Henry Wolfinger didn't need the cane, most of the time, but it helped with the steep hills and—he joked, despite meaning every word of it—the occasional recalcitrant wolf. He leaned on it now as he descended the trail from the mountain pass. This journey had never appealed to him; neither coming nor going had left pleasant memories in its wake. Still, he'd come this way a couple times before to do precisely what he was doing today and the routine brought him a semblance of peace as he walked.
That peace was left behind as he reached his destination: a mile away from the lake, two graves marked with simple wood crosses. One was significantly smaller than the other.
Except now, there was a third - another wooden cross next to the first two, and the deep pit of an open grave.
Wolfinger slowed to a stop, taking in the scene with a frown.
"... alright," He spoke with a faint huff, "You have my attention."
A woman's voice drifts from the treeline, just beyond the makeshift headstones.
"I apologize for the dramatics. Had to be certain you'd show."
Wolfinger narrowed his eyes , reaching into a pocket of his vest and withdrawing a handkerchief, which he brushed against his mouth before speaking again. “Mm. What do you want with me?”
The woman took a step out of shadow – not quite where her voice was coming from , but close. She was not much younger than him, but looked as though she’d been in a war for decades. Several large scars marred the side of one cheek, and her clothes looked as though they had been torn and mended many times over.
“I believe we have a common enemy, Mister Wolfinger. You seek retribution, but you won’t find it at a cost you can bear here. Instead, I-“
“You don’t know me.” Wolfinger interrupts, scowling.
The woman offers a faint smile, then glances off to one side. She began to speak distantly, as if reciting something from memory.
“Henry Wolfinger – Anglicized from Heinrich. Born in June of Eighteen Twenty, in a small town in Germany. Emigrated to the Americas with family in Eighteen Thirty, married in Eighteen Thirty-Eight, sired a daughter shortly thereafter. Made a living as a merchant, and eventually purchased a herd of cattle to take West and sell at a premium. Joined with the Boggs Company in June of Eighteen Forty-Six, unaware that several members of the company were beacons to malevolent spirits. Left Boggs Company with the Donner Party, eventually lost the majority of the cattle herd through various means. Suffered a murder attempt by Keseberg, Reinhard and Spitzer in October – survived, but feigned disappearance while tracking the party until December, whereupon you finally took vengeance upon the three.”
The woman continues to recite, almost offhandedly.
“Endured several months of near-starvation, hostile weather, and spirit-induced torment, some of which was invoked by the nearby and very territorial Wendigo sept – in part due to the previously-mentioned spirit curse and some encroaching Wyrm influence upon the Sept. Resorted to cannibalism along with many others of the Donner Party, including your family members – both of whom died prior to the party’s escape of the area. Afterwards, began delving into occult works, amassing a significant amount of power to fuel a protracted campaign of attrition against the Sept held responsible for the entire affair. Moved to Quarry Creek and opened a general store as a base of operations, until very recently.”
A moment passed. Then another.
Eventually, Wolfinger spoke with a faint harrumph in his voice.
“Alright, you do know me.”
“And what do you want?”
“Your help. I have a war of my own to fight, Mister Wolfinger, and my enemies include more than a few fallen Wendigo. This world isn’t large enough for both you and the Fremont Pass Sept – I suggest you join me in fighting for another.”
Wolfinger listens thoughtfully to the woman, before nodding. “You’re not wearing any red ribbons, are you?”
The question elicits a quiet laugh from the woman. “Hardly. According to my research, that would be the work of a Fiction spirit. This is as real as it gets. So, Mister Wolfinger – will you help?”
There is silence for a few moments longer.
Finally, “I will. So. How do we do this?”
The woman takes a few steps closer, giving a faint smile. “I apologize again for the dramatics… but how else?” She promptly steps into the air above the open grave… and vanishes into the unseen depths of the pit.
After a quiet sigh and a shake of his head, Wolfinger follows.
… several hours later, a local Pattern Spider passes by and promptly loses its composure, calling in over a dozen others of its kind to seal the area.
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