It had been a very long since Eugene had walked the streets of New Orleans. It reminded him of some of the streets in Philadelphia where he first grew up – gothic, decorated features adorning buildings that struggled against decay.
Our posse found Dead Man’s Rest without too much trouble, tucked between two larger buildings outside the French Quarter, down a narrow set of stairs in a basement. Someone slipped a piano roll into the piano in the corner, lending a jovial air to the meeting. Garish faces watched them walk in, milky eyed and narrow, sniffing at the air like they were fresh meat. The bartender had pock-marks like that of a rotted corpse, but served Laslow decent whiskey nonetheless. Soon they found Clarisse and Stefan.
Before Eugene could finally put this all to rest, he’d have to prove to Madame Laveaux that he could handle a job like this without botching it. There would be no second chances, so they couldn’t take chances on Eugene or his posse. Of course, they weren’t counting on getting half a dozen hardened hunters. They needed the posse to clear Saint Gregory’s cemetery out of its ghoul problem.
“Anything else we should know?” Eugene asked with a raised eyebrow, looking to Clarisse.
“No nothing. I suppose if you make a terrible racket, you might expect the local police. Try not to destroy the gravestones.”
Felix shrugged. “Well there goes my plan to use dynamite.”
“That’s it?” Eugene thought back to the army of ghouls they’d already killed almost a year ago, and just how much they’d all learned on the road since then.
“That’s it. What, you gettin’ chicken already?” Stefan taunted.
“I’m just wondering if you really know who we are? And if so, what it is we’re missing. I like to be prepared.”
“Mmmm.” Stefan sucked his teeth. “That’s all, if you don’t go running. It’s not an easy task. Some of the people here go out in teams when they’re up for it. It’s a constant menace.” The posse took another look around at the Harrowed in the room.
“Huh.” Eugene looked from Clarisse to Stefan. “Really? Seems rather too easy. Is there a ghoul king we should know about?” He remembered the master that stared back at him from across the wasteland flats back in Burnside. It occurred to him that he never did meet that ghoul king face to face, and he may be lucky for it.
Ru rolled his eyes. “Eugene, really, you’re gonna stop having a pissing contest and get on with it.”
Eugene frowned. “Ru, you should know better. I’m making sure we’re not walking into a trap.” To Stefan he said, “Just seems like there’s something we’re missing. How many are there?”
“A dozen, no more.” Stefan answered flatly. “Can you handle it?”
“Yes,” Eugene searched his mind through all the research he’d been doing in the past year on supernatural phenomenon, and came up with a myriad of ghoul-like creatures that could get them in serious trouble quickly. Meanwhile Ru and Min chattered about Eugene’s posturing.
“Come off it Eugene.” Min snickered. “Stop comparing the size of your cock. Let’s get on with it.”
Eugene’s face clouded over. “Min, you should know better. I was the one who discovered the weaknesses to those ghouls back in Burnside. It was my careful research that did that. I was the one that killed those ghouls when you were just about overwhelmed. I’m trying to make sure we’re not walking into something we can’t get out of.” Turning quickly back to Stefan, “Alright. Yes, we can handle it. But a lot has changed Stefan. I don’t just walk into things blindly anymore. We’ll get the job done. We always do.” Min and Ru blinked. They’d never seen Eugene rattled. Maybe it was all just getting to him. Maybe he was so close that the fear of losing Clarisse again was getting to him. Maybe he just didn’t want to let a whole new group of people down.
They left shortly after and prepared for the evening’s ghoulish activities. Felix seemed intent on having a ball near Bourbon Street – never one to miss an opportunity for drink or experience. And while the posse gathered in the public square, watching the end of the day’s market dwindle, Laslow noticed someone slip past Eugene and snip a lock of his hair. The figure, lithe and black as a shadow, was gone done an alley before Laslow could even take a half dozen steps. He told Eugene, but Eugene could do nothing to track the figure.
The left for the cemetery. As Iniwa opened the creaky iron gate they saw the enormous graveyard stretch before them, shrouded in mist. The vapors stirred around the stones playing tricks on the mind. The sound of the city disappeared. Ru swallowed and could sense the bad energy. Iniwa resolutely took out his cudgel. Felix said it was a shame they couldn’t use the dynamite he was saving. It would make it so much easier… Eugene wryly replied, “We’ve got nothing to fear. Just a dozen ghouls.” No one believed that anymore. “Shut it,” Ru said irritated. “I can’t hear anything with all your jabber.”
And so, decidedly more grim than they were a few hours ago, they crept into the graveyard. Ru trailed them in the shadows, and eventually Min saw a movement in the shadows. They had split seconds to react. Eugene threw a light ahead with a flick of his wrist, revealing fast moving ghouls rushing out from behind gravestones, ignoring the light. Already, these were not your everyday ghouls, thought Eugene. Ru screamed out as a massive ghoul threw a heavy claw into his ribs with a crunch. Somehow it had seen him and walked almost straight out of shadow. Laslow was surrounded in the next seconds. He got off one glancing shot with his massive rifle, blowing a hole in a ghoul’s shoulder but it only stumbled a few steps and recovered. Iniwa rushed to defend Felix who shot madly into the dark. Eugene took a breadth and pulled the air around him to make himself harder to hit. Another massive ghoul stepped out of the shadows behind him. It looked otherwise normal in the moment he had to assess it.
Iniwa was hacking away at the ghouls in front while Felix shot at their skulls. Together they were barely keeping the four in the front at bay. Ru was locked in hand-to-hand combat with one of the massive ghouls, now noticing its glowing black irises, shining with ghost stone. Eugene “quickened” himself by cheating the same energies the manitou used, then attempted to slip past the ghost-eyed ghoul beside him to help Laslow. It threw a claw into his chest with frightening speed, knock him back, but he rolled with it, ignoring the bruised bones, and shot three heavy and silvered bolts from his fingertips into three separate ghouls beside Laslow. One dropped, and that bought Laslow time to finish off two that staggered against the magical bolts. Ru managed to hack away at the ghoul beside him, heaving as he tried to cut its head off. Iniwa and Felix finished off their ghouls. Seeing that Laslow was OK, Eugene nodded to him and turned back at the creature beside him. Three brilliant flashes flew into its chest, knocking it to its feet. Iniwa charged with a war cry and cut the ghoul’s head off.
They came back late that night to Dead Man’s Rest covered in bits of decaying skin, corpse pulp, and black icor. Eugene took some satisfaction that despite the very insufficient information they were relatively unscathed. “Good enough?” he asked Stefan.
“More than good enough. Very impressive.”
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