October 15, 2010

On the Hunt

Becca and I made it over to the Crowbar and were greeted by Nobody, appearing out of the shadows of the building. I'd called him on the way over.

It was late on a Wednesday night, so the bar was relatively empty. A few booths had people in them, and there was one familiar person sitting at the bar. Shay McGuiness gave us a two fingered wave as we entered and went back to her drink. I wasted no time in walking up to the bar on the side that was unoccupied and waving Mac over. He gave me a surly nod, not looking too happy to see me.

But Mac always looked like that, so I didn't take it personally.

He walked over and looked at us expectantly. The others ordered, and after he got their drinks, I leaned across the bar and started talking in a low voice.

"Have you seen Stepping Feather around here at all?" I murmured.

His eyebrows went up and he just looked at me. In the quickest and most concise way possible, I explained what had happened.

He made a noncommittal noise in his throat when I had finished. "Feel free to look around, but I haven't seen him."

I nodded. "Downstairs.. its locked, right?"
He nodded in return and produced a key from his pocket.
"May I? Just in case."
He didn't say anything, but handed me the key. I stepped back from the bar, key not leaving my hand, and surveyed the room. Nobody and Becca wandered over to talk to Shay.

"Hey Shay, how's it going?" Nobody said as he set his drink next to hers.
"Good!" She took a large drink from her glass.
"Hey.. have you heard anything from that mage guy...?" he asked, voice lowered.
"Uh, you need to be a bit more specific.."
"You know, the one we got the coins from..." his voice went quieter.
Shay's eyes went wide. "Oh! That guy. No, actually.. and that's whats weird. I haven't heard anything at all."
"That's good though, right?" He said, nervously.
She shook her head vehemently and took another long pull from her drink. "Not. Not at all. Those guys? They don't just let things like that happen without some kind of revenge. usually violent revenge. It's making me nervous, truth be told. It's weird.. way too quiet, know what I mean?"

I tuned them out after that. It was another issue for another night. Stepping Feather first, murderous mages later.

I took a moment to concentrate my senses on my sense of smell. It was weird for me to be tracking someone by scent, not really something I was used to, but for now, it was all I had. I picked up his scent again, but it was old, like it was leftover from before his death.

But I followed it anyway. I found myself making slow circles around the room. Only one person was really sober enough to give me weird looks that I ignored. The scent spiraled from the outside to the inside of the room. Nobody was beside me when I stopped in the middle of the bar. I frowned, confused.
"It's a searching pattern." Nobody said quietly. "You were tracking the scent right? And that's why you were walking in a spiral. That is the most efficient way to search a room."
"Makes sense.. confirms that the scent isn't as old as it seems to be. Also means that he searched this whole room, and Mac never saw him once. Lets try the basement." I said.

I told Becca to stay up stairs, in case he showed up. She struck up a conversation with Shay and they were arguing good naturedly about something as Nobody and I disappeared into the basement.

 The scent did the same spiraling action down there. The trapdoor to the subbasement was still covered by crates and boxes.

But I was nothing if not thorough. I started pushing the obstacles to the side. Nobody helped me without a word. We both knew that, as secure as an area may seem, Stepping Feather knew how to get into places. I slipped the key in the padlock and jerked open the heavy door. I started down the narrow stairs, but Nobody didn't move to join me.

"I'll stay up here. I wouldn't put it passed Stepping Feather to lock us down there."

I made a noise in my throat that might have sounded like an agreement, and made my way down the stairs.

The steps were familiar, and I had no trouble finding the light switch. Usually I wouldn't have bothered with lights, but my night vision can sometimes miss details, and I was already more hungry than I should've allowed myself to get. I didn't have time to feed right now, and the beast was getting cranky.

So I hit the lights. The room was just as we'd left it. Stepping Feather's scent was here, smelling even older than the rest of the bar.. and the fine layer of dust on the table, chairs, and floor seemed undisturbed.

My footsteps echoed quietly through the bomb shelter. It seemed much more lifeless than I remember. Forgotten, almost.. like no one had been down here since we'd left...

But that wouldn't explain why the photo on the desk was eschew.

I stopped in front of the writing desk. There was no dust here, and the papers looked like they'd been rifled through. The photo sat in its plain frame, facing the left wall, instead of the room at large, as it usually did. It was a small thing, but the photo had always been a mystery to me when we had been using this place as our headquarters. I would sit and stare at it from the far end of the table, wondering who the woman was with Mac.

I inhaled slowly, and let it out with a loud sigh. He'd been here. We'd missed him again.

Or maybe not?

I grabbed a pen and a blank sheet of paper. I penned a quick note. It was a useless gesture, more than likely. If he'd already been here, it was doubtful that he'd come back, but it was worth the 30 seconds it took me to scribble it down.

Stepping Feather,

We are here to help you. We can help you remember, and help you find your pack. Please, let us help.

We will be at Al'makour Antiquities. We wish you no harm. We are friends.

-Harper O'Shea

I signed my name to the note... and then everything started to go dark. The lights in the room didn't dim, my vision did. I set down the note and shifted the focus of my heightened senses from my nose to my eyes.

It was probably the only reason I didn't go completely blind. Shapes swan across my vision.

"Stepping Feather! Let us help you!" I called, uselessly. I couldn't think of any other reason I'd be randomly going fucking blind. I bolted for the stairs, avoiding the table and chairs more by memory than by sight. As I reached the landed I heard a surprised grunt, the sound of someone falling, and a dark shape rolling down the stairs towards me. The trap door shut, and I heard the lock click and crates shoved over the floor.

Nobody cursed and tried to stand. "I can't fucking see!"

I reached out to Becca. I wasn't used to using telepathy when I couldn't see the person, but the link between her and I was strong enough that the thoughts flowed into her mind with relative ease.

He's here, locked us in the sub basement. Bring Mac.

I heard her heavy boots running across the floor before I even finished the message. She ran down the stairs.. I heard a thud, a startled cry, and then the crates being slid away and the door opening. I smelled the heavy metallic scent of blood. Quite a bit of it. I tensed, commanded the vitae, and felt my pupils expand, hoping it would counteract the weird semi- blindness.

Boy did it ever. Everything stood out in sharp relief, I could see everything, and it was like looking at a negative image. I could count the lines in the grain of the wooden stairs. I could see individual dust particles.

It was fucking distracting.

"Boss, you okay?" Becca called down from the open hatch. She sounded a bit winded.

"Yeah, is he gone?" My voice was rougher than I would've liked. I helped Nobody up, and got him up the stairs, into the basement.

When I got to the top, Becca's eyes were a little wild, pupils too large.. she looked pretty freaked. "Yeah.. I mean, I don't know if it was him. All I saw was..like.. a shape made of light.. and then it was like the bottom fell out of a can of soup..." She pointed at Mac.

Mac stood near the stairs.. trying to hold in his intestines. He'd been slit clean up the middle. His shirt gaped over the wound that would've been lethal to a human being, and blood oozed freely from between his fingers and onto the floor.

I tried not to stare.

"Got himself down there, eh?" Mac said, voice tinged with pain.

I nodded. "Yeah.. I left him a note.. but I doubt he saw it."

"Blinded me and threw me down the damn stairs.. I smell blood, whose hurt? Mac?" Nobody said. He took a couple steps towards the werewolves voice. "I can help."

Mac's response was a low growl.

Nobody stopped moving and held up his hands. "Fine.. shit.."

"He ran.. but he didn't try and kill anyone.. so that's something.." I muttered, trying not to focus too much on the intricate patterns swirling in the blood that dripped steadily onto the already messy floor.

"That guy got gutted!" Becca said in a voice that was too loud, and thready with panic and fear. She pointed at Mac, as though I hadn't noticed.

I just shrugged. "But Mac's a werewolf."

She opened her mouth to protest, but Mac interrupted her.

"She's right. He knew.. he was just trying to slow us down."

My vision began fading back to normal. I let my pupils contract and found that I could see normally again.  I pulled out my phone and shot off a text to Ori.

To: The Mutt

He was here, locked us in the basement, ran away again. Be on the lookout. Left him a note, but I don't know if he saw it. We are coming to you.


A moment later I received a text back.. but it was from Nadi, not Ori.

From: Nadi

Apparently dead girls do it for Ori, including you... you make his dick erect.


I fought back the surprised laugh. I really didn't want to know what had prompted that text message. I responded with the first thing that came to mind. I was grateful for the distraction.. Mac's blood was everywhere.

To: Nadi

That is probably the most terrifying thing I've heard all night.... he has a penis?!


I kept the texts to myself as we headed back upstairs, Mac making a stop in the office to change into a clean shirt that was identical to the one he'd been wearing. He told us to get the fuck out, which we promptly did and made a beeline for the Hair of the Dog.

I kept wondering is Stepping Feather got my note. Giovanni was at the shop. I debated going straight there, but I figured he'd be more likely to go find Ori..

The Hair of the Dog was about as packed as the Crowbar hadn't been. The bartender, a couple regulars (including SouthPaw), and two men I didn't recognize, plus Nadi and Ori sitting at the usual table. The auras of the two new  werewolf faces danced wildly, and I watched colors of alarm and fear spike through as Nobody and I walked in. They kept giving us sidelong glances.

Our reputation proceeded us, apparently.

Both Nadi and Ori had beer. We sat and filled them in. Unfortunately, they hadn't seen him.

About then, Giovanni walked in. The new guys' auras freaking out more.. faces going pale. One of them tossed his hands up and stalked out the door. "Fuck it! I'll take my chances with the Lex!"

The other remained, but continued looking nervous.

Ori watched him go and shrugged. "I guess we made the ghost wolves nervous.."

Gio smirked and sat. Something was eating at me.. something I wasn't taking into account, but I couldn't place it. I was too damned thirsty to focus. We filled him in as well as everyone had a drink..but me.

"And I left him a note but..." I paused. Giovanni was here. That meant.. no one was at the shop. I let fly a string of curses and jumped to my feet.

"What did it say?" Gio asked, giving me a strange look.

"That he could find us at the fucking shop!" and I bolted for the door, the others close behind me.

The shop was dark when my car screeched to a stop, tossing up loose gravel I was out of the car almost before it stopped moving.

I forced my senses to sharpen and looked, listened, and smelled for any sign of Stepping Feather.

There were faint scratch marks on the front door, and one window.

But he was gone. He'd seen my note. He'd come here, and no one had been home. So he'd left.

How the fuck could I have let this happen? Why didn't I tell Giovanni to stay put? Because I didn't expect him to come out. I thought he'd stay here.. I didn't think it would be an issue.

I was a fucking idiot. I sat down on the front steps, heavily. Ori had shifted to his wolf shape, and was trying to track his uncle.. but it was no good. There was no trail to follow. I never knew a wolf could look so frustrated.

The others looked around the shop. I stayed put. I was marveling at the scale of this simple fuck up. I may have cost us our one chance of saving him. All because I didn't make one simple phone call.

How could I have been so bloody stupid?

An ear splitting howl rang out from the roof of the building.

Literally, ear splitting. I had my senses on overdrive. Ori had gone up to the roof, and let loose a ridiculously loud howl without any warning.

I clasped my hands over my ears and cursed, long and loudly.

At least, I think it was loud. Ori's howl had caused my ear drums to burst. After the inital sound of the howl, all I could hear was a dull ringing, and feel the sharp pain in my head. When I looked up, the others were watching me, mild amusement on all their faces. I flipped them all off. They disappeared inside the shop.

I watched Ori for a moment, and let him get off another couple howls before I coaxed vitae to my ear drums and knit them back together.

I heard answering howls.. but as I watched Ori, he seemed to get more agitated, rather than less. He paced on the roof, like he didn't like what he was hearing.

After about 5 minutes, I heard, "Hey! Harper! Can you hear yet?" Giovanni's voice came floating to me from inside the shop. I ignored him. I suppose deafness has its benefits. I wouldn't have to listen to Gio is I was deaf..pretending was almost as good.

A moment later, I smelled blood. The beast stirred, more forcibly this time, than earlier at the CrowBar.

I closed my eyes, and shoved it down and away. I didn't have time for that right now. Not tonight. I was about to look around for the source of the smell.. but it found me.

I small pool of blood flowed past me, stopping on the sidewalk at my feet like the blob in that old movie. I watched, perplexed, as the pool stretched, lengthened, and became very neat and precise cursive lettering.

I need your help inside.

I looked over my shoulder, and Giovanni was waving at him, shit eatin' grin on his face.

He was really having way too much fun with this whole.. deal with a demon thing. I stood and went inside, the pool of blood followed me.

"You're a fucking show off, you know that?" I grummbled, sitting on one of the stools.

"What? I didn't know if you were still deaf!" He protested. The blood was making little circles around the base of my stool.

"Ever heard of pen and paper?" I tried very hard not to watch the blood.

"No fun in that.. hey! hungry? You can have this.." The blood continued to slide across the floor in my field of vision.

I tried to laugh scornfully, but it came out strained. "No. Because one of two things will happen. I'll either spontaneously catch fire, or you'll continue to be able to move that blood around, even when its in my body.. and I have no desire to have any part of you inside me, Giovanni. Ever."

He grinned at me. "You loss."

I just grunted.

He lead the blood around the lab a little more before allowing it to dissapate. Then he grabbed a cardboard box and set it on the table next to me while he muttered to himself.

"I should do that in a vampire club or something.. it would be like cats with a laser pointer.." then, to me, he said, "can you do your voodoo on this stuff? It's my mom's.." He handed me a lock of dark hair, tied with a blue string.

I took it without a word. After a moment of concentration, handed it back.

"Sansome cut it from her in the hospital, then walked into a room with Guiseppe, Vittorio, Mac and Davareaux.. pretty much all there was too it."

He nodded and handed me a file.

"Medical records. What do you think?" he said.

I scanned over the file. It was mostly normal, until I got to 1986. "Heavily redacted in 1986." I said, Givoanni rolled his eyes. "says those present were the father..not Mattheson, of course.. Sansome, a cousin Vittorio, and a nephew Jesse.."

I looked at that thoughtfully a moment, a bit confused.. When I looked up, Giovanni was giving me the "are you retarded" look.

"What?" I said crossly.

"Nephew Jesse? Giuseppe?" he said.

I dropped the file on the table and rubbed my eyes with one hand. "It's been a long night, alright? I'm a little out of it."

It was becoming evident that I was entirely too preoccupied to be useful to anyone right now. I heard another howl erupt from the roof.

Nobody cursed from the other room and I heard him head to the roof. He and Ori appeared a moment later, both looking annoyed.

"What happened?" I asked Ori.

He shrugged and crossed his arms, looking glum. "I called for him, but he never answered. Traded insults with a random member of the Pure, and Calvin kept telling us both to shut the hell up. That's it, really."

I pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes and managed not to let fly another tirade of pointless curses.

Giovanni provided a distraction. He held up a small gold locket. It held two photos inside, and it spun slowly on its chain. "Does anyone recognize the guy? He looks familiar, but I can't place it. He's apparently my grandfather."

Our collective jaw hit the floor.

Nadi recovered first (her jaw didn't so much drop as just twitched, anyway). "That is Liborio Bellomo.. suspected street boss of the Genovese crime family in New York."

"Oh.. well then." Giovanni peered at the photo intently, then clicked it shut and put the locket in his pocket.

I shook my head. "Its getting late.. and my brain has officially reached its absorption limit for the night."

And with that, I retreated to my bedroom to escape the sunrise.


Stepping Feather towered over me, menacing growl trickling from his bloodstained muzzle. His claws glistening with crimson in the moonlight. I could see his breath, and his eyes flashed with rage and accusation. I held silver in my hands, and it glinted dangerously.. but the blades hung useless at my sides, in hands that wouldn't raise against him. I stared at the beast, and couldn't feel afraid. All I could muster through the guilt and remorse, was a resigned sort of calm. I looked at the battlefield, my comrades absent. 

Just me and the beast that was once Stepping Feather. There was blood on my knives, but I couldn't remember whose it was. There was a gruesome, bloodless gash down the back of my left leg the rendered it useless. I could feel the muscles trying to knit themselves back together, with little success, using the small reserve of vitae I had left.

He would charge, any second.. and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I could hear whispers in my head.. ridiculing and accusing me. They got louder and louder, drowning out even stepping Feather's echoing howl as he charged at me.. until all I could hear was...

Dennis Leary's I'm an Asshole ?

The nonsensical noise shattered the nightmare, right as the huge man-wolf raised his claws to strike me. It feel away into a million pieces. But it left behind the emotions. Those weren't a product of the nightmare.. those were all mine.

I fought my way up to the surface and opened my eyes. The room was dark.. as always.. and I could feel sun, somewhere high above me. I gave an involuntary shudder as I sat up.

A-S-S-H-O-L-E! Everybody!

I grabbed for my phone and silenced it. Normally a phone call wouldn't be enough to rouse me from my death like coma during the day.. but the call was from Karl.. and that was enough of an anomaly to break through my oblivion. I was surprised the bastard even had my phone number, and I idly wondered how dirty it made him feel to call me. I smirked a little at that, allowing the last of the dream to fade into the background. I pushed a button and held the phone to my ear.

"Have you found anything?" Karl's rough voice demanded before I even had a chance to speak.

"Mornin' Karl. Pleasure to hear from you!" I said with sarcastic cheerfulness. "You'll have to be more specific."
"About Stone." He spat.
I closed my eyes briefly. There was almost too much going on to keep track of these days."Not yet."
Karl practically growled at me. "You've been prancing around Chicago for how long and haven't found a damn thing?!"
"I'm sorry. We've been a bit busy" I snarled back.
"With what?!" he demanded, incredulously.
"Dealing with the New Prince, for starters." I grumbled.
"And how the hell does that effect you?"
"Seriously? Vampire, remember?" I said with scorn.
"Yeah. I remember.Do you remember that we have priorities that come before that shit?"
"God Karl, I am so heartbroken that you aren't in Chicago anymore. I miss these pleasant talks." My voice hardened. "'Find Stone's son' doesn't give us much to go on, you know."
"Oh, don't worry honey. I've already dealt with that one for you." He said with a mocking laugh.
I grit my teeth until I could practically hear them grinding. "Please. Do tell."
"His name is Thomas Mattheson."

That brought me up short, robbed me of my scathing retort, and turned me into a speechless blob for a good 15 seconds.

"No shit?.. We know where that asshole is...and have been making plans to take him out. He's in New York." I said, finally.
"Good. That's what I like to hear." he said, his tone as condescending as ever.
"We'll take care of him." I growled into the receiver, and the line went dead.

I laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Mattheson was Stone's son. Which meant that Giovanni was related to Stone. It also pretty much cemented that Stone wasn't a vampire. He'd never been trying to cause eternal night. We'd misread his intentions, based on faulty information. We had assumed too much.

No, he wasn't trying to blot out the sun.. he was trying to bring hell to earth.

I wondered if Giuseppe had known about the connection.. but dismissed the idea. It was possible, but I doubted it. I didn't see any benefit from withholding that information.

But then, I'd been wrong before.

I looked at the dark display on my cell and thought about calling or texting Giovanni, letting him know that Stone was his grandfather.. then set the phone aside on the nightstand. They'd gone to pick up the rest of the pack.. and I didn't want to deal with anyone right now. Especially not them. It could wait until nightfall.

The dream came drifting back to me. I still couldn't understand how I screwed up so badly. As soon as Giovanni walked through the door of the Hair of the Dog, I should've made a beeline for the shop. Hell, I should've told him to stay put in the first place.

Would Stepping Feather be with us now if I had? I wrote the note. I asked him to trust us, to come find us.. and then no one was there when he did.

How could I have been so fucking stupid?

I sat up again, rubbing my temples. There was a dangerously sour sensation growing in the pit of my stomach. I knew that feeling. I knew how crippling it could be.


I stood and started pacing the short length of carpet at the foot of the bed.

The feeling grew, the more I thought about it. The more I replayed the events in my head, thinking about what I could have done differently, what I should have done better. My insides tied themselves in knots, and I felt nauseous, despite the fact that I no longer had a functioning digestive tract.

I hauled off and punched the cement wall, out of sheer frustration.

I felt several of the bones in my hand and wrist fracture from the impact. The pain shot up my arm like white hot fire. I bit back a curse and sat down heavily on the end of the bed, right hand laying uselessly in my lap.

The pain helped clear my head. Better than a bucket of ice water to the face. I sat there, and let it hurt. I even tried to make a fist, which elicited an involuntary gasp.

But if I focused on the pain, I could ignore the festering mass in my stomach. I could think clearer.

I felt something cool slide down my cheek. Tears. I'd been fucking crying. Frustrated tears. How god-damned pathetic. I brushed them aside scornfully with my uninjured hand. My fingers came back wet, and I knew, though it was lost to the darkness, the tears would be tinged pink.

I looked around the quiet room and wondered what the fuck I was doing. Obsessing..fucking crying over things I couldn't change. I took several deep breaths, and exhaled slowly. I quieted my internal turmoil, and allowed the bones in my hand to knit themselves back together.

What I was doing right now was completely useless. Yeah. I fucked up. But it was done. I'd be much better served figuring out how to learn from it than by sulking in the dark.. punching walls.

I had to move past it if I was to be any help in tracking down Stepping Feather. Guilt was only useful if you could use it to manipulate others.. not if you let it manipulate you.

I laid back on the bed again, resting my head on the pillow, and my hands folded across my stomach. Tonight, we'd find him, and give him his memories back.

We'd find him before the Pure did, and tear through any of them who decided to get in our way.


  1. Might I ask what type of Changeling Nobody is, along with what kind of Mage Nadi is? Thanks :)

  2. Nobody is a mirrorskin darkling of the autumn court, and Nadi is a Moros Mage. If you take a look at the first blog post in the archive, it outlines details like that for all the PCs and a few of the more important NPCs. Thanks for reading!


Comments or questions are welcomed