Scions of Ingress

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.

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Myrthful

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