The Hills Have Aes Sidhe

Game 2 Recaps

Beverage recap (all that matters to Franky)

Genesee cream ale, classic example BJCP cat 6A light hybrid
OG 1.052
IBU 13
SRM 3
ABV 5.1
Bolstered with a shot of still-warmed-by-fire wild turkey, straw pale with effervescent carbonation, slight DMS, good vehicle for bourbon

BackInBlack IPA, cascadian dark ale BJCP cat 23A

OG 1.071
IBU 49
SRM 38
ABV 7.3
Clone recipe from 21st amendment, dark, smooth late hop flavor, would benefit from more dry hop, effective to treat sleep disorders when imbibed in large doses

Shaw's Jar o' shine
Grist- Unknown 
Proof- Unknown
Botanicals- likely none
Would have functioned better to treat scrapes or cuts, sippable only to the scoundrels of the world.

 

Franky Recap:

svegliati.
o Guardatevi intorno stanza.
o L'odore del Campfire aria. Perché è, oh che è di destra. Sei stato al forno e costruito che leavesman nel fuoco. OK.

Andare al piano di sotto. Questi sono gli stessi altri, sì? Sì.
o trovare tazza, tracanna, cipiglio – il caffè è andato stantio. Perché il caffè stantio? E 'stato appena tostato la settimana scorsa? Qualunque cosa.

Vai a garage.
o Controllare camera di fermentazione, Krausen è caduta sulla migliore amaro e il hellesbier?
o meglio del campione. Sterilizzare ladro vino, tuffo, il gusto. La bontà, questi sono entrambi maturi.
o Controllare la gravità, FG 1.011 e 1.012, il lievito è sicuramente fatto il lavoro. Come funziona questo continuano a succedere?
o li Get in caratelli e non fanno domande. Non fare domande. Non dire di più di quanto si deve.
§ Ha sempre detto, non dire di più di quanto si deve. Non dire di più. Non in scoperta, deposizioni o camere da letto. Mai nelle camere da letto. Dove è stata? Mi sento come parlato con lei ieri? Lei non può vedere me come questo, Bizzaria che sono adesso. Lei è mancato, è giovane e vitale.

Poke il rudeman, è forte di notte e stordito nelle mattine. Non il peggiore ordine delle operazioni, suppongo.
o Raccogliere gli ospiti.
o guidare la macchina per la cena.
o Trova Joey. Egli è ducking una cameriera. Una cameriera che non fa buon caffè o. Perché non c'è un buon caffè in questo continente?

Approccio un palazzo, questo è l'edificio di La donna Valerianna? !!
o nascondere dietro grossa Monstro jeepman. È INUTILE. Lei sa che sono lì.
o Spit alcune parole. Imbarazzo. Lei parla freneticamente su italia, non ascolto. Mi manca la sua giovinezza, la sua natura e hotblooded sempre la pelle fresca.

Parlare con Barto.
o andare al bar di Larry.
§ Fantasma! Hit con purè paddle- nulla.
§ Trova whisky, luce sul fuoco, non importa. Flip si erge su di esso in trionfo. Parla roba jeep.
§ Non lasciate che il whisky vada sprecato
• Vai a appartamento
o Trova chiaro di luna
• Vai a … Arena?
o Ascoltate le stagionali.
o deriva fuori in pensieri, finitura chiaro di luna. che dire di un blu mais crema ale? Aggiungere i mirtilli troppo? No, troppo lontano Franky.
• Dormire. Che la vita è più così?

Translation:

Awaken.
o Look around room.
o Smell the air- Campfire. Why is it, oh that’s right. You got baked and built that leavesman into a fire. OK.

· Go downstairs. These are the same others, yes? Yes.
o Pour, slurp, wince- the coffee has gone stale. Why is the coffee stale? It was just roasted last week? Whatever.

· Go to garage.
o Check fermentation chamber, krausen has fallen on the best bitter and the hellesbier?
o Better sample. Sanitize wine theif, dip, taste. Goodness, these are both mature.
o Check gravity, FG 1.011 and 1.012, the yeast is surely done the work. How does this keep happening?
o Get them in kegs and don’t ask questions. Don’t ask questions. Don’t say more than you have to.
§ She always said, don’t say more than you have to. Don’t say more. Not in discovery, depositions or bedrooms. Never in bedrooms. Where has she been? I feel like talked to her yesterday? She cannot see me like this, Bizzaria that I am now. She is missed, she is young and vital.

· Poke the rudeman, he is loud at night and dazed in mornings. Not the worst order of operations, I suppose. 
o Gather the guests.
o Drive the car to the diner.
o Find Joey. He is ducking a waitress. A waitress that doesn’t make good coffee either. Why is there no good coffee on this continent?

· Approach a buildi, this is la donna Valerianna’s building?!!
o Hide behind grossa monstro jeepman. It is no use. She knows I am there.
o Spit out some words. Embarrassment. She talks frantically about italia, I am not listening. I miss her youth, her hotblooded nature and always cool skin.

· Talk to barto.
o Go to Larry’s bar.
§ Fantasma! Hit with mash paddle- nothing.
§ Find whiskey, light on fire, doesn’t matter. Flip stands over it in triumph. He talks jeep stuff.
§ Don’t let that whiskey go to waste
· Go to apartment
o Find moonshine
· Go to…arena?
o Listen to the seasonals.
o Drift off in own thoughts, finish moonshine. what about a blue maize cream ale? Add blueberries too? No, too far franky.
· Sleep. What life is this anymore?

 

Alexei Recap:

Shaw(n) stopped the car in front of one of those old spooky Victorian houses that looked like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Alexei groaned as he recognized the building, then quietly resolved himself to be as unhelpful as possible.

This resulted in Shaw(n) literally picking up and dragging him to the door of Haunted Scooby Doo Mansion and pounding on it hard enough to rattle the frame.

Alexei cringed as he heard the banshee shriek of his handler echo through the halls in response to Shaw(n)’s assault on the front door. A moment later, she stood before them in the doorway, looking every inch the lovely career woman in designer clothes. Alexei knew better.

Meeting Valerie was never a pleasurable experience. Alexei opened his mouth to let slip the first foray of insults, as Val gaped in surprise, but Shaw(n) interrupted before he could speak.

Where’s Nelson?” the overgrown werewolf demanded. What followed was a confused exchange of threats disguised as negotiation that gradually revealed that Alexei was to be returned to Val’s coterie in exchange for Nelson, but Nelson was not actually with Val, nor did she even know where he was. This didn’t stop Val from demanding, quite venomously, that Alexei be returned anyway.

Alexei mused that it was probably a bad idea to provoke Val; she was the kind of lady who cracked open people’s skulls with her bare hands when she got angry. However, with Shaw(n) seemingly in control of the situation, he decided to risk it, and replied that he didn’t really feel like comin home, and that Val’s outfit made her look especially skanky today. She didn’t like that.

Shaw declared he was leaving. With Alexei. She didn’t like that either.

As Alexei listened to her rage impotently in the background, the discomfort of being carried back to the car by his collar didn’t really bother him anymore.

The crew made their way back to Sleepy Hollow Lake to pay a visit to Gnome Chomsky, the little old Yoda of a man who had helped the 3 other assholes when they first popped out of the woods. He had a visitor, a red-headed LARPer with an actual claymore on his back. He looked surprised to see them, then left, probably to go fight a goblin army or something. Whatever. It was hardly the weirdest thing Alexei had seen tonight.

Gnome Chomsky explained that there was to be a meeting of the “Courts” tomorrow night and that the other 3 assholes would finally meet their “King.” So they were LARPers. Neat.

Shaw(n) went off again to do werewolf shit, leaving Alexei with a key to his place to crash for the night. Alexei returned the favor by going upstairs to take whatever cash he found laying around. One of the rooms upstairs was hardly used. Judging by the Calculus textbooks and the button-downs in the closet, it wasn’t Shaw(n)’s. Alexei helped himself to a fashionable blazer. After all, he’d need to look his best to meet a King.

He made his way to the basement, hanging the blazer on some of the exposed piping. The basement was bare and covered in scorch marks; apparently this house had been on fire before. The thought made Alexei shudder involuntarily. He threw his fur coat upon the floor, gently folded and laid his aviators next to it, then fell face-first into torpor.

Alexei woke up next to a pool of bloody vomit, the taste of stale beer and other fluids still fresh in his mouth. Frankie stood over him, wide-eyed and panicked, a hand still on Alexei’s neck where he had been trying to check for a pulse. Oh, right, Alexei thought, should probably start breathing again.

Wiping his mouth as Frankie stammered, Alexei headed upstairs to see Joey and Larry. Joey was also panicked, and was wearing a pair of Wonderbread bags around his shoes, hurriedly trying to wipe down everything in the kitchen with a rag soaked in moonshine. Alexei didn’t even ask.

Instead, he wandered outside into the night. Several minutes later he came back inside and spat a dead rabbit into the trash can. “Alright, I’m good,” he said to the confused gaggle of assholes. “Let’s go.”

The meeting took place in an old abandoned boxing gym, far removed from prying eyes. The inside was split into 4 sections of bleachers, one against each wall, and the old boxing ring in the center, serving as a makeshift stage. Gnome Chomski was there, and he waved everyone over to his side, the “Autumn Court.” Alexei had expected more people in robes and chainmail, but was pleasantly surprised to see a group of ladies on the bleachers across from him who looked less Dungeons and Dragons and more Victoria’s Secret. They smelled good too. He bummed a cigarette off of some Van Helsing-looking motherfucker.

Despite the distance between them, he could still hear Gnome Chomski drone on about the different courts, their roles, beliefs, and powers. None of it was as interesting as the beautiful woman before him, who Gnome had referred to as “Gilded Lily.” She was surrounded by a flock of like-minded and equally intriguing girls who looked like they knew how to have a good time. Alexei’s kind of people. He unbuttoned his blazer and moved in for the hunt.

Ten minutes later, he had Lily’s number on his arm, and a whole new market of “clients.”

 

Flip Recap:

One minute, I'm spelunking thru a cave system, the next minute I'm running for my life thru that same cave system. I must have fallen and hit my head. While I was out I had these weird dreams about living in a gladiator arena and being operated on my some psychopathic doctor. What a messed up dream… Wait, why am I running, and why is Heat Miser motioning me to the exit of the cave with William Wallace's sword. Heat Miser says his real name is Ryan and that I was in Hell. He gives me a lift back to this old timers place named Bart. Clearly, I haven't woken up yet.

I spend several hours in a waiting room before I'm introduced to a bunch of degenerates. They kinda look like real people, but kinda also not so much. Wait – is that one guy Brad Pitt from Fight Club or is it Leonardo Di Cap—-oh wait, this is one of those Inception dreams. Ok, I'll play along.

We are told that we need to go to a boxing club? Wait, maybe this the Fight Club dream. Sadly, it turned out to be a boring community meeting – more on that later.

So we had to go do this chore first. We go to this dude's bar and there is this copy of him there, it's like a xerox person. Crazy, I know, but that Bart guy said there was a Xerox Flip out there too. He tries to run out the back and everyone runs after him. I'm not sure what came over me, but I went full on hulk smash on this guy.

Ok, back to the community meeting. There are all these suspect folk jockeying to be king of the hill. Boring smack talk, then promise of cup cakes, followed by failure to come thru on said cup cakes. Why am I always hungry?

One last thing, this crazy old Italian guy let me crash at his place, guess he's not so bad. He seems way overly preoccupied with finding his next drink, but it does help his English so I'll let that slide.

 

A poem by Joey:

When did the madness start?
Has it been here all along?
Have monsters been hiding within my skull?
clawing, hissing, scratching to get out

It's 4am and I'm standing in front
of a house and a woman,
angry
And the terror takes hold
Flight! Run and run again and again and again and

These strangers, others, friends of circumstance,
freaks and demons
Where do they lie?
Inside or out? Truth or lie?

We make arrangements,
Breakfast at the diner,
As if any of this is real.

Sanity returns or so it seems
There is nothing more real than a beige Buick
Slumber and the familiar mid-day morning
Ambrosia, the usual

But freaks and demons there are
Nattering away
Planning their way through craziness
by going to a bar
Just like real people

It's like a movie set
darkened dive
danger
It runs, exhilaration!
Chase! Kill! Live!

Christ, I've lost my mind
Did I leave it in the bar?
Run! Flee! Hide!

Fragments of my mind defeat
scraps of imagination
and celebrate with shots

"we must go to the ball, we must"
hence we set out to rouse Alexei
CSI
I won't be taken again
Commence the purification ritual
Bags of Wonder and bottles of bleach
Lazarus
Which one's Jesus?

I can feel the rambling,
bumbling, stumbling,
remnants of mind
disintegration

Another building at night,
and we are playing hearts with a mismatched
deck of players
in suits of seasons
playing political tricks
calling out the hounds of war

There is something growing within me
Something beautiful and terrifying
The fall from summer
Bounty and then death.

I will not be taken
They will fear m

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Prologue Pt. 6
Filip Jansen

You're possessed by a need for adventure. As such, when you read the news article about unusual seismic activity in the area (An Earthquake? In Upstate New York? Unheard of.), and how it seems to have uncovered some kind of cave system in the Catskill Park nature preserve, you know you need to check it out. The Park Rangers have declared the caves off-limits until they can be properly surveyed and deemed safe, but you know you can handle yourself. You just want to get an idea of what it's like down there so you can start pitching it to your clients.

You hike out to the spot under cover of darkness. You know these woods fairly well already. The cave entrance is a gaping maw in the ground midst freshly overturned boulders and uprooted trees. You crack a light stick and toss it over the ledge. Looks to be solid rock down below, ought to be stable to walk around. You anchor a rope to a tree and lower yourself down inside. You find yourself in a tunnel. The walls and floor are solid stone but very rough and marked by unusual jagged projections. You venture farther inside, aiming your most robust LED flashlight forward. You come around a sharp turn and enter a huge domed chamber. You slowly pan your light along the walls and across the ceiling. There are stalactites hanging an-… Wait, did one of them just move? No, just a trick of the light. Speaking of light, there is light coming from the other end of the cavern. You walk closer. Is this the end of the cave system already? Does this lead back outside? No, that doesn't make any sense, it's the middle of the night. You can see it more clearly when you turn your light off. There is a crack running vertically up the stone wall, large enough for a grown man to walk through. The other side is a lush forest, the undergrowth thick with thorny vines. It's a bright as a midsummer's day. You stand contemplating the impossibility of it all when you hear a noise behind you. A sound like stone scraping against stone. A heavy crash of the same falling. You swiftly whirl around, fumbling to relight your flashlight, fearing a cave-in leaving you trapped. What you actually see is more disturbing. The stalactites and strange jagged outcrops on the walls are not natural formations at all, but rather some kind of winged demon has dropped from the ceiling and a second has stepped away from the wall to join it. Their flesh looks identical to the surrounding stone, making them blend in perfectly. The gargoyles are advancing towards you, their footfalls heavy. They come from the direction of the tunnel, cutting off your escape route. In your panic, you run towards the green portal instead.

You feel the wind on your face and open your eyes. You're soaring high above an expanse of green, legs dangling, arms clutched in the talons of a gargoyle. You notice the many labyrinthine paths twisting through the dense trees, choked with tangles of thorny vines. The verdant green spans out before you apparently into infinity. After some distance, you start to descend. As you come closer to the canopy you become able to make out other things in the green. There are what look like pockets, in all varying sizes, of different biomes entirely. Many look natural, though abrupt and out of place in the forest, and some look completely alien or bizarre. One in particular seems to be your destination. You glide down towards a gray rocky plain devoid of vegetation. A foreboding great stone keep stands perched atop a sheer cliff. Beneath the cliff is a roiling sea, it's dark waters crashing against the stone in mighty waves. Above you is an overcast sky, blanketed in slate gray storm clouds. The flight in is the only time you recall seeing this bleak and desolate landscape. You spend the entirety of the rest of your durance within three rooms.

The first room is a cell. Smooth stone on three sides and iron bars on the last. It is bare save for a straw mattress in one corner. The straw is far from what you're used to in terms of a comfortable bed but is luxurious in comparison to the hard floor. Still, sleep is intermittent. It is difficult to tell night from day in this place. There is little difference ever in the amount of cold light that emanates from stark gray world outside through a tiny barred window high over your head. You know it is night when the walls weep, as if the stones they're comprised of are held here against their will and it pains them to exist this way. Their whispers and moans keep you awake. Only when completely exhausted can you nod off despite their cries. You are frequently exhausted, due to what goes on in the second room.

The second room is a large round one in a high tower. The walls are decorated with all manner of bladed and bludgeoning weaponry. It is in this room you meet your Keeper. He is, by appearance, a towering suit of blackened medieval armor. Seemingly empty, though cold fire burns behind the eye openings, and he must be ten feet tall. He is, by nature, a sadist. He comments appreciably about your physique. You will be a fine sparring partner. Your purpose is to entertain your master by satisfying his battle-lust. As such, you fight. Day after day. At first, you do more damage to yourself than the armor while he scoffs and laughs at your vain attempts. You fail in futility against cold metal that never yields; bloodying knuckles, straining muscles, and causing fractures. He reciprocates your attacks with crushing blows that shatter bone and rupture organs. If you refuse to fight, he satisfies his blood-lust through torture, selecting a weapon from his collection and displaying astonishing creativity in bringing pain.

The third room is where you find yourself after spending the day in your master's toy box. You are seldom conscious in this room however. Here, a gaunt man in a stained lab coat with surgical instruments for fingers toils away at stitching your sundered pieces back together. Under the unwavering watch of ever-present gargoyle guards, as this man is a prisoner too. He undertakes his duties with silent stoicism. When he is finished and you are back in working order, the gargoyles return you to your cell where the stones sing you to sleep.

You are on the ground this time, down among the green, and you are running not soaring. You are racing away from the stone talons and metal fists. You try to remember the route, what it looked like from above, but it is no use. You press on regardless, anywhere is better than where you were. Up ahead you catch sight of a light that's different than the summer sun filtering down from above. You are running towards a man, fair-skinned, dressed in plain clothes and a leather jacket. A man, but maybe not entirely human? There are waving flames where his hair should be and his eyes are like burning coals. There is a claymore, of all things, strapped to his back. He appears to be searching for something. If he is dangerous, it's too late to change course. He sees you coming and draws the sword while flicking open a silver lighter he had palmed in his other hand. Flame flows from the lighter up the length of the blade. He stands, sword ready but not for facing you. He is watching for something to come following you. “This way!” he yells, pointing behind him, further down the path. “This is the way out!” You keep running, your footfalls heavy. The man steps aside, slightly off the path, for you to pass. The foliage seems to react to his presence, in a sphere of influence around him, the vines and leaves yellow and wither. As you dash by, you learn why. He radiates immense heat, like standing in the middle of the desert in summer at noon. He steps onto the path again after you pass, to block pursuit. You charge out of the brilliant green briar into a more mundane woods. You look back to see a green portal, similar to the one in the cave, within an arch made by two trees that have bent together and entwined their branches. After a few minutes, the fiery man follows you out. He introduces himself as Ryan Callaghan. He knows you're probably confused and have been through Hell but he's going to take you to someone that can help. Someone that can help is just a short pickup-truck ride away, between Coxsackie and Athens. He is a small gnomish old man named Bartholomew, who resides at 0 Haunted Circle, on Sleepy Hollow Lake.

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Game 1 Recaps

Recap of Session 1 from Alexei's perspective:

Alexei's homecoming didn't go quite as planned. On one hand, it spared him the humiliation of begging his dad for a place to crash. On another…

Time didn't really flow the same anymore. It was always dark outside when he woke up. He kept track by counting the spent cigarette stubs he'd flick away.

Cigarette #1 was watching Jerry and ShawN slap each other around til one of them fell down. Apparently this was some sort of training. ShawN usually won. He also didn't like being called ShawN. This amused Alexei.

Cigarette #2 fell from his mouth, half spent, when a trio of bloodied vagrants stumbled into the clearing through some sort of hole in reality. They looked like assholes.

Cigarette #3 was a slow burn, as Alexei watched the trio stagger through dazed attempts at conversation while ShawN fumbled with his cell phone.

Cigarette #4 confirmed that they were, indeed, assholes.

Cigarette #5's ashes scattered into the wind through the open window of ShawN's car. ShawN was worried about something, and decided to drive the Assholes into town to "take care of something." Alexei didn't bother asking what, since all conversation in the car was drowned out by ShawN's shitty music.

Cigarette #6 was thrown into the mud by the front porch of a mobile home in some godawful trailer park. The sounds of mayhem and death echoed from inside the trailer. Alexei dared anyone walking by to say something. He was greeted with silence.

Cigarette #7 was actually a joint, rolled by one of the assholes as they sat around a burning metal drum out back of the trailer, drinking Keystone Light. The free smoke made him seem like less of an asshole, until Alexei inhaled the fetid garbage that passed for marijuana here. He went back to his cigarettes.

Cigarette #8 flew out the window on the way to another one of the asshole's country homes. It was the kind of house tailored to rich folk looking for a taste of the small town life, post retirement. It smelled like fake hardwood and deceit. Apparently it was killing time again.

Cigarette #9 sparked as it bounced off the snout of some nightmare beast before Alexei crushed its skull with a croquet mallet he found in the garage, before it could finish tearing off Frankie's leg. Frankie was asshole #2. He earned the use of his actual name after he gave Alexei some homemade Dom Perignon bullshit. Alexei returned the favor by letting him not die.

Cigarette #10 dropped into Alexei's lap as ShawN took a curve particularly hard, causing Alexei to have a minor panic attack. After the showdown at fake mansion, ShawN finally got a call back from his handler. It was time to make these three assholes someone else's problem.

 

Recap session 1 from Larry's perspective:

The first thing I remember is running. I don’t mean that in a clever, funny, bullshit kind of way. I mean it is literally the first memory I have right now. I don’t even fuckin know what I was running from. It was just me, some fat Italian, and a punk kid who never stops smiling. All three of us running as fast as fuckin possible away from I don’t know what. Everything was trying to stop us, it was like the fuckin trees were reaching out to trip us over. It won’t happen though, I been running my whole god damn life. Running from bills, running from women, running from everything. So no fuckin way is a god damn tree gonna slow me down. Fucking right?

Next thing I know we almost crashed into a couple of dudes. They looked like a couple of assholes but one of em was bigger then my fat Uncle Tony so I didn’t try and start any shit. I knew one of them, but I played it cool. He was scrawny pale fuck who would always wear weird fuckin coats and shit. He used to sell shit at my bar. I think his name was Alex or some nonsense. Who fuckin cares. Anyway its him, the big motherfucker and some scrawny fuck who was asking a lot of questions. The big one calls himself Shaw. He seemed useful so I made sure to remember his name. He called his ma of all fuckin people though. I mean I got respect for my ma too but I don’t call her when some fuckin dudes run out of a tree. Whatever, he took us to some big run down house.

There was a cute older gal who answered the door, but get this; she had fuckin rabbit ears. You believe that shit? Fuckin hell. Whatever I’d still buy her a drink or two. We waited in this place forever while some old man tried to explain what was going on. I only half listened, I was pretty distracted by the smoke coming off of every fuckin inch of me. I really wanted a drink but I aint got my car so I was stuck with these assholes.

The old man said some shit that pissed of the big kid. He also mentioned that we would have to kill some folks. I thought that shit was behind me… whatever. So we set off to this trailer park. I knew it because I buy my shit from one of the trailers in the park. Turns out the creepy kid who never stops smiling lives here. He keeps talking about some shit that I don’t think even he understands, I’ve mostly been tuning him out. Anyway we get in there and we see some fuckin guy in his house. But the guy looks just like him! We all jumped the asshole who was pretending to be him, and beat his ass. To make everything fucking weirder the guy just falls apart into dirt, and twigs, and leaves. Fuckin crazy night. I gotta lay off the pills. So once the guy aint a guy no more we burned the twigs to get rid of the… “body”. While we watch the fire burn the kid lights up a joint and starts passing it around. Its shit weed but it takes the edge off and makes me wonder what I might find at the bar.

Soon after that we head over to the italians house. This house is nice, it reminds me of my old place before that bitch took it in the divorce. The guy has a whole brew setup in his garage. It’s good shit too, I pound one back before we get into the house to kill shit. Turns out though, there aint no one at the house. We do all this sneaking around only to find jack shit. The whole time the italian and I are in the house, the rest of the assholes are fucking around out back. So we get downstairs and that’s when we saw it. Some big fuckin thing on the porch. It knew we were in there, I could tell we were in some major danger. I try to sneak out to the back to tell the assholes to shut the fuck up but it was too late. By the time in outside I hear that fuckin awful scream and the god damn thing comes charging around the house. Fuck.

Next thing I know the kid in the fur coat charges in and kills the god damn thing with a croquet mallet. What. The. Fuck. Who knew that kid had it in him. At this point the weed and beer are wearing off and I want to get out of here. I really just want to get back to the bar but the big fucks phone rings and he starts talking about some trade. Now I’m curious so I don’t say nothing. He takes us over to some huge house, and grabs the fur coat kid and starts dragging him toward the house. I knew that kid was strong, fucking hell.

 

A poem by Joey Balboni:

I fled from a dream, torn from theose faces sculpted in terrified joy.
The dream pursued me out into the night.
I still feel it, following, searching,

I gathered my army of hate and threw it at my demons.
The life-stealers. The puppets. The perpetrators of this greatest fraud.
The blows landed. Brutal in their joy.
The smoke burned about the battle, twisting and curling about the mad scenes.
Leaving me back home,
Smiling in the ashes of freedom.

 

Gerard:

So Shaw, me, and this walking chimney stack of a prisoner go out in the woods to train; well me and Shaw to train and this guy Alexei to grumble and puff cigarettes. Shaw and I get into it and I know I'm doing ok cuz Shaw is grinning from ear to ear. I'm shifting on the fly and doing my best to to make him swing and miss while I nip at him or get my jaws around him without actually biting down. Death by a thousand cuts; puppies have the sharpest teeth you know.

So we are right in the middle of it when out of nowhere Shaw stops dead, which I thought was a feint until he brushed aside my next attack without even looking. Right between these trees is some kind of portal I shit you not. This is the middle of the night but on the other side of this portal is bright daylight in another wood that kind of looked inviting were it not for three of the most bedraggled people I'd ever seen.

There was an older guy and two guys around my age, I think I went to school with one of them. The one from my school has this weird grin on his face but his eyes say he's on the verge of screaming. Shaw calls up his mom (why not Grandma?) who doesn't answer but he gets this idea to take them somewhere else. The smiling guy keeps talking about wanting to be alone with a shotgun. I think we should check him into a hospital with a 24-hour watch.

So we get to this old guy's house named Barnaby who tells this really weird story about being abducted and abused. Makes sense to me considering Smiler over here. I try to ask Shaw some questions but asking Shaw about anything other than combat doesn't usually go anywhere. I ask Barnaby if its ok for me to come back and talk with him. He agrees but then says all three of these guys have dopplegangers living their old lives that we have to go kill. Smiler perks up at this, and once again insists on getting a shotgun.

We get to Smiler's house first to calm him down and no fucking shit does a healthier looking version of himself answer the door. Smiler 2 bolts and I go Urhan to run around the back and cutoff escape. Immediately I note that Smiler smells weird but Smiler 2 smells like the woods. No kidding a dude that smells not like sweat and blood but sticks and fucking leaves. Since there's no back door I go back in through the front to find Shaw in Urhan too, both of us trying to track this fucker. Smiler has a full blown smile going now with a almost manic look in his eyes and seems to think we are some kind of benevolent manifestations of his own wrath. Whatever, sticks and mud are wafting out of the back room.

Smiler 2 goes down way too easy and although I see blood and guts it smells like straight mud. I start to pull the body apart but as I do it all crumbles into leaves. This shit is crazy. We burn the leaves to make sure while Smiler seems ok by now and is handing out beers and shit weed, but hey, at least its free. We get a buzz on and decide to go to the old Italian dude's place next.

Old Italian dude homebrews so the whole place reeks of mash and weird chemicals; no mud though. Urhan ain't telling me shit until this giant crab looking thing starts screaming and charging around. Alexei actually puts down his cigarettes long enough to flatten the thing's head with a croquet mallet. Turns out he could be pretty useful, who knew?

Right after all this crazy shit Shaw gets a call from Connor, Nelson made a run for it right back into the arms of his crazy ex-girlfriend and now we gotta give Alexei up to get him back. Smokestack talks some shit to Shaw who just man-handles him into the car and literally drags his ass to the door. What kind of harpy is going to be on the other side of this thing? Fuck

 

Game 1 Beverage Details: (All that matters to Franky.)

Keystone Light, Classic example of BJCP Category 1A (2008) American Light Lager.
OG 1.038
IBU 8
SRM 2
ABV 3.8%
Served warm, but not on purpose. Fridge seemed to be on the fritz. Quenching, much carbonation and thin body

Birra di prove di forza, American Barleywine BJCP 19C, Nacosto homebrewing, Castskill, NY
OG 1.094
IBU 84
SRM 15
ABV 10.4%
Last bits of the corny keg, ripe, Malty and bitter, lessened hop aroma for some reason I don’t understand- it should still be fresh?,

Apfelwein, BJCP 28C, Nacosto homebrewing, Catskill, NY
OG 1.070
IBU N/A
SRM N/A
ABV 9%
Petillant, Strong but oh so smooth, there is no reason this wine should taste this good. I just made it a month ago, it tastes at least six months old. Best beverage of the night due to perfect lagering.

 

Franky Recap:

Non solo non so cosa sia successo, non ho potuto dire con certezza che nulla è accaduto a tutti.

Ecco quello che so.

Le brezze più piccoli mettono i brividi al mio nucleo. tocchi alla mia pelle sarebbe pascolare fuori dalla rugiada e sudore, c'era davvero dire che era che. Dovevo fare qualcosa, di fare qualcosa in ogni momento. ma non ricordo cosa. Improvvisamente, i brividi non sono state brezze. Era solo l'aria viziata in transito sul mia fronte dal sprint. Esecuzione a niente di meno che il più veloce che ho fatto funzionare sarebbe stato disastroso. Ma io non so perché. Una maschera mi stava camminando avanti e indietro, e lui potrebbe anche essere una maschera, il ragazzo stava sorridendo tutto il percorso. Sorridendo. Basta grinner! Stiamo prendendo in acqua in una barca che perde e la tua GHIGNARE?

Gli altri erano oltre la mia comprensione. Uno è stato anche in esecuzione. Gli altri si trovano alla fine di un sentiero boscoso.

Ero in una casa, ricordando che il caffè esiste in una poltrona corsa verso il basso. Gli altri hanno chiesto una donna e le sue domande per cani che non mi interessa fino a quando ho messo le mani sul viso. Il fronte che era freddo prima era finalmente caldo. Non ero stato caldo per secoli. Ho messo la mia mano per per confermare, era stato non meno di 15 centimetri allungato. MA CHE SEI Grullo? Quello che è successo a me? Mi si rianimò le chiede il cane e l'amico cane, se si guardano a vedere quello che sento. Bizzaria. Sono Bizarria. Sono mostro.

Abbiamo portato su e vestito con abiti reali invece dei brandelli laccati alla mia pelle da tempo, sudore e torba. Tutto odorava di torba. Se Non bevo mai un altro grammo di torboso Lagavulin o Laphroig sarò meglio per essa. Qualcuno ha avuto un auto, siamo andati a rimorchio di grinno e tirò fuori il suo fratello gemello. Mi lanciai pietre contro il fratello. Per festeggiare, abbiamo bevuto intorno al fuoco del fratello e partecipava nel fumo di erbe infestanti. Non avevo toccato la roba in un lungo periodo di tempo, il mio cannabis lager era ossidato. Dumping che lotto era un affare triste. Abbiamo guidato fuori in un tracker geo al mio garage. Ho dato il mostro, i cani, e gli strumenti di prato sigaretta uomo. Ho preso il mio paddle poltiglia, la nuova 318 in acciaio uno con il mio logo Nacosto e la mia firma inciso sulla lama del a forma di remo pagaia.

Ci hanno preso d'assalto la casa, ubriaco barleywine e ancora un po 'lapidato. Non c'era nessuno per essere visto. Gli altri hanno seguito dal patio. Abbiamo visto altro che polvere. Una cosa è saltato su di me, mi pinning a terra sul petto barile. La cosa era piccolo, un po 'di aborto spontaneo di animali e Goon. L'uomo sigaretta lamentò sul aborto spontaneo con un martello da croquet. Egli ha forse salvato Franky.

Noi continuammo la festa, ho pensato che la mia apfelwein era troppo giovane per bere ma in qualche modo aveva il sapore di almeno 6 mesi di scadenza, il Che figata !! Abbiamo ottenuto in macchina e iniziato a guidare di nuovo, al bar. Bar di Larry.

Translation:

Not only do I not know what happened, I couldn't definitively say that anything transpired at all.

Here's what I know.

The smallest breezes put chills to my very core. touches to my skin would graze off from dew and sweat, there really was no telling which was which. I had to do something, to make something at all times. but I don't recall what. Suddenly, the chills weren't breezes. It was merely the stale air passing across my brow from sprinting. Running at anything less than the fastest I have ran would have been disastrous. But I don’t know why. A mask was pacing me, well he might as well been a mask, the lad was grinning all the way. GRINNING. Basta Grinner! We are taking on water in a leaky skiff and your GRINNING?

The others were beyond my comprehension. One was also running. The others we found at the end of a wooded path.

I was in a house, remembering that coffee exists in a run down armchair. The others asked a woman and her Dog questions that I didn’t care about until I put my hands to my face. The brow that was cold before was finally warm. I hadn’t been warm for ages. I put my hand to it to confirm, it had been stretched no less than 15 centimeters. MA CHE SEI GRULLO? What has happened to me? I perked up asking the dog and the dog friend if they look see what I feel. Bizzaria. I am Bizarria. They are mostro.

We carried on and dressed in actual clothes instead of the tatters lacquered to my skin from time, sweat and peat. Everything smelled of peat. If I never drink another gram of peaty Lagavulin or laphroig I’ll be better off for it. Someone had an auto, we went to grinno’s trailer and took out his twin brother. I hurled rocks at the brother. To celebrate, we drank around the fire of the brother and partook in the smoking of weed. I hadn’t touched the stuff in a long time, my cannabis lager had oxidized. Dumping that batch was a sad affair. We drove off in a geo tracker to my garage. I gave the mostro, the dogs, and the sigaretta man lawn tools. I picked up my mash paddle, the new 318 stainless one with my Nacosto logo and my signature etched into the blade of the oar shaped paddle.

We stormed the house, drunk on barleywine and still a little stoned. There was nobody to be seen. The others followed from the patio. We saw nothing but dust. A thing jumped at me, pinning me to the ground across my barrel chest. The thing was small, some miscarriage of animal and goon. The sigaretta man wailed on the miscarriage with a croquet mallet. He has maybe saved Franky.

We continued the celebration, I thought my apfelwein was too young to drink but somehow it had the taste of at least 6 months maturity, Che Figata!! We got in the car and started driving again, to the bar. Larry’s Bar.

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Prologue Pt. 5
Francesco Schettino

It was your foxy young paralegal's idea for you to retire in the Catskills. “It's the middle of nowhere,” she said. “No one will know who you are up there, nor will anyone give a shit.” It was a pretty good tip. The town itself was small and quiet and you found yourself a cozy little abode surrounded by farms where nobody bothered you. Your own Fortress of Solitude. What she neglected to tell you was how boring it'd be. It wasn't the right season for camping, boating, fishing, or driving around to look at leaves so when you got bored with antiquing (quickly) you needed a hobby. Brilliantly, the realization dawned on you that now have all the time in the world to devote yourself to your real passion. From then on, your home was perpetually filled with the yeasty, malty, fruity, sweet, and sour aromas associated with homebrewing as you churned out batch after batch experimental beers and wines. Limoncello too, of course. Each hangover caused by over-enjoying your latest creation was assuaged by a rich French press in the morning, pressed from coffee beans you also roasted and ground yourself. All in all, it was a fine few months, if a bit hazy.

One of those fine days you found yourself at a loss. Stricken with the creative brewer's equivalent of writer's block. You spent hours skimming books, surfing the net, and pacing about the house looking for inspiration. While crossing the front of the property, you spy a man walking a dog down the road towards your place. Unfortunately before you can backpedal or turn out of sight, he spots you, throwing up a hand in a friendly wave. Damn, now you have to be polite. You reluctantly wave back. He stops at your gate. He's a bit younger than you, definitely of rural country stock, and walking a shaggy mutt of indeterminate breed. He seems nice enough though when he says, “Hey, neighbor. You just move in?” You've been here a few months but sure, yeah, no way you're a recluse hiding from your mistakes. You left your garage door open, airing the place out after a foray into pickling went awry, and the various apparatus inside catches the man's eye. “Huh, what you got going on in there? Moonshine?” Oh no, good sir. None of the hard stuff. A nice craft beer suits you just fine. You quickly learn that “craft beer” is not a thing here and so you pass some time with this fellow, leaning on the fence, chatting about what you've been up to. It's actually nice to talk with someone that isn't a lawyer. You even share your current frustrations. “Well,” he offers, “I tell you what. I've got this funny hybrid fruit tree on my property. You ever try a plumcot? Or a tangelo? Kinda like that. I didn't even grow it on purpose, just kinda sprang up out by the compost. Why don't you come check it out? You ought could make somethin' real different with it. Might be just what you needed.” Interesting. Why not? What's the worst that could happen?

You hear the beasts snarling, can feel their hot, fetid breath. How did you ever think that was a dog? And there's more of them coming. You try and push yourself to your feet, make another run for it, but it's too late now. Those damned thorns have tripped you up. The fall has knocked the wind out of you. Your lungs burn and muscles are cramping, you're just not fit for exertion anymore. One beast takes your arm in its jaws, it's teeth like hot knives, and throws you as a cat toying with small prey would. You try crawling away this time but a second one takes hold of your leg, dragging you back toward the other. They seize and pull like two dogs as opposite ends of a rope. It's too much. You lose consciousness.

You can remember the bog. The mud, the murky water, the dark, and the horrors that lurked within. The master of the mire sent you on fool's errands to collect bizarre fruits and flora of the fey to fill his stocks. You crept through the shadows and muck to skirt the baleful beasts that also called this place home. If they see you, hear you, smell your fear, they will rip you apart but at least the master, witch doctor that he is, knows just the concoction to make it right again. Eat Me, Drink Me. Quit squirming til I've packed your guts back in. There's a good lad. You did just fine. But, I wonder what would happen if I tried this dose? Fascinating. Your creativity is called into play. You get to toil at the cauldron and the pestle. Say add this, less of that, but the design work is only part-time. You are just as much the test subject. Each new recipe is a new grotesquerie. Potion, poison, tincture, toxin, salve. Agony and panacea. Sickness and health.

You almost feel better than you did in your youth. You seem possessed of robust fortitude. You're running but the beasts are far away, not at your heels this time. The force-fed suffering and experimentation also seems a distant memory. Maybe it was all just a bad dream. You are running to freedom. Someone else leads the way, since you don't recall this well-worn path. You weren't conscious when you passed this way in the opposite direction. You don't recall this man you're following either, but at least he's no mad alchemist

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Prologue Pt. 4
Joey Balboni

You are walking your usual nightly beat. Patrolling the small strip and two big box stores of Catskill Commons is never eventful. You might shoo some loitering teenagers or tell kids they can't skate here but that's about as interesting as it ever gets. To keep yourself occupied, you have taken to carrying a pocket-sized Moleskine journal and pen. Tonight you feel particularly inspired, enthusiastically scribbling away.

You are so engrossed in penning your prose, you fail to notice the woman standing there marveling at a bit of graffiti. You walk directly into her, knocking her glasses from her face and fumbling your journal in surprise. Both tumble to the ground at her feet. You stammer and apology, terribly embarrassed, while she she crouches down to feel around on the concrete for her glasses. When she locates them and returns them to their proper orientation, she notices your journal lying open before her on the ground. When she looks upon the pages, her breath catches in her throat and she snatches it up, “Oh my!” She quickly flips through several pages, reading excitedly. “This is lovely!” She stands and turns towards you. “You, young lad, have a gift!” She's right. You do have a gift. You've always known. You are beside yourself with joy to hear someone acknowledge your talent. She takes your hand. “I simply must introduce you to my publisher. Joey, my boy, I'm going to make you famous!” Did you tell her your name? Oh yeah, it's written in the back of your book. She starts walking. You follow. You can see it; your work on the best-sellers list, your name in the Times, your words celebrated by millions of adoring fans on Goodreads. You're finally achieving your destiny. You snap out of your daydream. Hey, wait, where are you going exactly? There isn't anything back here but trees.

You're no longer walking, being led by a gentle hand. You're now being dragged by the ankles, face down, flailing and clawing at the ground. Your fingers gain no purchase in the hard, packed earth. You only succeed in ripping back your fingernails and grabbing at handfuls of fallen leaves and prickly twigs that tear your palms. The thorned vines that fill this strange verdant passage writhe around you, lashing at your back and arms as you pass through. There is the smell of damp leaves, sun-warmed flowers, and blood. Your mouth is filling with dirt and debris from screaming into the earth. You cough violently, feel like you're suffocating.

All you remember is beauty and pain. Your mistress is just as exquisite as she is cruel. She takes many forms. She may make herself into an immaculate recreation of the human form in alabaster today. An impressionistic rendering in stained glass the next. Perhaps strands of silk threading through a moving tapestry? Or, one of any other precious works of art. She suffers the presence of nothing in her world that is not beautiful. Beautiful and perfect. You have seen her unmake the ugly, ordinary, or even the slightest asymmetry and recreate it to her lofty standards. Should you sing a single sour note, she may cut out your tongue and replace it with silver. Most of the time you must write for her, of her loveliness and grace. You write til your inkwell runs dry and then you plunge the pen tip into your own wrist and write more. You fear the consequences of daring to leave a work in her honor unfinished. You must please her and for every failure to do so a punishment is rendered – sometimes painful, sometimes humiliating, always scathing. How long can a man measure up such expectations before he breaks?

You're not being dragged this time, you're on your own two feet. You are running, your boots thudding down the trodden path. The sun filtering through the too-green leaves warms your face. The floral-smelling breeze tousles your hair and you feel relieved. There's someone running alongside you that you don't recognize but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters except that you feel free.

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Prologue Pt. 3
Lawrence

It's a night like any other. After a long night of binge-drinking and drugs in your own seedy bar, you're falling into bed with your latest conquest, a woman who may have received more than she ordered in her drink. All in a night's work. The only uncommon thing occurs when you drift to sleep in this stranger's bed. You never stay. She wouldn't have remembered you clearly enough if you split after she passed out. Extricating yourself the morning will be a tricky deceit and you don't like when things get complicated. You can't help it though, sleep washes over you like a crashing wave.

You awaken in darkness. Good. There's still time to sneak out before she wakes up too. You try to slide out of bed, carefully so as not to disturb (whatever her name is), but you discover you can't move. You can't even turn your head but you can see from the corner of your eye that the rest of the bed is empty. So is the rest of the room. The walls bear only peeling wallpaper and shattered windows. This is not the quaint home you stumbled into last night but an abandoned ruin. Is this a dream? You now realize the darkness is not filling the room, as it would in the dead of night, but is materialized in a cloud that's hovering above you. Within that darkness coalesces a face. The face of the woman from the bar. You must be dreaming. Maybe you need to lay off the drugs and stick to alcohol. The face whispers to you. “I've been watching you. You're a Taker, Lawrence. You Take and Take and Take… I wonder, what will happen when all is Taken from you?” The darkness descends upon you. It has a tremendous weight to it. Your body depresses the creaky old mattress right down to the bedframe. You break out in a cold sweat of panic. The pressure is now localized to your chest. You've heard of Night Terrors and Sleep Paralysis before but you've never experienced them. Is this it? The pressure compresses your chest, expelling the breath from your lungs. You can't breathe. You can't breathe. You can't breathe! You can't-

You feel a sensation like floating. You smell loamy earth beneath you, hear the rustling of leaves and twigs snapping, and feel thorny branches snatching at your clothing and clawing your skin. You open your eyes to a brilliant green briar through which you're being carried along a trodden-down path. You glimpse it only briefly before being enveloped again in darkness.

From cobbled together fragments of memory, you recall an unending game of keep away. Your desires presented to you only to be snatched away from the last instant. Over and over again. It escalated gradually until, one by one, even your most basic needs were withheld from you. Bereft of food, of water, of warmth, of breath, of light, you became as nothing. From within the void, in existential crisis, you cried out in repentance for the wicked way you lived your life. It was that very moment your tormentor turned away from you. You aren't certain whether she became satisfied with your punishment or simply bored. Either way, she had selected a new plaything. You were left, a being of emptiness, desperate for something, anything. You knew what to do. You concentrated on the new victim's sleeping form, focused all of your will on becoming material, lowered yourself down onto her, bringing all of your meager weight to bear upon her chest. You pressed into her, expelling the breath from her lungs and into your own.

That was long ago. You have since become whole. You are running now, not knowing what you're running from, only knowing you won't be nothing again. You're scrambling through that emerald briar. There are others running with you too. The branches seem to move of their own accord, trying to entangle you, trying to gain purchase with their thorns, to rip and tear at your clothes and flesh. You refuse to be stopped. You're nearly free.

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Prologue Pt. 2
Gerard Finklestein III

You've led a troubled life. You were an unhappy infant who cried ceaselessly and didn't sleep all the way through the night until you were nearly two. You were a maladjusted child prone to frequent tantrums. As a tween, you became convinced your home was haunted because you consistently would hear unusual sounds or see things from the corner of your eye you couldn't explain. Your weird Wiccan friend said you had the “white light” in you, that the spirits could see it and that's why they were drawn to you. Your exhausted father said you needed Xanax. You are gifted with a fast metabolism which, though it allows you to eat whatever you like and never gain fat, also makes you very scrawny and so a favorite target for playground bullies. This, paired with a general social awkwardness, led to difficulty forming close relationships. Your best friends have been a string of family dogs. You were neither privileged nor especially outstanding in school, left disillusioned by the whole thing as a result of the constant bullying, so you did what all the other underachievers do and took a couple turns at the Community College while settling for a shitty part time job in town. In your case, it was as a busboy at Ambrosia Diner. Your father had also urged you it was time to “be a man” and take responsibility for yourself, so you got a shitty apartment to match.

Your father was never around much anyway, always out working, chasing a buck. You don't remember your mother, at least not really. She died when you were still small, in a tragic hiking accident. Your father, in the few rare times you had any meaningful conversations with him, often spoke of what a wild, free-spirit she was. So different from your father, you wondered how they ever fell in love.

Lately, life has been exceptionally more difficult than usual. You have had a hard time sleeping, whether you're plagued by nightmares or you're hit with a burst of restless energy late at night that keeps you from being able to sleep at all. You are convinced your apartment is just as haunted as your childhood home. And last but possibly creepiest every time you go out after dark, you have the strongest sensation of being followed.

One day, after a night of fitful sleep, you are working an afternoon shift at the diner. During the dinner rush, in walks a girl about your age but whom you've never seen before. You pass by each other, you heading towards the kitchen with a tote of dirty dishes and she approaching the hostess stand for a table. She stops dead in her tracks, inhales sharp and deeply, and looks at you. You're immediately self-conscious that you must reek of dishwater. She smiles at you though, brushes a lock of her hair away from her face with her fingers and tucks it behind her ear. “Um, hi… I'm Cara.”

Confused, you introduce yourself as well. “Nice to meet you Gerard. Can I call you Gerry?” she inquires. Is she blushing? Of course, she can call you whatever she likes. “Thanks! So Gerry, what time do you get off?” You check your watch. There's about an hour left in your shift. “Ok great, so then how about I come back in about an hour and have dinner with you, instead of all by myself? Not here, of course, if you're tired of it.” Sounds like a great idea. Eating dinner out alone is depressing. Cara seems thrilled.

A hour and fifteen minutes later you walk out to find Cara waiting for you in the vestibule. “Okay if I ride with you?” she asks. Why wouldn't it be? You open the passenger door of your car for her and she crinkles her nose. “Do you have a dog?” Your back seat is loaded with dog hair. You sure do. She grins and says, “Cool, I'm a dog person too.” Cats are assholes. You take Cara to Pomodoro's for a change of scenery. You find Cara hard not to like. A couple years ago, she'd have been that perfect trifecta of a high school girl – naturally pretty, straight-A student, and good at sports. She would have been very popular and completely out of your league. You can't fathom why she's asked you out to dinner. You find out she's not from Greene County though. She's from Rhinebeck which you know to be a wealthy area about an hour south of here. She used to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center in high school. Now, she's moved to Catskill to work at the Catskill Animal Hospital while taking veterinary classes. That's all you find out, since you spend most of dinner rambling like a damn fool. There's just something about her that's intoxicating. She smells amazing.

Cara has a short shift tonight at the animal hospital, just to clean up and organize for the morning. She asks if you can drop her off. They're boarding a whole litter of puppies right now and you can come in and play with them while she cleans their kennel. Who could say no to that? You drive Cara out to the animal hospital and she uses her key to let you in the back door. You go in first so you don't actually see her pause to scan the area like a thief in the night before following you inside.

At first glance you certainly don't see any puppies, it's just an empty room. You stop and turn back towards Cara in confusion only to be abruptly punched squarely in the jaw and then shoved roughly against the wall. You are at first shocked and a wave of fear washes over you, reacting instinctively to memories of playground beatings years ago, but you're surprised as that fear quickly turns to outrage. Its one thing to get your ass kicked on the regular by your high school's soccer jocks, but to be assaulted by some little girl, a girl who feigned interest in you only to turn on you, that's unbelievable. Fuck no. You don't know what kind of cruel joke this is, why she'd want to humiliate you, but you won't stand for it. Years of repressed rage rise up within you. Your teeth are grinding and fists are clenched so tightly you're cutting your own palms. Your pulse pounds like drums in your ears and a hazy red creeps into the edges of your vision. For the first time in your life you feel powerful. You feel like you've been struck by lightning. Your whole body burns. Your blood feels like it's turned to steam and your skin feels like it's ripping from the inside out as your form swells beyond the confines of your clothing. The sterile quiet of the empty clinic is shattered by the sound of shredding fabric and a furious scream that lifts into a triumphant howl you don't recognize as coming from your own vocal chords.

When Cara checked to make sure she wasn't being seen going into the back of the clinic with Gerard, she failed to notice Nelson and Alexei lurking behind a tree. Alexei has asked Nelson why they're tailing/stalking this guy, an activity that has occurred several times over the last two weeks, to which Nelson has only replied “important werewolf business.” Alexei has been getting far from what he was hoping for every time Nelson has offered to take him out on the town. He's come to realize the offer is really a cover for Nelson to get out and keep tabs on this guy, though he won't explain what for. At this moment, he sees the panic in Nelson's eyes as he checks the date on his phone then looks to the sky at a big, bright, beautiful full moon. “Cara, no! Not now!” Nelson yells and bolts for the door. They enter the animal hospital just in time to see Cara thrown across the room, accompanied by a spray of blood, by the rampaging beast that was Gerard a moment before. It takes Nelson and Cara several agonizingly long minutes to subdue Gerard well enough to Alexei to administer a fortuitously found tranquilizer.

You regain consciousness in a tiny bedroom. You're naked and bloody but don't seem to be injured. There is a change of clothing on the nightstand. Jeans and a faded old Slayer t-shirt, both too large for you. You overhear arguing in the next room so you dress and try the door. It's unlocked. You step out into a room filled with strange people aside from Cara, whom you recognize. Her clothes are torn and bloodied though she appears uninjured too. There is one other woman and four men around the small living room. The argument you heard was coming from two of the men, though its not actually an argument so much as one (Nelson) cowering in the face of the other's anger. The angry one ceases yelling when he sees you enter. He approaches as non-threateningly as he can muster. “Hey Gerard. You're probably a little confused right now. That's okay. We'll explain everything.”

That man is Connor and he's pretty much in charge here. Cara, Nelson, Shaw, and a little old woman everyone respectfully calls Grandma make up the rest of the pack. Alexei is here by happenstance and they're not quite sure what to do with him yet. Your “the talk” is much more warm and welcoming than the one Alexei received. You're treated like family. They explain that Cara smelled you were wolf-blooded, which means there's other werewolves in your family tree. While not all wolf-blooded become werewolves, Cara has somewhat of a sense for these things and could tell that now was your time. The First Change is always uncontrollable for new werewolves and the generally accepted “polite” thing to do is to encourage for it to happen in a safe and controlled environment. As opposed to in public or, even worse, among loved ones. Right thing to do or not, it was foolhardy for Cara to go it alone the way she did. If Nelson didn't happen to be there, you'd likely have killed her.

Over the course of the next few days; you still go home to shower, change clothes, and show up for work, but you spend your nights out at this tiny cottage in the mountains. Grandma teaches you the lore of your people, then Connor teaches you to master the various shapes you can take, and lastly you're handed over to Shaw. Shaw is Rahu, a warrior, same as you and so he needs to teach you how to hold your own in a fight, so you can properly serve your new higher purpose. Alexei is permitted to accompany the two of you so that he doesn't have to feel like what he effectively is here, a prisoner.

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Prologue Pt. 1
Alexei Sojourner

You are procrastinating going home to see your father. You use the excuse of being short on cash to visit a dive bar with what's left of your stash. You're sure you can turn a quick sale here. If not, you consider running back to the city. It's easier to waste your life there.

It didn't take long in NYC, given your particular set of skills, to get connected, get product, and get back in business. Business was good there. There were more people with more disposable income and demand for drugs with a higher price point, not typically sought in quiet rural towns. A void had been left after one of the last resident dealers blew all his earnings on his own bad habits and couldn't pay the piper. Lucky for you, there were a lot of people hungry for a fix when you rolled in. Catskill is a different animal. Mostly the way to get business is to create new business. You're on the prowl for someone pliable.

You notice you seem to have caught the attention of a blonde across the room. That's not what you're here for, so you pay her no mind at first. She's been idling around the bar, probably expecting someone to offer to buy her a drink eventually. As the evening wears on however, she grows more interested in what you have going on. She perks up especially when she catches sight of you interacting with an old customer, remembered from your high school days. When she finally succeeds in making eye contact with you, she smiles, raises her hand, and wiggles her fingers in a little wave.

A gaggle of drunken friends pass between you, blocking your line of sight briefly, and she's gone. She reappears a moment later, much closer and threading through the crowd in your direction. “Hey!” she shouts exuberantly over the music when she reaches you. Her voice is high pitched and has a childlike tonality. “I'm just tryna have a good time tonight. Can you show me a good time?” You assure her the affirmative, so long as she can pay for it. She asks, “Whatcha got?” Your answer is ambiguous. You can never be too cautious. “Well… then I guess I'll just have what you're having. You must know best, right? Come on!” Before you can reply or protest, she grabs your hand and pulls you towards the bathrooms. Cold hands. Odd, considering the place is hot and stuffy from too many sweating bodies packed into a small space with poor ventilation. Maybe she's nervous? Perfect. First timers are usually free, but you need the money.

You're led to the men's room and to the farthest stall. She shuts and latches the ill-fitted door and produces a several crisp folded bills from her expensive purse. She's overpaid you but you're a businessman, not a vending machine, so you don't give change. Consider it a tip for outstanding customer service. You go to hand her the goods but she quickly puts up her hands defensively. “Nuh-uh, you first! Gotta make sure you're not tryna slip me a roofie.” She laughs a school-girlish giggle. You've probably already had enough tonight for the both of you but you can't argue with her logic. After all, the customer is always right. She watches you intently, tense with excitement or anticipation… of what? “Are you feeling it yet?” she inquires. You nod hazily. She licks her lips, “Good…” and steps closer.

She presses against you, pushing you back against the wall of the stall. She's stronger than she looks. This is not what you were expecting and you try and recall if this is the first time you've gotten lucky in a public bathroom. Her lips move towards the side of your neck. You're shocked by a sudden flash of pain followed by a wave of euphoria and then… darkness.

You awaken later. You don't know how long you've been collapsed on the bathroom floor. Overdose? You don't appear to have vomited on yourself, that's good. Your head throbs. Maybe banged it on the way down? You remember the stabbing pain before the blackout too and so you reach up to your neck, expecting to have been cut, but find nothing but a smear of hot pink lipstick. You chalk it up to a bad hit and retire for the night on a friend's familiar couch.

The very next night you see her again. This time she's brought a brunette friends and makes a beeline for you as soon as she sees you. “Hey!” she shouts, “What happened to you last night? Didja roofie yourself by accident?” That playground laugh again. She prods the other girl forward, “This is my friend Evie.”

You see the brunette's lips move to correct her name to “Eve.” but her voice is too soft to actually be heard over the music.

You remark that you never actually got the blonde's name last night. It's Sophie. Sophie and Eve are an odd pair. Sophie is gorgeous but you peg her as the type who knows she's very attractive and doesn't try very hard at being anything else. She probably paid you with either a sugar daddy's or her actual daddy's money but you don't care where it comes from so long as it keeps coming to you. Eve is rather plain with an easily forgettable face. The sort of meek and mild person who floats through life mostly beneath others notice.
As expected, Sophie adds, “Evie and me, we just wanna have some fun tonight.” Of course they do and they have come to the right place as you happen to be in the business of fun. Sophie pays you for two “dealer's choice” even though you technically still owe her one. Oh well, her loss not yours. Eve offers an opinion you can't hear and only manage to lip read the word “outside.” 
Sophie agrees, “Great idea! Let's pop outside a minute instead of that gross bathroom!”

You three slip out through a back door with a non-functioning alarm, still not fixed after all these years, into an alleyway behind the building. This would all be much less of a hassle if you could just palm the drugs to her like a normal addict and send her on her way. But, “No way!” she says. “What if what happened to you, happens to us? You first!” Whatever, if she's got this much money to burn and a wants to burn it every night you might be willing to jump through a few hoops to keep her coming. It's still early tonight so you're relatively sober. It takes some time before it takes effect, with Sophie watching you expectantly like a dog waiting for its dinner. When you let the girls know everything's good and fine and try to offer them their doses, Sophie lunges at you so forcefully the back of your head collides against the brick wall behind you.

You awaken, disoriented, somewhere else. You try to quickly evaluate your surroundings. You're lying on a chaise in the grand foyer of what must be one of the huge old Victorian-style homes in town, guessing by the elaborate decor. Too-bright light from a glittering chandelier stings your eyes. You suddenly feel the urge to be sick. Someone has left a trash can right beside you, presumably for that purpose, and you become violently ill into it. You purge until your throat is raw and your chest aches although there is a puzzling lack of the need to gasp for air between retching. The nausea is then replaced with profound sense of hunger. A terrible emptiness that pervades your entire being. You sit up and finally notice the woman sitting in a wingback armchair nearby, watching you impassively. “You're up.” she observes, with a hint of disappointment.

The woman is named Valerie. She's a posh-looking sort, much like the house. She's apparently here to give you “the talk.” Got news for you, kid. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, faeries, all those things that go bump in the night are very real you now happen to be one of them. You weren't specially chosen for this, though. She goes on to explain describe how Sophie accidentally murdered you and Eve's bright idea to “fix it” was to raise you as one of the undead. Valerie makes it very clear she would much rather be hiding your dead body tonight. You're an incredibly annoying inconvenience but also the consequences of her lackluster performance at managing her charges, which makes you Valerie's problem. She's supposed to be acting as warden for these two, which is why she's effectively in exile in “the boonies” as she calls it. You're now added to the roster of inmates. Looks like you'll be staying in Catskill after all.

Your desperate hunger is subdued by the contents of a Red Cross donation bag but you spend the rest of the night in agony anyway. Your body is plagued by intense burning sensations as it finishes undergoing the processes of death. Its a relief when the sun starts to rise and you slip into a sort of stasis for the day.

You're turned over to Eve, though Valerie insists on supervising, to be taught the basics of how to function in as well as flex the abilities of our newfound state. Valerie takes over instruction on rules and regulations of vampire society. Sophie has lost any and all interest in you. Your only other interaction during this time is with an ever present werewolf by the name of Nelson. He offers to take you out on the town to get away from the girls for a while. A welcome distraction.

 

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