Friday, March 27, 2015

Dark Redemption chapter 65: Moving On

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae, has finally admitted his supernatural heritage to Cassandra, (mainly because she’s guessed much of it already).

Strephon noticed a confused-looking lad walking slowly by.  He seemed to be looking for something and from his gait, Strephon guessed that it was probably a lavatory.  That was the third bewildered market-goer he’d seen in the past few minutes and he realized with a guilty start that his spell of concealment had extended to the garish porta-loo behind which he and Cassandra were conversing.  “Perhaps we ought to move,” he suggested.

He permitted Cassandra to push his wheelchair down the sidewalk and out of the park.  “So when you took me to that party at Mr. Aeserman’s…” Cassandra said, “that was for your investigation?”


“I guess I messed it up.”

“Not at all.  You were quite helpful.”

If Cassandra thought he was just being gallant, she didn’t say so.  “Is Ms Kurayami involved with Aesermann too?”

“She does business with him, but she’s curious as to his true motives as well.  Why do you ask?”

“Well, she was also at Aesermann’s party, remember?  And, well…”  Cassandra paused, and then in a rush she spilled out Cecily’s story.

Strephon pursed his lips.  He was glad that from behind his wheelchair Cassandra could not read his expression.  When she finished, he said, “That was quite dangerous, but you seem to acquitted yourself well.  Where is your flatmate now>”

“We decided it might not be safe to go home.  Philippe knows where she lives, see?  And she wasn’t sure if he showed up there that she wouldn’t let him in.”

Strephon nodded.  In his career as a barrister, he’d known of women who had left abusive marriages, only to return to their abusers; convinced against all reason that he had changed or that he hadn’t really meant it.  And those were mere human brutes, lacking a vampire’s powers of charm and seduction.

“…So I took her to Grandma Simm.”

“A wise choice.”  Inwardly, though, Strephon squirmed.  Grandmama Simms would undoubtedly give him a thorough chastisement next time they met for not taking better care of Cassandra.  But damme, how was he to know?  She could have told him her roommate was involved with vampires.  She should have told him!  Why hadn’t she trusted him?  Then again, had he given her reason to?

“Well then,” he said at last.  “It looks like a trip to Grandmama Simms is in order.”

“I don’t want to put you out.”  Did Strephon detect a hopeful tone in her voice?

“Nonsenes.  You seem to be handling your vampire situation quite admirably.  I’m afraid I underestimate how resourceful young women are these days.  But Mrs. Simms will have words to say to me about the subject, and I should hate to deny her the chance to say I told you so.”

As they left the secluded corner of the park behind them, a bit of green in the nearby foliage shimmered and a spent cigarette dropped, seemingly from nowhere, onto the sidewalk.  Saul Taylor dropped his own concealment spell and ground out the butt with the toe of his shoe.  Damn.  Obviously this was significant development on the Cassandra/Strephon front.  And just when he thought he had gotten Cassandra to trust him.  If only he could have heard more of their conversation; but he had been afraid that if he’d gotten too close that damn half-fae would have spotted his spell.

Well, it couldn’t be helped now.  Still, Saul mused, this new development could be useful.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Born-Again Werewolves

The leader of an online writer's workshop I sometimes participate in likes to speak of "guns on the wall"  These are things a writer establishes early in the story which will become relevant much later.  The name come from Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's famous dictum that if you establish that there's a gun on the mantelpiece in Act One, the gun has to go off before the end of Act Two.

As I plod on with my Dark Redemption serial and have been trying to pull my plot threads together towards a resolution, I realize that some of the guns I've placed on the walls of my story aren't likely to go off any time soon and I am going to have to regretfully set them aside.  That's a drawback with writing things as I go along and posting my chapters warm from the keyboard; it doesn't give me much room to revise things if I change my mind later on.  

Due to a change in my work schedule, I haven't had much time to update Dark Redemption, so this week I thought I'd post a piece I wrote some time ago for another blogsite, describing one of these abandoned guns:  a character I mentioned several chapters back, who I don't think I'll be able to fit into the story.  But he's interesting, and I may find a home for him eventually.

Please allow me to introduce the Born Again Werewolves.

* * * * *

You meet him in a bus terminal -- a small man in a shabby coat with an unkempt beard and a strangely intense gleam in his eyes. He wears the clerical dog collar suggesting that he is clergyman; an impression confirmed by the religious tract he presses into your hand. It has a conventional illustration of Jesus as the Good Shepherd leading a flock of sheep and carrying a lamb over his shoulders; but this picture has Jesus accompanied by a large dog with a great lupine grin. "Tell me, brother," the man says; "have you heard the word of the Edenic Wolf?"

Some years ago, when my wife Lute and I were enrolled in the VH School of Magic, an online community for Harry Potter fans, we were invited by Jex, one of the site moderators, to join an online RPG he was running. The game was an urban Gothic fantasy, similar to the World-O-Darkness games from White Wolf, (Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mummy the Unraveling, etc.). He ran the game as a group of interconnected online journals that in effect created a shared world novel set in a British city called Redemption inhabited by urban werewolves and club-hopping vampires.

Jex encouraged us all to help develop the City of Redemption by inventing bits of background and things. Lute took the inspiration for her character, a corporate werewolf, from Wolf Lake, a TV series she enjoyed, and defined the three main werewolf packs in the city and their Alphas. I established the two big newspapers in town, a largely Jamaican neighborhood, and a snooty ladies arts organization. While kicking around some background ideas, I came up with the notion of Born Again Werewolves. Jex liked the idea and told me to run with it.

As it happened, I never did get around to introducing the Born Again Werewolves into the game, but I worked up a backstory for them that I rather liked.

* * * *

Pastor Abel Shepherd was new to Redemption, or he would never have taken out that youth group camping in Reaver Pack territory, and he certainly wouldn’t have done it on the night of a full moon. As it was, everyone told him he was lucky. He managed to get all his charges to safety when the wolves attacked and the doctors assured him that the bites he received while fighting them off would heal.

But while he was in the hospital, a stranger came to visit. He introduced himself as Del Reeves, the Alpha Wolf of the Reaver pack. "The one who bit you."

"I know you have no reason to thank me," Reeves said, "But the fact is you’re different now. You’re not one of them anymore; you’re one of us. it’ll be a hard adjustment to make, but you don’t have to go it alone. I’d like to invite you to join my pack."

It took a while for Shepherd to accept that he was now a werewolf. Despite Reeves’ warnings, he was determined to fight it on his own. Confiding in a close friend, Lukas, he arranged to have himself locked up in a secure room during the next full moon. Through prayer and meditation, he hoped to be able to control the transformation..

It didn’t’ work. As Reeves had warned him, the harder he tried to suppress the wolf within him, the more violently it raged to get out. He devoured the packages of ground beef he brought with him and still hungered for more. He threw himself against the door of his room until his paws were bloody. He howled, he raged, he cursed God. He tore apart the Bible he’d brought to be his companion and pissed on the pages. Still the hunger ate at his vitals. At last in exhaustion, he could rage no more. He curled into a ball on the floor and wept.

It was then, in the depths of his despair, that his glance fell on a verse from the shredded scriptures: "And God made the beast of the earth after his kind and cattle after their kind and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind. And God saw that it was good." And in a strange moment of clarity it occurred to him: There were wolves too in Eden.

He began gathering the pages of his Bible, clumsily with his paws, and assembling the implications of his new insights

Just as Adam was created without sin, he reasoned, so were the first wolves innocent and sinless. Therefore, a werewolf is not damned because he is a wolf; he is damned for the same reason that a man is damned: because he is a fallen wolf. And as a sinful human can with God’s grace strive to be a more godly man, so can a werewolf strive to live as a godly wolf. Besides Reeve’s choice of a hopeless struggle against the wolf within him and surrender, he saw a third option: To accept himself as a wolf and seek a righteous path

By the time the full moon was over, Shepherd had worked out the rough outline of a theology and a moral code combining natural law with lupine psychology. It needed some refinement -- his experiment with vegetarianism proved impractical. And his suggestion of replacing the bread of the Lord’s Supper with actual meat -- (cooked, granted, but still...) -- proved too novel for his congregation.

Word of his new eccentricities reached his superiors, who quietly removed him from his position. Also, Lukas proved to be a disappointment. Lukas had asked Shepherd to make him a werewolf too. He agreed, thinking it would be good to have a partner in his new ministry. But Lukas became more interested in pursuing power as a werewolf than trying to find a spiritual path of lycanthropy. He left Shepherd and joined the Reaver pack, quickly rising to become the pack’s Beta. Shepherd was saddened, but not too surprised when within few years, Del Reeves met with a tragic accident involving a missing larynx and Lukas took over the pack.

By this time Shepherd had come to realize that God had a different plan for him; he had a new mission, ministering to the Lone Wolves and the Omegas, the outcasts of the city’s werewolf community. Over time, he has built a small, loosely-knit pack of his own. The other wolves in the city regard him has a flake; but they tolerate him because his soup kitchen wolf pack does not seem to be a threat to anyone’s power. No doubt many of his pack are just strays looking for a meal, but some of them seem to be sincere adherents to his new lupine religion.

He denies being an Alpha Wolf. "Christ is our Alpha," he says; "and our Omega; for surely he has made himself the least of the pack in order to save us all."