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Foreword

The story of Dexter Mooney, the boy who became Moonwolf, is all too common
these days; a troubled kid from a broken home travels to the Big City to
seek solace, distance, and a new life, one free of suffering.  Yes, all too
common.  My own story is similar, and perhaps that’s why I befriended him.  
Perhaps I saw something in him no one else could see, perhaps I only saw
myself.  It doesn’t matter.  There is only one detail of Dexter’s story
different from the one described above; on the way to the Big City Dexter
Mooney’s body and mind were invaded by an unappeasable demonic consciousness
that tried to exert control over him.  The problems Dexter believed would
end when he ran away from home began anew with an intensity he never could
have predicted.  One moment he was a teenage runaway seeking shelter from a
storm in a secluded cave and the next he was the unwilling host for the
creature that called itself the Minion, a wolf-like servant of the mages of
the Circle of Thorns.  But oh, this was no ordinary Minion.  No, it was
something far more powerful.

Dexter’s story is filled with anguish and despair.  This is also common here
in Paragon City.  Still not out of his teens, Dexter was to fight monsters
most teenagers see only in their nightmares.  He was to battle the dark
forces inside him for control of his mind and his will.  He was to come face
to face with death and with the tragic consequences of his own weakness.  
And he was to be terribly scarred by it.

But it is also a story of survival and triumph, for in the end Dexter was
not controlled by the Minion.  He did not succumb to the rapacious needs of
the evil being within him.  In the end Dexter Mooney emerged from the
shadows whole and undaunted.  The moon, which for him was at once a symbol
of comfort and dread, no longer drove his desires.  In the end Dexter Mooney
came out of the dark clouds and into the sun.



                       Part One
                     Moonshadow


“Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow---
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow---
Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?”
-- Cat Stevens


                         Chapter 1:
                  The Mist in the Alley

The moment I first saw Dexter Mooney I was convinced we were both going to
get the tar kicked out of us.  I was coming home from another long day at
the Galaxy City Herald when I was accosted outside my apartment by three
tough looking Hellions.  (Actually, all Hellions looked tough to me then,
with their Satanic tattoos and their leather clothes and their faces painted
into menacing masks.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen far worse things since –
things that would make those three Hellions run in terror.)

I had no money, a fact they neither believed nor cared about.  They were out
for a good old-fashioned butt whipping and they were going to use my butt.  
They backed me into a corner behind my apartment.  One had a wooden baseball
bat.  As they slowly advanced the only sound was the tap-tap-tap of the bat
on the palm of his hand.  I called desperately for help.  When no help came
their leader laughed in my face; a full, throaty bark of triumph.  His
rancid breath made me wince.  Then one of them turned.  He had sensed
something – something in the darkness of the building’s shadow.

“Reggie --,” he whispered.
“What?” replied the leader with teeth clenched, his eyes never leaving me.
“I see somethin’ in the shadows.”
“Well what is it?”
“I--, I think it’s a --,” began the second Hellion, but when he received
Reggie’s cold stare he nervously added:  “Naw.  Nevermind.  It was probably
just a dog.  Just a mangy dog.”
“When we’re done here we’ll catch it and beat it to death, too.”
“’Too’?  What do you mean, ‘too’?” I asked.
“I mean ‘also’,” said Reggie with a wide grin.

Just as they started toward me again something began to happen.  A dark
mist, foul smelling, like the pungent odor of decaying flesh, started to
move over the ground toward the Hellions.  “What the --?” said one of them.  
It billowed from a source, I now realized.  That source stood in the alley
facing the three muggers.

It was a young man who couldn’t have been more than sixteen, dressed in
jeans, a flannel shirt and an old brown jacket too big for him.  The wan
yellow light of a nearby street lamp reflected off his spectacles, giving
him two large round golden eyes.  The mist caressed his shins like a hundred
black cats.

Reggie immediately pulled a pistol from his waistband.  He didn’t get to be
leader for nothing.
“Back off, Skitch.”
“Leave him alone,” said the boy.  I realized he meant me.

It wasn’t the confident announcement of a seasoned Hero like Statesman.  It
wasn’t even the self-convincing declaration of a fledgling Hero, new to the
game.  It was the simple request of a teenage boy, hollow and thin, and it
had far too much fear in it.  Reggie smiled.

“Guess we found your mangy dog, Twig.  Now we gonna have twice the fun.”  He
cocked the gun and pointed it at the young man.
“Please,” said the boy, almost pleading.  “Leave him alone.  Just leave, all
of you.  It’s coming and I can’t control it yet.”
“What, your bladder?” snapped the third Hellion.  “Poor little boy’s gonna
piss his pants, is he?”
“Get away.  It’s rising,” said the boy, his voice strangely lower now.  The
hairs on my neck went stiff.  I took an involuntary step back, pressing
myself hard against the cold brick.
“Oh, no, boyo,” said Reggie, taking a step toward the young man.  “It’s you
who’s goin’ to get away.  Far away.  All the way to Hell!”

Without warning, and as if in defiance of Reggie to shoot him, the young man
stepped forward himself and planted his feet wide apart.  His fists clenched
and his lips curled away from his teeth in a snarl of pure hatred.  Had he
gotten taller somehow, or was that a trick of the shadows?
“Hell?” came the deep, snarling response.  Whatever it was, it was not the
voice of the boy.  “I’ll show you what Hell is!”

In an instant the dark mist exploded up and out, engulfing the four of them.
  I confess I closed my eyes, believing with all certainty that I was about
to die and I didn’t want to go to my Maker having seen the thing that boy
summoned to that alley.

The darkness was full of chaos.  Something big and awful scratched and
growled.  There was a strange sensation that the air had somehow gotten
thicker and was filling up the small alley.  I could feel a kind of pressure
on me, on my senses, like a wave of heat.  The smell was awful.  I choked
back the bile that rose into my mouth.  I heard the sudden muffled gasp of
one who has just been struck hard in the stomach with something.  I heard a
gunshot, then another.  I heard Twig’s baseball bat hit the asphalt.  I
heard the unmistakable sickening snap of a broken bone.  Then another.  Then
another.

Many moments passed.  When the smell faded I gathered the courage to open my
eyes.  The boy was there.  Around him lay the three Hellions.  They were
breathing, but not moving.  Reggie’s gun was gone.  One of Twig’s legs was
twisted under him at an unnatural angle.  The boy sat in the dirty yellow
light of my back stoop, playing quietly with the zipper on his jacket.
“Are you hurt, kid?”
He shook his head.  “No,” he said softly.  The boy’s normal voice was back.

I cautiously approached.  He must have sensed my fear because he chuckled
and said, “It’s okay, mister.  I’m not going to hurt you.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” I quipped.
He looked up then.  I could see he was upset by what I’d said.  I felt a
stab of guilt.  “Look, I just mean --.”
“I know what you mean,” he replied.  “It’s getting better, you know.  It
doesn’t rise like that very often, but man, when it smells fear like your
fear…”
“What?  What rises?”

But he fell silent and I knew he wasn’t going to say more on the subject.  I
realized something then: I couldn’t let this kid get away.  Call it
selfishness or charity or whatever you want, but I knew I was onto a story
here, a big story.  And there was something else, something more personal
tugging at me to see about this boy, this lonely boy.  I also knew that this
small young man needed help.  I could see now the thin face, the pale
expression.  The kid was starving to death.

“Hey,” I said, “how about I buy you a steak dinner?  It’s the least I can do
after what you, or whatever, did for me.”
“You’re not freaked out?”
“What, by this?” I made a sweeping gesture toward the Hellions.  “You
haven’t been here that long, have you?  Strange things happen all the time
in this city, kid.”
He seemed relieved by my reaction.
“Just not very often to me,” I continued, helping him to his feet.  “So let
me buy you dinner.  After all this excitement I’ll never get to sleep
anyway.  And if you want you can tell me all about how you did what you just
did.”
There was a moment of hesitation while he sized up whether he could trust
me.
“Okay, mister,” he said at last.  “Thanks.  But as far as the explaining how
I did – that…  I don’t think I can.  At least not yet.”
“Fair enough.”  I replied, extending my hand.  “Theo Foss, Galaxy City
Herald.”
“Dexter Mooney,” he said, taking my hand in a strong grip for one so thin.  
“Runaway.”
He stared at me, waiting.

“I figured as much,” I assured him as we started walking.  “It’s okay, kid.  
This is Paragon City.  You’ll have a job doing something in no time.  Hell,
if you really can smell fear you can go to work for the Creys and become a
millionaire.  I hear they pay well for stuff like that.”
His face lit up.  “Really?” he asked.
“No, kid.  Not really,” I chuckled.  At least, I hope not, I thought.
“Well I gotta find a job soon.  I’m getting tired of sleeping in the park
and eating from dumpsters.”
“You could always work in our mail room,” I offered.  “The paper’s always
looking for bright young men who can beat the crap out of three armed
Hellions.”
“I’ll put it on my resume.”
I stopped and looked at him to see if he was kidding and realized he was.  
We had a good laugh.

He’s a good kid, I thought as we walked.  That was right before I realized
my hand, the hand he shook, was covered in blood.

TO CHAPTER 2 >


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