A news anchor is reporting that the result of an investigation of a recent explosion which took out several apartments in an building in the North end of the City has been found to be an accident caused by a broken gas main. As the anchor continues to describe whether or not the gas company will be held liable we pull back from the television that the news cast is playing on into a room where James Johnson is half-watching the news report while on the phone.
“Have you heard about the results of the investigation,” he asks. There is a pause before he interrupts whoever is on the other end of the line, “there’s no way that was accidental, especially considering the photographs you sent me from the scene.”
Laid out on a coffee table in front of James is a set of large black and white photographs stacked over a brown envelope. The photographs are all distant shots of Em standing nearby the building where the explosion occurred.
“Yeah, yeah,” John says, “whatever you need, I’ll pay for it. Just get me more answers!” He then hangs up the phone and leafs through the black and white photos.
That night, Em dreams. She dreams of explosions, of running in the woods with Sam, of learning to be a Garou once more. She dreams of discussions of her own sanity, of deciding she’s a Bone Gnawer, and of losing herself in her reflection. She dreams of glowing green orbs, of moving statues, and of laying down to sleep before another day of battle. She dreams of her sister sitting next to her on the bed and saying “did you get all that?”
Once Liv has finished relaying the previous days’ events, she explains to Em that it’s time for her to leave again. She says she knows what she has to do and where to go, and that Em needs to figure out her own path for herself. When Em asks if she’ll ever see her sister again, Liv reassures her that she’ll know how to find her, and when it’s time to do so. Em tries to make Liv promise not to do anything stupid, to which she only replies “someone’s got to do something stupid, or nothing will get done”. Em settles for having her promise to try not to die.
Em wakes to find herself in her room in the manor. She goes first to Terin’s room, where she receives a warm welcome now that she’s back. The two find Watches-the-Moon in the kitchen, having his morning espresso. He, too, seems glad to have Em back, although in a more reserved manner. As they sit down for breakfast, he asks if Em is sick in the head. “Things happened, they tried to kill us, and you weren’t here.”
Sam joins the others for breakfast, and is a little startled to find her new friend has gone. Watches-the-Moon is the first to notice that she’s upset and asks if she’s okay. When she tries to brush off his concern, saying “I just need to wake up”, he counters “you’re usually a better liar than that”.
Breakfast finished, the four head downstairs to check on Lamar and Ursula. They find Lamar asleep, still a long way from being fully healed from the day before. Ursula is sitting on a chair next to his bed, holding his hand, and apparently praying.
Watches-the-Moon questions Ursula about what they will likely face in the sewers when they go after the last orb. Ursula explains that Jaffa and Sarah will likely be their biggest threats. She says that Sarah is good with fire, but she’s not sure about Jaffa; he kept his cards close to his chest. She goes over the strengths of the other Awakened, and closes with a warning: the most powerful Awakened are limited only by their imaginations.
In terms of assistance, Ursula says she is willing to heal them if needed (which Terin takes advantage of), but that she cannot be involved in harming her cabal-mates. Watches-the-Moon asks if any of her other skills may be able to help them, such as shielding or healing talons they could bring with them. While she thinks about it, Lamar wakes. He asks Watches-the-Moon to promise that Ursula won’t be involved, lest she do something she regret. Watches-the-Moon counters “she’s not mind to command, she’s not in my pack”. When he asks Ursula if Lamar is her alpha, she explains that married couples “alpha each other”. Watches-the-Moon dismisses this as more man-folk foolishness.
The rest of the morning is spent in planning. Watches-the-Moon has Terin call Detective Blackburn to give her a heads-up about the pack’s plans. Terin tells the Detective where they are going, and that they hope nothing will happen but there may be more traps like the ones they faced the day before. Detective Blackburn thanks her for the warning, saying she’ll put the fire department on alert. She also asks Terin to remind Watches-the-Moon and Em about the council meeting next week, saying that she expects a lupus may have difficulty keeping track of his appointments. Terin promises to do so.
Meanwhile, Watches-the-Moon talks to Sam about Liv’s departure. [CONVERSATION I DIDN’T HEAR]
Next, Terin pulls out the maps of the sewers she and Will worked with before, to try to figure out the best way to approach the location of the orb. When she howls for Will to come help, she gets a terse message via the intercom saying he’s busy.
With the help of the others, they locate a few different ways in. There are two nearby manhole covers, or they could approach using what looks like the main thoroughfare through the sewers. Unfortunately, as Watches-the-Moon points out, the Awakened will have had time to lay traps at all of the approaches. They need to try to find a back way in.
Em asks Sam if she wants to reach out to the Bone Gnawers, to see if any of the kinfolk know the area. Sam calls Puff-Mama – calling her “Aunt Simone” after a few not-so-subtle prompts – and asks for information. They arrange to have a few kinfolk patrol the area to see if they can spot anything. With the conversation on speaker-phone, Terin warns to keep the kin from going into the sewers themselves, as there may be bombs waiting for them. Puff-Mama thanks her for the warning. She closes the conversation inviting Sam, and only Sam, to a bit of a shindig the following week.
Watches-the-Moon decides their next step is to speak with the rats, who no doubt know the sewers better than anyone. Before the group leaves the manor, he howls for Will to join them in the kitchen.
Before anyone has much of a chance to speak, Will announces that he’s quitting the pack. His status as a Silver Fang has been challenged, and he needs to go to Russia to defend his name. The others are more than a little shocked by this announcement, but Watches-the-Moon just tells him to go.
With Will no longer a member of the pack, there is some question whether they will be able to continue using the manor as their den. Watches-the-Moon buzzes Clear-Eyes on the intercom, and she invites them to her office to talk. She asks if Will spoke with them about needing to step back from the pack for a bit. When Watches-the-Moon tells her that Will quit, she goes silent. Watches-the-Moon asks “are you counting to 10? You have the look of a woman counting to 10.”
She brushes off his concern, saying Will is just doing what he must. Even in his absence, the manor has stood as the home for the guardians of the City for generations. Since that is now the pack’s duty, they are welcome to stay as long as they wish.
That done, she asks if they have learned anything more about the spirit they call B’hem. She reiterates the importance of their learning whether B’hem has any other names, but will not go into detail as to why. When pressed by Watches-the-Moon, she says only that B’hem may have another name, and another side of itself that is still sleeping. If that is the case, when the sleeping side wakes, she warns “all hell will break loose. Nothing and no one will be what they are anymore”. Finally, she tells Watches-the-Moon to find out “what ”/characters/john-speaks-with-gaia-obumsawin" class=“wiki-content-link”>Speaks-with-Gaia is up to" before going into the umbra to seek the spirit.
Watches-the-Moon agrees. Before they leave, he brings up the fact that some of the pack members’ need for money is a distraction they could do without. Clear-Eyes seems a little startled by this, but says she will think on it. It should be possible to make some of the pack members employees of her corporation, for which they would be able to draw a salary. She tells those interested to give her their social insurance numbers and she will take the necessary steps.
Terin, Em, and Sam linger behind to do so. Sam doesn’t know her SIN, but says she will try to find out from her aunt. Em doesn’t know hers either. When Clear-Eyes asks for her full name in order to get it, Em demures. Clear-Eyes simply shrugs and says “I’ll just find it myself”.
While the three women leave, Em asks for the red phone from Terin. She calls Jerry to see if he knows anything about B’hem – not aware that Watches-the-Moon made the same phone call the previous day. Jerry mentions the pack should perhaps work on their communication skills, and repeats what he told Watches-the-Moon: that, while the Uktena may know some things that will help, they aren’t prepared to share the information until next week’s council meeting. On that note, Jerry makes sure that Em and Watches-the-Moon are planning to attend. When Em confirms that they are, Jerry mentions they should be careful not to piss of the chief if at all possible.
As the phone call draws to a close, the women arrive in the kitchen to find Watches-the-Moon has been busy preparing lunch. They all sit down for sandwiches and discussion over what to do next. Watches-the-Moon asks the pack’s opinion regarding whether they should go after the last orb now, or wait until they have had a chance to talk to the Uktena regarding B’hem. Terin suggests they find out from Ursula and Lamar how close Jaffa is to completing his ritual, as that will likely impact their decision.
The pack adjourns to the basement, where Ursula suggests they go sooner rather than later. The longer the Awakened have to plan, she warns, the more difficult it will be for the pack to get to and destroy the orb.
Knowing that some, if not all, of the Awakened have been tricked by their alpha, Watches-the-Moon asks if there is a chance some of them will run when confronted by the Garou. Ursula says they might, but they don’t yet know there is reason to trust the pack. Terin reassures the woman that, despite what she may have been taught to believe, killing people is not the pack’s first choice. She promises they will try to convince the Awakened to surrender if they can.
With the safety of his pack in mind, Watches-the-Moon decides they will go into the sewers as soon as they hear back from Puff-Mama. As if summoned by those words, the red phone rings with Puff-Mama’s report. According to the Bone Gnawer kinfolk, there are four ways into the sewer, one of which is behind a locked door. Watches-the-Moon plans that they will use that entrance, and have Sam pick the lock. He also decides they will speak with the rats beforehand, just in case they have any further knowledge.
In the City, they walk to a grate near the Cathedral where Watches-the-Moon previously spoke with some rats. With the rats’ guidance, they find a manhole cover and descend into the sewers. They are led through the tunnels, with their honour-guard growing into the hundreds. Eventually they arrive in a large open area. On the opposite side of the room, they see dozens of rats roiling together until the form the shape of a massive figure, similar in form to their own chrinos but rat instead of wolf.
Watches-the-Moon reacts more calmly than the others, and simply introduces himself. The figure seems not to need the introduction, as he makes it clear he knows all of the pack’s names and many of their secrets. In fact, he tells Terin he knew what she was before the kinfolk did.
Turning his attention to Sam, he greets her as his “spiritual cousin”. He tells her she smells of the ocean and Carjack. When she asks his name, he says that he has many. He offers that the pack can call him The-Man-of-the-Tunnels. He also introduces his queen, a smaller figure who has moved to sit on his shoulder. Watches-the-Moon recognizes her as the rat he first negotiated with.
The-Man-of-the-Tunnels offers to trade information. He says that, while he enjoys a good fight almost as much as the Garou, he also likes the comfort of his territory. He asks Watches-the-Moon if he takes offense at his presence. Watches-the-Moon replies he has no issue with the rats themselves, but that he doesn’t know The-Man-of-the-Tunnels well enough yet to make a judgement about him personally.
Watches-the-Moon also asks if there are others such as The-Man-of-the-Tunnels in the City. He demures, saying that if there are others it’s up to them to declare themselves.
With his worries about a territory fight calmed, The-Man-of-the-Tunnels tells the pack what’s waiting for them around the orb. He says there are five explosive traps and six humans. The humans can bind things and change walls, and they are prepared for a fight. They also have a secret escape route which the rats found, and The-Man-of-the-Tunnels offers to have some of his people lead the pack to its entrance on the surface.
Watches-the-Moon thanks him for the information, and declares the deal concluded. The-Man-of-the-Tunnels counters “what you call a deal, I call a relationship”. He asks to be informed about the pack’s decision with their “prize”, warning “you might want to make the right choice. The last pack didn’t.”
At that, the form dissolves into a dozen rats, which are quickly lost amid the squirming mass of hundreds.
The crowd of rats disperses. About a dozen remain behind, watching the pack expectantly. The pack follows, and are led through the sewers, presumably towards the secret entrance behind the Awakened. As they walk, Sam feels a scrabbling along her legs; one of the rats climbs up her clothes to perch on her shoulder.
The small troupe arrives at a ladder leading up to a manhole cover. The rats mill around the bottom of the ladder, hinting the group needs to head up. Watches-the-Moon kneels down to let a couple of them onto his shoulders, so he can carry them up to the surface. The others follow suit, save Terin who doesn’t seem the least bit interested in the Bone Gnawer spirit animal.
On the street, most of the rats hop off the pack and resume leading the way into an alley. Sam’s companion remains. They stop once more at an abandoned building, with wooden boards blocking the door. Terin rips the boards away as quietly as possible, then steps aside for Sam to pick the lock. She does so easily, far more comfortable with a physical lock than the spiritual version in the umbra.
The inside of the building is dark, virtually empty, and covered with dust. The only furnishings are wooden shipping pallets, many of which are broken or crumbling with mold. The rats lead the way to a back room, where a number of pallets have been stacked on top of each other. Moving the pallets out of the way, the pack discovers a hole in the floor that opens back into the sewers.
Before descending, Watches-the-Moon gets as he can from the rats. They suggest the best approach once the pack is in the sewer, and warns him about the location of the closest landmine. Watches-the-Moon thanks them for their help, and they vanish into the shadows.
The pack drops through the hole to find themselves in a cramped room with a low ceiling. A make-shift doorway has been broken through the brick wall, leading to the main thoroughfare of the sewer. Watches-the-Moon edges towards the archway, and is able to spot both the promised landmine in the flowing “water” and an Awakened man standing guard. Communicating with the rest via packmind, he tells them to strike at the first sign of danger, and aim to take out Jaffa first.
It becomes quickly apparent that Jaffa isn’t present, however. Even without their leader, the Awakened prove to be dangerous foes. They are also well-informed, which Terin discovers when she is shot with a silver bullet. Her howl of pain rings through the tunnels. She is barely able to keep from frenzying as she is bombarded with hundreds of memories of dying by silver.
One Awakened in particular, a black woman with dreadlocks, seems to be reveling in the fight. Despite being quickly bloodied by Watches-the-Moon’s claws, she eggs him on, almost daring him to kill her. He goes after the man with the silver bullets instead, lopping his head off and preparing to throw it at the woman.
Terin ends up striking the killing blow on the woman, clawing a hole through her stomach. But even as she falls, her entrails spilling into the muck, her chanting continues. Black ichor stains her teeth as her mouth gapes in a feral grin and she regains her feet, ready to resume the fight.
At the same time, the head in Watches-the-Moon’s hand begins to chant. He throws it at one of the other Awakened, shocking him into submission, and yells at Terin to make the chanting stop. But these undead Awakened are hardier than the average zombie. Even after Terin rips the woman’s jaw and tongue away, she remains upright and continues to gurgle venomously.
The other Awakened begin to lose heart. One takes off, running for his life deeper into the sewers. Another is knocked unconscious, downed by a vicious blow from Sam. The other two, a man and a woman, surrender; although it takes some convincing from Em for the woman to surrender. She had been casting lightning from a taser in her hand, which Em dashes against the wall, much to the woman’s displeasure (“that thing’s expensive!” “well, you shouldn’t have shot me with it.”)
While Terin and Sam keep the slow-moving undead at bay, Watches-the-Moon shifts into homid to talk to their prisoners. Namely: “the dead are reanimating, like zombies from TV. Would you like to stop that?”
But the other Awakened seem just as shocked, and disgusted, as the pack. Based on Ursula’s descriptions, the surrendered Awakened are Pedro and Carolyn (while the unconscious man is Michael). Ali was the man who ran, and the undead are Nadine and Eka. Pedro only wants to leave, but is told to stay until the pack can be sure he hasn’t been infected by the wyrm-taint that plagued Bob.
Watches-the-Moon shifts to lupus and smells nothing on Pedro, at which point he takes off. Carolyn, however, does have a hint of the black goo around her, so she stays. She seems to have no issue with this, saying that she would have asked to be cleansed just in case as she doesn’t want to risk infecting her children.
Leaving Em and Sam to watch over Carolyn and Michael, Watches-the-Moon and Terin face off against the undead. Thinking themselves clever, they try to use the walking corpses to break the orb – which is hidden in the bend of the tunnels – in the hopes that the acidic gas will defeat their foes. This doesn’t go as well as hoped. Despite some impressive tackles, the undead are able to sear flesh with mere contact, and the orb is more solid than expected.
Instead, they settle for getting the undead near the orb, at which point Terin throws Watches-the-Moon a chunk of rock that he uses to smash the orb open. He holds his breath to keep from inhaling the gas. He keeps from being burned, but so do the undead who are completely unfazed.
Watches-the-Moon and Terin retreat into the shadows. As soon as they are out of sight, the undead lose interest.
They find Em, Sam and Carolyn. Carolyn is holding a number of vials, and Em explains she can disarm the landmines. A quick conference is held to figure out how to get the undead out of the way. Terin ends up acting as bait, using her speed to draw them into a storage room away from the main tunnel. Despite the confined area, she is able to dodge neatly out of the undead’s grasping hands, and slams the door to keep them from escaping.
While Carolyn proceeds to disarm the landmines, Watches-the-Moon calls Detective Blackburn to let her know what has happened. He explains that there should be no further explosions, but there is some bad news. “You should sit down.” “I can handle it”. “There are zombies in the sewers.” “I’m going to sit down”.
Watches-the-Moon explains exactly where they are, and where the zombies have been contained. He warns Detective Blackburn to keep everyone clear, and promises to take care of the matter as soon as he figures out how. The good Detective seems satisfied with this, and suggests fire might work where decapitation failed. Watches-the-Moon says he’ll give it a shot, to which Blackburn suggests “it’s a date”. More than a little startled, Watches-the-Moon hangs up.
Finally finished in the sewers, the pack takes Carolyn and the now-conscious Michael to the woods to perform the cleansing ritual. Similar to Ursula and Lamar, these Awakened watch in fascination as Em performs the rite. Michael coughs up the expected black goo, but nothing comes from Carolyn. Watches-the-Moon scents her again, but can find no trace of the infection. He tells them they are cleared.
Before they go, however, Terin gets Carolyn’s number and inputs it in the red phone. She also gives Carolyn their number, and Watches-the-Moon instructs her to call if she finds any of her cabal-mates acting strangely in the future.
With the last orb broken, the pack is now able to enter the Cathedral. Before going to face Jaffa and Sarah, and whatever other defenses may be in place, Watches-the-Moon decides they should see Speaks-with-Gaia to find out what else he knows about B’hem.
Since they no longer have Will, Watches-the-Moon calls Jerry and asks for a kinfolk to escort them into the mines. Jerry agrees cheerfully, telling them to ask for Dan when they arrive.
On the way, out of respect for Will’s habits, they stop off at a gas station to pick up some water bottles and granola bars for Speaks-with-Gaia. Watches-the-Moon tries some of the local espresso, despite Terin’s warnings that it likely won’t be as good as at the manor. He agrees it’s awful, but drinks a second cup anyway.
At the mine, Watches-the-Moon pays close attention to Dan’s actions. He memorizes the signals at the lift cage, just in case the pack ever needs to come back on their own. Dan lets them off at the usual level, makes sure they know how to get back up, and leaves them on their own.
Left in the dark, trapped between hundreds of metres of earth and rock, illuminated only by the man-made lights on their helmets, the pack walks into the tunnels.
Even without Will to lead them, the pack has traveled these tunnels enough times that the trip should be routine. Instead, they all begin to feel that something is horribly wrong. The walls are too close, too damp, and too hot to the touch. A hot wind gusts at them from deeper in the tunnels, pushing against them, as if they are walking into an animal’s gaping mouth. The lights on their helmets begin to dim, and the hairs on the back of their necks stand up.
Em can feel her claustrophobia closing in. She catches Terin’s eye, and they remember what happened the first time they came to see Speaks-with-Gaia. They assure the others that this is a test, and everything will be fine if they just keep moving. Em takes Sam’s hand, both to reassure the pup and calm her own fears.
Confident he can control his fear, Watches-the-Moon strides forward with determination. He is almost immediately overwhelmed with the need to flee for his life. He barely clings to control, dropping into lupus (his breed form) as a way to keep from fox-frenzying. He remains locked in place, unable to move forward while he concentrates on keeping from running back.
Terin shifts into lupus and approaches cautiously. She tells him they need to keep moving forward, and promises they’ll stay together. He seems bolstered by the fact that he’s not alone, and they begin moving once more.
Every step becomes a struggle. The lights dim, flicker, and die. The tunnels are increasingly warm, the air increasingly humid, and every instinct tells the pack they are being swallowed whole.
Until they step into the cavern, and they are surrounded by simple rock and earth once more. A guttering fire flickers in front of Speaks-with-Gaia’s withered form. Terin and Em tidy up a bit, and place the water and snacks they brought next to the unopened packages left by Will during their last visit. Once their housekeeping is done, Em brings everyone into the umbra.
Speaks-with-Gaia is sitting in his rocking chair, staring out the window. Em follows his gaze, expecting to see the same barren, sun-baked landscape. While that is most of her view, she also realizes something has changed in the distance. She focuses on the change, exclaiming out loud that she can see the ocean. This stirs Speaks-with-Gaia to life, as he says “you’re ready”.
Watches-the-Moon, soul-tired but once more in control of himself, asks if B’hem has another name, and “is it what she fears?” Speaks-with-Gaia admits that it is, but implores them to remove the thorn, “take away its pain before you decide”. The pack learns that it was Clear-Eyes and Speaks-with-Gaias’ pack that put the thorn there in the first place. When the choice was given to them, they opted to trap the spirit rather than help it.
Watches-the-Moon asks again what B’hem’s other name is, to which Speaks-with-Gaia replies “let me tell you a story”. They are suddenly seated at the wooden table. Speaks-with-Gaia tells them about the first Snake, its love for the Moon, and the punishment of the jealous Sun.
Once his tale is done, he tells them the spirit’s other name is Bashmu. He is a cousin of Uktena, although the Uktena have forgotten him. Speaks-with-Gaia explains that B’hem is Bashmu’s strongest aspect, and that he is currently trapped in a cage, bleeding. The thorn is what allows the Awakened to tap into his power. They must remove the thorn first, then decide what to do with the cage.
Thinking of the story they were just told, Watches-the-Moon asks if there is a difference between Snake and Wyrm. Speaks-with-Gaia smiles, and only tells them they will need to make their choice soon, before the moon is once again full.
Watches-the-Moon also asks if “she made the stone”, to watch over Speaks-with-Gaia and make sure he’s safe. Speaks-with-Gaia replies he doesn’t know. She saw things before they happened, so the stone may have a purpose that hasn’t yet come.
Before they go, Em tells him that Will is leaving, and asks if there is a message Speaks-with-Gaia would like to pass on. He declines, saying Will has already heard everything he has to say. He says that he is sorry he wasn’t able to give the pack more time, and that he expects he will see them only once more. Watches-the-Moon promises to sing Speaks-with-Gaia’s tale to the Garou, and to “her”.
On their way out of the mine, Watches-the-Moon discovers he can’t remember how to shift out of lupus. The pack has to smuggle him out, a less difficult task than it would otherwise have been given the number of Uktena kinfolk that are around.
Back at the manor, Terin asks if there is anything Watches-the-Moon needs, or if a hunt might make him feel better. He seems strangely lethargic, answering simply that he doesn’t know. She suggests he look to the moon, to try to regain some of his strength.
He does so, but something is horribly wrong. Luna has turned her face from him, and for the first time in his life the moon is nothing but a massive, inanimate rock hanging in the void of space.
Watches-the-Moon panics. He runs. He’s not heading towards or away from anything, just running mindlessly. Terin chases after him in lupus, and howls for Em to help. Between the two of them, they are able to keep Watches-the-Moon relatively close to the manor, herding him like sheep-dogs. He runs for hours, until he exhausts himself and passes out.
Terin howls for Little-Guardian. She explains that Watches-the-Moon is sick, and he needs the pack around him (hoping that is the case). Little-Guardian leads the way to the outdoor den. Terin carries Watches-the-Moon while Em howls for Sam. They all shift into lupus and gather around Watches-the-Moon’s unconscious form, hoping the presence of his pack will bring him back.
Watches-the-Moon dreams. He is alone. It is dark, because the moon has left him. He can’t remember why the moon left, only that her absence has left him despondent.
Then he realizes he’s not alone after all. There’s something in the dark with him, just beyond his field of vision. It moves closer and he can see flashes of colourful feathers. The shape is massive, serpentine, and coils around him in a shimmer of colours. A head lowers itself near to the ground, and Watches-the-Moon finds himself looking up into a face that is a cross between a snake, a bird, and a dragon.
The thing’s voice reverberates all around and within Watches-the-Moon, saying “you have spent yourself in full. Why?” Watches-the-Moon answers truthfully: “for B’hem. We must stop its pain”.
The creature coils closer around Watches-the-Moon, a sensation that is at once comforting and terrifying. It says it can hear singing, horrible singing, that is calling it away. Watches-the-Moon implores it not to go. The creature, B’hem, says it doesn’t want to go but the singing is getting stronger. He needs it to be quiet. Watches-the-Moon offers to sing, to try to drown the other voices out. B’hem thanks him but says it won’t work. No matter how beautifully he sings, the other voices are madness. Watches-the-Moon counters: “they are wyrm”.
Watches-the-Moon asks B’hem to hold on just a little while longer. He promises that the pack is coming, and they will make the singing stop. B’hem tells him to be quick, then the dream is gone.
Watches-the-Moon wakes, surrounded by his pack. He remembers the feeling of utter abandonment he felt earlier, and knows that is how B’hem feels. He wonders if he had to reach that state before they could communicate. Thinking of Speaks-with-Gaia, he also wonders if that’s what the elder has forced himself to endure for the past decade.
He sneaks past his sleeping packmates and emerges into the night. The moon is still in the sky, and he looks up at it. Luna is there once more, looking back at him. He feels his strength rush back, and at the same time hears a wistful voice say “he really is a beautiful snake”.
Watches-the-Moon wakes the others and tells them about his dream. He says they need to go to the Cathedral immediately, because B’hem won’t be able to hold on much longer. They gather weapons and drive into the City just as the sun is cresting the horizon.
As they near their destination, Sam feels a sense of anxious dread building within herself. It is the exact sensation she felt on the day of the fire. But she was alone then, she tells herself, while now she has a pack. She thinks of Watches-the-Moon’s words, that she can’t let her fear control her. She tries to force the feeling down and focus on the fight to come.
Seated beside her, Em notices Sam has begun to play with her lighter. Em asks if she’s okay, and Sam admits she’s scared although she can’t explain why. Em tells her it’s perfectly natural to be nervous, since they’re going into another fight with Awakened, who have proven themselves dangerous enemies. The important thing is not to let her fear overwhelm her. Sam agrees, but it’s obvious she’s still nervous.
No longer worried about stealth, Terin pulls into the Cathedral parking lot. There is only one other car this early in the day, a black town car.
Before they shift into the umbra, Watches-the-Moon tells them they are a good pack. He explains to Sam that this is her Rite of Passage, and that after this she will be a full Garou. He tells Em “I need you in there, I don’t know what they’re capable of”. And he tells Terin that she is the beta, and if he dies this is her pack. Terin tells him not to die, then Em takes them across the gauntlet.
A tall, white-haired man climbs out of the back seat of the town car. He plays with a package of cigarettes while he looks at the SUV. It has obviously been well-used, covered as it is with dust and dirt. One of the rear windows is broken, sealed with plastic sheeting and duct tape. And it is empty. The man turns his gaze to the Cathedral. He smiles faintly, drops the cigarettes to the ground, and climbs back into the car. It starts with a gentle purr and drives away.
Inside the umbra, the Cathedral feels empty. The pack move through the sanctuary, their steps echoing in the cavernous room. They can see something on the altar, and approach it cautiously.
Before they get there, however, they find the Cathedral’s spirit sitting in the front pew. It turns to face them, revealing a grinning skull beneath the nun’s habit. “It’s time now for you to be what you are”, the spirit tells them from an unmoving mouth. “Time for you to destroy. Be fast. I can only hold the beast in here for so long”.
They move into the mundane world. The Cathedral is warmer here. Two people – an African-American man and an average-looking, brunette woman – stand on the other side of the altar. They speak together, saying “this City, and this spirit, are ours”.
Watches-the-Moon charges, swings a massive chrinos paw, and lops Jaffa’s head off.
The room reverberates with laughter. Looking down, Watches-the-Moon sees the man and woman are holding hands. Only they aren’t holding hands, they are somehow merged together. The same moment he makes that realization, their forms begin to shift and warp into a new creature. Its limbs are too long, hanging at the wrong angles; its head is too high, on a neck too narrow to support it; its teeth are too sharp; and its laughter too piercing to be withstood.
It is a nexus crawler.
Sam suddenly understands where her feeling of dread came from. She has a flash of a past life. She was a leader of Garou, a general, and led them into battle against a nexus crawler. As she charged, her allies fell around her. She screamed as she raised her weapon to strike at the unnatural thing, but the sound of fury turned to one of agony as her bones dissolved into acid within her skin. She died, wracked with unimaginable pain, and her soldiers were slaughtered.
She snaps back into the present. Fear rises like bile in the back of her throat, but she shoves it down and attacks.
Watches-the-Moon howls. He announces to everyone in the City – Garou, kinfolk, and all others who may yet be hiding – the presence of the Wyrm. Then he puts the stone in his mouth and sees the unconscious form of Speaks-with-Gaia. Warning done, he joins Sam in attacking.
Thinking of her own past lives, Terin remembers the other consciousness she sometimes feels within herself. She reaches towards it, towards its lust for battle, and finds her abilities bolstered. She joins the others, slashing and biting with vicious glee.
Em joins the others in the fight. The four Garou rip and tear and slash and bite and claw. Thick, black, foul-smelling blood sprays the pristine white floor of the Cathedral. The thing falls.
The pack stare in disbelief, each of them certain it couldn’t be that easy. In answer, the nexus crawler disappears. They are all suddenly sickened as reality itself seems to shudder. Laughter rings through the sanctuary once more, and the nexus crawler reappears behind them.
Sam bounds towards it, running over top the pews. She strikes, ripping the thing’s flesh with her teeth. Even as she glories in the hit, however, she can feel umbral tentacles reaching for her. They wrap around her, and she disintegrates: fur to skin to muscle to bone. She’s gone.
Watches-the-Moon and Terin attack, almost enraged at the loss of their packmate.
While they keep the nexus crawler distracted, Em shifts into the umbra. She finds the Cathedral spirit, still sitting in the front pew, and begs it to lend their strength against the beast.
Sam’s head breaks the surface with a gasp. She’s treading water. Waves buffet her, pushing her under again. The water is warm and tastes of salt. She fights her way to the surface and looks around desperately for the others. But the pack-link is gone. She can’t feel them. Neither can she see any land.
In her mind’s eye, she can see herself: a young girl, struggling to keep her head above water. Her mental view pulls back, revealing an endless ocean. The vision pulls back further and further, until she is nothing but a speck of life in a heartless sea. There is no land. There are no boats. There is no pack. She is completely and utterly alone.
And she’s getting tired.