A black towncar pulls up to the Grand Hotel, once the tallest building in the heart of the City and still an impressive stone structure. An older man steps out, straightens his tie, and goes up the stairs into the hotel lobby. He stops to admire the marble floor, stone pillars, and opulent furnishings before moving to the front desk. As he does so, he takes off his hat to reveal a head of whispy grey hair.
He easily arranges for the penthouse suite for an extended stay. While his room is prepared, he goes to the dining room for something to eat. At the end of his meal, he pulls out a black pack of cigarettes and lights one. When a waitress challenges him, he simply replies “there is smoking in my dining room”, and tells her to speak to the manager.
The manager arrives almost immediately, apologizing profusely that she didn’t have time to inform the staff about the changeover. He asks the waitress’ name and says to promote her, in commendation for doing her job properly. The manager goes to make note of the promotion, leaving the man to enjoy his cigarette in peace.
The next morning, those who slept in the manor gather in the kitchen for breakfast. Part way through their meal, they can hear something scrabbling against the door, trying to get in. Terin opens the door to find Little-Guardian in a state of panic. She runs into the room, paws slipping across the floor, her entire body quivering in an apparent attempt to communicate. Em shifts into lupus, and finds out that Watches-the-Moon won’t wake up.
The group hurries outside, and follows Little-Guardian to the edge of the property where the find Watches-the-Moon. He is unconscious, apparently sleeping, and shows no sign of injury. In lupus form, Sarajane examines him more closely but can’t find anything wrong. Back in homid form she double checks, and tells the others he appears to be in a coma.
Shifting to lupus, Terin does her best to question Little-Guardian as to what happened. Little-Guardian promises nothing strange happened. She then asks who the alpha is, so she will know who to listen to. When Terin says there is no alpha, she seems horribly confused. Terin does her best to reassure the wolf that she is among friends, but can tell she isn’t entirely successful. Only when she becomes more forceful – “I tell you, he will be okay” – does Little-Guardian calm down.
Em, meanwhile, goes into the umbra to see if Watches-the-Moon’s spirit has gone walking the same way Speaks-with-Gaia’s seems to. The umbral-forest is similar to the one she just left, but has a different air to it. She calls out for the spirits, hoping someone – or something – may have seen Watches-the-Moon. She spots what looks like a raccoon, and questions him.
The raccoon is willing to share what he knows, but demands he be fairly compensated. Acting on instinct, Em shapes some of her spirit-self into an apple, and offers it in exchange for the raccoon’s information. Eyeing the apple hungrily, he admits that he has never seen a black wolf before. He has seen a white wolf many times, however. It had been looking for a spirit, found one and chased it off, then marked its territory.
Em goes to the area the raccoon indicated to examine the mark left behind by the white wolf. She can smell Clear-Eyes, and realizes the alpha Garou must have been marking her territory. Looking back, she also realizes Little-Guardian and Watches-the-Moon were sleeping just inside the boundary.
Meanwhile, Terin goes to find Will and see if he has found anything. Despite his efforts, she manages to spot him up a tree. They exchange words – “what in god’s name are you doing?” “having breakfast.” – and Terin stalks off in disgust.
Em reappears in the mortal realm, and tells Little-Guardian she wasn’t able to find anything. Little-Guardian takes this surprisingly well, saying “the strong one said he’d be okay”.
Terin returns shortly after, and they decide to carry Watches-the-Moon back to the house. Before they can do so, however, they hear a loud crash in the trees. They find Will, crumpled unconscious at the foot of a tree. Sarajane reaches for his wrist to check his pulse, but he disappears. Em returns to the umbra to see if he is there.
Will – having tried to shift while jumping out of the tree, only to fail – finds himself in a featureless expanse of grey. It feels like he is surrounded by static electricity. Focusing on himself, he manages to change only his hand into galabro. It tingles uncomfortably, and he shifts his hand back to homid.
Finding nothing in the umbra, Em manages to peak into the guantlet. She sees a ghostly version of Will, and watches as his hand changes shape. Shaking her head, she mutters to herself “we need to have a talk about priorities”, and tries to move towards him. As she does so, a thought occurs to her and she calls out for her sister.
Will hears the faintest echo of a voice. He shifts his head to lupus, to take advantage of a wolf’s ears, but can only hear static. He tries to move through the gauntlet into the umbra, then collapses in pain as he feels like he’s being electrocuted.
Seeing him fall, Em runs at him and tackles him back to the mortal realm. They emerge back in the woods before Sarajane and Terin’s startled gaze. Seeing that Will is alright, Em and Terin lecture him briefly before returning to the task at hand.
Terin shifts into chrinos and carries Watches-the-Moon back to the manor. Upon their return, the group calls for Clear-Eyes’ help. The more experienced Garou tells them that Watches-the-Moon is fine, and they just need to wait. Dubious, but with no other option, the group agrees. Terin passes this information on to a surprisingly deferential Little-Guardian, and asks that the wolf watch over her brother while the rest of the group carries on with their day.
They go to the prison, so Terin can tell her father the news about her new tribe status. Em waits in the car, and Will and Sarajane accompany her inside. She is told that her father is currently with another visitor, so has to wait for a while. The room is moderately busy with visitors: a young mother with two small children, a middle-aged woman dressed in a style far too young, and various ruffians all waiting to talk to someone on the inside.
After what feels like a very long wait, Watches-the-Flame emerges from the visitors area. He spots Terin, and greets her with a warm hug. Terin accepts the hug tentatively, noticing at the same time that a few of the guards are paying very close attention. Will sees the middle-aged woman is also watching this with undue interest.
Shortly after Watches-the-Flame’s departure, Terin is called forward. The guards at the door give her an appraising look, which she meets with one of flat disapproval. The effect is immediate, and they both look away.
The family visiting room is a bit more friendly than the area Terin saw previously, with small tables and plastic chairs for inmates to sit with their kin. It still has an air of sadness, and more than one sign listing do’s and don’ts. Sam is waiting, and stands when he sees Terin approach. They hug gingerly, then sit and talk. He is thrilled when Terin explains that she has joined the Striders.
She also says that she is beginning to understand what drove him to take the blame for someone else’s crime, but it will be a very long time before she can forgive. He says he didn’t know then what his decision meant, “I thought it would be a short term, not 20 years”. He also says that there are still ways he can help her, especially to deal with any problems she may be having at home. Terin is grateful, but doesn’t take advantage. They promise to write each other while Terin is away from the City, and she departs.
Shortly after Terin left the waiting room, an over-large, BO-smelling biker entered. He takes a seat immediately next to Sarajane and proceeds to hit on her. She talks to him politely, more than used to a few bad smells from her work at the hospital. Will, however, is less welcoming and pretends to be Sarajane’s boyfriend to get the biker to back off. The large man takes the hint, and goes to sit somewhere else.
Will also alerts the desk guard to the middle-aged woman’s presence, pointing out that she seems to have been waiting for quite a while. The guard realizes the woman didn’t check in with him. A rather loud scene ensues, in which two guards escort the woman from the building.
Terin returns to the waiting room in time to hear the tail-end of the woman berating her escort. She goes to the desk to retrieve her belongings. As she does, another guard with the nameplate Adams on his chest catches her attention. When he learns she just came from visiting Sam, he seems surprised. “You’re his daughter? I didn’t know he had any kids”. Terin admits it was a recent discovery to her as well, and leaves.
On the way to have lunch, Will receives a call from Clear-Eyes summoning them back to the manor. Upon their arrival, they are gathered in Clear-Eyes’ office, where she explains she has received a call from Miss. Williams (who they may remember as Puff-Mama), saying that Wayne has disappeared. Terin immediately tries to rush off. Clear-Eyes orders her back to her seat, and there is a brief battle of wills. Ultimately Em convinces Terin to stay and listen to the rest of the information.
Clear-Eyes gives them the address where Puff-Mama is waiting to meet them – an abandoned warehouse in a rundown part of the City. Sarajane asks if Clear-Eyes has any idea what the danger they are facing might be. Will replies first, saying “it’s the woods. The corruption is obviously spreading.” Em points out this doesn’t actually tell them anything, to which will says they should stop wasting time and just get started.
Taking his words as a personal affront, Terin loses control and shifts into hispo before anyone else realizes what’s happening. She lunges across the table at Will, locking her teeth around his neck. Before anyone else can react, Clear-Eyes shifts to crinos, pulls a silver glaive from mid-air, and stabs Terin neatly just below the collar-bone. Terin is unconscious in seconds.
The others pull Terin off of Will, who is furious. He storms off to take care of his wounds, blood streaming from his neck and shoulder for the second time since he met Terin. Sarajane offers to help, but he declines.
A little stunned with the speed at which things fell apart, Sarajane and Em are left unsure what to do. They suggest to Clear-Eyes they can go talk to Puff-Mama by themselves, but she tells them to wait for the others. As a pack, they need to travel together. They go instead to wait by the car.
Terin wakes as they are leaving, with no memory of the past few minutes. Clear-Eyes holds her back for a discussion about respect, controlling one’s temper, and the importance of the pack choosing their alpha.
Joining the others, Terin immediately apologizes. Em says she understands why Terin got so upset, but that they need to be able to trust it won’t happen again. Will comes out of the manor shortly after, dressed in clean clothes. Terin meets him halfway to the car to apologize. He accepts brusquely: “You’re sorry, I get it, we have work to do”. Further conversation shut down, they depart for the warehouse to meet Puff-Mama.
Shortly after they depart, Watches-the-Moon wakes to find Little-Guardian standing over him. He is confused to find himself in the manor rather than the woods, until Little-Guardian explains they couldn’t wake him up. He finds Clear-Eyes in her study, which reeks of his packmates’ blood. Clear-Eyes tells him there was an incident. Not impressed, he says he’ll take care of the current confusion about a lack of alpha.
Clear-Eyes tells him he will need to hurry in order to catch up with the others. She sends him to get dressed. When he returns – shirt inside out, feet bare – she hurriedly helps him with his socks and shoes. She asks if he has trouble with cars, and he admits that he threw-up in one yesterday. She says that’s no problem, they’ll just take Will’s car. They pile in, and tear off towards the City.
Will, Em, Sarajane and Terin arrive at the abandoned, boarded-up warehouse. Terin recognizes it as a popular squat for the City’s homeless population. They find Puff-Mama waiting for them by a heavily graffiti’d payphone. She says that Wayne had come to the warehouse to investigate the sickness that’s been running through the homeless population. He called her an hour ago to say everyone was gone, but the call cut out before she could learn anything else. Terin promises they’ll find out what’s happened, and sends Puff-Mama home.
The group enters the warehouse: it is dark, clammy, and sounds echo strangely off the broken walls and mounds of debris. Em shifts into chrinos and tries to shift into the umbra, but the barrier feels sticky. She decides against pushing through, and instead starts looking around the mundane version of the warehouse. Sarajane shifts into chrinos as well, and Terin shifts into hispo. Before they leave the front room, Em rips the front foor off its hinges and sets it aside, so they will have a quick escape if they need one.
There are two possible directions to go. Will picks one, and Terin leads the way (after being briefly stymied by trying to push a pull-door).
Meanwhile, Watches-the-Moon clings to his seatbelt as the car moves faster than he ever imagined possible. They coming to a screeching halt in front of one of the human’s many boxy buildings, this one smelling of garbage, humans, garbage, rats, and garbage. He spots the entrance easily – as one of the doors seems to be missing- and enters in a rush. He easily finds the others and joins them in their search. Although he allows Terin to enter rooms first, he is quick on her heels at every turn.
Working their way through dark, narrow hallways, the group eventually comes to a large, empty room. Dim light seeps in from windows high above them, barely illuminating a series of catwalks criss-crossing the ceiling. Em shifts to galabro in order to keep from traumatizing anyone they might come across.
Watches-the-Moon goes to investigate the shadowed corners of the room. He smells something awful, rotten, and his hackles immediately go up. Terin follows the sound of his growl and recognizes the smell as the sickness in the homeless. She warns everyone to be very careful. Sarajane says it’s the same smell from the bear that attacked her sister.
Will lights up the area using his cell phone, and they all see the smell is coming from what looks like an oil slick. The liquid starts to move, slowly trickling away from the light. It doesn’t appear to be obeying any natural law of gravity, instead moving towards the center of the room where it disappears down a grate.
Peering into the lightless void of the grate, the group briefly debates what to do next. Em suggests they look for a way into the basement, while others suggest they just follow the liquid down. Working together, they are able to rip the iron bars out of the floor. In chrinos, Terin lowers will down so he can take a look. He sees a room, with no evidence of the liquid, and tells Terin to drop him. Although the fall is over 20 feet, he lands neatly and tells the others to follow. Watches-the-Moon and Em jump (Em landing a bit more roughly), Terin lowers Sarajane down, and then she parkours her way down.
The room they are now in seems to be in the midst of a series of tunnels. Will spots where the liquid is heading, and points the way. Terin tries to take up her position at the front again, but Watches-the-Moon notices her shoulder is hanging a bit low. He realizes she’s wounded and pushes her back.
He and Em and up leading the group – with Em sniffing the trail while he keeps an eye out for aggressors. They arrive at a sewage tunnel, the stench still somehow preferable to that of the black liquid. Following the trail along the edge of the tunnel, Em’s nose bumps against the corpse of a rat swarming with maggots. She pushes it into the sewage, and steps over the smear it leaves behind. Terin recognizes the maggots as one of the symptoms of the sickness, and repeats that everyone needs to be careful.
They carry on for over an hour, losing any sense of where they are under the City. Em loses the trail every once in a while, the liquid having been washed away by the waste rushing next to them. she always manages to find it, however, and eventually leads them into a smaller tunnel where they can hear distant voices.
They stop to listen. It sounds like a lot of conversations, in English but too busy and echoey to make out any specific words. Will blurs himself and stealths forward to take a look, Watches-the-Moon immediately letting him by. Looking around the corner of a large opening, Will sees a square room filled with homeless people, all apparently talking at once. Most of them are in groups of two or three, and seem relatively relaxed. However, he also spots Carrie, Dog and Wayne; and Wayne is bound and gagged at the base of a pedestal in the centre of the room.
While Will is looking, Watches-the-Moon scents the air. He smells many humans and the disgusting liquid, but no magic in the air.
Will comes back around the corner to tell the group what he saw. He suggests Terin go negotiate, since she likely knows many of the homeless there. He also promises to get Wayne out if anything goes wrong.
Terin approaches openly, the others hanging back in the tunnel to react as necessary. The is spotted by a man she vaguely recognizes as one of the unfriendly homeless she generally avoided. He is carrying a bat, and immediately demands how she found them. She tries to calm the group down, reminding them she is their friend. This seems to work on a few, but the leader orders the attack.
Vastly outnumbered, the pack fights to defend themselves. Once again not thinking as clearly as she should, Terin rushes forward to try to pull Wayne out. Instead she is surrounded and almost loses consciousness. Instead, she allows her rage to carry her through the fight, killing anything that comes near her. As the number of homeless drops, Em is able to pull Wayne out of Terin’s range, well aware that the ahroun can no longer recognize friend from foe.
Eventually, there are only two attackers left unconscious, but alive. The group retreats outside of Terin’s line of vision. When she realizes there is no one left to attack, she collapses.