Scions of Ingress

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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