Back in the shelter’s kitchen, as Lynne went back to cooking for the many people filing in to seek refuge, Ludwig took up to washing dishes. Having helped out around the shelter while he lived there, he went about the work as if he had done it a million times before. As the two caught up – it had been about three months since they had seen each other – the recent events Ludwig had come to knowledge of and witnessed first hand continued to tear at him. To others around the shelter, he was just the same old Ludwig they had known for so many years. But to Lynne, something was obviously not right.
“So when are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?”, Lynne asked.
Ludwig glanced over, as he set a clean plate on a rack beside him to dry, a cold, nearly emotionless look about his face. Lynne had seen that look before, and this time, after having not seen her best friend for three months, she became even more worried. Food cooking, she walked over to the sink, set her delicate hands upon Ludwig’s chest, and stared him straight in the eyes.
“I know that look, Ludwig…please tell me what’s wrong. I haven’t seen you in so long, and I worry about you every day. And right now, you’re scaring the hell out of me.”
Taken back by the thought of scaring the only person to mean anything to him, Ludwig broke from that which was in his subconscious, his attention entirely focused on Lynne.
“Lynne…”, he said. “…There is a lot going on in Seattle, and all over the world right now…”
Lynne cut in as he spoke. “The ‘Red Death’, you mean?”
Ludwig nodded. “But there are other things. I know I don’t tell you anything about my dealings outside of here, but I just want to keep you safe. And right now…I don’t know if I can do that.”
The sternness in Lynne’s stare softened, seeing a side of Ludwig that only she has ever been allowed to see before. She thought for a moment about how to respond, then in an attempt to lighten his mood, she smirked and said “I can take care of myself, you know! I’m older than you, after all!”
This didn’t cut through Ludwig’s concern at all. Now she was really worried.
“You’re all I have in this world, Ludwig”, Lynne pleaded. “If something is wrong, I wish you would tell me so I can help.” She reached up with her right hand, cupping Ludwig’s cheek within it.
Shaking his head slightly, and taking her hand in his, the coldness in Ludwig’s gaze faded some. “You can’t help with this, though. You just can’t. It’s…”
“…I can’t explain it. This is something that I have to take care of. There’s a war coming.”
Startled, Lynne dropped her hands, and took a step away from Ludwig. “What do you mean ’There’s a war coming’?! Are you trying to scare me? Just what are you doing when you leave here, anyway? Did you enlist in the Army or something?!” Tears began to roll down her face.
“No, Lynne, nothing like that…I just mean that, well, you’ve seen the news, right? The whole world is up in arms about this disease that nobody can explain – "
Lynne stopped him, “Then why did you say it’s something you have to take care of?”
As she glared at him, her sadness giving way to a hint of anger, Ludwig knew that the cat was out of the bag, so to speak. Now the only question was how to tell her the truth – she deserved that much.
“I don’t know how to tell you this in a way that won’t make you think I’m insane”, Ludwig began. Thinking for a moment, Lynne pleaded “Just tell me. It’s me here…you don’t have to hide things from me.”
Ludwig nodded slightly. This much was true. Lynne had always been there for him, for the past 8 years since stepping into the real world for the first time. There was nobody else, anywhere, that he trusted at all. But this woman was different. Lowering his head and putting his weight onto his back leg in thought, he realized that he had to tell her straight out – but this wasn’t the place to do it.
“Can we go somewhere else where we can talk?”, Ludwig asked. “There are too many ears here, that just don’t need to hear this.”
Lynne nodded, and looked back at the food she was cooking. “Let me find someone to take over with this, and I’ll go wherever you want.”
Outside, walking closely side-by-side, Ludwig and Lynne headed towards their favorite place to spend time together: the pier. Both were extremely quiet – the fear Lynne had shown had left her, turning again into concern for the man she had grown so fond of over the years. This is the man who had protected her so many times, both from the gangs of Seattle and her own father, the reason she ran away from home so long ago to begin with. This man was the only person she has truly been able to count on, no matter what. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to return kindness – to protect Ludwig from whatever it was that had him so spooked.
Ludwig’s silence was especially deafening. At all times, he has been vigilant as to any trouble that might occur, but this time was especially so. The Wyrm was making its move. The Red Death had spread all over the world. Humankind was in a panic. He had plenty to be watchful for, but at the same time, he now had to protect Lynne from the truth of what he is. For once, he was actually afraid.
Suddenly, Ludwig’s gift for sensing malice about him stopped him in his tracks. It was all around them, but there was something odd and yet familiar about it at the same time. A small gang stepped out from the shadows of the alleyways surrounding them. Lynne rolled her eyes, as she has seen first hand what has happened to gang members who have messed with Ludwig before. Ludwig, however, was on guard. There was more to this group of six than there appeared to be. After what felt like an eternity, Ludwig spoke up.
“You guys should turn around now. You don’t want trouble.”
“Oh sure we do!” one of the scrawnier of the gang exclaimed. “There’s just two of you, and six of us. And besides: we were told that you were all sorts of fun, Ludwig!”
Now a bit shaken, Lynne thought to herself “How do these people know Ludwig’s name? What is going on here?” She looked over at Ludwig, who lowered his head a bit.
“Oh so you’ve heard of me, huh? Then you must have heard what I do to punks like the lot of you who think they have something to prove.” He grinned. “Oh and, I imagine you’ve also been told that you are in fact the ones who are outnumbered.”
The six began to laugh hysterically, almost maniacally. “Alright then, come get me then, funny guys.”, Ludwig demanded.
As the gang charged, a quick glance was all Ludwig needed to determine his defense. The first to reach him was met with a fist to his face, sending him flying back ten feet. As the second quickly approached him from behind, Ludwig flowed quickly to strike him squarely in the cheek with a spinning backfist from his other hand. Still spinning, Ludwig used the momentum to send his right foot skyward, connecting with the chest of another lunging gang member. The momentum now carrying him into a backflip, his next strike was with a side kick into the stomach of another. As he landed, he dropped into a sweep, knocking the feet from under the fifth, a haymaker from both fists crashing down on him to the ground. The last gang member, jumping over the limp body of one of his unconscious cohorts, met a powerful uppercut, which sent him flying several feet in the opposite direction.
As Lynne looked on at the fight – if one could call those few seconds a “fight”, she couldn’t help but be once again amazed at Ludwig’s performance. He had never shown any amount of fear in any fight he had met before, and he always won. These fights always seemed to end faster and faster though, as his skills continued to sharpen. Six people with only seven hits, in what could not have been more than five seconds. Her amazement quickly left, as another group of people leaped out from the shadows.
Ludwig chuckled. “This is how you freaks have fun now, sending defenseless humans at me?”
Four more people had now come into the fray, but these were unlike the gang members Ludwig had just effortlessly toppled. A baseball bat in the hands of one, and broken bottles with the others, these people were misshapen and seemingly disfigured. Lynne looked on, as this was unlike any confrontation she has seen Ludwig in before. Fear flashed across her face.
While unknown to Lynne, Ludwig knew very well what he was facing. Black Spiral Dancers. The stakes had changed. Knowing their capacity for violence, and their unpredictable nature (along with the memory of what one did to Screwdriver), he knew he had to end this battle quickly. He reached around his back, drawing his Klaive from his belt, and dropped into an entirely different stance. Lynne looked on, her hand to her mouth in shock, as she had never seen Ludwig actually use the blade he always carried with him. Her fear had her shaking now, and she backed herself away.
Not allowing his Metis opponents a chance to strike, a flash of rage streaked through Ludwig’s eyes a split second before he dove at the Black Spiral Dancers. The spirit within his Klaive seemed to scream in delight through him as Ludwig dashed from target to target, carving at each with the gleaming blade. As he came to rest on the other side of the Black Spiral Dancers, he returned his Klaive to his belt, and the Metis abominations fell dead, each cleaved in two at various angles before they could even make a move. Breathing deep, Ludwig felt a brief sense of relief, until a shriek of terror rang out from behind him. He turned quickly, the color draining from his face as he knew the source of the scream.
Behind him, two more Black Spiral Dancers had emerged. One held Lynne’s arms, as she flailed helplessly, and the other held a broken bottle a few inches from her throat.
“You don’t want this girl, Ludwig! We’re your real family! You’re going to come home with us now, after we cut this girl into pieces…it’s going to be so much fun!”
Fear overcame Ludwig. He struggled to contain the rage which was building up quickly. The only thing now keeping him from flying into a frenzy was the fear that was overpowering him. Growling and snarling as his features started to distort, he looked into Lynne’s panic-stricken eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Lynne…this is not how I wanted to tell you. This…is what I truly am. And you two…” He glared at the two who had made the unforgivable mistake of touching Lynne…
“YOU TWO ARE DEAD!!!”
As he roared his judgement, Ludwig transformed into his Crinos form. Lynne could not believe what she was seeing. Where her friend previously stood, was now a ten-foot-tall wolfman, bearing down on the two who had held her hostage. But she knew as she looked into the wolf’s eyes…this was Ludwig.
As the Black Spiral Dancer holding the broken bottle moved to slash Lynne’s throat, one large clawed hand shot towards him, splattering him against the wall behind him. In the next instant, Ludwig grabbed at the other, ripping him from the arms which had been pinning Lynne. He held the now-armless Metis above his head and roared before throwing him down on the ground and crushing him underfoot. As all the Black Spiral Dancers now lied dead at his feet, Ludwig looked up towards the sky and howled in triumph, his voice echoing through the entire city.
The crisis now over, Ludwig returned to his Homid form, dropping to his knees. He reached for his coat, which he had thrown aside before making his attack with his Klaive, and threw it over his shoulders, to cover his now naked body. He looked down at the ground, ashamed of what he was now more than ever, and fully expecting his friend to have lost her sanity upon seeing his true form. He began to weep silently, when a familiar hand reached out and touched his cheek. Knelt beside him, and gazing at him with her bright green eyes, was Lynne, tears running down her face.
“I’m so sorry Ludwig! I’m so sorry…I never knew.”
Ludwig couldn’t believe his senses. He shook his head, trying to absorb what was going on here. Was he imagining this? There was no way this could be. People go mad when they see a werewolf in Crinos form. This couldn’t be Lynne…but it was. He felt the warmth of her presence that he had always felt before, and the look in her eyes was the same look she gave him every time he had to leave to return to the Sept.
Lynne threw her arms around Ludwig, and wept into his shoulder. “I’m so sorry…it must be so terrible for you…”
Ludwig smiled slightly. The one person who had been there for him his whole life thus far – the only life he recognized – truly understood how he felt, especially with knowing now the burden he carried. He brought one arm up, and laid his hand on the back of Lynne’s head, holding her close.
“I’m so glad you’re safe, Lynne. I don’t know what I’d do without you around.”
Later on, as they sat on the pier where they had spent so much time together in the past, Ludwig told Lynne everything. The truth of the Red Death, about the Black Spiral Dancers, and of the Sept. The veil had been parted, against the ways of the Sept, but Ludwig did not care. The Sept could be damned, as far as he was concerned. His duty was to the woman he had grown to love, whether he knew to call it love or not.
“Lynne, the war is coming…and I have to make sure you’re safe. Nothing we’ve ever faced together will ever compare to this. I know that your place is at the shelter, taking care of those who have been affected by all of this. I wish you would come with me, but please at least keep this with you.”
Ludwig reached into his coat, and pulled out a extendable steel baton, which he placed in Lynne’s hand. “If you’re ever in trouble, I will be at your side as quick as I can…but I want to make sure you can stay alive until I get there.”
“I understand,” Lynne said."
Looking into her eyes, Ludwig says “If shit gets too bad, I will get you away from here. I can’t lose you, Lynne.”
Smiling, Lynne leaned in and kissed Ludwig on the cheek. “I know you will. When it comes down to it, I’ll go wherever I need to go, as long as you’re with me,” she said.
Standing up and helping Lynne to her feet, Ludwig smiled at her and says, “Alright, let me show you how to use this baton.”
A new determination and sense of purpose in his mind, Ludwig spends two weeks with Lynne at the shelter, doing what he can do to help humankind, remembering that all are Gaia’s children. The Litany applies to everyone; not just the Sept. He enjoys the time he has with Lynne Miller, knowing that she now really does know everything about him. Now that Lynne knows the truth, she does everything she can to learn how to fight to defend herself and others who can’t defend themselves, and to fight for what is closest to her heart.
Ludwig earns 1 XP for this- GM