Scions of Ingress

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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