. You all would probably like to think I couldn't pull my weight and assume I left the fight. I just found another front." As he spoke it was clear that all traces of the goofy Xander had gone in the past few years. He strapped his guns onto his back where the coat would conceal them.

"Cut that crap out! No thought you were useless! If you've got your own issues, that's fine, but don't try and pin this on us." Without a single word. Xander turned and left.

Chapter 3

Twelve days before Wolf-Alley

Knocking at his hotel room door woke Xander early that morning. He opened his door to find an attractive woman in a secretary's outfit.

She had lush black, beautiful green eyes, and creamy skin. But the days when Xander could be so easily affected were long gone.

"Mr. Harris?"

"That's right."

"I here to offer you a job with us at Pentex, Xander… Do you mind if I call you Xander?" Xander mentally quirked his eyebrows at this.

If someone knew to call him by that name they sure as hell weren't offering him an office job.

"Call me Alex."

"Ok, Alex. From your reputation I'd wager you're thinking we want you to be some corporate assassin. That's not exactly true."

"That a fact?"

"That's a fact. We want the same things you do."

"And what exactly do I want?"

"To kill them all."

"What's your name?" He was a little surprised when she said that.

And a little impressed.

"Tamara DuBois."

"Well, Tamara. Why should I join with you guys? I hunt alone." He settled onto the over stuffed couch.

"Because we will pay you. You'll be supplied with anything you need."

"I get by."

"And we can also anonymously defer payments. To say… Faith Gainsborough or Dawn Sum-" She didn't get to finish as Xander shot up, grabbed her roughly by the side of the neck and shoved her out of the apartment.

Later, when she got back to the office, her boss assured her that "this sort of thing" happened a lot during recruitment. He was confident they would hear from him again. She had left a little incentive.


Xander returned to his hotel room mere minutes before night fall. He wasn't stupid: He couldn't afford to fight vamps at night like he had done earlier in the week. Xander was smarter and more cunning than most vamps, but sooner or later A vampire's speed or strength would win out. So he only occasionally fought at night, preferring instead to hound them and siege their nests during the day. Sometimes he suspected that Slayers hunted at night because the watcher's coincil wanted the slayers to die. Made sense. New Slayers are more malleable. He found himself wondering if Giles' new Watchers had changed that…

At any rate, he'd been in town for nearly a week and now it was time to get out of dodge before someone else figured out where he was sleeping at night.

"Huh. Dubois left her purse." he thought. Then he saw that it wasn't a purse. He'd been around enough women that he could tell the difference between a bag used as a purse and one that was just going to be used once.

Opening the bag he saw Cash. Not "cash" but "Cash." When it gets into… at least digits it gets a capital "C." Atop the cash was a business card: "Tamara Dubois, Recruiter, Pentex Corporation" and a number.

Xander had proven on a number of occasions that he was a man of strength and character. But, this… This wasn't money. This was a motive with a universal adapter on it. And he wasn't made out of stone.

He dialed the number on the card. "Hello, Ms. Dubois? When can I start?"


To the untrained eye, Xander was holding his own with the Suit he'd been sat with to negotiate a contract. "Mr. Culliford" I.e.: a slightly more experienced Suit. And as much as Xander hated to admit it, he was in over his head.

"We can also supply you with an apartment as part of your…" Culliford began.

"No." the younger man stated flatly.


"No." Xander had decided he didn't want these people beating down his door. 'As if I could stop them'

"How, then, do you propose we give you assignments?"

"I'll pick them up here. Same with my checks. At my convenience."

The suit nodded. "And the same with weapons I suppose?"

"I'll handle those." And there was no way he was going to lead them to his suppliers.

"Well then, we'll have a contract prepared for you at the front desk in thirty minutes." With that The Suit stood and stuck out his hand. After a moment Xander stood and grasped his hand, before turning and leaving the office.


"I'm surprised you did that well."

"Why?" Xander's only real comfort in there had been that he hadn't been completely swindled. Now his… What? recruiter was talking about how well he'd done. Interesting.

"Most people eat out of my hand with what I'm offering."

'Then this guy only deals with the very spoiled or the very desperate. I'm not spoiled so that means desperate, and which also means he knows something I don't.'


One week and two days time found Alexander Harris, Former Scooby and current Hunter in his own right, setting happily about his work. He had good reason to be happy. He was happy in the fashion of a blood hound following a scent. Content as a horse at a dead run. He was happy because he was doing what he did best.

He certainly wasn't behind a desk.

For his seventh job from Pentex he'd been asked to go to an exclusive club that catered to rather upscale undead clientele. Those young masters with the wealth to get in and not so old that they would bother. Which also meant that Xander was going in to slay tomorrows big threats today, while they were still somewhat weak.

Years ago he would have gone into this excited. Fortunately it wasn't years ago, it was 2008. Today Xander knew that excitement made men jumpy, apprehensive, short-sighted, but worst of all stupid. And stupid was something he could not afford.

He had staked out the place the night before, and had already ruled out trying to get in posing as a vampire. That idea was just stupid. He'd briefly, very briefly, considered going in as a drink.

The vampires insisted on only light clothing with no jackets or coat for their meals. Paranoia amongst vamps meant no place to stash guns. So the choice was narrowed down to imitating a guard. The place was dark so he'd have nothing to fear when it came to being spotted once he was in. At the entrance were never less than two armed bouncers who would undoubtedly no he wasn't one of theirs.

The many years on the road had hardened Xander's heart to such matters. He approached the door nonchalantly not stopping until challenged by the two guards. Faster than they could react he'd drawn two long knives from his belt, opening the throat of the far and thrusting his other blade past the eye and into the brain case. Two quick (but cautious) trips to the dumpster and he was in.

Once he did get in the plan became much simpler. Thirty minutes of playing the part of a guard allowed him to size up most of the patrons. In all he counted about twenty drinks, seven masters and only four guards. He figured the guards would cause him more trouble than the vamps. They were new. Stronger than minions already without the experience of an old one. They were cocky and headstrong.

And why shouldn't they be? Their masters had most likely already hammered the concept of Minion and Master into their skulls. That Masters were innately stronger, faster, smarter than all the rest.

And that was exactly how Xander would win this battle.

When ready he ambled over to the bar and came up behind one of the vamps. He drew and fired his large caliber in to the thing heart at point blank. The bartender's eyes bugged out of their sockets, but he was well trained. Just as the hunter had hoped. "Hey!" he bellowed "He dressed like a guard! He-" Before he finished Xander drew his other, smaller, caliber and shot him in forehead. Without hesitation the shooter called out "He gettin' away!"

It was all in all an imperfect imitation at best. Xander hadn't even tried to match his voice, instead mimicking his tone, pitch, and urgency.

It seemed to do the trick as one of the guards turned and shot one of the guards who really was heading for the door. Then all hell broke loose. Xander had managed two more vamps before he tried to blend in with the refreshments, taking off his coat as he went to blend all the better.

Xander had been dead-on in his assessment of the vamps abilities, on this night as many before it. Of the remaining four, two attacked the guards (the hunter silently thanked the bartender for this), the other two chickened and headed for the door.

One guard found Xander, and took a step toward him. "You are in so far over you head you don't even…" Not wanting to attract too much attention, Xander went to work with knives instead of blades. Not subtle enough it seems, and one of the master's looked up from an unfortunate guards neck and hissed at him. 'oh shit' Xander had time to think as he frantically tried to reload.

Two clips clattered to the floor. The vampire cast his meal aside.

One clip was pressed home. The lead vamp smacked the other feeding vamps arm and pointed at Xander.

The second clip was inserted. They both advanced on him.

The slides were cocked. Xander blasted out the lead vamps knee-caps bringing him down. The second launched himself at the young shooter trying to get their before being disabled. Actually a smart move if you knew guns could only slow you down. Xander took aim with his right. This gun always killed them. He waited a moment until the vamps pounce brought him into the guns extremely short range and fired.

And missed.


Faith had similar plans for this evening. Only being a Slayer her plan was much simpler.

Bust in the front. Kick ass. Take names.

Being a Slayer also meant this was a feasible plan.

Walking briskly in some odd half-breed of strut and saunter she moved to kick in the door, Only to have it burst open for her. Two terrified vamps burst out running as if the Devil himself were behind him. She dusted the first before they even knew she was there. The stupid thing pretty much impaled it self. The other only put up a weak fight. The combination of a Xander's shooting spree and smelling a Slayer insured that.

'That was weird…' Faith thought as she entered the club regardless.

The sight that greeted her on entering sent a chill up her spine. Xander was going to die. One of the remaining vampires was on the ground helpless. All the flesh and muscle surrounding it's knees gone. The other was in the air. From the looks of the club Xander had himself quite the party. Three dust piles, a stain of blood and gray matter splattered on the wall where the bartender should be, and four dead guards. Two of which seemed to have been killed by the vamps.

Faith saw all this, experienced all this, but not consciously. Later she would acknowledge all this and question. Even later she would ruminate on what this meant.

Now, however, none of this mattered in the least. She believed that Xander would die. She also believed there was nothing she could do about it. But Faith was a Defender at heart.

Outwardly, there had never been much between Faith and Xander. But he still meant something to her. He'd never be a real love interest to her, but still… When she tried to kill him he accepted her back the next day without a word. When she got out of prison he had never asked for an apology and never once shied from her even a little. And now here he was, about to die fighting the good fight, without back-up or support… Just like her. Something? He meant a lot to her just on principle.

In the fraction of a second it took Faith to see Xander's plight, her course was set. Chance or no chance.


Several times in the last five years Xander had won battles fighting as the honorific champion. His humor and wit used properly could rouse those he defended to action. He stood at the fore, a stout sword in his right and an accurate pistol in his left. (Xander had cultivated ambidexterity insofar as using weapons, but the left was weaker than the right)

More often, however, he was alone. He fought dirty and won by honor less guile. Such as the hiding of bodies and picking foes off one by one. As well as his bit of deception with the bartender. Two pistols for the actual fighting and to long, thin (but surprisingly strong) knives ideal for back stabbing.

But always he fought smart. He had overcome the foes of this night because of the mistakes they made more so than his own skill. Convinced of their own superiority, they never even thought of any possible outcome besides victory. In another time and place it would have been amusing to think that these dead things didn't think about death. After the first of them fell the other's made one mistake after another.

The best trap's take the target's pride into account. The more prideful you were the farther you fell and reacted instead of acting.

And now, it seemed Xander had fallen for his own trap. One he'd set many times before.


Faith moved as fast as her lean legs could send her. The cripple flung his arms out and tripped her. She was momentarily distracted. She had to stake the cripple before she could get up. In the time it took her to rise the vamp landed on Xander.


Inevitable or not, Xander would not wait for death. At the last moment he lashed out with the butts of both guns. It did little damage but the young master flinched. This reaction saved Xander's life as it tackled/landed on him instead of the neck bite he would have received. Once on the ground the master gained control in the blink of an eye and seized Xander throat in his maw.

Then he burst to dust and Xander was looking at an angel

Chapter 4

A moment later Xander was helped to his feet and was able to survey his handy work. He saw the corpses and dust that had been trod on as the refreshments beat a hasty retreat. As well as the surprise on Faith's face when she had a moment to think.

But mostly he just saw the unattended bar. And it wasn't as if the cops were going to come beating down the door of this club.

"So… Can I get you a drink?"


To Xander's dismay their drinking was delayed by the fact that Faith insisted they drink elsewhere. There was no way she was going to drink around all those corpses like he had suggested. So they spent fifteen minutes looking for a bar in silence.

Faith settled down in one of the many leather barstools as Xander ordered them each a vodka. The slayer knew that this was her best bet for getting his story. Hopefully she could get him to open up before he either got pissed off or to drunk to talk.

Like last time.

"How is it you dusted these guys with out a stake? 'Cause it doesn't look like those knives could do the trick." She inquired raising her glass to her lips. Jumping to the question she really wanted to ask 'Where the hell have you been?' Hadn't gone over too well last time.

Xander pulled his jacket to the side to reveal his larger pistol: a .357 magnum.

"Uhh, that won't kill a vampire Xan."

"Mine will." he claimed He took out the clip and removed a single bullet. Removing the shell from the casing revealed a small amount of grass in the bullet. "These are hollow-points, when they get into a target they shatter, like a very tiny grenade. But I stuff mine with grass, or any plant, and the round carries it into the heart before breaking."

"Holy cr… I always thought it had to be wood."

"I look at it this way. Vamps are dead things right? And I remember from biology that life begins with energy from the sun. I read up on this in textbook about a year after I left. The UV rays from the sun hits earth and the plants suck it up, getting a lot of energy. Then animals eat the plants, but only get a small amount of the energy. Opposites cancel each other out so when a Vamp is effected by that kind of energy it dies. The Sun kills on contact, because it's a huge source of it. Wood and plants need to be in the heart because they are weaker and need to go to the source of the guys un-life. In a way it's not about wood or light. It's about life… I need to use a large caliber guns to get in their and make sure the plant gets exposed at exactly the right time. And sometimes I do get right and it doesn't work."

Faith had to take a moment to consider this. It would be more useful if it could be done at range, because a gun is a hell of a lot easier to handle than a crossbow.

"So what do you do these days Faith?"

"Data input. Anyone can do it, and I get a lot of sick days."

Xander nodded and there was a moment of silence as he went back to his drink. Faith decided to take advantage of the pause. "So why did you leave us, Xan-man? You had more of a right to be there then I did."

Xander frowned into the bottom of his glass and moved to fill it. "I guess I just got real pissed off." He blinked when as he felt Faith's slender, yet callused, hand stop his. 'She wants me sober so she can interrogate me.' he thought before continuing to speak "Buffy leaving only two people to guard each exit was beyond reckless. Had she put even one Slayer at each hole Anya would still be alive."

"Is that really why? Because you don't sound broken up."

"It was a long time ago. And I had wanted to get out on my own for awhile."

"So you fight vampires with no back-up."

"It's a living."

"Hey, after what you got from Anya why do you all of a sudden need another living."

Xander's eyes narrowed. 'Damn Deadboy told' "That's in the bank. I don't even want to touch it."

Faith's head tilted to the side, a bird like gesture that made her curiosity plain to the untrained eye. "Then what your day job?"

From the looks of him he obviously wasn't living hand-to-mouth.

"I mug demons."

The Slayer nearly toppled out of her chair laughing. She didn't doubt him for a second, but the vision of a demon coughing up the cash to ANY human was hysterical. When she finally came down she discovered she'd laughed a little too long.

Twenty dollars had been laid on the table and Xander was gone.


Peter Culliford was pissed.

In and of itself this was not a rare thing. The unusual part in all this was that his anger showed. Culliford was a master manipulator, and prided himself on emotional control. But Xander, this boy, continued to frustrate him. In order to use Xander properly he needed to unlock all his potential.

So he needed Xander to fail.

So far Xander came out unscathed no matter what death trap he was sent to. And just tonight he received word that the hunter survived his mission against a large group of vampires. MASTER vampires for god sake.

But as ever, he had a back up plan.


A mere hour later eight people joined him in his spacious office. The anger and frustration was gone form Culliford's. He was bright happy and reassuring. His assistant Tamara had grown to call this his Moby face. It was one for selling. "Seven of the people in this room lost someone, I hear."

"There's only one 'person' here." Arianna, most likely the strongest of vampires in his office, spat. Person or no, they all had an amount of grief written across their features.

"If you insist. The reason I asked you all here is I know who did it."

"What 'chu say?" demanded one vampire with obvious ties to the Jersey mob.

"He's been causing problems for our organization," Culliford was exactly lying either "And we've been monitoring him, but we aren't strong enough to go head with him." 'An expert speaker always pauses to things sink in' "So we need-"

"I'll do it." Arianna spoke up.

Not to out done the Jersey vamp stepped up as well, and soon they had all agreed and been told where they would find him tomorrow night. Even they killed the boy without triggering him, They would all owe Pentex a favor.

Later that night Culliford reclined in his chair with a cigar congratulating himself on a job well done.


The next night - the night of the change

Arianna had caught the stupid Hunter's eye early on that night.

The plan she and her mate had devised was for her to seduce him, lure him outside, and then the others would surround him. They would've killed him right there, but the exec wanted him toyed with. Apparently the guy had really pissed him off.

Now they were on a crowded dance floor, grinding to a techno mix. His dance wasn't quite violent, though aggressive enough for her tastes. She had never turned a hunter before, but he was cute. Stupid, but cute. 'Yes.' she decided 'I will turn him. Stimulating conversation can be taught after all'

She heard him smell her hair as she danced with her back to him. "Let's go find somewhere more private… lover." She turned to him and gave a little grin. She had done this many times before.

The key wasn't in convincing them. They had to convince themselves.

So she let them curl their hands in her raven hair and feel her pale cream skin. A cake walk.

Five minutes found them in an alley way. As they kissed the totally unexpected happened. The boy shoved two knives into her chest and kneed her away.


Xander was in the midst of making a little money when he was ambushed. This sweet little dead thing had taken him out for a little suck (and maybe more from how she had been moving earlier) when he went to work. He used the knives on her and was about to draw when something dropped behind him and whipped him around.

He was faced with a large vamp with a cigar, one who was obviously a fan of the Sopranos. "You think you 'kin my Davey and get away wit' it? That what ya think? You little sh-" Xander took advantage of his assailants chatter to put a doctored bullet in his chest.

He had dusted one, but many others surrounded him. In the space of thirty seconds he was completely surrounded. As before he would not simply give up. It was hopeless though. After minute they just toyed with him.

One sank it's fangs into his neck and began to drain him. 'So here's how it ends? Those who live by the sword…' But the end didn't come. His beating continued until his arms were seized and he was forced to his knees. Prone before the vamp he'd led out here in the first place.

"You killed a lot of us last night," she began "…including my dear Bethany…" then she bent down to him and whispered into his ear conspiratorially "…Welcome to the family."

She withdrew and kissed his forehead, then his lips running her tongue over his lips. She pouted when he didn't respond. No way he was going to give her the satisfaction. As she began to kiss her way down to the wound one of the others had made, Xander felt a boiling rage consume him. He saw only red.

Were he allowed to stand as he changed, his height would have swelled to nine feet. As it were he grew to six feet on his knees. The vampires that once restrained him clung to him now. His arms grew in length to rival that of his legs as he gained at the very least six times his weight. Hands become talons tipped with razor sharp claws as his mouth elongated with large canine teeth. Most telling was the silver gray fur that grew out of every pore.

Xander knew none of this. Transported by rage he spent a long moment merely trembling in anger. (This was actually only three seconds, though any of those present would disagree.) In his moment of inaction the vampiress Arianna took in the sight of his form.

She was a killer. Had been for nearly three centuries. For those two hundred and seventy-seven years she had murdered almost nightly. (very few vampires could afford the attention gained from killing every night. Raging and feeding most of the week. In short, she was a killer. Arianna smiled, slowly. It wasn't a smile worn to manipulate, it was the smile of someone who finds what they been looking for their whole life. (And beyond.)

It was a tremendous contrast as the slender vampire of only five feet stood on her toes to caress the snout of the werewolf on it's knees.

For a breath's time the scene was a poet's dream as beauty and the literal beast stood at peace. "Beautiful." was the vampire's last coherent word

Then the Werewolf (for there was no mistaking what it was.) snarled. The moment broke and Arianna's human mask slipped away with her own snarl. She struck him hard with her fist to no avail with a blow that would have finished the man, but was nothing to this beast. It's massive right arm became a blur of motion that belied it's great size and the vampire was reduced to only so much dust. The minion that had tried to restrain that arm for his turning was flung off like nothing.

The wolf rose to his full nine feet. The vamp on his left remained only as long as it took the beast to notice him. Grabbing the screaming thing in one mighty paw he flung as if it were a rag doll by an angry child. This done, he arched his back as he roared with the rage and ferocity of many lions.

Several of his attackers retreated a step at this. But they were all killers at heart and soon rejoined the battle. This was alright with the wolf.

He lashed out with his sharp talons when they made to flank him. He bit through necks when he could, spiting out the ashen remainder as he moved on. He caught one fighter in his great paw, and prepared to crush it with his other when he caught her scent. He instead flung her away deciding against it.

He fought furiously until all that remained was the little girl and himself.

His chest heaved as he came down from his fit, and the ground got higher. It occurred to him as his mind cleared that he was actually getting smaller. His clothing returned with his human form. But the blood on his hands stayed on his hands. He should have been used to it, but in truth it was not the blood that bothered him.

"I-I'm a demon?!?" That was all he got out before falling to the alley way floor. Faith scrambled over to check on him. She found a small tranquilizer dart in his back. "What the hell?"

Three men stood at the mouth of the alley way. The two on either stood in full riot gear and she couldn't see their faces. The one in the middle was a middle-aged executive with graying red hair and beard and a slight belly under his expensive suit held the tranq gun.

"Who the #$%& hell are you!" the time for subtlety is gone and Faith decides to speak her mind.

"I'm Peter Culliford. That young man's employer." the Exec gestures to Xan's prone form.

"He said he didn't work for anyone, and you just shot him in the back. Give me one reason I shouldn't just kick your ass and take him home with me?" As she spoke the exec had loaded a different type of dart into the gun and now shot her with it. She rushed him anyway but fell short scant feet from her target. "You must be one of those Slayers that I've heard so much about…"

She mercifully blacked out before she had to listen to his spiel.


An unknown amount of time later

Xander awoke to a dull ache in every part of his body. If he were to say: 'I just went ten rounds with Mike Tyson.' He would be making a vast understatement. Shifting slightly in his (hospital?) bed he reached over and slid an I.V. out of his arm. Sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of his bed he examined his surrounding closer.

He didn't find much. Just his bed, and I.V., and a vent. And most importantly a door. Heading over he turned the knob and met resistance. Deciding he didn't want to be here anymore, Xander put his shoulder to the door. Then his feet. 'Mental Note: never try and break down doors whilst bare-foot.' He sighed in frustration he got ready to try again with the foot.

"That will never work, Cub."

"Huh- who the hell was that?" Xander whipped his head around trying to find the owner of the voice. There was still nothing but: Bed, Drip, and vent. "Was I drinking?" giving up the hunter sat heavily on the cot and decided to bide his time. Then the voice returned.

"Who I am matters not, Cub. What matters is that you cannot stay here and don't know how to get out."

Chapter 5

The voice in his head 'what a disturbing thought' seemed to be reasonably intelligent and wise, perhaps enough to get him out of here, but definitely not human. Xander ran through various observations and analysis' he could never have articulated. From the tones mannerisms, tone, rate, and inflection he could tell that it was very old as well. He just couldn't figure out what it was.

As for what it wanted… well that was much simpler.

"If you know a way out of here why don't you share? Or do want to just bait me all day."

As attractive a thought that is, I had better get you out first. And you don't need to speak. If you direct a thought to me I'll hear you well enough. Once again there was no inflection or tone with which the werewolf could discern the voice's age or motives. Then how do I get out of this room? the werewolf thought and waited for a response. The door. It should pose little trouble for one of your kind.

'my kind?' The previous night returned in a rush. The thought of that night, lack of control and the rage he felt frightened him badly. At the same time the feeling of power and freedom thrilled him to the core of his being. You are not yet experienced enough to control the war form, but you might be able to use some of it's strength. Move over to the door and place your hands on the knob- side.

The newly changed werewolf did as he was told. Frankly because he had nothing better to do. Now focus your rage on the door and push. Try thinking of a past failure or an old rival. the voice instructed. Xander focused inward and dredged up the faces of many friends and loved ones he had lost. This was easy enough as he remembered them all in his troubled sleep. They were, after all, the very reason he chose his current profession.

The hunter heard a crack as the door began to splinter outward. It's actually working! Xander marveled. What did you expect? the voice chastised Before he could respond he caught sight of his arms. They had bulged and swelled to twice their normal size and sprouted hair. The wolf fell back with a cry and he reverted to his normal shape. Just as well. Had you fully changed I would have a much harder job. The voice had taken on a placating tone.

Seated firmly on his rump on the very cold floor Xander looked up at the door. It was cracked and splintered nearly open after only a few seconds of light pushing. The disconcerting part was the grooves that had been scratched in.

Claw marks.

One kick was all it took to cave the door in the rest of the way. Once he was out he knew where he was.


Faith had woken up a few hours later on the cold alleyway floor. Xander was gone any trail she could follow had gotten cold before she even woke up.

She had spent the next few days looking up on what the Xan-man was up to. She'd found a gunsmith he spent some time with. She'd been expecting a lecherous good ol' boy type but had ended up finding a man so similar to Giles it was uncanny. He'd only been able to tell her that Xan had a job in the city and was one hell of gunman. So nothing she didn't already know.

She headed over to beat Willy (it was tradition after all) she had learned that Xander was pulling down some serious cash. But he wasn't really spending it. Interesting, yeah, but not anything she could use.

After a few days of frustration she had found out one name. Pentex. She had no idea what they did, why they did it, or what their resources were. Oh joy.

X had better be grateful.


Xander knew the layout to Pentex's field office and went straight to the armory. The fact that he'd woken up at night was a tad disturbing. He'd hidden in a few well placed cabinets on the way as he didn't want to be seen. And only part of that was because he was bare-ass naked. If he had ended up in a Pentex building it was because they'd brought him here against his will.

After a rather embarrassing fight against the guard, he was free to recover his knives, guns, and (most importantly his clothes. He'd taken a shotgun and some extra shells for insurance.

He'd briefly considered heading up and killing Culliford, but thought it a better idea to comeback and engage on his terms. He'd not survived his job this long via stupidity.

His guide had stayed silent throughout the trip, and chose now to speak up. It's important that you control yourself until your out. And only fight if you have too. If the beast gets loose here your finished.

Xander didn't really need to be told this, but at least he knew that whoever it was talking in his at least had theirs screwed on straight. He had walked casually out to the lobby, nodding at anyone who knew his face. He made it halfway across the entrance lobby before he was stopped.

Five guards had charged in with tranq rifles. As they had barked orders and knelt into firing positions the werewolf turned and opened up with both pistols. The lobby had several circular benches with high garden in the middle and Xander ran and slid on his back behind one now. One stupid or gutsy (it came down to the same thing) had come around to get him.

He was rewarded with a shotgun blast to the torso. He didn't have time to pump a new shell in before next came around the other side. Xander let go of the shotgun and drew his pistols above his head and fired a quick four round burst into the man's sternum and throat.

Now he had to think how many of them he had killed with the first shots. Two? None? He tossed his shotgun out into the open as a distraction. It's wide spread was useless at the range he needed and the clatter gave him the time to peek out. Three. Xander gave a sigh of relief and walked to retrieve his new gun. Halfway there the voice spoke up. Look to the entrance!

Xander turned and saw a man in a dirty flannel shirt, jeans, and a wrinkled raincoat. His hair was stringy and the skin was ruddy, but this didn't hold a candle to the cast of madness in his eyes. Beyond this the werewolf had an instinctual anger at the man. He smelled (thanks to the Hyena this was not all that overwhelming) wrong. Xander noticed the sword in the mans coat as the freak grinned at his guns. Those will do you know good here. Put them away!

Xander didn't entirely trust the voice and opened fire anyway. The man grinned and grew tall, large, and furry. Xander was very much disgusted. Though he had not seen himself, his form had been majestic and beautiful even as it was terrible. But this thing… It's coat had splotches of black mixed with red. And small spines erupted from it's chest and back. The hunter fired a total of eleven times, striking cleanly with seven. The wolf reacted as if stung by a bee and the wounds closed. The shooter sorrowfully holstered his guns. You have no choice. You must change.

The abomination's clothing had faded like a ghost with his clothing, but it's sword remained. A silver sword. With this threat and the creature's mere presence Xander had no trouble changing. He, in fact, barely realized he had done it. Like something had made him change. It was maintaining control that was the problem. Survive. I will help you as soon as I can.

In his great war form Xander stood a head taller and six inches longer at the shoulders than his foe. But Xander didn't know what the hell he was doing and had no weapons. If the silver and red wolves decided to go toe-to-toe he would lose. And that's exactly what the red wolf did.

The red swung it's blade in a horizontal arc hoping to take it's silver foe's head in swing. Xander ducked and threw an uppercut to it's exposed belly. Clawing still felt odd to him. As he rose he made certain to grab it's sword arm. He was stronger and might have wrestled the sword from him, but the red touched him lightly and Xander flew to the ground several feet away. The red charged as the fallen silver wolf pondered what the hell just happened. The freak brought it's weapon down in a powerful, but slow, killing arc.

Xander barely rolled out of the way and retaliated by kicking up while lifting himself with his arms. His claws had raked across it's chest with no real planning on the wolf's part. The deep red lines wouldn't heal like the bullets and the monstrosity screamed as it's silver opponent regained his feet and grabbed for his sword arm.

The red wolf was wielding the silver weapon two-handed, but Xander seized it's hands with both of his. He brought it up above their heads, bringing them face to face. The thing snapped at him and he barely brought his head back in time. I am ready. the voice had returned and it had better be ready.

It was.

The feeling of invasion washed over Xander again as it had when he had changed involuntarily to fight this corrupt wolf. And now he knew who was behind it. A silver light suddenly flared from his body. His opponent was surprised and feel backward, dropping it's blade. Throat! Now! the voice demanded Xander was happy to oblige. Take the blade. Corrupted hands should not be allowed to use it.

Amen to that. Xander thought at the voice. Thankfully his clothes and weapons returned his human form.

Moments later he jogged through the parking lot as a fresh pair of guards burst out the entrance. He turned and fired suppressing shots as they scrambled. He smashed in the window of the nearest car and crouched down in the seat to avoid bullets as he hot-wired it. You and I are going to have a talk as soon as I'm out of here. Xander projected. He received a feeling in response. He couldn't be sure but he thought the voice just shrugged. If you are able to hear the tales, cub, I'll gladly tell them.


Fifteen minutes afterward Peter Culliford was once again brought to visible anger by the young werewolf. He had not only escaped after FINALLY becoming useful, but he'd killed a very valuable employee.

And stolen his car.


"I never asked to be a werewolf." Xander spoke out loud now as he was alone and thought talk had irritated him when Willow had done it. He wasn't going to do it for someone he didn't know. "And… Wait a minute! I never got bit!"

There was a long silence before his unseen companion responded. Very few indeed ask to be born.

"What do you mean: born?"

You were never bitten. You were born.

This elicited a long pause from the young man. "A born werewolf."

You are not a werewolf. The werewolf you speak of is a human suffering from a disease. You are Garou.

"As in Loup-Garou."

… Yes. Very good. That is what the men of the middle continent called your kind. An off shoot of the name you chose for yourselves.

A few minutes passed by as the voice let this sink in.

Your race is an in-between race. Born of men, wolves, and lately werewolf unions. It is rare and considered taboo for two changing werewolves to breed together.

Xander remained silent.

Yours is a warrior race. Garou are supposed to guard nature, roam the spirit realms, and fight corruption.

"What do you mean supposed to?" Xander wanted to know, but the voice fell silent.

For awhile at least. Pullover. He pulled over in front of an alley. Go inside and look for a mirror. Xander didn't need to look long. A small compact was that stank of fear had been discarded. The scent was fresh. When Xander insisted on following it further into the alley (after all why had he found it?) the voice made him keep it in his pocket.

Continuing down the alley he turned a corner and came to a dead end, the girl who smelled of fear, and a wino who was way to horny. The fact that after he took care of the wino the girl smelled even more of fear directed at him made him bristle. He choked it down though, he couldn't afford any outbursts.

Afterwards he took out the mirror and the voice told him what to do with it. Told him to focus on his eyes in the mirror, then stop, then focus on his surroundings in mirror, then stop again. 'waste of time' Xander thought as he pocketed the mirror again. He looked up and his jaw dropped.


At that moment Faith walked through the sparse desert hard pan.

In reality her body was resting peacefully in her bed as she slept in the dead of night. A comforter and quilt guarding against the cold.

In another, equally valid, way she was trudging through the sand under the hot sun.

In the dream so far she had traveled across plains, steppes, mountains, tundra, and a beach. A bird was flying twenty feet ahead of her. Had been for the whole time she'd been dreaming. She could tell what kind of bird it was though. Even though it had stayed twenty feet ahead the whole time. If she spend up, so did it. If she slowed or stopped it would slow down or circle.

She held on to the conscious rationality of the waking world. Yet she only knew one thing for sure.

Catch. The. Bird.

As she entered a forest path she wondered if she was chasing it or it was leading her. Either way she kept on. She believed it would lead her to… something. Something important. It wasn't until the trees filled with snow and they reached a clearing that she caught up. It perched on a low tree branch level with her chest. It didn't take flight as she drew nearer and she saw what it was.

A falcon.

In the waking world she didn't know the difference between a finch and a humming bird. Here, though, she knew this to be a falcon. It seemed important what kind of bird it was.

She was standing right next to it now and it cocked it's head and stared at her the way that only a bird can. She reached out and stroked it atop the head. It seemed to enjoy it, so she scratched the side of it's head as it leaned into her finger.

Having had enough of this the bird fluttered it's wings. She drew back her finger on reflex. It bobbed it's head and pointed with it's beak toward the clearing. Nodding she stroked it one more time and headed into the clearing.

She found a werewolf like the one she had seen six days ago standing there. But this one had both eyes as well as scars that crisscrossed it's arms and chest. And was old. A huge serpent materialized and fought the wolf. Faith strode forward to aid the wolf and the fighters paused.

The serpent glared at the interloper and slithered off. "I will see to you later." it hissed over it's shoulder.

The werewolf closed the distance to two feet in front of her.

Looking it she felt no fear, and in it's eyes she saw no anger or blood lust. Then it changed. Where once it stood nearly twice her height now it was a old man only a head taller than her. He might have been in his sixtieth year, but was still strong and looked like he had a few strong years ahead of him. His white hair was tied back in a tail as his cobalt eyes shone from beneath a noble brow.

"We have been cut deep." he lamented and changed again. Now Xander stood before her. His false eye gone and only an empty socket showing. He was a contrast to the gentle nobility of the figure that preceded him. He spoke with venom and penned in rage. "Yet we must still fight!" With that he changed to a wolf and took off the way the serpent had gone as the woods burst into flame.

"Xander!" she cried after him "Don't go, you fool! You'll die!" But he paid her pleas no heed and disappeared into the burning forest. Faith fell to her knees.

Unscathed by the flames the falcon took wing and found a perch on the arm she hadn't realized she lifted. Having a hunting bird this close to your face was a stupid idea in the long sad history of stupid ideas. Why did she do this? Why had Xander charged off to his death? Why does anything happen the way they do in dreams?

Then the falcon spoke. "If he stands alone, he will die. If his rage is not held in check, he will fall. He no longer knows what it is to be part of a pack. His soul has grown weak." A twisted, monstrous version of Xander staggered beyond the tree-line and collapsed in a heap near Faith as the flames licked his body. "No. That won't happen. I won't let it."

"Then he will need the aid of strong ones such as you…" this came from the nobleman who appeared near her, staring down at the burned heap of Xander's remains sorrowfully. "For all our sake."


Xander found himself in the exact same area he had been in when he used the mirror. But his surroundings had changed. the streets and buildings were covered in webs that shone with energy. Mechanical spiders the size of huge dogs walked these webs doing gods knows what. One looked at him from the wall in front of him. It beeped at him and went back to doing whatever it was doing. Those are order spirits. the voice supplied.

Xander was beyond caring at that point and was so completely overwhelmed that he missed the sensation of the voice intruding in his body to do another of it's "tricks."

A small vortex opened behind him and he was sucked in. He was hurled through a churning mass as he traveled. It wasn't just energy. It was potential. Creative energy. He would have been exhilarated had he not been dumbfounded.

He landed on the ground in a forest clearing. He began to regather his wits and felt the warmth of a fire to his right. And heard a low growl to his left.

He sprang up and looked around. Easily a dozen people and a few wolves surrounded the campfire. A few crept towards him before the man who was probably their leader stepped forward. An old man who was still hardy and sharp like a younger man. He had an aura of respect and nobility that emanated from him. He stared into Xander's choclate eyes with his own cobalts.

The leader sniffed Xander deeply and held up a hand and nodded. One of the wolves trotted over, stood on hind legs to a height of nearly eight feet, and grinned.

Then he knocked new werewolf cold.

Chapter 6

Despite their intense curiosity, the assembled shape changers didn't crowd in around the fallen warrior.

Claudia Stands-Firm of the Black Furies tribe was especially curious.

Werewolves were cunning creatures by nature and knew to keep their distance from something this odd. Then there was the fact that King Albrecht had ordered them to make room for his inspection. He had given Fang-Fist leave strike the new arrival down within moments of his arrival, and now pawed around the guy and through his possessions.

This particular garou was odd in that he had acted surprised to see them. Despite coming on a moon-bridge, a doorway that werewolves could open using a complicated ritual. The bridge was not quite so disquieting as the weaponry he carried.

The majority of their kind shunned firearms, but this one wore guns strapped under each armpit. Still, that wasn't unheard of. The shocker was the silver sword on in his coat. Many garou used silver knives imbued with war spirits called klaives in battle, but swords, or Grand-Klaives were much rarer and contained not one but two war spirits. To see such an increasingly rare weapon in the hands of an obvious novice would wake anyone in the morning.

Or the dead of night in this case.

Claudia sighed, losing interest and returned to bonfire. Many packs were on the move together, and she wanted to get back to hers. Let Albrecht bat around his little toy. She shifted into a small wolf with a shining black coat. Pawing at the ground in her warmer wolf form, she nested and tried to sleep.

Albrecht's tribe, the Silver Fangs, had a reputation for madness on occasion. She'd been told that he had chased down and killed his own madness long before she had been born. But, hey, people take steps backward all the time.

She rolled over and cracked one of her eyes open. The oddity had been stripped of his weapons and Albrecht sniffed around his neck. 'Definitely a little batty' she scoffed inwardly. Then the big silver werewolf grasped his curiosity's torso and disappeared. 'Why bring him to the umbra?' Claudia pondered. She would never ever understand Elders.


Within the Umbra, or the spirit world as it was commonly known, Albrecht and the boy were alone.

Which was not the result the elder werewolf hoped for.

So he waited in the clearing next to the man who had crashed into their camp during the night. In the Umbra, if something was meant to happen at all, something would happen on it's own time. After an hour or so the King heard a rustling in the branches overhead. He elected to stand his ground rather than try and force the issue. A pissed off spirit leads to meaningless quest, Albrecht learned on his own long ago.

A small owl fluttered into view in a high branch. "You seek wisdom O King. Do you not?" the Owl hooted, his head quirking to the side. "I do. What can you tell me of this boy Owl?" Owl flapped down to the forest floor, hopping to Xander's side, opposite Albrecht.

"Big. Important. This silver cub just endured his first change."

"Silver?" At the silver wolf's question Owl only blinked. Owl was wise beyond compare, but not one to give easy answers. He had been given much to think on already.

The majority of cubs first changed between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. The man before him was in his late twenties. This also raised question of how he had acquired a grand-klaive and used a moon-bridge. It also caused Albrecht to wonder how the boy had received a battle-scar without changing. But, he would dwell on that later. "Why is he important?" the Owl beckoned him forward in response. The great king leaned forward… and was pecked many times between the eyes. And with an owl that hurts.

"Do you expect me to do all thinking? You will find out soon enough." Albrecht pulled his head back and bit back his rage before giving voice to his next question. "Do you think he will be so renowned? A legend mayhap?"

The flustered owl cocked his head at the king. "No, you will be the one to train him." Having given his advice, or marching orders depending on where one stood, the spirit took wing.

Albrecht prowled the umbra for nearly an hour afterward before returning to the cub with his bounty.

Herbs. More importantly, herbs that would keep the cub asleep long enough to return home.

This done, he returned to the physical world and gave a few orders of his own.


Xander didn't wake up, not really. He was conscious for a scant minute, but not awake enough to comprehend his surroundings. This was a good thing in fact. Had he awakened enough to realize he was being carried by a huge gray wolf a fight would have broken out. But Albrecht's herbs were strong, and while they didn't take Xander's heroic tolerance for alcohol into account, they proved effective enough to put him back under. The newly changed man merely let his head fall against the wolf's chest as he lost consciousness again.


Over the past few weeks Xander had awaken in many strange beds. Most notably being a hospital-like cot in one of his old employer's compounds just after his first change. Sometime before that he had woken up on Faith's couch after a binder.

This morning: four-poster bed. This would have put any other person at ease, but Xander was almost immediately put on the defensive. This either meant someone was trying to coerce him or someone rich as god. Neither one carried much appeal.

A tall man of about thirty entered the young warrior's temporary abode and started noticeably. If the interloper noticed he didn't show it. He had a somewhat regal bearing even as a servant, his dress of a quasi-formal setup uncommon to service. Xander had no idea how knew this man to be a servant. The way the man carried himself and his clothing would set him as one of the high-society who should by rights be sleeping in this bed. Yet somehow the man in the door struck him as someone who should be a servant to himself. Like he should submit. As odd as that sounded.

Another curiosity. When he "started" the servant hadn't even moved. But Xander had sensed something… something at the edges of his mind… his senses. The sensation was at once an alien intruder and a friend to be welcomed home. Every thing seemed much clearer than usual. And more intense. He couldn't help but wonder; Was this what monster felt like?

That thought was so bad he completely forgot about the servant. The one that had disappeared. Crap.


Nearly three-hundred yards from the befuddled young man, his captor was "closing a deal." For any respected businessman this would mean either a spacious office or boardroom. For a more violent man, an infamous crime lord for instance, it would involve bullets and perhaps the creative use of lumberjacking tools. But Albrecht, who had subdued and drugged Xander just the night before, was neither a respected business-man nor an infamous crime lord. He was a werewolf. The deal he closed took place in the forest near his New Jersey manor where the snow had begun to fall. The air was crisp and the smells of man's world, even those of his home, could not be smelled off-hand. This was important to put Albrecht's guest at ease.

Most other members of his people were off-put by cities and towns, living amongst the humans and all that. To compromise his mansion had been built deep within the woods so that only a short walk would distance them from any smells of man or the sterile mockery he had made of his world.

Today the old king's meeting was with an Elder of Michigan. A member of the Star Gazer tribe, the philosophers and seers of the Garou Nation.

Black Rindle, the elder in question, was a bit of rarity among the Garou. He had taken control of his area from his father by force when the previous elder had fallen under the sway of their ancient enemy. Not uncommon on it's own Black Rindle was a Metis. A pariah of the Garou people marked from birth with a deformity (in this case a prominent hump on the werewolf's back) and usually barred from any sort of leadership position.

So Rindle's rule was a controversy at the very least. But in his time Albrecht had learned a thing or two about tolerance. In troubled times allies must be treasured and, if what the metis said was true, these would soon be troubled times indeed.

"Describe this vision, Black Rindle," Albrecht wore the look of a battle-weary general told he must return to war "and omit nothing."

"I saw a great serpent coiled in a ring, and swallowing it's own tail. And within the ring there were men, and wolves, and foul spirits dancing around emerald fire, and…" Black Rindle faltered at this last phrase.

"What did you see?"

"My father danced among them."

Arrangements were made afterwards. On his way home Rindle would tell his vision to others. Calls would be made and messengers sent to more remote areas. The nation would be warned. As the visitor left Albrecht's mind wandered and returned to the odd cub recovered while he traveled, just yesterday. Owl had said the boy was important, and the very day after he had received this news.

As he returned to his manor his butler informed him that the man had awoken. In order for that to be true , Albrecht mused, he would have to have immense fortitude or be a hopeless drunk with a built up tolerance.

Chapter 7

'First things first.' Xander said to know one in particular as he rose from the bed. Waking up nearly (or completely) naked and weaponless was sadly becoming pretty well standard procedure for him.

Cursing internally Xander opened the closet to search for clothing only to find nothing. Nothing, nada, not a single stitch of fabric to be found. 'Oh well,' he grumbled in his head 'at least they left me in boxers this time.' The ongoing search for dignity was interrupted as someone entered the room behind him.

The recently changed werewolf spun around to face the interloper, most likely the servant or a guard of some sort.

Instead an old man with a small bag stood in the doorway. He could easily have passed for sixty, but Xander figured him for maybe mid- or even early-fifties. The man was scarred on every visible part of his body. An obvious warrior, he was an example of how those of that profession seemed to age quickly. But if not slain in battle seemed to persist in this world for a very, very long time His long silver hair and noble features did nothing to impress a stitch-less Xander, but one aspect of his appearance did: a shared malady.

The interloper was also missing one of his eyes, now covered with an ornamental patch.

"If you search for your weapons, we left them near at hand. As for clothing…" the old man tossed his sack onto the bed.

"Who are-?"

"There will enough time for that later cub. I must apologize that we left nothing for you to wear, but we did not expect to wake for another day." The old man had interrupted with the air of authority used by those who earned (or at least thought they did) respect. "You will find your weapons in the bureau." the older man nodded towards the squat varnished furniture on the other side of the bed "Clothe and arm yourself as you see fit and then join me in the courtyard. There I will make my explanations." And with that he curtly turned and left the room.

Xander had half a mind to dress, gather his weapons, and then leave. But the old man knew something about his new condition, he might even know a whole hell of a lot. So, against his better judgment, Xander decided to hear him out.


Much to Xander's chagrin the sack of clothes only had business dress: slacks and button-up shirts. Thankfully his host had seen fit to include solid boots. Xander had come a long way since the Hawaiian shirts of his youth but a monkey suit was still a monkey suit and enough to make him uncomfortable.

The house he woke up in wasn't even a house as it turned out. As he walked the halls trying to just find the courtyard he began to give it a rough estimate of a mansion, perhaps a very large one. Once he found his way outside he revised his opinion. The "mansion" he'd been in was just a wing: he was standing in the middle of a compound. A mansion might house a dozen maybe two tops. With a place this size he would be going up against as many four or five.

Fighting his way out obviously wasn't an option. Running wouldn't get him far either; the Hyena and the Soldier had faded from his mind years ago. This had given him a grim pride. He'd made it on his own, inside his head and out, for these past few years. But whenever he found himself in the wild or dealing with a bureaucracy, he hated the quiet.

No running. No fighting. Only one choice left. So he'd have to play along, be the dutiful servant until he had a chance in hell.

The courtyard was a square about one-hundred feet on each side. Trees lined all along it's perimeter only broken at two points, a path that lead out to the wilderness (or perhaps another part of the compound) and one that opened on the door he had come from. The sort of games he had seen played by men who believed themselves to be arch-villains. The trees themselves were squat little pines that only came to just under the second floor window. The center of the courtyard held a pond built to look natural. Had he not known better Xander might have fell for it. It was only snowing lightly, but it was still cold enough to freeze the little pond.

Xander crossed the pond as he proceeded to the opposite path. He had resolved to get the mind games over with quickly. As he neared the other passage he heard an alarmed cry behind him.

"Stop!" Xander spun on his heels to find the old man jogging towards him. "Never there."

"Why not? Afraid I might step on thorns?"

"No, a women who stayed here a few years ago knew the… special arts of gardening. She managed to grow plant guardians for that passage. You might be safe enough but one couldn't be sure. They did catch a few fomori some time ago, though."

At this the younger of the two stood with a puzzled expression. What the hell was a Fomori? What kind of nut did I fall in with this time?

"Sorry. A Fomor is a human, changed and corrupted. Given power, but at a high cost. But that is jumping far ahead. What questions do you have? The sun has just begun to set, and I have much time to educate a new Silver Fang cub." The old man knew that a phrase like that wouldn't sit well with the cub but decided to be open as much as possible.

"Okay then. What the hell is a Silver Fang, who the hell are you, and the &$%! does everyone keep calling me cub?!?!"

"A tall order. But I will hold to my word. My name is King Jonas Albrecht of the Silver Fangs." It seemed to Xander that every time Albrecht spoke he generated questions then he answered. Before speaking again Albrecht motioned for him to follow and proceeded through the passage he had warned Xander of. As they moved by the foliage stirred slightly but suffered their passing.

"You're the king?" Xander asked taking on his best English accent. "I don't remember voting for you."


Atop a battered old mahogany desk sat an old style rotary telephone. It managed to ring unanswered thirteen times before someone picked up. Hooray for the phone. That was a new record.

The gnarled hand that broke the streak was slow considering how late it was. Chances are if someone holds on for that long they won't hang up quickly when you really do pick up. "Rupert Giles' office." the old brit drawled lazily. He'd let the phone ring that long because after having to listen to a veritable army of watchers who chose that one day to call in he was going to call it quits.

"Sup G." Faith was on the other line, and that changed things considerably.

"Faith, thank god, it's good you called. If I had to listen to one more little watcher complaining because his Slayer's is spending all night dancing…"

"G-man I'm sorry but there's something I need to ask on first."

"Go ahead." Giles was somewhat disappointed. But, it was his job after all.

"Werewolves. Not like Oz either, I'm talking big ass doggie. Stands on two legs and about eight to ten feet tall. Not to mention the thing was around during a half-moon."

"Wait a moment, I think I encountered something like that in the books about an hour ago. A beat please." Misunderstanding the meaning of the word 'beat' Faith performed a little drum roll on her desk so Giles could hear. He didn't complain.

"Ah here it is: Lupines. Very large creatures that aren't actually werewolves."

"Huh? I'm telling you it was a wolf!"

"Well it may have been. These things are known to assume the forms of crows, leopards, bears, and even spiders. And, oh dear, it seems they…"

"It seems they what?"

"They… can change at will."


"Erhm, it gets worse I'm afraid."

"How much worse."

"They have been known to use spells and disappear completely. No divining spells reveal them when they have faded."


"If you need I can have a back-up team in the States in a few-"

"No! I mean, I can handle it." No way did she want anyone else involved in this. She sure as hell didn't know them, but Xander had his reasons for separating from the gang. She wasn't about to lead any to him without him knowing.


"You have just recently changed, yes?" the 'King' asked "That's why we call you cub. As for the Silver Fangs… that is a bit more complicated." They arrived in a clearing as the last of night fell and Xander jumped almost two feet in the air from what he saw.

Five statues stood in a line facing them. On the far left pedestal stood a statue of a man dressed in armor as a roman centurion. To the right of the centurion stood a Neanderthal. When looking closely it was actually the centurion, grown nearly a foot taller and much thicker, his hair more bushed and feral. On the far right of the line was a wolf, Xander couldn't discern the breed. To it's left a statue of a huge wolf was frozen in mid leap. It was nearly as large as a horse with huge paws and head.

Xander both saw and didn't see these statues. As soon as he laid eyes on the middle statue all other thoughts left him. On the middle pedestal stood the monstrosity he'd become. Even bowed slightly it was easily eight feet tall. Every limb was a tree trunk. Yet he knew from experience that in execution they were every bit as graceful (if not more so) than those of a normal man's. Huge talons and claws obscenely out of proportion to the rest of its body. While a human fist might cover the area over it's heart, the wolf-man's mighty talons were grown were twice the size of what a body that size should have.

And this to say nothing of the Lupine features of the head that somehow retained human expression. Or maybe now he could see expression that was hidden from him before.

The strangest thing about the figure, however, was also what gave him largest hope: The creature was obviously built with death and destruction in mind. And yet, the expression on it's face was serene, almost contemplative. Scant moments later Albrecht spoke up.

"Silver Fangs lead the Garou Nation. These," Albrecht gestured at the statues "are Garou, an in-between race. Not man. Not Wolf. Not Physical nor Spiritual. But all." So he was a monster after all. Xander drooped visibly. Albrecht continued regardless. "We are warriors first: We fight for Gaia the earth-mother. And we fight for man's survival." Xander lifted and turned to look at the king. Perhaps the solemn king had empathy for him after all. Albrecht placed both hands on Xanders shoulders. And changed.

Jonas Albrecht was taller than Xander, not by much, but his change took lengthened the distance. In massive War-form, the king stood just shy of ten feet tall.

After a moments difficulty Xander rose and joined him, now six inches shorter. "You *are* Garou. You are a Silver Fang. It is your destiny to lead and fight for Gaia."

"Welcome Home Xander."


"Homid." Albrecht stood in front of the Centurion statue. "One of the three forms that Garou are born in. And by far the most prolific. A homid child will remain so until he endures his first change. Much of the time this is at puberty, but some change as late as eighteen, or their late twenties in your case. Obviously it is to Homids that we look when we need to deal with humans." As he spoke Albrecht moved nearer to the Neanderthal. "This is Glabro an in-between form rarely used. It is stronger and tougher than the homid form, but too coarse to interact with humans. And," the King's eyes flicked to the middle statue "there are better forms for war."

Bypassing the middle statue completely the older man stood before the wolf. "A Lupus. Another of the forms that Garou are born in. The Wolf-born Garou have the hardest time in human society, in world of wolves things move fast and simple, human affairs are more complicated. The lupus hold that man weaves his web too tangled. And this statue to it's left is the hispo form. Another in-between. This one however finds more use. Lupus often taken on hispo form for battle, favoring the four-legged stance and bites. They just don't feel comfortable on two legs."

"This is the Crinos form. The Metis, werewolves born of an unnatural union between two werewolves are born this way. When Garou fight, they take on this form. It is not a form for deliberation. A few spirits will speak with you while wearing Crinos, but the rage all Garou feel is most difficult to resist in this form. As you can see a man grows a third again his natural height and gains two and even three times his weight."

Seeing the despondency on the cub's face Albrecht decided to end this session here. "Come Xander, you have learned enough for today. Now we eat and then you have many things that you have to tell me…"


The food here had been caught Xander off-guard by the food. In retrospect, these people were wolves, so the dining was perfectly reasonable.

From the motley assortment of people moving through the compound (if what Albrecht was telling him about Garou rarity was true then this was a major hub for them) he had expected maybe a cafeteria or buffet area of some sort.

Instead he was led past a kitchen area by several hundred feet to an outdoor area with a freshly killed deer. Needles to say: Twinkies were out of the question.


"Goddamn Hell."

Those words pretty well summed up all of Faith's accomplishments via the internet. From what seemed to be divine intervention she'd somehow intercepted an E-mail from the "GWnet" whatever that was. And unfortunately that's about as far as she got.

The E-mail itself made references to the possible return of a company named Pentex. Apparently the very same Pentex that Xander had been working for. She was guessing the company was strictly black hat since the guy in the mail sounded kind of panicked.

Finally giving up, she picked up the phone she kept near her computer and made a call to Willow. "Hey, Wills, listen, I got this problem trying to get into something called the GWnet…what d'ya mean you've been trying for years? Uh huh. You never got the urge to try harder than that? Uh huh. Uh huh. I know you Willow, didn't you ever try to crack that thing open with some cyber-magic: just because you could? Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay. Tell Kenny I said hi."

Willow wasn't going to be any help, and if the witch couldn't do it, she didn't have a chance in hell. Time to revise her opinion:

"Goddamn Fucking Hell."

So what does she know? For one thing when Xander woke up he probably wasn't happy with being tranq'ed. Another was that there was another group in opposition to Pentex (maybe those Lupine things G-man was talking about) that Xander may well have jumped ship too. If the other group were Lupines Xander might be in good hands.

Or he might be being brain-washed by an isolated society of zealots.


The next Afternoon found Xander and Albrecht walking through the forest. On all fours.

Used to walking around as wolf Albrecht moved the same way he did in any other form. The point of this exercise was to help Xander get used to moving around in wolf-form. As he stumbled along as best he could Albrecht spoke to him of his sacred duty as a Garou. And of the reason he had to do it in the first place.

"Long before history began there was Gaia, the Earth-mother. Giver of Life. And under her she created three powerful Celestines: the spirits of the Triat. These were the Wyld, the great turtle. Chaos embodied but also the force that made new forms of life possible. The Weaver, the great spider. She was Order first and foremost and gave structure to the world. Then came the Wyrm, the mighty serpent. He was the force of balance and entropy of reality."

"For a time, it was good. The Wyld poured forth it's creative energies and the Weaver wove them into the pattern web. The Wyrm used destruction and alteration to keep the strands of the web healthy. Then something happened. The weaver attained greater awareness, and surveyed all it's work. And could see no point or meaning to it's life, or even it's existence."

"In short, the Weaver went insane."

"It begun to weave it's webs at a lunatic pace and soon the Wyrm, who had used destruction and alteration to balance reality, had only time enough to destroy. Until eventually he too was caught in the web. As he struggled and thrashed to free himself he grew ever more enmeshed in the web. Eventually he too went mad. Unlike the Weaver however, the Wyrm's aspect changed. No longer balance, the Wyrm became a source of corruption. Every foul urge and impure thought creates a physical and spiritual manifestation of destruction and decay.

Now the Weaver's stagnant order encroaches on the wild places as the Wyrm tries constantly to drag the whole of reality down into oblivion. Of the Triat only the Wyld remains true to the purpose Gaia set for it, and with so many wounds opening from the struggle, Gaia needed Champions. Us."

Xander took this all in passively as he carefully watched his lupine fore paws tread the ground. At the end he came to a stop and stood uncertainly on unfamiliar limbs. "Bullshit."


"How do you know all that's true: your history? I've seen so many conflicting theories about the beginning in so many demon cultures it's almost funny."

"I have something to show you that will convince you, but how do you know about the demon cultures?"

"Please. I've been hunting Demons since I was fifteen."

Albrecht stopped cold in his tracks. Xander looked to be about twenty seven and if he had been hunting demons for twelve years it would mean a great deal more experience in combat. But his experience coupled with his late change and status as a lost cub would make other tribes and septs suspicious. "No matter what happens you must never tell the another Garou that until you have made a reputation for yourself."

"What does that have to do with any-"

"Don't tell anyone Cub or I swear I'll kick your ass up and down the whole sept!" Albrecht had learned very quickly that the way to Xander's heart was the ability to beat him senseless. It didn't matter whether you were trying to befriend or seduce him: take him down. As it happened Xander nearly tripped in his wolf-form while trying to use a forepaw to give the older wolf a rude hand gesture. But he had apparently submitted to his king's authority.


After nearly one mile of traveling through the forest they arrived in a small clearing. In the center of the clearing a woman with raven hair in her late thirties knelt atop a pile of rocks. For the first time since that first terrible night Xander welcomed the change. As he tensed to change (still a foreign sensation in the four-legged Lupus form) Albrecht looked down at him. "What do you think your doing?"

"Damn…" Xander thought as he stumbled along beside the now upright walking King when the woman waved them over.

"Afternoon, Jonas." she said stepping off her stone perch. "This him?"

"Aye. Be careful though he bruises easily. Well, at least his pride does…"

"Hush, he's probably got enough problems if you need to get my help with this."

Sitting on his haunches Xander tried to interject but found out that "Hey! I'm standing right here!" translated into various growls and yaps. At least it called attention to himself and the woman turned her gaze down on him.

"What are you still doing in wolf-form? Change into Homid if you want to talk." Grumbling indignantly Xander obliged.

"I thought he should get used to walking on all fours." Albrecht supplied

The woman nodded and looked Xander up and down appraisingly "I'm Mari Cabrah of the Black Furies tribe. Though I don't think that means anything to you."

"Notta thing."

"Thought so, but we won't get into tribes just yet. We have something a little more advanced to deal with with today."

"Wait a second. Advanced? Shouldn't I just start small?" Xander said with a note of panic starting in his voice.

"Relax. Mari's one of my packmates, so she'll take care of you, and we don't have much time to hold your hand." Albrecht tried his best to allay Xander's fears, but it was Mari herself who got things off the ground.

"Albrecht's right Xander, you've lost far too much time already. Now come with me…" Mari was insistent as she hooked one of Xander's arms and dragged him further into the forest. As soon as they were gone Albrecht began the long walk back to the sept.

They traveled further into the forest (thankfully on two feet) until arriving at a small lake. At which point Mari bid Xander to stare at his reflection in the water. "I want you to stare into the reflection, not at the sky or trees, at yourself. Especially your eyes. Now stop focusing. Almost across now, just keep on. And… there you go."

Xander looked around to see himself in the same alternate world he had been in before being sucked through the portal while fleeing the city. Except there weren't any spiders or webs. He mentioned this to Mari. She shrugged and said: "Didn't Albrecht tell you about the Triat? The weaver is the strongest in the cities."

"…Okay, point taken. But I just learned that stuff an hour or two ago."

"Whatever helps you feel nice and big and confident once I'm not in sight." She said with a grin. She could tell why Albrecht had latched on to him. The similarities between the two went a tad deeper than missing eyes, she'd at first feared that Albrecht was beginning to lapse into Harano, the madness so common to his tribe. Now she was sure that Albrecht had just found a capable apprentice, perhaps the son he never had to mentor. "This is the Umbra, which someone must have already told you about if you know about the spiders. Here we may travel great distances, ambush our enemies in the physical world, and converse with spirits."

"So… I take it we don't need to look in to a mirror or something every time we shift? That would make it a lot less useful."

"Right. What a Garou is predisposed to do is decided based on what moon it's born under, it's 'auspice', and some of those have a harder time crossing over and I don't know what kind you are. So the only reason I led you to this lake is that any 'mirrors and stuff' makes it easier to cross-over."

"I'm not sure whether I should feel grateful or insulted, so I think I'll go with 'Whatever.'"

Mari opened her mouth. Then shut it. Then opened it again. "Hey! Watch it! Me and Albrecht might be a little lenient from special circumstances, but other Elders won't. Your still a cub, we don't even know what auspice you are, and a strange cub at that. Watch your mouth. It'll get you into a lot of trouble."

Xander regarded her for a moment before waving his hands in mock surrender. Screw him then. Let him learn the hard way if he didn't want to take any advice. "Go explore around here and see if you can find any spirits, but stay close, I'm going to do a ritual and I need you around for it. And for gaia's sake don't piss anything off."


For nearly fifteen minutes afterward Xander prowled the wooded area. He'd decided to take to wolf-form and it was beginning to feel like less of a chore. Mari had told him not to leave while she worked her magic. He had briefly considered taking off anyway. Now was a good chance, but Xander elected to stay.

These people… HIS people honestly wanted to teach him what he was and help deal, so maybe it was a good idea to stick around at least a little while longer. After all, he wasn't going to learn any of this stuff on his own was he? Only other chance he might have was the voice that had been talking in his head a few days ago, and he could definitely due without *that*.

Everything seemed more vivid and real now that he'd changed, it had been barely noticeable in homid form and he had been concentrating on not stumbling too much when he first took this form to appreciate it. At the moment Xander was enthralled by all the sensations he could take in (especially smell).

When Xander bent his head down to snuffle at a rose a noise roused him and he spun about. A gray-wolf sat five feet before him. It regarded him with solemn interest. Xander looked left and right before settling his gaze on the wolf again. It was freaking unsettling how easily it crept up on him. Tired of waiting to see what it would do he thought he might as well try to talk to it.

"So… Kill any good deer lately?" The wolf just kept staring at him. "Right that was stupid… Sorry."

"Yes," the wolf said in stunted English "very stupid."

"Huh? What the… Oh yeah, Garou."

"No." was all the wolf said, and it did not elaborate further.

"So what are you?" In response the wolf looked at him mildly and pawed at the ground before settling in the snow. "Hey! I'm talking to you! Answer me you-" Xander cut himself off abruptly when he realized that he was snarling and growling at the wolf. He had a moment to look ashamed before the wolf spoke up.

"Be calm. Your Rage and Hatred are a taint, but a part of you. Of all Garou. A weapon. But see that you control it, and that it does not control you." Xander sat on his hind quarters and considered this thoughtfully.

A twig snapped and his head shot up in time to see the wolf streak at him. It lunged to his side curiously enough. As it streaked by the wolf brushed him with his paw. He flew many feet from his opponent despite the soft touch.

As he struck a tree Xander recognized the hint of magic in the air. He'd never have noticed it before but now his senses were far keener now. Willow's magic would have an ordered and almost stagnant smell. This was a raw smell. Fresh and primal. 'This must be what werewolf magic is like.'

A second realization hit him. The corrupted wolf he'd taken the silver sword from had used a move just like that to knock Xander on his ass. He recovered as quickly as he could in an unaccustomed form and faced his attacker. But now the wolf stood regarding him mildly again. "Return when you know yourself," it said cryptically "And I shall show you something of how that is done."

Before the very confused Garou could respond Mari stepped from the tree-line in her human form. Seeing her Xander turned his head back to the wolf to find himself staring at bare earth.

"Come on Xander, I've finished the ritual summoning and a spirit that can tell us your auspice is on it's way."

"Wait a second… I think I just met it. A wolf? Sent to kick my ass?"

"No I summoned a one called a kin fetch. …Guess what it does."

"And this thing doesn't mind being called a 'kin fetch.'"

"It is what it is. A wolf spirit won't mind being called wolf."


While Xander was busy getting put in his place by a wolf spirit Faith sauntered into a gun shop called "the Silver Bullet." Now that was ironic once she had learned about the lupines weakness to silver. Xander had been coming here for a month before he disappeared. She'd been coming here for a few days afterwards, since she'd found Xander's idea for the guns to work pretty well.

She'd even befriended the hoary old man who ran the place. Matthew Radley had a Giles-esque feel to him, with maybe a little bit of the G-man's bad side too. Had a similar build too, kind of rugged like a blacksmith, only with the thinning gray hair of an old man. Every time she came here he was hunched over some nasty thing that killed and from the way he worked with them she figured he probably had used some of them himself.

The fact that most of the information she got on the lupines came from Radley was not lost on her.

Today he was tinkering with a large bore hunting rifle that lay disassembled on the counter behind a grate. He looked up and nodded as she walked and then went back to his work. "What are working on now Radley?" This had become a little bit of a dance for them over the last few days. She'd pretend to be interested in his work or buy some ammo before asking him anything about the lupines.

"Just a little beauty some fool brought into sell. His loss. … Ya know, I've been keeping my ear to the ground and I picked up a little something."

This was a change, no beating around the bush and no gun-talk. "Like what?" was all she said not wanting to let this opportunity pass by.

"Hold on a moment." He reached under the counter and brought out a box of bullets and a bundled up rag. "The bullets are silver, and here's a pretty thing," He unwrapped the bundle and lifted it in his hand: a small hunting knife in it's case. "This one cost a penny or two." He handed it to Faith. She drew to inspect the blade. Silver.

"How much do I owe you?"

"For these? Call it a gift. You're going to need if you go head to head with any wolves. And besides Xander's good business. Hope you find him."


Mari and Xander sat at the edge of the lake. The wolf had somewhat unsettled Xander and he didn't want to talk anymore. (Although he hadn't been curious about so many things since high school.) In the contemplative silence Xander had been turning several things over in his mind. The wolf. The deformed and corrupted Garou warrior, Albrecht, but most of all the voice in his head. He'd briefly wondered whether or not the voice *was* Albrecht, but he'd discarded that notion rather quickly. The more he thought about, the more and more the wolf spirit and the voice seemed to be similar. Not the same spirit obviously but a spirit nonetheless. And from what Mari said about rituals he could summon a spirit.

And then he'd get his answers.

As he began to devise a plan Mari perked up. "It's almost here." The kin fetch she'd summoned was supposed to have some information on him. Apparently his long lost people decided what you were going to be doing for the rest of your life by what phase of the moon you were born under. Strange.

He waited a few more minutes, then a sparrow flew into the valley and perched on a branch in front of them. Mari didn't waste any time. "What can you tell me about this cub?"

"Cub?" the sparrow chirped "Doesn't look like a cub…"

"Yeah well he was a late change. And you were supposed to be guarding over him."

"Whoa-Whoa, wait a second. You mean to tell me that my Spirit guardian was a freaking sparrow? Christ no wonder I was beat up so much as a kid."

"He doesn't actually guard anything…" Mari tried to say

"Wait I know this one." the kin fetch/sparrow replied "Big dumb Ahroun from many years ago. Hasn't changed yet, tries to fight vampires anyway. Very brave. Very dumb. Very stressful for me." And with that the little spirit flew away in a huff.

"What the hell is Ahroun?"

"It means you were born under the Full Moon. The Ahroun's are the warrior auspice of the Nation."

"Well hell… I could have told you THAT…"


Chapter 8

There was a time when I thought having some 'cool powers' would be the best thing to happen to me. I knew it flat-out after I met Buffy.

Now though? I know for a fact that it sucks.

Take my current situation for example: I don't really want to kill these guys… But I'm going to. I have to.

Well that's about as vague and mysterious as all the crap I used to hate from the dead-boys. Maybe I should back up a bit. Or maybe I should just go with what I said first. Maybe it's the supernatural thing…

Nah. I'm not supernatural, I'm very natural.

Two months ago I met Faith again after five years. It didn't go too well. A few days later I took a job with a very bad crowd. That didn't go well either. Somewhere in between those two points I changed for the first time. After escaping I hooked up with a group of my long lost people, and in hindsight that ended very, very, badly.

See what I mean? Every since I got my powers things have been going bad. And… That's too vague. Again. I wonder if I can blame Spike and Angel for that too. I'm going to anyway.

For the last five weeks I've been in: "the North Country Protectorate, under the care and tutelage of King Albrecht and his packmates; Evan Heals-the-Past and Mari Cabrah." Which will pretty much get me into any Garou sept in North America.

I've a lot to learn. Evan is a Philodox, a peace keeper, and has been teaching me all about the rest of the Garou Nation, all the tribes and the way life in general works for my kind. Mari is a Theurge, a shaman, so she's the best one teach me about the umbra and dealing with spirits. And the King himself? He's Ahroun, warrior-born like I am, and the best around to teach me how to fight.

The fact that all this was determined by the phase of the moon when we were born under seemed kind of, well… laugh out loud hilarious at first. But it began to make sense. After my change the warrior part of me seems a lot easier to indulge.

I'm here in the Sept of the Wailing Glade because Albrecht figured they were coddling me. Then he smacked me down when I told him it was old news. Can't have me getting very uppity or something. Afterwards he told me that I had to travel to a place in rural Michigan to reinforce a sept under attack. This isn't even my rite of passage. I'm still just a cub to the Nation, and after this I'm still gonna be a cub.

That sucks. Ass.

Which brings me to my current situation. You know. The one that makes me think having powers sucks.

Wyrm tainted troopers have attacked our shrine in the sept. We were going on a run to pump ourselves up for an offensive when one of ours caught a scent and we high tailed it back to find commandos and even a few Black Spirals Dancers.

Right now I'm in the middle of a group of five commandos with my back nearly up against the wall of the shrine. A sixth was planting bombs on our shrine, but it was on him I landed when I pounced over here. No more problems there. Just one problem.

These guys are human. Fomori technically. Most of them have given themselves over to the wyrm for power at the small price of their soul. I also know that some get tricked into it. So I'm a little ambivilant as I tear them to pieces.

It's almost instinct as I bring them down. My claws move through gaps in their armor like butter, without thinking I simply rip the final one in half. When my rage subsides I'll wonder if one of them was tricked, if one of them had an untainted family. Albrecht's told me I'll get used to it. Don't know if I want to. Not really sure that I have a choice.

Only one other warrior from North Country came with me. The Alpha of the Wailing Glade would have been pissed if he'd asked for help in the first place. Potential insult turned out to be an unexpected boon. The one they sent with me is a Get of Fenris named Toby Runs-like-Hell. They only sent him along to be rid of him for a week.

A word about Runs-like-Hell. He isn't a coward, which is what I first thought. He's actually one of the bravest of our kind I've ever met. Just a different kind of brave. He doesn't hate the wyrm any more than the rest of us or fight better than the average werewolf, he's the most legendary prankster in the whole damn nation. The deed-name Run-like-Hell comes from what he did after he shaved a Garou sleeping in wolf-form or used the spirit gift 'open-seal' on Albrecht's fly during a meeting. I love the guy.

The battle is over now. About an hour afterwards Black Rindle, the alpha of this area asks my company in the spirit world. I cross over to see him in his black furred man-wolf form next to the caern's spirit guardian. The spirit was a huge wolf that stand's taller at the shoulder than Black Rindle himself. It's pelt isn't a solid color or mottled with any hue. Instead it has patches of fur in many different shades. Each one looks like it came from a different wolf, all of them knit together like a patch work quilt. There's meaning in that. Mari taught me that all things in the umbra and concerning spirits has a meaning. The wolf's hide is a symbol for something, but it hasn't been long enough since my first change for me to figure it out.

The wolf cocks it's head at me. He introduces himself as Menegwho and saunters forward to look closer. He leans forward and licks my shoulder where a commando shot me with a silver bullet. He licks my chest where one of the Dancers slashed me. As he does the pain fades and as I look down I can see that the wounds are gone. A moment later he licks my claws and the blood of the men leaves them.

"You are cub no longer. Your Rite of Passage is passed." Menegwho says with serene calm.

"Afraid not. I haven't even begun." I'm calm too. I think it's an aura Menegwho puts out. Or maybe I just have a penchant for trusting the one who licks my wounds.

"Your Rite of Passage is passed. Albrecht will see it so." And that's that. He turns and leaves me with Black Rindle. Rindle has heard what I did at the shrine and invites me over to a local bar for drinks. And when he did it he didn't call me cub like every Garou I meet.

Maybe being a werewolf isn't so bad after all.


Two months ago Xander Harris came back into my life. Actually I just saw him again three times after five years but it's thrown my life out of routine.

I saw him for only a few hours at a time at most. Then he was captured by the men he was working for: Pentex. Pentex is a bad element and Xander should know better. Some would leave him to deal with his own damn mistakes. Then again he wouldn't and didn't do that to my sorry ass.

So for the last five weeks I've been harassing Pentex. Mostly small stuff. Steal a shipment of their stuff here. Break up a drug deal there. Blow up one of their secret underground labs… that last one was fun.

Radley gave me a new toy to play with. A silver dagger. He gave it for free which is a bit odd. I'm beginning to think he's got a bit of an ulterior motive as far as the 'Lupines' go. Then again he's always got some new way to screw with Pentex so I guess we're on the same side.

Tonight I was just watching their Jersey Headquarters sitting on a roof across the street. I think they figured out who I am, because I can feel some guy coming up behind me. He's no vamp. He's something else.

I pretend I don't know he's coming as I rise and head for the stairs. I deserve an Emmy for that kind of acting 'cause this guy smells like... something I don't even want to know. I barely hear him as I head down metal steps. It reminds me of the time Oz got out and I had to chase him down. Oz didn't make a sound. All of a sudden I know what's behind me.

God knows the thing can probably track me home with just it's nose. I go into an alley and pretend I feel like a smoke. Sure enough he comes into the alley just a minute after me. He growls and changes into the huge werewolf I saw so many nights ago.

No. This one's different, and that's a comfort. The fur on the things hide is greasy and matted plus it's shorter than Xander was. At the most it is seven feet. It lunges at me and I decide not to actually go toe-to-toe with it. It might be a little weaker than I am but I don't have claws.

Huh. The thing is dumber than the Xander-wolf was too. It just keeps slashing away without even trying to improvise. No way is it ever gonna hit me at this rate. I duck under both it claws and they hit the alley's brick wall. I roll out from under it's stamping feet (which have claws that are just as deadly) and I see why it was using it's feet. The things hands are stuck in the wall. I almost want to laugh at the thing struggling to get out. Instead I take the silver dagger and stab it in the back of its neck just below the skull.

I'm thinking of calling it a night.


I'm an artist. I come from a whole clan of artists.

The woman's eyes are wide and shocked. Such disregard. I'm unappreciated in my own time. I have a glass of blood before the next step. Soul singer. Excellent. I offer some to my guest and she just whimpers. Bitch. Reject my hospitality, will you?

I'm unsatisfied with the lips so I get started on removing them. This will be a masterpiece soon, but for now it is only so much clay. Before I even get the scalpel out for it the phone rings. Pity. I excuse myself and go into the parlor to answer it. It is Andrew Varden, another of my kin. I ask what exactly he thinks is worth interrupting me.

"I have some information on a mortal boy you might be interested in. His name is-"

I cut him off. I explain that I care not a whit for any mortal save one at the moment. One that I was busy with when he interrupted me. Which he should very well know. One as young as he is cannot afford to make such mistakes with one of my age. It is unhealthy.

"But his name is Alexander Harris."

That gives me pause. I ask Varden for specifics.

"He used to work with the caitiff Angel from the dead Aurelis clan. And later William the Bloody of the same."

I know he wants something for this. I ask him and he requests something appropriately petty, but I agree to it. He tells me that Xander was last seen in New Jersey, and that he is now Lupine. I am overjoyed!

Varden is young and his thoughts are clouded by affection. His daughter was a young girl when he turned. He followed his lineage with care through his short unlife. In return, he wanted his granddaughter released. Considering his news, I dig in an old chest and remove a silver dagger. It is very large and would be clumsy in the hands of a human. The blade itself has several indecipherable runes engraved upon it. I like this dagger. I like it a lot. I took it from the first Lupine I killed.

I stroll over to the woman, she starts at my presence. I stroke her hair and shush her. I croon that it will all be fine now. That it's all over. The blade is not for her, I say. I didn't lie to her once tonight, and she closes her eyes in relief. I keep my promise to her. The blade isn't for her. A deft twist of the neck and she is dead. Her troubles are over.

I also kept my promise with Varden as well. His Granddaughter was just released. My manservant will inform him of this and bring the woman's body as proof.

I am an artist, and I just abandoned a canvas for his news. But I remember Xander. I remember how much fun he was before he disappeared. Varden's kin was a commission. Xander will be a masterwork.

Most mortals would call me a monster, as I drink blood. They are prejudiced fools.

All mortals would call me a monster, for my art. They prove to me that the mortal education system has not yet fallen as far as my clanmates would have me believe.

A scant few beings would call me Enver Forseti. Monster extraordinaire.


Toby Runs-like-Hell and I join Black Rindle at Murphy's Tavern, a small little dive that only looks about large enough to fit about twenty people. A petite black woman scrubs the bar as we enter and smiles at Rindle briefly before she sees us. Her eyes narrow in concentration as she looks at me and Toby. She gets a little less friendly afterwards. Whatever. It's not time for diplomacy. It's time for drinking.

Rindle gets a quick peck on the cheek from the woman as he sits. Toby presents his cheek for a moment before Rindle smacks him down to the floor. Bravest man I ever knew. The woman gives us a flat stare, and even flatter booze. In his man form I can see easily the hump on Black Rindle's back. He's a metis, one of the pariahs. It's impressive that he can hold onto his station.

Runs-like-Hell gets tired of the cheap booze. He's got a bottle of the really good stuff up to his lips. I'm pretty certain he stole it. Good man. He doesn't want to share so Rindle and I wrestle him to the ground. We're both Ahroun and he's a Ragabash (a trickster) so it's a short struggle before we got it. Sour Mash whiskey. The bastard tricked us. He and the girl are laughing their asses off. She was in on it too.

Rindle playfully grabs the girl around the waist and they have a tiny little match of their own. Can't tell if their fighting or playing. Maybe it's because I'm concentrating on keeping that slippery bastard Toby in a head lock. It's then that the voice comes back, screaming in my head.

/Get home! As quick as you can!\

I turn around and let Toby fall to the ground in a heap. Before I get a chance to respond the voice speaks up again.

/No questions! Go!\

Oddly enough considering what I was planning to do just a few weeks ago, I don't question. I change into the caveman form and grab Runs-like-Hell by the belt. I haul him along as I head to our car. A beat up blue ford that's almost as old as I am. I toss him into the back seat and pause only long enough to explain why I have to leave to Black Rindle, who's coming out now. When I get behind the wheel I think maybe I took a little longer in explaining the situation than I thought: Toby's in the front now and is holding up a six-pack. I have no idea how he gets around to stealing so much when he's obviously drunker than I am.

Good man.


I'm having another dream. An important one. I wonder if Buffy could figure out whether or not a dream was prophetic or not during the dream. Probably not. For the first few minutes I don't even think it's a dream. I 'wake up' to commandos breaking down my door. I flee.

I run and again I seem to run forever. I cross deserts and plains, mountains and tundra. And the whole time greasy coated wolves nip at my heels.

I finally come to a stop at the edge of a cliff. I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder and leg and I stumble closer to the drop. I look over and can't see the bottom. A bird cries overhead as I finally fall. I twist in the air and fall backward. A falcon swoops down. I shout and cover my face as it's talons descend.

No pain comes. The bird catches me and flies to New Jersey, and finally to my own bedroom.

That's when I woke up.

Someone's trying to tell me something. I think: Message received. Five by five.


I'm pretty sure something heavy is going down to get Xander's whities in this big a wad. I'm still kinda pissed off anyway. I mean come on, one minute: Enjoying drunken debauchery with some real. Prime. Stolen liquor. The next minute: Xander's freaking out and hauling me to the piece of crap he calls a car. At least I picked up a little something for the road. Screw him if he wants some. He can steal- er, buy his own.

I was sent here on a little "mission" of my own. From the king himself. That's almost as funny as some of the stuff I've pulled over the years. Sending another Garou along just to see what he'll do. Everyone says that Albrecht isn't crazy like the rest of the Silver Fangs. They lied.

I like the cub. Which is an odd thing for me to say since he's older than I am. He's a late changer 'cause twenty-nine is really goddamn late to still be a cub. Late bloomer if there ever was one. Anyway I think he's the first Ahroun I've ever met with a sense of humor. I'm thinking of giving him the deed name "Scarfs-the-Twinkie."

My first pack didn't turn out to well. I was just a kid when we came to North Country for the King's summons during the near-apocalypse in 2003. Then blam: No pack, no sept, and my tribe leaves the Nation. Holy hell. I thought the Silver Fangs and the Shadow Lords had sticks rammed up their asses. All of a sudden my fellow Get of Fenris are saying: "the rest of the Nation has failed. We must make up for past mistakes" and they go get buddy-buddy with the other shapechanger breeds like the Stargazers. I haven't gotten into another pack since.

I'm lucky for Mari. She gave me a home in North Country, I think she has a soft spot for kids and at the time I was still just a teen. I think my big problem with forming a new pack is my relentless pranking. That tends to put a damper on things. Getting fixed up by Albrecht like this isn't that bad.

As I always say: "If at first I don't succeed… the wife won't let me forget. Or at least my wife won't."

Chapter 9

Xander's Car;
Traveling South-by-Southwest on an abandoned Highway

A blue ford fairmont hurtles down a parched stretch of highway. The road is broken by weeds in some places, simply crumbling into dust in others. It suited the car, a '78 model, making it nearly thirty years old. In addition the previous owner had been a poor good-for-nothing street punk. An ugly good-for-nothing street punk who was forced to pay for his dates and didn't believe in maintenance.

The driver (and current owner) of the car was a big, grizzled looking man with an eye-patch, looking all of his twenty-nine years and then some. His skin underneath his blue jeans, gray shirt, and brown jacket had grown a healthy tan from years on the road. His face had lines bisecting in between his eyebrows from spending the last few years wrestling with a deep seated anger. He liked the car just fine, he'd liberated it from a vampire on one of his "dates" and decided to keep it around. The man was nostalgic that way. From his rough appearance you would assume him to be a lonely drifter or one of the few remaining outlaws.

You certainly would never guess that he was of noble lineage.

His companion was a somewhat smaller and younger man. Dirty blonde hair and blue eyes hinted at a german heritage while his own tan (though not as deep as the driver's) told the tale of a lifetime in the States. This one was only twenty-three, and his clothes reflected this: tennis shoes, black jeans, and a white shirt with a decal of a small cartoon boy engaged in an inappropriate act with his stuffed tiger. His face had lines as well. But the smaller man's lines were laugh lines. He had had his share of tragedy but had coped well. From his appearance you wouldn't understand why he would be paired with the driver.

You also wouldn't guess that he came from a family of hard-nosed warriors.

The pair drove on in relative silence, for though the younger one loved to joke and prattle, he was suffering from the beginnings of a severe hangover. The driver was a talker himself, but he was deep in thought.

Hangover or no hangover: the younger one got bored. "Xander… hey, man… I think I might of forgot with all the jackhammers in my head, but I'd be willing to bet you didn't tell me why we went tear assing out of Rindle's place like that."

Xander glanced over at his passenger. Before responding he reached over into the glove box and removed a bottle of water and a baggie full of Advil. He was evidently a regular drinker as well, he just hadn't had the time to get drunk himself. "There's this spirit talking inside my head, has been off and on since my first change. Last night he was 'on.' I don't like him and as soon as I figure out how I'm going to track him down, but he hasn't steered me wrong yet, Toby."

Toby (Runs-like-Hell for those in the know) nodded at this but didn't leave well enough alone. "So a spirit strong enough to do telepathy just said 'jump?' And we're gonna do it? Crap, we're screwed." After speaking Runs-like-Hell laid his head against the window and closed his eyes. Xander thumped Toby's chest and then tapped on the water.

"Take your meds… And the guy 'hasn't steered me wrong yet' which means that he hasn't gotten me killed. So quit whining. And pass me a Twinkie."

Runs-like-Hell snorted but obliged on both meds and Twinkie. As Xander chewed on his twinkie (the ones he wasn't aloud to bring into his new home) he crinkled his nose in disgust. "Wyrm taint."

"Well, yeah." Runs-like-Hell said "That's why we don't like to have Twinkies in the Caern."

"Not the Twinkie. Shut up for a second."

Noting that Xander was serious about the taint, Runs-like-Hell actually did shut up. His companion rolled down the window and slowed the car to a crawl. Taking several cautious sniffs of the area Xander looked up sharply, a low growl escaping his throat. "I'm sure now. It's getting stronger."

They drove in silence again for the next few minutes. Every thirty seconds or so Xander would take another sniff of the area. For his part, Runs-like-Hell sat-up straight and tried his best to clear his mind.

Within ten minutes Xander pulled over near the side of the road. Exiting the vehicle Xander dropped to all fours and became a wolf, all the better to track his quarry. Wordlessly he and Toby trudged down the road. Anyone who passed down the highway would see a young teen taking his poor one-eyed dog out for a walk. No one passed.

After half a mile Xander cast about for the scent and quickened his pace, forcing Toby to veer off and jog along in a crouch among the high grass beside the highway so he wouldn't be noticed. They came at last to a roadside inlet in the grass. A thin dirt road led to a cathedral with various bits of junk and debris strewn around it. More interestingly a young brunette woman stood in front of sewer pipe holding on to a pair of kicking sneakers, presumably attached to the legs of a boy about her age.

Xander rose and was a man again. He took one last sniff before turning to nod at Toby. Runs-like-Hell pointed with his chin at the girl, but Xander shook his head as if to say 'Their only crime is being to stupid or brave for their own good.' While they were gesturing the boy dropped down into the pipe and the girl screamed. The two men exchanged a look before jogging over to the pipe.

The girl was yelling at the boy in the hole when she noticed them for the first time. Predictably enough she screamed again.


Patricia (Trish) Jenner; The Cathedral

Oh Crap! I can't believe that just happened. Wonderful job Trish, you've now made your brother eat mud, glued him to a toilet-seat, and just now you dropped him into a serial-killer's well/Pipe thing. You should be on the cover of Time. You yell down at him to see if he's okay, of course not, but his moans tell me he's alive. A second later he reassures me more by getting up and yelling up: 'Good job, you Trish always come through in a clutch."

"Hey!" I yell down "There were rats coming at my face!"

He yells back "There were rats coming at me too, Trish!"

I'm about to holler about his kicking when I hear a foot step behind me. I'm already screaming and backing away as I turn around expecting to see the serial killer. I backed up too much and now *I'm*falling into the pipe. I only fall about a foot before I feel a callused hand on my leg. I scream again but it dies in my throat as I see who it actually is.

It's not a serial killer. Or at least not *the* serial killer. This guy has a pretty blank expression on his face even though he's holding me up with one hand. Even with a poker face the guy seems a little pissed off. Then again maybe it's just that the patch over his left eye. He hauls me out and I can see another man here. He doesn't look as mean as his buddy, though.

The one-eyed guy asks me what me and Darry are doing out here. After that shock I'm not giving him a straight answer. I demand to know what the hell he was doing behind me. His buddy just says we had a bad feeling and came down to check it out. I don't buy it. But I also think they might get royally pissed if I don't accept it. I'm not sure what they'd do then.

So I tell them the whole story. That we were road-raged by this creepy armored car thing, I tell them how we saw the driver throwing blood stained sacks into this pipe before the freak got into his car and ran us off the road. And I tell them that Darry wanted to go back in case anyone was still alive. I think I said that all really fast because Darry's still yelling after I'm done.

The old one with one eye nods at the younger one, and then he says something to make me feel a little better: "We believe you." then he walks past me and sniffs at the pipe. His nose crinkles up a little and he yells down to my brother.

"Hey kid! Are you okay?"

"No I do this kind of thing all the time! What the hell do you think?" My brother is a real charmer. The guy who grabbed me growls something under his breath and reaches behind his back under his coat. He fiddles around back there a moment before bringing out a small gun. And now the fear is back in full force. He check the safety, puts it in it's holster and brings a few flares out of his pocket.

"Alright, just stand. I'm sending something down." Then, much to my relief, he lights a flare and tosses it down, then follows it with the gun, and finally the rest of the flare. I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.

He noticed. He looks at me for a moment and I can feel my skin crawl into goosebumps while he does, but he doesn't say anything. After a moment he grabs the top of the pipe with both hands and hops onto the lip. Before he can go down his partner speaks up.

"Xander, what the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Exactly what it looks like. Or would you rather the boy stay down there alone?" 'Xander' says.

"Oh no question about that. I just want to know what *you* think you're doing going down."

"Can you think of a better person? You?"

"Actually, yeah. If what she says is true the guy's out here. Not down *there.* Which is where you're going."

Xander considers this for a moment before hopping down from the pipe and steps to the side before gesturing to the pipe in invitation. So his partner goes down instead. But Xander is… I don't know. He seems dangerous. And angry. It may be a little selfish but I think I'd prefer it if the other one had stayed up here instead of him.

These crows are beginning to get to me. They keep hanging around this psycho's church, their either just hanging around for the dead bodies to eat (eww), or they're actually trained by him.

Xander reaches out and a crow lands on his hand, and now he looks even creepier. He offers it a little bit of bread-crust starts whispering to it. I don't even think he's speaking English… I have a sudden urge to jump in the hole myself.

"You shouldn't be feeding those things." I say this without even realizing it. He looks up at me and half-grunts half-growls a "Whatever" right before the crow lunges at his face.


The Cathedral; Xander Harris

I can tell that the girl is on edge around me. I've heard of this kind of thing so I'm not too offended. Regular people are always uneasy around us, they can somehow sense the rage we all feel. They tend to fear us (especially full-moon warriors like me) even if we don't say or do anything. So I decide to go about my business hope she's too scared to speak up.

I don't think these crows nest in a place like this naturally. Well maybe a church, okay, but no wild animal will hang around in a wyrm-tainted area without being compelled. I pull out a bit of bread and invoke one of the few techniques I learned from Mari Cabrah and not a spirit. I close my eyes and concentrate for a moment before extending my hand. One of the birds lands on it and its glassy black eyes regard me with love. It's a fake love though. The trick is I changed my scent in such a way too *force* it to love me. Not that I really want it to, just one whiff and I can tell that it's tainted.

Makes my skin crawl.

I softly grunt and growl out the language of my people and hope there's enough instinct left in the crow to understand me. I start with a somewhat warm greeting. I hoped right. The bird perks up surprised to actually communicate in it's own language with (what it thinks is) it's master. I ask it to remind me what it's doing here.

"Guarding, master." It couldn't be that easy…

"Ah, I remember now… but guarding what and why?"

"The Cathedral master, the Cathedral of Flesh and Bone."

That gives pause. I briefly consider going down and fetching Toby. Then I think that however traumatizing it might be for him and the boy, the killer is still up here.

The girl just this moment to interrupt me. "You shouldn't be feeding those things." I turn my head to brush her off with a one word answer, and the crow snaps out of it. A black shape fills the vision of my remaining eye, and I can hear the crow cawing like it's never been this pissed off before.

It's surprisingly sharp beak stabs me in the left eye socket. 'Five years too late, buddy.' I think and grab the crow blindly, not wanting to expose my other eye. A squeeze of my hand and the thing croaks it's last breath out. All of a sudden the rest of the birds are taking wing and flying away like a bat of freaking hell.

I'm beginning to put two and two together here. I don't think these birds are guardians or anything. Even beyond the piss-poor job they're doing, these things are making a huge ruckus and most of them flew off. Flying in many different directions. Their freaking alarms. No man can train a murder of wild crows like this, not wyrm-tainted ones. That means a Bane, probably heading this way too. I run to the pipe and yell down: "Toby! Grab the kid and get the hell out of there, we're leaving!"


Darius (Darry) Jenner, Toby Runs-like-Hell; The Cathedral of Flesh, Main Hall/Workshop

Within a pit in the earth, Darry Jenner waited near the spot of light where he landed. He'd only been down there a minute and he heard voices up there. He'd been scared out of his mind thinking that someone got to Trish, then she yelled for him to stay put. Easy for her to say. She wasn't in some creep's basement. How freaking typical.

He looked at the whole and saw this guy with an eye-patch. Around this time Darry began to suspect that the killer really *was* up there. The man called down a warning before dropping a lit flare, followed by a gun and a lot more flares. As soon as the lit flare landed Darry wished it hadn't.

By the red light of the flare he could see beyond the front of the cave he was in. Now he could see a pile of blood stained sacks against the wall and one sitting alone on the floor. When the sack on the floor shifted it reminded Darry why he was in here in the first place. He took just three steps forward before he heard a sudden thud behind him. The boy whirled around and saw a blond man sitting on his ass in the beam of light.

The man (Runs-like-Hell) looked the boy in the eyes. The boy looked back. At that point Toby summed up the situation. "Ow… I think I broke my ass."


Darry Jenner; The Cathedral of Flesh, Main Hall/Workshop

Now just who the hell is this? "Now just who the hell are you?" The blonde dude who just landed on his ass just kind of looks around before he decides it's time to answer. Toby. He begins to tell me a last name before he stops himself. Well I don't trust you either, asshole. Toby stops rubbing his broken ass long enough to get to his feet and dust himself off.

"Okay buddy," Toby drawls as he picks up the gun "let's go find us a serial killer." Which is the most inappropriate thing he could have said in this situation. But he earns a little of that respect back: as his eyes find the human-sized sacks the grin drops from his face. For a split second we make eye-contact before he tosses me the gun. I ask him what he's gonna do. "I can take care of myself." is the only reply I get.

I tip-toe over to the sack. Whatever's in it is definitely man-sized, and I think the sack is actually just a sheet wrapped and roped over to keep it hidden. When I get within a foot of the bundle an arm shoots out and grabs my foot. I scream and turn as white as the arm clutching my foot. I scream again when I feel Toby's hand grip my shoulder and yank me away. "Take your safety off. Let me handle him." I look at him like he's grown a second head for awhile before I remember that I have a gun in my hand.

In a few seconds Toby has the head of the man exposed. The guy's scared shitless and looks like he's got pneumonia, but he's alive. So I was right in coming here. Assuming we can move him we just saved a life.

But Toby grimaces. The guy tries to say something, but Toby quiets him. "Rest. We'll avenge you…" I ask him what the hell he means. Then I demand to know what the hell he means. Toby glances up at me and pulls the sheet away from the man's midsection. Oh god. "We can't save him." Staples keep the corpses midsection together. The scars are open and would be bleeding if there were still any blood. That's why he was so white…


Toby Runs-like-Hell; The Cathedral of Flesh, Main Hall/Workshop

I close the corpses eyes, not for my benefit, but for Darry's. He's gone about as white as the corpse. Not that I blame him. I'd probably about the same color if I weren't trying so hard to keep the anger down.

All Werewolves have an inborn anger. It starts in when we're a child and usually spills over in our teens, then we change. It's the rage that fuels our transformation, and nothing pisses us off more than corruption and something pissing off nature.

It's good that I came down here and not Xander. I am of the Ragabash auspice, Tricksters, and we tend to feel it less. Xander? He's Ahroun, a Warrior, and those guys feel it most of all. I'm having a little trouble here. I don't think it's the corpse either. That's nothing new. Something about this place. It reeks of corruption. Xander has a better nose for it than me and I can smell it. I think if he came down here he'd see the corpse, catch the scent, and then lose it. The man's got a bit of a temper. He'd probably change to the Crinos (Wolfman) form and tear this place apart. Probably the kid too.

We move a little deeper into the cave and the smell gets stronger. I might need to either split from Darry or preferably get the hell out of here, the place is getting to me. We reach a table and on an impulse I light a flare. Weird tools dot the workman's bench.

The smell is almost unbearable, even Darry's starting to notice. It's then I look up.

I know where the smell is coming from now. Hundreds of bodies have been stuck to the ceiling and high walls. Christ. It's not just wyrm-taint… these things are almost mummified and they still stink. The kids hysterical. I think he sees someone he recognizes.

Enough is enough. The flare is tossed away and I half drag and half carry Darry over to the pipe. "Come on," I say in most authoritative voice I can "we're leaving." In a strange coincidence Xander yells down the same thing a second or two later.


Toby Runs-like-Hell; The Cathedral

I climb out of that godforsaken pipe right behind Darry. His sister engulfs him in a hug that seems completely contrary to the variety of foul names she's calling him while she does it. Maybe not, considering the quaver in here voice and the paleness of his skin in the afternoon sun.

I'm not in the mood to complain but I don't get anywhere near that treatment. Xander's in full business mode. Might have something to do with the beak sized hole in his eye patch. "What did you see?"

When I tell him Trish pales a little herself and I can see Xander's right eye yellow and his upper-lip begin a snarl. I give his shoulder a squeeze and tell him to calm down. What I don't say is the last thing we need is for him to lose it.

For only a minute Xander closes his eye and considers. Then he gives us our marching orders.

First he asks the kids if they've ever used a gun before. Neither of them have. He pulls two bullets from his big .357, then without saying a word he tosses one at each of them. The girl catches hers, so he gives her the little 9mm he sent down to Darry. Then he asks them to wait at their car. Then he wants to check around and see if we can find out what we're up against. Are we dealing with a serial killer like the kids thought? Or something else.

Xander heads for the Cathedral building itself while I mill around the junk heap. I bend to sniff at a bit of blood and hear the unmistakable sound of a boot on metal. I turn and a figure is running at me. Too fast. Vampires don't move this fast. WE don't even move this fast. Before I can react it has me. It's hands (claws?) grip my sides and lift.

My head swims. We're still moving. This thing's moving too fast. I bring my chin to my chest and get a good look at it. The sickly green head and rows of sharp teeth tell what it is. A bane. A malevolent spirit of the wyrm, apparently materialized in the mundane world. I also see wings and realize that we're airborne. I could be miles away from Xander by now. One of it's clawed hands reaches methodically for my face as it grins at me.

If this thing is a materialized bane then it won't want to go back to the spirit world. If it does it won't be coming back for awhile. It's eyes are almost completely white, but more importantly, I can see my face reflected in them. I focus on that as a crutch. I concentrate and try to slip my consciousness behind my face in it's eyes. Before it figures out what I'm doing I've crossed over. It's not here and I barely shift to a more durable form before the somewhat lower gravity of the spirit world reasserts itself.

I land and roll for a few feet before coming to a halt. I stand as the nine-foot tall war form for a full five minutes waiting for an attack before I return to the physical world.

I know what the thing wanted now. It knew me and Xander were a threat to it. I can only hope it doesn't know about the Garou, because if it does and it didn't before it sure as hell knows now. Though I'm going to bet it just smelled strength on us. It did go after me and not Xander after all. It must be intelligent, it thought to come at me hard and fast and more importantly it's divided us.

I need to get back to Xander. I calm myself, taking several slow, deep breaths. Then I picture Xander in my head. I focus on his image and cast about for a scent.

There isn't any physical scent here obviously. That's not what I'm doing. An wolf spirit taught me to do this. After a few minutes I feel a pull off to my right. Xander's in that direction, twenty miles. Jesus Christ. I drop to all fours as a wolf and take off.

By the time I make two miles I can feel him moving off in another direction…


Xander Harris; The Cathedral

This is bad. Five minutes ago I heard a strangled little cry from the area Runs-like-Hell was in, and when I got there he was gone. I manage to follow his scent for about twenty feet north into the field before it disappears. I can't find a trace of him and I got very good at hunting when Oz taught me in High School. He's either crossed over (and a quick peek into the umbra tells me no) or it looks like he just fell off the face of the earth.

A quick run to the kid's car and I tell them to get the hell out of here. I have a pretty good idea of what my quarry is doing here. Runs-like-Hell was the weaker of us, and I doubt that Trish and Darry would be able to do anything to it, so it wants fight Toby and I on our own. After the kids are gone I take a knee and try to meditate for control when the thing finally rears it's head.

I don't have to wait long before I feel it's eyes on me. I know it's watching because I get a quesy physical sensation similar to when I first smelled the taint that led me here. I don't move. This is more than just not wanting to tip my hand, as it watches I'm beginning to get a general sense of what direction. It's best that I wait until it comes out in the open anyway.

There's a sudden gust of wind and the feeling is gone. The creature isn't heading in the direction it dragged Runs-like-Hell, it's going east. Why the hell would it go east? Oh shit. That's when it hits me. The kids went east. The damn thing isn't after us! It's after them!

Cursing all the while I run as lope along in wolf-form as fast as I can heading west, towards my car. I'll need as much speed as possible to catch up to them, and I'll probably get there too late.


Time passes

Along the shattered road and decaying highroad, Xander's ford hurtled along as fast as he could get it to go. For a brief few minutes the familiar feeling of wrong/unnaturalness returned. And during this time a shadow passed overhead. In response Xander merely snarled and pushed down harder on the accelerator.

Trish and Darry traveled for some time in relative silence before reaching a truck stop. There they received an eerie phone call from a insane woman who knew about everything that happened to them, and warned to watch out for the song and the cats. The police were even less than helpful.

Far away, Runs-like-Hell was living up to his name as he tried desperately to catch up to his friend. As the sun begun to dip under the horizon he redoubled his efforts, loping along in his wolf-form roughly parallel to the road.

While being escorted to a local police station, Darry heard the song he was warned about and panicked. With good reason for only a moment later something hit their hood and the police car behind them skidded to a stop. Trish had wanted to check on the officers, but as she approached a tall, scraggly-looking man got out holding the male cops severed head. They didn't stay long enough to see him dessicate the remains. Just as well: for it gave them a head start as it went about it's grisly compulsions.

And in the dark Xander was closing in…

Chapter 10

Xander Harris; Driving down the Highway

I'm closing in. I can feel it. My nose and eye aren't telling me that yet, but I can feel it. Some ten minutes ago I passed by the wreckage of a police car. There wouldn't have been any corpses so I didn't bother to slow down. To be honest I sped up.

Soon I get the feeling again and I know the creature is right above me.

One has to wonder though. There could be about three reasons for this: It could have decided to get me before it ate the kids, it might of decided I would taste better, or it might have already got the kids. Personally I'm hoping for the second one.

About a minute later the engine grinds to a halt and my car coasts to a stop. I begin to get an inkling of what happened when all the hubcaps fall off my wheels. It's him. The creature is 'jamming the technology' a trick I've seen others of my kind do before, though it wasn't a technique I studied.

Ah, yet a fourth possibility. It's leaving now so I bet it just wants to slow me down long enough to get to the kids. I don't think he knows exactly what I am. I hope I figure out what the hell he is in time.

I get out and break into a run, after only a few feet I drop down to all fours and pick up speed.


Trish Jenner; The Farm

The farm we came to is too dark, and the old woman who comes to the door is too old and too crazy to be much help here. I tell her are names and that we need to call the cops, and she goes on about how the cops of this town are good for nothings that tell her how many cats she can and can't have. Holy crap.

The lights come on when I tell her someone has been killed. And she doesn't even care it's a cop, she was worried that one of her cats got killed. I ask her if she heard a word I said, but Darry interrupts me. He's trying to pull me away when all the lights go out. I think (hope) it's a blown fuse until the windmill stops too.

And there the psycho is: right where the scarecrow was. Before I even notice the old woman muscles up between us and points a shotgun at the man. "I'll give you ten seconds to get the hell out of my lawn! And don't think I won't shoot!" she waits five seconds and then fires.

But the guy is moving impossibly fast. Before anyone can blink he's on her roof, and a moment later he crashes through and dozens of cats are running from the house. Darry tries to stop her, but he get a shotgun butt to the nuts for his trouble. I help him to his feet and we hear a shotgun blast. Then another.

We both look to the door and the old woman is standing there. She comes a few steps closer and I can see splotches of crimson all over the front of her gown. And that, that *thing* must be standing behind her. I'm just standing there when I feel brush against my left, and I utter a short scream in shock.

Xander has found us again. And now he stands in front of us, putting himself between us and the thing. "Don't stare back, and don't move until I tell you." I'm not in the mood to argue if he knows what the hell he's doing.


The Farm

The 'farm' was largely dominated by a dilapidated farmhouse, a tired old thing with rotting wood on the porch and outer walls. Off to one side a similarly run down swing chair hung suspended by only one remaining chain, the others having either fallen out of the ceiling or simply rusted and snapped. Just to the right a few planters with drooping sun flowers lay tipped over.

The Lady of the House stood suspended behind the screen door. From the red stains seeping in to her blouse, the vacant look of her eyes and the way her feet dangled above the floor made it painfully obvious that she was dead. She didn't move a muscle as she moved forward, the screen door was pushed open with her forehead.

Trish and Darry Jenner's mouths hung open, and they spoke not a word. Both of them had gone a pale white, for they saw the creature now at last. Xander Harris stood one foot in front of them. There was a scowl on his face as he interposed himself between the college kids and the threat. Trish groped in her pocket for the small handgun Xander had given her, but he stopped her hand. "Guns won't be of any use here."

And from over the woman's shoulder, the creature peeked out. The skin on the Creeper's head, and neck, and claws, was a mottled green with sickly blue and gray. A grin played upon it's lips and revealed rows of jagged, razor sharp teeth. It's eyes were completely white, and yet shined with a feral, malevolent, intelligence. The old woman was tossed away while her killer was still grinning like a fiend.

It was now that Xander yelled for the kids to run, as still grinning the Creeper walked to stand toe-to-toe with Xander. It took several deep whiffs of him before the man realized what was going on. With an effort of will he relaxed the iron grip he had put on his fear, and it seeped into his scent.

The Creeper's grin grew wider as it clamped a hand over his opponent's throat. With lightning speed Xander drew his big .357 pistol and jammed it between the creature's teeth. He fired twice and it disappeared in a flash.


On the Road Again

Thirty minutes found all three speeding down the highway. Trish held the steering wheel in a white knuckle grip. Darry's leaned forward, his eyes downcast and his arms wrapped around himself. In stark contrast Xander was stretched out in the back, one foot propped up in the open window. Within five minutes they would be in the Pohoe County police station, and hopefully, relative safety.

"What the hell was that thing?" Darry had asked once they were away from the farm.

With his arms crossed behind his head, Xander had merely replied: "Demon."

"And that's perfectly okay with you?" this time it was Trish "Just gonna lie there and say: 'Demon' like it's obvious?!" However calm her voice had been (not very) when she first started talking, she was nearly yelling when she finished.

Unaffected Xander merely shrugged supplied "You get used to it. It might take a few years. They're not all like that actually, most of them are blue collar."

"How do you know about this stuff?"

"I hunt them." The rest of the ride into Pohoe was traveled in silence.


Xander Harris; The Pohoe county police station.

We get to the Police station and call their parents. Maybe I'm a little biased because of what happened with my parents but the fact that their so pissed off about the car makes me a little angry.

Not nearly as angry as the amount of missing posters on the bulletin board though.

Trish declines a ride home and I wonder if that's really a good idea. I make sure she knows that I didn't kill it. She nods with out a word. No way can I think of something to make either one of them feel better, and it's probably best that I not lie and tell them it's going to be okay.

A large black woman barges into the police station looking for Darry. She shuts up the gutless desk jock that tries to throw her out and starts to tell Darry and Trish all about the dreams she had of them. She knows too many details to be just a random kook but they're not buying it. I'm particularly interested when she says it can regenerate.

It's around then that the lights go out and the desk jock gets a call on his CB about a freak tearing up the holding cells. I tell the kids to stay here and head in that direction behind the cops.

I did some scouting around the place when we first arrived and noticed that the place, intentionally or not, had been set up to be ideal for a siege. If there was a disturbance in the jail cells there was only one hallway that would lead from there into the lobby where the kids were. And right now twenty cops and I right behind them are in the banes way. So long as they stay put they'll be fine.

One brave cop heads a little closer to the stairs and gets his heart torn out for his trouble. The thing reached down from the ceiling. The cops open fire now, and the creature is heading up to the other floors. Why would it go up? It scent disappears and I run back into the lobby their not there.

I follow Trish's scent down the hall and up to the second floor. I don't get very far along her trail before I notice a different scent converging on it. It's scent.

Both scents grow stronger, hers with stress and sweat, it's with lust and hunger. I enter a hallway and see the black woman kneeling there. I walk down the hall towards her and she speaks in a quavering voice. "It went this way, after them. I tried to warn them, I tried to…"

I don't let her finish. As I pass I snarl at her. When I do it isn't a man's sound, I'm almost on top of the fiend and the wolf is coming to the fore. "Be silent! You gave them to it on a silver platter…" I probably would have throttled her but I hear a the breaking of sturdy glass and start running.


Trish Jenner; The holding room

We rush into what looks like an interrogation room when we leave Jez un that hallway. She led us into a trap. Darry is trying to pry the bars off the windows without much luck. Then my eyes fix on the mirror. I feel drawn to it. There's something strange about it. Aren't these things usually one sided? Darry grabs me and yells at me for checking myself in the mirror at a time like this. I fight him, I try to tell him that there's something strange about it when the demon breaks through the glass.

We huddle in the corner for a moment before it grabs each of us in one hand. I tremble in fear and revulsion as the thing takes deep sniffs of me and Darry, pausing once to lick me from the neck to the cheek. Finally it casts me aside.

It grabs Darry in a chokehold in front of the window. And I beg. I plead. I tell the thing that whatever is inside Darry is in me. I tell him that I'm stronger. I'm the one he wants, and I won't fight him. He can just take me. Whatever he wants. And finally it speaks. It's voice is rough, like nails on chalkboard: "Shut up little girl… Or I'll take you both."

I swallow hard as Darry struggles to tell me not to be a hero. Then I hear a different rough voice from behind me, one that reminded me of the hard men in the westerns Darry and I watched as kids. In the pale light of a full moon, Xander's making his play.

"Now at last, I think I understand you creature." The thing turns to him and bears it's teeth. "You're strong, you're fast, and you're tough. But I've seen tougher. But that's okay with isn't it?" Xander is coming closer to it, inch by inch.

"It's all about fear with you. It's how you hunt and select prey. It's what gets you off. The reason you've let the kids live so long, you enjoy the fear…" The raised portion of it's skin came off it's face in flaps, extending outward like a fan around it's face, and it let out an ear-piercing screech. "Scary. Well as an old friend of mine once said…" Xander's drawing back a fist, whatever good it might do.

"There are scarier things out there than you…" And at this last his voice is changed. It is low and feral, like a wolf's snarl. "And I'm one of them." And he throws his punch…

…But it is no fist that lands. A silver-furred claw rakes across the things face and it recoils in surprise. Where Xander stood there is now a nine-foot tall creature. It's huge, it stands like a man, but silver-white fur covers it completely, and it's head is that of a wolf's. A pissed off wolf.

It howls and bellows in rage and this time it does not take a swipe at the demon, but one of it's massive paws grips the creatures waist and squeezes. The demon screeches again, but this time it is not so intimidating a sound, as I'm knocked to the ground and Darry is with me. As both the beast and the demon are hurtled through the window, I encircle his chest to calm him. And the sudden image springs to mind, this is how I comforted my little brother when he had a nightmare and mom and dad were away. And all at once I come to the realization: We've both been saved.


The night sky above the police station lawn.

Xander's trouble was far from over. The Creepers bat-like wings beat furiously at the air trying to gain altitude, and the creeper's arms beat just as hard on the clawed hand around it's waist. But the hand's grip would no more loosen than if a child were hammering at it. For a servant of Falcon had taught him this trick, and the power of the spirits was at it's peak within him tonight.

The Creeper hopes to use it's wings to gain an advantage, but it couldn't gain altitude. In human form it's opponent was a lean and strong two-hundred pounds, it's man-wolf battle form added the tally up to eight-hundred pounds. The howling werewolf itself was having it's own difficulties. The bane's kicking feet kept it from reaching up with it's jaws.

As the combatants bobbed and swayed in front of the moon the Creeper tried a different tactic. It swooped down to the ground as fast as it could, using the added weight of the wolf for more speed. Together they slammed into the ground. Both were stunned in the impact, but Xander's grip slackened. The creeper was up in an instant and it jumped into the air to take flight. But it was halted by a strong hand on it's calf. Half a second later the Silver wolf swung the creature around by the leg and drove it into the earth. As the creature came to it's senses it was already too late.

Xander pounced upon the still prone form one hind paw stood upon the legs as he bent over the thing. What followed next was a frenzy of claws and fangs as he tore into the Creeper repeatedly. Both claws and his terrible jaws dug in, ripping and tearing at the middle and chest. Flesh fell in tatters, entrails were spread about, and most of the ribcage fell away in shattered pieces. The savage display continued for several moment after the creature stooped moving and it's eyes glazed over.

And finally, silhouetted by the Full-moon, the Hunter's moon, HIS moon, Xander howled his triumph into the night.


The holding room

Darry had finally had enough and was now curled asleep in one corner of the room. Trish now sat in front of the window with her legs pulled up to her chest, her chin resting on her knees. She had seen the demon and the wolf fighting in the air until they plummeted, and several minutes later she heard the howl.

Eventually she saw a silver paw appear in the corner of the windowsill. Then another came to a rest in the middle. A large wolf head with an eye-patch came up next, and finally the whole thing hoisted itself up into the room. She shivered a little. She knew this wolf just saved her and Darry, but it was still scary as hell.

It shrank down and fur pulled into the skin until it was just Xander standing there. And she had only one question. "Did you kill it?" Xander merely nodded. And then more tellingly he put a hand on her shoulder, but then they heard something that chilled Trish to the bone, the flap of wings.

Before Xander could find it a brick sailed through the air and struck his forehead. Then the Creeper appeared in the window. It was only able to move with pain and it grabbed Darry before Xander could change back, and flew out the window.

Xander recovered in time to look out the window and see Trish running down the walk screaming Darry's name. In a matter of moments he joined her, catching up when she lost sight of the creature and her kin. When he got there she merely stared up into the night sky.

Cautiously, he turned and laid a hand on her shoulder. She shuddered under his touch, then shockingly, she turned on him. There was fire in her eyes, and however foolish it would make him feel later Xander felt his heart rise in him like when he'd been a teenager.

Xander allowed her to take out her frustrations out on him as much as she needed to. When she screamed "It's your fault, all your fault! You were supposed to protect him!" he said nothing. When her small fists punched and beat on his chest he didn't try to stop them. And as the floodgates fully opened, he caught and held her as she slumped sobbing against his chest. As she buried herself as deep into his chest and arms as she could go, he stared up at the hunter's moon.

Xander bit back on the rage that boiled and rose within him. Though he grew restless by the light of the moon, he stayed. But deep within the furnace of his heart a vow was made:

Before the week was through he would send that Bane back to hell.


The lobby of the Pohoe County Sheriffs Station; Morning.

The morning found Trish and Xander in the sheriff's lobby. She had spent most of the night cradled against him as he reclined on one of the couches. She had accused him of all sorts of things, she had cried, and at some time between when Darry had been taken and two a.m., she slept.

She awoke in the morning at eight thirty, an hour after Xander himself. For a long time she merely lay against him. Before the silence lengthened anymore Trish shifted and looked up at him. "What was that last night? The wolf." Xander detected an unspoken question in her words. 'Was that you? Is that what you really are?'

With a sigh Xander replied "That was me." And he waited for the questions. None came. The girl merely lie back and mumbled "Thought so." Another long silence crept in, though this one much less uncomfortable. It was again Trish that broke the silence. "I'll never be safe will I?"

"I don't think he will trouble you anymore than the bastard already has." At some point during the night Xander had shared his vow with her.

"Even so, you said you've fought things like him before. There are others out there."

Xander wanted to hold his tongue, to let the question slide. But he couldn't. "That true. And now that you've seen what you have… you can never go back." She had seen what went bump in the night, as he had so many years ago.

Her next question was about a monster, but not one she feared… An offer. "Stay with me?" And he knew why she made it. It was a new world for her. And the very night she first saw it he had come, an otherworldly power that had protected her. She would latch on to him as he had to Buffy. And if he returned those feelings? If they didn't go unrequited as his had? Many times during the past five years he'd considered forming his own gang, support in the fight.

Four months ago, before he'd come to New Jersey and all this had started he would have said yes.

Instead he took her hands in his, and told her it couldn't happen. That she would be much better off if their worlds didn't cross. He told her not to make the mistake he had. Trish laid he chin on her chest for a moment. Then she looked up, held out her hand, and made a request. "Bite me."

"What? And then with a shock it came to him. She wanted him to pass it to her through his bite. "Trish… I was never bitten. I was born what I am." As he said it out loud at last, he knew it was true. For the past few months he'd denied it in his heart. He was a capable warrior, but he'd never joined a pack. He'd been resisting his own people. "For better or worse, I bite you, and the only thing that happens is you need a band-aid." For several long minutes she'd regarded him.

The moment was finally broken when Jez, the old psychic that had led Darry to his death interrupted. "I called your parents. They'll be here in a few hours." But Trish had something else to ask.

"Are your dreams ever wrong?"

Jez sighed before responding "I'm just a crazy old woman. You ask anyone around here and that's what they'll tell you."

Xander was more stubborn than that. "You didn't answer the question."

The woman grew angry. And her anger bordered on hysterical. "Of course they aren't! I wouldn't get them if they were wrong!"

And Xander, seeing a chance to fulfill his oath and possibily surpass it, was undaunted. "The boy could still be alive couldn't he?"

"He's alive. I wish he weren't with what he's going to go through but he's alive. And we can't do a *damn* thing about it. I can't see where he is, and it's not the church."

Xander glare was cold as he spoke. "I have beaten the creature into submission before, and I will do it again… And if you hadn't led them away from the lobby it would have had to go through *me* to get them. Remember this, and get the hell out of my sight, before I lose control."

The woman left in a huff, and Xander was still fuming when she was out of sight. But a hand on his arm calmed him down. "Don't." That was all she said. All she needed too.

"Xander, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I blamed you for what she and that thing did. You were just trying to save us. And if you hadn't come when you did I would be gone too." As she spoke her eyes shone with unshed tears. Once again his heart lifted as it hadn't since before he even knew about all the evils of the world.

It was then that a familiar face burst through the door. A blonde, blue-eyed man wearing a T-shirt that depicted a young boy and cartoon tiger as Gaia and God never intended. The man was Toby Runs-like-Hell.

"Xander!" he exclaimed once he laid eyes on him. "Jesus man I've been running almost non-stop since that thing grabbed me." he walked over, and as Xander prepared himself for an embrace Runs-like-Hell stretched out on the sofa.

"Toby! My god I thought you were dead. How did you find me?" Though it wouldn't do anything for Trish, Toby's return was just what Xander needed. After Xander explained that Trish was "in the know" he got even better news

"A wolf spirit taught me how to track anyone, anywhere so long as I either know them or got something that belongs to them… What?" Both Xander and Trish had turned their gaze on him.

"What exactly do you need to track someone?" As she spoke hope was already returning to her eyes.

"Just something small and meaningful to them. Like a…"

"Like a class ring?"


"Darry always kept his class ring in the glove box!" And with that she rushed off to the parking lot. Leaving a very puzzled Toby behind.

"Xander you wanna tell me what I've just gotten in to? Who the hell is Darry?"

"Remember that girl's brother? Well the bane took him. And you're going to track him down… we're gonna have to take her car though."

"It doesn't work with a car. Something about a machine separating us from the mother earth."

"So we run." To his credit Toby didn't argue. But as he rose from the couch his knees and legs trembled violently. This wasn't lost on Xander. "You won't be able to run will you?" Xander bit his lower lip. But by the time Trish returned with the ring he had a plan.


A field on the outskirts of Pohoe County

Trish's car pulled to a stop in dirt field, one that had gone barren many years before. The men got out of the back seat. Trish got out and followed close behind. Off their looks she claimed "He's my brother. I'm going." Xander considered this gravely but consented.

"If you gotta go you gotta go. But you do exactly what I say." And with that he stripped off his belt.

"Whoa. Hey! What exactly do you think is gonna happen out here?" But Xander tossed his belt to Runs-like-Hell.

"Watch and learn." was all Xander had to say. Then he dropped to all fours and a silver-furred wolf stood in his place.

"You didn't really think we could only change to be a man and a big wolfman did you?" Toby supplied with a grin. Trish still didn't see why the belt came off. Then the Xander-wolf began to stretch and arch his back as she looked on. After a minute of this the wolf had grown from as tall at the shoulder as her waist to standing shoulder to shoulder in height.

The huge wolf then lie down and rested it's head on it's forepaws. "Go on," Toby eased "He's not gonna bite."

"Go on and do what?" But Xander snorted from his position, and she understood. Carefully she put one leg over his side and gently sat down right below the shoulder blades, her hands coiling in his mane. As soon as she was settled Toby settled in behind her and looped the belt in back of Xander's teeth. Then Toby held the ring in front of his face for a while. The trickster Werewolf sniffed at the ring, nibbled it once. Then tugged left on the belt.

"Get along little doggie. That a way." Xander snarled but obliged. Bad enough he had to do this degrading thing (though it wouldn't be so bad if it were just one of them), he didn't want to be taunted as he did it. Soon they were bounding along in the direction Runs-like-Hell directed at a fast pace.


An abandoned machine shop

Deep in the dank halls of a large factory a new Cathedral of flesh was being built, one body at a time. The first was the mostly eaten body of a Sheriff's Deputy. The head had been sewed back on, but that was the only attempt at repairing the body. The midsection and chest of the deputy had been torn out.

Several hours later, an African deputy came was imbedded in the steel of the wall. She was intact, though there was delicate stitching holding together her torn throat.

And watching all this, suspended from the ceiling by thick rope, Darry screamed. He'd been screaming off and on as often as he could for the past few hours. There are few men who could watch the Creeper go about it's work without breaking down.

The Creeper had taken particular interest with freaking out the boy for a number of reasons. The most obvious and immediate was the fact that the boy's fear was intoxicating. Another was the fact that the original Cathedral had been destroyed because of the boy and his friends, so the boy would watch as he rebuilt before finally being worked in.

The reason that the Creeper and it's depraved psyche didn't want to admit was the fact that it had been frightened and wounded badly by the boy's self-appointed protector. The Werewolf's claws and teeth had caused damage and pain of the kind the creature had never felt before, and the boy would suffer for that. And he would know what awaits him.

The creeper paused in it's work for a moment. It had heard something. A click? Why a click? The creature had until two weeks ago, been 'asleep.' Many modern creations seemed odd to it, such as the emergency lights in the jail. It didn't recognize the sound for what it was.

Such as a safety clicking off.

Shots rang out in the dark, louder than the boys screams. Nine millimeter rounds struck the bane's back. Under other circumstances it might have been amused. Bullets didn't hurt after all. Today however, it was still in pain from the night before. So it turned around in a rage to eviscerate whatever it was.

And there in the hallway stood Trish Jenner.

The beast smiled and stalked towards her as Darry screamed for her to run. As it closed in two large forms attacked from the shadows on either side of the hall.

One was the large silver werewolf that had nearly killed it the night before. From the other side came a large gray werewolf, this one stood just a tad shorter and smaller than the other. But that still meant it was a nearly nine-foot tall killing machine.

Trish kept her distance as the three slugged it out. Eventually the silver wolf chomped down on an arm, the gray wolf on a wing, and as one they yanked it off. As the creature screamed they held it aloft between them like a wounded soldier on a stretcher. As the bane thrashed in their grip they slowly seemed to fade out existence. When it was finished the only sign of their passing was claw marks on the walls and ceiling, as well as an arm and wing form the demon.

Not wasting anytime Trish cut her brother down and helped him out of the building.


An abandoned machine shop's reflection in the Umbra.

As soon as they crossed into the spirit world the creature grew harder to control, and eventually it broke free. It was much stronger here. Even with an arm and wing missing it might still be able to take down one of them.

But in the Umbra, spirits could be killed. And this time it was fighting two Garou, not one.

Toby bit down on a calf as the Creeper screeched and clawed at Xander. A quick shake of his jaws and the bone and sinew in the creatures leg gave way, and it fell back. Taking advantage of his friends opening Xander fell upon the bane for the first time since the battle outside the sheriff's station. This time, however, fangs dug into the corrupt flesh of it's neck as his talons went to work on the thing's midsection and chest again.

Eventually the screech gave way to a terrified scream. Then that fell to a pitiable wail as it's very essence began to dissolve. With one last shake of his maw Xander ended the thing.

And the howls this time truly were from the victor.


The road outside.

Darry had been more or less shocked into silence by the whole ordeal. Trish was too tired to say anything. For now they trudged along the road hoping someone would pick them up.

The sun set without them even knowing. As they crested a hill Trish looked up and did notice at least one thing.

The moon tonight was full.

The siblings made their way down the hill, after a short time they heard a long howl. Both turned, one wary of some new threat, the other recognizing the howl for what it was.

Two wolves stood atop the hill, a gray sat on it's haunches in back, and a silver wolf stood tall and proud at the front. Trish noticed that one of the wolf's eyes had been destroyed. The silver raised it's head and uttered a long and mournful howl. Trish knew it for what it was: the howl meant farewell.

As Trish smiled the wolf raised it's call once more and both it and the gray bound away into the night, and a single tear rolled down her cheek.

By the light of the hunter's moon, she realized she would never see her knight in shining armor again.