[AW] I'm don't want fate handed down to me
Clements Park
The place stunk of metal and a sour, tangy odor that belonged to the half-melted plastic and acrylic remains left behind from the last apocalypse. It was thickly overgrown now, with vines and other climbing plants doing their best to choke out the ugly place. Grass stuck up out of cracked concrete pathways, which were still warm underfoot despite the sinking sun.

Oberyn could not entirely explain what had drawn him here. Curiosity, certainly, but he saw nothing of value that should have led to his lingering. This was nothing but a garbage dump: ruins that should have been destroyed in one of the last natural disasters. The fact it had stubbornly remained proved one thing – the creatures who had come before had not intended to go without leaving their mark on the world.

This bothered Oberyn in a philosophical manner. It was hubris to imagine one might carry on forever. They were living creatures, destined to one day leave behind a mortal coil. It was why they bore children, and why the passing on of legends and stories was so important. Would he want to leave behind an ugly ruin like this for his descendants? Was this not what Cour des Miracles had done, when they burnt the old hotel and left its remains behind like the bones of a long-gone carcass?

With a huff, the wolfdog turned to find his way out of the old amusement park.

Open for one!
Laughter rang on the wind. It was an ugly, raw thing, mingling with the scent of smoke and sea. A chilly breeze picked up, stirring the grasses that poked through aging concrete. Fall was in the air, but everything seemed a touch colder and more humid as the oceanic wind blew.

An old sign creaked, then banged loudly against weathered bricks before snapping. It fell from where precarious tendrils of rusting metal held it to its fastenings. Clattering and crashing with all manner of noise, a few birds and a couple of rats skittered away in panic. The air grew colder still, the sunlight just a bit darker.

Then, something soft and yellow-white began to appear. It poked its head out from behind a rusting caricature of a horse. The merry-go-round prop leaned against a building, paint peeling and ghastly. Its face was pulled back in an eternal scream, ears pinned against its wild-looking head. Its eyes had long been washed out by rain and snow, but the eyes of the creature behind it glowed yellow. They were like embers, smoking with incandescence that rose in wisps from their gaze.

"Well hel-lo," a distant, echoing voice crooned from the thing. Its accent was distinct, resembling that of the folk that came from the island further north of 'Souls. "An' who might dis be, skulkin' 'round dis old, dead place?"
A strange noise drifted through the old metal, and Oberyn paused to try and identify the source. He couldn't smell anything close: there had been no sign of life in this abandoned place beyond the rats and scavengers looking for them. For a moment he had thought that the sound belonged to a person, but as he peered around the overgrown area, Oberyn could see nothing out of the ordinary.

There was a sudden cacophony of noise that brought him to stiff attention. Oberyn jumped at the crash and his fur prickled to high points. Despite his wolfish build and features, a series of deep barks erupted from his chest – warning that whatever was present he was aware of them, and not to be trifled with.

Even so, the feeling of being watched did not give way. He bristled as the smell of smoke tickled his nose.

It wasn't a Luperci that emerged to face him, though, but something strange. It looked like a wolf, he thought, but he could see through it. Strange lights shone from its eyes, or where its eyes should be. The smoke-smell was coming from it, but there was no fire, and worst of all, no further scent to suggest that what he was seeing was a flesh-and-blood creature.

Supernatural fear crept into Oberyn's heart, but before he could rationalize what it was he was looking at, the damned thing spoke.

He stared at it.

“What are you?” Oberyn demanded.
A chuckle, low and raspy, is what answered Oberyn's question. Something molten and golden-yellow - was that a tongue? - slipped out from smoky jaws. It ran over thin, stringy wisps that ended in points in the being's mouth, pulling apart like sinew as the maw opened. The creature took a couple of steps forward, eyes not leaving the wolfdog's.

"What am I?" came an echo, though the being's mouth didn't move. It was a useful trick, he had recently discovered, for unnerving the living he came across. "I t'ink de better question is: who are you?"

His other half materialized in a gust of wind. Fog and cloud wrapped around his body to form legs and a tail, the latter of which swished to and fro. Ears and that appendage held high, the creature came closer to Oberyn. "I know who I am. All you see is dat which are. But does de wee pup, so full of life an' strengt', know what he is in de world?"
Though the fear of the spectre put Oberyn on edge, he dredged up old lore from his father – God was a shield to all His believers. If this thing was real, and not simply an illusion, it existed within the framework of God's plan and purpose. A demon would have chosen a form more pleasing to his eyes. It would have tried to lure him away with trickery, not come forward with such certainty.

More than this, it was on four legs, and not two. This made Oberyn think it was from another time. The voice it used was peculiar, certainly, but he had heard the accent in his travels. That alone marked it as something once from the mortal world (though he supposed if it was trying to trick him, it might choose to use a stolen voice).

The longer they faced one another, the more he took in its form. It was a wolf, he thought. It was not bigger than Oberyn, and this brought some of his courage back.

Could it hurt him if he did not fear it?

Uncertain, Oberyn held his ground and mirrored the dominant position the ghost presented.

“Oberyn is my name,” he revealed. “I know myself, same as you. Now that I've answered your questions, answer mine. What are you? What are you called?”
The wolfdog's fear, though still on the air, was eclipsed by his bravery. The spirit chuffed, impressed. For this, it lowered its tail and ears, taking to its haunches in a slow sit. Its golden eyes narrowed at the still-living canine.

"I no longer 'ave a name," the spirit answered. It was truthful, to an extent - this stranger didn't need to know the moniker it had given itself. It was as close a true name the spirit would ever have again. "It rotted away wi' me body, wherever de crows an' ravens took it. If I am ter be someone, den consider me de spirit o' this place: a t'ing o' de auld, the broken-down, an' dat which nature 'as taken."

The being cocked its head at Oberyn. "Ye are a fit an' 'ealthy beast, not meant for deat'," it observed. "Why 'ave ye come to dis rustin' place? Do ye question its existence? Were you 'untin' somet'in', me fella?"

No longer did the spirit seem domineering and demanding. Rather, it approached Oberyn in casual conversation, as if this were neutral ground. Considering no pack called this place home, it was, and the spirit saw no use in treating it otherwise. Oberyn was too strong-hearted a soul to sup delicious fear from, the emotion fading away from him.
The thing – the ghost – it behaved not unlike a living creature. Oberyn watched it warily, and listened to the far-away-but-close voice in which it spoke. The questions it – he? – asked only perplexed the wolfdog, who furrowed his brow and frowned as he considered them.

“There's not much to hunt here, is there?” Oberyn scoffed. He looked at the ruins around them and imagined that even if deer passed through the area, they likely moved on soon enough. The elk didn't come this far north, not when the forest sprawled towards the east. Hunting would be bad here. There were too many sharp edges hidden in the brush, and too many unnatural changes in the terrain to navigate without risking a fall.

“I'm a scout,” he admitted, thinking this was a fair assessment of his role. They had yet to truly define these in their collective, but he had been a scout long before he returned. “I wanted to see if anything had changed in this area, but it doesn't look like it has – that's unfortunate,” Oberyn added with a toothy sneer. “Places like this shouldn't stand.”

Realizing, belatedly, that the spirit might have called the old carnival grounds home, the wolfdog focused his attention back on the semi-translucent shape. “Did you die here?” He was to-the-point now, lacking the empathy a spiritualist might have offered. “I always thought spirits passed on after death. Why haven't you?”
The specter shrugged. He had never figured out where he died, or how. He had materialized one day on the Loch Fundy land bridge, and to that strip of rock his spirit was still attached. Not that it was a question he was asked often - he thought then of Darkness, the strange wolfdog-girl with odd dreams. She had asked him many such questions in their brief time knowing each other.

"Yer plannin' on doin' anythin' about places like dis?" the spirit asked. "Yer right in dat they shouldn't exist. Fierce queer places o' hubris, they are. I'm gobsmacked so many of our folk use them for shelter." He didn't elaborate on whether he meant the dead or the living.

Lifting his foggy nose to the air, the spirit made a motion of sniffing, though he made no sound to suggest such. "Are dere any others witcha?" asked the beast.
[Image: lantern.png]  Wordtober! 10/03 - phantom:  a ghost.
Maybe, maybe not. There was no reason for the ghost to be honest with him. If it remained here, cast out from the light of God, perhaps some purpose compelled its presence. That was, he supposed, assuming it was a creature of good intentions. The phantom could have as easily been deceptive by nature. If it sought to do him harm, he was uncertain how he could stop it from doing so. If it was not not flesh and blood, though, could it harm him?

Puzzled by this riddle set before him, Oberyn found himself talking to the damned thing as if it surely was alive. It seemed real enough: he could think of no reason he would see a ghost if not for the fact it was there. He had suffered no injury. He had not consumed anything that would befoul his mind. To his recollection, he had not been bewitched.

Besides, he was curious. It wasn't every day something confirmed that a spirit, a conscious, could exist after death.

Especially an agreeable one.

“Maybe,” he offered without true answer. “It might be better if someone tore it down.”

This was the best way to go about seeing if the ghost had any reason to think otherwise. If it was not bound to the earth here, then why was it here? Each new question spurred another, and another.

“I'm alone right now,” Oberyn said. “I have a mate. We hunt with others who live like us. There aren't many, but some still value the old ways.”

He eyed the spirit, and wondered aloud: “How long have you been here?”

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