Dancing In The Ashes
Dancing In The Ashes
Byㅤ BitOddInnitBitOddInnit
Published on 24 Nov 2022 17:31
rating: +13+x

What this is

A bunch of miscellaneous CSS 'improvements' that I, CroquemboucheCroquembouche, use on a bunch of pages because I think it makes them easier to deal with.

The changes this component makes are bunch of really trivial modifications to ease the writing experience and to make documenting components/themes a bit easier (which I do a lot). It doesn't change anything about the page visually for the reader — the changes are for the writer.

I wouldn't expect translations of articles that use this component to also use this component, unless the translator likes it and would want to use it anyway.

This component probably won't conflict with other components or themes, and even if it does, it probably won't matter too much.


On any wiki:

[[include :scp-wiki:component:croqstyle]]

This component is designed to be used on other components. When using on another component, be sure to add this inside the component's [[iftags]] block, so that users of your component are not forced into also using Croqstyle.

Related components

Other personal styling components (which change just a couple things):

Personal styling themes (which are visual overhauls):

CSS changes

Reasonably-sized footnotes

Stops footnotes from being a million miles wide, so that you can actually read them.

.hovertip { max-width: 400px; }

Monospace edit/code

Makes the edit textbox monospace, and also changes all monospace text to Fira Code, the obviously superior monospace font.

@import url('https://fonts.googleapis.com/css2?family=Fira+Code:wght@400;700&display=swap');
:root { --mono-font: "Fira Code", Cousine, monospace; }
#edit-page-textarea, .code pre, .code p, .code, tt, .page-source { font-family: var(--mono-font); }
.code pre * { white-space: pre; }
.code *, .pre * { font-feature-settings: unset; }

Teletype backgrounds

Adds a light grey background to <tt> elements ({{text}}), so code snippets stand out more.

tt {
  background-color: var(--swatch-something-bhl-idk-will-fix-later, #f4f4f4);
  font-size: 85%;
  padding: 0.2em 0.4em;
  margin: 0;
  border-radius: 6px;

No more bigfaces

Stops big pictures from appearing when you hover over someone's avatar image, because they're stupid and really annoying and you can just click on them if you want to see the big version.

.avatar-hover { display: none !important; }

Breaky breaky

Any text inside a div with class nobreak has line-wrapping happen between every letter.

.nobreak { word-break: break-all; }

Code colours

Add my terminal's code colours as variables. Maybe I'll change this to a more common terminal theme like Monokai or something at some point, but for now it's just my personal theme, which is derived from Tomorrow Night Eighties.

Also, adding the .terminal class to a fake code block as [[div class="code terminal"]] gives it a sort of pseudo-terminal look with a dark background. Doesn't work with [[code]], because Wikidot inserts a bunch of syntax highlighting that you can't change yourself without a bunch of CSS. Use it for non-[[code]] code snippets only.

Quick tool to colourise a 'standard' Wikidot component usage example with the above vars: link

:root {
  --c-bg: #393939;
  --c-syntax: #e0e0e0;
  --c-comment: #999999;
  --c-error: #f2777a;
  --c-value: #f99157;
  --c-symbol: #ffcc66;
  --c-string: #99cc99;
  --c-operator: #66cccc;
  --c-builtin: #70a7df;
  --c-keyword: #cc99cc;
.terminal, .terminal > .code {
  color: var(--c-syntax);
  background: var(--c-bg);
  border: 0.4rem solid var(--c-comment);
  border-radius: 1rem;

Debug mode

Draw lines around anything inside .debug-mode. The colour of the lines is red but defers to CSS variable --debug-colour.

You can also add div.debug-info.over and div.debug-info.under inside an element to annotate the debug boxes — though you'll need to make sure to leave enough vertical space that the annotation doesn't overlap the thing above or below it.

…like this!

.debug-mode, .debug-mode *, .debug-mode *::before, .debug-mode *::after {
  outline: 1px solid var(--debug-colour, red);
  position: relative;
.debug-info {
  position: absolute;
  left: 50%;
  transform: translateX(-50%);
  font-family: 'Fira Code', monospace;
  font-size: 1rem;
  white-space: nowrap;
.debug-info.over { top: -2.5rem; }
.debug-info.under { bottom: -2.5rem; }
.debug-info p { margin: 0; }

rating: +13+x

Dancing In The Ashes

Raymond rode along the winding cobbled road through the Xerophyllan Steppes, chasing the white light from his companion's lantern amid the crimson glow left off by the moon above as the wind howled around him like a demon being dragged back to Hell. He'd know, he'd heard it happen before. He could hear Darren yelling something behind him, but he couldn't hear over the gale. Surely it could wait until they got out of the valley.

He was happy with himself. Well, as happy as one could be in a world of eternal night, horrible monstrosities and imperfect death. As a monster hunter, any journey back from a successful job was emotionally glorious. Even after over a decade in the job, he still found himself riding high back to his well-earned payment. In his eyes, any hunt completed was a job well done under two conditions. One, he wasn't dead, and Two, whatever he was told to deal with was dead. Or captured, on rare occasions.

The road began to snake down the side of a rather tall hill, leading into a thick forest that spread out for miles in front of them. The Wildewoods, the woodlands that covered most of the Xerophyllan midlands. The light brought itself to a halt, and Raymond pulled up on his mount's reigns, stopping beside the light-bearer of the group as Darren's horse came to an abrupt stop beside them. The two men stopped to look their companion, as she pulled back her hood and let her black hair spill out across her cloaked shoulders.

"About an eld-day's riding more until we arrive back in Albiona." Taylor announced, raising a deathly pale hand and pointed toward the horizon in front of them.

"Could we take a stop somewhere?" Darren's muffled voice came through his mask. "I'm bloody exhausted."

"I was going to ask myself." Raymond said, leaning back and feeling his lower back press against the sack of possessions he'd thrown over the back of his horse. "We've been going for at least two days with about three hours of rest. I haven't slept since we dealt with the vampire we were asked to, I'd love to lay down and dream, even if it's just a quick nap."

"Ey, my arse's been at me for an hour or three now." Raymond could sense a smile under the leather beak of Darren's mask as Taylor wafted the air in front of her at the young man.

"I do not need to hear about the pain in your unspeakable regions, Darren!" She snapped, Darren obviously suppressing laughter. He found a great deal of pleasure bothering Taylor on long return trips. "And I don't need to hear about your constant woes with the world every four weeks, do I, Taylor Edwards?" He retorted, facing his palms to the sky.

Even through the red light, Raymond could tell Taylor's face had turned red. "You unmannerly lout." She scowled. "I remember hearing from Alexis that there's an inn along this road, not too far from here. We'll rest our heads there for the time being and take our leave before the man who hired us takes us for dead. I don't want to hear so much as a word more about either of your arses being sore or I'll bash your heads in with this bloody lantern, understood?"

Raymond nodded, and Darren exhaled sharply as he did the same. Taylor's horse began to trot along as she pulled her hood back up and raised her head heavenward in indignation. Raymond turned to Darren, who was nearly falling off his horse as he snickered quietly. "Now, lad, not another word about your rear or I'll kick it better for you." He said, in a mock stern tone. Darren let out a noise vaguely resembling flatulence and straightened himself in his saddle. "Oh, I don't know where we'd be without her, but she's so easy to wind up."

"Yes, but without her we'd be in the bottom of some ditch in the countryside in shreds." Raymond said, bringing his horse up to a canter as Darren did the same. "I'm still amazed I managed to get an artifact-carrier onto the crew, honestly."

"Yeah… Run it by me again, what the hell is an artifact-carrier?" Darren asked. "You keep saying it and I never understand it any more than the last time."

"Exactly what it sounds like, mate." Raymond began to explain. "Anyone carrying around some kind of magical object can be an artifact holder if your standards are low enough, which mine are. That lantern of hers, that's what makes me say that."

"What, that rusty old thing?" The confusion in Darren's voice betrayed any disguise the mask offered the likely accompanying expression on his face. "Because it never goes out? Or because of…"

"Both of those things." Raymond watched as the silvery light bounce from side to side as it entered the treeline. "I've always wondered where she got it, but she'll never answer me when I bring it up."

"Ah sure, you don't need to know everything about her, do you?" Darren replied. "Let that sleeping dog lie and maybe you won't get bit as hard when it wakes up to you preparing a bath. Now, let's hurry up, I doubt you need to hear about how sore my arse is a second time."

The trio all came to a stop outside a small wooden building by the roadside a few minutes later. Light and noise emanated from inside, and a sign hung from an iron hook above the door, depicting the visage of a snarling wolf with what they assumed to be the establishment's name, "The Wolf's Den", embossed in blue along its glossy oak surface. Across the road was a small stable, with two old mules stuck in beside an old caravan. Alongside the stables was a small outhouse.

"Looks nice enough. Well kept, at least." Raymond said, breaking the awkward silence the group had been suffering through since setting back off. Taylor nodded, her hood back down. "Likely won't get much sleep with the noise, but we can put up our feet for a bit."

"I'd kill for a pint right about now." Darren said plainly.

"Well then, you two wait out here, I'll go get us a room or two." Raymond said, sliding down off the back of his horse and pulling his sack down with him. "Besides," he grinned. "It gives me the chance to make sure the beer isn't poisoned."

"Shut up, Ray." Taylor threw her eyes to heaven before getting down herself. "I'm going in to make sure you don't get stabbed by the owner with your awful sense of humour."

Darren followed suit and pulled his cloak tight over himself, concealing two revolvers he was carrying around his waist. "And I'm coming to make sure she doesn't get kicked out and you don't get stabbed. Stabbed without me, that is."

"Spoken like a true comrade." Raymond beamed as Taylor let out an irritated tsk, before the three stepped through the door and into the Wolf's Den.

The first thing that struck Raymond was the smell. The scent of sweat, too many kinds of meat and apples all invaded his nostrils within a second of crossing the property's threshold. The second thing was how empty the tavern was. For somewhere making so much noise, there were only about two dozen people inside. While it was certainly a lot for a building the size of this, he'd expected the place to be packed to the rafters with people. Must've been the delirium from the lack of sleep. Men and women alike were crowded around several large tables, playing cards, drinking and talking with one another loudly. The trio weaved through the surrounding bodies and stood in front of the part-bar part-counter, a large hairy man stood behind it, drying a tankard as he eyed the newcomers with a bloodshot brown eye.

"Welcome to the Wolf's Den, how can I help ye?" He said, his deep voice scratchy, as if he hadn't drank a drop all day. "If it's a drink yer lookin' for, you're in luck. If it's a room, doubly so. Some grub and you're on a roll."

Taylor stared at the man with a confused expression before Raymond responded. "Yes, we'd all be glad for all three of those. And, if you could, can we get someone to sort out our horses with a spot in the stables?"

"How much you got?"

"As much as you want."

"Thirty, for the rooms, food and stables. Drinks'll be more."

"Deal." Raymond pulled out a coin pouch and slammed thirty pounds down on the counter. The man stared at the pentagonal coins before swiping them up, pocketing them and let a roar at another man by the door. "BYRON! GET THOSE HORSES SORTED!" Returning his focus to the three new arrivals, he cleared his throat and extended a hand. "I'm Harold, owner of this fine establishment. And you three are?"

"I'm Raymond. Raymond Tanner." He offered his hand to Harold. "Monster hunter. These two fine folks are with me."

"Taylor Edwards." Taylor said, nodding to Harold. "Pleased to meet you."

"Darren." Darren said, his standard introduction.

"Ah, a group of hunters, eh? Should've asked before I got you to pay, I'd have given you a discount." Harold shook Raymond's hand aggressively. Even though he considered himself fairly strong, he was taken back by the strength Harold had in one arm alone. Must've been some kind of soldier before. "You don't look like those other folks I see coming through here, though. None of those fancy emblems or weapons. You all look, and I mean no offence, quite… boring."

"We're independent. No bootlicking some higher-up or longing for the days people felt they were in control, we take our pay and do what we're asked. Kill what we need to, make what we're told we will. Such is the life of us poor bastards in The Long Night." Darren said. Taylor stared at him with surprise. "That was… unexpected from you."

"I have my views, they just don't come up often." Darren muttered, planting himself on a stool and kicking his feet up on the bar. "Harold, an Anderson's, if ya could?"

"Coming right up, m'lad." Harold shoved the tankard under the tap of a tun of something and began to pour as Taylor and Raymond took seats beside Darren.

"Nothing for me." Taylor raised a hand as she spoke.

"Glaston-Brye stout, if you have any." Raymond said.

Drinks were served, dinners were ordered and belongings were dragged over to near the door to be dealt with later.

"So, what're you plannin' on doing with your share of the pay?" Darren asked Raymond as he lifted the bottom of his mask from his face to drink from his scotch, his chin slightly stubbly, as if he hadn't bothered to remove his old plague doctor's mask to shave. Darren never took it off. He claimed it was both a medical aid and to hide horrific scarring he had on his face. But, as far as Raymond knew, Darren was always as fit as a fiddle. He couldn't say for sure about the scars, but if he were a betting man he'd say they weren't real either. He didn't understand Darren's obsession with anonymity, but he couldn't hold a quirk like that against a man who'd saved his life more time than he could count.

"Same as always, mate. Buy supplies, make more advertisements, keep the flow of business going."

"Do you ever think about, well, not doing that? I mean, as far as I know, you exclusively live out of inns, you don't have a house, you rarely eat properly… Do you ever stop and live a bit?"

Raymond took a sip of his stout, letting the dry taste fill his mouth and wash away the remnants of last night's self-caught venison from between his teeth. "As far as I'm concerned, the hunt is my life. It was to my grandfather before the Shattering and The Long Night, it was to my mother, and it is to me. It's what we knew, it's what we know, and it's what any children of mine will know. This world needs people to keep us safe for the abominations that permeate it, and I've chosen to be one of those people. What about you, what of your share?"

"Usual. Ammunition, pay back my da's loan to the bank, the essentials, spend the rest on having a good time. What about you, Taylor?"

Taylor remained silent. Raymond turned to Darren and mouthed "Toby?" Darren just shrugged.

"Alright then, keep your secrets." Darren finished off his tankard as Harold arrived back from the kitchen with platefuls of meat. The smell of an actual cooked meal overpowered Raymond, and he nearly grabbed his plate out of Harold's hands in an attempt to get the food into him.

"Ah, careful now lad, I might drop something if ye aren't careful." The titan of a man wagged a finger at him.

"Sorry, couldn't help myself." Raymond pushed back his long, curly red hair as Harold set the food down in front of him and went to town. Steal, medium rare, and juicy pork. Even as someone who didn't exactly enjoy fine dining, Raymond found himself savoring every mouthful of the stuff. He'd practically wolfed the plate down compared to Taylor, who was taking her time. Darren had shoved most of the meat under his mask in a single fork-full and was busy chewing through the load. Harold leant on the counter and smiled at them with a mouth of yellow teeth. "Love to see such hearty appetites in fine young men such as yerselves. How old are ye two, if ye don't mind me asking?"

"Nine hundred and sixty-three." Darren half-said half-choked through a mouthful of food.

"I can neither confirm nor deny that, but I'm twenty four myself." Raymond spoke up in between mouthfuls of mashed potato. "Taylor was born in that one year all women are really sensitive about you asking about."

Harold chuckled. "Fair enough. Wonder what happened that year to make so many people not tell you about it?"

"Gods help me, I'm surrounded by grown men who act like children." Taylor muttered as she stood up. "I'm using the lav, if anyone's eaten my food when I get back there are going to be severe consequences. Understood?"

Raymond and Darren nodded, and she turned toward the front door. Harold stared after her as she left, and turned to the two men.

"The lady either of yours?"

"Not mine, that's for sure." Darren swallowed his meat and stuffed another fork-full under his mask. "And Raymond's not fond of the finer sex. Ain't that right, mate?"

"Fuck off, Darren." Raymond punched him in the arm roughly. "I'm fond enough of them, but most of the ones you'll meet in this line of work are dead, targets or smell worse than what I imagine the inside of your mask does."

"Sure, mate." Darren burped and washed down the meat down with another swig of scotch. Harold continued to smile at them with his wide grin. Raymond tried to avoid looking at his teeth, they were filthy, even by the standards he expected from his line of work. They were so yellow he wouldn't be surprised if they'd never been brushed, coated in grime and something that looked like blood. A sore sight of yellow and dark red in the middle of his bushy brown beard. Raymond cleared his throat and continued.

"You get much business out this way? Not a well-travelled road, and a dangerous enough part of the forest. Hear there's a pack of werewolves who live in the area like a bunch of savages."

"Ah, that old pack of bastards? Old news, been dead nearly a decade now. I'd know, was there when they were killed. Decided to set up this little place in the area to commemorate the event. And people then to pass through. Dinner, a chat, and they're on their way. This crowd here are a bunch of merchants, they stop on their way to and from Albiona."

"I see." Raymond was sure he'd heard recent reports of howling in this area of the Wildewoods, but it must've been regular wolves. That or a new lycan had moved in. "So, been running this place a decade? Got any help?"

"Ah, sure, isn't Byron my own flesh and blood? Lovely lad, he is. Shame his mother passed while she has havin' him, gods bless her soul."

"Shame, that. Sorry to hear." Darren fixed his mask on after finishing his deep drinking. "I hafta say, this place is in tip-top shape for somewhere that don't get much whizz piss."

"You wot?" Harold eyed Darren.

"He means business." Raymond explained.

"Used to live in and around Dezmond, picked up the speech." Darren chimed in.

"Ah, I see. Well, the taxes out here are a piece of piss. Whizz piss to you, eh?" He nudged Darren with his elbow. "At this rate, I'll be rich by the time I'm sixty, fifteen more long years…" Harold got a far-off look in his eyes. "I'll be able to retire, hand this place off to Byron and do what I love: spend my time out there hunting. Venison from around these parts is lovely, especially when you've caught it with your own hands." He snapped back to reality, looking out the door. "Speaking of, Byron should have your horses sorted by now. Wonder why he's not back in."

"Might've gotten kicked. Strider is a fiesty old piece of work." Darren replied.

"I'm going to go check on him, make sure that hasn't happened. If you want anything, I hope you don't mind waiting." Harold abandoned his position at the bar and left the building. Raymond watched him leave into the dark, and turned to Darren. "I didn't know that there hadn't been werewolves here in nearly ten years."

"I somehow doubt that." Darren muttered, drumming his fingers against his forearm as he rested it on the bartop. "I think he's either lying through his teeth, filthy as they are, or deluded."

"I'm thinking it too. Any reason to lie?"

"Give the name a cool but fake story behind it. That's my bet."

"Given the track record of tavern owners I know, pretty likely. Remember the shit that Smith fellow was spewing about how the Iron Swan got its name?"

"Now that one was a real story for the ages. Taylor's been gone a while. Think she got stuck in the loo?"

"Maybe. Should we go check on her?"

"Eh, not just yet. Give her a few more minutes."

"I don't know about you, I'm worried."

"You worry too much."

"Yeah, but if something, perchance, has happened to her, her brother'll have our heads."

"Toby's a pushover, won't even leave Albiona. If something does happen, we run away from there and never go back. He can't catch us then. Easy as pie."

"Yes, completely rebuilding our reputations and starting over somewhere new. Very simple." He muttered. "I'm going to check on her, hold my drink." He slid his tankard over to his friend and began to make his way to the door. He stopped in the doorframe and reached down to his pack. Among the tent, clothes and old rags, he found what he was looking for. Lifting the folds of the pack slightly, he peeked inside and shifted the object closer to the light, its worn surface shining slightly in the light. His trusty old sabre, the bulk of the dull iron blade rusted and covered in dents, as the newly silvered edges glistened like new, save a few dried bloodstains.

"Funny comments about the werewolves there, mate." Raymond muttered, as he quickly pulled the blade out of the pack and thrust it out the door. He scanned the room, looking for any turned heads. None, nobody must've seen him pulling it out. Following his arm out into the darkness, he lowered himself toward the ground and crept toward the outhouse.

Taylor had never been big on physical contact. She was considerably less big on being grabbed in the darkness and having a hand the size of half her head clamped over her mouth. And so, as she stood there, grappled by some barbarian named Byron, she questioned why being tapped on the shoulder set her off when something like this could've happened at any second instead. She dropped the thought quickly though, there were more pressing matters at hand, such as the looming sense of panic she was feeling.

"Ah, Byron, me son, ya shouldn't handle a lady with such brute force." Harold the bartender half-whispered-half-growled as he crept into the shadows, his yellow eyes like burning torches in the darkness.

Oh. Yellow eyes. How hadn't she noticed that? They were a dead giveaway someone had contracted Lycanthropy. She'd be kicking herself for weeks when she got out of here.

Correction, if she got out of here.

Byron grunted in response to Harold, who rolled his eyes. "No, Byron, we ain't eating 'er yet. We've been over this, ya ain't a savage. We wait before eating 'em. We gather all three of 'em, and then we eat 'em. That way everyone else gets a bit too, if they decide they want to help us dig in."

"Mmmph!" Taylor tried to yell through the gigantic hand clamped over her mouth, as Harold brought his attention down to her. "Now, ya look like you ain't got much meat on ya bones. I'll leave ya off easy, throw ya in a pot and make ya into a nice stew for the regulars. I'm sure they'll appreciate something other than deer for a change. Business really has been slow these last few months." He switched his gaze back to Byron. "Gag 'er and take 'er around the back. Throw 'er in with the logs 'til we need 'er, then we'll bleed her into whatever we're cooking and cut the rest up."

Taylor continued to try to scream, which only made Byron tighten his grip on her face. His nails began to dig into her face, and she tried to bite his hand, to no avail.

"Now, ya go do that, and I'll go back-"

"And put a knife in my chest?"

Harold jumped, and moved to turn around.

"Don't. Not if you value your life."

Taylor stared at Raymond, who was now right behind Harold and pointing the tip of his sabre at the nape of the man's neck.

"Let her go, or you can kiss your life goodbye."

"Ya wouldn't dare. Even after I fed yis-"

"Plotting to kill and eat your guests overrules previous hospitality in my eyes." Raymond pressed the tip further up the back of the lycan's neck. He swallowed hard. "Kill me, and everyone in that bar'll hear. They'll tear ya to shreds for killing their pack leader."

"They're your pack? Lot of fat on them for a bunch of apex hunters. Now, unhand my friend."

"Byron, if he does me in, snap 'er neck."

Byron growled. Taylor came to the realisation he was also slowly crushing her windpipe.

"Let. Her. Go."

"Go to hell, ya slimy bastard."

"I'll see you there then, you hairy bollocks."

Taylor noticed the outline of another person standing in the doorway.

"One last time, last chance."

The figure raised an arm, something silvery glinting in the light of the doorway.

A revolver.

"Byron, just do-"

The sound of a gunshot rang out through the night, the birds from nearby trees fleeing and cawing in terror. Byron froze up, and Taylor felt something that felt a lot like blood splatter all down her back, and the sound of bones tearing and flesh ripping accompanied Byron's loosening grip. Silently, he keeled over and, with a heavy thud, fell to the ground, the pale yellow light leaving his eyes. Without a word, everyone's eyes turned to the figure in the doorway, a masked man holding a revolver in one hand and a steak knife in the other.

"Well, don't all thank me at once, will you?" Darren said through a mouthful of food as he pulled back the hammer of his gun.

And all hell broke loose.

Harold immediately swung around and aimed a swing at Raymond, blocked at the last second with the silvered blade's edge. He howled in pain and pulled back as Raymond readied himself to fight. Darren immediately spun around to face the inn's patrons and pointed his gun at them, tossing the knife into the air and catching it as he swept the room, making sure nobody felt like taking a bullet to the head. Taylor pulled a shiv from her boot and backed away from the fighting, toward the horses. She undid the rope keeping her lantern attached to her steed's saddle and hooked it to her belt. Quietly, she crept back toward the inn, and edged toward the entrance.

"YOU BLOODY BASTARD!" Harold howled as he crouched, cradling his wounded arm. "YOU JUST SILVERED THE EDGE?! WHAT ARE YOU, INSANE?!"
"Quite possibly, yes." Raymond replied, slowly advancing toward Harold, sabre gripped in both hands. "Not insane enough to call my inn The Wolf's Den and not expect a group of monster hunters to immediately have their suspicions raised."

The process of someone transforming into a Were-beast was disgusting to watch, but simultaneously beautiful in a twisted sort of way. It was like giving birth, Raymond imagined, despite having never done so. Harold's body began to distend, limbs lengthening and chest widening. Next came the lethal bits, skin tearing as muscles grew beyond the capacity of a regular person and mouth filling with blood as his teeth lengthened into fangs, tearing through his gums as they did so. Finally, from the exposed flesh, thick fur sprouted and covered his body. A stubby tail grew from his rear, and his grimy nails extended into claws. The newly transformed creature stood to its full height, easily eight feet tall, and let out a howl that could curdle the blood of almost any man, woman or child into a fine cream as it charged on all fours toward Raymond.

Raymond, however, was made of stronger stuff than most people. As the wolf broke its charge and lunged toward him, he rolled to his left and brought his sabre up under the wolf as it flew through empty space. Blood sprayed from the wound as it righted itself and growled. "That all you got?" Raymond shouted, bringing his weapon back up into a defensive position. From behind the creature, he could see Taylor creeping back into the inn. Bringing his eyes back to the problem at hand, he swung as the werewolf came in for another charge.

"First one of you lot to move gets a hundred and seventy grains of silver right in the brain, so I'd recommend not doing that." Darren jabbed his gun at a rather uppity-looking man. Taylor walked up to Darren, and placed her free hand on his shoulder.

"Everything good in here?"

"Having the time of my life. Got the lantern?"

"Indeed. Go ahead and ask."

"Kay." Darren raised his voice and shouted "ALRIGHT YOU HORRIBLE LOT! WHO HERE ISN'T A WEREWOLF?"

Immediately, every hand in the room shot straight into the air. Darren sighed, and shrugged Taylor's hand off. "Light it up."

Taylor nodded, and stuck the shiv in her belt, removing the lantern and a small flask of oil from a pouch. With one hand, she raised the lantern and began to speak.

"In nomine spiritus iustitiae, Kelsan, invoco potestatem in hac laterna residens."

A young woman shifted in her seat. Darren pointed his revolver at her.

"Da mihi facultatem videndi per mendacia corruptorum, et redde illis retributionem pro delictis eorum. Squama cadant utcunque volent. Procedite et esto iudex, iudices, et carnificem vocate."

With her other hand, she lifted a small panel from the lantern, uncorked the oil flask, and poured it into the flickering flames. Immediately, they turned from a dull orange to a bright, shining gold, as a bubble of grey light expanded from where she and Darren stood, enveloping the room in a dull, colourless blanket. Darren stabbed the steak knife into a table, and placed his hand on his hip.

"Vade." Taylor spoke, and from the lantern came an orb of light, glowing the same violent gold as the flames. It hovered before them for a moment, flickering, before it exploded, painting every person in the room, save the two hunters, in that golden light.

Taylor let go of the lantern, which hung in place as if suspended by an invisible chain, and pulled the shiv from her belt. Darren pulled his hand, now holding another revolver, from his waist and cocked the hammer. The two looked at each other, and Darren nodded. Without a second of hesitation, he blasted a hole in the back of a nearby man's head and shot another bullet into the chest of a woman on the other side of the room. Taylor grabbed a man by the hair and plunged the shiv into his chest before pulling it out and readying herself to fight proper, as the rest of the inn began to converge on them.

Outside, Raymond was beginning to tire. He could certainly hold his own against a werewolf, but he wasn't used to fight one alone, especially not one this size. Inside, he caught glimpses of Darren and Taylor blasting and stabbing holes in smaller wolves, but he couldn't go in and join them. Not without dragging the alpha inside, anyway. He rammed the butt of his blade into its snout as it tried to latch onto him, and swung at its chest as it reeled back. The creature was already scored with slashes and stab wounds, leaking blood across the cobbled road with every movement, but it still wouldn't go down.

"Just! Fucking! Die! Already!" He shouted, punctuating every word with another slash at the beast's chest, still to no avail. The beast swung down toward his head with a hand, narrowly being parried by Raymond. The beast growled and held its wrist for a moment, before returning to its pattern of attack. Raymond took notice, and began to form an idea.

"It always stops whenever I hit it in the arm… Maybe if I can-" He stopped his train of thought to dodge a lunge. "Maybe if I hit it hard enough, try sever something… Might give me some downtime to help to deal with the problem inside, so we can make it a three against one. Yes, that might work."

He ducked another lunge and took one last shot at the chest, with little effect once again. "Bugger." He muttered, before rolling back and charging after the beast. It landed, turned and was immediately met with an upward slice to the armpit. Howling in pain and clutching its shoulder area, it bared down on Raymond with its toothy maw, fangs like jagged rocks at the foot of a cliff. Raymond responded by slamming the side of his weapon into the creature's head, knocking it off course and into the wall of the inn. Unfortunately, the rest of its body came with it, and Raymond got winded by a full-force shoulder to the gut. Swearing, he gathered himself and took another swing at the werewolf as it righted itself. Another hit, and the agonised howling continued. Rob could see the upper arm was a mess of blood-matted fur and wounds. "Keep going." He thought to himself.

The werewolf, panting and growling at Raymond as he lowered himself and held his sabre by his side. Quietly, he prayed.

"God, Kelsan, anyone… Yvith, even. Whoever's listening, please let this work. Please."

The werewolf righted itself once again. Raymond glared daggers at it from across the blood-stained road.

For a moment, everything went silent. He couldn't hear the commotion inside the inn, nor the werewolf not even fifteen feet away from him growling. The birds, the wind, everything just went silent. Raymond imagined this is what that old religion from the East had meant when they were talking about that state they aimed to achieve. Nirvana, or something like it.

He inhaled.

The werewolf charged. Within a second, it was upon him, bearing down on him with both sets of claws.

He exhaled, and brought the sabre upward, headed directly for the damaged shoulder area.

For another moment, Raymond felt time slow.

And then, with one quick, clean movement, he cut the werewolf's right arm clean off. The decapitated arm flew back across the road and slammed against the inn wall as its owner, thrown off by the impact, stumbled and collapsed into a heap in front of Raymond, breathing quickly, before… going still.

"See you in hell, bastard." Raymond spat on the crumpled pile of fur and viscera before him and ran off to join his friends inside. Quietly, as his footsteps and yells joined those of the two inside, the bloodied snout of the werewolf slowly twisted in an approximation of a smile.

"Nice of you to join us, Ray." Darren yelled as he jammed the barrel of his revolver into the snout of a smaller werewolf and blew its head open, before rolling backward and loading a single bullet into both of his guns and continuing. "Thought you and Harold had just sat and gone for tea for a bit there."

"You try fighting an alpha werewolf by yourself, cheeky blighter." Raymond shouted back, running another creature through and throwing its limp body aside. "Besides, not like you two need me that badly."

"Not the time for bickering, lads." Taylor slashed a line across a large, untransformed man's neck, who went down like a sack of potatoes. "I know we're good at this, but focus lends itself to not dying quite well."

"Just 'good at this'? Taylor, mate, I've been doing this since I was fourteen. I know bloody well what I'm doing."

"Bloody show-off is what you are, Tanner." Darren said as he put a hole in the head of one last werewolf and lowered his guns. "Last of 'em?"

Raymond lowered his sabre and looked around the room. Dead silence, dead stillness. "Looks like it."

Taylor put away her shiv. She was covered in scratch marks and looked a bit shaken, but she was still alive. Darren was similarly beat up, slash marks across his hood letting his dirty brown hair poke out. Raymond was covered in a mixture of both his own and Harold's blood, tufts of fur and enough spittle to make it look like he'd been swallowed by something and spat back up.

"Well, that's two dozen people good as dead." Raymond said, staring at one poor soul who had managed to wind up dead in a very unfortunate position. "Burn the place?"

"Why?" Darren asked.

"Destroy the physical body and they can't come back as an undead." Taylor murmured. "Zombie werewolves isn't something you want roaming the woods around one of the largest cities in the Kingdom. Or at all, really."

"Fair enough. Just don't light it up while I'm still in here." Darren shrugged and walked out of the inn, holstering his guns as he did. Raymond looked at Taylor. "You do what you need to in here. I'll be outside making sure he doesn't collapse from exhaustion or something."

Taylor nodded, and turned to face the lantern, still floating in midair. Raymond turned and followed Darren out of the inn.

"Say, Raymond."

"Yes, Darren?"

"Did we really do the right thing there?"

Raymond stared at Darren as the younger man squatted by the side of the road, reloading his revolvers one at a time. He himself was leant against the side of the stable, staring at a nearby tree and spacing out. Something felt off. Maybe it was what'd just happened, maybe he'd taken a hit to the head. Maybe he was just going insane. He couldn't put his finger on why, but he wasn't really trying. His head hurt too much to try to, in that moment.

"Objectively. They were monsters, they'd have eaten us and continued to eat other people otherwise. We did them a favor and put them out of their misery, for our sake, their sake and the sake of others."

"If that's what helps you sleep when the time comes." Darren lifted the bottom half of his mask and spat a glob of blood onto the grass beneath him.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I mean, sure, they were werewolves. They were eating people. But, like, under that, they were people. They probably had relationships with one another. Loved one another, had friends. You ever stop to think about that? What's going on for some poor bastard before we show up to put them out of their misery?"

"I used to. A lot actually. Back when it was just me and my mother in Nighthunt."

"That was the name of the hunting company before you took over, right?"

"Yes, it was. Changed it to Eve's Guard for a good reason."

"…" Darren stared into space. Raymond stared up at the moon, resplendent in the eternal night sky, his devil amid the heavens.

"I miss her."

"Can't blame you for that." Darren pulled a small cylinder out of his pocket, along with a small piece of metal. He pressed the cylinder against the stone portion of the stables and began to rub the steel off it, trying to get a spark. Eventually he got one, and the end of the cylinder began to smoke. He put the other end to his mouth and inhaled through it, exhaling a cloud of black smoke into the dark sky. He pulled it back out of his mouth and grasped it between his index and middle finger, before offering it to Raymond.

"What the hell is that?"

"Little thing called a cigarette. It's like a cigar but smaller, easier to carry around."

"I'll pass. Tobacco tastes like ashes."

"Suit yourself." Darren put the cigarette back in his mouth as Taylor stumbled out of the inn holding the lantern. It'd gone from golden to a deep scarlet, the flames inside throwing themselves around like they were fighting to get out. "You guys ready?"

"Certainly am. Need us to hold you steady?" Raymond stood up straight and came to her side.

"Yes, please." She was still shaking, deathly pale as well. Well, paler than usual. White as a sheet in the places she wasn't coated in cuts and blood.

"Maybe we should tend to someone of those scratches first. Even if you're not that likely to contract Lycanthropy through them, they can still get infected if you leave them out in the open air around here-" He put his hand on her shoulder

"I'm fine, Raymond." She shrugged his hand off. "Let's just do this and then we can take care of ourselves."

Raymond grimaced, but didn't push the topic any further. He let Taylor lean against him, as she began to chant.

"Oh Kelsan, tibi gratias ago pro servitio tuo. Unum te ultimum tempus invoco ut purgas corpora sordida mortuorum, ut etiam in hoc mundo insolubili invenias requiem quamcumque. Sit ignis, et emundabit eos."

Through the glass panes, the flames split forward toward the inn, setting anything they touch alight with the same red flames within the lantern. Raymond and Taylor stared into the fire for a moment, before Taylor righted herself.

"Alright, just… give me a second to breath. Need to put this out when the burning's done what it needs to. Can you go get the horses?"

"We're leaving?" Darren stood and crushed his cigarette under his heel.

"Not much point in staying." Raymond said, walking back over to the stables, hopping the wall and beginning to undo the knots keeping all the horses tied there. He let the "carriage" horses out, shooing them off into the woods, before starting on the horses they'd rode in on.

"Hey, Raymond?" Darren called out from outside the stable.


"You said you killed an alpha out here?"

"I did. You're doubting I did it?"

"I mean, I don't see a body, so I have a decent reason to."

"I'm sorry, you what?"

Raymond immediately span around to look at where he'd left the corpse of the transformed Harold not fifteen minutes before. No sign of it. As Taylor turned to look at what the commotion was, a howl cut through the night. The blood-matted furry form of a werewolf barreled out of the woods across from the inn and lunged, slamming into Taylor and throwing itself and her into the flaming inn. Over the sound of the flames flickering, Raymond could hear a cry and a dull thud, followed by a mixture of glass smashing, howling and screaming.

"TAYLOR!" Raymond screamed. He immediately dropped the ropes and dashed toward the inferno engulfing the building. Darren was feet ahead of him, and as he turned to look into the burning building, he pulled a revolver from his waist and unloaded the whole chamber into his target. With one last howl, the thing that had once been Harold collapsed into the flames as Raymond turned in the doorframe.

His eyes met with Taylor. Her chest was a mess of claw marks and blood, nearly torn apart by the monster in one last act of primal animalism. Raymond resisted the urge to retch. "Son of a bitch…" She gurgled, pulling herself in a sitting position and coughed up blood.

"Fucking hell." Darren said quietly. He ran into the flames and grabbed her under the arms, dragging her to the cold world outside.

They didn't stay much longer than necessary. Taylor passed out almost as soon as they dragged her out of the fire. Darren had some spare bandages in a saddle bag, thankfully, so they'd managed to stop Taylor from bleeding out for the time being. They'd thrown her over the back of Darren's horse, Strider, and were mounting up themselves.

"Raymond. Look at me."

Raymond, moon-red hair dyed black with soot and bloody grime, turned to him, his face covered in ashes and blood.

"It's going to be alright. We can figure out someway out of this."

"Darren, we just killed two dozen people. Taylor's a foot in Death's creaky old door and we started a forest fire in one of the driest areas for bloody miles! The Constables, you know what they're like in Albiona. Come from the general direction of something bad, they lock you up and get a confession. Darren, if we go back… They'll lock us up. They'll kill us."

"I know, mate. So hear me out. We make a run for Albiona. We spend the night in Kender's, he'll understand. Drop Taylor off at Doc's, explain the situation when she's awake. The second we're washed, fed, she understands what we're doing and we're both ready, we fuck off out of town. Bring Taylor with us if she wants in. Leave for the coast, find someplace where nobody knows us. Live out our days as deer hunters or something. We never speak of this day again. We can try make ourselves a new normal."

"That sounds dangerous. They'll frame us for something. But, frankly, I've got nothing better to suggest. We have a deal, then." He stretched a hand toward Darren.

"Deal." He took his hand and gave it a firm shake. The two men's eyes met, and they nodded. Taking the reigns of their horses once more, they whipped their horses and rode off into the perpetual night, as the flames of their former lives choked the sky behind them.

From that moment, the Eve's Guard Monster Hunting Company no longer existed. Darren, Taylor and Raymond were wanted, and their lives would never truly be the same.

But they didn't know that. All that mattered in those hours was getting away from that damned, burning place.


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