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Full Moon

By Jerry Leonard

Chapter 3

The thing that was Dargon stood in the middle of the clearing looking over those who had joined him, two packs of normal wolves that had been drawn instinctively to the great beast in their midst. Cautiously, but with a few scattered snarls and bristled backs, they milled about with their attention fully focused on Dargon and his companion. He could sense they had already accepted him as the leader and thought that this was good as he didn't want to waste any time destroying the pack leaders. Pausing to concentrate he held out one clawed hand as if in supplication to the moon, and in seconds a short scepter appeared in his grasp.

The beast looked at what it held and let out a bark of laughter. Made out of what appeared to be black iron, it was wrapped with seven bands of hammered gold and topped with a large piece of obsidian just smaller than a fist and made to look like a torch flame. A shimmering silvery claw gripped the obsidian flame. The rod literally radiated with darkness and a feeling of corruption that set the wolves on edge. Dargon grasped the scepter with both hands and began concentrating again, moving it in a circular motion. Almost instantly a sound, like a thousand barely audible whispers, began emanating from the scepter washing over the nervous animals. As the susurration continued they calmed and stood motionless, listening in rapt attention. As soon as Dargon finished the wolves erupted into one long chorus of howling simultaneously. Once the noise subsided, Dargon moved quickly from the clearing heading in the direction of Dunst, his companion and the wolves following in death-like silence.

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Adolphius was quickly pacing back and forth in the Great Room of the inn mumbling to himself, "This isn't what I signed on for.... this isn't what I signed on for..... we have to leave.... now." Dunk and Monk watched him with wide eyes, his obvious panic beginning to infect them as well. Glancing apprehensively at Mengar, Monk said quietly, "Ya know Meng, if there's more than two of them then Adolph here has a point..... I think. We were willing to give it a go against two, but more than that and we're gonna be sorely outmatched...."

Reaching across his body to touch the mourning band on his arm, Mengar was silent for a moment. Then with a look of firm resolve he replied, "My brother, I'll not hold you or Dunk here." Looking at everyone else in the room he continued, "In fact, anyone here who feels that the best move now is to flee is free to do so. I'll not think less of you.... As for me, I'm staying." With that, he turned and walked to the window that faced out into the street.

Monk walked over to his twin and they began whispering quietly to each other. They were speaking so low that no one could tell what was being said until Dunk raised his voice slightly and said, "But I'm scared brother.... Hold me." He grinned and tried wrapping his arms around Monk, but Monk fended him off with a laugh saying, "Yer a boob." Joining Mengar at the window, Monk said simply, "Your father raised us better than that, brother. We don't desert family."

Sitting at the bar Mayla spoke up, her high-pitched voice carrying across the room, "You know where I stand. If you three are going to stay, then someone has to keep you out of trouble." Dunk looked down at the kobold's diminutive form and, with a wide grin, said, "Thanks momma." Mayla frowned and quickly replied, "Hush, young boob, and finish getting dressed..."

"Yes ma'am," Dunk said with a giggle. Reaching over to the bar, he grabbed two wide and stiff leather collars that were setting next to a pile of shackles and threw one over to Monk who caught it easily. He took the remaining collar and wrapped it around his neck, hooking the two ends together to keep it in place. He then reached down to the shackles, one set obviously newly forged and the other looking old but made of some strange silvery, and almost translucent metal, and grabbed the strange looking set, hanging it around his neck so that it was instantly available.

"Ahem," Drekel cleared his throat and asked, "What's da collar for?" Dunk glanced over his shoulder and nonchalantly replied, "So they don't rip our throats out." Paling slightly, Drekel asked, "You gots any more?" Dunk paused and turned slowly to face Drekel. "Nope. Don't worry though, you got so many chins that they'll never be able to find yer neck." At this Mayla laughed so hard she fell off the stool she was sitting on, causing Dunk to laugh as well.

Mengar was watching everything impassively and looked over as Lord Tarn approached him. "Mengar, you know my reasons for being here are not yours, but I don't desert friends either." Placing his hand on Garon's shoulder, Mengar gave a slight squeeze saying solemnly, "I know. My thanks."

Adolphius watched them all in exasperation. Finally he sighed and said, "You're all mad, you know." Another chorus of howls outside in the distance caused him to frown and add, "I believe that if there was a time to go... it is behind us now."

Lord Tarn looked over to Adolphius and smiled. "If it makes you feel any better there's still only two. The others are just wolves..."

Startled, Mengar said, "Are you sure of this?" Garon just stared at him, causing Mengar to smile sheepishly. "Oh. Suppose I should have asked that the first time around."

Unconvinced of Lord Tarn's ability to know, Adolphius asked, "But what if you're wrong, Justiciar?" The reply was quick in coming, "Well, then I'm wrong and our troubles will soon be over."

Mengar looked back out the window and said, "Indeed. Everyone keep your arms near."

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Wraith-like and silent, the beasts moved out of the darkened forest and into the outskirts of town, nothing but black shapes skulking about within the moon-wrought shadows thrown by the buildings. Pausing to sniff at the air and look about, Dargon noticed that the town was absolutely silent. From his vantage point he could see that a large bonfire was lit within the walls of the church courtyard and he had no doubt that the church was probably filled with all of the villagers and that those useless town militia soldiers surrounded it as well.

The beast spared a quick glance at all the wolves milling about him and sent his thoughts out to them. As one, they froze in their tracks and perked their ears up as if listening. A moment later they all began moving in the direction of the church, staying within the shadows of the buildings along the way. Dargon watched them in silence. Once they were out of sight, he huffed with satisfaction then turned to look at his companion who kept switching between the whines of a beast with hunger pangs and the low throated growls of one anticipating a kill. After a short moment of staring at the she-wolf, he spun around and began heading deeper into town towards his quarry, listening to her heavy breathing as she followed closely behind.

They moved quickly and crossed over several streets until they came within sight of his target, The Twisted Beak Inn. Looking closely at the building, Dargon the beast could see and smell the tell-tale signs of habitation, light leaking through the shuttered windows of the main floor and smoke pouring from the chimney of the main fireplace. He stayed in the shadows watching... waiting.... until he heard the loud and coarse laughter of someone from within. His companion, the she-wolf Ilea, became very agitated at the sound and began growling and salivating uncontrollably. With a quick smack to the head to get her attention, Dargon pointed up at the windows encircled by a balcony on the second floor, then gestured for her to go. Without a seconds hesitation she bounded across the street, her muscles rippling with power as she leaped effortlessly from the ground to the top of a wagon next to the inn, and from the wagon to the nearest balcony, landing with a solid thud before one of the shuttered windows. Standing to her full height, the she-wolf lifted her head to the sky and let loose with a long and angry howl, then started smashing and rending her way in.

As soon as she attacked the windows Dargon raced to the side of the inn, hoping to get a look through the slats of the single shuttered window on that side of the building.

*******************************************

"Don't you got a place to hide Drek?"

Drekel looked over at Dunk and began to shoot back a heated reply over the misuse of his name, but paused in seeming mid-thought instead. Struggling to get his anger with the towering oaf under control, he took a deep breath and said through clenched teeth, "I can take care of myself, tank you very much. I tink it be better if you worried about yerself. After all, you guys are da ones dat gonna fight dem, not me."

Dunk rolled his eyes and replied, "DUH! S'what I was talkin' about. We're gonna have enough to worry about and it would be nice if you were outta the way, so ... Do ... you ... have ... a ... place ... ta ... hide?"

Drekel eyes narrowed as he noticed that Dunks' glance kept drifting over to the ale kegs in the corner as he spoke. Steeling his resolve, he shot back, "Yes, I do. An I'll go dere when sumpin happens... not before."

Dunk sighed and looked over at Monk shrugging his shoulders. Monk smiled back at his brother and said to Drekel, "Be sure ya do Drek. Yer so big that if we miss the beasts, we'll surely get you instead. I can't afford to have my spear get stuck in yer fat..."

As Drekel's mouth dropped open in surprised shock and indignation at the words, Dunk couldn't help himself and started laughing loudly. He was laughing so hard he had to hold on to his silver-headed boar spear to keep from sagging to his knees. After a moment Mayla jumped from her stool and shouted for everyone to hear, "QUIET! Everyone listen!" All the people in the room froze in place and strained to hear what Mayla was hearing, even Dunk quieted down in mid-laugh trying to get himself back under control. Somewhere above them, they heard the distinct sound of claws scrabbling on wood just as the semi-silence was shattered by an unnaturally loud howl.

In an instant, the companions all fell into place in the middle of the Great Room like a well-trained squad of soldiers with Mengar, Dunk, and Monk on the outside, forming a three-sided box and holding their boar spears at the ready. Lord Tarn, with a calm unfocused gaze and one hand resting on his scimitar, and Adolphius, both hands clasped together with his fingers entwined in an unnatural position, stood in the middle of the other three, both seemingly lost in concentration. Dunk looked quickly around the room just in time to catch sight of Drekel's immense bulk as it slowly dropped below the bar. Shaking his head sadly he took another look around and saw that Mayla was nowhere in sight. Calling out seriously he said, "Stay out from under foot Mother Mayla. I don't want to step on you again..."

On the second floor the howling was quickly replaced with the sounds of the heavy wooden shutters giving way, splintered wood and debris falling to the floor of one of the upstairs rooms. The ceiling boomed with every step the wolf-beast made and, following the thud of footfalls, they all heard what sounded like a bed or dresser being dragged and then tossed across the room. Looking up at the ceiling and musing aloud Monk said, "Hey Meng, sounds like it's in your room..." When the beast found that the door of the room had been bolted from the outside it began smashing into it, the echoes of the battering making its way down the hall and stairs into the Great Room. Knowing that an attack was imminent the group began backing their way to the other side of the room, putting as much distance between themselves and the stairs as they could. The two oafs, with Mengar in the middle, formed a line with about three paces between each other and continued backing up until Adolphius bumped into the wall and said grimly, "We can't go back any farther folks."

Just then everybody jumped, scattered, and whirled around as, with a loud crash, pieces of wood and dust showered them all from behind. Their blood ran cold when they saw the pair of heavily muscled and hairy arms trying to drag the thrashing form of Adolphius headfirst through the shattered window. His screams of terror and pain seemed to finally jolt the others into action, and Lord Tarn ran over and latched onto his torso trying to pull him back inside.

"Come on now! I need a hand here!" At that, Dunk threw down his spear and rushed over to help Garon, grabbing on to Adolphius' legs and pulling with all his strength. Adolphius let out a long gurgling shriek and his struggling body went limp. Suddenly Garon, Dunk, and Adolphius came flying away from the window to crash in a heap on the floor. Monk dashed past them and thrust his spear into the ragged opening hoping to catch the beast on the other side, but the lack of resistance signaled a clean miss. Withdrawing his spear he backed away from the ruined opening and turned his attention to his friends.

Dunk and Lord Tarn, rising quickly to their feet, moved even faster when they both looked down and saw Adolphius' body.... minus his head. Blood slowly oozed from the stump of his neck and spread across the floor. Reaching down to retrieve his spear Dunk mumbled in a panic, "This isn't good... Not good at all...."

Watching the others fall back to the floor with the headless body, Mengar stood frozen in numb shock. Mentally he thrashed himself as the words of his father bubbled up from the recesses of his memory.... 'Remember boy, the oldest trick, and the first trick any good warrior learns, is to make your opponent expect an attack from one direction and then to take them unawares from another.... Wars have been won and lost with that one.' As the words echoed in the back of his mind, he felt the hairs on his arms rise when Mayla shouted from the other side of the room, "LOOK OUT!" Whirling around, Mengar tightened the grip on his spear and raised it in reflex... just in time to catch a hurtling mass of hair, claws and teeth on the end of it, the impact driving him back several steps.

With a savage snarl of bloodlust and pain the beast dug its feet into the floor and kept pushing on the spear trying to reach Mengar, but the crossbar held it neatly on the end. It twisted and took a swipe at him, its razor sharp claws narrowly missing his face. As Mengar tried pushing it back, he could hear Mayla to one side of the room practically screaming out an unintelligible incantation, while Garon, behind and to his right, was doing the same, although he seemed much more in control of his voice. From the crashing that came behind him he guessed that the oafs had tripped and fallen into the tables and chairs in surprise at the attack and were quickly trying to recover.

Just when the beast tensed to take another swipe and Mengar felt his grip beginning to slip, Mayla's voice raised in an almost climactic screech and ceased. Instantly the shadows on one wall cast by the flickering light of the fireplace detached themselves and took on a life of their own. In a swirl of blackness the shadows twisted through the air to wrap around the wolf-beast's head. With a yelp of surprise the beast reached up to its head and tried tearing the shadowstuff off, only to find its claws passing harmlessly, and ineffectually, through it.

While it was distracted with this new threat to itself, Mengar tightened his grip and gained a few steps as he began pushing it backwards. In the space of a breath Dunk and Monk had recovered themselves and rushed in to plunge their own spears into the creature, the force of their attacks throwing it back several paces and pulling it off of Mengar's spear. Still muttering his own ritual incantation Lord Tarn calmly walked past Mengar holding a golden symbol, representing his deity Torisat, thrust out before him in one hand and pointing at the wolf-beast with the other.

Realizing that they would soon have that creature under control, Mengar spun back around to cover the shattered window and front door farther to the left. He knew that if the other was going to attack, now would be the time, when everyone else was occupied with the first.

As Mengar was watching everyone's back Lord Tarn finished his spell. A small but intensely bright burst of energy shot from his pointing hand and impacted the wildly thrashing creature. The golden ray of mystical energy quickly surrounded the beast, spreading out in a brilliant web-like display of raw power. Almost instantly, the creature tensed and howled in surprise and shock as it was transformed back to its human form. With hoots of excitement Dunk and Monk pounced onto it even as Mayla rushed over with a hood in her hands.

When Ilea came to her senses she saw nothing but darkness. Tossed about and feeling crushed by the rough handling of the people around her, she thought for sure that she was going to die right then. Suddenly, the darkness faded and she could see her accosters. Her eyes widened to see the menacing figures of the oafs and kobold as they trussed her up. Unsure of what was happening and in a panic, she screamed....

Listening to the chaos erupting behind him, Mengar was caught unprepared as something came flying through the broken window towards him. In a spasm of reflex he dropped to one knee and batted at the object with his spear sending it bouncing and rolling into the far corner of the Great Room. He followed it with his eyes in sickened fascination barely recognizing it for what it was..... Adolphius' head. Unable to look away he saw that the eyes had been ripped out, leaving nothing but two empty and bloodstained holes.

In his mind he could still hear the others as they struggled with their prize. Monk was yelling at Dunk, "The shackles, the shackles! Get 'em on! Hurry up!" Dunk yelled back, "I'm hurryin'! I got ta... uh oh." A scream, a womans scream. A very short silence until Mayla shouted, "Pay attention idiot!" accompanied by the sound of her soundly whacking him. "Hold her still so I can get the hood on!"

Thinking that Mayla may have been injured Mengar started to turn towards them, but the sound of the front door being smashed in caused him to twist back in surprise. Crawling through the ruined doorway was the other Loup Garou. In the firelit room the spark of malevolent intelligence made its eyes fairly glow a sickly yellow. Six and a half feet of hairy muscles, claws and teeth, the new arrival crouched and, with a snarl, leapt at Mengar. Again Mengar dropped to one knee putting the butt of the silver-headed spear firmly against the edge of his trailing foot and lifting the tip to meet the oncoming attack. The creature impaled itself in mid-flight and he used its momentum to lift the spear up and over sending the thing sailing over his head. Careening uncontrollably it flew off the spear and landed in a tangled heap, crashing into some chairs and overturning a table.

Rising to his feet Mengar turned to his foe and began quickly advancing, spear raised menacingly before him ready to stab it again. The beast rose unsteadily, but beat aside the spear and grabbed Mengar by the front of his chainmail shirt. Effortlessly it picked him up over its head and threw him back across the room to crash against the bar. As Mengar hit the bar, his mind exploded in a flash of pain. Head spinning as he lay dazed on the floor, he could just make out the form of the beast as it rushed at him. Knowing that the jaws of death were soon to close on him, he reached behind him and drew his sword in a last act of defiance. As it pulled free from its scabbard, the blade threw off a bright crimson light and began humming, its low tones reverberating across them room. Arcane energy arced and crackled up and down the edge of the blade like small crimson lightning bolts. The sight made the beast pause, but only for a heartbeat, then it continued to its approach.

Somewhere in the room he could hear Garon reciting the ritual again, but he knew it would come too late. The beast closed in and Mengar raised his sword, but the end never came as the large form of Monk came into view and plowed into the creature, lifting it off of its feet and smashing it into the wall. Somewhere in the background Dunk yelled, "Mayla, I need a hand!" As the Loup Garou recovered it grabbed Monk's immense bulk and tossed him aside like a rag doll, then turned back to Mengar who was on his knees trying to get up. It crouched once again and sprang at him growling in vicious anger. Vision blurred and head still spinning Mengar lifted his sword and swung, its deadly arc catching nothing but air until it smashed into the bar. He flinched, waiting for the impact....

That never came.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, but was really only the space of a heartbeat or two, Mengar looked up to see what happened. The room was in silence, except for the sounds of Garon's chanting and the growls of the two wolf-beasts in the room. The one was still before him, only it appeared to be stuck to the ceiling unable to move. To one side Mayla stood perfectly still, both hands above her head and clasped together as if she was holding something tight. The look of concentration on her face explained the Loup Garou's predicament.

Mengar stood unsteadily and shook his head trying to clear it. Once again Garon finished his incantation, the mystical energy sprang forth and enveloped the beast in its golden radiance turning it back to human form. The Loup Garou known as Dargon shuddered from the shock and hung stunned for a second, then regained his wits and looked about him with an evil smile. Monk, still lying on the floor where he landed among the tables, saw him and moaned quietly, "Here we go again." Mengar looked up at Dargon and shouted, "YOU! But I thought...."

Interrupting, Dargon laughed and said, "I told you I would see you destroyed fool! But for now it seems we are at a draw..." With that he closed his eyes as if he were about to sleep. Mayla recognized him as well and began lowering him so that he was within reach.

"So you said," Mengar answered in shocked anger, "but that was right before I threw you off a cliff."

Dargon's relaxed behavior confused Mengar for a second, and then the possibilities dawned on him. He shouted, "NO!", then reached back down to pull his sword from where it had imbedded itself. Wrenching it free he staggered over to Dargon's hanging form and, with all his might, swung the sword down to lop off his head. The swords glow became brighter, leaving a crimson trail of arcane flame and sparks while the low hum raised in volume as it sliced through the air. Just before the blade could touch skin Dargon vanished and, encountering no resistance, the force of Mengar's swing buried the sword almost to its winged hilt in the floor. Mengar dropped to his knees in mental exhaustion, this recent revelation almost too much as emotions long buried came boiling to the surface.

By the fireplace, Dunk sat on the floor next to the struggling and growling form of the she-wolf they had captured and shackled hand and foot, the effects of Lord Tarn's spell of transformation expended. Talking to no one in particular, he stared at the spot where Dargon had hung and said, "Shades... So just what does it take to do this guy?" Looking over at Mayla he continued, "And while we're on the subject, are these shackles gonna hold?"

Mayla looked at the creature, its head covered with the hood she put on it, and then over to Adolphius' still form. Sighing, she walked over to Dunk and said, "Adolphius said those shackles would hold a dragon if you could get them on one..." At the mention of his name Dunk looked over at the body and mumbled, "Poor shmuck. I knew we shouldn't have paid him everything up front." Overhearing, Mayla reached over and slapped him on the back of the head, "Boob."

Garon wandered through the debris of tables and chairs to where Monk was laying and moaning and helped him struggle back to his feet. Speaking loud enough for everyone to hear he said, "Since I seem to be the only one who has never been formally introduced, would you all mind telling me just who that was?"

Mengar looked up wearily and replied, "I'll try to make proper introductions when he returns. He hasn't eaten yet..."

*******************************************

Dargon opened his eyes and saw that he was back inside the tent at camp lying on the pentagram he had inscribed into the ground for just this purpose. Quickly he got up and laughed as he walked out into the night. While things didn't go quite as planned he knew the night was still young. He looked up at the moon and exclaimed, "Gods, but I'm starved," then laughed again. Heading back to Dunst the effects of the spell wore off and, once again, he was Dargon the Beast.  

 

 

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