Whoever coined the saying "let sleeping dogs lie" assumed that anyone who took the term literally would have the common sense to figure out that if dogs could cause trouble when disrupted, rudely awakened animals of greater size would be even more irritable.
The man poking the sleeping bear obviously had not taken this idea to heart.
When considered, the entire situation surrounding this poking was absolutely ludicrous. A scruffy-looking man crouched within the confines of the bear's den, poking its primary inhabitant- an apparently unconscious heap of brown fur. The man showed no fear- as a matter of fact, he actually laughed beneath his breath at each less-than-subtle poke.
"C'mon sleeping beauty, wakey wakey!" He taunted.
"Grrmph" The pile of bear replied, muscles shifting beneath its fur. Even still, it didn't move.
So, naturally, the guy continued to poke at the ursine form. "Awww….C'mon, wake up! Lot like you need 'beauty sleep' or anything like that."
"Mrrrph" The bear stirred further, but still showed no real signs of moving.
"Well, maybe you do…not like you're much of a looker-"
"-But we love you anyway!"
"Well, I love you anyway."
"Yes, that is worth something. And for the last time, I don't smell bad! Your nose is just broken."
"Ohhh, THAT smell, well, y'see, there aren't many bathrooms out here in the woods, and-" He didn't have time to finish. The once-sleeping bear had awakened, turned its head towards the man (who poked the bear all throughout the 'conversation') and emitted an unmistakable (and intimidating) growl. As if to illustrate its point, the bear carefully reached out with one paw and snapped the stick of poking with a single wave of its paw. The poker glanced at the remnants of his stick, shrugged, and ran for his life.
It was an interesting sight, to see a man exploding forth from the well-hidden confines of that bear's den, the main occupant close behind on his heels. Even though the snarling ursine methodically pounded after him, the man merely laughed and continued to run, his speed increasing in increments just to keep him mere inches out of his pursuer's reach. After leading the bear on for quite some distance, the scruffy man flexed his legs, jumped high into the air, and disappeared into the upper branches of the trees.
The bear, of course, wasn't deterred too much by this means of escape. She could still smell him, after al. The fact that he had climbed a tree was an obstacle, but not an impassible one. She would just have to find the right tree and knock it down…
"What the hell is that?" her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of unfamiliar voices. She tensed, slowly looking over towards the source of the sound. A half-dozen confused-looking people had assembled not too far from the bear, clad uniformly in some form of black clothing.
"It's a bear, dumbass." An irate-sounding woman, wearing an exceedingly impractical black evening gown in the middle of the forest, replied.
"Well, what's a bear doing out in the middle of the woods?"
"Rocko…do you know how absolutely stupid that sounded?"
"Well, aren't they extinct or endangered or something?"
"They are now." She raised her hand, in which she held a small automatic pistol, and shot the bear.
This was a mistake.
Even under more 'natural' circumstances, shooting a bear at such close range with a small caliber pistol wouldn't be a wise action. Unless one can hit the brain directly with a bullet, it's doubtful that the bear will be properly dead enough before it can start mauling. Shooting it anywhere non-vital is just likely to make the bear mad.
Unfortunately for the pistol-packing woman, the circumstances were far from natural. The bear's body absorbed the bullets easily, the wounds stitching themselves back together beneath its thick fur. She was merely curious and wary before, but the bear had several recently acquired 9mm reasons to kill the misplaced group. As she barreled forwards, the bear's body grew to impossible proportions. Muscles thickened, claws elongated, and bones rearranged themselves until the maddened she-bear stood at massive thirteen feet tall, looming above the trespassers. The armed gang stood transfixed in fear, shocked by the sudden appearance of such a monster. As if to prove that this was not some terrible dream, the bear-beast snarled a single word out of its foaming muzzle.
The pistol-packing woman in the black dress did just that as claws the size of bowie knives tore through her head, neatly removing it from her neck in the process. Rocko was next; the back of the bear's paw caught him across the chest and sent him flying backwards. His broken body crashed into a thick tree, a pointed and broken stump of a branch protruding from the center of his chest.
To say that the following melee was messy is an understatement. The same applies to the term 'one sided'. The remnants of the group fought back- but to no avail. Their mundane weapons did little more than provoke the massive creature, giving her all the more reason to tear them limb from limb. One from the group tried to run, allowing his former comrades to soak up the horrid beast's anger. He did not run far enough, however. The gigantic ursine merely narrowed her eyes at the fleeing man and swiped a paw roughly through the air in his direction. The action worked just as well at the distance as the last surviving man was cut cleanly through from shoulder to hip, gratuitous amounts of blood spewing out upon the darkened forest floor.
No sooner had this last man fallen to the ground than the sound of hearty laughter could be heard from the treetops. The scruffy man who had prodded the she-bear to wakefulness minutes earlier dropped into view, landing a few feet in front of the now-massive creature.
"Good show, Nat! Personally, I thought they'd last longer. I'm pleasantly surprised."
"Nat" looked down at the odd man and produced a remarkably exasperated sigh (for a thirteen foot tall amalgam of human and bear traits, that is) and shrunk. Again, bones realigned themselves, reforming into new shapes. Within moments, an unassuming, dark-haired woman stood where the bear-beast once had. She stood nude in the moonlight like some sort of legendary dryad. Nat's lack of proper attire wasn't of concern to either of the two; the laughing man kept on laughing to himself, while Nat was more occupied with peering at the scruffy figure, her expression equal parts confusion, anger, and amusement. Likewise, the blood splattered across her hands and chest went fairly unnoticed as well.
"Dammit Andy, how the hell did you find out where my den was?" Her voice was chastising, angry- but still tempered by some degree of affection for the scruffy man.
"A little bird told me." He shot back, grinning.
Nat sighed, then ran a hand exasperatedly through her black hair. "So just what did you get me to kill for you this time- they didn't smell like formori."
"They weren't. You just mauled yourself a couple of vampires."
Nat blinked, then turned her head ever-so-slowly towards the still-grinning Andy. "Vampires? You woke me up to beat up a bunch of Vampires? Come on, Coyote-boy. I expected better of you."
Andy held up a finger, his seemingly permanent grin wavering ever so slightly. "Well, just think of these guys as an … appetizer."
"I don't eat people, Andy. Especially undead ones."
"Oh, fine. A preliminary workout, then."
"Lots. Nasty suckers, too. But don't worry, I'll take you out for a nice seafood dinner afterwards."
Nat's eyes glinted. "Really?"
"Alright, you've got me- just lemme get some pants."
Twenty-four hours later, the odd duo stood before a large warehouse, waiting. The building sat in a largely forgotten part of town. It had once been a bustling industrial center, but the fickle fortunes of finance had forced most of the factories and warehouses to shut down. The old hulks, long since forgotten, held no redeeming value to the waking world. This made the old buildings prime territory for the 'night life' of the city.
Nat had procured herself practical clothing- boots, khaki cargo pants, and a less-than-modest olive green tank top. Over this she wore a multi-pocketed vest, its compartments and pouches stuffed with useful odds and ends. Andy stayed in the same attire he wore when he first woke Nat: hiking boots, faded blue jeans, and a battered red flannel shirt, left unbuttoned to reveal an off-white T-shirt beneath. Andy had also gotten himself a battered black leather jacket, adorned with a variety of buckles and dark-themed patches. All things considered, they didn't particularly look like a pair of battle-hardened warriors.
As a matter of fact, they didn't look like anything but a clueless young couple with a predilection towards the outdoors. This surface-based assumption wasn't entirely untrue; both Andy and Nat shared a healthy love of the outdoors, and neither of them was burdened with the mantle of old (or even middle) age yet. Then again, they were anything but clueless.
"Just follow my lead- lean on me and act drunk." Andy murmured as they walked towards the building's main door. As they approached, calmly ran his hand over his face- changing it. His usual smiling visage was replaced by a leaner, paler, sterner one, complete with a thin scar tracing down the side of his left cheek. With the changed face came a complete change in his stance. Andy's posture had been loose and casual before, but it stiffened once he donned his new face. His stride lengthened, his shoulders squared off. Andy adopted the overall swagger of the typical bully. Nat quirked a brow at this sudden and abrupt change, but shrugged it off. The use of disguises went perfectly along with Andy's line of work- if you could call it work, that is. Andy certainly wouldn't think of it that way.
Nat grinned inwardly as she followed along. Andy was a werecoyote by birth, and therefore a trickster by default. Andy was good natured, ill-mannered, unpredictable, and some could argue that he was outright insane. Even still, in the time that Nat had known the scruffy guy, he had proven himself a good friend and trusted ally.
She could only wonder about the plan that Andy had planned- all that he let slip is that the plan was to kill vampires- lots of vampires.
Andy pounded roughly on the warehouse's door, his 'mean' face a vision of brutish impatience. "Lemme in!" he barked in a rough tone. A previously unseen slit slid open, revealing a pair of beady eyes peering from the other side of the doorway.
"Dirk? Where the hell have you been?"
"And who the hell is that?" The eyes flickered over towards Nat.
"Dinner." Nat, sensing the attention, giggled in the appropriate airheaded manner.
This proved to be a sufficient explanation, as the door opened up, revealing a lean, black-robed figure attached to the beady eyes that peered at them moments earlier. "About damn time." The robed man rasped. "Lovash's getting antsy." Andy nodded gruffly to the robed figure and strode into the old warehouse. Like its exterior, it was dimly lit, dark shadows reaching across every available surface like starched sheets on a freshly made bed. A collection of pale-faced, dark-clad individuals milled about the main floor- most of them gave Andy and Nat a wide berth after Andy made a point of glaring at them. A makeshift stage, built from the remains of packing crates, dominated one end of the chamber. Something large and rectangular loomed behind the raised platform, covered by a dark tarp. The entire building stank of congealed blood and decay- Nat suppressed a gag reflex, concealing the gesture by slipping her face into the nook between Andy's neck and shoulder. Nat didn't notice if Andy allowed himself any sort of reaction, but inwardly knew that she'd receive no end of teasing about this later.
"My comrades!" A deep voice, heavily tinted with a Slavic accent, bellowed out across the large room. A grey-skinned figure strode onto the makeshift platform. The man obviously wasn't human- then again, Nat was willing to bet that every person in the building was far from human. However, where the true nature of most in the warehouse was hidden (for the moment, anyway) the figure standing on the platform didn't even bother to hide his unnatural visage. He was tall and thin- impossibly thin, as if his previously 'normal' body had been drawn out to its current perverse proportions. He wore black like the majority of those present; a tight leather vest with accompanying ebony pants. Despite his stature and provocative clothing, however, the most notable thing about the speaker was his spines. Spindly spikes protruded from his arms, upper back, and skull, extending to at least three or four feet in length like the quills of some undead lionfish. Arranged in rows, the wickedly pointed ends bobbed up and down with each long stride he took. They lent him an eerie appearance, making the strange figure seem even larger than he actually was. Ornate lettering with a color suspiciously similar to that of yellowed bone ran up the outsides of his bare arms. "Lovash" they read, confirming his identity. He crossed to the center of his platform and continued to address those gathered. "We have waited long enough! It is time for-"
"How long have we waited?" Andy interjected. His regular, mirthful tone crept into his voice, threatening to betray his gruff disguise. Nat blinked, glancing up at him.
"….What?" the spined and spindly speaker sputtered.
"You heard me, how long have we been waiting for this?" Andy's voice slipped further into his standard, mirth-filled tone. The pleasant sound was extremely out of place in his bitter-looking disguise, and from the look of the other pale-faced figures present, it was very noticeable.
"For a long time." The speaker noted, glaring daggers at Andy. "-But as I was saying, the dawn of a new age shall come! The sheep will once again quiver in fear once they feel our power!"
Andy interrupted again. "We're going to Scotland?"
Lovash rubbed at the bridge of his nose with an unnaturally slender hand, then again resumed glaring at Andy. "No. We're not going to Scotland. We're going to go out that door." He pointed "-And kill a bunch of humans."
"Why?" Andy grinned.
"Because they need to be scared of us once again, that's why."
"Then what about the cows?"
"…What?" With each passing question, Lovash's dignity and control over the situation slipped away in increasingly larger amounts. Maniacal, pre-battle rants weren't supposed to work like this. The barbed speaker knew this- he had seen quite a few similar speeches in his some 200 years of existence. But by some infuriating stroke of luck, he had to have one of the grunts be insubordinate about it.
"The cows. If we're gonna kill some sheep, what will we do about the cows?"
"We're not attacking a farm, idiot!"
"Coulda fooled me."
Lovash sighed, rubbing at the bridge of his nose once again. "Alright, that's enough out of you. Kill him." He waved a hand dismissively in Andy and Nat's general direction. The rest of the audience moved to comply, lips curling back to reveal pointed fangs. Nat tensed, moving to break free from Andy's arm in order to gain room to fight. Andy, now smiling with his standard grin, squeezed Nat's arm in a gesture for her to stay put.
"I was waiting for you to say that." Andy pulled a small black rectangular object from the inside of his jacket. It resembled an average television remote- one with a circular red button in the center. Looking curiously at the device, Nat made out the word "kablooey" written on the crimson circle before Andy's thumb stamped down on it.
A flash of light and flame illuminated the dim building, followed suit by an appropriately loud BOOM. Screams echoed out, adding to the cacophony of noise echoing off of the stone walls. The smoke cleared, revealing a diorama of carnage. The vampires that had advanced on the two shifters didn't seem nearly as threatening once they were splayed across the floor, mostly dismembered, on fire, or a combination of both. Miraculously enough, the lycanthropic pair remained unscathed. Nat gaped at the vision of destruction that surrounded, dumbstruck. Andy laughed.
"What the hell did you do?" Nat demanded, wheeling around.
"Directional charges placed underneath the floor in a ring, facing outward. Just had to wait for the appropriate time to set 'em off."
"Appropriate meaning funny, right?"
"Did that kill them?" Nat asked, looking towards the ravaged bodies of their former opponents.
"Oh, I'm not sure." Andy chuckled "Bet it hurt like hell, though."
The explosions, while indeed destructive, hadn't reached far enough to touch the quilled speaker upon his podium. His initial shock gave way to an absolutely malevolent glare thrown Andy's way- if looks could kill (which wouldn't be that out of the ordinary in such a situation) the laughing man would be dead several times over. Thankfully for Andy, such power was out of the vampire leader's reach. Even still, Lovash couldn't allow this insolent fool- whoever he was –to laugh openly at him so openly. Lovash grinned to himself and spun around, crossing the distance to the tarp-covered monolith behind the stage. "You may have disabled the cannon fodder, but you won't be laughing once you face my MASTERPIECE!"
Lovash ripped the tarp from its place, revealing a cage- a very large one. It was obviously a haphazard affair, welded together from a mismatched variety of iron bars and girders. Of course, it wasn't the cage itself that drew attention- it was its sole occupant that did this.
The beast was horrid, even by supernatural standards. Its hide was a patchwork affair of several different colors, ranging from a pale white to a fetid black. Oily sweat gave the beast a glimmering sheen and a nauseating smell. Even hunched over in its cage, it was huge, at least ten feet tall at a malformed shoulder. A hodgepodge array of eyes glinted out from its lumpy head, dully observing the goings on. Lovash cackled. "Fools! Do you really think that you could stop me? Oh, you've crippled the cannon fodder, I admit. But that's not what I planned, oh no! For the REAL terror lies in my creation here … it's a vzohd, a war-ghoul, but I wouldn't expect you peasants to know, to appreciate your executioner here. I crafted him myself from the bodies of over a dozen of my servants. It took me weeks to do so, but every minute, every second, every moment spent in crafting him was worth it! I built it to be a killing machine, and a killing machine it shall be! You two will be but the first of its morsels before it shall rampage across the city, sowing bloody terror in its wake. Once again, the mortals will cower at the night! Once again, the kindred shall be LORDS of this world!"
Lovash broke into a maniacal cackle and wrenched open the door of the cage. "Kill them!" he commanded, pointing at Andy and Nat. The monstrosity lumbered further into the scant light offered by the burning debris, revealing its general form- it was a quadruped, each leg comprised of a series of twisted muscles. The things misshapen head was dominated by its gaping maw. Saliva glinted off of twisted fangs the size of butcher knives. The vozhd gnashed its teeth as it plodded across the warehouse floor, savage brutality visible in every one of its misplaced eyes.
"That-" Andy pointed casually at the approaching monstrosity "Would be the reason I brought you along."
Nat peered at Andy and sighed. "You're gonna owe me big after this, you know that?"
"At least take care of the mad doctor over there."
"Planning on it."
Andy and Nat nodded to each other, then leapt into action. As they moved, they changed into their oft-used war-forms, ready for the impending brawl. Nat's muscles swelled beneath her skin- which was soon covered in a layer of coarse brown fur. Her feminine features twisted into a less-than-feminine muzzle, rearranging themselves into their proper ursine arrangements. She stood up upon tree legs now the size of tree trunks and roared a challenge to the heavens, the sound reverberating off of the warehouse's walls until it reached a near-deafening volume. The sound was enough to give even the war-ghoul pause; it wasn't used to fighting opponents of the same size. Its hesitation was only momentary, the two gigantic warriors barreled into each other soon afterward. Claws flashed and teeth gnashed as the combatants tore into each other with savage fury.
Andy's transformed state, when compared to the other beasts in close proximity, was far less impressive. Where Nat enlarged herself into thirteen feet of rage-fueled carnage, Andy stood at a mere eight feet from his clawed toes to the points of his canine ears. His clothing remained in place- though his newly elongated limbs stretched out of the cuffs in a comical fashion. Topped off with a canine head bearing a toothy grin, Andy looked more like a living cartoon character than anything else.
The coyote-man laughed, landing with a fist extended into the side of Lovash's skull. The twisted vampire absorbed the blow easily, then swung row of wickedly pointed barbs Andy's way. It was a swift and practiced maneuver, one that had disemboweled any number of opponents in the past.
Andy, however, wasn't in place to receive the assault. As a matter of fact, he had disappeared outright. Lovash had only a moment to stare at the bizarre phenomenon before he felt a searing pain in his side. Andy reappeared, this time clutching some sort of dagger, its blade buried in the vampire's side. "Greeagh!" Again, Lovash spun about to sink his weapons into the canine creature. Again, Andy evaded the swipe, disappearing. This process repeated itself a multitude of times as Andy fought in the guerilla manner, slipping effortlessly into and out of the spirit world in order to lash out Lovash when appropriate.
Nat's battle didn't have nearly as much finesse. She merely stood her ground and traded blows with the massive war-ghoul, bringing her clawed paws down upon its patchwork hide with enough force to shatter concrete. Nat's claws tore grievous wounds into her opponent's skin, but it endured, retaliating when it could with its fangs. Nat snarled back savagely, knowing that she needed to alter her strategy if she was going to slay this beast before her.
Nat's paws shot out, the claws sinking into the already bloodied flesh of the war ghoul. She cried out savagely, harnessing her rage to its fullest potential. Her muscles stretched taut as she lifted the beast up over her ursine head. The vozhd's misshapen feet flailed uselessly in the air as it panicked. In all of its short existence, nothing had been stronger or bigger than it before. Everything had just been small, squeaky, and sometimes edible. But here was this big brown furry thing that made it hurt. Things weren't supposed to work this way.
The mildly philosophical thought processes were cut off once Nat heaved the war-ghoul clear across the warehouse and into its cage. The shoddily made structure broke under the force of the impact, jagged broken bars skewering the beast, rendering it very, very dead.
As all this happened, Andy continued to fight with Lovash, laughing in a nigh-maniacal fashion the entire time. Every punch, every swipe of his barbed limbs, every attack that the malformed Lovash threw failed to strike his larger opponent- Andy's lanky form proved to be surprisingly dexterous as he weaved back and forth. Finally, one of Lovash's strikes landed home. A firm punch, augmented by the vampire's unnatural strength, sent Andy flying. The bipedal coyote-man landed in a painful looking heap and groaned; his laughter cut short by the blow. Lovash advanced on him, grinning. "Oh, this is just the beginning. Once I get through with you, you won't be recognizable as mammal anymore. Though I am rather curious to see what it would be like to craft bones that already can change themselves on their own accord."
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Andy shot back, still clutching at his side in pain. The words escaped his bestial lips easily, a surprising show of sentience, given the semi-savage mouth they came from.
"What, your companion?"
"Nope, This!" Andy flipped backward, surprisingly nimble for a mortally wounded creature. His dagger lashed out behind him, severing a previously unseen rope, hidden away in a shadowed alcove. The rope snaked away upwards in a flash, as if the line held back something heavy.
If Lovash had looked downwards, he would have seen that he stood at the center of a large black "X" spraypainted upon the floor.
If Lovash had looked upwards, he would have seen no less than a shining black grand piano rapidly descending from the ceiling.
Instead, Lovash looked at the laughing form of Andy, perplexed.
The piano landed with an appropriately grand crash, the sound of splintering wood and snapping piano strings adding to the increasingly long list of strange sounds to echo against the walls of the warehouse. Andy pointed and laughed.
Nat swung her muzzle over towards Andy. Her opponent beaten, her rage drained, the only thing left on her 'to do' list was to figure out what else the trickster had in store.
Andy continued to laugh, the mirthful sound utterly and completely out of place in the dark chamber.
The laughter came to an abrupt halt once a pale and bloodied hand burst forth from the wreckage of the instrument. The rest of Lovash's form followed it- the majority of his spines were broken, and any number of splinters protruded from his flesh, giving him the appearance of a very pale and irate hedgehog. "That," he rasped, glaring daggers at Andy "Was once a very expensive and complicated instrument. Pity, really. Did you really think that it would stop me?"
A savage grin spread across Andy's long muzzle, revealing pointed white teeth. "Nope. That's why I added the explosives."
As Andy would put it in many stories to come, the dismayed look on Lovash's face right before the charges went off was no less than priceless. The spined vampire screamed as the explosions consumed his pale flesh, though the sound of Andy's laughter exceeded it in volume by far.
Nat shook her head and reverted back to her more practical homid form. "Andy?"
"You planned this, didn't you?"
"What?" The trickster continued to chuckle, wiping tears from his eyes as he did so.
"This." Nat gestured to the carnage created in the warehouse. Blood, rubble, ash, wood splinters, and a thousand pounds of dead ghoul, decorated the large chamber.
"Well…yes. A bit."
"A bit? You put explosives in the floor and hung a piano from the ceiling- not exactly something you see every day. Especially in vampire central"
Andy shrugged in a rare display of modesty. "Well, it's surprising what you can get done during the day."
"So why'd you bring me along? Couldn't you have just dropped an anvil or something on the big ugly back there?" she jerked a thumb towards the vozhd's impaled corpse. "Or just have blown them all up during the day?"
Andy scratched at his head, slipping back into his human form. "Oh, I guess. But this way was far more enjoyable. Besides, did you get a look at Mr. Porcupine's face before he blew up? Classic!" this said, he resumed laughing with renewed intensity.
Nat, despite herself, chuckled along with the trickster. The two continued to laugh as they made their way out into the night, leaving the warehouse and the events within behind them. Nat reflected- the 'smelly coyote boy' as she had dubbed him was untrustworthy, unpredictable, and most likely flat-out insane, but she did have to admit one thing.
Andy made sure that events never could possibly be seen as "boring."