Scions of Ingress

Chapter 24: The Rising Weaver

While studying the package waiting for her at the manor, Terin discovers an envelope that was delivered alongside it. The outside is simply labeled “Terin”, and inside is a single playing card: a jack of hearts. When further examination by scent and smell reveals no more clues, Terin opens the package to find a bottle of Gentleman Jack.

While Em and Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver demand to know who is delivering expensive bottles of whiskey, Terin excuses herself to make a quick phone call. She asks Barbie if “I owe you a thank you”, and they confirm plans to go for a ride the next day. She does explain to her packmates that Barbie is one of the Pilgrims of the Road who she spent a night with, but declines to answer any further questions.

The next day, the pack go about their patrols. Scent-of-Silver is approached by one of the Bone Gnawer kin – one of the teenagers who joined her while she burned the tree – to let her know someone named King is looking for her. Unsure whether she should be taking meetings with non-kinfolk on her own, Scent-of-Silver calls Terin to double check. When she gets no answer, however, she decides to forge ahead.

Scent-of-Silver goes back to where she first met the rat shifters to find someone waiting for her in the alley. It’s the man who tried to hit her with an aluminum bat. Despite that inauspicious introduction – and since he appears to be unarmed this time – she decides to stay to hear what he has to say.

He invites her to go for a hot dog. While they eat, he informs her “between you and me, I think rather something”. He goes on to say she should act as the mediator between the rats and wolves in the future, should her pack ever want to ask for help.

When Scent-of-Silver asks “how can I know if I can trust you”, King replies “never trust anyone in this life”. He does, however, suggest that Scent-of-Silver is the most likely of her packmates to see things his way. He tells her the first time they met was a test, which Scent-of-Silver passed while the others didn’t. When asked how many rat shifters there are in the City, King doesn’t give any specifics, saying instead “the underground is ours, the surface is yours”.

At the question of whether he’s really the king of all rats, he only laughs. “We’re anarchists. The strong survive. There are no rulers and no rules; I can do what I want when I want, as long as I can take care of myself”. Looking at Scent-of-Silver with a measuring gaze, King goes on to say “anarchy is about freedom. Do you believe in freedom, or do you do what your alpha tells you to?”

Without waiting for an answer, King invites her to come spend time with the rats. He says she’s welcome as long as she doesn’t bring any of her friends. On that note, he bids her a fond adieu.

Later that afternoon, Terin asks Sibyl’s-Feather to reach out to Micah Destefano – her father’s case worker – to see if she can get a sense of how things are coming for the parole hearing. She suspects Sibyl’s-Feather will have better luck than Terin, since Micah doesn’t appear to find her quite so terrifying.

While that conversation is going on, Em calls her birth mother. She wants to schedule a dinner with her mother’s new family in order to meet her half-brothers. Her mother sounds thrilled, and they arrange to get together the following Monday.

The next afternoon, Sibyl’s-Feather reports back to Terin that things are currently looking 70/30 in her father’s favour. Unwilling to trust those odds, Terin asks Em to go with her to visit Eddie – the guard who is scheduled to speak against her father’s release. Terin admits that she’s worried about keeping her temper in the face of a sadist who only wants to keep her father in jail so he can continue torturing him.

Sibyl’s-Feather asks to go as well, and is not impressed when Terin says “no”. After an increasingly strained discussion over the matter, Sibyl’s-Feather gets fed-up with her alpha’s stubbornness and leaves. Having seen the file the Silent Striders provided on Eddie, she goes to his home to wait for Terin to arrive.

Instead, Terin and Em wait until that evening and go to the bar where Eddie spends most of his time. Still not sure she can keep her temper – and unwilling to threaten or kill a human, no matter how much he might deserve it – Terin ends up leaving without speaking to the guard.

In the meantime, Scent-of-Silver explores the Warrens. She notices some repetitive markings in the graffiti, and realizes there are signs of rats everywhere. After closer study, however, she isn’t able to determine what any of the messages might mean.

The next day, Friday, is Terin’s father’s parole hearing. She dresses as non-threateningly as possible and goes on her own to speak on her father’s behalf. The hearing goes well, despite Eddie’s testimony that Sam Cabot has no business on the outside. In her closing remarks, the hearing chair tells Terin that her father either needs to stay with her or a halfway house. Terin assures everyone her father has a place in her apartment.

With only a few hours until her father is processed and released, Terin hurries back to her apartment to evict the homeless who have been using it for the past year. They take it reasonably well, soothed somewhat by Terin letting them take as much food on their way out as they wish.

Facing the detritus left behind by a year of squatters, Terin calls her pack to help her clean up. By 6pm, the apartment once more looks like a respectable home. Sam arrives, meets Em and Scent-of-Silver, and immediately asks how he can start helping the pack.

The conversation is fortunately cut short by the arrival of a few Pilgrims of the Road to welcome Sam back, as well as his parole officer to check in. It turns out that the parole officer is a “friend of the MC”, so there’s little threat of Sam caught breaking his parole. He is thrilled that this means he can be active in the MC again. Terin seems less pleased.

After talking with the Pilgrims of the Road, Sam lets Terin know that the MC wants to have a proper gathering the next night to welcome him back. Terin agrees that sounds like fun, and invites Em and Scent-of-Silver to join. They are both excited at the prospect of a party, and immediately start planning what to wear.

Later that night, Terin goes to visit Sibyl’s-Feather at her apartment. Despite the year that they spent as the only packmembers in the City, Terin realizes upon her arrival that she had never been to see Sibyl’s-Feather’s home. It is a beautiful condo on the top floor of the tallest residential building in the City, overflowing with books, papers, extreme-sports gear, and art.

The conversation goes well overall. Terin explains why she was unwilling to risk hurting Sibyl’s-Feather in case she lost her temper while talking to Eddie; and Sibyl’s-Feather counters that Terin was obviously willing to risk innocent bystanders, so maybe think a bit more before making those decisions.

They also talk about the pack’s relative strengths and weaknesses. They agree that sometimes Terin will give orders without explaining why; and sometimes Sibyl’s-Feather will do things without asking for permission.

Before leaving, Terin lets Sibyl’s-Feather know about the party with the Pilgrims of the Road (and Silent Strider kinfolk), and invites her to join. Sibyl’s-Feather leaps at the opportunity, and grills Terin about what she should wear.

The next day, Terin resumes teach her pack self-defence. The training goes well. After Em and Sibyl’s-Feather are done for the day and go off for a chat [DETAILS OF WHICH I DID NOT HEAR], Scent-of-Silver challenges Terin to a sparring match.

They remain in homid to spar, ranging back and forth across the fitness room. Scent-of-Silver holds her own for a while, and even lands a solid strike, before Terin knocks her unconscious.

Later, Em approaches Terin to talk about the pack’s current patrolling schedule. She points out that it doesn’t make much sense for her to patrol the reservation, since the Uktena kinfolk are doing most of that work for her. Instead, she suggests she spend more time in the umbra to keep an eye on things in the spirit realm. Terin agrees, on the condition that Em carry the red phone with her while she’s in the umbra so she can reach the pack if she needs help.

Em goes on to talk about Scent-of-Silver. She suggests that, as the best talker of the pack, Scent-of-Silver act as the pack’s diplomat and spymaster. While Sibyl’s-Feather can keep an eye on the City from the air – watching in particular for signs of Wyrm-taint – Em suggests it should be up to Scent-of-Silver to manage things on the ground. She can use the Bone Gnawer kinfolk as her eyes, and also work with the rat shifters as necessary.

Terin agrees the suggestions make sense. When the pack is together that evening, she informs the others about the change in plans. She makes sure to emphasize to Scent-of-Silver how important her new role is. The pack’s most important responsibility is to protect the City, and Scent-of-Silver will now be the main way they learn about potential trouble. Scent-of-Silver seems to take this with the solemnity that it is intended, although she doesn’t tell her pack about being approached by King.

The pack then breaks to get ready for the gathering with the MC that night. Before they leave, however, Em receives a call on the red phone. It’s Eddie, the VP of the Pilgrims of the Road and a Silent Strider kinfolk. He shouts “you need to get here now! There are casualties!”

Terin immediately takes off on her bike, followed closely by the others in the Cayenne. They arrive just as a black SUV is pulling away from the club. Terin sends Sibyl’s-Feather to follow it while the rest of the pack tries to find out what happened. The brick wall in front of the club door has been obliterated, and a body sprawled on the ground. There are dozens of tire marks across the parking lot, and one of the bikes is on fire.

Eddie appears from behind the building, carrying an automatic with him. He leads the pack to the others. They find most of the MC is unhurt, although Barbie is cradling her arm and Ginge (the president) is badly burned.

While Terin goes into the burning club to make sure everyone got out, Em and Scent-of-Silver examine the body. They discover that it has fine, silver filaments running under its skin. It’s infected with the Weaver. While they are examining it, its eyes open wide, although it doesn’t react otherwise.

Back with the kinfolk, Terin tells them to ditch their phones, find a safehouse, and lay low for the next few days. Ginge demands to be able to help, capitulating only when Terin orders him to do as he’s told.

While the kinfolk clear out, Em and Scent-of-Silver manhandle the corpse into a large barrel, and load the barrel into the back of the SUV. Just as they are finishing, they hear sirens approaching from the City. Unwilling to risk driving past the cops, and get stopped with a body in their trunk, the pack drives the opposite direction and hides their vehicles in the woods. They shift into lupus and run as fast as they can to the City.

Meanwhile, Sibyl’s-Feather follows her target into Upper City, near the construction site where the pack fought the Weaver-spiders in the umbra a few weeks ago. She finds a payphone to call the others and inform them where she is, then settles to wait for their arrival.

It takes almost an hour before the pack is reunited. Sibyl’s-Feather points them to the warehouse the SUV pulled into. After some reconnaissance during which Scent-of-Silver hears nothing, Terin senses no watchers, and Sibyl’s-Feather and Em don’t see any cameras or surveillance, they decide to try to talk their way into the warehouse.

Terin sends Scent-of-Silver to ease the way, telling her only to be careful.

Scent-of-Silver does her best to draw the two, suited men outside, but they are unwilling to leave the warehouse door. She does manage to convince them that she needs help, however, and they simply call the police to come. Intent on not losing her targets, Scent-of-Silver asks if she can wait inside until the police arrive. The men agree, and Scent-of-Silver begins to go into the warehouse.

Unwilling to lose sight of her packmate – and paranoid about what might be awaiting her inside – Terin immediately sprints to the door. She and Sibyl’s-Feather make it inside to join Scent-of-Silver, but Em is trapped outside when the door swings shut.

A quick, brutal fight follows. The thugs are armed with pistols, and Scent-of-Silver falls in a spray of blood as a bullet pierces her throat. Terin rips her target’s throat out while Sibyl’s-Feather nails a third man with an arrow. Em, meanwhile, shifts to crinos and rips the warehouse door off its hinges. She comes

Fueled by rage, Scent-of-Silver comes back up and annihilates the man who shot her. He comes apart in a spray of blood, sparks, and wires. Only when he is little more than meat and scrap metal does she return to herself, now sporting her very first battle scar on her throat.

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Chapter 23: The Art of Making Friends & Influencing Rats

As the pack flees into the woods, they can hear screams behind them in the village. Despite some worry about discovery, they are filled with the exhilaration of a successful hunt. Still in his corporeal form, Behm is able to carry some of the pack-members, although he is not quite strong enough to carry all of them. Terin sends Em and Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver with Behm, while she and Sibyl’s-Feather travel on their own.

Aware that she probably shouldn’t arrive to the Uktena village covered in gore, Terin stops at a small stream to clean herself off. Sibyl’s-Feather descends from her raven form and they have a brief conversation about what happened. Both wants to be sure the other is alright – Sibyl’s-Feather for having been so close to the danger, and Terin for having killed what looked like a helpless child.

Sibyl’s-Feather also mentions she thinks it is a good thing the pack must operate under Behm’s ban to talk to their enemies before falling to battle. She makes it clear that she believes understanding their opponents is the only way towards peace. Terin sounds far less sure. To her it is a simpler matter: if it’s Wyrm, kill it. But she does concede that she will follow the letter of the agreement they made. If they must speak to their enemies, so be it. As long as the City – and pack – is protected.

Meanwhile, Em, Scent-of-Silver, and Behm arrive at the Uktena village. The kinfolk are stunned at the vision of Behm in his true form. The medicine man prostrates himself in front of the great dragon and speaks in Ojibwa for a while. Confident in the fact that her pack alpha said they could reveal Behm to the kinfolk after dealing with the Wyrm-bane, Em introduces him to Chief Blackburn as the pack’s totem. More than a little taken aback, the chief warns Behm is “a dangerous totem”. Em counters “he is a powerful totem”.

Terin and Sibyl’s-Feather arrive shortly after. Although Terin is not thrilled Behm is visible, she doesn’t say anything to the others (not that she has the best poker face in the world). Chief Blackburn approaches to say he is honoured to witness the great spirit, and asks what the tribe can offer in return. Terin replies they can share their knowledge. Em also takes the chief’s son for a ride.

Sibyl’s-Feather spends the rest of the evening in her element, asking every question she can think of. She learns about other shifters. The chief mentions they know of others from stories, which speak of the raccoon, fox, wolf and coyote. Although they have not met any other shifters themselves, he is confident they are out there.

Sibyl’s-Feather goes on to ask about the village’s local pack, the Spirit Sky. The Chief repeats his request to stay until they return from their journey, which should only be a few days. Terin thanks him for the offered hospitality, but says they must return to their own territory as soon as possible.

Conversation continues into the wee hours of the morning, but eventually everyone falls asleep. Once dawn breaks, the pack wakes to find Behm has vanished, and no one in the village remembers them. They extricate themselves as quickly and peacefully as possible – made slightly more difficult for Em, who wakes next to the very insistent chief’s son – and flee into the woods.

After a brief detour to make sure their prey is still dead, the pack makes their way to the portal they arrived through and returns to the “normal” umbra. As soon as they do, Behm reappears next to them, once more a mere shadow of his full self. Even in the umbra, they are immediately assaulted by the harsh sounds and smells of the modern world. It is bewildering after the calm of the City’s memory, and they realize a little of what it must have been like for Blood-of-the-North-Sky when he first arrived to the City.

They run, fly, and ride back to the manor through the umbra. Once there they shift into the mundane to find dawn is breaking here as well. Checking their phones, they are relieved to find that only a single night has passed, so they shouldn’t have been missed too much. Terin suggests they get some rest before resuming their “usual” duties.

Before going to her room, Em pulls Sibyl’s-Feather aside to apologize for grabbing her by the neck while she was in raven form. She admits she sometimes has trouble forgetting Sibyl’s-Feather isn’t built for war, like the rest of them. Accepting her apology, Sibyl’s-Feather goes on to mention the conversation she had with Terin. She comments that it’s too easy for some of the pack to jump to fighting without thinking about it.

They talk about the garou litany for a while. The fact that there needs to be a law against eating humans is something of particular concern to Sibyl’s-Feather, since it suggests that was a major issue at some point. Em mentions that the litany was created long before human society was anything like its current form, and that some garou feel it should be updated. One example – the ban against garou mating with garou – is currently of great debate in England. While all are in agreement that garou should not breed with garou — lest a malformed Metis result – mating doesn’t necessarily mean breeding.

As the conversation winds down, Sibyl’s-Feather tries to extract a promise from Em. She warns “if something happens to me, you need to train yourself to ask questions. You need to understand why you are doing things. Terin is the alpha, and she’s a good alpha, but it’s up to you to look for answers and make sure the pack follows Behm’s ban”. Em agrees, although she counters that Sibyl’s-Feather needn’t worry about anything happening. The pack will keep her safe.

Later in the day, Sibyl’s-Feather asks Scent-of-Silver to talk. “How are you doing? I have questions.” “Of course.” Sibyl’s-Feather asks why the pack – and garou as a whole – fight the Wyrm. When Scent-of-Silver replies “because it’s evil”, Sibyl’s-Feather counters “that’s the easy answer”. She says that Terin needs to look to Scent-of-Silver as the pack’s moral compass, but so far it doesn’t sound like Scent-of-Silver is confident in her choices. Sibyl’s-Feather suggests she needs to be sure of the reasons behind the laws, so that she can apply them in real world settings.

Scent-of-Silver appears to agree. Her main concern centres around the fact that she’s mostly making things up as she goes, since she hasn’t really spoken to an elder philodox. She wonders if it would be possible to reach Clear-Eyes’ spirit in the umbra. Sibyl’s-Feather suggests she speak to Speaks-of-Gaia.

Later that day, Terin meets her appointment with Micha Destefano, her father’s case worker, at his office in the tower above the mall. She is careful to dress appropriately – hair down to hide her scars, long-sleeved blouse to hide her arms – and acts as politely as she knows how. They hold their meeting in a small conference room, and Micha is obviously nervous and sweaty the entire time. He explains what she can do to help with her father’s parole hearing: show up and speak to his character; let the board know he has a reason to reform (to connect with his daughter); and, if possible, demonstrate he’ll have a job and somewhere to live once he gets out. Terin thanks him for his time, and asks point blank if everything is alright. He lies about having a cold then escorts her out. He is clearly relieved when they step out of the conference room. Taking a moment to tie her shoe, Terin shifts briefly into galabro and realizes he reeks of fear.

Convinced that something is going on, Terin goes down to the food court and calls Sibyl’s-Feather for help. She wants the raven to follow Micha once he leaves work to figure out if someone is trying to get to her father through him. Sibyl’s-Feather agrees, and arrives at the food court an hour later with Em in tow.

Terin and Em shift into the umbra to try to peek into Micha’s office. They have a very difficult time finding his office in the first place, and eventually have to ask a map for directions. It points the way, Em thanks it for its time, and it says “please don’t break anything”. As they enter the hallway that appeared only after speaking to the map, Em realizes they were thinking too “mundane”, instead of just going where they wanted to go.

Upon their arrival, Em peeks across the gauntlet to find a very familiar figure speaking to Micha. Sibyl’s-Feather apparently got bored of waiting. Frustrated with her ragabash, Terin decides they’ll come back at night, with Scent-of-Silver to help them break in as necessary. They retreat to the bathroom, shift back into the mundane, and call Sibyl’s-Feather to make sure she’s okay. As she’s still in Micha’s office at the time she isn’t able to speak freely, but simply says her meeting is going well and she’ll tell them about it back home.

Meanwhile, Scent-of-Silver goes into the City to try to figure out if she can speak to the rats. She goes to a particular sewer grate in an alley near the Cathedral – where Blood-of-the-North-Sky once spoke to the rats – and spends the next 30 minutes trying to coax someone out to talk.

She eventually notices movement deeper in the alley. Some rats have appeared. She tries to speak to them, but they only reply in squeaks. They do, however, lead her further into the alley before disappearing into a sewer grate. Scent-of-Silver then hears a voice in English as “what do you want, wolf?” Scent-of-Silver replies “to know if I can speak to you. I guess I can. Thanks!” Turning her back to return to the street, she pulls out her phone to call Terin. At the edge of the alley, just as Terin picks up, Scent-of-Silver realizes there’s someone behind her. She ducks instinctively, just in time to avoid an aluminum bat swung at her head. Wielding the bat is a homeless man with buck teeth, pointy ears, and too-bright black eyes. She retreats to the sidewalk, assures Terin she’s okay, and demands to know what the homeless man thinks he’s doing.

He reacts with disappointment – “we were just starting to have some fun!” – before going on to arrange a meeting between Scent-of-Silver’s pack and his king. They plan to meet the next night. [NOT SURE THIS IS RIGHT. DID SCENT-OF-SILVER ARRANGE THE MEETING WITH BAT-GUY OR WITH THE GIRL AFTER HE LEFT?]

Once everyone is back at the manor that night, Scent-of-Silver tells the others that she found some rat shifters in the City. Sibyl’s-Feather is extremely excited to meet them. Terin seems fixated on the point that Scent-of-Silver ran away from a lone shifter carrying a bat. She does eventually agree it’s good that they have a meeting set, and promises Sibyl’s-Feather she can ask as many questions as she wants.

Shifting focus, Terin says they need to get moving if they’re going to break into Micha’s office. Sibyl’s-Feather interrupts her planning saying it’s not necessary. The only thing scaring Micah was Terin herself. Sibyl’s-Feather tries to explain it’s not that surprising. Despite Terin’s efforts to look “normal”, she’s still pretty terrifying. Surprised and more than a little hurt, Terin decides to go for a ride to clear her head.

She makes her way to the Old 78 to chat with the Silent Strider kinfolk. There she finds Eddie (the vice president of the motorcycle club), Sasha/Red-Light, and three of the new initiates (Suds, Bedhead and Barbie). She has a brief conversation with Eddie, which basically boils down to “of course he was scared of you. I’m a human and people are scared of me. You’re a badass garou warrior and you’re terrifying!” He also mentions that “civilians” take their laws too seriously. As far as the MC is concerned, as long as no one hurts anyone who doesn’t deserve it, live and let live.

Returning to the main room, Terin proceeds to play pool and get drunk with Barbie. She doesn’t return to the manor until the next morning. She passes Em in the kitchen as she’s getting breakfast with a pleasant greeting on her way to shower and change. Sibyl’s-Feather enters the kitchen to find Em looking a little startled. When she asks what’s happened, Em says Terin is acting weird. Sibyl’s-Feather asks “like ‘she killed someone’ weird?” “Like ‘calm’.” “Like ‘she killed someone’ calm?”

The next day, the pack goes about their usual business. At their request, Terin starts training Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver in self-defense. They both notice she’s more patient than usual. Terin also goes to visit her dad that afternoon, to let him know that she’s trying to help with the parole hearing.

That evening, the pack makes their way into the City for their meeting with the rat shifters. They end up waiting for 20 minutes in the alley before anyone shows up. Four people eventually show up, each of them apparently homeless and very heavily armed. The youngest looks to be about 12 years old, and introduces himself as the king.

The conversation proceeds in fits and starts. The rat shifters aren’t particularly sharing, and at first refuse to say anything unless “the big one” crows like a rooster. When it becomes obvious Terin has no intention of playing along, the conversation is taken over by the homeless man with a bat. He speaks of a coming war. He says civilization is coming to an end, and wants the wolves to join in that. When Sibyl’s-Feather asks just how many rat kings there are in the city, he says “there are no kings in anarchy”.

After the meeting is done, Scent-of-Silver decides to go looking for Ushenka. [I DON’T REMEMBER WHY, PLEASE UPDATE] She goes to the alley where they first met. There are several stray dogs gathered there, but no Ushenka. They are all very deferential. Shifting into lupus, Scent-of-Silver tries to find out if any of them know where Ushenka is. An older one indicates that he knows where she went, and offers to lead Scent-of-Silver there.

They proceed to go on a very long walking tour of the City, apparently following Ushenka’s scent. They end up near the highway on the City outskirts, where the dog indicates that Ushenka’s trail continues on into the woods. Scent-of-Silver realizes Ushenka is patrolling. This scent is at least a couple days old. While she could easily follow it into the woods, there’s no saying how long it will take her to find her friend. She thanks the dog for his time, and decides to catch up with Ushenka another time. She returns to the manor, with the dog – who she names Wuf – following behind her.

Terin says he’s welcome to stay, but he’s now Scent-of-Silver’s responsibility. Scent-of-Silver initially blows this off, but the next day one of the servants comes to inform her that Wuf has “done his business” in the yard, and will she please clean it up. Scent-of-Silver finds Terin (working out in the gym) and demands to know why she’s being punished. Terin explains that it’s not a punishment, but a lesson about taking care of the kinfolk. As garou they have a responsibility; they can’t just take their kinfolk for granted. Scent-of-Silver isn’t thrilled with this response, but does agree to take care of Wuf whenever she’s home to do so.

That weekend, on Saturday, the pack goes to have dinner with John, who has returned safely from a moot. They tell him about their experience in the umbra, visiting the City’s memory. He suggests they stay quiet about the details for now, since there are too many secrets hinted at in their story that involve more politics than they are ready to deal with.

He tells them the story of the Croatan, who had been mentioned by Chief Blackburn but none of the pack had heard of before. They learn it is an extinct tribe, who sacrificed themselves to “the eater of worlds”, one of the three heads of the Wyrm.

John also warns Sibyl’s-Feather of the danger of seeking truths she isn’t ready for. He tells her to focus on the pack’s territory; on deeds to be done in the here and now, rather than worrying about the future. Sibyl’s-Feather doesn’t look too happy with this instruction, but she doesn’t argue.

The pack also tells him about their meeting with the rat shifters. He is surprised by the story, saying he thought the rats had been chased out of the City. He warns they are not friends to the garou, although neither are they enemies. He says they are like grenades, in that they can be thrown into a situation to explode, but its best to stay out of the way.

When they ask about the coming war the rats spoke of, Speaks-of-Gaia reminds them of the garou legend about the end of the world. The three universal forces – Wyld, Weaver and Wyrm – were once in balance, but no longer. If things continue to tip too far in any one direction, the world as it currently exists will come to an end. The rats are hoping for the Wyld to take over, to end what they feel is currently an overabundance of Weaver in the modern world.

Finally, Scent-of-Silver asks about meeting another philodox. Speaks-of-Gaia suggests they bring one into the City (like they did with Pierces-the-Nexus to speak with Em) rather than go to a moot. If they go to a moot now, he warns, they may have to deal with more challenges than they are ready for. He mentions that several of the elder theurges doubt him when he tells the story of how Em created a spirit-sister out of whole cloth. For a garou to “prove” their actions is a fairly simple affair – fight and defeat anyone who would say otherwise – but he believes they’re not yet ready to handle that.

Thanking John for his time and his words of wisdom, the pack returns to the manor for the night. Waiting there is a package wrapped in black paper with silver ribbons, addressed to Terin.

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Chapter 22: Wild West Werewolves

The pack are more than a little stunned by their surroundings. It is night, almost pitch black save for the few hanging lanterns next to doorways and in windows. The road beneath them is a thick stew of mud and horse manure, rather than the more familiar asphalt. The building behind them is similar in shape to the night club they entered, although the metal fire escape is now a rickety, wooden stair-case. All of the windows are shuttered, and the only light seems to be coming from the main floor.

As to their own appearances, their clothes have morphed so that they seem to fit the period. Em, Terin and Scent-of-Silver are all dressed like cowboys – boots, rough pants, long-sleeved shirts, vests and cowboy hats – while Sibyl’s-Feather is dressed in a black gown and veil.

And Behm, a massive, rainbow-feathered serpent with wings, is standing in the middle of the street. A fact only highlighted when a strange man, stumbling his way home after a night of drinking, stops and shouts in terror at the demon before him.

Sibyl’s-Feather is able to lead the man away while the rest of the pack tries to figure out how to hide Behm. After some debate as to whether he might be able to stay flying above them in the sky, Behm simply shifts into a rainbow-feathered parrot that settles onto Em’s shoulder. They quickly discover that, in this shape, he is only able to communicate with Em (in spirit-speech) or Sibyl’s-Feather (in bird-speech). To Terin and Scent-of-Silver, he can only repeat single words like any other parrot (although his skills as a mimic are unparalleled).

With Behm’s appearance taken care of, they discuss what to do next. The Wyrm-spirit they are hunting must be somewhere within this umbral pocket, but they have no idea where. It may take some time to find, and already the rules of this place are making themselves known. For all that they are in the umbra, they are no longer able to shift at will. They will have to behave as if they are in the City proper, albeit at a much earlier time in its founding.

The night club they came out of is now obviously a hotel. They decide to try to take rooms for the duration of their stay, and then resume their hunt in the morning. Getting into the spirit of things, Sibyl’s-Feather spins an elaborate backstory for them. She declares herself to be a widow, Mrs. Price, and that Em will act as her Native American hand maiden, Miss. Johnson (whom she has selflessly converted to Christianity). Em doesn’t seem entirely thrilled with the idea, but neither does she want to deal with posing as a man in a time when the City’s residents were likely less friendly with the Native population. She and Sibyl’s-Feather manage to find her some new clothes, and she tosses her old garb down a privy-hole before realizing she just threw away her bound clothes.

It is decided that Terin and Scent-of-Silver will pose as father and son, a Mr. Tex and Young Sam Avery. Sibyl’s-Feather decides they are escorting her on her quest to carry the Good Word to the poor heathens scattered across the land.

Details sorted out, Terin and Scent-of-Silver go into the hotel to secure rooms, leaving Em and Sibyl’s-Feather to amuse themselves outside.

Terin speaks to the young man working the front desk and learns there are indeed two rooms available. When he says they’ll need to pay for one night in advance, Terin realizes she didn’t think to check for money in her pockets. Leaving Scent-of-Silver behind, she goes to “check with the money”.

The young man invites Scent-of-Silver to take a drink at the bar while they wait. She is able to choke down a shot of whiskey without making herself sick, although she doesn’t look like the most practiced drinker in the world.

Meanwhile, Em and Sibyl’s-Feather decide to go exploring while they wait. They end up at the sheriff’s office where Sibyl’s-Feather announces she wants to see inside. She stands on Em’s shoulder and is peering through a second story window by the time Terin finds them. She is able to describe what she sees – two men in the jail cell, apparently sleeping off a bad night – and keeps from falling in surprise when Terin asks what exactly she’s doing.

They review their available funds and discover that whatever money they had in their pockets in the mundane realm has carried over with them into its previous equivalent. Sibyl’s-Feather realizes this makes them rich, since a $1 bill is now worth $25.

Returning to the hotel, they pay the $6 for three nights’ accommodation and retire to their rooms. Reading Em and Sibyl’s-Feather’s expressions when she asks them to stay in their room for the night, Terin ends up ordering them not to leave until morning.

At breakfast the next morning, Terin and Scent-of-Silver get a lot of curious looks. It’s fairly obvious that everyone knows they are women, but they seem willing to treat them as men. When Em and Sibyl’s-Feather come to join them, they realize that Behm has disappeared somewhere during the night. Worried about where he might have gone, they are debating how they might find him when a pair of cowboys come into the saloon arguing about the most colourful bird they’ve ever seen.

Em and Scent-of-Silver go to check it out while Terin and Sibyl’s-Feather remain behind to finish their coffee. They quickly spot a small crowd gathered around a telegraph pole. Pushing their way forward, they find Behm perched on the wrist of a Native man. Em tries speaking to the man in Garou, which he seems to recognize. When he speaks to her in Ojibwa, however, she can only shrug.

The three walk back to the saloon together. Inside, the man greets the hotel owner by name, and is greeted in return as Mr. Elk. Seated with the others, Mr. Elk says that he’s from the village in the north. He explains that his people made a pact with the founder of the City (a Mr. Alf Jarnvalia), so there is no war here like further south. When it is clear that he recognizes Em as an Uktena, Terin introduces the rest of the pack’s tribes. Mr. Elk greets them all, and seems thrilled to meet a raven-spirit in Sibyl’s-Feather. He invites them all to visit his village. Terin accepts, although she says they have some things to do that morning. They arrange to meet in a couple hours, after which Mr. Elk will escort them to the village.

They then go for a tour of the City (or, perhaps, the Town). Checking for Wyrm-taint, Sibyl’s-Feather notices a few stand-out areas; in particular the bar across the street from the saloon. There are several young women loitering out front, wearing noticeably less than the rest of the women in town. Sibyl’s-Feather also notices that some of the men coming out of the building are more heavily tainted than those going inside.

They decide Sibyl’s-Feather needs to get inside for a better look. Less than thrilled with the prospect of talking a “respectable lady” like Mrs. Pierce into a brothel, Terin walks with her to the front door while Em and Scent-of-Silver stand watch outside.

One of the prostitutes calls for Mr. McKinnes, who turns out to be a tall man with a bowler hat and oily smile. To Sibyl’s-Feather’s eyes, he has been heavily tainted by the Wyrm. He doesn’t seem too impressed by Mrs. Pierce, and laughs at the suggestion she is concerned about the well-being of the brothel’s occupants. When she mentions she might be able to provide funds to help with upkeep, Mr. McKinnes tries to pay her off with a $5 bill (pulled from a noticeably large wad). He tries to push the money on her when she demures, sparking a stand-off when he tries to grab her arm and Terin immediately grabs his wrist.

Mr. McKinnes holds an armed pistol at his hip, while Terin threatens to break his wrist. She tries to stare him down, but he is able to meet her gaze without backing off. Reading a potential disaster, Em is able to distract the passers-by with Behm while Terin and Mr. McKinnes fake-smile at each other. They are able to defuse the situation without any great violence, and Sibyl’s-Feather is even able to talk her way into arranging a visit at lunchtime.

As they walk away, Terin realizes Sibyl’s-Feather’s hands are shaking. She admits in a whisper that she has never been that physically close to a threat of violence before. Terin walks her up to her room to recover while Scent-of-Silver finds Mr. Elk to say they’ll meet him at his village later that day.

He passes Em on his way to his horse, and invites her to come to the village in the meantime. He suggests there is much she could learn there, perhaps even moreso than the rest of her pack. Em immediately wants to go, but when she checks with Terin it is decided she needs to wait until after the visit to the brothel. Terin reminds her the Wyrm-spirit is their first priority, but does promise that they’ll visit the village that afternoon.

An hour later, Terin and Sibyl’s-Feather return to the brothel for their visit. While they go inside for a tour, Terin asks Em and Scent-of-Silver to take a look around the building outside to determine how they might break in (or out) if they have to later. Doing their best not to look suspicious, Em and Scent-of-Silver do a quick circuit of the building. They find the front and back door, six windows on the ground floor, eight windows on the second floor, and a ladder on top of the roof.

Inside the brothel, they find that it is fairly clean (for the standards of the time). The prostitutes share a cramped sleeping quarters on the main floor, while the second story bedrooms are reserved for work. The bedrooms reek of sex, sweat, blood and tears. Each of them is Wyrm-tainted, and the bed in one in particular is all but dripping with back to Sibyl’s-Feather’s eyes.

While at least half of the prostitutes show signs of abuse, some of them actually seem quite happy. One in particular latches on to “Mr. Avery” and tries to draw her into one of the bedrooms. Sibyl’s-Feather interviews some of the quieter prostitutes, and notices many of them speak with heavy accents. When she asks one in particular whether she’s Swedish, the girl answers quietly that she’s Norwegian. Mr. McKinnes dismisses her “that’s enough of your lip” with a swat to the backside, and Terin almost loses control of her rage. She is able to force her fury down, although she shifts to galabro without realizing it.

The tour ends quickly after that. Terin and Sibyl’s-Feather leave at a brisk walk, with Terin almost dragging her friend down the road once they are outside. Em and Scent-of-Silver hurry to catch up with them.

Terin notices a man with a silver star on his chest angling to intercept her. She slows as if to stop, but he gestures for her to keep moving. Walking beside her for a while, he warns that Mr. McKinnes is not the kind of man to be bothered. He says that he is a known murderer who won’t hesitate to “put a posse together” to deal with anyone he considers a hassle. When Terin suggests someone should do something about a “known murderer”, the sheriff counters he would love to if she could provide proof.

With nothing to do about the Wyrm-spirit until nightfall, the pack heads north towards the Uktena village. Terin, Em and Scent-of-Silver shift to run as lupus (Em ripping her clothes in the process when she forgets she isn’t wearing her bound clothes anymore), while Sibyl’s-Feather scouts ahead as a raven.

She quickly realizes that Mr. Elk’s promise that the village was an hour’s walk away was optimistic. Based on her own flying time, Sibyl’s-Feather knows it will take the rest of her pack hours to reach the village. Deciding to take advantage of the time, she explores the village from the air.

To her delight, she finds a “traditional” Ojibwa settlement: tepees, fires, smoke-houses, and meat hanging from a tree to dry. That last draws her particular attention, and she swoops down for a snack. She is able to get a few bites before a young boy, apparently tasked as a sentry, comes over to yell her out of the tree. She retreats, waits a while, and returns to try again. This time the boy holds his bow meaningfully, warning Sibyl’s-Feather away from the meat. No matter how many times she tries, the boy is too vigilant. Leaving him to his guard duty, she returns to see how much progress the rest of the pack has made.

They are perhaps halfway there when Sibyl’s-Feather finds them. They have been enjoying the run; breathing in deep the scents of deep forest and coal. They also scent other wolves, but no Garou.

Sibyl’s-Feather descends to inform them of what they will find, delighting once more in how much she will be able to learn about historic Uktena (and Ojibwa) life. Em shares in her excitement, hoping to learn some more about her tribe and family. Terin dampens the mood by reminding them all once more they are only in the umbra to deal with the Wyrm-spirit, not as a vacation.

They resume their run, then all but Em shift to homid part of the way out so they can speak when they arrive. Em decides to wait until a change of clothes can be located. They are greeted enthusiastically, and with no apparent surprise. They are quickly able to locate clothes for Em, which are provided by an elder who takes it upon herself to transform Em into a traditional Ojibwa maiden.

The afternoon and evening pass in comfort. There is a great deal of fascination with Sibyl’s-Feather. All of the kinfolk seem familiar with a raven-spirit, and many of them pull her aside to share secrets about the goings-on within the tribe. Sibyl’s-Feather enjoys herself immensely, breaking away every once in a while to inform the rest of her pack about everything she has learned.

Terin is surrounded by the warriors of the tribe, all of whom show a great deal of respect when she removes her hat to reveal the battlescars on her head. Em, likewise, ends up with a crowd of admirers, and eagerly soaks up all they are willing to tell her. Although she is certainly treated with respect, there is little personal interest in Scent-of-Silver. Noticing this, Em wonders how long the Bone Gnawers have been around as a tribe.

Eventually the village gathers for a pow-wow. They see a dance by a man wearing a feathered serpent costume, which perks all of their attention – especially Behm’s, still sitting on Em’s shoulder in the form of a parrot. When asked, Mr. Elk explains that this is the great bird spirit dance, usually performed at times of great ceremony. It also represents the local Garou’s totem, whose name is Behm.

After the dance, a storyteller takes centre stage. He tells the story of a fox spirit and woman who traveled to the stars. Scent-of-Silver recognizes the descriptions as reflecting what she saw in the deep umbra, and realizes that the story must be true, at least in part.

Once the opening ceremonies are over, a peace-pipe is passed around and Terin meets Chief Blackburn. She introduces herself and her pack: Stubborn-Heart, ahroun of the Silent Striders; Far-Wisdom, her beta, theurge of the Uktena; Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver, philodox of the Bone Gnawers; and Sibyl’s-Feather, of the corax.

In return, she is introduced to every member of the tribe, along with every member of the wolves that live within the village. She learns that many of the wolf Uktena kinfolk live with their human counterparts, and treat the human chief as their alpha. Some wolf kinfolk do live within their own packs in the woods.

Chief Blackburn tells stories about the local Garou, and regrets that they are not in the village currently to meet the new arrivals. He says they are currently on a vision quest, and not expected back for several days. He passes on their names, and makes mention of the fact that there are two alphas and two betas, one each for peace or war. He also names the omega, and some of the Uktena around them glance between Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver as if to try to figure out which one is the omega within Terin’s pack.

The pack also learns about the agreement made between the Uktena and City founders. Unlike in the south, where the Three Brothers (Uktena, Wendigo and Croatan) war with the European tribes, here the Uktena have made peace. Chief Blackburn talks about how difficult the negotiations were between the Uktena, Silver Fang, and Bone Gnawers (who apparently also live within the City). In particular, he highlights how crucial a role the Bone Gnawers played, taking on the role of the omega to maintain civility when it looked like the talks would dissolve into endless arguments. Scent-of-Silver wonders if that isn’t the same role the Bone Gnawers currently play in the City in her own time.

Chief Blackburn mentions that he has met a few Silent Striders in his time, but they rarely stay in one place long enough to negotiate any sort of treaties. Terin admits that is likely the case. When Chief Blackburn mentions again that he would like the pack to stay to meet the local Garou, Terin has to decline. She says they have traveled here for a specific task, after which they must return to their own territory. The chief nods knowingly, not saying anything but accepting this as what life must be like for a pack with a Silent Strider as their alpha.

At one point, Behm asks Em whether he would be able to show himself. Considering the dance they saw, he expects the Uktena would be excited to see Behm properly. When Em suggests it to Terin, she decides against it. A brief argument ensues, with Em and Sibyl’s-Feather trying to convince Terin that this, if anywhere, is a safe place for Behm to show himself. Terin shuts them down without explanation.

As night begins to fall, Terin thanks the chief for his hospitality, but says that they must return to the City to complete their task. As they prepare to depart, the chief invites Em to stay for the night. He says his son would be honoured to “take her to his tent”. Em flushes bright red and stammers her way through a “thanks but no thanks”. When she explains that she is “not currently looking to breed”, the chief’s son says something in Ojibwa which is translated as an offer to pleasure her without the risk of offspring. She thanks him again, but says she really needs to get back to the City to work.

Before they shift for the run back to the City, Terin takes a moment to explain her decision to Em and Sibyl’s-Feather. She says that she’s worried Behm’s appearance would raise more questions than they have answers to, and potentially delay them from dealing with the Wyrm-spirit. When Em points out that Behm is “still trapped in a cage”, Terin acknowledges that while reiterating her mantra that “duty comes first”. She does say they will return to the village after dealing the Wyrm-spirit, and Behm can reveal himself then. When Em explains this to Behm, he echoes Terin’s words, basically saying “alpha knows best”.

The pack arrives back to the City around 10pm. It is once again pitch black, save for the light spilling from the hotel and brothel. They hide in the shadows behind the brothel and discuss their plan of attack. They decide to watch for a while until the activity dies down, in the hopes that there will be fewer “civilians” inside during the inevitable fight. Sibyl’s-Feather also watches for Wyrm-taint, to see if there are any differences from earlier in the day. She heads to the roof as a raven to keep watch, while the rest of the pack stays back in the shadows.

Sibyl’s-Feather figures out that there’s a trap door in the roof, likely the best way to sneak in undetected. Keeping watch through the windows and trap door, Sibyl’s-Feather decides most of the Wyrm-taint is coming from the building itself rather than any one person. Of the humans inside, Mr. McKinnes is the most tainted by a wide margin.

Around midnight, the last of the men departs and the front door locks. The pack makes their way to the roof – Terin and Em climbing up the wall, Scent-of-Silver climbing most of the way but with Terin pulling her up when it looks like she might fall – and holds a quick conference with Sibyl’s-Feather. It’s eventually decided that Scent-of-Silver (as the sneakiest) and Sibyl’s-Feather (as the only one who can see Wyrm-taint) will go in on their own. Terin is clearly unhappy with this plan, and double checks more than once that Scent-of-Silver is confident she can take care of herself if they get caught. With a last order to “scream really fucking loud” if they need backup, Terin lowers them down through the trap door and settles back to wait with Em.

Inside, Scent-of-Silver and Sibyl’s-Feather make their way slowly and cautiously through the upper level of the brothel. There is no obvious sign of Wyrm-taint within, and they are wary of checking each of the rooms for fear someone might catch them. Thinking of the tour from that afternoon, Sibyl’s-Feather remembers that Mr. McKinnes didn’t show them a particular part of the main floor. They decide to make their way downstairs to see what he wanted to hide.

They are almost to the main level when Scent-of-Silver steps on a squeaky stair. They hear a gun click, someone call “who’s there?” and retreat up the stairs as quietly as they can. They hide within one of the rooms, holding their breath while slow, heavy footsteps move down the hall. They hear a door open, a long pause, then a door close and footsteps move back the way they came.

Speaking in no more than a whisper, Sibyl’s-Feather says “we’re not going to tell Terin about that”. She goes on to say the room with the greatest concentration of Wyrm-taint is across the hall, and that she suspects where Mr. McKinnes enacts his darkest desires. After a brief debate they decide they need a distraction so they can get into the unknown room on the main floor. They make their way to the trap door where they pass this onto Em and Terin, who promise to get the guard out of the way.

Taking the ladder down, Em and Terin make their way around the side of the building. They decide Em will pose as a lost prostitute to lure the guard outside, where Terin will knock him out. The plan goes off without a hitch, and soon they drag the unconscious guard back into the main room where they leave him passed out on his chair.

The entire pack moves into the area they didn’t see before, which leads to another door. Sibyl’s-Feather glances in as a raven – looking from low on the floor, where hopefully no one would think to look – and sees a Mexican man seated at a table in what appears to be the kitchen.

Hoping luck will strike twice with their “lure the idiot out and knock him unconscious” plan, the pack goes back outside. Scent-of-Silver and Sibyl’s-Feather stand watch while Em and Terin go to knock on the door. This time, however, a voice calls “come in” rather than anyone coming to open the door.

Moving in front of her theurge, Terin steps through the door and is greeted by the Mexican man and his two six-shooters.

A brief stand-off ensues, ending when the Mexican shoots Terin in the knee. She is able to stay upright through sheer force of will, and a scuffle follows. The pack takes out several guards, with both Terin and Scent-of-Silver getting shot. Em heals them as they work, while Sibyl’s-Feather wields her bow from a distance.

Eventually deciding enough is enough, Scent-of-Silver shifts into chrinos and the remaining guards proceed to lose their minds. One throws himself out a window, the other disappears, and Mr. McKinnes retreats upstairs. Terin orders Behm – who has been flying above in full form – to take out the man who jumped from the window. The sound of a long scream follows, and the pack knows Behm has swooped down, thrown the man in the air, and swallowed him whole.

Before they follow their prey, Terin wonders if they’ve all been fools in not checking the prostitutes for Wyrm-taint. They enter the cramped bedroom where the prostitutes have been cowering in fear and have Sibyl’s-Feather check. Although they are tainted, it is no more than might be expected. Em instructs them to bar the door, and not come out “no matter what they hear”.

Upstairs, the pack follows the scent of McKinnes to the Wyrm-soaked bedroom. Inside, they find him standing on the bed. In front of him, his gun held to her head, is a naked, beaten, weeping 13 year-old girl. Terin almost loses control – shifting to hispo without conscious thought – but is once again able to keep from raging, if only for fear of hurting the girl in her rush to get at McKinnes.

She orders Scent-of-Silver to get the girl out of the room before dealing with McKinnes. Scent-of-Silver obeys and carries her to the room across the hall. She places the shivering girl on the bed, wraps her in a blanket, and promises that everything will be alright. She is about to leave when a strange feeling stops her. She turns back to the girl and asks whether Sibyl’s-Feather has checked the girl for Wyrm-taint. She hasn’t, and when she does she immediately recognizes the Wyrm-bane.

Ordering Sibyl’s-Feather out of the room and clear of danger, Terin rushes the bane and bites into her neck. Stripped of her only defense – hiding in plain sight – the bane dies quickly. Still on the edge of raging, and furious for being taken for a fool again, Terin rips the girl’s head off. The room fills with the stench of blood and bile, along with the sweeter scent of Behm’s essence. The pack takes the essence into themselves, then flees the scene of the crime.

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Chapter 21: Answers & Questions

Terin is the first to wake. It’s morning, although the sky is overcast. A light rain falls. She tilts her face up to it and takes a moment to mourn all that has been lost.

She is able to wake Em with little trouble, but Scent-of-Silver remains asleep no matter what they do. Worried, but with little choice, Em suggests they carry Scent-of-Silver on their backs while they travel the rest of the way to Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s birth pack.

They travel for several hours, wolf-napping along the way. The longer Scent-of-Silver remains asleep, the more concerned they get. Em eventually goes into the umbra to see if Behm can help.

He is distant. It takes several minutes for Em to convince him to come out of the shadows. When he does, he smells of acrid smoke and anger. Resting her hands on either side of his broad face, Em tries to take some of his anger into herself. The intensity of it almost overwhelms her, but she is able to maintain her control.

When she asks after Scent-of-Silver, Behm explains she is dreaming and doesn’t want to come back. He suggests she just needs time. The answer is more than a little frustrating and, powered by her borrowed anger, Em is left with the urge to break something. Rather than let Behm see her react that way, she shifts back into the mundane realm and annihilates a tree.

Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver dreams. She is in the wilderness behind the manor, in Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s favourite spot. They sit side-by-side, enjoying each other’s company in silence. Scent-of-Silver knows he’s not really there, that he will be dead as soon as she wakes up. So she stays.

Em and Terin reach the edge of Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s birth pack’s territory and howl to announce themselves. Scent-of-Silver can hear the call of her pack, but still clings to the dream. Blood-of-the-North-Sky tells her “you’re pack is calling. You must go”. Heartsick, Scent-of-Silver knows this is the last time she will see her first alpha. She says goodbye, then wakes to join the others in their howl.

Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s birth pack howls back to welcome them. Once they are all together, Em asks to be taken to Little-Guardian’s pack. He does so, and on the way informs them that she has a new name: Favoured-of-Earth.

Favoured-of-Earth takes the news well, and is seemingly more concerned about the pack’s well-being than her own. They realize death is simpler among the wolves, whose lives are shorter and more brutal than a human’s. She encourages them to pick a new alpha as soon as possible, so they can be whole once more. They promise to do so once they have returned to the City and joined their other packmate.

Em passes on the stone that Blood-of-the-North-Sky carried, and asks that it be held until another Garou is born. Favoured-of-Earth agrees, and tells them they must come to meet her pups (and those Blood-of-the-North-Sky blessed a nearby pack with) once they are born. After some intense concentration, she tells them it will be in five moons. They are all quite impressed to see a wolf do math in that way, and realize Favoured-of-Earth’s time at the City impacted her as well.

They make their farewells, and begin running back home as quickly as they can.

Sibyl’s-Feather is waiting for them when they finally make it back to the manor. She greets them each with a hug, and solemnly takes Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s eyes from Terin. There is a brief moment of panic when Terin has to admit she doesn’t know which eye is left or right, as Sibyl’s-Feather didn’t think to point out the importance. She announces they’ll just have to hope it works.

They go out back to hold their discussions. The trees around Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s clearing are full of birds – crows, ravens, even blue jays – all sitting and waiting in silence. Sibyl’s-Feather says they are showing respect, as she is about to perform a funeral rite.

After a few moments of absolute silence, she consumes one of Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s eyes.

She speaks quickly, sharing Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s last moments. His last sight was jaws closing around his neck. His last feeling was sadness for leaving is pack, but also joy because he saw his next life and knew he was going to it immediately; and pride that he gave an attacker a scar on its throat and died fighting. The pack howls their goodbye, filling their voices with sorrow for their loss and pride for their alpha.

As soon as the rite is done, the birds in the trees take flight, leaving the pack alone once more.

They discuss who should be alpha. It is quickly decided that Sibyl’s-Feather is probably disqualified, and Scent-of-Silver is still too young. When Terin looks at Em, the theurge says “it’s time to be blunt. My job is not leading, but the spiritual side. Terin, you were Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s beta. It should be you. But you need someone to keep you from flying off the handle, so I must be your beta”.

The matter decided, they move on to other things. Terin announces that they will continue patrolling their respective territories within the City, as its safety is their first priority. Sibyl’s-Feather says she’s been researching the history of the City to learn more about the spirits that may be living here; in particular the Wyrm spirit haunting the basement of the night club. She’s not quite ready to share her findings yet, but promises to do so soon.

Before they adjourn, Em mentions her experience with Behm. She warns the others that he is in a delicate place right now, and reminds them he is looking to them to learn how to mourn Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s loss. They will need to be cautious in how they display their anger.

That night, Scent-of-Silver tells Terin she needs to burn something in order to appease her curse. When asked if she needs company, she declines and says she can go into the City by herself. Terin agrees, with the caveat that she be careful.

Scent-of-Silver runs as a lupus as far as she can, then walks the rest of the way. She ends up in the Warrens and quickly picks up a train of young, Bone Gnawer kinfolk (or street kids to the uninitiated). They are obviously eager to speak with her, but maintain their distance until she invites them closer. When she explains she is looking for a tree to burn, they lead her to a greenhouse in Upper City. While they start looking for the “biggest, baddest tree”, Scent-of-Silver watches for security cameras and makes sure they aren’t seen. They eventually find a Japanese Maple and a dolly on which to carry it. Only then does Scent-of-Silver wonder just where she plans to set this fire.

Worried about her long absence – since walking into and throughout the City takes longer than driving – Terin calls Scent-of-Silver’s cell. After an explanation of what has happened so far, and what will happen next (the Bone Gnawers know of a nearby swampy area where it should be safe to burn the tree), Terin asks if there’s a chance anyone will see something they shouldn’t. Scent-of-Silver considers the litany and decides, no, she’s not breaking any rules. That being the case, Terin just asks that it wait until she can join them.

Although it takes a while to get started, the fire is huge. Scent-of-Silver watches with an expression of pure delight. Standing off to the side, Terin watches her with an expression of conflicted concern. She hopes this is helping her packmate, but worries that they are only feeding the curse rather than suppressing it.

Most of the Bone Gnawer kids think the ‘ritual’ is fantastic, and are singing and dancing around the flames. One, a slightly older girl with a familiar face, moves to stand next to Terin. She realizes this is Casey, whom the pack saved from the Wyrm-tainted gang members last year. They chat briefly about all that has happened since.

As the flames begin to die down, Casey rounds up the kinfolk to begin the long trek back to the Warrens. Scent-of-Silver watches until the very last flame gutters out, and only then returns to the manor with Terin.

While Scent-of-Silver goes to her room to sleep, Terin decides to take Running-Towards for a ride. After almost an hour, she shifts into the umbra to visit with Behm.

They talk about the difficulties of controlling anger and the pain of loss. Terin promises to avenge Blood-of-the-North-Sky, but repeats her mantra that the City must come first. Behm seems to understand. He is obviously much calmer than when Em came to visit him a few days ago.

He does, however, say Terin can’t die. She promises to do her best, although warns eventually they all will. He repeats himself, demanding that none of the pack die until . . . something happens. He knows it’s vital that they are alive until a particular occurrence, although he can’t remember what it is. Terin promises once more, then returns to the mundane.

The next day, they gather together in the rec room to talk about next steps.

Em explains about the discovery of her birth mother, and tells the others about her visit to West Cove a few weeks ago. When asked if she’d like company the next time she goes, she immediately says yes. She decides to call her birth mother and try to arrange a meeting for later in the day.

The others stay in the room for moral support. Rebecca picks up the phone, and Em decides to cut right to it: “this may sound weird. I’m, I think, I’m your daughter. You gave me up for adoption. Can we meet? I have some questions”. Despite Rebecca’s initial shock, they arrange to meet for coffee that afternoon before family gets home. She hurries to tell Em that both her husband and children know she had another child, but they would need to be prepared before a face-to-face meeting. Em doesn’t argue, saying only that she looks forward to see Rebecca at Starbucks that afternoon.

Next, Terin explains about her father’s upcoming parole hearing, and the information that Watches-the-Flame of the Silent Striders provided to her. When asked what she plans to do with it, she admits she hasn’t yet decided. Although she truly wants to help her father, she isn’t sure if bribing and/or threatening civilians is the right way to do it. Em suggests she speak to the mayor, in hopes that he might be able to intervene. At the suggestion, Terin realizes she’s going to have to speak to the mayor anyway, to let him know about the changes in the pack that lives under his roof.

Conversation then turns to Scent-of-Silver’s curse. When Sibyl’s-Feather mentions they’ll need to hold a bonfire soon, Scent-of-Silver explains that she took care of it last night (with her alpha’s blessing). Em comments that she’s been thinking about the bonfires and is becoming concerned that the repeated burning of plants might turn all plant spirits against Scent-of-Silver. Although the alternative – occasionally burning small animals, which Terin reluctantly points out – is hardly appealing, it may be better than an entire branch of spirits turning against one of their pack. Em says she’ll think about what the best path might be.

Conversations done, they disperse. Em heads out on patrol. Terin schedules a meeting with the mayor. Sibyl’s-Feather resumes her research in the study. And Scent-of-Silver goes to visit with Behm.

She announces that Terin is the new alpha. Behm replies that he knows, and promises to still keep Scent-of-Silver’s secrets. Moving closer, he comments “you have fire; you smell good”. He comments off-handedly that he stole fire from the sun, although “not many people know that”. Curious to hear more, Scent-of-Silver goes for a ride on Behm’s back deeper into the umbra. Eventually they are flying through the clouds, and Behm turns his neck to continue the conversation.

He says “fire has noticed you. It is a powerful ally, but also a fickle and dangerous one. If you grow strong enough with it, perhaps I can teach you to breathe it”. He explains that Scent-of-Silver has a fire spirit within her, and that it’s happy to be there. She could make friends with it, but that would in turn make her enemies. Fire only knows how to bring death.

Scent-of-Silver says she doesn’t want to push the spirit away, but rather control it. Behm warns that will not be an easy task. “Fire is simple: it wants to consume. Be careful not to give it too much”. Shifting tone, as he often does, he then breaks into a grin. “The next time fire needs out of you, let me play as well. I had forgotten fire until you came back”.

In the City, Em’s patrol takes her to the rez. She gathers the council to tell them about Blood-of-the-North-Sky, and asks that they pass on the news to the rest of the kinfolk. Christine Running Deer, the chief, simply asks “how”. Em explains what they know so far. That Blood-of-the-North-Sky went to visit his birth pack, and then to find mates among the wolves. When he was late coming back to the City, the pack went to find them. Instead they found his corpse.

She also mentions they had a run-in with a Red Talon. This news rumbles through the council. Christine says they are aware of the Red Talons, and have had “many incidents”. Em admits they plan to wait until they are much stronger before returning to speak to the Red Talon. One of the council members warns “there are no roads to the north. Any time someone tries to settle there, they vanish”.

Before Em leaves, Christine recommends that Em come to the Uktena if she needs help with closure. Em admits “I know ours is a short and brutal life, but his seemed especially so”. Nodding solemnly, Christine says only “the brightest stars burn fastest”.

Back at the manor, Terin goes to speak with the mayor. He gives his condolences when she informs him about Blood-of-the-North-Sky, and then very little reaction when she tells him she is the new pack alpha. He comments that he is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of a Silver Fang Garou within the City. He offers to call one in to join the pack. Terin says she’ll think about it, but also that the pack is fine as they are.

In an attempt at diplomacy, she says that the pack is dedicated to protecting all Garou, kinfolk and humans of the City, not just their respective tribes. The mayor replies “you may speak for the Garou of the City, but not the Garou nation. Only a Silver Fang may do that”. Terin gives her best poker face, and wonders if she needs to speak to her philodox.

Changing topics, she mentions the fact that Scent-of-Silver doesn’t have any ID. The mayor says that, while he could certainly help, any ID he got for the girl would be official. Since she may not want a paper trail, he suggests she seek another alternative.

He is equally unable to help regarding Terin’s father. There are no official channels for the mayor to intervene in a parole hearing, and any unofficial requests he might make would raise more questions than any of them would be comfortable with. He warns that his ability to protect the pack extends only so far. Any incident that draws the attention of the national government – such as the bombing Sam went to jail for in the first place – requires a scapegoat.

Terin thanks him for his time, agrees again to think on his offer of locating a Silver Fang, and leaves to take a shower.

Later that day, she sits down to open the envelope Watches-the-Flame gave her. There are four folders inside, each with detailed information on someone involved in the parole hearing. Vanna Brainard, the hearing examiner, has always turned down Sam for parole in the past. Although given he never tried to be paroled before, that may not entirely be her fault. She is divorced, has three children (Gregory, Gerald and Stacey), and rents a small, three-bedroom house in Clement.

Micah Distefano is Sam’s case manager. He’s never pushed for Sam’s parole before, again because Sam was never interested. The rest of the information is sketchy, and he has no known supernatural associations.

One of the guards, Eddy Witzel, is listed as “speaking against” Sam’s parole. The folder indicates he’s a sadist who enjoys beating on the inmates, including Sam. Terin has to take a few minutes to calm down before she can look at the last folder.

The last name provided, Madelaine Lacroix, is listed as someone not currently scheduled to attend but who could be asked to speak on Sam’s behalf. She worked in the prison infirmary and could speak to Sam’s character. She is also Silent Strider kinfolk.

Hoping for a friendly face, Terin decides to contact Madelaine Lacroix first. After a quick phone call, Terin goes to visit her at her condo in Midtown. Madelaine agrees to help, although she warns she may need to fudge some details in order to speak on Sam’s behalf. Although she did indeed work in the prison infirmary for a time, it was quite a while ago.

Terirn calls Micah next, and the schedule an appointment in person in a couple days. Micah seems quite excited at the prospect of Terin speaking on her father’s behalf, and also at the suggestion that Sam may finally want to try for once.

Shortly after this, the pack has gathered at the manor to drive together to West Cove for Em’s reunion with her birth mother. They arrive at the designated Starbucks with time to spare, and decide to let Em sit by herself rather than risk scaring Rebecca off. Terin and Scent-of-Silver sit at one table, Sibyl’s-Feather sits at another, and Em sits on her own waiting for Rebecca to show.

Thanks to her earlier scouting mission, Em immediately recognizes when Rebecca comes through the door. Even without that, the rest of the pack are able to spot her without too much difficulty, thanks to family resemblance.

The conversation goes well, if somewhat awkward, to begin with. Rebecca explains that she was very young and thought she was doing what was best for her daughter. She says the adoption file had been closed (at her request), but she had it opened two years ago in case Em came looking. She seems pleased that it has finally happened.

Things become more tense when Em asks after the family’s history with mental illness. Rebecca says her mother developed early-onset Alzheimer’s, but other than that there’s nothing. As to Em’s father’s family, she says she doesn’t know.

She and her boyfriend, Jason, were only 15 when it happened. She tries a few pronunciations of his last name, but can’t quite seem to remember it. His family was from the rez, but he and his little sister were living in a foster house with some troubled kids in West Cove. She describes him as “quite big; quite the protector”.

Rebecca says she spent a lot of time at the foster home, mostly to be with Jason. When her family family found out about the relationship they put an end to it, and she saw Jason only once after that. She didn’t tell him about the pregnancy, as she didn’t think it would help him.

She apologizes for what happened, saying she wished she had been there to help Em through her illnesses. Em is quick to reassure her there’s nothing she could have done, and that everything is fine now. She speaks fondly of her adoptive father who she sees once a week, and lives with good friends who look out for her.

When Rebecca asks what she’s doing now, Em says “military work”. Rebecca asks if she needs help with anything, and Em demures. She points out her friends who came with her for moral support, and ends up calling the rest of the pack over to the table to meet Rebecca. The introductions go smoothly – Rebecca even manages to meet each of their eyes – although both Em and Terin can tell she’s extremely nervous.

Before she leaves, Rebecca says she would be happy for Em to meet the rest of her family, if and when she’s ready to do so. Em says she’ll think about it. She also asks if Rebecca wants to be told what Em finds out about Jason. After a moment’s hesitation, Rebecca says yes. She would like to know if Jason and his sister are alright.

On the drive back to the manor, they end up detouring to the rez to drop Sibyl’s-Feather and Em off. Sibyl’s-Feather wants to meet with the medicine man Speaks-of-Gaia mentioned, and Em wants to ask after her father.

They are able to find Ahjijawk Neezhoday’s house without too much difficulty. It has a totem pole in front of the house, and smells of sweet grass and something like baking bread. A man in his late 70s or early 80s with thick, white braided hair is sitting on the front stoop. Sibyl’s-Feather introduces herself in Ojibwa, and says “I have come to learn”.

The man calls for Warren, and a 60 year old man wearing a “kiss the cook” apron comes out from the house. Warren doesn’t act terribly surprised to see them, and promises to bring out food as soon as it’s ready.

While Warren goes back inside to gather food, Ahjijawk says “it’s about time you came to visit”. Sibyl’s-Feather asks about being able to learn the land’s stories, so she can share them with the City. “They should understand the strength of this place”. Ahjijawk agrees, and proceeds to tell her random anecdotes about his neighbours and the residents of the rez.

After his stories die down, Em asks after a Jason Ka’Migen. Ahjijawk immediately recognizes the name. He says Jason was older than himself, so probably isn’t who Em is looking to find. He mentions Paul Ka’Migen would be the right age. He lives near the market if Em wants to speak with him.

Thanking Ahjijawk and Warren for their time (and delicious bannock bread), Em and Sibyl’s-Feather make their departure. Before they do, they agree to visit with the rest of their pack for dinner on the weekend.

They go next to find Paul. He’s working on a car in his garage, and welcomes Em and Sibyl’s-Feather freely when they arrive. He doesn’t seem to recognise the name Jason. He does say he knew a “Jay” when he was a kid, but his last name wasn’t Ka’Migen. He and his sister were in foster care in West Cove. He hasn’t seen Jay in 20 years. Although he does say Em would know his sister: Joanna Blackburn.

Doing her best to conceal her shock, Em thanks Paul for her time. Then immediately steps away to call Detective Blackburn.

Em asks if she’s available to meet for coffee. Blackburn says she’s at the office, and won’t be off-shift until midnight. She semi-jokingly offers to meet then, to which Em immediately agrees. Not only does she want to ask about Jay, but she belatedly realizes none of the pack have thought to inform Joanna about Blood-of-the-North-Sky.

Back at the manor, the pack gathers for dinner. They talk about their various days. Scent-of-Silver brings up something she says she’s been considering for a while, specifically whether Sibyl’s-Feather needs to follow the Garou litany, given she’s not technically a Garou. There’s a bit of a debate about it. They end up going through the litany line by line, to work through what would apply to Sibyl’s-Feather (no entering another Garou’s territory without announcing oneself) and what wouldn’t (Garou shall not mate with Garou). Terin eventually boils it down to one overarching rule: when Sibyl’s-Feather is travelling with the pack, she must obey the Garou laws. Sibyl’s-Feather agrees, and decides against pointing out the fact she often travels ahead of the rest of the pack.

At midnight, Em and Sibyl’s-Feather head back into the City to meet with Detective Blackburn. Sibyl’s-Feather hangs back at the car while Em brings the gift of coffee to Blackburn. Already armed with a cup, Blackburn declines the gift.

Before Em can speak, she comments “I wish I had learned from you”. Em apologizes for not calling to tell her about Blood-of-the-North-Sky, saying that the pack is still trying to deal with it. Blackburn seems to accept this explanation, then moves to leave as she assumes that was the point of the visit.

Em stops her, saying she actually wanted to ask if her brother was a man named Jason Ka’Migen]. Joanna says “no”, but her tone has taken an odd cast. She says their last name is Blackburn, then asks where Em learned about her brother at all.

Em explains that she’s been tracking down her birth parents. She met her mother earlier in the day, Rebecca Fostworth. Joanna drops one of her coffee cups. She says her brother dated a girl named Becca when they were kids. She says Jason wasn’t a Garou then, although he was always troubled.

Taking the second coffee Em brought, Joanna takes a long sip. “So you’re my niece.” “Looks that way.” “I’m proud of you.” “Thanks?”

Joanna goes on to say she never knew her own birth parents. She lived at the foster home with her brother until “an incident. I’m not going to go into details”. After that, Jason left and she returned to the rez. Em asks when she last saw her brother, and Joanna says “several years ago. He got himself into trouble and was asked to leave”. She then corrects herself saying Jason came back a little over a year ago, but she ran him out of town.

Joanna warns against looking for him. She’s not sure Em should find him, because of the litany. She says it as though she’s worried Em might hurt her for suggesting she back off. Em reassures her she’s at no risk of losing her temper, but does ask why everyone keeps warning her away. Joanna says only “I don’t know what he is now”.

The next day (Tuesday), the pack gathers in the evening to report what they found on patrol. Sibyl’s-Feather shares what she has learned so far about the night club. She explains that the building where the night club now resides is one of the oldest in the City, perhaps in the first five or ten that were ever built. It was originally the hotel, and likely would have served as a brothel. The Wyrm spirit that lives within it has likely been there for a very long time.

Deciding it has lived there quite long enough, the pack heads into the City to take care of it. They drive into the City and park a few blocks away to shift over into the umbra. Behm is waiting for them, as always, and is thrilled when they say they’ve come to fight the Wyrm spirit.

Before they do, both Em and Siby’s-Feather ask what the plan is. None of the pack particularly wants to fight the spirit within its den. They decide to use Sibyl’s-Feather as bait to try to lure it out, in the hopes it will be easier to fight where they can actually see it. Terin asks Behm to bolster Sibyl’s-Feather if it looks like the spirit will overwhelm her, and he promises to do what he can.

In the guttering street light behind the club, the pack takes up their positions. Stubborn-Heart and Far-Wisdom stand on either side of the cellar doors, in preparation of slamming them shut once the spirit comes out. Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver conceals herself to the side of the area, ready to pounce as soon as the spirit is visible.

And Sibyl’s-Feather curls up in the street, alone, and thinks about loss. Hopelessness. Despair. She concentrates on the car crash when she was a girl, and on what was stolen from her. She mutters in Swedish, begging for help.

As the scent of tears fills the air, Stubborn-Heart and Far-Wisdom wrench open the cellar doors. A pale, white hand comes out of the darkness. It’s feminine, with broken nails. The rest of the figure that follows is naked, with lank hair, and covered in evidence of abuse. Cigarette burns, scars, cuts, bruises, two black eyes, and track marks litter her skin. She limps towards Sibyl’s-Feather, weak and broken, and calls “come with me”.

This is a victim, not prey.

Far-Wisdom and Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver are able to see past the illusion, however, and see the Wyrm spirit for what it is. Stubborn-Heart can only see her mother; a brutalized woman with no one to defend her.

Able to act on the plan, Far-Wisdom slams her half of the cellar door shut. The sound starts Stubborn-Heart out of her stupor, and she reacts with immediate fury. Her need to destroy the creature that used her mother’s memory against her runs through the rest of the pack, and they leap almost as one. They rip the creature to shreds in seconds.

It reforms into a ghostly shape and flees through the door. The pack follows, spurred on by Stubborn-Heart’s anger. She is able to stop herself before running headlong into the darkness, however, and has Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver hold her lighter into the cellar. The darkness parts slightly, displaying a small, empty room filled with chains.

Far-Wisdom sees through the illusion of the back wall, and says there is a portal leading deeper into the umbra. When asked if they’ll be able to come back once they go through, she says yes. Although they will need to use the same portal in order to come back to the same place. And there will be no telling how much time passes in the mundane while they’re gone.

Satisfied that they’ll be able to get back, Stubborn-Heart orders them through.

They find themselves in the City. Muddy streets and hand lanterns; horse-drawn carriages and cowboys; the smell of manure and gun powder. This is the City, but not today. It’s 1885, and their prey has vanished into the crowd.

View
Chapter 20: Loss

Now (4:00am Tuesday morning)

With three of their enemies dead, the three Garou and single Corax face off against the remaining Wyrm-tainted Weaver-spiders. One is still on the offensive while the last and largest continues to flee from Stubborn-Heart’s threat display.

Four Hours Ago

Sibyl’s-Feather enters Terin’s room quietly and wakes her friend. Silent in the face of Terin’s grumbling, she says only that everyone needs to be gathered. She’s had a vision.

Once Em and Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver have joined them in the rec room, Sibyl’s-Feather explains what she saw. It is dark. There is a deep pit with massive beams reaching out of it. There are things moving in the pit, watching the pack. Something is being born in that darkness. Something dangerous.

When asked if she received the vision in time for them to stop the thing being born, Sibyl’s-Feather admits she doesn’t know. She does say that she’ll be able to lead them to the location in the umbra. But they need to move fast.

Now

Behm’s form moves around the edges of the construction site. Incorporeal in the penumbra, he is little more than a sense of movement and the occasional flash of rainbow feathers. Within the pit, Scent-of-Silver rips the last Wyrm-tainted spider’s head off. Foul-smelling ichor spills from its neck, coating the ground like oil.

The hunt for their last enemy is on. Despite its size, the remaining spider has vanished behind one of the metal pillars. Sibyl’s-Feather shifts to her bird-form and circles above, while the Garou hunt using scent and sight. They eventually manage to find it hiding part way up a metal beam on the opposite side of the pit from where it initially hid. But they are unable to pin it down before it vanishes again.

The hunt resumes.

Two Weeks Ago

A couple days after their discussion with and promise to Behm – or the greater part of Behm that demanded the promise – Blood-of-the-North-Sky calls the pack together. They find him at the edge of the forest behind the manor, in the small clearing where he and Little-Guardian have made their home. He’s sitting in lupus, Little-Guardian upright beside him. They are struck by how much the wolf has grown in the past year. She’s no longer the eager, cheerful yearling they met. Instead she’s an adult.

Blood-of-the-North-Sky speaks. Now that the pack is full once more, he says with a nod to Scent-of-Silver, it is time to look to their own territory. Because the City and its surroundings are so large, he’s decided that each member of the pack will be responsible for a smaller piece.

He tells Terin to watch the borders. She will announce the arrival of any outsiders to the pack. She will also be responsible for defining just how far their border extends, and marking the line so all others will know.

Next he tells Scent-of-Silver she will be responsible for the Warrens. It will be up to her to decide just how much of the City that reaches, and suggests she speak to the Bone Gnawer kinfolk.

To Em, he gives more leeway. He suggests she may wish to choose the Uktena reservation, although any other are of the City is within her reach.

Since Sibyl’s-Feather can travel so much faster, he tells her to cover whatever areas of the City are left after Em has made her decision.

For his own part, Blood-of-the-North-Sky says he will not take any one territory. Instead, he will travel between them, checking on each member of the pack as he does. It will help to ensure someone has a sense of the greater whole, and also allow for communication when a howl isn’t possible.

He also tells them all not to be afraid to reach out to each other for help when it is needed. Although he trusts them to handle small problems as they arise, he reminds them that they are a pack and the City is theirs as a whole.

That done, he moves on to say that he has decided it is time to return to his birth-pack for a visit. Little-Guardian needs a mate (she preens slightly), and he must pass on his own gift. He mentions off-hand that they must all think about breeding, to which Em, Terin, Scent-of-Silver and Sibyl’s-Feather go poker-faced.

Terin asks if Blood-of-the-North-Sky is sure he and Little-Guardian should travel alone. He allows for Terin to escort them to the edge of the City – since that is now her role as the guardian of the border – but says they will travel by themselves from there. His birth pack is two days’ travel from the City, and there is no reason for Terin to be gone as well.

Conversation done, Blood-of-the-North-Sky promises to return in two weeks, with the crescent moon.

Thirty Minutes Ago

In the umbra, Sibyl’s-Feather leads the pack as a crow leads wolves on the hunt. They approach a construction site that looks just as Sibyl’s-Feather saw it in her vision. A massive ramp made of sand and gravel extends down 30 feet into the earth, where they can see something moving. Weaver spiders ring the edge of the site and scurry about within it. Some of them are different, however. They glisten wetly with what looks like oil, and their scent on the wind is one of chaos and decay. Sibyl’s-Feather can tell immediately they are Wyrm-tainted.

Aware of their promise to Behm to listen to their enemies, Em prepares to speak to the largest spider, assuming it to be the leader. Before she moves forward, however, Behm’s ghostly penumbral form appears in the air beside her. He sniffs the air. The others mirror his action, and realize the Wyrm-tainted spiders smell of Behm.

They’ve taken his blood, he says. He needs it back. He demands the pack kill the tainted spiders and leave the rest.

Now

After a few more rounds of hide-and-seek with the remaining spider, the pack finally pins it down. In fact, it seems to have shaken off its fear and turns to fight. After a few brutal strikes, Scent-of-Silver ends up landing the killing blow. She roars in triumph, ichor streaming from her muzzle.

The discarded body crumples to the ground and splits in two, revealing a smaller spider. This one appears to be untainted, and hurriedly skitters away from the pack.

On the ground, the pools of black-stained blood beneath their fallen enemies begins to move. The pack are wary, as they’ve seen this pattern before. Instead of seeking some kind of escape into the earth, however, this time the black goo moves towards the pack. Terin, Scent-of-Silver and Sibyl’s-Feather skirt away from the goo. Em, however, thinks of what Behm said about needing his blood back. She kneels and cups her hands to the ichor, letting it pool and swim up her arms.

The rest of the pack follows suit, until they have all taken the blood within themselves. Behm appears once more, saying he can almost feel it. They need to do something in his name in order for the blood to be fully returned. Excited, Em suggests they design their own ritual.

Before that, however, she tries to speak with the Weaver spiders to find out what happened here. It doesn’t go well. The spiders project what look like holographic computer monitors in the air, their words streaming across the monitor. It looks like Matrix-y gibberish to most of the pack, but Em is able to read it. Unfortunately, she’s not quite able to understand it. After a few rounds of questions and answers, the text settles on “waiting for input . . . come back later”. Em decides the spiders aren’t interested in talking, and moves away.

She gathers the pack in a circle, links them together, and the Garou howl. Sibyl’s-Feather coos along and moves her arms in a sinuous dance that seems to communicate far more than the others’ howls. They feel a rush of energy flow out of them and deeper into the umbra, where Behm is reunited once more with his essence.

The howl also seems to have put the Weaver spiders on high alert. Four of the larger spiders light up and begin moving towards the pack. They retreat, making their way up the ramp backwards so they can keep an eye on the spiders. Once they have passed some invisible line, the spiders stop pursuing. It seems that, as long as the pack stays out of the spiders’ territory, everything is fine.

Deciding to investigate the construction site in the morning, the pack returns to the manor.

Other Dribs and Drabs

Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver explains her curse to the rest of the pack. She must burn something living at least once a month, lest she lose control of the fire spirit within her. It must be something of meaning, something with a living spirit. The greater the spirit, the happier her curse will be. Sibyl’s-Feather suggests they hold a bonfire once a week, and burn a living plant from the store. This seems to work.

Terin remains undecided about what to do for her father’s parole hearing. More than anything, she doesn’t want her actions to bring harm to the City.

Em receives an email from her father, regarding the promise he made to find out about her birth parents. He says her birth mother was Rebecca Fostworth and her current address is in the nearby town West Cove, about an hour’s drive away. He hasn’t been able to find out anything about her birth father.

Into Real Time

The afternoon after their combat with the spiders, the pack gathers once more in the rec room. With the help of a few maps spread across the floor and tables, they decide what areas each of them will patrol. It’s decided that Scent-of-Silver will patrol the Warrens (mostly using the eyes and ears of the Bone Gnawers), Cobalt Valley and Midtown; Em will patrol the rez (using the eyes and ears of the Uktena), Upper City, and the farmland in between; Sibyl’s-Feather will patrol Mandel, the area around the University, and Newbridge; and Terin will patrol the borders.

That decided, conversation turns to the fact that Blood-of-the-North-Sky is now two days late in returning to the City. Although Terin shares their concerns, she reminds the others that their first priority – both as Garou and in Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s words – is the safety of the territory. They must protect the City from the Wyrm; everything else comes second.

Eventually they decide to wait two more days before they go looking for Blood-of-the-North-Sky. He operates on lupus-time, after all. He may just be running late.

Next they talk about Em’s father. She mentions that they reconnected, and she has begun to wonder whether he might be a kinfolk. She expresses frustration about the fact that the pack knows so little about their own lore and biology. How does one learn they are a kinfolk? How is it ‘diagnosed’? Sibyl’s-Feather mentions the only guaranteed test she knows: turn into crinos and see if Em’s father soils himself. They decide to leave that as Plan B.

Em also mentions the fact that there used to be a cairn at the City, and she doesn’t really understand what that means. The rest of the pact reacts with shock, since they weren’t at the gathering of the Uktena elders where Em learns that. She has a brief moment of regret, thinking perhaps she wasn’t supposed to mention it. She brushes the thought off, however, since they are pack. They should have no secrets.

They decide to go visit Speaks-of-Gaia, who has made his home among the Uktena (when he isn’t off singing the pack’s song to other Garou). He is much wiser than the pack in Garou lore, and might hopefully be able to share some answers.

After a quick call to make sure John is in fact home, they drive up to the rez. John’s house is near the edge of the rez, and backs onto the forest that surrounds the City. It is a welcoming cabin, and its location marks it as home to a Garou to anyone who knows what they’re looking for.

Inside, John has tea ready for pouring. He mentions that he will be leaving in on Friday to visit a number of different packs, and expects to be gone for ten days. When Em mentions she wanted to learn more about the cairn that used to be in the City, John asks where she heard such a story. He says it’s an old tale, one which he hasn’t heard in many years; and suggests it would be best to focus on the City’s well-being now rather than looking into the ancient past.

Realizing John won’t share his knowledge with non-Uktena, Em moves on to her next topic of interest. When asked about lost or unknowing kinfolk, John suggests she seek out the knowledge of a medicine-man named Ahjijawk Neezhoday.

The rest of the visit passes pleasantly enough. Sibyl’s-Feather tries to find out more details about John’s life, which he largely side-steps. They do, however, agree to go fishing together when he gets back from his next trip.

The next day, the pack goes off to begin patrolling their respective areas of the City. Em also decides to investigate the address her adoptive father gave her, and try to learn a bit more about her birth mother.

She leaves the City around 4:30 in the afternoon, aiming to arrive at West Cove for 6. The address her father gave her is in a nice neighbourhood, with two story homes and multiple cars in each driveway. The mailbox outside the address has “The Maynards” written on it, and two Mercedes sit in the drive. Em takes all this in with a sour expression.

Deciding to investigate a bit further, she crosses into the umbra to try and peek inside the house. Because this is a relatively new development, she finds herself standing on a gravel street. There are no houses, but there is a sense of pain at all the trees that have been struck down.

Behm appears next to her to ask what they’re doing. As soon as she opens her mouth to explain, Em realizes she’s made a stupid mistake. She completely neglected to check if West Cove was home to any other Garou. Behm shrugs off her concern, saying she just needs to be quiet.

Suspicious, Em points out “you’re acting all sneaky”. Behm counters “you’re alone. This is a secret. I’m good at keeping secrets”. Em shakes her head, “I feel like you’re sitting on my shoulder. You won’t get that reference”. Explaining that she really does need to do things the correct way, she shifts back into the mundane world and begins driving to the edge of West Cove.

On her way, she rolls down the windows, shifts to glabro, and inhales deeply for the scent of another Garou. 45 minutes later, once she’s sure this is not someone else’s territory, she turns back around and returns to her mother’s home.

Back in the umbra, she holds up her compact mirror and peeks through into the mundane. Behm’s voice follows her as she walks towards the house, asking what she’s doing. She explains that she’s “come to meet the woman who gave birth to me”. Behm immediately understands “your mother. She lives in the umbra?”

Inside the house, Em moves through the neatly appointed rooms like a wraith. The furniture looks comfortable, the art on the walls expensive, and the pictures all of family. She eventually finds herself in a dining room, where a TV-perfect family is sitting down to dinner. There is a shock of recognition when she looks at a woman in her mid-thirties at the head of the table. Not the same as looking at the mirror, but a faded resemblance that marks this woman as Rebecca Fostworth. Her mother.

At the other end of the table is a good looking man in dress shirt and slacks, the top button of his shirt undone, with the hint of a tie being taken off at the end of the day. On either side of the table are two young boys, both under 10. One seems to be telling a story to the woman – his mother, Em’s mother – who leans forward with interest.

Behm’s voice breaks into her thoughts, saying “you’ve been watching for a while. What are you looking for?” Doing her best to control her voice, Em says she’ll need to come back later. She doesn’t want to interrupt dinner. She’d rather not have this conversation when her mother’s new family is around.

As she makes her way back to the street where her car is waiting, Behm asks about her father. She says she doesn’t know who he is yet. Behm presses, asking how she will find out. “You have to find him”.

Meanwhile, back at the manor, the others have gathered to share the details of their day. Both Terin and Sibyl’s-Feather report they found nothing of interest. Terin visited an RV dealer on the edge of town, but didn’t see anything of interest; other than a small trailer she’s considering picking up for herself.

In contrast, Scent-of-Silver says the Bone Gnawer kinfolk pointed her towards several areas of concern. One in particular is a night club in the Warrens, where something dark is happening upstairs. Based on Scent-of-Silver’s description, Terin recognizes it as a former strip club. They decide to check it out as a group.

They wait until Em is back before heading out. Some dressed more provocatively than others, they take the Cayenne into the City. Scent-of-Silver points out on the way that not only is she under-age, but she has no ID. Terin brushes this off as nothing to be concerned about, while Em suggests they speak to the mayor about it later.

At the door, the bouncer does indeed try to stop them to card Scent-of-Silver. Between Terin’s easy confidence and Scent-of-Silver’s subterfuge, they talk their way inside. Once up the stairs to the main floor they find that, while no longer a strip club, the bar is still fairly skeevy. It’s early enough in the night that it isn’t very crowded, which only means their entrance draws more attention. It’s not entirely unexpected, as each of them have noticed over the past few months how fascinated some humans seem to be with them.

They find a staircase leading upstairs, with a velvet rope and a sign saying “VIP Only” blocking the way. There is no bouncer, however, and no one seems to be paying attention. So they hop the rope and head upstairs.

The space looks unused, with broken tables and a thin layer of dust. A wooden door sits in the back wall, a large mirror set into it. Testing the door, they find it locked. Suspecting the mirror is a double-mirror, and wary of anyone who might be watching, the group decides to enter via the umbra instead.

Back at the bottom of the stairs, a bouncer – shaved head, broad shoulders, obvious steroid use – has taken up his post. He seems a bit flustered that they got past him while he was away, and insists they can’t go upstairs again. They agree easily, and head towards the bathroom. As they do, the bouncer tries to catch Terin’s attention. “I haven’t seen you here before.” “Nope.”

Crowding into the bathroom, Em takes their hands and tries to carry them across into the umbra. After a few awkward minutes, it becomes obvious she’s too distracted by their surroundings to do so. Before they can try again with Sibyl’s-Feather leading the way, the door opens to admit a pair of laughing women.

Em, Scent-of-Silver, and Terin go back into the bar proper to try to come up with another plan. While they are talking, the bouncer appears to ask Terin if he can buy her a drink. She sends him off to fetch a scotch and soda, saying she’ll keep him distracted while the others go to investigate upstairs.

Back in the bathroom, Sibyl’s-Feather is able to carry Em and Scent-of-Silver across the gauntlet with little difficulty. The main room is still a bar, although the décor is far less gross. Everything is hardwood, polished brass, and stained glass. The staircase leading upstairs is a grand, curving affair, muffled with plush red carpeting. Upstairs, they walk down a long hallway with small rooms lining either side. They figure out this must have been a brothel, likely in the 1890s.

At the end of the hall is a set of large double doors. Sibyl’s-Feather balks as they approach, saying there is something foul within. Em peeks through to the mundane through her compact, and finds the double doors are there as well. With Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver holding the doors open, she creeps forward. The room in the mundane is full of boxes; some of them open to reveal brightly coloured spandex and sequins. It looks like the remnants of the night club’s former life as a strip club have been stored here.

At the same time, Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver find themselves looking at an empty room in the umbra. On the far wall is another set of doors leading to what looks like a balcony. Sibyl’s-Feather covers her nose against the stench emanating from the balcony, and says the darkness is out there.

Deciding against any further investigation without their ahroun, they return to the main room. Em heads back to the bathroom so she can fetch Terin, while Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver wait in the umbra for their return.

Back in the mundane, Terin and the bouncer have a lovely chat about bodybuilding, the merits of various diet supplements, and bikes. Terin does ask about the VIP area, to which the bouncer replies that the area isn’t really used. Management has plans to tidy things up and open the area, but for now it’s only used as storage. Terin mentions one of her friends really wants to see the back hallway, and asks if the bouncer would be willing to escort them up. After some confusion, he becomes quite eager at the idea of taking two women up to the musty bedrooms on the second floor.

Em arrives shortly after, and the three of them go upstairs. The bouncer opens the door into the back hallway, and starts hinting towards one of the bedrooms. After trying to convince him to just leave (which causes a hurt expression and a “did I do something wrong?”), Terin ends up taking him into one of the side rooms and knocking him unconscious.

Meanwhile, back in the umbra, Sibyl’s-Feather and Scent-of-Silver return to the main floor to find several more “people” have arrived. Someone is tending bar, a group is playing poker, and a pianist is plunking out a cheery tune. All of them are men, and more than one stares in surprise to find two women in their midst. To kill the time, and possibly distract their attention, Sibyl’s-Feather enacts an impromptu song and dance with the pianist, to the delight of everyone watching.

Em and Terin arrive just as the applause are dying down, and the group heads upstairs. The balcony where Sibyl’s-Feather sensed the darkness turns out to be a fire escape on the outside of the building. It smells of old ash and smoke and Wyrm. All of the group can feel the darkness now, wafting up from somewhere below.

They make their way down to the bottom of the fire escape, which turns out to be a story below street-level. There they find a pair of heavy doors leading into what looks like the cellar. Terin rips open one of the doors to reveal a thick, inky, palpable darkness. The smell from the cellar is foul, and the group reacts with disgust, rage, and horror.

Reminding herself of their promise to Behm, Em steps forward to speak to the thing. Its voice is one of screams and sobs, with echoes of clanking chains and squeaking bedframes. Em learns that it is a spirit of hopelessness. Of shame. It has been fed for more than a hundred years by the souls of the women used up and discarded in the building above. The ones that can’t speak English are its favourite; their fear the most true, their hopelessness the most deep. Swallowing back her horror, Em asks how she can help the spirit, to which it replies “bring me more”.

The group retreat slightly to discuss their next move. Terin, Em and Scent-of-Silver are more than ready to attack the thing and cleanse the Warrens of its taint. Even Behm, ghostly in the penumbra, is eager to kill the thing. Sibyl’s-Feather acts as the voice of reason, suggesting they play it smart and come back once they have a full pack. Fighting without pack mind is a liability; and the strength of the spirit below the night club is not to be taken lightly.

It takes a few minutes to talk Behm down from the fight. Only the promise that they will come back and kill the spirit seems to calm him.

Back in the mundane, after a few moments of quiet to collect herself, Em declares they need to leave to find Blood-of-the-North-Sky immediately.

Returning to the manor to collect supplies and let their various contacts know they will be out of town for a while, Terin raises the issue of leaving someone behind to watch over the City. As much as she is worried about Blood-of-the-North-Sky – and as much as she, too, needs the pack mind to be more effective in battle – she maintains they can’t leave the City unguarded. It’s eventually decided that Sibyl’s-Feather will stay behind, while the rest go to find Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s birth pack. Terin promises to keep in touch to let Sibyl’s-Feather know about their progress, and hopes they’ll be back in a few short days.

After a couple days of travel and wolf-naps, they finally come across a familiar scent. Although not Blood-of-the-North-Sky himself, this territory smells of family. They’ve found his birth pack.

They are greeted enthusiastically. They learn that Little-Guardian has broken off with a pack of her own, but she is called back to greet her friends. She arrives with her mate, and preens that she is carrying her first litter of pups. Em, Terin and Scent-of-Silver pass on their congratulations, then ask about Blood-of-the-North-Sky.

They learn that he has carried on to visit other packs in the area, so he can “spread his gift”. Little-Guardian escorts them to the edge of her territory and points him in the direction he went.

The next few days pass in a blur. The group is welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm at each pack, although they are always treated with respect. At one in particular they are informed that the alpha female has been “blessed” by the Spirit-Wolf (their term for Garou). Even her mate speaks of it as a blessing.

Eventually, two days after their hoped return to the City, the group comes across a pack that is not at all happy to see them. Terin ends up having to stare down their alpha, but even then he warns them to leave. There is another Spirit-Wolf near by, who does not take kindly to outsiders. Terin and Em push for more details until the wolf finally relents and takes them to the edge of the other Spirit-Wolf’s territory. They howl to announce themselves and ask for an audience.

A single howl comes in reply. The Garou introduces himself as anthro ahroun of the Red Talon. Like all Red Talons, his name has no man-speak equivalent, but the group eventually works it out to mean Blood-in-his-Teeth. He closes his howl with a flat “fuck off”.

Scared for their alpha, the group persists. Stubborn-Heart howls back “seeking Blood-of-the-North-Sky. Seeking alpha”. There is no immediate reply, and the group is wary of crossing into an elder Garou’s territory without permission.

With the trail gone cold, Em suggests they cross into the umbra and ask Behm if he has some idea where Blood-of-the-North-Sky may be. She takes them across, although for a moment it doesn’t look like anything has happened. Aside from a slight sharpening of the senses, the forest is the same in the umbra as in the mundane.

Save for the raging, feathered serpent that is thrashing at trees.

The group is shocked and more than a little frightened by Behm’s behaviour. They try to calm him down, only to stumble back when he breathes fire to set several trees ablaze. Terin, in homid, finally stands in front of Behm and holds her hands up for peace. He subsides, moaning that “you lost him!”

Immediately the group realizes what has happened: Blood-of-the-North-Sky is dead.

As they fall into confusion, trying to find out when, how, where, they become aware of a massive red wolf watching them from within Blood-in-his-Teeth’s territory. Stubborn-Heart wheels on him. Recalling Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s story of a red wolf that killed off several of his birth pack when he was a pup, she shifts immediately to hispo and prepares for battle. The first words from Blood-in-his-Teeth when he sees her – “my, how you’ve grown human pup” – do little to calm her down. She demands to know whether Blood-in-his-Teeth has killed Blood-of-the-North-Sky.

The red Garou reacts with amused disdain. He easily stares Terin down, until she is cringing with her tail tucked involuntarily between her legs. Blood-in-his-Teeth rebukes the group for their human-bred stupidity. He tells them they should have followed their alpha’s scent rather than the word of others as to where he went; and maybe they would have found him in time. Dismissing them as fools, he turns and fades back into the darkness. Only Far-Wisdom’s pleading is enough to keep Stubborn-Heart from raging, and leading them into a fight that likely would have killed them all.

They retreat in silence. It takes a painfully long time before Stubborn-Heart’s tail comes out from between her legs.

Back in the mundane, Terin shifts to homid and prepares to call Sibyl’s-Feather. She finds a voicemail already waiting for her. Sibyl’s-Feather’s voice is solemn and ragged with tears, asking Terin to call as soon as possible.

Their conversation is brief. Sibyl’s-Feather felt the loss 30 hours ago. She asks if the rest of the group are alright. Terin says they will do their best, and promises to find out what happened. Before they sign off, Sibyl’s-Feather asks Terin to please bring back Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s eyes.

The group backtracks to the last territory where Blood-of-the-North-Sky was seen and begins searching for his scent. They eventually find it, only a few days old, and follow it to Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s cold, bloody corpse.

Without a word, Stubborn-Heart shifts into crinos, cradles Blood-of-the-North-Sky’s head, and gouges his eyeballs out with her claws. At the same time, Far-Wisdom reaches into his stomach to find the seeing stone he swallowed so many months ago. They both put their burdens into their mouths to carry for the long journey home.

Bewildered by her pack-mates’ actions, and horrified by the sight of her alpha’s lifeless body, Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver breaks. She falls into lupus and takes off in a fox-frenzy, her mind overrun with memories of being chased by sharks.

Terin and Em chase after her (although Em eventually falls behind). Once Scent-of-Silver has exhausted herself, she collapses into unconsciousness as a homid. Barely more alert herself, Terin curls around her as a hispo to keep her warm. Em comes across the two of them, sleeping, and curls up to mourn with her pack.

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Chapter 19: A Return and A Promise

The opening titles roll on season 2. The pack is in the penumbra, surrounded by what looks like a construction site. They are in the middle of an expansive pit, 30 feet into the ground. Concrete pillars reach up into the sky, a crane hangs overhead, and mechanical spiders dripping with ichor slash at the Garou.

With no alpha, they fight without the benefit of pack mind. Together and yet alone, they slash, claw and bite their prey. A slim figure armed with bow and arrow stands atop a 20 foot pillar, shooting down into the fray. Most of the spiders are the size of housecats, but Stubborn-Heart faces off against one the size of a horse, with chainsaw, girders, and flamethrowers for limbs. Thrilling in combat, the pack fights.

Six Months Ago

Em travels back via the moon-bridge. It’s an exhilarating feeling, the chance to run without tiring for hours at a time. It also gives her a chance to reflect on all she has learned for the past six months, and to try not to worry too much about what might await her when she returns to the City.

She lands at the same cairn she departed from those months ago, three hours’ drive away from the manor. A car awaits her, Dr. Elizabeth Vogel sitting inside. As Em looks around, she also spots a man she doesn’t recognize, sitting on his motorcycle to the side of the clearing. Since it was a Silent Strider who escorted her here in the first place, she assumes this is another to escort her home.

Elizabeth is personable and full of questions in the car. Her first – where Em wants to go—receives a brief silence. Em eventually says the manor, since she assumes her alpha will be there.

As they drive, Elizabeth proceeds to ask about Em’s time on the grounds, and reminisces about her own childhood there. Surprised, Em asks if she was a servant there. Elizabeth explains she serves the Garou as a doctor, not as a maid.

The closer they get to the manor, the more tense Em gets. Noticing, Elizabeth reminds her to breath and please not freak out while inside the car. Em does her best to concentrate on her breathing and the other meditation techniques she learned.

About 45 minutes out from the manor, another biker pulls onto the road in front of them. Dressed in a leather vest with the same biker gang insignia as the first escort, the new biker’s arms and head are bare, and her hair is braided back into a mohawk. She turns her head as she waves the first biker off, revealing a row of three puncture wounds embedded in her skull. Em realizes this must be Terin, and is a little taken aback at the changes in her friend.

At the manor, once Elizabeth has been thanked and sent on her way, Em and Terin say their hellos. Terin also proudly introduces Em to her bike, Running-Towards. A little worried about her friend’s sanity, it takes further explanation before Em realizes the bike has an awakened spirit. She makes a proper greeting herself, and Terin promises to introduce them again in the umbra.

Inside, Em asks for some time to herself to clean up. While she goes to find her own room, Terin receives a call from Sibyl’s-Feather asking if Em has arrived. At the affirmative, the Corvax says she’ll be at the manor shortly.

Upstairs, Em steps into the umbra to take a few moments to herself. Behm is immediately there – as usual – and asks what’s wrong. Em tries to explain why she’s nervous, but the spirit can’t understand. She’s home, he says, with her pack. Why be frightened of coming back to where she’s meant to be?

The pack gathers in the rec room to enjoy sandwiches, beer, and stories about the past few months. Almost immediately they all feel the re-connection of a whole (almost) group. Em suddenly wonders why she was so nervous.

The next evening, as Em is getting ready for bed, she hears a knock on her bedroom door. Asking who it is, she’s more than a little startled when a dry voice answers “William Jarnvalia Sr.” He welcomes her back, and invites her to take a walk in the garden.

Thanks to her time among the Silver Fang in England, Em now sees William Sr. in a different light. She recognizes his posture and mannerisms as those of a man born to nobility, and bred as a leader. In fact, after some of the Garou she met over the past few months, William Sr. is practically a slouch.

He speaks of the pack’s alpha, Blood-of-the-North-Sky. Since he is a lupus, William Sr. explains that he often finds him difficult to talk to. Although there have always been close ties between the Silver Fang and Uktena, things are different now that both his daughter and grandson are away from the pack.

He comments that there is a ‘spirit of nobility’ to Em, and hopes that she may better understand where he’s coming from. Wary, Em asks how she can help.

William Sr. explains that he has a favour to ask the pack. He has learned of a developer moving into the City. A single conglomerate has been buying up large tracts of land, and looks to be trying to lure in big business. Both the Silver Fang and Uktena have long agreed that the City should avoid that if possible, and focus on small businesses run by individuals and families. In his role as mayor, he has been able so far to make sure that remains the case.

However, it now looks like the city council is leaning towards the developer’s cause. The situation is not yet dire, and William Sr. still hopes to manage it himself. There is a vote coming up in the not-too-distant future. If William Sr. has not turned enough of the councilmembers to his way of thinking by then, he wants to make sure he can count on the pack to “render assistance”.

Em agrees to bring William Sr.’s concerns to the rest of the pack, but won’t promise anything other than that. It’s up to the alpha to decide, she points out. William Sr. seems to accept this, and simply thanks Em for her time.

As he turns to leave, Em calls out that she went to her first moot while in England. There was much talk of Clear-Eyes there, both good and bad. When William Sr. asks for details, Em simply says she got in her first fight defending Clear-Eyes’ choices. “People may not agree with what she did, but she deserves their respect.”

With a smile, William Sr. says “I could not agree more”.

Three Weeks Ago

Late one night, each of the pack members feels a spiritual tug from Behm. They each cross into the umbra. They can hear him, screeching like a bird of prey, but cannot see him.

Looking up, Em is the first to spot what looks like a comet shooting towards the ground. The pack runs to his apparent landing sight, arriving in time to see him strike with a huge rush of air. For a long moment he is nothing but a coil of scales and shimmering feathers. Then he moves to reveal a young girl dressed in baggy jeans, a stained, red hoodie, and a beanie.

Sam.

Overjoyed with his discovery, Behm explains that she had been in the deep umbra, and just was recently discovered by the Eyes of Ceberus (the shadow pack that includes Liv, Carjack and Light-of-the-North-Sky).

Em is the first of the pack to react. She wraps the stunned girl in a hug, welcoming her home, and exclaiming she knew Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver was still alive. Terin is a little more circumspect, and hangs back to explain the new arrival to Sibyl’s-Feather, who never had a chance to meet the other woman. Blood-of-the-North-Sky reacts with his usual calm, sniffing Sam to ensure it’s her and nodding in satisfaction.

A little bewildered by a barrage of questions, Sam says she spoke with Luna. And also that she has a name: Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver. When asked for more details she demurs, saying she’d rather not talk about it.

The pack quickly decides Scent-of-Silver needs to see her aunt. Despite the late hour, they caravan into the city (Em, Blood-of-the-North-Sky, and Scent-of-Silver in the car; Terin on her bike; and Sibyl’s-Feather flying above). They arrive at Puff-Mama’s house around one in the morning. Em suggests that Terin go first to ease her way into the news. After a few moments of fumbling, Terin gives up and says “good news. Sam’s not dead.”

Leaving Scent-of-Silver to catch up with her aunt, the rest of the pack go for coffee. The reunion is intense and emotional. Asking what duties Scent-of-Silver currently has with her pack, Puff-Mama says they need to hold a gathering of the Bone Gnawers so they can welcome her back to the City. “When you’re done whatever shit you need to do with your pack, come back to us. Because you’re ours.”

The gathering ends up happening the next night. Scent-of-Silver invites the pack to join. In an attempt to smooth the way, Em makes sure to bring supplies from the manor’s liquor closet. Bone Gnawer kin come from across the City, and soon the night air is filled with the scent of fire-burning barrels and unwashed kinfolk. Each and every one of the gathered kinfolk treats Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver with awe; and more than a few men and women hit on her.

Uncomfortable with the attention, Scent-of-Silver finds a quiet corner for a few minutes’ peace. Her pack finds her, and serves as a barrier and moral support. Em informs her that the umbra is always available as a place of quiet, as long as Scent-of-Silver is careful about where she crosses. Em also recommends Behm as an excellent listener, who will keep information secret if there’s something Scent-of-Silver needs to get out without telling anyone about it.

Agreeing with Em, Terin does caution that Behm is being shaped by the pack. He will never judge any of them for something they do or say. While this makes him an excellent listener, it can be dangerous if he takes the wrong lesson from what he is told.

After a bit more conversation, Scent-of-Silver explains to the others that she is cursed. She can’t remember the details, but it’s something to do with fire. Em thinks of the first moment she saw Sam in the umbra, and recalls the small licks of flame that dance around her umbral form.

A couple days later, Scent-of-Silver asks Em to take her into the umbra so she can spend some time with Behm. Em makes her greetings with the pack’s totem, promises to tell Stubborn-Heart to visit soon, then leaves Scent-of-Silver and Behm alone.

Scent-of-Silver does her best to explain everything that happened to her, leaving out her time spent with Luna. They talk about secrets, and Behm assures her he’s good at keeping things quiet.

5 Months Ago

Seeing the joy Terin has found spending time with the Silent Striders, Em starts spending more time with the Uktena. She visits the elders in particular, listening to their stories and tales. On one afternoon in particular, she’s seated at a table in the Friendship Centre, listening to a story of how the mosquito came to be.

Her phone rings, interrupting the story. The elder waves aside Em’s apology, apparently well aware that a Garou often has to leave on short notice. Looking at the caller ID, Em is surprised to find it’s Detective Blackburn.

The detective apologizes for calling, saying “sorry to bring this to you. I thought it would be taken care of by the time you got back, but that hasn’t happened”. She goes on to explain that Em’s adoptive father, James Johnson, is back in town, hanging posters about his missing daughter Marjorie. Despite Blackburn’s repeated hints – and arrests – to try to dissuade him from searching for his deceased daughter, he has yet to give up hope. Even the fact that Em has a plot at Pine Wood Cemetery hasn’t convinced him to stop looking.

Em is more than a little surprised to find she’s been officially dead for over a year. She asks Blackburn to bring her father to the reservation in 90 minutes, promising to “give him a conspiracy he can believe in”.

At the clearing, Blackburn takes James out of the back of her squad car, undoes the handcuffs, and releases him. His rant about being arrested yet again trails off when he gets a glimpse of who he’s been brought to meet. His expression dissolves into a mix of relief, fear, and guilt.

Before Em has a chance to open her mouth, he blurts out an apology. He thought she would be better at the Asylum, with “people who understood what she was going through”. Since she disappeared, however, he felt like something else had gone out of his life. At first he thought Em really was dead, and knew it was his fault.

Once he began to suspect she was still alive, he realized there’s “something more out there” and that Em is involved. He hurries to specify that he doesn’t need or want the details, only to make sure she knows he still loves her and begs her forgiveness.

Surprisingly calm, Em assures him she doesn’t blame him for what happened. “There was something wrong with me.” She explains that the people lying about her death are doing it to protect her. As to what happened, she gives the barest details: “someone in there lost it and killed a whole lot of people. I got out”.

When James apologizes again for putting her there in the first place, Em only says “there was nothing you could have done to help me”. To which James asks “is there anything I can do now?”

Em tells him he needs to stop making so much noise about her disappearance. He agrees immediately, but does ask if he’s able to see her in the future. He talks again about the change in his thinking once she left, and how he felt something bigger was going on.

Suspicious and curious about his choice of words, Em excuses herself to make a quick phone call. She asks Detective Blackburn if a human can be kinfolk without knowing it, and if there’s a way to find out. Blackburn says the only real test is to turn into crinos; “if he doesn’t run screaming, he’s kin”. Opting to leave that as Plan B, Em decides she needs to speak to the elders about it. Blackburn suggests she talk to John.

Returning to her father, Em does her best to reassure him that she’s in a safe place now. When she mentions she “knows Liv wasn’t real”, James laughs and replies “you’ll think I’m crazy, but I was starting to think she was”.

Em explains that Detective Blackburn found her after the incident at the Asylum, and connected her with a private institution run by people who could help. “I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’m not delusional”. She admits she’s not allowed to say where she’s been staying, but explains that it’s like a half-way house. At her father’s questioning, she laughs that it’s not a “government thing”.

At her mention of coming to visit him in the future, he explains that he’s not staying at the house anymore. He and her step-mother separated when it became clear that her step-mother didn’t share his concerns over Em’s safety. “She’s a selfish bitch, let’s put it that way”.

As they begin walking towards the Friendship Centre where Em hopes to find James a ride back to town, he asks if she had anything to do with the explosion at the apartment complex a few months ago. Em lies “no”, and her father lies that he believes her.

He also asks if she wants to know who her birth-parents are. She gets very excited, and James warns her that she may not like what she finds, but promises to look into it anyway.

Four Weeks Ago

Terin gets a call from Watches-the-Flame. He says they need to meet, as he has some information for her. They meet at an outdoor chip truck on the side of the highway, taking over one of the picnic benches that is suddenly vacant as soon as the normals get a look at them.

Watches-the-Flame explains that Terin’s father has a parole hearing in six weeks. It’s usually just a formality, since there’s no way Sam would get out. However, Watches-the-Flame has been looking into it. He slides a manila envelope across the picnic table. Looking inside, Terin finds the name, address, and detailed bio of every member of her father’s parole hearing.

Speaking into her stunned silence, Watches-the-Flame says that the Pilgrims of the Road can’t get involved, but asks that she gives them a heads-up with what she decides to do. She agrees, and thanks him for the information. When she comments on how much work it must have taken, he just laughs and informs her she owes him a pretty big favour.

Two Weeks Ago

Em is in the umbra, spending some time with Behm. She feels him twitch, and he suddenly seems to be staring at something in the distance. He says “you’re all here. It’s time. Get everyone. There’s something I have to say.”

Em howls to gather everyone. Together in the umbra, they feel whole and powerful. They are once more a complete pack, with every phase of the moon represented. They sit in a circle. Behm coils around and between them. More than one of them thinks about a constricting snake, and is aware of how easily Bhem could crush them if he wished.

His eyes go white and his presence changes. Although he is still Behm, the gentle, good-natured creature they have gotten to know over the past few months, he’s also something more. Something old. Something powerful. Something of the Wyrm.

His voice resonates in their chests as he speaks. “We are whole, but will not remain so. Fear not. I will stay with you. We will be together. You have done what no other pack would do: take in a spirit of the Wyrm. But I have not always been so. I was once a spirit of Balance. For me to take my true form once more, you must follow my law. If you do not, there can be no tie between us. I ask only that you hear out your enemies, as you have heard out me.”

Every member of the pack agrees, some with more enthusiasm than others. Terin in particular doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea of listening to their enemies. She promises to “hear them”, but also to defend her pack and the City.

Once they have all agreed and Behm gone wherever he goes when the pack can’t see him, Terin asks Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver if the litany has anything to say about what they’ve just done. Scent-of-Silver seems a little startled by the question, but says it should be fine. They’ve promised only to listen, not to stop fighting the Wyrm.

Blood-of-the-North-Sky interrupts any further discussion. He points out it’s done: they’ve already agreed. Now they must hold to that agreement.

Now

The battle against the Wyrm-tainted Weaver-spiders continues. Far-Wisdom, Scent-of-Luna’s-Silver and Stubborn-Heart tear into their enemies with teeth and claw. Their blood smells and tastes of the Wyrm, but also of Behm.

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Chapter 18: Sorrow, Secrets, and Season Hiatus

Detective Blackburn is on her cell phone where Watches the Moon tells her “tell your elders thank you very much for sticking to their schedule”. She hangs up with a bit of a sigh, then opens the door to her unmarked police cruiser, looking on to a field where a small gathering of first nation’s people who have just begun dancing a rite which she has seen at this time every year for as long as she can remember. She know that this particular dance is different from those shared at the public pow-wows, however. All present are kinfolk. The dance begins with five dancers, all are dressed in wolf skins with one wearing a crown of black feathers. The dancers stomp clockwise around a large bon-fire, signing an ancient song which Joanna hums quietly to herself with a smile; the song reminders her fondly of her childhood when she was first taught it by the other Uketena kinfolk. As the dance progresses a sixth dancer, covered in brilliant sequins and a long tail of feathers of every colour, joins the dance widdershins outside around the five wolven dances.

Just then, Blackburns’s attention is drawn away from the scene by a black pick-up truck pulling down the long road to the site of the dance. She immediately gets back into her cruiser and intercepts the truck a short distance away from the dance. She steps out of her car flashing a badge and waving the driver to get out of the truck. An immense native man, heavily muscled and easily a foot taller than the detective, opens the truck door and steps out. Recognition immediately flashes on Joanne’s face as she recognizes her brother, Jason; it has been years since she has seen him.

“I’m not alone any more,” he says, “I’ve found someone else who knows the truth.” He has come to see the dance and feels that “the dragon” has been freed. Joanne then levels her gun at her brother, explaining that he is not welcome and shouldn’t have returned to the reserve.
Without any fear he Jason asks, “are those silver bullets in that gun, Joanna? Are you going to kill me?”
“I’ll do whatever is necessary,” she responds without hesitation and without moving her aim from his heart.
Jason backs off with a grin on his face, apparently not afraid of his sister whether her firearm is loaded with silver rounds or not. Before returning to his truck and driving off he promises her that they will see each other again soon.

Joanne’s heart rate slows after the truck drives away. She looks back at the gathering where the dancers continue the age-old rite which echos the Garou rite which is being currently being performed in Behm’s horizonal realm.

As the battle between B’hem and the Sun rages above the pack, rain starts to fall. The dry, cracked earth around them fills with water and they can smell the ocean. In a matter of minutes, they find themselves standing on a sandy beach, with the ocean on one side and a pine forest on the other.

B’hem descends from the sky to coil around them again. The air is cool and pleasant; the sun no longer a force of vehement destruction. B’hem’s multicoloured scales glitter in the light.

The ghostly images of Clear-Eyes and her pack are still visible. Speaks-with-Gaia shares a quiet moment with her, separate from the rest of the group. While they do, Watches-the-Moon sees Light-of-the-North-Sky looking at him. She asks if he is aware what they’ve just done, to which he replies “corrected a mistake”. Light-of-the-North-Sky warns that the “creature is not one-sided. You’ve helped guide him, but it doesn’t mean he can’t change. If you’re not careful, he may colour you.”

Watches-the-Moon seems resolute that the fight was worth it, but is still obviously upset about the loss of Sam. Light-of-the-North-Sky hopes that it’s the last loss the pack will suffer, but Watches-the-Moon counters that it won’t be.

Speaks-with-Gaia returns to the group. Watches-the-Moon promises to keep the glaive for Will’s return. If Will should fall in Russia, he then promises to use the glaive to defend the City. Light-of-the-North-Sky seems pleased by this, saying Clear-Eyes’ heart lay with the City above all others.

While this is going on, Em has a last few moments with Liv. Liv tells her to “be strong, you have to start setting your own fires”. She also splits Em’s compact into two and, after a brief word with Light-of-the-North-Sky, promises to try to maintain contact. “Just take it. It’s kind of a big deal. I’ll try to watch over you when I can”.

As the conversations between the new and old pack wrap up, the sky above them dims into night. The sky above is a glorious expanse of stars and northern lights. The pack realizes they have discovered – helped create – an oasis of beauty.

The old pack begins to fade, their spirits returning from whence they came. Clear-Eyes remains a moment longer than the rest, looking at each of her pups in return. The pack can see sorrow that she has to leave, but also pride in their accomplishments. Before any of them can speak, she’s gone.

B’hem’s form is now more solid as it coils around them. It’s hard to read the emotion on his face, but his tone comes out as one of excitement. He asks what happens next. Watches-the-Moon explains “now we must become one pack. We will fight the Wyrm and protect Gaia”. At his words, B’hem weaves around and through the pack until he’s touching each of them. In a surprisingly quick and simple gesture, he is now the pack’s totem.

Em approaches his head, swallowing her fear, and wraps her arms around him in a hug. She apologizes, “sorry we took so long”. He makes a contented sound that is part clicking, purring and growl in return. In spirit speech, he replies “I am happy to have you. I want you to show me everything”.

While his theurge is bonding with their new totem, Watches-the-Moon concentrates on the pack sense in his mind. He can feel B’hem, the four members of the pack, and then a faint fifth member. He asks the others to check. Only Em feels the possibility of the fifth member, and they both wonder if Sam’s spirit is still linked with the pack.

Watches-the-Moon then turns his attention to Michelle, asking if she likes her deed name. She doesn’t seem too enamoured with it. After a brief discussion over new names – with B’hem giving his input – Watches-the-Moon decides it will require further thought.

Watches-the-Moon then approaches Speaks-with-Gaia, who is kneeling over Clear-Eyes’ body. “I am happy for her,” Speaks-with-Gaia says. “I had no idea how much she needed to rest”. Watches-the-Moon asks what Speaks-with-Gaia would like to do with the body, and it’s decided they’ll leave it in the umbra for the spirits to feed on.

Handing Speaks-with-Gaia the glaive, Watches-the-Moon invites him to take his place as the pack’s mentor. He agrees to “help you tell your story. I am a galliard again”.

Their business complete, they try to cross back into the mundane world. They are unable to pass the gauntlet, which has become a wall, and fear it’s due to the cavern collapsing. (“Oh, right, the C4.” “What C4?!”)

B’hem offers to guide the group home. They climb onto his back, and he takes them through the water in a burst of speed. As they move, their surroundings change from warm, salt-water to cold, fresh-water. They break the surface in the middle of a lake in the mundane realm. It’s night, B’hem is gone, and they have no idea where they are.

They also quickly realize Speaks-with-Gaia is back in his frail, dessicated mortal form, and is quickly sinking to the bottom of the lake. Terin is able to bring him to the surface, supporting him while they try to figure out what to do next.

Spotting the island in the middle of the lake – and the horribly familiar buildings on top of that island – Em realizes where they are first. The island is Waverly Island, with the asylum that held her for so long. She strikes out in the opposite direction towards the shore.

Michelle is able to take on her corvid form and guides the rest of the pack to a safe spot. She then takes the car keys from Terin and flies back to the mine to collect the SUV. Upon her arrival, she spots a woman in a red sports car with a strange, oblong device in the passenger seat. The woman seems interested in the SUV, but doesn’t do anything to it. Only after she pulls out of the parking lot does Michelle revert to homid and – now naked – drive back to pick up the others.

While Michelle is getting the car, the others huddle together for warmth on the side of the road. Em calls Dr. Butler and asks him to meet them at the manor to deal with Speaks-with-Gaia.

At the manor, most of the pack gathers in the kitchen (save Terin, who goes into the backyard without breaking stride). Watches-the-Moon busies himself making espresso and sandwiches. Em finds Lamar and Ursula in the entertainment room, asleep in front Ghostbusters on the massive projection screen. She wakes them and invites them to join the group in the kitchen. As they arrive, Watches-the-Moon hands them each an espresso and explains that Sam is gone.

At the same time, in the backyard, Terin comes across Ushenka and Little-Guardian. Shifting to lupus, she lets them know about Sam. They seem to take it in stride – Little-Guardian especially – but can tell that Terin is upset. They sit with her in silence.

Inside, a voice comes over the intercom summoning Watches-the-Moon to the mayor’s office. He goes alone, with his shirt off to expose the wounds on his back as a demonstration of the battle they just faced.

Upon reaching the mayor’s office, Watches-the-Moon goes to the wet bar and pours a tumbler of dark liquid from a crystal decanter. He sets the tumbler on the desk, meets William Järnvilja Sr.’s gaze, and informs him “your daughter is dead. She died defending Gaia and those she loved. She was a magnificent elder and I will sing of her as often and as far as I can.”

He gets virtually no reaction from the mayor. The older man doesn’t even reach for the drink that was offered. Standing still in front of the desk, the occasional flake of crusted blood drifting from his back onto the carpet, Watches-the-Moon asks if the mayor wants the pack to leave. Upon being told they are welcome to stay, Watches-the-Moon then explains that John is with them. After the merest hint of hesitation, the mayor says that John is welcome as well.

As Watches-the-Moon is leaving, the mayor asks what was done with Meredith’s body. Watches-the-Moon explains it was left in the umbra, for the spirits. There is another notable lack of reaction, then Watches-the-Moon closes the door behind him and returns to the kitchen.

There he asks Ursula to heal his back. However, it quickly becomes obvious that her method of healing is quite different from Em’s, and would remove any evidence of the battle having taken place. Rather than risk losing his battle scar, Watches-the-Moon has her stop and waits for Em. Ursula clearly doesn’t understand this choice, but she steps away without argument.

Through all of this, Michelle has been perched on the edge of a chair, watching everything with a wary gaze. Spotting her, Watches-the-Moon introduces her to Ursula and Lamar and explains she is a were-raven. They are both thrilled to meet another supernatural creature, and proceed to quiz her about her origins and abilities. She explains that she’s a PhD working at the university, having completed her thesis on a comparison of the themes in old Norse mythology and stories of the Morrigan.

Ushenka and Little-Guardian arrive in the kitchen shortly after – Little-Guardian now an old paw at operating the doors. Watches-the-Moon makes the introductions all around. He explains to Little-Guardian that Michelle is now part of the pack, and has her demonstrate her abilities.

[AT SOME POINT THERE WAS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN EM & DR. VOGEL THAT I DIDN’T HEAR.]

Shortly thereafter Dr. Butler arrives. Watches-the-Moon tells him about Sam and Clear-Eyes, then escorts him down to the basement where Speaks-with-Gaia is unconscious on one of the cots. While Dr. Butler busies himself with Speaks-with-Gaia, Watches-the-Moon asks Dr. Vogel to call together all the local Silver Fang kinfolk, so he can sing Clear-Eyes’ tale for them.

Back in the kitchen, Lamar and Ursula ask about what happened in the cathedral. They are given a brief run down about Jaffa’s true identity as a nexus crawler. After Watches-the-Moon assures them the cathedral is now safe, he asks if they would be willing to stay in the City and continue their work. They demure, saying the pack is obviously taking good care of the City’s residents. Em counters “we tend to their safety, not necessarily their well-being”.

The Awakened explain that, with the source of their power gone, they are no longer anything more than human in this City. They will do what they can to help over the next few days, but then they will be departing for greener pastures.

With sunrise creeping closer, Watches-the-Moon announces that the pack needs to howl to let the world know about their loss. He gathers everyone outside, including Terin and Speaks-with-Gaia (who is able to shift into lupus and move under his own power). Everyone, save Michelle, shifts into lupus. Watches-the-Moon looks to Speaks-with-Gaia, who leads the howl.

Each of the pack has a chance to sing their pain and grief. Terin’s cry echoes with guilt, and Speaks-with-Gaia’s with loss. Their voices pierce through the night, and any human who hears them shivers at the sound of personal anguish.

Their howl complete, the pack (minus Ushenka and Little-Guardian) drives to Puff-Mama’s house to tell her about Sam. It’s 4am when they arrive, and Puff-Mama answers the door in her housecoat. She seems in good spirits, until she catches their collective facial expression.

Inside, Terin goes to make tea while Watches-the-Moon explains what happened. Returning to the main room, Terin offers Puff-Mama a tea cup or a bottle of liquor. Puff-Mama takes the bottle, and asks for more details. Watches-the-Moon tells her about Sam’s courage, and promises to sing her tale to the Bone Gnawer kinfolk. He also tells her about Clear-Eyes’ death, Carjack’s message of love, and Speaks-with-Gaia’s return to the manor.

Puff-Mama perks up a bit at the last two pieces of information. Watches-the-Moon promises to have Speaks-with-Gaia get in touch with her as soon as he’s well.

As they leave, Puff-Mama reminds the group that Bone Gnawers are fighters. “Don’t give up on her yet.”

The next couple days pass relatively peacefully. The pack mourn in their own ways, and Michelle starts to learn her way around the manor.

Jerry calls the red phone on the third day, saying the council is ready to meet. When he learns Speaks-with-Gaia is at the manor, he says the elder would be most welcome to join the council meeting. Terin and Michelle, as non Uktena, are not invited. Since they will have the evening to themselves, and since Watches-the-Moon has noticed Terin seems to be avoiding the newest member of the pack, he instructs that they go out to dinner together to get better acquainted.

Watches-the-Moon, Em, and Speaks-with-Gaia arrive on the reservation that evening. Jerry meets them, and escorts them to the lodge. They enter a large room, open room with audience seating along the back, and a long table at the front at which the council elders sit. Jerry’s wife, Christine Runningdeer, is seated in the middle of the table. Em is surprised to learn she’s the council chief.

Worried he might lose control of his temper – as he partially blames the Uktena kinfolk for Sam’s death – Watches-the-Moon stays in lupus and leaves Em to do the talking.

Christine welcomes the Uktena Garou to the council meeting, noting how long it has been since the Uktena had Garou in the City. Em announces the loss of Sam and Clear-Eyes, and also that the pack has gained a new totem in B’hem. Christine shows sympathy for their loss, and offers to share what the Uktena know of B’hem.

She tells the story of how the white man stole land from the Ojibwa, so too did the white Garou steal land from the Uktena. She explains that, in order to protect their cairn, the Uktena in this area hid it before the Silver Fang arrived. B’hem is part of the spirit of that cairn, returned now from where it was hidden. Christine believes the pack are to make a new cairn, which will become theirs to protect.

Another of the elders – the oldest man seated at the table – goes on to explain that B’hem protected the Uktena when they crossed over the land bridge into the Americas. Although he, too, is sympathetic about the pack’s loss of Sam, he points out that their suffering is for a greater purpose. He suggests they can take comfort that their packmate died for a great good.

At Em’s expression of disbelief, the man steps away from the table and approaches her to take her hands. He explains that, as a young man, he had been disappointed when he learned he was not to be one of Gaia’s warriors. Over the years, however, he has come to see that he is lucky he doesn’t have to face what the Garou do. He offers that the pack can take solace in the fact that there are those who recognize what they do and the importance of their work. He reiterates that the Uktena kinfolk are here to help in whatever way they can, but ultimately the Garou are on the front lines.

While the old man returns to his seat, another man – James – explains a bit more about the cairn. He warns that it will require a great deal of effort to open, and also to protect once they have done so. But the benefits will be many, not least of which is the fact that a cairn will be a true home for the pack. Surely their packmates died for something worthwhile.

Watches-the-Moon shifts to homid at this. He warns the kinfolk about his rage, countering that his packmate should not have been in a position to die. Because of the Uktena’s refusal to share their knowledge “ahead of schedule”, he put Sam into a fight she was not ready for.

Christine and the others are clearly confused by this. They explain it wasn’t that they withheld the information, but rather they did not know the full details until after they danced their annual ritual. It was only after the pack’s actions in the umbra with B’hem that the story changed and the kinfolk knew the full import of B’hem’s arrival. Christine assures Watches-the-Moon they shared all of the information they had as soon as they were permitted to, then looks to Speaks-with-Gaia for help.

Speaks-with-Gaia agrees, “it was not your time to know”. He also points out Watches-the-Moon is not the only Garou to have suffered loss in the past few days. “You must do your duty. If you are lucky, you will die doing it.”

Turning his attention to the council, Speaks-with-Gaia is both surprised and angered to learn about the existence of a potential cairn in the City. Christine repeats that they shared the information they were permitted to, and offers to change their behaviour in the future if that is what the Garou need. She explains that they have been acting under instructions from the last Garou in the city, maintaining the stories and dancing the prophecies in anticipation of this day. The kinfolk are here to serve the Garou, and will do so however they are instructed.

Speaks-with-Gaia and Watches-the-Moon seem mollified by this explanation, although both are still clearly emotionally raw from the past few days. Em asks if there is anything else the pack should know. The old man promises to bore her with all the stories he knows, although she may find some of them confusing. Em counters “I may not”, and plans to take him up on his offer.

James then offers the pack a home on the reservation, should they no longer feel welcome at the manor. He also recommends they keep the existence of the potential cairn secret until it is opened. Then, once it is open, the pack will need to decide who to invite. It will be an important decision, as it will impact the future of not only the pack but all Garou and kinfolk to come in the City.

Specifically, he warns against telling the mayor. When Watches-the-Moon asks if he is not kinfolk, someone in the back shouts “look for the taint in him”. James simply repeats that opening a cairn is no easy task, and can very quickly go badly if the wrong people get in the way.

Before leaving, Watches-the-Moon announces that he is taking a new deed name: Blood-of-the-North-Sky. Christine Runningdeer greets him once more by name, and promises to do all she can to help the pack going forward.

Meanwhile, Terin and Michelle meet for dinner at a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria on the edge of the Warrens. The meal goes fairly well. They are given a wide berth in the restaurant, likely due to Terin’s intimidating appearance. Michelle talks about her travels as a doctoral student, and her experiences in the UK doing research for her thesis. Terin seems interested, but doesn’t have much in the way of similar life experience to share.

They end up bonding over extreme sports, and Terin promises to show Michelle some parkour tricks while Michelle suggests they go base jumping.

In the car on the way back to the manor, Michelle suffers a seizure. Terin pulls over and calls Dr. Butler for help. He agrees to meet them at the manor.

Upon waking, Michelle comments “you and I have more in common than I thought”. She asks after Terin’s mother, and whether she is still alive. Terin reacts with anger and fear, demanding to know what just happened. Michelle says her mother was in a car accident, her legs are crushed, and she can’t get out.

Terin gets back into the drivers’ seat, demands to know where the accident happened, and races to her mother’s side.

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Chapter 17: An End

Watches-the-Moon and Terin attack the nexus crawler with renewed fury after Sam’s death. They manage to rip the creature limb from limb, and it disappears once more. Warily, they stand back to back and wait for it to return.

In the umbra, Em pleads with the Cathedral spirit to intercede. “The time to wait and be idle is done; to keep the peace, sometimes you need war”. The spirit heals her wounds, but she argues it isn’t enough. The spirit remains calm, saying only “then the Cathedral will fall”. Em howls in desperation, calling out to any nearby spirits in the umbra for help.

Back in the mundane world, Watches-the-Moon and Terin can feel the howl in their souls. The nexus crawler appears once more, seemingly unharmed, and Watches-the-Moon says “now we last long enough for help to come”.

The fight does not go well. No matter how true their aim or how deeply they tear, the nexus crawler appears unmoved. It turns the air in Watches-the-Moon’s lungs to sand, almost choking him.

It pierces Terin’s skull with a many-taloned hand and lifts her into the air as it tries to burrow into her brain. She falls, unconscious and streaming blood, but her rage carries her back into the fight. Blood streams from six puncture wounds, staining the light grey of her fur with red.

It corrupts Em’s mind with a single touch, convincing her of the Truth. That everything decays and dies, that the Garou were created by the Wyrm merely to be a part of that process, and that she is here to help. Watches-the-Moon manages to push her clear, despite Em fighting against her newly perceived enemy.

Terin tries to drill through the beast, slashing and biting, but it simply stabs another of its endless limbs into her back. She drops once more. Watches-the-Moon is able to distract the nexus crawler long enough for Em to heal her, but she is no longer able to fight.

The battle is hopeless. They all know it. They can only pray to die will. Watches-the-Moon and Em prepare to continue while Terin, now homid and unable to shift, can only crawl out of the way. “Escape,” Watches-the-Moon orders her. “Survive.”

But before the next round, the Cathedral’s front door crashes open to reveal Clear-Eyes, wielding a massive sniper rifle. She calmly takes aim and with a single shot pierces the creature through one of its’ heads. In a motion she drops the weapon and as she races towards the creature she simultaneously shifts to her war form and leaps towards the nexus crawler with her claive. The pack can only watch in awe at their first view of Clear-Eyes as a crinos: pure white fur, covered in battle scars, swinging a silver clave and screaming in challenge.

Perhaps more wounded than they initially thought, the nexus crawler disperses. Clear-Eyes lands neatly, the impact of her clave against the Cathedral’s marble floor ringing through the sanctuary.

For a moment, all is quiet. Then Clear-Eyes announces she has learned B’hem’s other name: it’s Bashmu, and it’s a creature of the Wyrm. She tells the pack this is what her pack died to defeat. Barely pausing to look at their saviour, Watches-the-Moon tells her “your pack was wrong”, and leads his own pack to the stairs to find what they came for.

He carries Terin, so she can be there at the end. As they limp towards the stairs that will lead them to the bell tower – and hopefully B’hem – he says “we’re going to help, right?” Em states “all this was kicked off because no one did the right thing”, and Terin says only “I trust you”. Behind them, they can hear Clear-Eyes curse and mutter, “I can’t let this happen again”. But rather than try to stop them, she races past them grabbing her rifle on the run, out of the Cathedral. They realize she must be going to the mine, where Speaks-with-Gaia has been standing vigil for so long.

They ascend to the bell tower, which is at the same height as the rest of the orbs they destroyed, in search of B’hem. They find a wooden table inscribed with five symbols which they recognize from the orbs. In the middle of the symbols sits an ostrich-sized, black egg.

Em peaks into the umbra to see if anything is there. She sees an empty tower, with a beautiful sunrise through the windows. Everything is calm.

Back in the mundane world, Watches-the-Moon puts Terin down (who is surprised to find she can stand easily, thanks again to Garou healing!) and approaches the table. He tries to pick up the egg, but finds it’s somehow fused to the table’s surface. Redoubling his grip, he tries to pry the egg loose. It doesn’t come completely free, but he can feel it crack.

Something is trying to hatch.

Em sends some of the energy of her mother’s touch into the egg, hoping to bind whatever is inside to her. It seems to gain strength from the gesture, and breaks out of the egg. The form that bursts free is far too large to have been within the egg. It is a massive, black-winged creature. The wings spread, almost enveloping the thee Garou, then it begins to shrink. As it does, it morphs into a 30-year old woman, dazed and unclothed.

The woman seems to recognize Em as the one who gave her the strength to break free. She reaches out, but Terin moves quickly to intercept her. More calm than her companion, Em takes her hand in time for the woman to say “thank you, Far-Wisdom”.

She then turns her attention to Watches-the-Moon, telling him she’s been trying to get him to follow her for some time. “The Scions of Ingress are my home,” she says, as if that explains everything. They learn she doesn’t understand Garou, but she does seem to know everything about the pack. More than a little suspicious, and terrified of losing someone else today, Terin mutters in Garou “we should get rid of it”.

Watches-the-Moon decides to take the woman – who by this time has introduced herself as Michelle Price – with them to the mine, where they will hopefully find B’hem and keep Clear-Eyes from imprisoning it once more. In the car, while Terin drives, he calls Detective Blackburn to make sure they can get into the mine. He then tells her Sam is dead, and growls “tell your elders thank you very much for sticking to their schedule”.

At the mine, the pack waits impatiently for the lift. Both Watches-the-Moon and Terin are brusque towards Michelle, still reeling from the loss of Sam. Unmoved by Michelle’s claustrophobia, Terin pushes her into the lift so they can descend. Watches-the-Moon tells her “this will not be easy, you need to brace yourself”.

Em, meanwhile, can feel something trying to pull her into the umbra. She fights it to stay with her pack. To try to distract herself, she asks Michelle if she has ever been in the umbra. The other woman only says she doesn’t know what that is. Now assuming they can’t bring her into the cabin where Speaks-with-Gaia waits, Em gives Michelle a gun to stand guard in the cavern.

The red phone rings as the lift picks up speed. Watches-the-Moon answers to find it’s Dr. Vogel. She says she has the information he wanted, and that it took going back to the original birth records to find. Em was adopted, and her full, birth name is Marjorie Olivia Ka’migen. Then the line cuts out.

Watches-the-Moon looks at Em, to find she looks ill. She is clutching her stomach, struggling to keep from being pulled away from her pack. Terin signals for the lift to stop, then Em disappears.

The next thing Em knows she’s falling through pitch darkness. She’s in crinos, and manages to grab at a rock wall beside her. She comes to a halt, but can feel nothing below her but the endless pull of gravity. She realizes she’s in the umbra, where there is apparently no lift in the tunnel. Moving cautiously, she begins to climb down.

Back in the mundane world, Watches-the-Moon almost loses control of his temper but manages to remain calm. He has Terin signal the lift to continue down. They reach the bottom level and step out of the lift.

Michelle knows this isn’t right, they can’t possibly complete the task with only two pack members. Her insistence that there “should be five” is not received particularly well, and both Terin and Watches-the-Moon snap at her to be quiet. “If you don’t have anything useful to say, just shut up,” Watches-the-Moon orders. In response, she explains “the blood of the North Star must drink of the eye when the crescent moon departs Gaia.”

He replies then everything is fine, and begins walking. He is the blood of the North Star, he has the eye (he shows her the rock), and the crescent moon (Em, a theurge and born under the crescent moon) has just departed Gaia.

Sure they need to hurry, Terin asks Michelle how quickly she can run. Michelle says she should be fine. And shifts into a raven and begins flying down the tunnel.

In the umbra, Em hears a voice below her. She looks down to see a miner, a Native American man, asking if she needs help. She drops the rest of the way to the ground, and says she needs to get to Speaks-with-Gaia. The miner doesn’t seem to know who that is, but says “you are my cousin, so I will help you”.

The spirit of the mine leads her through the tunnels to the cavern. When they arrive, however, they find it empty. The spirit explains it can take Em no further. Whatever force pulled her into the umbra seems to have lessened now, so she tries to cross to the mundane world to find the others. Too late, she learns the force isn’t ready to let her go, and she finds herself stuck in the gauntlet.

A clawed hand yanks her into the mundane world. It’s Clear-Eyes, in crinos, who shoves what looks like grey silly-puddy into her hands and orders to her to help. Em sees Speaks-with-Gaia, hunched over on the ground as usual. Clear-Eyes follows her gaze and growls “mine. I won’t let him go again”.

Em learns that Clear-Eyes doesn’t know about the cabin, nor what Speaks-with-Gaia has been doing here. When she tries to explain, Clear-Eyes counters his name is Speaks-OF-Gaia, and that she is “reuniting John with his spirit and taking him out of here, then destroying this place so B’hem can’t do this to anyone ever again.” Well aware she can hardly take a pissed-off elder on her own, Em howls for her pack.

Further down the tunnel, Watches-the-Moon and Terin shift into hispo and run. They arrive just in time to see Clear-Eyes vanish with Speaks-with-Gaia into the umbra. Em takes them all across, including Michelle, and they arrive in the cabin.

They see Clear-Eyes, now in homid, crouching beside Speaks-with-Gaia who is sitting in his rocking chair. They arrive in time to Speaks-with-Gaia say “I can’t be taken me from here”. Clear-Eyes, clearly younger then him and almost in tears, asks “why couldn’t you just tell me what you were doing?”

Em misses the reply as the force pulling at her solar plexus returns, and begins to drag her further into the umbra. The others try to pull her back, but their hands pass through her as if she is a ghost. She clutches her stomach, in clear agony, and cries out for help.

Watches-the-Moon has Michelle tell everyone the puzzle. As she does, he pulls out the stone and examines it. At Michelle’s suggestion, he swallows it. Ghostly figures start to appear around them. One of them – an identical twin of Em – helps Em stand.

Watches-the-Moon realizes the other figures are the spirits of Clear-Eyes and Speaks-with-Gaia’s old pack. He finds the gaze of a Native American woman, and greets her “Greatmother”. She inclines her head in response, “my blood”.

Light-of-the-North-Sky explains that they need to perform a ritual. When Watches-the-Moon asks if Clear-Eyes can stay, Light-of-the-North-Sky says “she was always meant to be here”. They need a circle of four – one each of galliard, ahroun, philodox and ragabash – standing around Speaks-with-Gaia, as a theurge. The spirit pack will do the same on their side, with Light-of-the-North-Sky in the centre. And in the middle, acting as the bridge, will be Em.

Watches-the-Moon howls to announce his pack to the umbra: Watches-the-Moon, galliard of the Uktena; Stubborn-Heart, ahroun of the Silent Striders; Far-Wisdom, theurge of the Uktena; Clear-Eyes, philodox of the Silver Fang; and Silver-Wing, ragabash.

As they begin to take their places, Liv steps back from Em. “The only way for this to happen is to cut this cord,” she explains. The cord that binds them together is a ghostly silver, and Em knows this is what pulled her into the umbra. Liv is trying to move on, but can’t until Em lets her. Liv explains that she’s real now. When Em says “you always were”, Liv counters that she wasn’t. But now she can be, in the spirit realm. More than that, she has a pack of her own.

The ghostly form of a massive man moves next to Liv at this. Em recognizes him as Carjack. She orders him to take care of her sister. He throws his arm around the smaller woman and cheerfully agrees. He also asks Em to pass his love to his wife, Puff-Mama.

Em and Liv say one last goodbye, and the cord between them breaks. Liv moves to stand with her pack, while Em stays with hers. Watches-the-Moon, the only of the pack who was able to see both sides of the conversation, passes it through the pack-link so the others know what happened. Terin is able to give Em a sort of hug – she has some substance, but not much – and thanks her for staying.

Light-of-the-North-Sky leads them through the rest of the set-up for the rite. Watches-the-Moon can see the spirit of B’hem moving around the edge of the cabin, a ghostly tendril connecting it to Speaks-with-Gaia. Light-of-the-North-Sky tells the pack their job is to make sure the theurges don’t move from their place in the centre of the circle. They must not be interrupted, or the rite will fail.

The rite begins. As the theurges chant in harmony, Em notices the different umbral planes are moving closer together. Almost 30 minutes pass while they chant. Light starts to burn outside of the cabin. It grows brighter, hotter, until the dry, wooden boards of the cabin start to catch fire. Soon they are standing on cracked, broken earth, with the malevolent sun beating down on them.

Five fire elementals appear, along with a lion-man with wings made of flame and two lion crinos. The winged man speaks with a booming voice that seems to come from everywhere. He says “we are here to stop you. Bashmu will remain in his prison and shall never see the sun. Any of you who wish to leave may now depart and you will be spared from the darkness of the world”.

Already exhausted from their fight with the nexus crawler, the pack nevertheless charges into the fray. Terin almost falls again, burned down her right flank by one of the fire elementals, but her rage carries her through. Watches-the-Moon, likewise, is burned by one of the elementals, but his rage is more controlled and he seems to be able to tell friend from foe.

Clear-Eyes fights with deadly efficiency, her clave flashing in the sunlight to strike her enemies’ weakpoints. It is clear she has been doing this for a long, long time. And although it has been a while since she last fought with a pack, she falls into the rhythm of the pack-link easily.

Soon, the only remaining foe is the winged man. He leaps into the sky, unfurls his wings and becomes a creature of pure flame. His intent is clear: to dive-bomb the theurges and keep the rite from reaching its conclusion.

Michelle tries to stand between the flame and the theurges, but her willpower breaks and she dives out of the way. Clear-Eyes, moving faster than any of the others, covers the theruges with her own body and takes the full brunt of the attack.

Watches-the-Moon and Terin come back to themselves to find a crater of glass where the theurges once stood. At the bottom of the crater is the smoking, charred form of a once-white crinos.

Em chants the last words of the rite, and can feel a door open to another world. Something passes through it, and the door shuts once more.

She realizes she is trapped under Clear-Eyes’ unconscious form. With the help of her pack, she and Speaks-with-Gaia move out from under Clear-Eyes. Speaks-with-Gaia is sobbing, crying that it should have been him.

A massive, feathered, multi-coloured serpent circles the group. B’hem. Michelle checks for wyrm-taint, but doesn’t see any more in the serpent than she does in the Garou around her (save Speaks-with-Gaia and Light-of-the-North-Sky, who have virtually none).

Em starts to heal Clear-Eyes. Her eyes open, but she says “Please, let me go, I need to be with my pack”. Ignoring Speaks-with-Gaia’s anguished pleas, Em lowers her hands and lets the other woman die.

Clear-Eyes’ eyes close. Then they open once more, and she steps out of her body to join the spirits of her pack.

Watches-the-Moon shifts to lupus to howl in mourning. When he does, the others see he has scales instead of fur.

B’hem coils around the group. Its voice is loud, but not cruel. It says “thank you. The price was high. I will repay you”.

Before they can respond, a massive sound of thunder rips across the sky. The Sun begins to shake with rage and heat flares around them. Although there are no words, per se, the pack knows the Sun is refusing to allow the snake to watch the moon.

B’hem ascends into the sky, finally free, and coils around the Sun. Their battle rages like fireworks across the sky.

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Chapter 16: Departures

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.

Meanwhile…

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.

Meanwhile…

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.

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Chapter 15: Fun with Explosives

The group come-to slowly. The air is thick with smoke and the stench of burning electrical wires. Everything sounds muffled, saved for a high pitched ringing in each of their ears. Someone nearby is yelling, and debris is still clattering down around them. Their destination, Ursula and Lamar’s apartment, is now nothing more than a void in open air. The entire apartment has been vaporized, along with the ones directly above and below it.

As their minds clear, the group realize they all shifted to crinos instinctively as soon as the explosion happened. This saved all their lives, although some are still severely wounded. Terin looks for her packmates, and spots Em crumpled onto the ground near her. She tries to move to her friend, but something is in her way. It takes a long moment for her to figure out she’s been impaled on some rebar, and even longer to disengage herself.

Watches-the-Moon, the next closest to the door when it exploded, is also badly hurt. Thinking more clearly than his packmates he swallows one of the healing talons they received from Speaks-with-Gaia, and is immediately returned to full health. The yelling human resolves into Ursula, crouched over Lamar and begging for him to wake up.

Watches-the-Moon approaches and tries to smell Lamar to see if he’s still alive. Lamar is almost gone, but there is still a spark of life. Watches-the-Moon drops a healing talon into his mouth and he heals slightly, although he remains unconscious. Watches-the-Moon picks him up and hands him to Will, instructing him to get Lamar and Ursula outside.

Watches-the-Moon turns his focus to Terin and Em. He finds Terin has been able to pull herself off the rebar, and is in the midst of swallowing one of her own healing talons. Once she is able to stand, he has her call Detective Blackburn. Terin explains there was an explosion and gives the address; Blackburn tells them to get out immediately.

Terin turns her attention to Em next. She appears completely disoriented, and is calling frantically to find where Em is and if she’s okay. Terin is able to figure out this is now Liv, Em’s twin sister who she claims is lost somewhere in the umbra.

Declaring that they will figure out what’s happening later, Watches-the-Moon has Liv bring them out through the umbra. She does so surprisingly easy, given they are in the middle of an apartment building that’s just been set on fire.

In the umbra, they try to hail a cab to get out of the city. When nothing appears, they realize the effects of the bomb are likely being felt here as well. They also figure out that whomever set the bomb off may still be in the area to make sure they’re dead, and will therefore be watching for Lamar and Ursula’s exit. They return to the mundane world to make sure everyone is alright.

They return into a scene of chaos. Survivors are still stumbling out of the building, chunks of brick and metal fire escape are dropping from the sky in fits and starts, sirens are wailing and emergency lights are flashing, and everyone seems to be shouting for help, loved ones, or order at the top of their lungs.

They call Will’s cell and learn that Lamar and Ursula are in an ambulance, on their way to the hospital. Teri calls Dr. Butler, asking him to keep an eye out for them. He agrees, but warns there isn’t much he can do other than let the pack know when they have arrived. While Terin is on the phone, Watches-the-Moon and Sam try to figure out if anyone is paying them undue attention, but they don’t see anyone in the melee.

Once Terin gets off the phone, Liv demands to know why they don’t just have Ursula and Lamar sent to the manor. A bit taken aback by the abrupt tone in her friend’s body, Terin relents when Watches-the-Moon agrees it’s a good idea. She finds the contact information for an EMT named Matt in the red phone, and arranges to have the ambulance redirected. Watches-the-Moon takes the phone next, and calls Dr. Vogel to arrange for her to come to the manor to take care of their allies.

As they make their way to the SUV, a brief hierarchical scuffle takes place between Watches-the-Moon and Liv. Watches-the-Moon warns her to stop giving orders and not stare him in the eye, so he doesn’t have to break Em’s head.

On the drive back to the manor, Watches-the-Moon calls Clear-Eyes to let her know what’s happened and warn her about the impending arrivals. Clear-Eyes says he handled the situation well.

At the manor they have the EMT take Lamar to the basement medical facilities. Sam escorts them down, while Ursula offers to help Terin with her remaining wounds. Recalling that Ursula can cause someone’s scars to disappear completely, Terin declines.

In the basement, Sam asks Matt if anyone was looking for Lamar. He says not yet. Although the ambulance did get as far as the hospital, he was able to intercept it before anyone went inside.

The rest of the group arrives in the basement to see if there’s anything they can do to help. Matt says no, that Lamar is stable and should be left alone until the doctor arrives. Ursula sits next to her husband, praying quietly. Watches-the-Moon leaves Will to sit with the Awakened and the rest of the group goes back upstairs to escort Matt out and wait for Dr. Vogel.

Watches-the-Moon, Sam, and Terin wait outside the front door. The doctor arrives not long after, driving a rental car. She’s still in her scrubs from the hospital, and projects an air of calm as she approaches the group. This is obviously her element.

While escorting her down to the basement, the pack sees Liv standing in front of a mirror. She looks completely terrified by her reflection. Watches-the-Moon catches her arm on the way by and pulls her along, warning her to be careful.

Terin offers to show her where she can clean up, so they head into the residence while the others continue downstairs. Terin shows Liv to Em’s room and the closest bathroom, and promises to be within calling distance if she needs anything. Liv thanks her, saying that Em said she was a good friend.

In the basement, Sam sits with Ursula while Dr. Vogel goes to work.

Watches-the-Moon, meanwhile, makes sandwiches for everyone in the kitchen. He calls everyone together, including Clear-Eyes. He asks if their new allies can stay in the manor, to which Clear-Eyes replies of course if that’s what he wants.

After her question for further details, Watches-the-Moon explains what they have learned so far, along with the morning’s events. At the end of his tale, he asks if Ursula and Lamar being here has caused a breech in the veil. Clear-Eyes says no, because they are Awakened.

She also suggests speaking to the Uktena about the spirit that has arrived in the city, to help learn who or what it is. Watches-the-Moon tells her that Speaks-with-Gaia called the spirit B’hem, and that he sent the pack to find it. Clear-Eyes is noticeably agitated at the news that they have been talking to Speaks-with-Gaia. She asks the spirit’s name again, then tells them they need to find out if it has other names as well. She promises to explain why when they find out what the spirit’s other name is.

Next, Watches-the-Moon turns his attention to Liv. He asks what she remembers. She says she was talking to someone in the umbra, but can’t remember who. She had been looking for something, a box, but can’t remember why. She knows she spoke with Em a couple days ago, and had been on her way to investigate the rift where Sarajane and her sister disappeared.

Sam suggests Liv look for Em in the mirror, since that’s where Em always saw her before. Liv does so. She stares at her reflection, transfixed, then raises her hand to touch the glass and disappears.

Watches-the-Moon brings everyone into the umbra. They find Liv, dressed like one of the City’s homeless, curled up with her knees to her chest. It takes a while for her to recognize them. She can’t find Em.

Watches-the-Moon has her bring everyone back to the mundane world, which she does easily. He then tells her to stop moping, and brings everyone outside. He calls Little-Guardian to meet Liv. When the wolf arrives, he explains what has happened and tells her to be friendly. Little-Guardian agrees, saying “I’ll show her my belly!” Watches-the-Moon tells Liv to shift to lupus, which she does so after a couple tries.

Terin suggests she run and move in order to get used to her new form. Watches-the-Moon turns the suggestion into an order, telling Sam to teach Liv (resulting in a miffed Terin that she doesn’t get to do it). Sam eagerly agrees, and she and Liv run off into the woods.

Watches-the-Moon and Terin discuss what they should do next; specifically how they might be able to track down the Awakened. When Terin says she’s not worried about taking humans in a fight, Watches-the-Moon suggests she should be more cautious. They may be human, but they are formidable enemies. He decides their focus should be locating and destroying the other ritual orbs.

In order to aid with that, Terin spends the rest of the afternoon trying to triangulate where the other orbs might be. Thanks to the glory of the internet, she figures out the two orbs they know about so far are the same distance from the Cathedral. Not only that, they’re at the same height as well. She is eventually able to map out the radius of where the other orbs should be.

Meanwhile, Watches-the-Moon goes down to the basement to check on the patients. Dr. Vogel says that Lamar should be fine, but it will take a while for him to fully heal. Watches-the-Moon asks if he’s able to talk. Dr. Vogel doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea, but eventually agrees to wake him.

Watches-the-Moon asks if Lamar saw any magic before the explosion, if Lamar knows who set it or who made it happen. At first, Lamar can’t remember anything. As Watches-the-Moon talks him through the morning’s events, however, he starts to come up with suspects. He recalls that Ali Bashir talked about using bombs before; Nadine Danticat knows how to use C4, and Pedro Gonzalez had ties to the cartels before coming to the cabal.

When Watches-the-Moon asks where they can be found, Ursula explains the cabal didn’t really spend time together socially. They worked together in the Cathedral, but otherwise don’t really know anything about each other, including where they live. Watches-the-Moon then asks who their leader, Jaffa, trusted most. Ursula decides that would by Sarah Belanger, who was with him most of the time.

Terin arrives at that point. With Ursula and Lamar’s help, she figures out the orbs are arranged in the shape of a pentagram. She plots the likely position of the remaining three on the map: in a greenspace behind the local college, in the basement of a synagogue, and two stories under a street.

Watches-the-Moon decides they will go to the one in the greenspace first, hoping the presence of students will keep the Awakened from using their more powerful spells. He tells Will to stay behind and keep an eye on Ursula and Lamar, just in case their enemies are dumb enough to assault the manor itself.

On the way out, Liv catches sight of her reflection. She reacts with combined relief and dismay, as it is finally Em looking back at her. They talk briefly, and Em makes Liv promise to take care of the others.

While they drive to the college, Watches-the-Moon calls Jerry. He asks to talk to the Uktena elders tonight, to learn about the spirits that call the City their home. Jerry says that was the purpose of next week’s council meeting, which Watches-the-Moon and Em have been invited to attend, and that these things should not be rushed. Watches-the-Moon asks if Jerry knows anything about the Cathedral, to which he replies he didn’t think it was currently in use. At Watches-the-Moon’s question about B’hem, Jerry says B’hem isn’t in the Cathedral, but he may still be related. He promises to explain more at the council meeting.

Before they arrive, Watches-the-Moon has Terin drive past the college. They go to the top of a wooded hill, and Watches-the-Moon instructs Sam to act as a scout. He tells her to stay in the woods, as close to the greenspace as she can get without being spotted, and keep an eye out for any potential threats. If she sees anyone else in the woods preparing to attack upon their arrival, she needs to stop them. Sam agrees and makes her way down the hill.

Watching her go, Terin asks if he’s sure Sam is ready. He admits he isn’t, but says it’s time anyway.

At the bottom of the hill, Sam finds a good hiding place and settles in to watch. She doesn’t see anyone acting strangely.

The others arrive at the field and begin looking around. After about 20 minutes of searching, during which Liv interrogates some nearby smokers, Terin finds an area of disturbed earth in a small decline at the edge of the woods. She calls the others over, and tries to dig the area out. The ground is hard packed, and she has to shift to galabro. Eventually she uncovers another orb, with a symbol on top and a green flame inside. She shows the others the symbol, then picks up a rock to smash the orb.

However, she misjudges the orb’s strength. It remains whole, and she hears a click. She realizes she’s just triggered a pressure plate. The orb is sitting on top of a bomb, which will go off as soon as she tries to move.

Watches-the-Moon calls Detective Blackburn, warning her about what they’ve discovered and asking if there’s a way to disarm the bomb. Blackburn admits they don’t have anyone on the bomb squad. She can put the fire department on alert, but there’s nothing she can do about the bomb itself.

Liv suggests the others move back, then she will pull Terin into the umbra. Hopefully the change in weight will cause the bomb to go off, which will no doubt destroy the orb, and everyone else should be far enough away to keep from being hurt. Watches-the-Moon agrees with the plan, and calls Sam over to get out of the way.

Once the others have cleared off, and relatively confident the humans are far enough away, Liv pulls Terin into the umbra. They both immediately start running, assuming an explosion in the mundane world would have an impact here as well. Nothing happens. A little surprised, they make their way to where the others might be waiting, and shift back into the mundane.

There they find that, indeed, nothing happened. Apparently the rock is heavy enough to keep the bomb from exploding on its own. After a brief discussion on what to do next, Terin decides simpler is better and that she will simply knock the rock off the pressure plate. Liv offers to stay with her and pull her into the umbra again, but Terin declines. She says she doesn’t want Liv to be hurt, and that she can take care of herself.

Liv doesn’t seem entirely convinced, but nevertheless moves back with the others. Terin closes to about 20 feet, judges her throw, and manages to knock the rock off on the first try. Her victory is short lived, however, when the bomb’s shock wave shreds her legs.

The now familiar sounds of screams and sirens follows. The pack hurriedly departs, Terin managing the SUV pedals with her left foot while she curses under her breath in pain. Once they are far enough away, Watches-the-Moon orders her to pull over so she can heal properly.

Of the remaining orbs, they decide to take on the one in the synagogue next. The pack enters through the umbra. Apparently the building is old enough that it looks the same in the umbra as in the mundane. The windows are lit with candle light, and they can smell incense on the air.

The spirit of the synagogue, a Hassidic rabbi, greets them in the entry way. He provides a yarmulke to Watches-the-Moon and prayer shawls to the women. Once they are properly attired, they move past the spirit to try to locate the orb.

They find a set of doors leading to the basement, where they think the orb should be, but they are locked. Recalling how Em got them into Ursula and Lamar’s apartment building, Watches-the-Moon asks if anyone is good at picking locks. Sam and Liv volunteer that they are, so he asks Sam to pick the spirtual lock.

She examines the door closely, watching the weaver spirits. She can’t think of a way to disengage them from the door. Thinking instead of her spirit companion, she pulls out her lighter and holds it to the door. As the flame flickers, she can almost see a way to pick the lock. However, she is distracted by the flame itself and can’t quite get it.

Liv tries next, and talks to the spirit of the door. Although it is easy enough to speak to the spirit, much to her surprise, it doesn’t want to open. It directs them to talk to the rabbi upstairs, and that if he says it’s okay the door will open.

Liv passes this information on to Watches-the-Moon, who returns to the entry way to talk to the synagogue’s spirit. He tries to convince the spirit that there is something dangerous in the basement, and the pack has come to take care of it so neither the building nor anyone in it will be hurt. The spirit remains skeptical. He tells Watches-the-Moon that they need to talk to the rabbi. If he trusts them, the spirit will trust them as well.

Exiting the synagogue, they return to the mundane world and come back in. Watches-the-Moon has Sam take the lead in convincing the rabbi to show them the basement. They find Rabbi Avram in his office upstairs. Sam explains they are a group of architecture students from the local college, and that they would like a tour of the building. He seems a little surprised by the request, but agrees.

The tour takes about 20 minutes. He tells them about the history of the building, making sure to point out its interesting architectural quirks. While he does pass by the doors leading to the basement, he doesn’t go through.

Back upstairs, he begins to wrap up. Sam asks if they would be able to go into the basement as well. It takes a bit more convincing, as the rabbi doesn’t understand why they want to look at an old storage area, but he eventually relents. Sam thanks him for his time, and says they can look for themselves on the way out.

Returning to the umbra, they speak with the spirit who says that he likes the girl (Sam), and she is welcome to go into the basement. Through the doors, they find themselves in a cellar. The room smells of wine, but is empty save for a large statue against the far wall. The statue is stone, and depicts a large, muscular man sitting in a chair.

Liv peaks across the gauntlet to find the room is crowded with boxes. Moving her way further in, she sees the same statue against the wall. In the mundane world, there is something sitting in its lap, covered in a prayer shawl.

Watches-the-Moon senses for magic. He can see the statue is alive, and is infused with the same type of magic the Awakened use.

Liv tries talking to the statue, to explain there is something dangerous here they need to take care of. Terin meanwhile shifts into crinos, in case it attacks. The statue doesn’t appear to move as it replies in garou, so they all understan, saying “spirit of violence, I will defend the torah”. It seems to take particular offense to Terin, saying “you are destroyers, it’s what you do. I will kill you”.

Realizing the statue has been tricked into defending whatever’s in its lap no matter what, Watches-the-Moon pulls Liv out of the line of fire and tells Terin “gravel”. She immediately attacks, followed closely by Sam.

The ensuing battle takes a surprisingly long time. The statue is not only incredibly strong – actually knocking Terin into unconsciousness at one point – but is also resistant to damage. Finally, working together to wear it down, they are able to defeat it. Liv strikes the killing blow and roars in triumph.

In the mundane world, the statue remains but no longer shows any sign of magical life. Removing the prayer shawl, they discover the third orb. Like its brothers, it has a symbol on top and a green flame inside.

Watches-the-Moon instructs Sam to break the orb. Wary of the gas inside, she throws it against the wall. It smashes, and the gas disperses into the air (although Terin coughs some into her lungs).

They exit through the umbra. The synagogue’s spirit is still at the entrance, and smiles a goodbye to them as they leave. It doesn’t seem upset by the “death” of the statue downstairs.

Once more outside, they find that night has fallen. Watches-the-Moon decides they will get some sleep. In the morning, they will track down the final orb and face its defenses (likely including 9 pissed off Awakened) then.

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