Scions of Ingress

Chapter 3: Learning the tribes & talking to fathers

"The strong man strikes first. The cunning man lets him."

Moving as quickly as possible with his heavy burden, Will carries Terin back to the manor. Running alongside his massive form, Em notices Terin has already begun to heal. She turns to comment to Sarajane, just in time to see the other wolf disappear into the woods. Convinced that Will and Terin’s well-being is a more pressing matter, she decides to tell the others about Sarajane’s running off later.

As they enter the room with the indoor pool, Terin begins to stir. Will puts her down, careful to keep from straining his own wounds. Emerging from unconsciousness, Terin can smell the salt of the pool; the unique scent of her packmates Will and Em; and the thick, coppery rush of blood. Leaving Terin to sort out her thoughts, Will steps away a bit and shifts back to homid. He goes to the phone on the wall, and calls Clear-Eyes to ask that Dr. Butler be summoned. Clear-Eyes tells him that won’t be necessary, and asks how he took Terin down. Seemingly impressed by his story, she says that Carjack would be proud.

In the meantime, Em tries to see if there’s anything she can do to help the still-dazed Terin. She shifts to homid, realizes she’s naked, and quickly shifts back to lupus. As she does, she hears a voice asking “what happened to you?” She turns and sees her reflection in the pool. Overjoyed, she realizes it’s her sister. They talk, and Em asks where Liv is. Her sister is unsure, describing it as “floating in a pool of water, like a mist”.

Fully conscious, and once again in control of herself, Terin shifts back to homid and wraps herself in a towel. Thinking back, the last thing she remembers is trying to run into the woods after which there is nothing but a haze of red. Will comes back from speaking on the phone and checks how she’s doing. She spots blood on his suit jacket, but is unable to see how badly she hurt him. She immediately apologizes, horrified that she lost control that way. He reassures her that it’s something all new Garou experience, “like a temper tantrum”, and that it will stop eventually.

Turning to Em, they realize she is apparently talking to the pool. They approach cautiously (Terin carrying a towel for when Em shifts back to homid), and peer into the water to see if anything is there. Neither of them can see anything. Belatedly aware that she is being watched, Em backs away slightly from the water and explains she was talking to her sister. Will accepts this more readily than Terin, having long been aware of the habit of some Garou of talking to things that no one else can see. They all decide to get cleaned up before returning to talk to Clear-Eyes.

As they enter the main house, Terin suddenly remembers learning that her father is still alive and in prison. She is suddenly aware of the depth of rage within her; a sensation at once terrifying and exhilarating. She hurries upstairs to the guest wing, and goes for a shower. Em detours to the kitchen, to try and find someone to put food together for them. No servants are readily visible, so instead she goes through the kitchen’s three fridges herself and starts putting together sandwiches. As she prepares the sandwiches, she uses the kitchen phone to call Sarajane and ends up leaving a message on her phone. “Hey, Sarajane, uh, I just wanted to let you know that everything’s okay. We’re all okay. We just need to know where you went? So give us a call when you get this.”

Will, after cleaning up in his private bathroom and sending his suit down the laundry chute, is struck by a feeling that he shouldn’t be so far from his packmates. Either they need to move into his room (which strikes him as crowded), or he needs to move to the guest wing. He puts together a bag of essentials and takes over one of the spare rooms. On his way down to the rec room, he stops at Clear-Eyes’ office. He says that they are ready to go, and need to leave for their training immediately. Clear-Eyes says that they will leave when they are ready, and not a moment before.

Digging into the massive sandwiches Em provides, Terin realizes her ring is gone. She begins to panic, and says she needs to find it right away. Will and Em help, with Em being the one to actually spot it. Back inside, they go to talk to Clear-Eyes.

Resuming as if nothing had happened, Clear-Eyes reiterates that the group needs to look into their background. Terin asks if she can see her father, and receives the address of the prison. Clear-Eyes says he will be able to tell her about the Silent Striders. She also says they should talk to Wayne to learn about the Bone Gnawers, and should visit the reserve outside the City to learn about the Uktena. She suggests that will be a particularly useful conversation for Em, as the Uktena will help her learn more about the spirit world. As the conversation comes to a close, Terin asks if she will lose herself to her rage again. Clear-Eyes says yes, and that she will eventually come to rely on that ability. Terin is obviously unconvinced, and goes off to her room in silence.

Catching Em before she goes into her room, Will says they need to go find Sarajane right away. Em points out that Terin likely wants to be left alone, but Will convinces her they need to stay together. They go to Terin’s room only to find the door has been blocked from within. Will goes to find another way in, while Em stays behind to try to talk Terin out. She ends up telling the other woman about her sister – who saw things that weren’t there, who everyone thought was crazy, and who may still be alive somewhere. Terin opens the door, and they hug gingerly; neither used to being physically affectionate, but both filled with a sense of belonging. Will, who managed to sneak in through the window, announces himself from behind and breaks the tense moment.

The three go back outside to find their missing packmate. They shift into lupus and follow her trail into the woods. It’s difficult, as it has begun to rain, and they lose Sarajane’s scent at the road. They decide she most likely went back to the hospital to her sister, and that she’ll come back when she’s ready. They return to the manor. They come in through what looks like a dog-door in the garage. Following Will’s example, they shake the water off their coats, and trot into the house in lupus form (leaving muddy paw prints across the kitchen floor).

Back in the guest wing, Em cleans the smashed glassware in her room before turning in. Walking by with a glass of water, Will tosses it against the wall and wishes her a good night.

The next morning, they all wake promptly at 6. Each is eager to begin the day, all for different reasons. Terin: I can finally see my father. Will: I can finally grow up. Em: I can finally start looking for my sister. They meet in the kitchen dining area for breakfast, and decide to start the day with visiting the prison. After eating, Terin notices that the paw prints are still on the floor. She starts to clean them up, but a servant says that Clear-Eyes wants them to be left alone.

Outside, it’s a beautiful spring day. Will drives his grandfather’s Mercedes about an hour outside of town, where the prison is located. It’s a huge complex of grey concrete, grey steel, and grey-faced guards. Solid doors clang shut behind them, accompanied with the blare of sirens announcing their arrival. As they get further into the prison, Em can feel herself beginning to panic. On the verge of frenzy, she forces herself to remain calm.

Once her number is called, Terin heads to the visiting room by herself. When asked if she’s family or a standard visitor, she opts for standard visitor. As such, she is directed to walk down a long corridor, at the end of which she enters a visiting area she recognizes from every police procedural she’s ever seen. Sam is already waiting for her on the opposite side of a heavy plastic barrier. He looks old, far older than she would have guessed. He stares at her as she sits down and puts the telephone receiver to her ear. Before she has a chance to open her mouth, he knows who she is.

The conversation is strained. Terin learned that he wrote to her and sent her cards every year, which she admits she never saw. When she says she didn’t even know he was alive, he looks both pained and relieved; he thought that she hated him, had chosen never to see him. Overwhelmed by emotions she can’t begin to process, Terin focuses on the main reason she came. Speaking carefully, she lets Sam know that she has changed, and needs to learn about his kinfolk associations. He’s elated at the news, and directs her to speak with the Pilgrims of the Road, a motorcycle club based out of a gas station on highway 78. Information gained, Terin finds herself asking how he came to be in prison. He says that he won’t claim to be innocent, that he made the choice required of him and that he’d do the same thing again. Terin demands if he knows what his choice cost her and her mother, if he has any idea who it allowed into their lives. She cuts herself off when Sam asks if someone is hurting her, and walks away before she begins to cry. Sam stays seated, watching as she goes.

Terin collects herself on the long walk back to the waiting room, so Will and Em can read nothing on her face when she emerges. They make their way back outside, and Terin directs them to highway 78. On the drive, she admits a little of what she learned from Sam, closing with “he said I was beautiful” before lapsing into silence.

The gas station is deserted but for a lone man in his 50s sitting with his back to the payment area. He looks like a cross between a biker and Santa Claus. Terin introduces herself as Sam Cabott’s daughter, and is directed to the restaurant on the edge of the parking lot. The three packmates enter the dimly lit room, in which they see two young men talking to the bartender, and a lone woman ferrying drinks. She comes over to the group, and directs them to a table in the corner while she goes to get someone they can talk to. A large man with a black leather vest comes over and introduces himself as Eddie. On his vest are several patches, including “Vice Pres”, “Wandering Jacks”, and what looks like an ACME ball of dynamite. He seems happy to talk to Terin, but suspicious of the others until she says they’re with her. Spotting the ring on her thumb, he takes her over to a wall of pictures. It has the appearance of a shrine, with rows of framed mug-shots. Terin’s eyes are drawn to one in particular, a much younger version of Sam she recognizes from her childhood. Beneath his picture is a plaque saying “Jack’s Finest”, the only such plaque on the wall.

Escorting the group into a back room, Eddie answers a few of Terin’s questions about the Silent Striders. He explains that the Pilgrims of the Road MC are mostly made up of the Striders’ kinfolk. They refer to the Striders as Jacks. He promises to call one of the Striders in so Terin can speak with them directly. He also explains how Sam became a hero to the Striders, by taking the fall for one of the Garou so he could keep fighting. When asked if that Garou is still around, Eddie explains that he died ten years ago. He disagrees with Terin’s response that “it was all for nothing”, saying that the most important thing in Garou culture is honour.

On their way out of the restaurant, the group passes by a woman in full riding leathers (who they heard enter and announce herself as Sasha). The woman watches them leave, but doesn’t try to stop them.

Next, the group drives into the City to try to find Wayne and learn about the Bone Gnawers. Terin directs them to her apartment, but then recommends Will park the car a few blocks away (lest it disappear while they’re inside). Inside Terin’s apartment, they find two bag lady’s watching Wheel of Fortune, Dog, and Carrie who immediately apologizes for the mess. Telling her not to worry about it, Terin asks if she knows where Wayne is. Carrie immediately offers to go find him, and rushes outside with Dog in tow. Thirty minutes later (during which Em watches Wheel of Fortune, Terin cleans the kitchen, and Will makes popcorn), Carrie returns with Wayne. He seems surprised to see them so soon, and also thrilled to meet another two Garou. He takes them to meet Puff Mama, who he says will be able to answer all their questions.

As they walk (despite Will’s suggestion it might be faster to drive), Wayne asks if they’ll be dealing with the problem on the street. When pressed for details, he says that something is taking people over. Terin realizes she saw it happen on the night she turned, and that the people she killed were those who had been taken over. She promises to come back and help as soon as she can. Wayne accepts this answer happily. He comments that it’s a good thing there will be more Garou in the city. Clear-Eyes does her best – “she’s always trimming the hedges” – but it’s a lot of work for only one person.

They arrive at a line of shops, many of which seem to have been abandoned. Wayne directs them to one more neatly kept than the others, with a well-tended strip of garden on either side of the concrete path leading to the door. Hanging next to the door is a large coffee pot with a verdantly green plant growing in it. Wayne knocks, and a cheerful looking, middle-aged woman opens the door. She invites the group inside and offers them tea. Wayne stops just inside the door, his hat in his hand, and bows when Puff Mama thanks him for bringing the group to her. He goes to wait outside.

The room is filled with well-worn, comfortable furniture. Greenery in various pots and containers sits on every horizontal surface. The group sits, and Em and Terin accept some tea. Puff Mama asks how she can help, and Em explains they are looking to learn about the different tribes. The older woman tells them that Gaia can’t do everything herself, which is why she created the Garou, who are the last line of defense. A Garou’s tribe is a reflection of their true self. Some are born to it (like Will with the Silver Fang), while others choose for themselves. The Bone Gnawers, she says, are seen by many as the bottom of Garou society. But she argues that the Bone Gnawers are survivors – “let the others fight over the meat, we’ll feast on the marrow” – and that it’s the rabble who keep an eye on the nobility. Right now, she says, they are all happy with how the City is being run.

As she speaks, a pigeon flutters down to land on a window ledge where a tray of seeds has been set out. She writes something on a small scrap of paper and ties it to the pigeon’s leg. She explains that she’s calling one of the Bone Gnawer Garou to come, so the group will be able to speak to one of their own. Also, Will receives a call on his cell phone. It’s Eddie, asking the group to come back to the 78 tomorrow evening to meet with one of the Jacks.

Thanking Puff Mama for her time, the group departs. After saying good-bye to Wayne, Terin challenges the others to a race back to the car. She takes off, indulging in her favourite hobby of parkour as she runs.

Back at the car, the group debates whether they should head back to the manor or carry on to the reserve to learn about the Uktena. They decide to go to the reserve, and stop for food on the way. When he asks who’s going to pay for their food, Em argues that he must have tons of money on him. Will doesn’t comment, nor does he end up paying (or getting any food for himself). Instead, Terin buys snacks for she and Em to eat on their way back outside of town (on the opposite side from the 78).

As they drive, Will can’t help but think of the Uktena Garou he knows. He hopes fervently that there is another nearby that they will be able to talk to instead.

Arriving at the reservation, Em and Terin are struck by how different it feels in comparison to the City. The very air has a different sense to it, one of age and patience. Will realizes it’s been a long time since he was here last, and he doesn’t know his way around as he used to. He can remember being brought to something like a camp ground, where the meetings would be held. Spotting a young couple walking along the side of the road, Will stops the car and gets out to ask directions. They recognize him immediately – “oh, it’s you” – and tell him how to get to the area he’s looking for.

There are a few buildings around the large green space. The only person in sight is an older man, apparently intent on his gardening outside of what looks like a log cabin. Will leads the way over, and asks if there is someone they can speak to. The man takes a while to look up, but when he does he greets Will by name. He says they should go see Jerry, who sits on the band council, and goes into the log cabin to find someone who will be able to give them directions. He emerges with a young woman, his daughter, who will give them directions in exchange for a ride to that part of town.

After dropping the woman off, they continue a ways down the road to arrive at a house where a man in his mid-40s is working on a deck. As they approach the house, they can see a large tree in the backyard, with strips of red, black and yellow fabric tied to the lower branches. The man, Jerry, greets them warmly and offers them something to eat. It turns out there are four burgers ready on the BBQ, as if he knew they were coming. The group accepts, and explains why they have come.

Jerry tells them a bit about the Uktena. He explains that some tribes (like the Silver Fangs) require one be born into them, but the Uktena do not. “It’s not about where you’re from, but where you are going.” He also mentions how Sarajane’s great-grandfather, Fighting-Black-Hoof, was a Uktena and hero to the Ojibwa people. The Uktena are known for their spiritual sense, he says, and are often considered the theurge’s tribe. He says that the Uktena always look for the third option, the spiritual option, the way between the ways. The rest of the world may be black and white, but the Uktena see grey.

When he learns that there are only four of them in their little pack, he seems surprised. He says they need to keep a look out for their galliard. He then asks if Em has started seeing spirits yet, to which she says yes. He recommends she go to the umbra, where she may already have spirits following her. He says that they will try to bring a theurge to the City for her to speak to, then asks Will why they don’t just go talk to Speaks-With-Gaia in the meantime. Em and Terin are surprised to learn he already knows a Uktena in the City, but he ignores their questioning looks. Despite his hopeful inquiry otherwise, Jerry says Speaks-With-Gaia is the only Uktena nearby. Thanking him for his time, Will leads the group back to the car.

Em immediately starts asking when they can see Speaks-With-Gaia, and why they didn’t just go there first. Will, becoming increasingly agitated, says it isn’t that simple. He warns them it’s dangerous, and needs to make sure it’s allowed. Walking a bit away from the other two, he calls Clear-Eyes. He admits he’s been visiting his father – which is mother is less than pleased to find out – and also that Speaks-With-Gaia said not to bring anyone down to see him until they were ready. Clear-Eyes recommends he go down by himself first to tell Speaks-With-Gaia there is a theurge that needs to speak to him. Will agrees, and returns to the others wordlessly.

They stop briefly at a gas station to pick up some food and water, then carry on to Croby Mine. As they drive, Will explains that they are going to see his father, but he needs to go by himself first. Stopping in the gravelled parking lot, he orders them tersely to wait in the car, then disappears into the mine. Em and Terin chat for a little bit, fall asleep for an hour, then sit on the hood of the Mercedes to await Will’s return.

Inside the mine, Will takes his usual path down to the 6800 level. His father is awake when he arrives in the small cavern, and says Will “could have saved time and brought them with you right away”. When Will asks if it is indeed safe to do so, Speaks-With-Gaia just asks “Little Wolf, are you ready?” Will says yes, and turns to go get the others. As he leaves, his father reminds him that the path he and the others are starting down caused death for his own pack.

Returning to the surface, Will fetches Em and Terin. He takes them to get coveralls and helmets, and explains that if anything happens while they’re down in the mine, no one will know where they are. The two women are sobered by this, and stay silent as they head down into the darkness. Stepping out from the lift, Will warns them never to travel in the spirit realm when down here.

Following Will into the dark, damp tunnels, Em begins to feel claustrophobic. For the second time today, she barely managed to keep from frenzying. Aware of her difficulty, although perhaps not how close she was to losing it, Terin takes her hand as they walk. Em grips it as a lifeline, and they carry on.

As they walk, they are all struck by a sensation that they don’t belong in this place. Heading deeper into the tunnels, they begin to hear something rumbling in the distance. It almost sounds like a massive creature breathing, or perhaps sleeping. A strange, indescribable scent also begins to fill the air; it is at the same time completely unknown, and yet familiar to some part of their Garou souls. Will tells the others something is off, and they need to hurry. He refrains from mentioning that the tunnels look different than normal, and that it has taken far longer than it should for them to get to his father’s cavern.

Reaching into her mind to try to identify the smell, Terin gets a sudden rush of confidence. She feels strong, ready, eager for something to attack them so she can fight back. She knows that she is in the wrong form, and drops Em’s hand so she can shift into crinos. The others follow suit. They immediately catch the scent of another Garou in the tunnels, and head towards it. They realize that the sound they’re hearing is that of water crashing against the shore. Their lamps, which had been steadily dimming, go out completely. Terin continues to lead the way forward, one massive hand out-stretched to feel for the tunnel walls. She brushes the wall at one point, it’s warm and feels almost alive.

Then they emerge inside a cabin. The walls are wooden slats, brilliant light seeping in through the cracks. They can hear the ocean outside. Before them is a Native American man sitting at a table and muttering to himself. Approaching the man, they can barely make out his words – it sounds like he’s telling a fable. Will and Em change back into homid; Will struck by how easy it was. They’re in the spirit realm, he announces, and the man before them is his father, Speaks-With-Gaia.

Speaks-With-Gaia tells them he has been away for a long time, waiting for the return of the ocean. Confused, since they can hear the water, Em and Terin go look out the windows. Instead of the seaside, they see an endless stretch of cracked, dehydrated dirt. When asked where the ocean has gone, he tells them they have come to bring the ocean back, or possibly to bring them back to the ocean, he’s a bit unclear. He congratulates them on passing their first trial, in not letting their fear turning them away in the tunnels. However, he says, fear will be the easiest enemy to defeat.

He says that they have lived this path many times (Terin has a sudden vision of a man in a cowboy hat, and knows that she despises him). He asks if they have chosen their tribes yet, and Em says she is thinking Uktena. When she says that she is sure, he says to simply speak her choice aloud and it will be so. He tells her that the Silver Fangs and Uktena are allies in protecting the City, but the other tribes left when the ocean did.

In reply to what they should do next, he tells them to “go to the White Queen and prove what you already are: Garou, ready and capable”. He promises to give them their second trial upon their return.

Will asks when they will be able to help him leave the tunnels. Gently, Speaks-With-Gaia says that is not their task, that they are here to bring back the ocean. “We all die,” he says. “It is more important how we face that death.” Something in Will hardens at this revelation, but he does his utmost to keep from showing it to the others.

Em asks if she will be able to learn from any theurge. Speaks-With-Gaia says yes, but offers to teach her something before she goes. She accepts eagerly. He shifts to crinos, takes Em’s hand, and begins telling her a story. As he speaks, she starts hearing a second voice. The small creature that had taken up residence on her shoulder which, up until now, had been chittering softly in her ear begins to speak recognizably. Speaks-With-Gaia has taught her how to communicate with the spirits.

He also tells her she should learn the mother’s touch, to heal others. To demonstrate, he rests his hand on Terin’s neck and says “Gaia keep you whole until your task is complete”. She feels a rush of warmth spread through her, and her wound is completely healed. Speaks-With-Gaia looks at his son next, a wordless offer to heal his wound as well. Without speaking, Will declines. Speaks-With-Gaia inclines his head, but his disappointment is evident.

That done, Speaks-With-Gaia returns to his table. Will tries to leave the umbra, but realizes he’s too angry to do so. Instead, he tells Em she will need to bring he and Terin out with her. She does so, and as she passes from the spirit world into the mortal realm, she hears someone calling her name.

Back inside the small cavern, Em and Terin are surprised to find a shriveled, Native American man wrapped in blankets and sitting in front of a meager fire. They recognize him as Speaks-With-Gaia, although he looks far older and frailer. Will drops the supplies he brought next to his father. Speaks-With-Gaia reaches feebly for him, but Will doesn’t react. Instead he turns and leads the others back towards the surface.

QUOTES
-——

“Oh… it’s you.” – Every native on the reservation to Will

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