Into the Wolf's Den

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One month had passed since Varrigan disappeared from the map. People had always called it Hell on Earth, sometimes worse, depending on who you asked. The city's crime rates had long since eclipsed even those of Santa Destroy, poverty and unemployment were rampant, corruption ran through the police department, and some parts of the city were in ruins even before what was coming to be known as the Varrigan City Massacre.

Existing gangs had snatched up what territory they could, while new groups sprang up to fill in the gaps. The Wolf Pack, the Rising Sons, the Crimson Dragon Clan, even the old VCPD had started staking their claim. Money had become worthless. Stores and clinics were ransacked, hospitals turned into abattoirs and just about every luxury casino and club had been appropriated by one gang or another.

For years, the district known as 'Casino Land' has been the financial heart of Varrigan. Bright neon lights of casinos reflected off the polished white faces of million dollar condos, but beyond the main strip, Casino Land was little more than an old western film set. The glimmering strip worked to conceal yet more run down tenements and long abandoned buildings.

The far end of the strip terminated at a cluster of three of the most infamous structures in the city: the Blood God's Arena, Saint Filth's General Hospital and the Horzine Biotech Tower. Each building seemed to feed off of each other in a kind of morbid symbiosis. The tower supplied the arena with combatants for gangsters looking for a bit quick cash, which in turn fed the hospital patients who would occasionally 'disappear' in the night.

It was in one of the derelict back streets of Casino Land, under an overcast noon sky, that a young girl walked alone. She walked with confident steps, combat boots crunching against the layers of dust and debris that caked the sidewalks. A frayed burlap shawl draped down to her waist, concealing a battered and torn Horzine security uniform and a sawn-off shotgun held in a lazy grip.

Street thugs and bandits had learned very quickly that a girl walking the streets alone was to be left to herself in the new Varrigan. Most moved through the city at night in small groups. People moved quickly, always armed and never along main streets. Working cars were so rare they might as well have been unicorns. In the middle of the day, anyone could have been fooled into thinking the city was deserted. Of course, they would be dead soon after, shot down by a sniper and had their corpse looted by bandits that seemed to crawl out of the shadows.

The girl walked on, passing buildings that looked as though they had stood through nuclear explosions. Cement slabs and broken glass were piled on the ground in heaps as tall as a man. Graffiti coloured the walls, some old and worn, some fresh and new. Every now and then, she would walk by a building tagged with a black, stylized image of a howling wolf's head.

Every now and again she would see the glint of a scope sighting in on her from a far off window, reminding her that she was never entirely alone. Street signs were broken or defaced, some reading 'WOLF'S STREET'. At least she knew she was in the right place, as if the trail of bodies hanging from rusty lamp posts didn't already say enough.

As she came closer to her destination, she started to see figures hovering in doorways and windows. The people never said anything, never ventured out of the shadows, and certainly didn't point any fingers. They simply stood and watched. With any luck, her quarry would know she was coming.

After what felt like an eternity of walking, she spotted a dilapidated two storey building at the corner of a four-way intersection. Without looking or thinking, she crossed diagonally across the street, oblivious of any potential danger. The first floor of the building was walled with painted cement blocks, the windows blocked with sandbags and any signage having long since been removed. The second floor windows were framed by intricate masonry and only half-blocked with sandbags and debris, with a guard visible in every second window, guns trained on the brazen trespasser.

The girl found her way to a metal side door, flanked by a severed head impaled on what might have once been a wall lamp, and gave it three solid knocks. As she waited for an answer, she couldn't help but notice the mound of decaying bodies piled against the wall, presided over by a cloud of swarming flies.

Within a few seconds, a hatch slid open and a gun barrel protruded into her face.

"Who are ya and whaddaya want?" A voice growled from the other side.

The girl didn't so much as flinch. "My name is Eliza Thorne," she answered. "I'm here to see the Wolf."


Typhus groaned. Her tiny arms squeezed a fluffy white pillow, a trickle of drool wetting the corner against her cheek. She slept in a new bedroom, with a queen-sized bed and an entire wall giving way to enormous windows with heavy curtains. The heavy buzzing of insects never ceased in her presence, even whilst she slept. A bloated, thumb-sized fly landed on her bedside clock, jittering about and wiping its eyes with a fuzzy leg.


The little Maerorus turned and murmured unintelligibly, burying her bandaged face in her pillow.


A single, tired crimson eye peaked open from beneath her wrappings and fixed on the clock. Slowly, yawning and stretching, pulled herself up. Even at night, she wore her black cloak, the hood pulled down to reveal a short mess of pale hair and a pair of thin, pointed bone nobs protruding an inch above each ear.

"Gooddd morrrning, Dessstroyerrr," the Host hissed.

+DAWN HAS WITHERED. NOON HAS COME,+ replied the Destroyer, its deep voice resounding through Typhus' mind. +WE MUST BREAK OUR FAST.+

Typhus rarely spoke to the Destroyer directly. Their consciousness melded into one on most occassions, but in the stillness of her bedroom, even the witch buried inside of her was welcome company. At the edge of her mind, she could feel the many smaller organisms of the Destroyer Hive spread through out the Horzine tower, from the tiniest flies to the servile zombie guards.

With the Host finally awakened, a servant shoved its way through the door and shambled into the room, bringing with it an elegantly plated breakfast on a tray. Typhus reflexively pulled on her hood as it set the tray down on her lap beforing shambling back out. Orange juice, toast, scrambled eggs and a meat that Typhus couldn't quite identify...

+PIGEON FLESH,+ the Destroyer clarified, sensing her confusion.

Typhus took a drink of the orange juice, careful to tip her head back to keep it from dribbling through her cheeks. She wrinkled her nose as she tasted it murmuring, "It hasss pulppp..."


"Buttt weee don'ttt liiike ittt..."


Begrudgingly, Typhus obeyed. As she took a first bite of toast, her eyes lit up.

"Honnneeeyyy!" Her excited squeal came out as more of a strained wheeze, prompting a short fit of coughing.


The Maerorus gleefully wolfed down the honey toast with as much haste as she could muster - which, admittedly, wasn't terribly hasty at all. The scrambled eggs and meat were obliterated next, with destroyer flies flitting out from under her wrappings to bring smaller pieces directly to the hive.

"Wherrre isss sssisssterrrr Thhhornnne?" Typhus asked between forkfuls.


The tiny reaper nodded slowly, not quite understanding, but accepting. She pushed herself to the edge of the bed and stretched out a pale hand. At once, a torrent of hundreds of thousands of flies flowed out from her sleave, propelled outward like a firehose spewing black water. The flies buzzed in circles as they slowly grouped together, forming an indistinct, towering mass of tiny writhing bodies in Typhus' hands. They packed together tighter and tighter until - with a wooshing noise and a flicker of light - the enormous, grime-coated scythe called Manreaper appeared in their place.

Typhus put her weight on the scythe as she pulled herself off of the bed. A handful of stray flies circled through the air before disappearing under her cloak. The reaper walked with unsteady steps, leaning against the gargantuan weapon as though it were a simple walking stick.

+WE ARE FRAIL,+ the Destroyer's voice echoed in her head. +REMAIN HERE.+

The Maerorus paused, her eyes wandering to the floor. "We mussst go to the bathrrroommm..."

The Destroyer was silent for a moment, until Typhus finally sensed an affirmative reaction.



Thorne found herself being led up an old wooden staircase, the steps creaking with every footfall. The halls were much more claustrophobic than she had expected from the outside. The tops and bottoms of the walls bore clean strips where wooden moldings had been torn away, likely for firewood.

The man guiding her wore a haphazard mix of body armour; a helmet from the Arena, a vest from Horzine and pieces of scrap metal duct taped to his arms and legs. He rested a shotgun over one shoulder as he led the way, clearly not sensing much danger from the black-haired girl.

Eventually, the halls opened into the true Wolf's Den. The building had once been a dance hall, some two or three decades previous. Now, the dance floor was converted to a den of filth. Debris and rubble was stilled scattered about the floor, though, a good portion of it had been pushed up against the walls. A gaping hole in ceiling let sunlight in, while candles and torches did the rest of the work.

Tables were scattered about, hosting roughly a dozen men. A game of poker was being played at one, a lap dance at another. A trio of scruffy musicians played a disjointed jazz tune in a corner of the room, instead of on stage.

It was there, on the stage, lounging on a beaten up old couch and gnawing on a severed arm, that Thorne found her quarry. The Wolf locked eyes with the black-haired girl, and flashed a predatory grin.


The Wolf roared, and the rats obeyed. Very shortly, not a soul was left in the room aside from the two Maerorus. The wolf tore off a strip of flesh from her snack and gulped it down before tossing the arm aside. She pushed herself up, effortlessly yanking a machete the size of a man's arm out of the wooden stage as she made her way down to the dance floor.

"Lizzy," the Wolf laughed, showing off her sharpened canines. "Long time no see."

Her hair was long and wavy, the colour seeming to shimmer between red and violent as the lighting changed. The Wolf wore a black leather jacket - unzipped with absolutely nothing underneath - and a matching pair of pants with the fly undone. What looked like braces were worn over her elbows and knees. Over her ears, she wore a device that looked to be the bastard child of a pair of headphones and an eggtimer, held on with a headband and a chinstrap. Strangest of all were the pair of stitched seams ran horizontally across her face and neck. Thorne would have recognized her anywhere.

"Gavrill," she said, forcing something of a smile to her face.

Thorne wasn't tall to begin with, but the other woman positively dwarfed her as she approached. The former security officer wagered she was at least six and a half feet, maybe closer to seven.

The former security officer stayed relaxed and still as the elder Madaraki circled around her, eyes glancing up and down, nose constantly sniffing at the air. Without warning, Gavrill stepped up behind Thorne and pressed her nose against the girl's ebony hair, groaning with satisfaction as she took a long, deep whiff.

"Damn, Lizzy. You smell gooood," the Wolf sighed, slowly licking her lips.

Thorne turned sharply, but the taller woman spoke again before she could open her mouth.

"You have shampoo," Gavrill muttered, stepping in front of the black-haired girl. "Good quality, too... Strawberry?"

Thorne stayed silent, her face forming an impassive look teetering on the edge of becoming a scowl.

"I'd kill a man for some good shampoo these days..."

"Or anything else, I'd say."

Gavrill snickered and stepped around her again, this time pulling the stubby shotgun from Thorne's hand as her enormous machete vanished into thin air. She opened the breech, checking to see if it was loaded, then snapped it shut again.

"Funny, Lizzy," she said, turning the weapon over in her hands, "always thought of you as more of a rifle kind of gal."

"I'm adaptable."

The Wolf snorted. "Never been one for guns, but I always liked a good sawed-off. You know what they call these in Italy?"

"What?" Thorne asked, humouring the woman.

"'Lupara'," Gavrill answered. "It means 'for wolves'. As in, 'for HUNTING wolves'."

There was a flurry of movement, and Thorne suddenly found the barrel of the shotgun uncomfortably close to her skull.

"You looking to do some wolf hunting today, Lizzy?"

Without flinching, Thorne replied, "Of a sort."

Gavrill let out a sharp bark of laughter. "That's what I always liked about you, Lizzy!" She said, waving the gun a bit more threateningly than Thorne would have liked. "Show no fear! But... Hnnh. But old Gavrill can smell it on you..."

The Wolf took another long sniff as she paced around Thorne a third time, showing little regard for personal space. Her lips twitched as she did, flashing slivers of pearly white canines. Thorne could hear the sickening sound of Gavrill's tongue running over her teeth. The taller Maerorus shook and groaned as a powerful tingling ran up her spine.

"You're drooling," the black-haired girl remarked.

Gavrill growled and wiped the trickle of saliva with her sleave, her grin fading as she did. "So what can I do for you today? Come to join the pack?"

"Not quite," Thorne replied. She cocked her head at one of the vacated tables. "Why don't we sit down? I have a proposition to discuss."

"A proposition? Oh boy, haven't had one of those lately," the stitched Maerorus found her way to a recently vacated chair, then leaned back and kicked her feet up on to the table. She still held the gun in a weak grip, letting it clang against the chair leg. "So what do you want?"

The security officer took a seat, unable to keep her eyes from darting to the weapon every now and again. "I've gotten myself into a bit of a," she started, pausing to find her words, "situation. I need your help."

"Go on."

"Have you been to the tower lately?"

"Not personally. I make a point to avoid it, but I've been hearing some mighty strange stories. Boys say it's infested with-"


Gavrill smiled, making a point to bare her teeth. "You've been there?"

"I live there," Thorne laughed. "Does the name Typhus mean anything to you?"

"The disease?"

"The Maerorus."

"Never heard of her."

"I was afraid of that." The black-haired girl sighed and ran a hand through her hair, showing off her scars and milky right eye. "She was the second most recent attempt. The most successful, too."

"And... what? She makes zombies?"

Thorne nodded. "And a lot more, but she's just a kid. She doesn't understand any of this. She- She WORSHIPS the Doctor and thinks I'm some kind of big sister. And," she groaned, "I kind of... promised to help her take care of the city."

"Hnnh," Gavrill grunted as she thought. "And you want my help?"

"You're a Madaraki. You're smart. You know science. Medicine. Things we need."

"I can take people apart and put them back together, I understand that much," the Wolf said, "but I'm seeing a problem here. What happens when this... 'Typhus' or whatever the fuck her name is suddenly decides she wants the city all to herself. You make it sound like she could kill us like we're ants or somethin'. "

"She's just a kid, Gavrill. We just need to take care of her and help her make the right decisions."

"Kids GROW UP, Lizzy," the larger Maerorus growled, her lips curling into a snarl as her feet dropped to the ground. "I won't make that mistake again. Take it from me. Sure, she calls you 'big sister' today. You try to protect her, take care of her and bring her up right, but sisters just- They- Hnnngh-"


Gavrill's fists clenched, her knuckles blanching. Muscles in her face twitched and dance as she fought back the searing, singing pain in her skull. "Sisters- Hnh. Sisters get you FUCKED."

"You stand only to gain from this," Thorne said, a dour look on her face. "Don't let old grudges get the better of you. You're letting the Nails put words in your mouth."

The taller Maerorus grunted and rose from her seat, slapping Thorne's shotgun down on the table as she did. A giant machete appeared in either of her hands as she paced around the room. Even from a distance, Thorne could make out minute muscle spasms in the elder Madaraki's face and arms as she fought back the killing urge of the Butcher's Nails.

Gavrill Madaraki had been the first of many to receive the malignant surgical enhancements - and the sole survivor of the operation prior to Ekaterina Valnikov. The Doctor had once explained the procedure to Thorne, but, as usual, the finer details were lost on the primordial Maerorus. The Nails were complex instruments; lodged just above the ears and penetrating six inches into the brain, they controlled any number of functions, all designed to promote and reward violent rage.

However, as the Doctor soon realized, promoting aggression had the unfortunate side-effect of making subjects all the harder to control, especially when said subjects were designed to be capable of single-handedly wiping out entire Officios. The experiments were halted after the Doctor was forced to put down several perfectly good Maerorus. After the tragedy that was Typhus, she rethought the procedure's physical standards and began to formulate a new variant of the Butcher's Nails. Less invasive, less potent, easier to command.

The damage to Gavrill Madaraki, however, had long since been done.

The stitched girl turned her head to face Thorne at long last. As she spoke, Thorne could hear the withheld rage tainting her words. "Two conditions," Gavrill stated. "First, I want the arena. My territory, no strings attached."

"Done. Not like there's much competition. The second?"

"The second. Hrnnh," Gavrill's lip twitched into a snarling grin. "Someday, and I don't know when, I'm going to hunt down that bitch sister of mine. It might be a month from now, it might be years. I don't know. But someday, I'm going to want my revenge and I want you and the rest of this city at my back when I do."

Thorne thought for a moment, getting up and taking her shotgun as she did. "Assuming we haven't killed each other by then," she said, trying to match the Wolf's predatory expression, "I think we have a deal."