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Posts : 526
Join date : 2013-09-02
Location : Nacogdoches, TX

PostSubject: Metamorphosis   Fri 06 Sep 2013, 13:45

Zoe and Ryan O’Toole sat at the dining room table enjoying a celebratory dinner of steak and potatoes.  Today, Zoe had completed her last day of schooling.  Though she had missed the first few years of school, her sharp mind allowed her to catch up quite easily over the last seven years and excel in her studies, finishing school at the same time as others her age.  

Outside of school, Zoe was responsible for keeping the house in order.  Through trial and error she learned to cook decent meals for the two of them.  Whenever the house was in order, she spent the rest of her free time with O’Toole in his workshop.  Her insights often helped O’Toole complete his inventions, though she always let him think they were his ideas.  

Zoe stood to begin clearing the dishes as they finished their meal.  O’Toole placed his hand on her forearm.  His eyes seemed especially sad for what was otherwise a joyous occasion.  

“Take a seat, dear.  I need to show you something.”  

Zoe lowered herself back into her seat and looked quizzically at O’Toole without speaking.  He pulled a folded piece of paper from his jacket pocket and slid it to her across the table.  

She gingerly took the letter, unfolding it slowly.  The first thing to catch her eye was the salutation.  

Miss Zoe Kostas

As she quickly skimmed the letter she read words like ‘land,’ ‘grant,’ and ‘Nacogdoches.’  Her eyes narrowed as she looked up at O’Toole.

“What does this mean?”

He sighed as he took the letter back from her.  

“Well, first, we now know your real name, Miss Kostas, so another piece of your past has come to light.  Second, you have land deeded to you further out west.  It says here that you must go to Nacogdoches to learn more about the property.”

“But we don’t need land out in the middle of nowhere.  We’ve got more than what we need right here in Galveston.”

“What about your family ties, dear?  Someone out there knows you as Zoe Kostas.  I know you want to know more about your past.  Now’s your chance.”

She looked at the letter as he held it in his hands.  The prospect of learning more about her past was enticing, but this was her home now, here with O’Toole.  

“As intriguing as the offer is, you are the only family I care about now...”

She stood and grabbed her plate and utensils and a playful smile crept onto her face.

“And besides, you would be lost without me, Mr. O’Toole.  You need me here.”

He smiled slightly at her last comment with a nod.

“Very well, my dear.  The decision is yours and the offer does not appear to have an expiration date, so if you change your mind, I will understand and try to survive your absence.”

A few evenings later Zoe was walking home from the general store.  She was toting a few dry goods in a special wagon of hers and O’Toole’s making.  He claimed to have put a special ointment on the wheels to reduce the friction and allow them to turn more easily than the standard wagon wheel.  Now the device practically pulled itself uphill. Though they have a horse and buggy, Zoe preferred the evening walk under the stars.  There was something about a clear moonlit night above and the raw earth beneath that she found simply invigorating.  

As she headed up the path toward the house, she heard a faint rustle in the nearby brush.  

“Hello, Raven.”

It had been seven years since the last time she heard that name, but Rosco’s voice was unmistakable.

“Rosco…what are you doing here?”

He took a few steps out of the shadows, the moonlight illuminating his scowling face.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, kid; ever since you sold me and the twins down the river.”

“What are you talking about?  I never told anyone about any of you guys!”

He closed the distance between her with a couple more steps as he poked a finger in her chest.

“You expect me to believe that two days after you start living the charmed life the coppers just happened to find us?  C’mon, Raven.  I’m no fool.”

She opened her mouth to defend herself, but he raised his hand to silence her.

“Now, now, Raven.  I’m not here to give you grief over that.  It’s just water under the bridge now, right?  I’m just here to ask a simple favor of an old friend. Think you can do that for me?”

Zoe gave Rosco a furious look.  

“I don’t owe you any favors, you lout, and I’m not going to help you with anything.”

Rosco laughed a high, evil sound. “Wrong answer, kid.”

He grabbed her forearm with a vice grip as he gestured behind her with his free hand.  Glancing over her shoulder she saw two men approach her from behind.  It was not the twins, but two significantly scarier looking ruffians, one of whom was holding an unlit lantern.  

“To make up for you ratting me out all those years ago, you’re going to help me with one last job.  Word on the street is there’s a stagecoach carrying some mighty fine loot camped about a day’s journey outside of town.  You’re going to help us get into the coach and the safe inside.”

“You’re an idiot, Rosco. I haven’t done that in years and the technologies have improved while my skills have waned.  You are going to have to find someone else.  I can’t help you.”

Zoe knew she should be afraid of these men, but all she felt was reckless, seething anger welling up inside her.

Rosco glowered at her, and nodded to the men behind her, who lit the lamp and began walking toward the house. That did cause a chill to run down her spine, despite the warm Texas night.

“Wait!  What are they doing?  Rosco, make them stop!”

“If your precious daddy is no longer in the picture, then you no longer have to keep your promise.  And if you no longer have a place to live, you’ll have to come crawling back to me and hope that I take you back.  Brush fires are really common these days due to the lack of rain and all.  It’s really quite sad when people’s houses end up in the middle of said fires.”

Realization hit Zoe like a buffalo stampede.  

"No! Rosco! Please, stop them!” Zoe screamed in desperation.  

Again, the high, sinister laugh erupted from Rosco’s throat as the men approached the house.  

The next few moments passed like a blur but also in what felt like half time as her senses became extremely attuned to everything going on around her.  Rosco’s eyes grew wide as his laugh turned into a wailing scream that pierced the otherwise quiet night. A large hairy claw swiped across his chest, but Rosco’s screams were drowned out by a deep, howling roar as she rounded on the men approaching the house.

The lantern dropped to the ground as the first man darted to the left.  The glass shattered and the surrounding grass began to slowly burn.  The second man ran in the opposite direction, causing Zoe to lunge at the first before pouncing on the latter.  Before she knew it both men lay dead in the yard, their blood caking her fur as the grass fire grew larger. Silhouetted by the flames, the animal that was Zoe howled her triumph up at the darkening sky.

Her victory was short-lived. A sharp pain pierced her right shoulder as a shot rang out.  Zoe turned toward the house and saw O’Toole poised with a rifle resting against his shoulder.  The artificer was clad in burnished plate armor, and she could see a small army of Weaver spirits skittering over and through the leather and metal.  

Before she knew what was happening, she was racing toward him, teeth bared, claws extended, her mind clouded with inexpressible rage.  

Zoe felt her instincts war with her personal desires, but her good intentions were no match for the savage anger rising up within her.  Despite the pain in her shoulder, the wolf closed the distance to the porch in a few quick leaps.  She heard another gunshot, but since she was expecting it, she dodged the bullet as if she had seen the shot before it happened.  

Though the porch stairs were raised, Zoe’s claws allowed her to climb the pilings with ease.  When she landed on the porch, O’Toole was not to be seen, but that didn’t matter. She had the inventor’s scent, she could taste the odor of lye soap and machine oil wafting from somewhere nearby.  

As she moved to leap around the corner, she began to feel a bit sluggish.  She growled deeply and tried to shake the restrictive feeling.  Her peripheral vision caught some movement above and to her left.  In one fluid motion she leapt toward the second story balcony where O’Toole was standing, grasping his rifle in one hand and an ornate pocket watch in the other hand.  

Her energy continued to drain much quicker than she was expending it.  As she lunged toward O’Toole, he simply stepped out of the way as she fell to the ground beside him.  She swiped at him with her left paw, knocking him from his feet.  She used all of her remaining energy to throw herself on top of him, but she had nothing left with which to attack.  

O’Toole shoved the exhausted wolf back onto the porch and stood to his feet.  Zoe wrestled sluggishly against what felt to her like a web.  Not only was she restrained, but her vitality was completely depleted.  A ghostly spider made of steel and ivory crawled away from her prone form and wound its way up O’Toole’s armored leg. The artificer didn’t seem to notice as the spirit creature perched on his shoulder and waved a foreleg at Zoe.

The wolf finally gave up the fight and surrendered to her exhaustion.  As she did so, she felt the rage subside and her animalistic instincts retreat into a deeper part of her psyche.  She looked up at O’Toole as he approached her and lifted his visor. The last thing she saw was his expression changing from a look of satisfaction to shock.  

The next morning Zoe awoke in her bed with O’Toole sitting in a chair nearby. On the nightstand sat a bloody tray and a pair of forceps. Surprisingly, her shoulder was completely healed from the gunshot wound she had sustained the night before.  The memories of that night came rushing back to her in a torrent of raw emotion.  Her eyes grew wide as she sat up in bed.  Her words spewed forth a jumble of thoughts.  

“What…what happened last night?  I was just coming home and then Rosco and the fire and the gun shots and the killing…so much killing…and then I was stuck and I wanted to kill you, too…”

O’Toole walked over to her and coaxed her back into the bed, handing her a mug of cool water.  

“Calm down, dear, and I’ll explain as much as I can.  You may have heard stories of sorcerers and vampires and other such supernatural creatures.  They are not all true, but they are not all lies.”

He broke eye contact and sighed as he considered how best to break such news to the girl who had become his daughter.  She sat expectantly, holding the mug, but not drinking from it.  

“You, my dear, are one such creature.  I do not know what causes you to change or how much control you can exert over the process, but I know that your kind and mine do not tend to associate on friendly terms.”

Zoe looked up at him with a concerned look on her face.  

“This does not change our relationship at all, my dear; however, others likely will not look too kindly on our association.”

As he spoke, O’Toole raised a small shiny object, regarding it with distant interest. It took Zoe a moment to realize it was a flattened minie ball.  

“I think you should go to Nacogdoches.  Whoever knows you out there likely knows more about who you are…and what you are.”

“But I don’t know the first thing about Nacogdoches or what’s waiting for me there… what if it’s a trap or a fraud?”

“I don’t think it is a trap, and if whoever sent the letter does have less than pure designs, I think we both know that you could handle a huckster with little trouble.”

He smiled but then his expression hardened.

“Simply put, staying here is not an option, Zoe.  If you remain in Galveston, you are both dangerous and in danger.  Those men that you killed last night will not be the last if you stay here, Zoe.  You have yet to learn to control your shape-shifting, and that is not something I can help you with.”

O’Toole stood and walked toward the door, stopping next to a medium-sized satchel.  

“I’ve packed your things for you, along with a few additional trinkets that I believe you will find useful on your journey.”

Zoe jumped up from her bed and ran over to O’Toole.  

“Please, don’t make me go.  We can work it out.  It will be okay.  You can help me learn how to control myself.  I don’t need to leave.  I can stay-“

“That’s enough, Zoe.  It’s time for you to go.  I’ll be back in 15 minutes and I expect you to be gone when I return.”

She stood in silence for an entire minute, watching the door after he left the room, hoping that he would come back and take back what he said, but he did not return.  She knelt down and looked inside the satchel, finding some clothes, the letter, and O’Toole’s pocket watch.  Next to the satchel sat a rifle with a unique-looking scope on the top.  O’Toole had told her that it would be useful against vampires.  Of course that was before she believed there was such a thing.  

Zoe picked up the satchel and the rifle, walked through the living room and out the front door.  She descended the front steps for what she feared would be the last time, as her eyes darted back and forth between the burned and the blood-stained spots on the grass.  When she reached the road, she turned back once more.  O’Toole’s silhouette filled the window of her bedroom as he watched her go.
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