Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Please forgive the lack of storytime. I realized, rather suddenly, that I didn't know nearly enough about the story I'm telling. The problem with my writing method is the distinct lack of prewriting. I'll start into a story without first charting out a plotline, or a setting, or detailed characters. As a result, I have a lot of fragments of stories, and only a few complete ones.

I'm taking some time to flesh out Walter Kleinmann and Broadgate. Also, I've been much inspired lately to work with an idea I had not long ago. Expect to see pieces of that sometime, at this address.

So until I next have something new, here's another old fragment. Kinda like this one. I've edited a bit, deleting terms and adding little explanations for those not familiar with the World of Darkness roleplaying setting.

Enjoy. And thanks for reading.

One cool summer evening, the pack descended from the foothills. They numbered four, and had traveled far together. Lean and tough, they had endured much, surviving through times of starvation and battle, always together. Through hunger, invaders, and cold, they survived. The wolves raced down as one from the Sierras, into the valley, toward the city. Close together, teeth bared, they moved swiftly toward Sacramento, the rushing wind in their ears, the light of the setting sun glowing in their eyes. All around them, the constructs of man sped by, and the wolves barely noticed. Unlike others of their kind, they did not fear nor loathe man. Intentionally, they headed for the city, their path straight and true. Soon they would walk the streets and alleys, searching for food, watching for prey…

…and begging for change.

“This one! This one! Get over!” Muffin shouted, pointing frantically at the fast-approaching offramp.

“Aye, Captain!”

Scruffy saluted sharply, gripped the wheel of the mopar green Dodge Dart convertible and slammed the brakes. A dissonant chorus of horns blared from behind while the 18-wheeler in the right lane swept by. With a quick BLAAT! of the horn, Scruffy stomped the accelerator and wrenched the steering wheel to the right, sliding the car over the white wedge painted on the asphalt and onto the Watt Avenue exit, five inches off the bumper of the PT Cruiser in front of them. The light ahead was green, and they slid around the corner, heading south.

Scruffy sighed in satisfaction and leaned back in his seat. Gully had stopped blinking. Roads was huddled in a corner of the back seat, his tail wagging subtly. Muffin relinquished her deathgrip on the door handle, and a look of incredulous amusement passed over her face. She turned to Scuffy. “That was pretty tight.”

Roads whined from the back seat.

Muffin promptly turned around and spied his tail beating the air. “Oh, shut up. You thought it was fun.”

“We gonna get something to eat, Gully?” Scruffy called to the back seat.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s see if there’s something along here.”

Roads looked up at Gully, his ears perked, and made the pre-arranged growl and head-bobbing motion for Jack in the Box.

“Walks-the-Roads votes Jack in the Box.”



“Mmm. Potato skins.”

“The motion passes!” Gully smirked down at Roads, who gave a wolfish smile and wagged. “And we’ll go through the drive-thru so you don’t have to change.”

“Dude! I haven’t moved my legs since Nevada!”

“We can stretch in the parking lot.”

“And I gotta shift sooooo bad…”

“Just use the bathroom.”

Muffin suddenly smacked Scruffy on the arm and pointed at a McDonald’s on the right. “Pull over! Right here!”

“What? We’re going to Jack in the Crack!” Still, he turned abruptly into the parking lot and stopped. Muffin usually had a reason for these sudden outbursts.

And she did. She nodded at a door set into the wall of the building, away from the main entrance. “Bathroom’s on the outside.”

“Ah! Muffin, you’re awesome,” Gully smiled. “Scruffy. Go for it.”

“He-ey!” A second later, Scruffy’s seatbelt snapped upwards and the door slammed behind him. He flung open the bathroom door and leapt inside. Seconds after the door swept shut, a feral roar echoed dully from inside, and a young couple entering the restaurant turned and shuddered.

Muffin sighed. A few moments passed, and Scruffy emerged from the bathroom, whistling merrily. His lime-green hair was freshly spiked from a splash of water, and he looked quite refreshed. Muffin slugged him in the shoulder as he got back in the car.

“We heard you, smart guy.”

“Ow! It’s not my fault if they have thin walls! Dude…”

Standing on the seat, Walks-the-Roads yipped at Gully in the Garou language. [I should change here. There might not be another good place.]

“Yeah, cool. Pop the trunk, Scruffy?” Gully stepped out of the car and took a second to stretch. Muffin followed, placing her heel on the hood and leaning forward, groaning. Rummaging through the whatnot in the trunk, Gully found the small sack with Roads’ clothes and walked with him to the bathroom. When the coast was clear, he opened the door and slid the bag inside, closing it after his friend. Through the door he heard the usual sounds of transformation: claws on tile, bones popping and snapping, subdued yowls of pain… and then, the rustling of the bag. After a minute, Walks-the-Roads emerged from the bathroom in Homid form, dressed in a stained pair of khakis, leather sandals, and the white shirt Gully had given him, untucked.

He grinned. “Bathrooms are so wrong.”

Gully grinned back. “They really are.”

“Hey! Food! Now!”

The Gravelthrower pack sat in the far corner of Jack in the Box, drawing uneasy stares from the other diners. Nothing they weren’t used to. The scene, they had all realized, would be much the same if they were human. A pack of vagrants, shabby and not a little smelly, is on the fringe even if they aren’t werewolves. Still, the supernatural barrier between human and Garou, the invisible wall of fear built by the Rage, was hard to bear. Without a pack, without understanding friends, none of them could have endured it. They had endured much and traveled far, all together.

Scruffy stuffed a small handful of ketchup packets into his pocket. No one else in the pack gave him a second glance. Muffin already had two packets of mustard and five of salt. Gully and Roads had similar stashes. In the Bone Gnawer tribe, they never had to worry about food – just seasoning. Their spirit benefactors had taught them to make food of anything: by throwing an old shoe, some gutter sludge, and a newspaper into an old rusted pot and stirring, they could, in moments, create a nutritious paste. However, the mush wasn’t much for taste. Bone Gnawers quickly found out that a little ketchup went a long way.

“Hey,” Muffin smirked, peering out the windows, “we should find a Chinese place and get some soy sauce.”

Scruffy grinned and flashed Roads a look. “Sweet and sour sauce.”

Muffin looked genuinely distressed. “Aw, I hate sweet and sour mush.”

Smirking softly, as usual, Roads said, “I like sweet and sour mush.”

“Everyone likes sweet and sour mush but you, Muffin!” Gully joined in, stabbing a finger at her across the table. A gawking six-year-old in the next booth caught his eye, and he threw the girl a nod. Gully barely heard a muffled, “Don’t stare, Jenny.”

The predatory look leapt into Muffin’s eyes. She turned to Scruffy and leaned forward. He leaned back. “All right, Flips-the-Bird. We fight for it.”

“Why are you looking at me?”

Muffin bared her teeth in a grin and swung her gaze around the table. “I’ll take you all. Come on.”

Suspiciously, Scruffy asked the right question. “What’s the game?”

“Not hide-and-seek,” Roads interjected, “I don’t like soy sauce.”

“No, no hide-and-seek. I mean fight.”

Puzzled looks flew around the table. Gully leaned forward. “Three on one.”

“Yup.” Muffin had her poker face on.

“What? To a knockout? Pin?”

Shaking her head, Muffin laid out the plan. “We have a circle on the ground. First one out loses. You come at me one at a time. No holds barred. You each get one chance. Deal?”

Silence fell on the booth. This had to be a trick. Muffin was the Ragabash of the group, born under the trickster's phase of the moon, and she took it seriously. And she was an amazing fighter, but not compared to her three packmates together.

Scruffy munched a french fry and shrugged. “What the hell. I’m in.”

Gully and Roads nodded assent. “Yeah. All right.”

Poker face solid, Muffin stood and emptied her tray into the trash. The men of the Gravelthrower pack exchanged glances.

“Just to see what she’s up to,” Roads nodded.

The circle was drawn in ketchup in the back of the parking lot. Muffin stood ready in the center, arms hanging at her sides. “You choose the order.”

Scruffy elbowed Gully in the ribs. “You’re the Ahroun. Get the job done, man.”

Gully sighed and stepped to the edge of the circle. “No holds barred?”

Muffin shook her head and took a step back, tensing for the attack.

In the blink of an eye, Gully pounced, charging forward and grabbing for Muffin’s waist. She let him come to her, even let him get his hands about her – then drove her fingers into his sides. Gully’s eyes went wide, and he lost control, bursting into a fit of laughter. His momentum shifted instantly from attack to retreat as he dropped the Ragabash and cavorted to avoid her fingers. Tickling mercilessly, Muffin planted her foot and shoved the Ahroun - born under the warrior's moon, champion in battle, unmatched in combat - out of the circle. He collapsed on the asphalt, giggling hysterically.

The poker face broke. Muffin looked up at Scruffy and Roads, grinning like a self-satisfied coyote. “…nnnnext.”

Roads guffawed.

Scruffy looked down at Gully, who had finally caught his breath. “Oh, man….” Then, yowling an impromptu war cry, he bound into the circle, diving low to take out Muffin’s legs. She vaulted over him, landed straddled above him, and attacked the nape of his neck with tiny scratches. The battle cry slipped into a mad cackle, and Scruffy scampered out of the ring. The instant he left the ketchup circle, Roads leapt forward and wound up to shove Muffin from behind. At the last second, she ducked, Roads’ arms shooting out above her head. Her arms flashed up to find Roads’ armpits, and he hooted, trying to swat her away. It was simple enough to ram the wolf out with her shoulder.

The triumphant Ragabash looked down at her defeated packmates, who stared back at her, still giggling.

“Aw, man!” Scruffy cried, “we… he, he… got owned…”

Muffin raised her fists above her head and howled in victory, her eyes flickering with guile.

A minivan honked at them to get out of the way.