Assumption: A Hallowe'en
This is another Werdeth story. It features
the third version of the character's powers -
the same setup that appears in
Moonlight - but this story was written a
couple of years later.
I moved through the night with as much
silence and caution as I could manage. The woods
of eastern Tennessee were silent around me, and
the hiking trail was dark beneath the shadows of
the trees. A half-moon lit the sky, and in
places, my path as well, but for the most part I
walked in darkness.
I could hear sounds from far ahead, and from
time to time I caught a glimpse of firelight as
well. My curiosity was piqued; who would build a
fire so far out here in the woods, and on this
of all nights? But I was not the only one who
tended in this direction: two or three others
had passed me already, moving easily through the
woods beyond the path. So I continued on, drawn
like a moth to the flames.
These nighttime walks had become a habit with
me, else I might never have touched the Mystery.
Alone and out of place, finished with my
studies, dissatisfied with the company of my
peers, I had taken to the woods that lay just
outside of town. I would walk for hours,
sometimes talking to myself, sometimes silent,
as the tensions of the day eased within me.
There, in the wilderness, I sought peace and
serenity, sought something to sooth my troubled
The noises became clearer as I neared their
source, but they were still so soft as to vanish
on the night breeze. I slowed my pace still
further, moving with all the skill at my
disposal, and approached behind the cover of a
massive and ancient tree. Sliding my head into
the light, I set my gaze upon them.
I had attended a fraternity party earlier in
the evening, though I was not a member; it was
an open party. In celebration of Hallowe'en, it
had been a costume party: a roomful of humans
masquerading as monsters, atmosphere provided by
such technological miracles as a smoke machine,
black lights, and glow-in-the-dark paint. The
beer was dyed red with food coloring. I did not
Alone in my room, I had stripped myself of
costume (I had gone as a ghost, white faced,
with dark circles under my eyes, set off against
the black cloth of my shroud) and spent an hour
cleansing myself, to get the smell of smokes
(stage, tobacco, marijuana) from my skin and
hair. Finally, myself again, I had selected
loose and comfortable clothing from my closet,
laced up my boots, and gone out, thinking to
celebrate the holiday alone with the moon.
But now, as the firelight pressed itself against
my eyes, the Revelation came upon me: there was
no need. I stood, I watched, unaware that I had
moved away from the tree and now stood revealed
by the flickering orange light. Miracles moved
before me, dark and glittering; each one a naked
singularity, though some few were human in
They danced in the light of three great
bonfires, or stood aside in quiet conversation
or simple communion. Two or three were drumming
time for the dancers, an elegant and intricate
rhythm, and as I watched the rhythm changed and
the pattern of the dance changed with it. I saw
eyes turned my way, but such was my awe that I
never thought to flee: whatever was here, I
could not escape it.
Then one of the dancers turned my way, eyes
flashing orange with reflected firelight.
Without missing a measure, she broke from the
dance and another took her place. She approached
me, black furred and graceful, humanoid and
feline, woman and panther in one, a beast that
walked like a human being. She smiled as she
came, feral and wild, but I did not back away.
It's true, I thought. The stories, the
legends, the fairy tales. True. It was my
first coherent thought, for I was not in a
rational frame of mind. I stared as she
approached, transfixed by her nudity, by the
strangeness of her anatomy. A wild excitement
began to grow in me, an ecstasy born of terror
and an almost religious awe. Almost
imperceptibly, the clearing fell silent behind
"Would you come among us, then?" she asked
me. Her voice was low and guttural. It seemed to
reach into me, caressing my spine, and I
shivered at its touch. "Would you join us,
I could not answer her; I did not trust
myself to speak. The enormity of their existence
the possibilities it implied that a miracle
could speak so casually, that there was magic in
the world: it filled me with wonder. It made me
Slowly, the others gathered behind her, eyes
calm as they studied me. Each was utterly
unique, though I could recognize certain types
among them: the auburn-haired vampire with her
ice-colored skin, the tall, dark-haired warlock,
the shade whose body was a dark and translucent
reflection of the human form, the beasts and
werebeasts and stranger things still. That
things like this could exist in the world, and I
have never known
I still could not speak, but
my silence was answer enough.
"Come," she said, and reached forward to
unbutton my shirt. I discarded my clothing
quickly and easily; it lay in a pile behind me,
like a snake's shed skin. "Throw it on the
fire," she said quietly. "You won't need it any
more." I shivered, for the night air was chill,
but she took my hand and drew me towards the
flames. Her touch was like the fire itself: it
set my nerves to dancing, warmed me, lent me a
tremendous sense of vitality. Impulsively, I
laughed, and kicked my clothing to the edge of
We danced for hours as she led me through the
steps. I pride myself on keeping in good
physical shape, but her stamina was quite simply
inhuman, and by the time we left the dance, I
was staggering with exhaustion. She led me to
where the food was arranged (one of the drummers
gave me a grin as we passed) and we rested as we
ate. Then she drew me to my feet again, and led
me into the forest shadows, just beyond the
reach of the firelight. There she pushed me down
and mounted me, still moving to the rhythm of
the drums. As she moved against me, I smelt the
wood smoke that had worked its way into our skin
and hair, perceptible even over the smell of our
bodies and our passion.
I came back to myself by degrees, aware that
she had moved off of me. I smelt the clean night
air, and raised myself into a sitting position.
There were leaves in my hair; I combed them out
as best I could. Awareness of the other couples
that surrounded us grew slowly in my mind, until
I wondered how I could ever have been oblivious
to them. Finally, then, as I came to my feet, I
became aware of the warmth in my belly, a soft
feeling of... Contentment? Belonging? I had no
words for it, in the aftermath of our communion.
She was waiting for me by the fire. I
approached her slowly, compelled by a sense an
intimate awareness of her presence. The night
seemed to deepen around us, the air alive and
surging with the power of the creatures gathered
here. A silence widened around me as I advanced,
and from the corner of my eyes I saw these
outsiders fall into attitudes of respectful
attention. There was something ritualistic to
the response; even the fires seemed to flicker
in time to my steps.
I stopped when I reached her, glanced once at
the thick-built masculinity of the drummer who
stood at her left, once at the grey-skinned
humanoid whose hair and eyes were flames and who
stood to her right. Then I looked back to her,
as seemed expected even demanded of me.
"Would you join us?" she asked softly, though
her voice was audible to the entire company. I
managed a nod. Then, after a moment's
hesitation, I managed a question.
"What is the price?"
A ripple of quiet laughter swept the circle
behind me, though the trinity who faced me did
not seem to notice.
"To accept this power is to be touched by the
Gods," she answered. "There is always danger in
asking for their judgement. The price is
different for each of us. Will you join us?"
I hesitated, wrestling with my doubts. I was
afraid she asked me to step onto a darkened
trail, unable to see if it led over a cliff. Or
if it would lead me home, for that matter. Yet
there was no way to take this slowly; to
hesitate would mean being left behind.
"Three times may I ask, and three times
only," she said then. "This will be the last.
Will you join us?"
I was silent for a long time, but the
decision was already made. Somewhere deep within
me, I already knew what I would do. This answer
was a part of me, a part of who I was, and while
the choice was entirely mine, on another level I
had no choice at all. Eventually, I made my
"The moon is set," said she, "and the dawn is
almost upon us. You will become as we are,
blessed above all other beings, touched by the
divine. You will take a new name, and leave your
old life behind you."
Gracefully, she extended one clawed hand.
Magic danced in her palm like a shadowy fire,
cool and dark and mysterious. To look at it was
to be robbed of all my ideas of size and shape,
substance and form. It was beyond the realm of
description as it was beyond the constraints of
physics, as all truly sacred things must be.
"Take the fire from my hand," she said. "I give
it to you freely."
I reached out, closed my hand around it, lifted
it from her palm. It flickered and danced atop
my hand for a moment. Then, slowly, it sank into
The sensation was beyond description, beyond
anything I had ever experienced. Something like
a mild electric shock ran up my arm, spreading
through me along with a sense of warmth and
power. The magic sank into meat and bone and
blood, settled in heart and mind and deeper
still. It ran riot through me, filled me to
overflowing, and as it did so I was
transfigured, reborn, utterly remade.
The others were already departing when the
change-flame died away. I rose, shaking the dirt
and leaves from my fur, the world screaming in
my senses, and looked up to meet her gaze. She
touched me once more, tracing the line of my
skull beneath my fur: a valediction. Then she
was gone, racing away though the woods as dawn
began to gather in the east.
That first morning, I sought shelter in a
cave, to rest and adjust myself to this sudden
change. By evening, a hunger was upon me, and I
left my newfound home to hunt. On my way, I
greeted a small wood-sprite where he nested in
the hollow of a tree, a tree that I had passed
many times before in blind indifference. I
thought again of the costume party of the night
before, taking place on the one night of the
year when the monsters gathered to be rid of
their human costumes. Then I put the thought
aside, for it was a piece of another life, and
no longer part of mine.