Chapter 5 - An Answer: Part 3
It’s quite the thing, having your world turned upside down in a moment. Especially when it happens twice. One moment you’re finishing the late tour boat shift, and the next the dead are flooding down Canal Street killing anyone in their way. Then one night after surviving the undead for over a year, you slip up and make a mistake, and a werewolf comes out of the darkness and saves your life.
Simon definitely understood how the compound’s other residents felt right now. He had been there, and had been through all the stages of questioning his sanity. Anger, disbelief, rationalization, all of it. They’d get through it. Partly because there’s no other real choice in a world that belongs to the dead… but partly because it is really useful to have a werewolf on your side, in a world that belongs to the dead.
These thoughts tumbled through Simon’s brain as he sat watching the sun set over the lake. Logan walked up to him from the direction of the main house. He looked like a person with a lot on his mind right now. Which wasn’t too shocking, given the events of the last few days.
“Rough day, huh?” Simon asked Logan.
“You could say that, yes.” Logan returned.
“Well, pull up a chair and enjoy the sunset.” Simon offered. “I get why you like it out here. It’s beautiful.”
Logan took the offered chair.
“How did you meet?” Logan asked. “Yourself and Amoc, that is to say.”
“Hoo boy. That was a hell of a night.” Simon began the retelling, after a moment to recall the events. “I don’t know why I thought sleeping in the city was safer than just walking back to my boat only a few miles away. I woke up in the middle of a horde, damned lucky they hadn’t already found me.”
“The city?” Logan interrupted to ask.
“Right, sorry, New York City.” Simon explained.
“I did think the accent was familiar.”
“Hey, you can take the New Yorker out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the New Yorker.” Simon joked. “Anyway, horde all around me, no way out. I wait and wait, they’re not going anywhere. I keep looking, but it’s dark and I trip on something I can’t see, and it goes clattering down a stairwell. All hell breaks loose.”
“But it also kind of gave me an opening.” Simon continued. “The bus yard, this was a school I was in, opened up, and I went for it. It was a mistake, though. There was more horde out there in the dark that I couldn’t see. I got trapped on the roof of a bus when they surged back in. I had a couple of molotov cocktails on me that I threw into that horde, but it didn’t really do anything. They started coming up the bus, and I started hacking at them. Screaming too. I was pretty sure I was going to die on that bus, and I was going to take as many of them as I could with me.”
“And that’s when I saw this motion just out of the corner of my eye.” Simon built the big event up. “Something moving fast, pushing the horde back. Couldn’t see what it was, and I was still busy hacking at undead. Then this… mountain, leaps up out of the horde, sends undead flying off the bus in every direction, turns to look at me and yells at me to run. Let me tell you, it wouldn’t have mattered if the bus was surrounded by lava… I ran. I don’t think I even fully registered what I had just seen at that point. But it got me off that bus, and I tried to return the favor when I made it up the fire escape on the nearest building. I hucked a couple more molotovs into the horde… and that mountain clears a two story wall by a hand, hauls itself over the edge, and lays there panting. That’s when I knew I was not dealing with a human.”
“Of course it was Amoc.” Simon wound down the story. “Though I didn’t learn his name for a bit longer after that. I won’t forget what he first said to me, though… ‘Never met a werewolf before?’ I thought I had totally lost it, but I was too busy staying alive to think about that, and all I really knew at that moment was that this self-proclaimed werewolf had just given me a second chance. So I went with it.”
“Amazing.” Was Logan’s only response.
“Yeah, it really was.” Simon had something else on his mind too. “Speaking of Amoc, he keeps bringing up vague things about what he did in his past, and how you would maybe talk about some of it. But I don’t care. He’s done a lot of good since that night. I dunno if it makes up for his past, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. I’m alive because of him. Jade’s alive because of him.”
“And this compound is quite likely still alive because of him.” Logan interjected.
“Maybe, yeah.” Simon conceded. “I just wish he’d stop thinking about that and focus on the good stuff he’s done. You know? I’ve tried to tell him this… but he might actually listen to you.”
“I can certainly try.” Logan was slightly amused. “Amoc… is very strong-willed, as you’ve probably learned by now.”
“Definitely. Though I think I’ve made some progress there.”
“Truly amazing.” Logan was talking about something other than Simon’s story at this point, he was fairly sure. “We’ve all changed. Some of us just got a head start.”
Logan left it at that. Simon wasn’t sure exactly what Logan was referring to… some of that past Amoc kept bringing up, maybe. He didn’t pry, though, because that was part of a world that no longer existed.
“I’ve not been here long, but it seems like everyone’s taking this reasonably well so far.” Simon offered. “So I think everyone’s realizing that. I know I’ve realized that having Amoc on our side is really useful for staying alive. They’ll figure that out too. Once they’re done freaking out. That did take a while to get past.”
“For them, or for me?” Logan asked.
Logan was definitely a lot more outgoing than Amoc. It was interesting to hear him admit to the anxiety. Amoc had loosened up quite a bit since they met, even managing to crack a few good jokes now and again, but still held his emotions pretty tight.
“We’re not that bad really.” Simon joked. “You might even learn to like us, once you get to know us.”
“I think it’s more you’ll be getting to know us.” Logan retorted. “We’re the ones that have been perpetuating a lie.”
“I mean, you had a good reason to.” Simon reasoned. “If I’m honest, seeing Amoc in war form still kind of hits something in the back of my brain. Something really deep. I have to think it’s maybe something like what my distant ancestors felt when they first saw wolves.”
“You’re more right than you think.” Logan cryptically replied. “There was a time when seeing a Garou in war form would drive a human instantly mad. It’s why they… did what they did. But as you say, that’s the old world, and I won’t dwell on that. But it does seem that part of it is still there, if greatly diminished.”
It must be a bit like what Draki can do when in stone form. Not entirely the same, of course, but a function of how they could avoid discovery. It probably all has its limits, though, or the myths wouldn’t have formed around them.
Simon let the conversation end there, as they both watched the sun dip below the far tree line.
A headcount showed everyone was still present the following morning. Looks given to Logan and Amoc were wary, but Simon thought he saw less fear and more curiosity now. Breakfast was full of questions about who and what their new resident was, and Doc Williams was doing his best to provide answers. Draki was still recovering in the basement, but doing well enough to want to start talking with Simon about his dreams, and especially about the Dreamwalking event in Albany.
Draki was still an imposing figure. He wasn’t really any taller than Amoc in human form, but his wings made him look quite a bit larger. He was also up and walking around the room, looking like he wasn’t quite sure what to do in a household environment. He definitely looked very out of place in Logan’s game room. Draki’s orange-copper skin stood out where it was not covered by bandages, and there was what looked like a pattern of lines in places. Simon couldn’t tell if it was a natural pattern or some kind of tattoo, but he hadn’t noticed it before. Like Amoc when he was in war form, Draki’s legs were also built to be digitrade, which required a wide stance to be stable when not moving.
“Amoc tells me you’ve been having dreams.” Draki stated, as Simon reached the bottom of the basement stairs.
“Yeah.” Simon confirmed. “I was hoping you might be able to help me figure out what they mean.”
“Based on what Amoc has told me, I have some ideas. But we should wait until he’s here, as it seems he’s now part of these dreams too.”
“Yeah. And he’s been out pretty late scouting.”
“Yes, I regret that.” Draki apologized. “That is also something we need to talk about.”
“I get the feeling this is going to be a long talk.”
“Yes, that’s quite likely.” Draki confirmed.
“Well I might as well get comfortable.” Simon said as he sat down on the sofa.
Draki regarded Simon with a look. Simon wasn’t exactly sure how to read Draki’s draconic features, so it was hard to say what the look was about.
“This was not how I wanted this to happen.” Draki stated, motioning to his bandages with a clawed hand. “But here I stand in the presence of a human as flesh and bone, proving that it happened despite me.”
“Yeah. Pretty sure this is going to be weird for everyone for a while yet.”
The sound of someone coming down the steps heralded Amoc’s arrival.
“Wow.” Amoc said, looking at Draki. “Up already?”
“Yes, well… I’m maybe feeling a bit claustrophobic.” Draki admitted.
Amoc moved over to the sofa, seemingly expecting a long conversation as well.
“If you’re ready to make your introduction to the rest of the compound…” Amoc offered.
“Very soon.” Draki interjected. “Maybe even today, if Logan approves, of course. This is just… weird, as Simon described it just now.”
“Yeah.” Amoc commented. “It is pretty weird for the first few days.”
“I’m certainly discovering that.” Draki admitted. “So let me try to make this a bit more normal, if I can. Starting with an introduction, since I didn’t really have the chance to do that… bleeding from every part of my body as I was at the time.”
Draki made an attempt at a bow, but winced after only a few degrees, and decided against anything further.
“My name is Draki, as you already know.” Draki began. “I am a Gargoyle, and I believe Amoc has told you some of what that means already. I was born in London in 1837, coincidentally at the start of Queen Victoria’s rule. I am also recognized as a Guide, and have helped many through their first experiences with The Veil, but this will be my first time assisting a human.”
Simon’s eyes went wide at the mention of Draki being born in 1837. Amoc had said Gargoyles could live a long time, but it was still surprising to hear.
“That explains the… English-ness of how you talk.” Simon surmised.
“Yes… my first memories were of a London high street. We tend to take on the speech and mannerisms of the culture we first find ourselves a part of. Though I have lost some of it since coming to the United States following World-War II.”
“You must have seen a lot.” Simon was amazed. “I can’t even imagine. All the stuff that’s happened in the last… nearly 200 years? How long can you live?”
“Quite a lot, yes. The patterns change over time, fashions come and go, new advancements lead to more changes. We become very good at seeing when the pattern is disrupted, by even the most subtle changes. That is what we do best. As to how long we can live… we’re not entirely sure. The oldest Gargoyle I know of is approaching 500, and hopefully still is. We don’t know of any natural deaths… but there’s a lot we don’t know about ourselves, birth and death being among those things.”
“Wow. Amoc’s told me a lot, but it’s clear there’s so much more.”
“It’s refreshing to be able to openly talk about all of this, and I could go on for quite some time about our world. But we need to talk about you, Simon. Specifically about your dreams, and what they say of the undead.”
“Right.” Simon began. “So you probably know I’ve been having dreams about the first moments people saw the dead rising.”
“So Amoc has said, yes.” Draki confirmed.
“They’re never the same. It’s always a different person I feel like I’m inhabiting, and always a different location. It always ends as the undead attacks the person I’m remembering. It’s a nightmare, but it’s not happening to me, so it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like a memory.”
“It may very well be a memory.” Draki explained. “The pattern is that there is no pattern. Dreams usually repeat, maybe with small differences, but they’re often the same general dream. The fact that they’re not repeating means there’s something willful behind it, which can only mean The Veil is driving them.”
“I had that… Amoc called it Dreamwalking… event in Albany.”
“Yes.” Draki again confirmed. “That more than anything confirms that The Veil is involved.”
“I’ve never felt anything like Albany.” Amoc added. “Not on that scale, anyway. The Veil was so close. And there wasn’t a single undead in that city. Just the one crazy guy.”
“Crazy guy?” Draki asked.
“Yeah.” Amoc replied. “A lone human came up to us when we docked there. Like he was just out for a walk in the park on a normal day. Didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the apocalypse.”
“Interesting.” Draki commented. “Is The Veil pushing the undead away? That would be quite useful for surviving in this world.”
“With the small problem that you might get lost Dreamwalking.” Amoc added.
“Yes, that is an issue.” Draki conceded. “But it warrants more exploration if we can find a way to keep hordes away.”
Simon wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of going back there, but horde repellant definitely would be useful.
“Let’s focus on the dreams for now.” Amoc asserted.
“Of course.” Draki ceded. “That’s a topic for another day. The dreams may hold answers that we can find right here, and I’d like to explore that, if you’re willing, Simon.”
“Wouldn’t be here otherwise.” Simon stated the obvious.
“Then we should begin.” Draki stated.
“Begin what?” Simon was confused.
“Focused Dreamwalking.” Draki explained. “Amoc is going to be our watcher as you and I explore your dreams.”
Simon’s first experience had been disturbing, but Draki seemed to know what he was doing, and Amoc had pulled him back the first time, so he could do it again if needed. Simon would have been lying if he said he wasn’t nervous about it, though.
“This will be guided, not uncontrolled as it was before.” Draki seemed to read Simon’s trepidation. “Amoc is our safety net, as no Dreamwalking should be done without one.”
“I’ll be right here.” Amoc reassured Simon.
Draki moved to have a seat on the floor, gingerly lowering himself, with a few winces indicating his wounds were still fairly painful.
“Please sit in front of me.” Draki instructed.
Simon sat facing Draki, who was no less imposing at close proximity. Slitted copper-orange eyes matching the color of Draki’s skin regarded Simon above a long, broad snout filled with very sharp-looking teeth.
“Take my hands.” Draki said, offering both of his hands palms open.
Draki’s hands were warm, and rough in texture. This seemed to be similar to what Amoc had done to draw Simon out of the Dreamwalking state before.
“Close your eyes and focus on my voice.” Drkai began.
“This isn’t going to be one of those things where we go into all the dreams of me not wearing any pants in public, is it?” Simon asked.
“I’m a Guide, not a psychologist.” Draki stated.
Simon wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a joke.
“Right.” Simon said, closing his eyes.
“We need to establish a baseline for our focus.” Draki began explaining. “In this case, that will be what happened to you when the apocalypse started.”
That was not an especially pleasant memory, but it was one Simon had never experienced in dreams. Which was a bit odd, now that he thought about it. Simon focused on the memory. He remembered it had been like any other night, with most of the crew having already gone home. Simon had been stuck on the cleanup detail. It had all been ordinary until a torrent of noise started coming from inside the wheelhouse. Simon had gone to investigate.
“The radio is just chaos” Simon found himself saying. “Something’s happening downtown, but I can’t really make out any more than that.”
They were docked at one of the many tour boat piers on the Hudson, just Simon and his crewmate, Mike, working on shutting down and cleaning up the boat for the night. The sirens had started a few minutes ago, not long after the chaos began on the radio. Now it sounded like the entire city was responding.
“Is it a terrorist attack?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know, I can’t make out anything.” Simon was really trying.
Distant popping sounds began. Simon swore it sounded like gunfire, and it was getting louder and more frequent. There were other sounds too. Screaming.
This is the dream. I’m dreaming. This was the night the apocalypse started.
“Yes.” Draki said, now standing on the boat.
Simon nearly jumped. Draki appeared to have no injuries, and no bandages. It had to be some kind of projection.
“What the hell is going on downtown?” Mike was asking.
“All units, retreat to Canal Street.” A voice suddenly yelled out clearly on the radio.
“That’s it, I need to get home now.” Mike stated.
“You go home, the captain will fire your ass.” Simon argued with Mike.
“I don’t care.” Mike was resolute. “Sounds like a fucking war is going on down there. I’m not waiting until I can’t make it uptown.”
Mike grabbed his bag and ran down the gangway. Simon was left on the boat with only Draki’s projection.
“That’s the last time I saw him.” Simon commented for Draki’s sake. “Last I saw any of the living for a long time. In about five minutes, the undead are going to come pouring down Canal Street. I had about thirty seconds once I saw the horde, and I undocked this boat faster than it had ever been done before.”
“We can stop there if you want.” Draki offered. “We have the baseline we need.”
“Yeah.” Simon absently replied.
The memory slash dream was still in motion. The gunshots were coming and going, along with the yelling and screaming. It would only be a few minutes now.
“Amoc’s out there somewhere.” Simon recalled. “He told me a bit about what he had to do to get out of the city. The speed of the horde… this city was dead in a couple of hours. I saw a few other boats that stayed out on the water, but I don’t know what happened to them. There was random gunfire through the night, but by morning the only noise coming from the city was the undead.”
“My experience was much the same.” Draki recounted. “Every person it killed made the horde larger. As the horde grew it killed faster.”
The sound of the horde was now unmistakable. Simon automatically began moving around the boat, throwing off lines.
“Simon.” Draki called for Simon’s attention. “You can stop now.”
Simon paused, realizing again he was still in the dream.
“Close your eyes.” Draki instructed Simon.
Simon did so, and had the realization that he had never opened them. He also again felt Draki’s hands, realizing he had never released them.
“Good.” Draki stated, his voice again coming from Simon’s front. “You can open them now.”
Simon did, and again saw Draki in his injured state, confirming his return to reality.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get used to that.”
“This is one of the primary reasons Dreamwalking is dangerous.” Draki explained. “It’s hard to know when it begins, and when it ends. Even when guided it can be dangerous, which is why the baseline is important. You knew it was a dream within moments.”
“Yeah, I just… felt it.” Simon tried to explain.
“Exactly. Now you know that feeling, and it will be easier for you to find your way back out. But I must stress that Dreamwalking is never something you should do alone. The Veil is willful, and it’s easy to be tricked by it.”
“Yeah, I’m definitely not doing that without help, you can trust me on that one.”
“So, it went well?” Amoc asked.
Simon almost jumped again, he had nearly forgotten Amoc was in the room.
“Very well.” Draki proclaimed. “Simon hardly needed any inducement. I think we can start safely exploring the other dreams now.”
“How exactly do you do that?” Simon asked. “Induce Dreamwalking, I mean.”
“Draki makes it look easy.” Amoc answered. “Even I can pull someone out. Inducing it is a lot harder. At least for me.”
“But… how?” Simon still wasn’t clear on the mechanics of Dreamwalking.
“Remember what I said about describing color to a blind person?” Amoc asked Simon.
“Right.” Simon remembered. “Just not a sense I have.”
“An interesting way of putting it, but very apt.” Draki commented. “You continue to surprise, Amoc. Both of you do. I may have more to learn from you than you do from me.”
Simon looked to Amoc, who was looking as surprised as Simon felt. The world had changed. Everyone was still learning what that meant.
“Shall we continue?” Draki asked Simon.
“Yeah, I’m good.” Simon confirmed.
“Very well. Now we’ll try exploring the dreams you’ve had over other people’s memories.”
“We may have discovered something here.” Draki suddenly proclaimed.
It had been a couple of hours, and Simon had lost count of how many dreams they had explored at this point. He was ready for a break. Draki had to be feeling it as well, though he was still impossible to read.
“On to what?” Logan asked, coming down the stairs of the basement.
Doc Williams was behind Logan, presumably coming down to check on his patient.
“It’s just a theory at this point.” Draki explained. “But I don’t think the apocalypse started all at once.”
Draki then made an attempt to stand, but barely managed to get to a knee before he had to stop.
“Nope, you stay right there, Draki.” Doc ordered. “Probably shouldn’t have allowed this, but it is what it is.”
Draki did as he was ordered and returned to a seated position. Simon attempted to get up as well, and only fared slightly better. Doc went for his medical supplies, pulled out a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, then walked over to where Draki was sitting.
“I’m just a bit tired is all.” Draki attempted to explain.
“I’ll be the judge of that.” Doc said, placing the cuff on Draki’s bicep.
A quiet few moments went by as Doc checked over Draki. Doc was treating him as if he was just any other patient, despite Draki being an entirely different species. It was amazing how fast this all seemed to be normalizing, at least for the people in this room.
“How’s everyone else handling this so far?” Amoc asked Logan, apparently thinking the same as Simon.
“I had a long talk with Marcus.” Logan began, referring to one of the seasonal hunters. “He’s noticed what you’ve been doing, out scouting. I think there’s a realization coming along that their odds of surviving this go up if we’re not being hindered by hiding what we are.”
“So, pragmatism.” Amoc surmised.
“For Marcus, at least.” Logan confirmed. “Though I think the others are realizing it too.”
“Hmm.” Doc suddenly mumbled. “Blood pressure is up since last check, so I think we can assume that you’re still low. That’s going to be enough of… whatever this is… for today.”
“Very well.” Draki conceded.
“Will… sorry, Amoc.” Doc corrected himself. “Help Draki up, would you?”
Amoc moved to assist Draki stand and move to the recliner. He still looked deeply out of place sitting there, wings spread out behind him.
“So I’m just going to ask this.” Doc began. “Representing the twelve humans in this compound. What are your intentions for us?”
Doc had clearly been sitting on this question for a while, and it was aimed at all of the non-humans in the room. Simon felt a little put on the spot as one of the mentioned humans, though he understood where this was coming from. He had been there himself in those first few hours with Amoc.
“What do you mean?” Logan asked.
“I mean I feel we need to re-establish what exactly our relationship is.” Doc explained. “And I know what that sounds like, but I mean it in the most sincere way possible. I’ve known you for years Logan, but you kept a secret from me, from all of us, and that bears accountability. If I had come up to you one day and said ‘oh, by the way, I made a mistake and killed a man on the operating table 20 years ago, and they covered it up’, you’d have a reason to question my right to call myself a doctor.”
Doc Williams lived up to his reputation, that was for sure. Logan took a moment to respond.
“My intentions have not changed.” Logan began. “I plan for us to keep surviving, though now we will do so with no secrets. No hiding what we are. All our ability available to you.”
“Are you going to lord that ability over us? Like so many have done throughout history, once it became clear no one could oppose them?”
That was about as blunt as it got. The simple fact was that Amoc, Logan, and Draki all possessed abilities far beyond any human’s. Simon had also come to that realization, and had posed a similar question to Amoc a month ago. Amoc had stood firm that his only goal was to help him survive. Simon trusted Amoc’s intent, but Amoc was just one person. As this continued, it was possible they might find others with less noble intentions.
“Our relationship has changed, I won’t deny that.” Logan began slowly. “I also cannot speak for all sentient non-humans, but for myself, the answer is a resounding no. The only thing that changes for this compound now is that you will have my full ability in addition to my continuing commitment to the survival of everyone here.”
“I made a promise to Simon a month ago.” Amoc added. “That I would fight for the living, until I am no longer able. That hasn’t changed, and I don’t plan for it to.”
“A formidable promise from a Garou, which shouldn’t be taken lightly.” Draki commented. “I may not be able to offer the might of Logan and Amoc, but I can promise to do what I have always done: observe and guide. Which of course will now extend to any who ask.”
“Hi, I’m Simon, basic human.” Simon offered, unasked. “I’m just some schmuck that got trapped on a school bus roof in New York, and I’m alive because this guy over here…” Simon pointed to Amoc. “... stuck his ass out for me. He’s got some questionable tastes in music, but I trust him.”
Amoc turned his head away to hide a smirk, Simon was fairly sure.
“Well.” Doc said, after a quiet moment. “I guess we’re in the midst of superheroes.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” Logan countered. “And if it would better assure you, I will defer compound decisions to you from now on, and will respect yours as the final say.
“Oh no!” Doc retorted. “You’re not putting that responsibility on me. I came out here to retire. Then the damned undead happened and made me responsible for people again. Then some other people showed us that oh, by the way, werewolves and vampires and gargoyles are real. No, I’ve got quite enough responsibility caring for this lot, you can keep the daily operations.”
“So… are we good?” Logan cautiously asked.
“I’m content that you’re still the Logan I’ve come to know.” Doc assured him. “He may have kept some secrets from me, but he explained his reasons to me, and they were good reasons.”
Logan looked as relieved as the first time he had revealed his true nature to Doc Williams.
“Now, before I so rudely interrupted you, Draki.” Doc resumed. “What was this theory you were talking about?”
“Completely understandable, this is all still very new to all of us.” Draki began by forgiving Doc’s interruption. “I was saying, I think that our assumption that the undead all began rising at once is incorrect. I’ve noticed in Simon’s dreaming of other people’s memories that the time and location doesn’t fit that assumption.”
That would explain why Draki kept asking to look for clocks and landmarks.
“Say what now?” Doc was confused. “Dreams of other people’s memories?”
“I’ve been having dreams of the start of the apocalypse.” Simon explained. “Non-repeating dreams. Draki helped me explore them.”
“It’s called Dreamwalking, I’ll explain later.” Amoc offered to Doc.
“I’ll hold you to that.” Doc retorted.
“I think, with more exploration, we might be able to form a pattern.” Draki concluded. “Possibly even figure out where the apocalypse started.”
“What would that tell us?” Amoc inquired.
“I’m not sure.” Draki answered. “But it would be one piece in the puzzle of trying to figure out how the undead came to be. It would be more than we currently know.”
Amoc’s expression said everything. That had his attention. It had the whole room’s attention.
“That really would be something.” Doc broke the silence. “But… as monumental as that might be, it won’t be changing the world today, so you’ll be holding off on any more Dreamwalking until tomorrow at the earliest.”
“Understood.” Draki accepted the doctor’s orders. “But one more thing… I’d like to introduce myself to the compound tomorrow… with your approvals of course.”
Draki was referring to Logan and Doc. Simon imagined he was getting quite stir crazy down here.
“Pending a health check in the morning.” Doc conditionally approved.
“If not tomorrow, I don’t know when would be the right time.” Logan added. “If Doc says you’re good, then tomorrow it is.”
The following morning came, and Doc said that Draki was, as far as he could tell, steadily improving. Word got around that there would be a ‘town hall’ of sorts following breakfast, which Draki would be attending. All questions would be answered. Doc’s role was to moderate the event. Simon’s role would be to provide his perspective on living with Amoc for over a month now. Amoc would also be showing the war form to the compound for the first time, which Logan felt would be better than trying to hold that reveal off until a time of emergency.
It was going to be a very interesting morning.
Draki was already on the porch of the main house as the compound’s residents came from their cabins. He was eliciting stares and quiet comments, but so far everyone was maintaining a respectful distance. All bandages except for the ones covering the worst of Draki’s wounds had been removed. Simon also thought that his skin tone had darkened a bit. Draki certainly looked healthier and more stable on his feet.
“Okay everyone.” Doc announced, quieting the murmurs in the group. “We’ve got a lot to talk about this morning, so we’re going to get right down to it. First order of business is to introduce you to our newest resident, though he’s been looking out for us for some time now. Draki is his name, and you’ve got him to thank for keeping us ahead of the roaming hordes.”
Draki stepped out from under the cover of the porch into the morning sunlight, and eyes went wide. The sun also showed that Draki’s wings were starting to heal quite well, the light revealing healthy-looking blood flow in areas that had been badly damaged before.
“Good morning.” Draki greeted the compound. “As Doc said, my name is Draki, and I am a Gargoyle. I am honored and humbled to be able to greet you as I am, and hope to earn your trust and respect with my actions going forward.”
“Thank you, Draki.” Doc followed immediately, then looked over to where Logan was standing. “Logan you all know, and still know. I can say with confidence that has not changed. His commitment to you, the people of this compound hasn’t changed any more than mine has.”
“Merci, Doc.” Logan added. “Though I know I may still need to earn some of that trust again, and like Draki, I hope my actions will speak more than my words. Qui vivra verra.”
“Another face familiar to me is the man I once knew as William Savage.” Doc turned to Amoc. “Though like Logan, he kept secrets. His true name is Amoc, and you have him to thank for picking up horde scouting duty while Draki has recovered.”
“As Logan and Draki, I can only offer my actions and my abilities as proof of my intent.” Amoc began. “I am a Garou, more commonly known as a Werewolf. There was a time where what we are doing here and now would have been unthinkable, and more than likely would have led to our deaths. I hope we can prove that we are trusting you as much as we are asking you to trust us.”
“Simon?” Doc asked, simply.
Simon hadn’t expected to be included in these introductions, but he did suppose he was new here.
“Uh… right.” Simon stalled while he gathered his thoughts. “I’m Simon, your average human. If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m from New York. That’s where I found myself on the wrong side of a horde, and where Amoc over there saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today without him, in more ways than one.”
“Jade?” Doc again asked, simply.
Doc is really covering all the bases here, but that’s probably a good thing. Actions over words, and all that.
“Bonjour.” Jade began. “Much like Simon, I owe my life to Amoc. I also found myself on the wrong side of the undead in Montreal, fortunately at the same time Simon and Amoc arrived there. I would be dead if they had not been there to help me escape the city.”
Jade hadn’t mentioned the undead Garou, which was probably also for the best right now. Simon was sure that question would come up at some point, but now wasn’t the right time for it.
“Now I know you have a lot of questions.” Doc immediately followed again. “But there’s one more item of business we need to get to before that. There may come a time in the future where we need to call on our allies’ full ability, and it would be best if we all know what to expect before that need arrives. You’ve seen Logan, and you’ve seen Draki.” Doc continued. “But you haven’t seen Amoc. Neither have I. So, Amoc, this is your show now.”
Simon hadn’t noted much of a reaction up to this point, beyond getting a good look at Draki in daylight. This was going to be different. All eyes went to Amoc.
“A warning first, this is a much more substantial transformation than Logan’s, and it requires me to fully undress.”
Amoc left it at that, and began undressing. He was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans, so it was just moments before Amoc was letting it all hang out… quite literally. Most here were not squeamish or prudish folk, Doc certainly wasn’t, though the vacationers were looking a bit uncomfortable. Alex and Jean were their names, Simon had learned. They were city folk not really used to roughing it, and the things that might entail. Simon wasn’t either, if he was honest with himself, but he had seen this process enough times now that it almost seemed normal. If anything could be considered normal anymore.
With no other fanfare, Amoc began the transformation. Some people reflexively moved back as the sound of tearing flesh and cracking bones began. The sound was loud and quite disconcerting, and Simon wasn’t sure if he would ever get used to it. Fur grew, limbs lengthened and took new shapes, muscles expanded, then claws and teeth formed as Amoc’s massive head took the lupine shape that defined the war form. There were audible gasps as the transformation finished and he straightened up to nine feet in height, towering over everyone else present.
Simon felt that primitive instinct in the back of his mind. This is a predator and you should be running, it said. Everyone else had to be feeling it too. Amoc simply remained as still as possible, probably not wanting to trigger any of those instincts.
That was Marcus, one of the hunters. It was pretty much the same reaction Simon first had witnessing the war form transformation. Doc was looking a bit pale, but seemed to be gathering his composure. Jade was hard to read; this was not the first time she had seen the war form, but it was the first time she had watched the transformation. The vacationers were holding hands so tight their knuckles were turning white.
“Can you understand us?” Doc had gathered up enough of his composure to ask a question of Amoc.
“Yes.” Amoc replied.
There was a simultaneous flinch from all of the Garou uninitiated. Amoc’s voice in war form was as deep and guttural as ever, half heard, half felt. It wasn’t always easy to understand him in this form, if Amoc wasn’t really focusing on trying to be clear.
“It’s still Amoc.” Logan reassured everyone. “I have known a few Garou over the years, and I can say that none of them have such mastery over the war form as Amoc. He offers to fight for you, for the living. That is no small thing. I can promise that you will not find a more powerful ally in this fight. I can promise that if you give us this chance, we’ll survive this together. That is all I ask.”
Simon could practically hear the gears turning among the compound residents. Everyone was doing the mental math Simon had done when he had first seen Amoc in war form. This thing could kill all of us here in a few seconds, but isn’t going to. Instead he’s offering to fight for us. What does that even mean?
“How many of the myths are true?” Marcus asked, the first question to come from the newly initiated.
“Some of them.” Logan answered. “Garou are born, you cannot be made into one. The moon does not affect them; they can change at will, day or night, as you can see. They can also change into the form of a wolf, which will look to you like any other wolf. They are very difficult to kill, as they can heal from almost any injury, but they are not invincible.”
“What about silver?” Marcus asked.
Logan looked to Amoc, who simply nodded. This was getting deep into territory never before discussed with humans. Simon also realized Amoc had never brought the subject up with him before, and Simon had never asked.
“Most Garou have a reaction to silver that slows their ability to heal.” Logan explained. “A rare few do not. Amoc is one of those few.”
That was a genuine surprise. It had to mean Amoc was nearly indestructible. Simon was really beginning to wonder just what all those allusions to his past were about.
“When we die, we become undead.” Alex stated. “Do you?”
And there it is.
“Yes.” Amoc himself replied. “I found two undead Garou on the way here.”
That was not what they had wanted to hear, judging by the worried expressions and exchanged glances.
“We didn’t know.” Logan added. “The truth is we don’t even know how it happens for us, or when it happens. There’s a lot we don’t know about the undead. For this reason as much as survival, we need to work together. We have the beginnings of a plan to try and figure this out, and that plan needs all of us to trust each other.”
The tension in the silence that followed was practically tangible.
“I trust you.” Marcus proclaimed, breaking the silence. “I wouldn’t go into a hunt with my best weapon locked away, and I wouldn’t turn down a better one when offered. You’ve never given me a reason to doubt you before.”
Marcus then turned to face the other residents.
“And what other choice do we have, anyway?” Marcus asked them. “Maybe we don’t know them, maybe Logan kept secrets from us, maybe he scares the shit out of you.” Marcus pointed to Amoc. “But we know what’s out there beyond this compound. Some of you have first hand experience. Out there is a lonely death. Here, we have a chance at something, so I’m not going anywhere.”
Marcus’ words sunk in. It was a good speech; a needed speech from someone going through the same thing they were. Heads moved in affirmative nods, along with comments of ‘I’m in.’ and ‘Not going anywhere.’ It was unanimous.
More questions followed. Many were the same questions Simon had asked Amoc during their time on the boat. Cautious approaches were made to Amoc and Draki, before Amoc returned to human form. Simon could have sworn that Amoc was enjoying being on display. At the very least he was enjoying not having to hide anymore.
Amoc is a little scary at first, and a little intense, but he’s actually a pretty cool guy once you get to know him.
“Fuck!” Amoc was not happy. “I knew this was going to come back around to Vampires some day.”
It had been a few days since the big reveal to the compound. Winter was really starting to make itself known, so they had been spending time thinking on plans and working through Simon’s dreams, in the comfort of the heated house. The subject of Vampires had come up this morning.
“They’re the only ones that might be able to shed some light on this.” Logan was saying.
“It makes no sense!” Amoc exclaimed. “Why in the hell would they wipe out ninety-nine percent of their food supply? No offense, Simon.”
“I’ve been called worse.” Simon joked.
“The undead aren’t natural, right?” Logan asked. “Our world revolves around innate, living magic. Vampires are the only ones with a foot in the grave. They're the only ones that even come close to what the undead are, and possibly whatever force created them.”
The conversation slash argument between Amoc and Logan went quiet for a moment. Simon was too busy working out time zones and locations on their crudely drawn map to see why. He then heard a sigh, presumably from Amoc.
“So how do we find one then?” Amoc asked. “Any that survived would have gone into hibernation, given they don’t have any fresh blood anymore. And their sanctums were pretty much only in cities. Which, I will remind you, are the domain of the undead.”
“That… I don’t know.” Logan conceded. “I need to think about that. Just, consider it.”
“I’ll consider it when you figure out how to do it without getting me and anyone else with me killed.”
“We never did have that talk about Vampires.” Simon reminded Amoc. “Aren’t they like your sworn enemies?”
“You should know by now none of this is that simple.” Amoc chided. “They know the rules the same as we do. They know the consequences of discovery. Some… can even be considered allies. They just seem to have more individuals that push the limits than the rest of us.”
“It’s not an unfair assessment.” Draki added. “They have a deeper insight into death than the rest of us. That does tend to make them rather eccentric.”
“That’s putting it lightly.” Amoc replied, sarcastically.
“You’ve seen them at their worst.” Logan retorted. “It’s colored your view of them.”
“And how many friendly Vampires have you dealt with?” Amoc asked.
Logan didn’t reply. Simon gathered this was a point of some contention between them.
“What does that all mean anyway?” Simon asked. “Seen them at their worst?”
“I’ll let you tell Simon.” Amoc deferred to Logan.
“You remember what I said about Amoc?” Logan began. “He has mastery over the war form, and is completely immune to silver. This makes him nearly impossible to kill, and uniquely capable when dealing with threats both from within our world, and without. His name was one of those names many of us knew to go to when something of that nature needed to be handled. You must understand… other Garou do this as well, and some of them enjoy it… too much. Collateral was unfortunately common.”
Amoc made no attempt at correcting Logan through any of this.
“His kin did not want that for him.” Logan continued. “So they chose something different than learning from another Garou. Me. A lonely Shifter child living in an off-grid compound. It’s no secret among us that we Shifters prefer humans to others of our own kind. Their thought was that I would learn to trust more of our world, and that Amoc would learn to trust more of the human world. Turns out, they were right. Amoc’s name became known because he could think as well as fight. When he was called on, only what was necessary was done, nothing more.”
“So you… killed people.” Simon stated, coming to the conclusion that Logan was trying to dance around.
“Yes.” Amoc replied, as blunt as those first days on the boat. “There’s no nice way to say that. I did it to protect our world, and yours. I’ll never try to justify it, because it shouldn't be.”
“This is why you’ve been so big on pushing for cooperation.” Simon concluded.
“Yes.” Amoc said instantly. “A thousand times yes. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t have to be that person anymore; not in the world we live in now.”
“And the irony is that while Amoc was finding his trust in you, I was still set in the old ways here, long after the apocalypse happened.” Logan stated to Simon. “Seems I taught him more than I ever thought I did.”
“Oh please.” Amoc retorted, sarcastically. “You just wanted someone that could keep up with you in the woods.”
“Bien sûr; you needed the exercise, city wolf.”
Like brothers, indeed.
“Well, it’s a good thing we trust each other.” Simon began, trying to ease into the reveal. “Because I think we’ve figured it out, and you’re not going to like it.”
“What are we not going to like?” Amoc asked.
“The location of where the undead started.” Simon proclaimed.
“Holy shit, already?” Amoc was amazed.
“It took a lot of focused effort, but everything points to Washington, D.C.” Simon said, pointing to the map he and Draki had been working on.
“It does seem the origin was right under my nose all along.” Draki, who had been silent up to this point, confirmed. “It’s where I was when the apocalypse started.”
“It’s also where one of the highest concentrations of vampires used to be.” Amoc said, shaking his head. “If we wanted to find one, that would be our best bet. But it still doesn’t make any sense.”
“Slow down.” Logan said. “You’re not thinking about going to Washington, D.C. are you?”
“You wanted to find a vampire, right?” Amoc retorted.
“Yes… but you just got here.” Logan was unhappy.
“I want to figure this thing out, but I’m not suicidal.” Amoc reassured Logan. “We need a plan before we try for a city again. We barely survived New York, and got lucky in Montreal. I don’t want to depend on luck again. Especially not with undead of unknown type out there.”
“Right.” Simon added. “And I’ve got some ideas for how we do that. Keep you alive, that is.”
“Really?” Amoc was intently curious.
“Oh yeah, you’re going to love it.” Simon was excited. “But they’re going to take time to assemble. Time we can use for more planning. Draki knowing D.C. is going to help a lot, though.”
“Indeed.” Draki was also curious.
“Well.” Amoc concluded. “I suppose it’s finally time I spent a Winter up here. Looks like you’re stuck with us, Logan.”
“Magnifique!” Logan exclaimed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”