by Midori Hirtzel-Church
Warning: This story contains violence, profanity and elements of magic and the supernatural. If you find such things offensive, please stop reading NOW.
Disclaimer: This is a fan fiction story set in White Wolf Game Studios' World of Darkness. Christopher "Slays-the-Shadows" Ryan, Alyssa "Friend-to-the-Fae" Ryan Tull, Tal Leaps-Beyond-the-Reach-of-the-Wyrm and the Caern of the Silver Horn were all created by Midori Hirtzel-Church. Randall "Stands-Like-a-Mountain" Tull was created by Christopher Church, and Brodir Hated-by-the-Wyrm was created by Ryan Bowers; all other game-related material is owned by White Wolf Game Studios. No copyright infringement is intended, and the writer is not profiting in any way from this story.
Christopher Ryan stalked into the employee locker room of Georgetown University Hospital, glowering at the rows of lockers. Muttering curses, he unlocked his own and snatched a duffel bag from its depths. Rapidly divesting himself of his blue scrub shirt, he balled it up and flung it into the bag. Pulling a T-shirt out of the locker, he pulled it over his head so hard he heard cloth tear. Then he stomped out the door, barely acknowledging the good-byes of co-workers in the hall as he made his way out to the Metro stop.
Apparently noticing his smouldering anger, the other passengers on the train gave him a wide berth. At the moment, that was just the way he wanted things.
"Engaged – fuck!" he growled under his breath. "Mother Gaia, what'd I ever do to you?" he muttered, casting his gaze upward.
A middle-aged man in a suit and glasses gave him a curious look; Christopher shot him a glare that immediately caused him to drop his gaze.
By the time he reached the Rock Creek Park stop, his rage was still simmering. Duffel bag swinging against his hip, he stalked along the riding path, then onto the dirt foot path. His route took him deeper and deeper into the woods, until he collided with something hard and unyielding.
The tall, craggy-featured man in front of Christopher shifted an enormous war hammer from one shoulder to the other like a smaller man might have shifted a broomstick. He glowered down at the younger man from an advantage of several inches, his mouth hooked down in a disapproving frown. "You made so much noise coming that anyone could have found the caern, Slays-the-Shadows. You should be more careful."
At the moment, Christopher was in no mood to be lectured. This individual had given him an idea, however.... With effort, he swallowed down the angry retort that was his first impulse, and stood his ground, though he swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, Hated-By-the-Wyrm-rhya." Then he took a deep breath. "I need to blow off some steam -- would you like to spar a little?"
For a minute, Brodir Hated-By-the-Wyrm's expression was unreadable; then he shifted his hammer and nodded. "I will spar with you – but let us go somewhere where we won't attract attention." With that, he turned on his heel and headed further into the trees. Christopher trotted after him, working to keep up with Brodir's longer strides.
As the two made their way through the trees, a slender Asian man waved to them. "Brodir! Do you need someone to take over for you?"
Brodir favored the newcomer with a brief nod. "Slays-the-Shadows has asked me to spar with him. Will you take over patrolling for me for a while, Leaps-yuf?"
Tal Leaps-Beyond-the-Reach-of-the-Wyrm nodded. "My sector's clear; I can take over for you right now if you like." With that, he took off at an easy lope the way Christopher and Brodir had come. Apparently satisfied, Brodir continued to lead Christopher through the trees until they came to a small clearing surrounded on all sides by majestic tall trees.
Brodir set down his hammer at the edge of the clearing, motioning Christopher to do the same with his bag. "We can spar here – what sort of weapons do you prefer?"
Christopher set his bag down carefully at the edge of the clearing. "Shall we say bare hands?" He sank into a crouch, his hands curled into loose fists.
"Done," Brodir returned. "Are you ready?"
At Christopher's nod, Brodir launched himself at the younger man, aiming a flurry of blows at Christopher's head. Christopher dodged the blows without too much effort, and aimed a strike at Brodir's chest. His fist struck home, and he allowed himself a small grin as the larger man grunted at the impact.
After nearly half an hour of trading and dodging blows, the two were still sparring. Each of them circled the other carefully, looking for an opening. A number of bruises decorated both their bodies, proving that neither one had escaped the conflict unscathed.
Christopher blinked sweat from his eyes and kept his gaze on his opponent. A glancing blow struck him in the shoulder, and he grinned. It looked like his opponent was finally tiring. He couldn't resist a taunt. "Is that all you've got? You hit like my grandma!"
He wasn't entirely sure what happened after that. It seemed as if one minute he was on the ground; the next, he was staring down at a triumphantly smiling Brodir from several feet up in a tree...and most of him hurt.
"Let that be a lesson to you, young one," Brodir intoned gravely. "Never, ever taunt a Fenrir." Then he settled his hammer on his shoulder, turned on his heel, and strode away.
**What the hell –?! He's just going to leave me here? Aw, no!** Christopher let out a groan of disgust, then hissed with pain as he shifted, causing numerous parts of his body to protest. He managed to pull himself upright, then worked his way slowly down the tree, his hurts protesting every step of the way.
Much later, tired, sore, and in a blacker mood than when he'd arrived, Christopher arrived at the ranger station near the Rock Creek Park Nature Center. Luckily, it was after dusk, so the park was largely deserted -- he really didn't want to have to explain his current appearance to any curious park visitors on top of everything else that had happened that evening. With a sigh, he knocked on the door, wincing involuntarily as the movement pulled at abused muscles in his back and shoulder.
Almost immediately, the door swung open, revealing a slender woman with red hair bound in a knot at the nape of her neck and brilliant blue-green eyes that opened wide at the sight of him. "Christopher? What happened to you?"
"An argument with a tree," Christopher grumbled. He brushed a stray lock of hair out of his eyes, hissing involuntarily as his hand brushed a sore spot. "Look, Aunt Alyssa, can I use the phone to maybe get a ride from my dad? I really don't feel like taking the Metro home right now."
His aunt fixed him with a stern gaze. "If you think I'm going to let you go home in the state you're in, you've got another think coming, young man." She took his arm firmly, led him into the kitchen, and pointed to a chair. "Sit." He opened his mouth to protest, but her expression brooked no argument. "Sit down – before you fall down. I'll be right back." With a sigh, he obeyed.
He heard her hunting for something in another room; after a few moments, she returned with a first aid kit and a number of other things, which she set on the table. She looked him over carefully, speaking half to him and half to herself. "That should be cleaned out...hmmm...that's going to need to be stitched, probably...."
Christopher clamped his teeth on a curse as she cleaned one of the deeper cuts, then started stitching. "There's no need – ow! – to go through all this. It'll -- yeowtch! – regenerate on its own."
Alyssa glared at him. "If I don't stitch this, it might heal badly. Now hold still and let me do my work." Then she chuckled. "You Full Moons are all alike – terrors on the battlefield, but probably some of the worst patients around."
"And you should know, dear," came a new voice. Christopher craned his neck around to see the tall, broad form of his uncle, Alyssa's husband, Randall Stands-Like-a-Mountain. Randall pulled up another chair and leveled his gaze at his nephew. "Any particular reason you're taunting Fenrir, Christopher?"
**Crap,** thought Christopher. **He knows.** He looked from his uncle to his aunt, feeling like a schoolboy called into the principal's office. "We were sparring..."
Randall nodded. "So Brodir told me. He also told me that when you got here, you made enough noise for anyone to find the caern." He frowned. "You're usually more careful – anything bothering you?"
Christopher swallowed hard, then looked at Alyssa. "You remember Jeni Lang, the nurse's aide who used to work the five to midnight shift? We went out together for a while."
Alyssa nodded. "She started working the day shift a month or two ago, didn't she? I haven't seen her much lately; how's she doing?"
"Great," Christopher muttered. "Just great – she's engaged." He nearly spat the words, and his lips pulled back in a snarl. He could feel the anger boiling up inside him again, and his muscles tensing in anticipation.... Then his uncle put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently, but firmly. He fought down the urge to change, emerald fire glittering in his eyes.
Alyssa frowned. "Let me guess – it wasn't to you?" Christopher grunted an affirmation. His aunt sighed, clucking her tongue as she got up to fill a teakettle with water from the filter pitcher in the refrigerator. Setting the kettle on to boil, she returned to the table, affectionately brushing an unruly lock of wavy black hair off Christopher's forehead and bending down to dab at the scrape she found there with a cotton ball soaked in antiseptic. "You know, that doesn't seem to be worth fighting Brodir and ending up in a tree."
Christopher opened his mouth to protest, but then considered what his aunt had said and sighed instead. Even though he really hated to admit it, she was right.
The teakettle whistled; Alyssa took it from the stove and turned off the flame, then pulled a tin from the cupboard. She spooned some of the contents into a cup and poured the boiling water over it, then added a dollop of honey. She stirred the whole thing briskly, and then handed the cup to her nephew. "Drink this – you'll feel better."
Christopher raised the cup to his lips and grimaced at his first swallow. "Smells like old socks!"
"Finish it anyway," his aunt returned, "unless you'd rather have your uncle hold you down and pour it down your throat."
Christopher looked guardedly at his uncle, wondering if Randall would carry out the threat; the older man looked at Alyssa for a few seconds, then looked back at Christopher, his face set in stern lines. "I'd do what your aunt says if I were you." Then the stern mask dropped and his eyes twinkled. "After all, she's worse than a pack of Black Spirals if she doesn't get her way."
Her eyes glinting, Alyssa swatted her husband's shoulder. "You know it, you big bear," she said with a playful smile, then gestured to the cup Christopher still held. "Finish that while I'll go make up the bed in the spare room for you – it's late; you can take the Metro home in the morning."
Christopher drained the cup in two large swallows in an effort not to taste whatever was in it, though he couldn't resist wrinkling his nose at the smell. He set the cup down on the table and shut his eyes, feeling the tension drain out of his muscles at last.
"Christopher?" His aunt's soft voice roused him from his relaxed state. "I've got the bed made up; you can go to sleep if you want."
Surprisingly, Christopher found that the thought of sleep was welcome; the tension he'd been feeling had drained away at last, leaving a bone-deep weariness in its place.
Randall got up from his chair and moved over to stand beside his nephew. "You look like you're ready to fall asleep right here – do you want some help, or can you manage on your own?"
Christopher shook his head. "No, I'm okay – really." With that, he pushed his chair away from the table and made his way to the guest room, if a little slowly. He noticed in passing that his duffel bag had been placed in a corner of the room, and felt a surge of relief that he wouldn't have to go hunting for it come morning. He sat down on the bed and stripped off his sneakers, socks, T-shirt and pants, then slipped under the sheets. They smelled comfortingly of being dried in the open air, and the pillow was remarkably comfortable to his tired, still-aching head. Within a very short time, he was asleep.
Alyssa looked fondly at her sleeping nephew as she closed the door, a bemused smile playing about her lips as she made her way back to the kitchen, where she took a seat at the table opposite her husband. "He's asleep," she said softly.
"That'd be a first," Randall chuckled. Then he slanted a curious glance at her. "What was in that tea?"
"Valerian root," Alyssa returned with a smile. "It'll help him sleep, and heal..." her eyes twinkled. "And we won't have to listen to him complain all night," she finished, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"You think of everything," Randall said with an affectionate grin. He came around the table and bent down to kiss her. "Maybe we should follow his example, though?" Alyssa nodded, linking her arm through his as the two of them went off to bed, knowing that all would be well with Christopher come morning.
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