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Humans are rightly afraid of the dark. Lacking the more refined senses of other species, humanity must carry light into shadows to drive away the things that dwell there. The dark places in the Hedge are even more dangerous. Instead of holding some imagined boogeyman or a thug that wants your wallet, the shadows in the Hedge hide creatures at home in the murky twilight. Hobgoblins howl as the sun sets and are only noticed out of the corner of an eye, vanishing when light is turned upon them.
Shadow wolves hunt the broken trails of the Hedge in the dark of night, sleeping during the day and hiding from painful light. They travel in packs of three or more, their noses to the ground sniffing for the scent of travelers in their territory. They prefer their meat flavored with pain and horror and are known to play with their food. Shadow wolves hold a particular hatred for changelings of the Summer Court, who illuminate the blessed darkness with the light of a false sun. Hobgoblins tell disquieting stories about changelings that lose all reason when faced with a pack of shadow wolves and go haring off into the Hedge in chase. Very few of these foolish Lost are ever heard from again and the hobs swear that the pack grows each time.
Normal wolves rarely attack humans, unless they are rabid or starving. The majority of wolf attacks are the result of humans too stupid to back down when they come too close to a wolves’ den or after they’ve trapped or injured one of the animals. But shadow wolves hunt for pleasure. They enjoy the feeling of chasing frightened prey, of ripping into soft flesh with their black teeth. Shadow wolves do more than just hunt prey, however, they terrorize. The wolves leap from shadows to nip at flanks or barrel into their victims from behind, knocking them to the ground. Again, though cruel, these tactics are no different than any number of similar fae predators that can be found in the Hedge. Shadow wolves are much, much more than simple predators.
The eyes of a shadow wolf are listless orbs of black that refuse to reflect any light. To stare into the eyes of the beasts is to become lost in them and open the way to your soul. When a pack first catches the scent of prey, the pack alpha glides forward to scout. If the prey turns out to be a single victim, the alpha howls for the rest of the pack and the hunt begins. If, on the other hand, their prey travels in a group, the alpha will slink around that group until he manages to catch the eye of one of the travelers. As soon as the alpha makes eye contact, he leaps, becoming pure shadow, and attempts to invade the body of the prey. If the possession is successful, the alpha uses the body to lure other members of the group off one-by-one to his waiting pack. If not, the alpha races away to reunite with the pack, running just slow enough to make sure the prey is following.
Hobgoblins know better than to chase anything through the Hedge. Changelings can’t seem to resist. The battle between pack and prey becomes a running fight, with shadow wolves popping out to attack before running off again. Eventually the prey will tire, from fatigue and blood loss, and the pack will slow the pace to move in for the kill. Usually. Sometimes, the pack continues to run, always staying maddeningly just out of reach. At first the chase is a voluntary one, with the pursuer eager to catch and kill his attackers.
As the chase wears on, though, the victim feels as though he’s being pulled along. His shadow stretches out in front of him, dragging him through the Thorns like a dog on a leash. As he tires, the victim begins to stumble, cutting himself on the thorns of the Hedge over and over again until he bleeds from a thousand shallow cuts. When he finally collapses, ragged beyond all endurance, his shadow continues to run, pulling his soul clear of his body. The shadow begins to take on the shape of a wolf and soon it joins the pack, the newest member leading the way back to fresh meat.
Shadow wolves look much like normal wolves if you ignore the fact their very skin seems to be made of darkness. Three to four feet in length, every bit of the hobgoblin is black as night, including teeth and eyes. Their growls rustle the leaves of the Thorns with bass vibrations and their howls are the awful, coughing retch of a dying cancer patient. Their movements are completely silent, even when passing over dry leaves or other substances that should betray their presence.
Average Shadow Wolf
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 4, Resolve 3
Physical Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3
Social Attributes: Presence 2, Manipulation 4, Composure 2
Mental Skills: None
Physical Skills: Athletics (Lope) 5, Brawl (Bite) 4, Stealth 5, Survival (Scent) 5
Social Skills: Expression 3
Merits: Danger Sense, Direction Sense, Fleet of Foot 3
Speed: 26 (species factor 12)
Contracts: Smoke 2
Glamour/per Turn: 11/2
Armor: 2 (Shadowskin)
• Shadowskin: The body of a shadow wolf is only partially solid. Physical attacks can injure the beast, but the damage is always less than might be expected. This grants the wolf an effective Armor Rating of 2 against all attacks. In addition, the wolf gains a +2 bonus to all Stealth rolls as a result of its natural camouflage. Their shadowy natures do come with some disadvantages, however. If the wolves are exposed to any light source stronger than a candle flame, they suffer a –2 penalty on all actions and lose the Armor Rating from Shadowskin.
• Pack Tactics: Shadow wolves use their feral intelligence, cunning and pack awareness to attack as a team, rather than as individuals, each strike benefiting from the one that came before it. Any character that is attacked by a shadow wolf has her Defense reduced by two for that turn (rather than the usual one) for the next attack by another member of the pack.
• Windows to the Soul: Only available to the alpha of a shadow wolf pack, this Aspect lets the wolf attempt to possess their prey. Roll the alpha’s Presence + Manipulation +2 versus the target’s Resolve + Composure. If the target wins the roll, the attempt at possession fails. If the alpha wins the roll, the target becomes possessed for the remainder of the scene. If the possessed takes damage from any source while under the control of the alpha, the possession immediately ends and the alpha is ejected from the body. Alphas may only use this Aspect once per night.
• Strength in Numbers: Only a fool chases the unknown through the Thorns. For each turn a character chases the shadow wolves she must make a Stamina + Resolve roll at a cumulative –1 penalty (maximum of –5). If a roll is failed, the character takes one point of lethal damage as her shadow seems to pull her into the Thorns. A character may choose to stop chasing the wolves at any time, unless he suffers a dramatic failure on the Stamina + Resolve roll or suffers a total of five points of lethal damage.
In either of these circumstances the character must make a Strength + Composure roll in order to rein in her shadow and come to a halt. Other characters that tackle or otherwise hinder the character as she runs, must hold the character still for two turns before the compulsion to chase the wolves is lifted. This may call for opposed grappling checks (see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 157). If a character fills the last point of her Health track with lethal damage inflicted by chasing the pack, her shadow and soul pull away from her body and join to become a shadow wolf. The body left behind exists in a coma state (and gravely injured) and if some way is discovered to reunite body, soul, and shadow, the character may recover.
- Dancers in the Dusk, p. 114-115