Into the Night (Heinkel Wolfe)
|Into the Night (Heinkel Wolfe)|
|Date of Cutscene:||21 November 2016|
|Location:||Heaven or Hell Tower|
|Synopsis:||Heinkel reflects on her duties as a paladin of Iscariot, and the circumstances around her curse.|
|Cast of Characters:||Heinkel Wolfe (Dropped)|
For the third time in the night, she jerks awake with a bleary curse.
The bandages are starting to soak through again, and she can feel the familiar twinge of a wound torn open. Picking up the scent of her own blood is effortless with her senses, and the smell wakes a roil of emotion behind it.
Above the undercurrents, she can feel the Wolf stir inside, snarling its desire for more blood, to sink its jaws into something more substantial, to bite and tear—
The silence is overpowering, broken only by the harsh sawing of her own breath.
She sits up slowly, painfully, and with deliberation she clenches a fist, tendons standing out along her arm. She holds her fist closed, and then with as much deliberation, she opens her fist, studying her fingers in the moonlight through the slats of the blinds.
"You're a paladin, not a rabid animal," she snarls in the gloom, clenching a fist again.
Nothing answers her angry chiding but the distant sound of a car horn and the whisper of rain outside.
Heinkel Wolfe drags herself out of her bed towards the bathroom. Maybe, she reasons, she might get some sleep if she replaces that dressing. Avoiding the light switch, padding barefoot across the bathroom tile, she fumbles for the first aid kit and tries to thumb the latch without looking at it.
Raising her eyes, she looks at the figure in the mirror: Tall, lanky, with an androgynous facial structure; strong jaw and bold cheekbones, and just enough curves to suggest easily-concealed femininity. Frowning, she sets the first aid kit aside, running a hand along the scars at the side of her neck.
The eyes are what leap out at her from the image in the mirror. Milk-pale and tinged blue, they don't just catch moonlight; they reflect it, throwing it back like a cat's eyes...
Or a wolf's.
Shaking her head, she growls a bleary curse before pulling antiseptic and bandaging out of the kit, working with the sullen determination of the exhausted. That stirring of the Wolf reminds her of another incident; memories untouched for years.
Eight Years Ago – The German Alps
She'd always hated mountain villages. The roads always seemed too rough, the towns too conveniently remote, and the people too suspicious of outsiders. Even her motorcycle had trouble climbing the slopes, and she had to nurse the vehicle along, carefully avoiding every pothole and break in the road.
It was a long and painful ride to the top. The sun was down by the time they got there, fog settling over the streets. By the time Heinkel killed the motorcycle's engine even Yumie was complaining about the jostling and bruising.
They split up and swept the village, searching the remains.
Yumie walked like a vision of death itself, nun's habit swirling and blade reflecting moonlight as she vanished into the fog.
Heinkel checked her pistols, lit herself a cigarette, and set off in the opposite direction. Smoke wreathed her as she stalked among the alleys.
Not a single soul seemed to live in this village any more, and every few houses, she found evidence of the carnage they were too late to stop. Some of them had tried to defend themselves from whatever it was, but they'd only prolonged the inevitable. The corpses were torn apart.
She muttered prayers around her cigarette as she stepped delicately over a cluster of mangled corpses. There was no telling the identity of the victims, but near the smallest scraps lay a child's bloodstained wooden pull toy.
She looked down for a long moment at the toy, expression blank.
The weight hit her from behind hard enough to knock the wind from her.
Blinding pain sliced across her neck and shoulder; on pure reflex, she screamed in rage and pain, emptying the chamber of her pistol on whatever tore into her. It only clamped down harder. She emptied the other pistol into the shadow.
Her voice was drowned out by a coughing roar, and all she could see was a bristling of coarse grey fur as the weight shoved her against the ground.
Both empty pistols spun away from her grasp. All she could do was try to pry the thing away from her throat. Slavering jaws opened wide. Heinkel gagged on the wolf's fetid breath. Those gaping jaws missed her throat and clashed shut inches from her face. A sideways jerk of the creature's head tore a strip from her coat; it spat it out, baring a maw filled with yellowed daggers.
Trying to bring a knee up into the animal's gut, she spat, risking a sidelong glance—
"Yumie!" Heinkel bellowed over the beast's snarling. "My guns, Yumie!"
Something wet spattered across her. Blood, she realised a second later, and she heard Yumie screaming in inarticulate rage. The berserker had opened a wound, but it only seemed to enrage the beast.
Its snout plunged down at her again. Pain sang through her neck, bright and hot. She knew the blood seeping into her coat was her own.
"Get it off me!" Heinkel crossed her arms to try and keep those snapping jaws away from her face and neck; that only caused it to bear down further, and she could feel the wind being squeezed from her. Spots danced at the corners of her vision. "Kill it! Vhat the hell—is this thing—"
The creature coughed again. Blood spattered her face, thick and viscous, black in the moonlight. A shudder wracked its huge frame. Whining piteously, tongue lolling as it slumped over her, the wolf pinned her down with its limp weight.
She watched the light fade from its eyes.
The smell was horrific.
Heinkel gagged, struggling to roll the corpse off her, but it was too heavy to move from beneath it. Her arm wouldn't work. "Yumie."
"Heinkel, are you alright?" The berserker seized a handful of coarse grey pelt, pulling even as Heinkel shoved. It landed with a wet-sounding thud, jaws lolling open again. "You're bleeding."
Levering herself to her feet, Heinkel laid a hand on the nearest solid thing. A church pew, she realised dimly. The thing had tackled her clear into the village church.
Heinkel coughed, wetly; reached up to touch two fingers to the left side of her neck. "Ja, I noticed," she mumbled. "Vhere's my cigarette?"
"Over there. You won't want that any more. Sit down."
"I'm fine." Heinkel squinted; shook her head. The nave of the church swam in front of her. "Just need a minute."
"Sit down." Yumie pushed her down by the uninjured shoulder. "You're shaking."
"Shit," she wheezed, squinting at the blood and ruin of her shoulder. Bracing her back against the wood, she let herself slide down to the floor, legs splayed under her. "Teeth like railroad spikes. Fucker. I bet it's going to get infected. Check the bike, Yumie. First aid kit in the saddlebag. I'll vait here."
"I'll be right back," Yumie threw over her shoulder, with a last look; her sword flashed in the moonlight as she crossed the threshold.
The last thing Heinkel registered was the rustle of the berserker's skirt, and Yumie's receding footsteps.
Pain woke her, and she squinted blearily awake. Her shoulder felt like it was on fire. The world seemed somehow crisper, more detailed. Slowly, she opened her eyes to half-mast, frowning.
Yumie's voice brought her back to reality.
"Ja... I'm avake." Even forming the words took effort. She lifted dull eyes to her partner, frowning. "How bad, Yumie?"
Yumie fiddled with a few pieces of gauze, trying to cut them into shape with cheap aluminium scissors. "Bad." Yumie looked worried. "You're losing a lot of blood. I just can't staunch the bleeding."
She grunted, leaning her head back and hissing at the stab of pain. Moving her head only tore the ragged edge further. "You alvays vere better at opening vounds than closing them. Maybe you better let Yumiko do it."
"No." Yumie's protest was immediate. "If there's anything out there still, she won't stand a chance. I put a call in to Iscariot. Someone's on the way, so just hang in there until then."
"Ja—shit, can't you put that on any gentler?"
"Sorry, Heinkel. Best I can do."
"Probably infected. Filthy fucker." Heinkel squinted at the vague shape in the gloom. "Is that it over there?"
"What's left of it." Yumie glanced up briefly. "Yeah. Looks like a werewolf, to me. Too big for a stray. I didn't think there were any wolves here, either. And I don't think they tear up people just for the fun of it. Too systematic. Too smart."
"Ja... son of a bitch, that hurts." Heinkel laughed a creaky, unsteady laugh. "Fucker tore me open. If I don't rot of infection, I'm going to sprout fur and start howling at the moon, aren't I? That's irony for you. I had to haf a stupid name like Wolfe." She cocked a tired eye at Yumie, jabbing a trembling finger at the corpse. "Do me a favour. Kill me before I turn into that. Don't let me turn into that thing. I don't... I don't vant to become a monster."
"Stop talking nonsense," Yumie mumbled around a strip of gauze in her teeth. "I'm not giving up on you."
"It's not nonsense. I can feel it. It's in my blood. My skin. Too late." Heinkel half-closed her eyes; the nave seemed too blurry around her, pews hazy and swimming in her vision. "I don't know vhat that thing did, but it's too late."
"Heinkel, you're a paladin," Yumie snapped back. "Fight like one!"
"Sorry, Yumie." Heinkel let her eyes slide closed. The pain faded to a sullen ache, almost numb. She felt hot and cold; the sounds of the building settling around her too crisp and vivid. Even the pain faded away. She felt strong, alive. The smell of blood reached her, and she champed her jaws, involuntarily.
"Nein," she rasped. "Too late. Do it, Yumie. Cut my throat. I don't know if I can stop myself, and the only person left for me to turn on is you."
It seemed like a long, long time until she remembered herself.
She'd had strange dreams. There were no unifying narratives in any of them. All she could call back up were impressions of senses as the village had come alive around her – the sound of a twig snapping in the woods, the smell of the blood on the floor beside her, and the scent of cloves and Yumie's steel. Shouting, and snarling, and the sensation of running. None of it made any sense.
Her familiar coat was gone, she realised numbly. In its place was a hospital gown. She recognised the starchy fabric. Someone must have dragged her to the nearest clinic.
Heinkel swore inwardly.
Several moments passed before she risked opening her eyes, and she immediately wished she hadn't. The pain that lanced into them was enough to make her screw her eyes shut, hissing.
"Heinkel?" Yumie's voice, she knew. "Are you awake? Let me turn the lights down."
The light dimmed, and after a few seconds it felt safe to try opening her eyes again. Two indistinct shapes sat in chairs beside the cot. One she recognised as Yumie, and the scent of cloves and steel reached her again, more powerful even than remembered dreams; but the steel seemed somehow different. Aftershave and steel, too... the height of the second figure could only be Anderson.
"Sorry, Heinkel." Yumie's wince was audible.
Heinkel huffed a sigh in answer.
"We're not sure what happened, but your eyes... the light hurts, doesn't it?"
"Ja. Keep the lights off." She coughed, throat parched. "I'm avake. Don't... think I vant to be." She frowned and tried opening her eyes again. With the lights down, the result was much preferable. Yumie sat in a chair by the bedside, still in her bloodstained nun's habit. "Yumie... vhy didn't you kill me?"
The berserker let out her breath and smiled in relief.
"Because yeh ha'e fightin' left to do." The gruff voice was like the meeting of mountains, and it commanded attention. She would recognise Alexander Anderson's voice anywhere, and the effect was immediate. Heinkel shut up and listened, staring at him with a sense of foreboding. "Maxwell called me an' he explained the situation."
"Then you know vhat happened."
"Aye. Ah know." Anderson leaned forward, and the cross around his neck gleamed in the moonlight. "Might be the beastie bit yeh, but Ah know it'll take more than that to kill yeh."
"I don't know. I feel a little like being dead might feel better than this." She sagged back, sighing. "I do haf an arm left still, right? And vhat happened to my cross?"
"Yeh have an arm left. An' the cross burnt yeh," Anderson said, rummaging into a pocket. "We took it off. Yeh already had enough to worry about. Ah had another one made for yeh. Might be yeh find it a wee bit more comfortable."
She reached up with a trembling hand to accept it. It had the same heft and look as her old cross, but this one was wrought of iron, not silver. She immediately tied it in place, letting its familiar weight fall against her chest.
Heinkel dropped her eyes. The raw wound where the silver had burnt her skin had already scabbed over in the shape of the cross, and she stared at it in morbid fascination.
"Danke," she mumbled. "I feel really strange vitout that on."
"O' course." Anderson smiled, but his expression sobered again. "Oh, an' I've got one more thing. Maxwell sent a message with me."
The sense of foreboding she'd felt earlier redoubled. Heinkel let her eyes close.
There it was, then.
She had become the very thing that Iscariot was created to destroy, after all. Of course Maxwell would send his best paladin to clean up the mess. Anderson was to be her judge, jury, and executioner. At least it would be a clean death, and there was no way she could overpower Anderson and Yumie together, if she went insane again. Anderson and Yumie... she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Vhat is it, Father?"
Her voice sounded smaller to her own ears than she had ever heard it before.
A weight settled on her forehead, and her eyes snapped open. Anderson could be gentle when he wanted to be, and he brushed her hair from her forehead with unspeakable care, tucking the ragged ends behind an ear.
"Nae, Heinkel. It's no' that."
He patted the top of her head reassuringly. She let out a breath of relief she hadn't realised she'd been holding.
"Maxwell sent me to tell yeh that yeh would still have a place in Iscariot. So lang as yeh control the beast, we'll have a place for yeh. Frankly, we can't afford to kill one o' our best. That would be a damn fool thing to do. Maxwell had his doubts, but Ah vouched for yeh personally. Ah know yeh're stronger than that beast yeh killed, an' Ah know yeh can win that fight."
Her eyes stung, and not just from the soft light filtering through the blinds.
"I did, too." Yumie dipped her chin in a single nod. "Actually, I told him if he made us kill you, I'd leave Iscariot. And don't think I wouldn't do it, either. You wouldn't give up on us, if the tables were turned," she added, taking one of Heinkel's hands. "So, we're not going to give up on you, either."
Heinkel had always lived her life refusing to cry. Even growing up on the streets, she had never pitied herself or her situation. Tears were for softer people; weaker people.
But even she couldn't hold them back.
She let them fall in silence.
"That mangy, flea-bitten son of a bitch," she whispered, raggedly. "If it veren't dead I'd kill it myself. But... danke. Both of you. Mein Gott, you two are so much better than I deserve."
"Ah don't think so." Anderson patted the top of her head one last time before leaning back. "We're whit God wants yeh to have. Isn't that right, Sister? God led all our paths together for a reason."
"Yeah." Yumie gave her hand a squeeze, withdrawing. "That's right."
"Ja..." Heinkel reached up with a trembling hand, squeezing the cross of iron around her neck. "Thank you, God. And thank Him for you two." She sagged back. "But I'm tired. I'm so tired."
Even keeping her eyes open had turned into a heroic effort. She let them slide closed. How good it felt to lie there, and do nothing, attended by the two people she trusted with her life. Even the cheap hospital sheets felt soft and welcoming.
It was her last coherent thought before she let herself sink down into sleep.