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Zibhesi: the Red Plague, the Heart-Drinkers, the Mosquito Hosts

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  • Zibhesi: the Red Plague, the Heart-Drinkers, the Mosquito Hosts

    Zibhesi: the Mosquito Hosts

    Hunger knows no friend but its feeder.

    Ted lazily swatted at the midges. It was no use out here, even in his old beekeeper's suit; in the marsh they were as ubiquitous as the noisome vapors. Usually they weren't this hungry, though. He felt like his skin was crawling, prickling with a thousand tiny bites. Somehow the bastards kept getting into the suit. Thick mud clung to his rain boots, threatened to pull them from his feet with every step. He made his way slowly and carefully along the soggy marsh-paths he knew better than anyone. Every hoot and chittering cry had him clutching his shotgun just a little tighter. Ted Barnes was no coward; he'd lived in the bayou his whole life, once killed a gator with just his pocket knife when his gun jammed. He didn't buy into a lot of the superstitions his neighbors did, but what he'd seen the last week was enough to scare even him.

    It started with the snapping turtles. A couple of them had washed up near his cabin, pruned up like they'd spent a season in the sun, shells brittle as dried sticks. Then he'd found one of his dogs like that, all shriveled and stiff, its skin clinging so tightly to its bones that it was like everything else had been sucked out. Every so often you'd lose a dog to a gator or something, but not like that. It was unnatural. The only clue were dried sores pockmarking the dog's whole body. After that he kept his dogs inside until he could figure out just what the hell was going on. When he'd found the alligator mummified the same way, he knew it wasn't just a freak occurrence. Something out here was hungry, and it wasn't natural. Ain't right. It just ain't right. I ain't never hurt nobody livin' out here. Maybe people with a lot of needles could do such a thing, but he couldn't imagine why. No, it had to be some new animal, something real nasty. Not that the cops believed him. Bunch o' lazy city-bums is what they are. The swamp-dwelling redneck reported something strange? Imagine their surprise! They'd believed him about as much as he believed they did any protecting or serving. Animals got lost and died out there every day. It wasn't their concern. He was just a hick, beneath their notice. Ted Barnes wasn't about to accept that. No sir. He had a right to defend himself, his property, and his animals. If he had to take matters into his own hands, well, that's what double-aught buckshot was for. He took care of his own.

    Old man Baer might have seen something. Maximilian Baer was as country to Ted as Ted was to the most sheltered urbanites. The old man lived alone deep in the bayou in a cabin he'd built himself, hunted for all his food, had only fire for light and warmth. Baer was like a relic of a bygone age, but he was good people. Eccentric, sure, but he knew the land better than the land itself did. If anyone knew what was going on, it'd be him. Ted made his way through the swamp in that direction, boots squelching in the mud. The droning buzz intensified the closer he got to Baer's land. It grew to a steady, deafening pulse, like he'd stuck his head in a hornet's nest. He flushed, sweat crawling over itchy skin. Damn heat. “Muggy” didn't even begin to describe it. Ted began to feel lightheaded by the time he actually reached Baer's property.

    The weather-beaten house abutted a wide, slow-moving river of brackish brown water. Max had built a dock behind the place for fishing; Ted had seen the tough old coot literally dangling his feet in the water with a fishing pole in hand while alligators floated nearby. They didn't come any tougher than old man Baer. At last the house rose up like a dark edifice from the early morning gloom. He heard no sounds save for the buzzing and chirping of crickets. No more bird cries. Ted frowned. He'd always liked the birds, and more importantly, they knew. If they bailed, he knew something was really wrong. They had a sense for these sorts of things.

    “Max?” he called. “Max! It's Ted. Brother, you home?” Ted stopped at the fire pit and nudged the ashes, long cold. Max hadn't made a fire in a couple of days, at least. “Max? You here anywhere, oldtimer? Been some weird shit goin' on lately. Seen anything?” He moved toward the dock. Max spent most of his mornings fishing for that night's dinner, so that seemed a good place to start. As he circled the stained, unkempt house with the river on his right, he stayed wary of the water's edge. Ted loved the water, but right now, he imagined that anything could lurk within.

    Waves lapped gently against the dock. Baer wasn't there but his fishing pole lay next to a bucket of bait. It wasn't like him to just leave it like that. Max had used that same fishing pole for years. “Max? Brother, you okay? Ain't like you to leave your stuff sittin' out like this.” In his peripheral vision he saw a splash just as he heard it. Fish are jumpin' today. Ol' Max will be sorry he missed out on this. The buzzing of insect wings grew louder. Ted was puzzled; he couldn't see anything other than the midges, which weren't so thick as to make that noise.

    Splish! Another ripple rolled across the river's surface. Closer this time. The hair on Ted's neck stood. He just about brought the shotgun to bear—Just in case—when he heard a door slam somewhere in Max's house. Ted turned to look.

    Something burst up from the river in a sibilant rush of water. Ted's feet slipped on the muddy riverbank and he fell on his backside. A huge shape emerged, water pouring from its hide. Maybe it was once an alligator. Now its body was covered in sickly brown and green moss, its eyes overgrown by fungus, a cloud of flies surrounding it even as it came out of the water. Its jaws stretched open impossibly wide. Thick, pulpy slime trailed between its teeth. Ted's eyes bulged. The back of its throat was full of soupy brown liquid, burbling as its deep roar gargled out. A cloud of winged brown insects emerged from that mire, filling the air like angry wasps around him.

    “Jesus wept fucking swampgator can'tberealthisisn'thappenin'!” Ted tried to crawl away as the thing bore down on him. In quaking hands he brought up the shotgun. He couldn't aim it sitting on his ass, so he scrambled, slipped, and finally clambered up. The thing chased him up the riverbank. It wasn't just a hallucination. Ted swung the shotgun, aimed for the back of the monster's cavernous jaws. He fired once, the shot ripping through the diseased flesh of its mouth, some of it splashing ineffectually into the effluvial brew. “Fuck!”

    He pumped the shotgun. The gator-thing lunged. Thunder erupted from the barrel. The shotgun bucked. He pumped again. BOOM! It kept coming. BOOM! Bloody chunks tore away from its mouth. The insects swarmed him, tearing with tiny feet at his suit. BOOM! The gator staggered, rivers of oily blood gushed from its ruined maw. Ted fired again. Again. One shell left. His breath came in ragged gasps. The gator slumped, its back end sliding down the bank and back into the water. As it slipped into bubbling water, the cloud of insects it had belched forth fell to the ground dead.

    “Fuckin' Christ, this ain't happenin'. This can't be happenin'. Max! Max, you in there?” He stumbled toward the house. A chill snaked down his spine at the thought that maybe that fucking thing had gotten Max while he was fishing. Toxic waste or somethin', they been dumpin' that shit in here for years. Well, not anymore. He was going to go as public as he could. The people deserved to know about this.

    Ted shouldered open the rickety front door. “Max! I'm getting' out of here, man. Brother, if you're here, you best come with me. There's somethin' really weird going on out there.” His voice was muffled. The air seemed to hum around him, stifling. It took him a moment to realize that it was a very low, constant buzzing sound vibrating in the walls, the floor, the rank air. Something smelled like shit. Or maybe rotten animal carcass.

    Sunbeams jabbed through open windows and the holes in the walls. A haze of greenish dust swirled slowly through the glare as he moved toward the stairs. Max slept upstairs, he knew; safer from the crawlin' things that infested the swamp. Maybe the old bear had knocked himself out with some heavy drinking last night; Ted well knew the oldster liked his moonshine. “Max, buddy, talk to me. You wouldn't believe what I just saw.”

    The thrumming grew so loud that Ted could barely hear his own voice. He pumped the shotgun as he went down the hall to Max's bedroom door, standing slightly ajar. Just in case. I hope you're okay, ya old coot. Hard to believe anything could take down a tough-as-leather survivalist like Maximilian Baer.

    “Max?” Ted pushed the door open with the barrel of his shotgun. The buzzing reverberated through the gun and tingled in his hands. Just as soon as he peeked into the spartan bedroom a group of bees swarmed his head. At least, he thought they were bees. Ted focused on one that landed on the mask of his suit and realized it was a mosquito. Christ, it had to be damn near the size of a bumblebee. “Ain't possible,” he muttered, his words swallowed up by the steady murmur of beating insect wings. Enough of those things might well bleed a man dry! He was suddenly afraid he knew what had happened to Max….

    A cloud of them lifted up from the bed, its blankets torn and stained with dark fluids. They rose up toward the moldering ceiling, where some flesh-colored egg sac clung by sticky brown goop. Ted's jaw fell. “Can't be happening….”

    A meaty tearing sound filled the air. The ravenous mosquitoes swarming the egg sac parted as though making room for whatever was emerging. One long, spindly leg dripping with foul ichor descended slowly. Then another, and another, followed by a long, curved abdomen full of suppurating ridges. Its pale flesh pulsated as the thorax of an impossibly large insect detached from the egg sac. It was like the torso of a man, its shoulders hunched, arms terminating in oily-haired appendages. Wings unfurled, translucent and glistening. Its head was a nightmare amalgam of man and mosquito, each lens in its compound eyes resembling the bloodshot eyes of a human. A veined proboscis extended from its gnashing mouth parts.

    The thing turned its horrific head to him and uttered something in a language he didn't understand. Ted wouldn't have heard the words, anyway. He'd given in to animal panic, a visceral fear born in the most primitive parts of his brain. He raised the shotgun. The monster lunged at him, carried over the floor by its veiny wings.

    Ted fired, his last shot shattering its right wings. Maybe if it couldn't fly, it couldn't get to anyone else. As he opened his mouth to scream, the creature pinned him against the wall and its proboscis shot into his mouth. The last sensation he knew was like having the very light sucked out of his vision.

    The bayou fell silent once more, save for the incessant buzzing of wings.
    Last edited by Claire Redfield; 12-21-2015, 11:52 PM.

    Freelancer • Available for work!

  • #2
    Actual game play information to come in the next post!

    Freelancer • Available for work!


    • #3
      Yes, moar sacred preys for my fave tribe!


      • #4
        The Zibhesi are ancient, even by the reckoning of the Hosts. They are the spawn of an unholy god who died in a river of stolen blood. They are legion. And they are always hungry.

        The Mosquito Hosts carry plague in their bellies swollen with the blood of their victims. They have at times been called the Red Plague, as carriers of supernatural diseases born of death and blood and filth. Others call them the Heart-Drinkers, for their hunger is so great they will drain the stoutest heart until it resembles nothing more than a prune. Unlike the Azlu and Beshilu, the Zibhesi care little for the state of the Gauntlet. They cross it when they must, but prefer to spend most of their time in the mortal world, where they can bleed living creatures and even loci completely dry. Ravenous as locusts but more calculated in their hunger, these foul demons set upon the isolated and the vulnerable in swarms large enough to blot out the sun. Their favored prey are werewolves, possessed of such rich lifeblood, but the Mosquito Hosts do no discriminate. Anything that bleeds is their prey. Nothing that lives preys upon them ... save for the Uratha.

        Zibhesi follow the same general lifecycle as other Hosts. They begin as a swarm of unnaturally large mosquitoes, called Zuh'eshzi, the Swarmers. These mosquitoes resist most insecticides, fleeing only from fire or water enough to drown them. Their presence inflicts the Swarmed Environmental Tilt (see below), but unlike most such Tilts, the swarm can be fought directly—if not easily. Unlike many Hosts, the Swarmers rarely choose to hide in a human body. Their natural form of thousands upon thousands of swarming insects lends itself well to escape, and blends well into any areas where such pests accumulate. When they do hide in a human body, they enter their victim's form through the nose and mouth and fill the stomach with a cloud of endlessly buzzing insects. As they slowly drain the victim's blood over the course of a night, the body shrinks and pales, wrinkling like a person pruned from too much time in the bath. At this stage, close observation will reveal the humming of hundreds of wings inside the host body's belly, the constant puckering of the lips, the way the victim seems to want to taste everything so closely.

        After accumulating enough power, including perhaps by draining their own kind or even a whole werewolf pack, the Zuh'eshzi begin the next stage of their evolution. They retreat to a dark, preferably damp place where hundreds of fat mosquitoes slowly decay into a slimy miasma, in which eggs eventually form. Over the span of several days these eggs merge together as though devouring one another, plump and red with fresh blood at first, slowly draining to a pale, quivering flesh. A bulbous mass forms in the translucent egg sac, eventually emerging in a horrific genesis. This is the Sidhari form, a monstrous hybrid of human and mosquito. Despite its gangly appearance it is surprisingly swift and powerful, posing a threat to anything that breathes. Sidhari can fly, though not stealthily, and often prefer to lair somewhere that they can hide more easily, such as tangled wetlands or decrepit, abandoned buildings, and swoop down to attack unwary prey. They abscond with the victim and drain every last ounce of blood and bodily fluids with their wicked proboscis, "cocooning" the remains to help feed the next generation. They can also Reach, like Uratha can, but rarely do so, and usually only to escape. They do, however, drain Essence from spirits and loci just as readily as blood from a mortal. When killed, a Sidhari explodes into a swarm of mosquitoes and must be dealt with as a Swarmer once more.

        Zibhesi society, such as it is, follows few rules. They know and venerate Hunger as some mythical lord of consumption slain in ancient times. Whether their Hunger was a god killed by Father Wolf or something else they do not say, and seem not to care. The Mosquito Hosts do not hate werewolves for this reason, for they know only the lifelong hunger for living fluids. Werewolves are simply more delicious than most prey. The Zibhesi are truly alien and cannot long hide in human society; Swarmers animating human corpses behave oddly, tilting their heads at strange angles, staring incessantly, pushing their tongue through their lips when they encounter a new situation. Humans readily create conditions suitable for Zibhesi habitation, so they both prey upon humans and yet deliberately hold back from killing everyone in an area. Humans also have some of the few weapons capable of stopping the Mosquito Hosts, so the shartha are satisfied to sweep like clouds of plague through an area, or lair in marshes, rainforests, and riverbanks, where they might more easily hide.

        Red Plague Cloud
        This is a swarm of mosquitoes the size of bees, with a few growing as large as hummingbirds. They move as a shapeless, buzzing cloud, smothering and biting at exposed orifices. Fighting the swarm is next to impossible without magic or area attacks. There are simply too many to suffer meaningful damage from claws, guns, and blunt instruments. Bigger and faster than normal mosquitoes, this swarm is easily capable of overwhelming multiple characters. The traits below represent a typical swarm, suitable for conflict with a small number of actors. Storytellers who want to inflict a swarm on an entire scene may use the Tilt described below. Even swarms used with full traits as described here still attack as shown below, including the ability to inflict Tilts.

        Attributes: Intelligence 1, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Strength 1, Dexterity 4, Stamina 2, Presence 3, Manipulation 1, Composure 1
        General Dice Pools: Frightening and harrying prey 5, Breaking through Barriers 7, Movement 7
        Combat Dice Pools: Swarm Victims 5
        Initiative Modifier: +5
        Defense: 5
        Health: 5
        Potency: 1
        Willpower: 1
        Size: 5
        Speed: 13 (flying)
        Dread Powers: Discorporate, Swift, Toxic Bite •
        Bane: Fire inflicts 1 extra damage.

        New Tilt: Swarmed (Environmental)
        Description: A massive swarm of vermin envelops the area, biting, stinging, and buzzing in the ears of anyone unfortunate enough to be caught within.
        Effects: The swarm is thick enough to diminish visibility just on its own, but these malicious little buggers attack the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anything sensitive. All perception-based rolls suffer a -2 penalty. Any existing wound penalties are worsened by an additional -1 as the vermin pick at open wounds and spread their filth through the bloodstream.

        The Storyteller should determine the swarm's size, ranging from 1 (enough to fill a small room) to 10 (enough to cover a high school field). This determine's the swarm's attack dice pool and general resistance to harm. Roll the swarm's size in dice against any victims caught in the area. Defense does not apply unless granted by supernatural effects, while most armor only provides half value. Only specially-designed suits last for long, but determined swarms can compromise even this protection given time. Victims suffer 1 bashing damage on a successful attack, or 2 bashing damage on an exceptional success. Swarms of unnatural creatures (like shartha or mystically-empowered vermin) instead cause 1 bashing damage per success on this attack roll.

        Swarms are considered to have a Defense rating equal to their size—larger swarms are difficult to meaningfully damage with conventional attacks. This Defense rating also applies to Firearms attacks, as a roiling swarm simply flows around gunfire while sustaining minimal losses. Their size also serves as their Health value, diminishing by 1 point with each successful attack, or 2 points on an exceptional success. Unnatural swarms only suffer 1 damage on an exceptional success, and no damage even on a regular success with conventional weapons. Fire, pesticides, and other area attacks work exceptionally well against swarms, which typically lose their Defense and suffer full normal damage from such attacks unless certain Dread Powers modify the way they take damage.

        Instead of simply inflicting damage, the swarm may attempt to hinder its victims in other ways. It can choose to inflict a Tilt instead of damage, by attacking the eyes or ears or mouth. The victim's Defense does apply to this attack, since she can move to cover her ears or mouth or some other way defend against it. The victim makes a contested Stamina + Composure roll, subject to wound penalties (which are worsened by the swarm). If the swarm wins, it may inflict any one of the following Tilts: Blinded, Deafened, Sick. Some particularly nasty swarms may be able to inflict the Poisoned and Stunned Tilts, as well, depending on their Dread Powers.

        Causing the Tilt: Attack by a swarm of vermin, either uncontrolled or directed by some outside force.
        Ending the Tilt: Escape the area, kill the swarm.

        Sidhari, the Heart-Drinker
        This creature is a hellish abomination formed of human and mosquito. It is the final form most Zibhesi will ever reach, a repulsive predator that spreads pestilence and suffering with every kill. Sidhari are man-sized, usually hunched, with flesh-colored carapaces and softer, quivering flesh beneath. They stand hunched on four long, spindly legs, abdomens curving out behind them, while their two upper arms resemble segmented human arms covered in greasy hair. Their hands and feet all terminate in wicked hooks, and their heads are all suppurating mouths with a long proboscis, and compound eyes formed of human irises. The creature also emits a malodorous stench capable of sickening even a werewolf.

        Sidhari rarely travel in packs, but sometimes they can be found in the company of one another. More likely, a lone Sidhari will be attended by a relatively large Zuh'eshzi, since the Mosquito Hosts rarely prey on one another like many other shartha. These repulsive creatures are dangerous even for a werewolf, but prefer to attack by surprise and abscond with victims before draining them slowly. Disease spirits often follow in the wake of Zibhesi attacks, and sometimes come to the aid of the creatures responsible for their Essence supply. In battle, Sidhari flutter about, darting in to bite or claw at opponents. If it overpowers a victim, it will set upon them to feed.

        Attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 4, Resolve 3, Strength 4, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3, Presence 3, Manipulation 1, Composure 2
        Skills: Occult 3, Athletics 3, Brawl 4, Stealth 3, Survival 3 (Hunting), Intimidation 4
        Merits: Allies 2 (Disease spirits), Area of Expertise 1 (Survival: Hunting), Fast Reflexes 2, Trained Observer 3
        Potency: 3
        Willpower: 8
        Essence: 20
        Health: 8
        Initiative: 7
        Defense: 6
        Speed: 12 (flying)
        Dread Powers: Armored Hide 2, Beastmaster, Blinding Spray 2, Discorporate, Natural Weapons 1, Swift, Toxic Bite 2, Venomous Ichor, Wall Climb
        Attacks: Claw (8 dice) for +1L, bite (see below)
        Bane: Unlike most Hosts, Sidhari are particularly vulnerable to fire and suffer aggravated damage from it.

        Sidhari bite using their proboscis. They must grapple a combatant to do this, or may do so without a grapple against defenseless foes. Add their +1 weapon bonus to rolled successes when using the Damage move in a grapple. Once latched on, they will continue to drain bodily fluids until dislodged or the victim is dead. The nature of this move makes it mostly useless against vampires and other undead. The initial piercing attack will inflict a single point of bashing damage, but further bite attacks in a grapple have no effect, save one—a Sidhari may drain Vitae from a vampire instead of blood. Due to its nature, it cannot be ghouled and does not suffer from the Blood Bond. Zibhesi find vampires naturally repulsive and generally avoid them unless provoked. Sidhari that suffer more than two points of damage from fire or a targeted attack on the wings lose their ability to fly until they can regenerate the wings, which takes some time.

        Freelancer • Available for work!


        • #5
          I would say make them a bit more fragile, mosquitoes are stupidly frail and these are just a bit too durable for me, being the shards of a demon or not, even bee sized mosquitoes would be pretty slow and squishy lol


          • #6
            I love the fluff! As to mechanics, I have one comment...

            Originally posted by Claire Redfield View Post
            The Storyteller should determine the swarm's size, ranging from 1 (enough to fill a small room) to 10 (enough to cover a high school field). This determine's the swarm's attack dice pool and general resistance to harm.
            Should not Swarm Size start from the size of human head or two? The smallest swarm I can think of is enough to strangle one grown man. Room sized one is one or two steps higher than this.

            My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
            LGBT+ through Ages
            LGBT+ in CoD games


            • #7
              This is great. All your write-ups that I've seen have been consistently awesome.


              • #8
                The wolves spread out to circle the warehouse. To their ears the padding and panting were a clamor; a person standing inside the warehouse would have had no idea they were coming. They needed no tongue of wolves or men to communicate, for they each knew their part in the hunt. Sacred siskur-dah. Their prey: the shartha, and a foul breed, something the pack had never seen before. Mosquitoes.

                As if they couldn't get bad enough, thought Amari as she slipped into the shadows beside a dumpster. The thing was full of trash that hadn't been taken for months. This whole warehouse was rotting from within, abandoned for years in a damp environment, too close to the seaside to escape the worst storms. The latest company to own it tried to store electronics parts within; the company before them had used it for food storage. Neither seemed able to keep out the weather. Eventually they just gave up trying. The best weatherproofing they could afford simply didn't work and no one knew why. No one in the company, at least. Amari knew better. The Gauntlet was thin here. No packs really controlled the territory, or hunted there often enough to keep out spirits of briny sea and storms, and festering spirits of urban decay. Last night the pack had traced the spoor of the shartha they'd killed. Real nasty piece of work. Sidhari, their totem had called it. Zibhesi. The Mosquito Hosts.

                Amari lowered her head to the ground and listened. The only thing she heard from within was a steady thrumming in the floor, like the hum of a distant generator. If it was a generator, it wasn't powering the lights. Something hidden deep down, maybe, but Amari suspected something else. The buzzing of great translucent wings. Probably several of those things in there, if the smell was anything to go by. A real acrid, marshy stench. Amari sniffed several times. The thick, coppery tang of dried blood emanated from one of the rusty vents. They were definitely in the right place. Just what they were walking into was a different matter. As if on cue, Erik Red-Shadows stole around the corner, running nearly at top speed in Urshul form yet literally quiet as a mouse. The black-furred wolf padded to a halt near Amari and crouched down.

                "I count four," he growled lowly in the First tongue. "All shartha. Something else. Shartha magic."

                Amari shifted into Hishu, an olive-skinned young woman with long black hair, kneeling beside a dented metal door. A backpack materialized on her shoulders as her clothing appeared. She nodded. "Okay," she whispered. "Everyone else in position?"

                Red-Shadows grunted.

                "Good. How's our newest?"

                Red-Shadows nodded his head in a human-like gesture.

                "Good." Amari had her concerns. They had lost their Rahu Peter earlier that year to something immense and unfathomably ancient. Several weeks ago they had encountered a lone Rahu who had lost her pack to that very same force: Gagh-Azur, an idigam risen from the depths. Werewolves didn't leave ghosts, but Amari had felt Peter's presence urging her to reach out to Kara. It's what he would have wanted. Amari was glad she had, too. Kara "Moonsong" Drew was just what the pack had needed. Smart, resourceful, fierce but in a measured way. Young, not much older than Amari, but with a grace and experience in battle that belied her years. Tall as she was and pale blonde, she was quite the looker, too, though Amari didn't let that affect her judgment. This was their first serious hunt together, and everyone needed to be on the same page.

                Amari quickly reached into her bag and pulled out a homemade explosive: six cans of insecticide duct-taped together along with a few M-80s. It was a talen augmented by a spirit of beach-washed detritus. Erik had rigged it up, while she implored the spirit's help; she doubted it would do much against the Sidhari, but against a swarm it might help. They were almost certainly resistant to normal pesticides. The alternative would have been to bring enough molotovs to burn down the whole warehouse. That was Plan B. Erik should have stashed those already somewhere nearby, just in case. "Okay. Go on my cue. You get the door open, I'll throw the bug bomb. Kara hits the loading doors north side, we go in this door, Alex and White-Paw take the east entrance."

                "You sure? Could sneak in."

                Amari shook her head. "I don't know that it would work. These old doors are too rusty and beat-up. They'd probably notice us before we got into position. Maybe they already have. That's why we have to strike fast. Tell the others to be ready."

                Red-Shadows grunted his approval and loped off, quickly vanishing into the shadows that lent him their name. Amari counted by breaths, keeping hers steady and even. Her heart pounded. It was easy to let the thrill of the hunt take over. The danger, the rush of killing, it could easily overwhelm a werewolf. They needed to be coordinated, going into enemy territory. Focused. It was a troubling juxtaposition for the Uratha. Balance the killing ferocity of the wolf with the measured approach of humans. If it worked, her pack would go home safe tonight, share a few beers, and sleep away the night on the beach. Amari didn't let herself think about the alternative. Memories of watching Peter swallowed up by the cavernous mouth of that alien monster....

                She heard Red-Shadows approaching before he turned the corner. Her senses were on high alert, even in human form. He actually grew larger as he detached from the deeper shadows, his musculature expanding, becoming a broad-chested wolf with a huge head. "Everyone ready," he growled, trying to keep his guttural voice low. It didn't matter now. The hunt was about to conclude. Amari pulled a dog whistle from her pocket and gave her packmate a sympathetic nod. She blew just a light note on it, not even half a second, though the Urshul wolf's ears twitched like mad. He leaped, the red streaks in his black fur like gashes in the night as he slammed into the door. It bent inward with a metallic shriek and toppled onto the concrete floor.

                A similar sound echoed from across the building a scant fraction of a second later. Red-Shadows sprang in through the door and Amari followed, clutching the Zippo in one hand and the bomb in the other. They needed to know what they were dealing with before blindly trusting to insecticide or fire to completely wipe out the building. The Ithaeur didn't survive the hunts she had simply by wildly firing into the dark. Besides that, there was a part of her, deep down, that wanted the visceral rush of combat. Daughter of Urfarah against the offspring of Father Wolf's greatest foes. A test worthy of any true hunter. Her eyes adjusted to the gloom and Amari jogged beside Red-Shadows toward the center of the floor. A few dozen crates, now moldy and water-damaged, remained scattered about unused equipment. The effluvia hit her like a truck, even in Hishu, a gag-inducing miasma of diseased blood, animal feces, and something else she couldn't quite place.

                The source of the humming became instantly apparent. On the far wall clung three gigantic mosquito monsters. Their wings constantly beat a low tune. Between them, a fleshy mass covered the wall, bulbous and quivering. Amari blanched. Blood sloshed in the hideous translucent flesh, squeezed out of the end in a thick glob that fell to the ground. Something wriggled free of the bloody puddle, crawling with one human arm and several misshapen insect legs. The creature let out a mewling shriek and then died in a violent shudder. One of the Sidhari detached from the wall and dropped upon the newborn monster, piercing its back with a long, razor-tipped proboscis. Within a second it had drained the horrible thing dry, leaving it shriveled, and returned to its position beside the the blood-sac. It inserted its proboscis into the sac and emptied its own blood-filled belly. Then the sac moved oddly, legs dropping down beside it, wings unfurling, a slime-encrusted form appearing—

                "Dhingir'ama," Amari murmured. It was a mosquito the size of a goddamn elephant. Plastered to the wall by sickly excrescence, a Sidhari twice the size of the others, its belly now bloated with blood and half-formed shapes, spawning more of the monsters every night. Amari retched, and she'd been face to face with spirits of filth.

                Erik Red-Shadows growled in the First Tongue. "No divine here. It's ... Gudehi."

                Alex and White-Paw crashed through a door across the warehouse in time to witness the heinous birth of another monster. White-Paw in Dalu form began to cough and choke as she fought back bile. A deafening bang filled the warehouse floor as one of the north loading doors crumpled inward and fell in pieces. Kara charged through, already in Dalu, snarling her rage. She assessed the situation in the blink of an eye. The three Sidhari sprang from the wall and a pulsing buzz filled the air as a swarm of mosquitoes suddenly clouded vision. It must have been millions of them, swarming over the pack in a heartbeat. Everyone writhed as thousands of hungry needles pierced their skin, setting flesh to itching and shivering. All except Kara. She rose up in Gauru form, long-limbed and powerful, loping forth with a howling cry. The three Sidhari flew to meet her.

                Amari fell back, swatting in vain at the swarm. Her hands shook too much to get the Zippo lit on the first try. It took several attempts, but finally she did and lit the fuses on the homemade bomb. "Fire in the hole!" she screamed, mosquitoes filling her mouth at the same time. Gagging, Amari threw the bomb. Gaia was with her then, for her aim was true—the bomb fell right at the base of the nest. She spit and sputtered as mosquitoes flocked to her eyes and nose and mouth, seeking to suffocate her, if they didn't bleed her dry first.

                The roaring and snapping grew louder as Kara battled the three Sidhari. She gave them hell, but they were too many. One rushed her and drove her back, sinking claws into her even as its proboscis sought her neck. Kara fought with it, unable to find the leverage she needed. One of the others circled through the air behind her and latched on from behind, piercing her neck with its mouth in a gush of blood. The third hovered above, looking for its opportunity. Amari saw this with clouded vision. Rage welled within her breast. The heat of her fury was so great that many of the mosquitoes biting her burst in little bloody pops. She dropped into a runner's crouch, clothing and olive skin melting away into golden brown fur. She ran as the wolf in several bounding strides before leaping high into the air, her body growing and changing shape in midair. As Gauru she pounced upon the one behind Kara and tore it free as they tumbled to the ground. Her eyes glowed silvery-blue in the faint light, snout wrinkling in a savage snarl. Her fangs gleamed.

                BOOM! The bomb exploded with a thunderous crack. Smoke and noxious gas enveloped the Gudehi. The others cried "Gu!" in their terrible voices. Much of the buzzing swarm succumbed to spirit-influenced poison.

                Amari sprang forth and slashed her claws down on her prey's head. She tore through its eye and proboscis, spraying noxious blood on the floor beneath them. It staggered with a gurgling cry. The third of its foul brethren came to its aid, swooping down on Amari and clawing at her face, seeking her eyes or nose, ripping away in a cold frenzy. Its barbed hands tore several huge slashes in her snout, one laying open her cheek and bloodying her left eye. Amari thrashed like a wild bronco and threw the Sidhari into the wall. She stood hunched, staring at it, blood dripping from her fangs, eyes wild with pure rage. The rent flesh on her face sealed up within moments, her eye regaining its luminous focus.

                The Sidhari knew it was doomed.

                In single combat Kara easily overpowered her attacker, wrestling it to the ground and tearing one arm free with a snap of her slavering jaws. She took that arm and stabbed its barb through the creature's own brain like a spear, letting out a furious howl. The Sidhari convulsed and spewed blood from its abdomen as it died. Kara reached down and crackling flame appeared in her massive palm. She opened up her hand and the flame jumped to the carcass, quickly spreading to consume it before it could burst. Kara joined Amari, whose prey had backed against the wall. Thrusting out her hands Kara let flame pour from her palms onto the mosquito abomination. As it screeched and tried to flee Amari dashed forth and slashed it across the neck.

                White-Paw and Alex fell upon the remaining Sidhari in Urshul form, savaging its legs and cracking its carapace, leaving it pouring hissing blood. The thing had one last surprise left in it, spewing a stream of stinging blood from its proboscis into Alex's face. Flesh sizzled and fur burned. Alex stumbled away, shaking his head back and forth. White-Paw uttered a furious cry and drove into the stricken Sidhari, shearing away a leg at its knee-joint. Alex was already healing his face, forcing Essence into the wounds, but Kara was there before he could recover. She flew into view, slamming into the wounded Sidhari and ripping out most of its thorax with a huge clawed hand. Her jaws snapped around its head and crunched through chitin, spattering noxious blood as she tore the head free. Its body came apart like papier-mâché. Pieces rained down at her feet. Kara stepped back and roared, while Amari shifted into Hishu form.

                The pack as one turned their attention to the Gudehi. A Brood Queen. Capable of giving birth to full-blown shartha. She was an abomination, spasming violently amid a cloud of greenish vapor. Amari almost pitied her, but every Sidhari born was a human being drained of their very lifeblood by unfeeling monsters. The Gudehi was the prey, and the Uratha were the hunters. At the climax of the Sacred Hunt, instinct and reason were united by one purpose: kill. Kara was first to move, flush with the killing power of Gauru. She lunged and leaped, her claws flashing outward in wide arcs. A fiery crescent leaped out from the arc of her claws, washing over the Gudehi. Her dying screams hissed like lobsters in a boiling pot. Her blood-sac convulsed and ruptured, boiling blood spreading in a sticky pool beneath her.

                The Brood Queen wasn't finished yet. She fell, ripping away from the wall with a sound of tearing meat. Half a dozen bone-white legs churned as she dove into the pack with speed belying her size and spindly build. A razor-barbed leg lanced out in a blur. White-Paw staggered and a thin red line appeared across her torso, blooming in floral crimson. Another pierced Erik's shoulder and he rolled away with a yelp. A third sought Kara's heart but the Rahu caught it in her claws. With a decisive jerk she snapped the leg halfway down the lowest segment. The monstrosity curled its abdomen about and with a loud, wet pop sprayed a blast of superheated blood and poison. Kara only barely dodged out of the way and the pack watched in shock as the foul liquid sizzled and ate a hole in the concrete floor. The burning Gudehi had no further opportunities. Erik and White-Paw rose up in Gauru form, joining Kara's frenzied assault. Alex attacked in Urshul, cracking the monster's armor with bone-crunching teeth. Kara struck the final blow, seizing the Gudehi by its midsection and tearing it in half. Blood matted her fur as both ends of the monster flopped about on the ground like a fish. With a shudder the great shartha was no more. A terrible stench lingered in the air as the Gudehi continued to burn, a mixture of blood and bile and lingering insecticide.

                Amari distanced herself from her packmates, drawing a dagger from her belt. She used it to cut her own palm and let some of the blood drip onto the concrete. Whispering words from the ancient world, she commanded Nature itself to do her bidding. Weeds sprouted up through the concrete, causing spider-web cracks to radiate from the starting point. Moss and mold quickly overgrew the crates, spread up the walls like kudzu. "Keep them busy!" Amari cried.

                The swarms, the Zuh'eshzi, burst from the ruined corpses of the one forgotten Sidhari. If even one mosquito escaped their prey could return. The pack had prepared for this, but even preparation wasn't always enough when the prey was shartha. Kara had already made her way to the northern doors after striking the killing blow on the Brood Queen. In Dalu form she stood and raised her hands, letting flame leap from her fingertips into the air. A charm of fire-blackened bone pieces rattled in her hands. Behind her Erik seemed to emerge from the shadows in Urshul form, red-streaked black fur flowing in a sudden wind that suddenly surged up around him. The wind and fire spread high even as the swarms predictably went for the largest opening. The wind blasted them back and fanned the flames that followed, consuming mosquitoes in thousands of tiny little sparks.

                The rest of the swarm hesitated as it sought another way of escape. Some broke from the others and streamed low toward the western door that Amari and Red-Shadows had entered, flying for the freedom of the night air. Another shape dropped down to meet them, spreading its wings with feathers like radiant gold shot through with lightning. Winged Dawn, the pack's totem, eager to destroy the shartha. Winged Dawn shrieked and its eyes glowed like twin suns, shining with tremendous heat and light. The mosquitoes that weren't driven back were instantly cooked.

                The plants spread more and more, crackly and dry as they forced their way through concrete, wood, even metal, filling the floor and climbing most of the walls. The spreading wave of vegetation and fungus quickly consumed the Gudehi carcass, as well as the remains of the Sidhari. Amari joined her packmates at the north door. Red-Shadows in Hishu form held a ratty old backpack, from which he withdrew a molotov and handed it to Amari. He took out several others and the pack quickly lit them, then tossed them into the warehouse. They erupted in a bright orange blaze and quickly spread thanks to the thick vegetation Amari had conjured.

                Caught between raging werewolves and their sun-spirit totem, the mosquitoes had nowhere left to turn. They tried to flee deeper into the warehouse, to seek an exit from the hungry flames, but it was too late. Kara used her spirit-magic to control the fire, causing it to spread higher and faster, the smoke slowing and dazing the swarm. Only when the entire warehouse floor was ablaze did Kara step back out the ruined the loading door and join her pack. They gathered, all in Hishu except for Alex, who remained in snarling Urshul form, and watched as the fire began to gut the warehouse.

                "It's over," said Red-Shadows. "Not a single fucking one of them is going to make it out. I can't believe it. Good plan, Amari. These things are nasty. I don't want to tangle with them again anytime soon."

                Amari slapped him on the neck. Red-Shadows howled in pain. "What did you do that for?"

                She held up her hand, showing him the bloody stain of a smashed mosquito. "Oh, you know. Pest control."

                Erik rubbed at his neck. "You mean me or the little bloodsucker?"

                Amari grinned.

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                • #9
                  Really cool and disturbing!

                  The Sidhari reminds me of the Bloodlickers from Bloodborne.


                  • #10
                    Just inspiration:

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                    • #11
                      How does this swarm interact with the Gauntlet? Rats chew holes, spiders web it off. How will the Zibhesi interact?


                      • #12
                        As written, the Zibhesi don't really care about the Gauntlet. It'd be cool if they set upon loci and drained them like they would drain the blood from a living animal, though. They leave an area spiritually dead over time, drained of its life Essence. They don't care about the Gauntlet one way or another, they just want to drain everything that pulses with life, blood, Essence.

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                        • #13
                          A utterly important question I have always wanted to ask: Are their gross Proboscidea super squishy and huggable?