No Really, We're Sheep
Though the initial impression of the scene is that of woodlands, traffic can be heard faintly in the distance, and the scent of the city is strong.
Looking up, trees hang thick overhead, but between their swaying branches skyscrapers after visible.
Larissa increases her pace to a rate that is deceptively fast, considering her advanced age, leading the group along a winding, trodden footpath.
Shay took in a deep breath and started to run as well, even with the city visible the air was cleaner which in turn made her feel better.
“Can you tell us where we are or is that taboo?”
Shay called out.
Larissa doesn’t respond to questions, does not even acknowledge they’ve been asked. The path twists around a tree, shad when Shay turns the small bend, Larissa is out of sight.
Joseph comes to a halt and looks around for their missing guide.
“Oh, C’mon! This shit is getting old!” Joseph exclaims in a rare burst of frustration. He blows a hard breath out of his nostrils, and surveys the scene they find themselves in. Perhaps this is a significant tree or grove.
AJ, who has been bringing up the rear, hears Joseph’s frustrated outburst and peers past Tinny to see Larissa gone.
“Dis is a ridiculous” he says with amused frustration in his voice. “Maybe dey will teach us how to be cryptic and vanish out of thin air.”.
AJ turns around, fully expecting to see the giant fellow has disappeared as well.
Tinny grunts, completely unsurprised.
“at least we aren’t locked up again. That was getting old fast. Maybe we’re on to the real deal so we can get it over with and leave this Sept in the dust. Chicago was better than this.”
Joseph nods in agreement.
“At this point if they want us to find our way back, I say we hitchhike back to Chicago.”)
Shay takes a deep breath and points to the skyscrapers.
“Okay, lets not get our panties in knots. There is a city over there, where there is a city there is a phone or many other resources. These are tests, you bite your pencil, get nervous, and then say a little prayer before you shade in the bubble on your scantron.”
Shay takes point and starts to look for the path again.
Thoma feels a wave of something like relief as they break through into the woods. The change in air pressure feels wonderful, and for a second, he stops, breathing in, before he is nearly bumped into and begins again.
As everyone begins to run, Thoma considers breaking away from the group, disappearing into the trees and finding some nice, normal cave to move in to. There, he could collect women’s shoes and tell everyone about the time he thought he was a werewolf. Until he witnessed some sort of murder and turned into Samuel L Jackson.
When the line suddenly stops running, Thoma has to jump onto one foot and twist to keep from running into the body in front of him. He hops and turns in place, coming to a stop somewhat ungracefully. “What in the world-”
Thoma studies the skyline as they can see it, looking for a familiar building, trying to identify the city they’re in.
As Joseph, Shay, and Thoma take in their surroundings, AJ turns, expecting to find the group abandoned. What he finds behind them, however, is not emptiness, nor is it the giant. A wolf stands facing AJ, massive in size, even by Garou standards, six feet at the shoulder, eyes baleful and malicious in the gibbous moon light. As soon as AJ’s eyes meet the wolf’s, it emits a rumbling growl, baring its teeth. It takes a single step forward, its paws tipped by wicked claws that shine and reflect like polished steel.
As AJ locks eyes with the wolf, he prepares to respond cynically, perhaps voicing how transparent this whole thing is, certainly going to remind whoever this wolf is that this entire exercise is a ridiculous waste of time. However, before these words can leave his mouth, he feels something wash over him. His body begins to quake, and while this initially confuses him, he finds himself suddenly breaking eye contact with the wolf, instinctively taking a step backwards. Looking into the wolf’s eyes, AJ suddenly understands that no matter how strong or capable he has considered himself, he is nothing more than a rabbit to this creature. He is a prey animal, and while he knows that he has strength in his bones, he knows that his strength pales next to the force of this thing in front of him. In a way that AJ almost refuses to acknowledge, he is terrified by this beast.
OOC: At a tabletop game, I would give you a bit less info than you’re about to receive, because I’d be in a better position to prevent any inappropriate actions. However, given the nature of our email game, I thought it best to be clear. This Wolf (who is obviously a Garou) has used a gift on you called True Fear (you can find it on page 142 of the Core Book). The wolf has 8 Strength and 4 Intimidation. His roll for the gift was 869045742600, and the difficulty is your Willpower, aka 5. Accordingly, this tremendous success means that for the next 9 turns, AJ is cowed and cannot attack. He may defend himself if he is attacked, and he can otherwise act normally (i.e. he could flee, he could try to reason with the wolf, he could speak with his packmates), but the atmosphere here is that he is so scared of this wolf that the concept of facing it in combat doesn’t even occur to him.
At the back of the pack, having taken up the rearguard, Tinny stands beside AJ as AJ turned to check the giant who had been following them. Tinny too turns to find that where the giant had stood is now a massive wolf, likely the Hispo form of the giant, which too is humongous. AJ looks at the wolf and suddenly falters back a step Tinny raises his own eyes to the wolf, preparing to address it, probably call it out for the obviousness of the situation. However, before these words can leave his mouth, he feels something wash over him. His body begins to quake, and while this initially confuses him, he finds himself suddenly breaking eye contact with the wolf, instinctively taking a step backwards. Looking into the wolf’s eyes, The Kid suddenly understands that no matter how strong or capable he has considered himself, he is nothing more than a rabbit to this creature. He is a prey animal, and while he knows that he has strength in his bones, he knows that his strength pales next to the force of this thing in front of him. In a way that Tinny almost refuses to acknowledge, he is terrified by this beast.
OOC: Okay, normally you’d get a bit less crunch to justify this, but to make sure you understand what’s happened here: this is a garou in Hispo who has used the gift True Fear on Tinny (see page 142 of the core book). He has 8 Strength and 4 Intimidation, so he gets to roll 12 dice vs. Tinny’s Willpower as the difficulty (aka 5). That roll is: 734653578704 which means 8 successes. Per the gift, for the next 8 turns, Tinny is cowed by the garou. He can generally act freely, but he is supernaturally scared and cannot initiate a combat with the garou, though he could flee, converse, etc, etc, etc without difficulty. The thing to remember is that the reason that Tinny can’t attack the wolf (even if Tinny wouldn’t attack the wolf) is because the wolf is scaring him, which should inform what course of action Tinny does choose to take.
Joseph, Royce, Shay, and Thoma hear something uncharacteristic: quiet. Then they hear the growl of the wolf and turn to see both Tinny and AJ looking up at the gargantuan beast. As the pack watches, the already huge wolf takes a single step forward, gleaming metallic claws clinking audibly on hard earth, and with that step seems to grow even larger, filling the entire passageway, his teeth glinting sharp and imposing, standing before them as the very incarnation of Gaia’s Rage. The growl resonates.
Shay looked down at the claws.
“How much you want to bet that’s silver he’s sporting?”
She looked at the dire wolf.
“Either your the worst fucking welcoming committee on Gaia or you’re here to kill us.”
Shay’s eyes dart around looking for a tree to climb.
Tinny cowers away from the giant wolf, whimpering like a puppy in human form. He turns tail and begins to run instinctually, but only gets as far as ten feet from AJ before finding some measure of composure. [rolled myself a WP: 6,3,3,7,10] He turns and faces the beast, but will not meet its eye, and he keeps AJ as a fence between him and the wolf. The others get a sense that Tinny is desperately afraid of this creature for some reason /other/ than the obvious ones.
Joseph’s eye’s widen at the site.
In the wolf’s direction, “If you don’t show otherwise,” he says loudly with perhaps a bit of false bravado “We’ll assume your an enemy.” Joseph tries to see if there is anyway to tell if this is the giant, perhaps his scent is the same or a scar.
Much quieter to AJ “You are our Ahroun man! If you don’t rally us, we’re gonna end up scattering!”
Shay clears her head for a moment and takes a deep breath, she steps forward, making eye contact with the dire wolf, and clearing her throat.
“Look I apologize for crossing your turf. It’s not cool that all us kids are on your front lawn. If you can point us in the right direction out, we will gladly leave your space. We don’t want trouble and I am sure that you would rather not shed blood on your ground.”
Shay nervously bowed her head.
Hearing the growl, Thoma’s head whips toward the beast and he falls back a step. Then another step. He has to, to take in the sheer size of the thing. He wants to run. Wants to take a third step, turn on his heel, and split, but he knows, the way a small child keeps their feet far away from the edges of their bed, and won’t close their eyes, that the instant he does, the monster will get him.
Thoma is frozen in place, eyes so wide the whites are showing all the way around. His arms are at his sides, slightly bent as if ready to come to his aid, but he has no idea what aid there could possibly be.
The wolf feels like a force of nature kept barely in check. It seems wholly disinterested in Shayanna, instead locking eyes with Joseph when the teenager speaks, and takes another step forward, its growl beginning to feel nearly tangible.
When Joseph and the wolf lock eyes, all of the bravado saps out of Joseph. His body begins to quake, and while this initially confuses him, he finds himself suddenly breaking eye contact with the wolf, instinctively taking a step backwards. Looking into the wolf’s eyes, Joseph understands that no matter how strong or capable he has considered himself, he is nothing more than a rabbit to this creature. He is a prey animal, and while he knows that he has strength in his bones, he knows that his strength pales next to the force of this thing in front of him. In a way that Joseph is loathe to acknowledge, he is terrified by this beast.
OOC: Okay, normally you’d get a bit less crunch to justify this, but to make sure you understand what’s happened here: this is a garou in Hispo who has used the gift True Fear on Joseph (see page 142 of the core book). He has 8 Strength and 4 Intimidation, so he gets to roll 12 dice vs. Joe’s Willpower as the difficulty (aka 6). That roll is: 094490781058 which means 7 successes. Per the gift, for the next 7 turns, Joseph is cowed by the garou. He can generally act freely, but he is supernaturally scared and cannot initiate a combat with the garou, though he could flee, converse, etc, etc, etc without difficulty. The thing to remember is that the reason that Joseph can’t attack the wolf (even if Joseph wouldn’t attack the wolf) is because the wolf is scaring him, which should inform what course of action Joseph does choose to take.
More free info: Tinny was effected by this gift as well! Collin’s Willpower roll was arbitrary on his part to help him decide where on the spectrum of allowable actions he would stay. Since he succeeded, Collin used that as a guide to RP that Tinny initially wanted to run, but pulled himself together instead of abandoning the pack. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. If you know how Joseph would react to that kind of fear, go with it. Just remember that the one course of action that Joseph CANNOT pursue is attacking the wolf.
“I don’t think this is what we think it is…”
Shay in a worried sing song voice.
“Hey Joey, this might be a good time to speak spirit ’a spiritspeaker.”
Joseph doesn’t seem to respond to Shay’s comment.
His eye’s widen, and his breath comes and goes in ragged gasps. His mouth looks like he is trying to form words, but his brain is refusing to come to terms with what his senses tell him. His instincts tell him not only is he outmatched, but the group of them together could not match this creature. His head drops, and makes small twitches, while his eyes blink faster than the norm.
Royce appraises the sudden attitude changes of his packmates and snorts in derision. “It’s jest a wolf, get ovah it.” He starts to step forward and is halted not by the ferocity of the beast, but by the highly audible sound of a ratcheting machine. The pack’s attention turns slightly askew as a man in a t-shirt and jeans steps up beside the wolf. He jams a shotgun shell into the chamber of his weapon, eliciting the racheting noise. He pumps the gun once, quickly, fluidly, and then swings the butt of the shotgun up and around, smashing it across Royce’s chin, knocking him down.
He kicks Royce back towards the pack, and the wolf tenses up beside him as though preparing to pounce.
The man looks at the pups, the shotgun at the ready, “Run.”
Shay says nothing, she grabs Joseph by the arm and pulls him to run.
“Do as the man says and fucking run.”
She turns to Tin and grabs onto his arm and motions with her head to the rest of the group.
“I don’t feel like becoming a sieve tonight. Lets get out of here!”
Joseph’s head jerks around at the sound of the racking gun. He bares his teeth and growls at the man.
Shay’s tug on his arm focuses his attention back to the group. He looks into her eyes and remembers it is not just him anymore. It’s not the family he grew up with, but they are his family now. His jaw muscles relax slightly and he nods. He looks to the rest of the group and urges them forward, as he begins to break into a run.
The sound of his own heartbeat thuds in his ears. The eyes of the beast burned into his vision, time seems to stand still. AJ barely hears Joseph saying something to him, but he can’t shake the image of those eyes.
Paralyzed, AJ watches helplessly as his packs morale is shattered by these strangers. When the shotgun collides with Royce, and he hears the words, “Run!”, AJ finally manages to break out. Covered in cold sweat, visibly shaking, AJ staggers to Royce to get him up and starts moving away, with no direction other than away from those eyes of pure terror.
Tinny feels the tug on his arm and at first is too frightened to move. When his human shield, AJ, decides to scat, TC turns tail and runs, not knowing what else to do. As with every previous run, the Tin Can Kid shifts down into his favorite form, the shiny black Tin Can Wolf.
AJ easily hoists Royce back up to his feet, and while Royce is off-balance, he does manage, stumblingly, to keep a reasonable pace. As the two flee from the wolf and its companion, they watch as Tinny’s body shudders, ripples, and explodes through his clothing as his body surges all the way up to its war-form, though he, along with Shayanna, Joseph, and Thoma, is also fleeing the scene.
As the pack moves, they find a natural pace alongside one another, managing to stay off of one another’s feet. At first, the forestry around them is unwelcoming and dense, keeping them on the winding path. As the trees part, Thoma looks around him, trying to take in his surroundings, and though his breath is coming labored now, he audibly announces to the group, “This is New York. I think.”
Hearing this, both Shayanna and Tinny exchange glances, immediately thinking up ways to get out of this town. In line with this thought, Shayanna starts to break away from the path, but quickly hops back in with the others when a large wolf (though not as large as the wolf in the path behind them) darts out, snapping at her feet, keeping her out of the woods.
“This is… definitely someone else’s home, and they don’t want us here.”
Shay says between breaths, her brain races just a little.
“If this is New York City, this is central park! If we keep running we should be able to hit concrete soonish!”
Joseph’s breathing settles into the familar pace of a long distance runner.
“I don’t think we’re gonna get that chance.” Joseph looks to see where the wolves are. “They’re herding us.”
Tinny continues shifting on to hispo. His head darts from left to right, trying to take in his surroundings, count the number of surrounding antagonists, and get an idea of their positions around the group. He also looks behind to make sure the terrifying one isn’t too close.
Thoma shakes his head. “Not necessarily. There are something like a thousand parks in the city.” He peers up at the skyline.
OOC: Thoma is probably able to tell what part of New York they’re in, but not what area specifically. Manhattan, the Bronx, Upper East Side, etc. I would think.
IC: He slows down as he looks around, only to have to catch back up again. Thoma is not so in shape as the others seem to be, and starts to lag behind a little.
Tinny falls behind a step while his body adjusts to his shapeshift. In that faltering step, he feels rushing air. Hunching his shoulders down, a massive clawed paw passes just overhead. The accompanying wolf tumbles sideways, off balance from his attack. Behind the attacker, Tinny sees the humongous wolf approaching at a methodical lope. Laying eyes on the beast brings on a palpable surge of fear in Tinny’s chest, spurring him onward.
At the front of the group, Joseph and Shayanna both see the shotgun wielding man crouched beside a tree, drawing a bead towards them. Momentarily, they question how he could have gotten ahead of them, but the eruption of tree bark from overhead accompanying the thunderous retort of the shotgun discharge, leaves little opportunity for reflection. Rather, the pack drives further down the math, curbing away, setting trees and foliage between themselves and the shooter. Though out of sight, they clearly hear the man work the pump action of his firearm, ejecting the expended shell with a scent of gunpowder, and chambering the next.
The path begins to turn serpentine, meandering back and forth in a manner that a city planner probably once considered quite charming, and the pack erupts out of the wooded area and into a clearing with a lake surrounded by benches.
In the midst of the lake is a copse of trees, a small bridge allowing access. Though the pack’s first instinct is to avoid the bottle neck, they quickly find other routes are foreclosed by a gathering of wolves and humans and figures in between.
As the pack approaches, the group erupts in a cacophony of shouts, howls, barks, growls, and cheers, accompanied by antiquated weapons raised overhead. Thoma slows, his chest on fire, thinking perhaps and end to this madness is in sight, but he is immediately driven forward by a still strike to the center of his back, throwing him forward.
As though in a gauntlet, the young wolves are driven forward by snapping jaws, striking fists and feet, and threats of violence. As they continue to advance, forced to maintain a feverish pace, they see ahead of them a rent in reality: where they should see the far side of the tree copse, they instead see an oblong shimmer in reality where the earth seems to curve up into nothing. Beside this gap in the world stands Mother Larissa on the left, and Connor O’Daille on the right. Larissa leans on a walking stick, while Connor beckons the pack forward urgently into the bizarre hole. Strangely, the pack also clearly sees a small white mouse clinging to the under side of the very top of the hole, seemingly holding the world open, casting a clean light down on the path. Like Connor, it beckons the pack forward and in, and in detail far too fine for the perception of the physical world to which the cubs are accustomed, it keens out, “This way to escape.”
Joseph runs on as only someone accustomed to the long run can.
Fortunately when something is that ingrained, you don’t need to think about it. Joseph looks to his pack and wishes he could lend some aid to those in the rear, but he knows full well what the consequence would be. He runs and tries to take in as much as he can given the circumstances.
Seeing the group blocking their escape Joseph emits a growl, something that has been happening a lot more often recently.
“See.” He gestures to Shay. “Herding.”
Under his breath “Asking would be too hard.” In a voice with more than a pinch of sarcasm.
Joseph puts on a little burst of speed to get to the rip first. He turns and gestures to the others to go through. “Go! Go! I’ll be right behind you!” He watches to make sure the rest will make it. His mind racing the simple thought comes through “They are not your family. They are your pack.” He knows the difference is small, but the mentality is different. His anger is up against those who threaten his pack.
Shay starts laughing. At first she doesn’t know why, it’s instinct.
“Into the rabbit hole!”
Her lungs hurt a little from the running as well as the burning in her stomach from laughing, she ran in place for a moment looking back at Joseph.
“Don’t wait too long, or they might leave you.”
Shay and Joseph nearly blocking, the entryway, looking at the group of their colleagues, can’t help but notice that the living embodiment of death that set them off ay a brisk trot is still heading straight for them, still heralded by a wave of supernatural dread that defies logic and intent.
Joseph once again shudders under the mental assault.
He holds his ground though, determined at least to make sure the rest of his pack make it through safely.
He continues to shout encouragement to his pack, hoping to be the one that catches their eye instead of the maddness surrounding them.
As Thoma begins to fall behind and is shoved forward, his knees buckle slightly and he runs now close to the ground, bent forward with his arms back. His legs pump faster to counterbalance his tipped frame and he catches up with the group.
Thoma stares at the ground as he runs only looking forward enough to make sure he’s following the group. He can’t hear anyone over the blood pumping in his ears, and even his sight seems to be giving over to the adrenalin, exhaustion, and fear that are filling his senses.
He barrels through the rip without even realizing it, and without realizing he should maybe stop running.
Thoma notices, first, that the ground within the portal curves upwards in a manner that the geography of the park does not. He then notices that the ambient light of the tunnel has changed dramatically. And then he realizes that he isn’t following anyone. Somewhere along the line, he made it to the front of the pack, though Royce is just a step behind. It’s Joseph, Thoma realizes, who had been leading, and now he is absent.
AJ, who has been numbly following the group, trying to get away from that beast; hears the word “escape” and takes in his surroundings. The “rent” in reality gapes before him. Shifting the staggered Royce, glancing over his shoulder to the trees and brush where the beast was closing on them, AJ dashes forward and enters the “rift”.
Tinny looks to make sure nobody has fallen behind. He isn’t so much afraid that they will be hurt by the wolves and shotgunners, but he wants to be sure his whole pack enters the rift. He nods his sleek black head to Joe and enters the hole in reality. Before taking in his surroundings on the other side, he turns to wait for the last member of the pack.
Joseph doesnt pause after Tinny is through the rift.
He turns and dives through with out a thought.
As soon as Joseph is through, the Mouse jumps down from the top of the rent, closing it as though zipping the world closed. The other side of the gap is a tunnel, the ground at first curves upwards in a manner wholly inconsistent with what they could see from outside. The ground below their feet starts off as the same dirt as they had been trodding on in the park, while the air around them is curved into a flowing wall of force. Despite the solid nature of this wall, the pack can see the moon shining down overhead, and its light seems to catch on the air that forms the barrier of the passage, giving it substance. Looking at the walls directly reveals only pitch darkness beyond the path.
The path is only wide enough for members (other than Tinny) to walk two abreast, and it only goes in one direction. The incline the group faces is at first steep, like hiking up a mountain, and then gradually levels off.
Shay sighed deeply.
“So any ideas about what that was all about?”
She started walking placing her hands in her pockets.
“Even to the point of pulling a gun…”
Tinny shifts back to homid.
“Some kinda hazing. I’m guessing the shotguns were full of rock salt. Just another warm welcome from the sept of the green.”
Joseph tries to force a calm on himself. is body still shakes a little at the thought of that beast.
He takes a look to see if the mouse is still there.
“Guys, let’s take a minute to catch our breath here.”
Joseph walks in a circle to properly cool down from the run.
“Tinny? You seem more knowledgable about the other septs. What can you tell us about this one? Other than they’re terrible hosts.”
Tinny hunkers down on the dirt ground, running his finger through it, then looking up at the weird wormhole tunnel. Finally he looks to Joe.
“Hmm. Weird. What I seem to know and what I do know are two different things. The truth is I don’t know any more than you; these guys are called the Sept of the Green, and they suck at welcoming parties. The only reason I know their name is because that was the one piece of useful information Larissa and her silent companions were willing to part with.”
He looks around again.
“This place is weird, ain’t it? Seems there’s but one way to go, and that is up, if it could be rightly called up. Shall we?”
He begins whistling a familiar tune from The Wizard of Oz.
Thoma’s legs start to falter as the ground changes under him. They keep going for a bit as he looks around, but fighting the incline is too much and he falls to his knees, heels of his hands skidding in the dirt before he pushes himself back to his feet and doggedly runs on, mostly as if he doesn’t know what else to do.
When the ground levels out, he stops, his body swaying like a branch about to snap in the wind. He looks around, not sure when or why he ended up in front, but something in him standing, maybe, a little straighter knowing that he is.
Tinny’s observation is correct: there is only one way to go, and those standing around are starting to get a feeling most comparable to claustrophobia. Thoma is leading the way, looking upright and composed despite his dirty knees.
At the craft of the hill, one feels like one is walking on a walkway a thousand feet up, compete with that slight disorientation of looking down and seeing nothing really below.
Ahead, maybe half a mile away, the tunnel appears to curve back downwards. At about the halfway point, snow is accumulating outside of the tunnel, and snow begins to decorate the ground of the path, though snow is not able to fall from above to below.
AJ finally seems to be firing on all cylinders again. He looks around, taking in the surroundings and the situation. “Dis is way messed up! Who da hell were those guys, and why were dry herding here? For dat matter, where is here, da Umbra? If so, Joseph, can you flag down a friend to help us out?”
AJ calls to Toma, “Hey Toma, can you pause de expidition for a few? Not dat I don’t like hauling a friend, but I want to make sure all his cookies are still in de jar.”
AJ pauses to set down Royce as gentle as possible to check for any damage and see how he’s doing.
Royce easily takes his own feet. There is blood all over his gave and shirt, but he isn’t bleeding anymore. He nods his thanks to AJ.
Tinny looks to AJ.
“the answers are all pretty plain. Compare our current situation to a fraternity. Same deal, only a lot more serious. And where we are now, well, your guess is as good as mine. Unless theres a third reality besides the two we know about, I’m guessing you’re right on the money when you say this might be the umbra. Thing is, it doesn’t look anything like the park we were in. That is strange. At any rate, our new best friends thought it fit to herd us here, so I’m venturing a guess that the end of this path has something or other to do with our Rite of Passage. What that something is is anyone’s guess. We currently have no choice but to plod on and find out.”
He sizes up the damage to Roy’s face.
“sorry to say it, man, but it might be a while before our troubadour will be bedding any fair maidens. You’re done bleeding, so it can’t be too bad. You feeling alright to move on?”
Royce nods, “Doesn’t even hurt anymore.”
Joseph looks to the assembled group.
“Everyone ok? I mean, as well as can be expected.”
Tinny laughs a bit.
“I’m cool, except for when I crapped myself at the sight of that thing. Luckily, I’m not wearing those pants anymore. And lucky for you guys, this coat is dedicated.”
He pulls his coat straps to hide his naughty bits.
Thoma: The view conquers so much of the landscape that Thoma feels almost an ache inside, like he has been waiting for this his whole life, and never realized it.
Annoyed, he looks over his shoulder at AJ, one eyebrow arched sharply. “I didn’t know there were cookies.” he says dryly before turning back to the veritable cliff.
He clears his throat quietly as the dirty one tugs at his coat and dedicates his attention again to the view. He points toward the tunnel. “That’s where we’re going.” He looks back. “And two of us are barefoot.”
Joseph looks into the distance. Once again trying to absorb a new situation. “Well,” he says in his normal calmer voice “I know I’m new to being a son of Gaia, but this seems a little excessive to me.” He pauses and looks back to the group. “What if we are bing fed to something? I know it sounds ridiculous, but, so does nearly everything else so far.”
Shay gave a snort laugh.
“Wouldn’t take be fucking hilarious!”
She composed herself with a cough, but still giggling.
“Welcome to Garou society, hope you enjoy being chow! Fuck you! Then a push into the mouth of something unimaginable.”
Shay punched the wall lightly as they walked,
“After the life I’ve been through being someone’s food is a step up from dirt bottom, fuck rock bottom is too good for me.”
Shay’s self deprecation kept her humming along as they walked.
“Shit, maybe I could be eaten by something prettier! Big fucking butterfly! That would be awesome,”
She made “mandibles” with her hands and snapped them around.
“OM NOM NOM! Eaten by Mothra!”
Joseph listens to Shay with a somewaht sad expression.
All of that is shattered at her Mothta impression and the tension flows out of Joseph. he laughs her pantomime anf has to stop to compose himself.
“Aren’t you gonna be upset if that is the case?” He says with a smile.
Royce places his hand against the edge of the pathway, pressing. Reality seems to bend where he presses, but it doesn’t yield more than a superficial amount. He pulls his hand back, turning it over, examining it, apparently unharmed, and then looks down the pathway, where the snow is collecting.
“If they’re feeding us to something, I’d think it’d have started by now. Like a sarlacc or something, but this feels fine. Maybe a little cold, but otherwise fine.”
He looks back at the direction they came from, his face going dark as he wipes dried blood away from his cheek.
“And I’m saying up front: I’m not going back to those fuckers. So we might as well go forward, because nothing here resembles edible.”
He reaches into the rim of his coat and produces a wooly scarf, throwing it around his chin.
Joseph watches Royce press into reality, or whatever it is.
“Yeah, I didnt think so, but its one of those weird thoughts that rolls through your head and has to be said out load in order to dispell it.” He laughs lightly. Still partially amused by Shay’s pantomime gesture.
“So I’m not the only one genuinely upset by this whole ordeal then?”
Royce wipes his fingers across his face, down over his eye where the gun butt had struck him and broken his face open, he holds the rust-covered fingers up to Joseph.
Joseph eyes open wider as Royce shows him his fingers.
“I can take a look at that. I’m sorry in all the rush I forgot. One of my gifts is healing. If you don’t want me to use a gift, I do have first aid training.” Joseph opens his hands to unconiously show it is a genuine offer.
Tinny watches the exchange between his two friends.
“Don’t mistake me for being cool with this. I don’t think any of us are. I’m just trying to come up with rational explanations for all we are seeing. Joe, see if you can’t get our heartthrob back into working order so we can hop down this yellow brick road to the sarlaac behind the curtain.”
Royce nods and presents himself for inspection.
As Joseph probes the wounded area, he finds that Royce does not flinch away, and in fact, as he cleans away the blood, he finds that there is no wound beyond a red welt, which may even just be bloodstain for all its severity.
Joseph nods to Tinny, but keeps his attention on Royce.
“Humph. Looks like a few nights rest and you’ll be fine.” Joseph nudges Royce in the ribs. “In the meantime, you have a conversation piece for those swooning barmaids I think.” Joseph smiles at Royce. “Honestly, at this point you probably just need to wash your face.” Joseph looks up the ‘path’ and gives a light laugh. “By the end of this I’m sure we will ALL need one.”
Thoma watches from his place on the summit. He can tell with no effort that he’s not fitting in with these people who are now his pack. He can tell with one look that if it came to it, they’d eat him to survive. Hell, they’d probably eat him to stave off boredom.
It’s hardly the first time Thoma hasn’t fit in with a group. But, on some level, he had hoped these people would be different. Thoma swallows the disappointment and, instead of simply striding off toward the tunnel, he tilts head head back and shakes his hair out of his face. “We should-” his voice sounds cracked, strained. He frowns, clears his throat, and tries again. “We should go. That thing isn’t far, and should provide some shelter from-” he wafts a hand at their current exposed location.
Joseph looks to Thoma.
“Good idea. Do you see something?”
Royce meanders towards Thoma, stopping at the edge of the snow line, pushing at it with his toe.
Joseph can’t help but notice the pain that is plain to see on the face of his packmate.
Joseph knows all too well the feeling of being out of place. Moving as much he did Joseph knows how hard it can be to fit in with a new crowd.
“Someone know a story to pass the time?” Joseph thinks on it for a second. “Thoma, what did you do with your spare time before you sprouted hair spontaneously?”
He leans away just barely from Joseph, then gestures toward the tunnel. “There.”
“I just figured standing on an obviously flimsy bridge made out of woven alternate reality wasn’t the best idea and since there’s that nifty tunnel over there, it seems wise to, you know.” He nods his head toward it. “Go there.”
Tinny eyes Thoma and scrunches his brow as if trying to work out a puzzle. An almost cruel and dismissive look crosses his face briefly before he catches himself and turns away to look up the path.
“Yes. Let’s get this train rolling. Long as Roy’s skull is in one piece, that is. I’m going in a more comfy form.”
Tinny squats down and places his hands on the ground to prepare for the shift to lupus.
Tinny shifts to tuxedo dog and pads up the path.
Royce dutifully follows Tinny’s lead, patting Thoma on the shoulder as he comes even with him.
Now towards the rear of the pack, AJ and Shay notice that behind them, the moonlight that had been illuminating the bridge is beginning to fade away.
If Thoma sees Tinny’s expression, he has chosen to ignore it by lifting his chin a little higher. He means to be first, the lead of the pack, but the already-shifted Tinny takes off first. As Thoma tries to reason that out, Royce passes him by as well and Thoma tucks his chin in, following determinedly.
After a few steps, he looks over his shoulder to AJ and Shay.
And so the pack enters a passive-aggressive race set to a brisk trot, none of them willing to admit or behave as though they’re actually racing one another, or quite willing to break the pace set (though it is light enough that any of them could). So it is that the group reaches the end of the plateau in this order: Tinny, Royce, Thoma, Joseph, Shayanna, then AJ.
The end of the plateau is covered by an inch of standing snow. Around them, beyond the confines of the tunnel, they see wind whirling and drifting, but it never lands. Seeing the snow moving, the pack would expect that perhaps there be an attendant wind, and sure enough they can hear the howling of a gale, but the moonbridge they stand upon protects them from feeling the wind’s bite.
The path they’ve been walking bends down gently towards what appears to be an exit, its decline gentle enough that there is no concern of slipping on the snowy ground, but steep enough that they cannot see beyond the apparent terminus.
AJ watches the groups interaction with some detachment. Feeling different than everyone else is a common theme for him.
Not wanting to get swallowed up by the encroaching darkness behind them, AJ pats Shah reassuringly on the shoulder and nods solemly at Thoma. “Let’s get going, I don think dis wild ride is over just yet. I’m right behind ya.”
Joseph looks around at his pack. Taking a moment to study each of them for a moment.
There is tension here, and not just from the wierdness surrounding them. Joseph can feel it, yet he does not know how to dispel it. His gift for solving riddles never really covered human interaction, much less if you throw in a helping of Gaia.
He has his own opinions about each of them, but certainly nothing set in stone.
Trying to lightenthe mood a little he says loudly enough for them all to hear (I assume with the wind I would have to speak up) “Any bets on what’s at the end of the rabbit hole?” He turns and throws a small wink to Shay, “Besides Mothra of course.” He says with a grin.
The bottom of the path does not, in fact, lead to Mothra, but instead, like the mouth of a cave, it opens to a light snowfall in a wooded glen. Waiting outside the exit are scents which are in many ways unfamiliar and nostalgic: cold, pure air, pine needles, fresh, clean snow. Even Joseph, well accustomed to forests far from cities, can’t help but feel that everything here just seems… purer, cleaner, less infested by mankind.
As Tinny crosses out of the portal into the clearing, a man stands from his seat on a felled tree-trunk, a tall man with coal-black hair and piercing black eyes. His features are sharply and distinctly Native American Indian, matched by traditional garb under a heavy black coat. His voice is strong and clear, ringing on the air as though the night itself is carrying his words,
“Welcome, pups. to the Sept of the Winter Wolf. You are late. I am Blood on the Wind, Wendigo Galliard and Warden of this Caern, charged with its defense, and tonight I am to provide you with food and shelter. Tomorrow morning, you will begin your Rite of Passage. Your tardiness has made me late for my obligations, so please, follow me now, so that I can get back to my business.”
And without further word, he turns and walks away from the portal, clearly expecting the pack to follow.
Joseph opens his mouth to ask a question, but shuts it instead and follows.
“Hey, I’ll take informative and rude over politly trying to kill me any day.”
Tinny would chuckle at the turn of events
-a third sept, another warm welcome, and a slew of new questions which will likely go unanswered- but being in lupus, he instead emits a quick and repetitive whuffing sound and shakes his black ears. He laughs inside, mentally juxtaposing his previous two years of aimless travel and the current journey. He whuffs again, then follows Blood on the Wind, smiling as much as a creature without true lips can do.
The man stops and turns in place.
“Get over yourself, pup. Rude is you being two hours late. Rude is leaving the chief administrator and guardian of the Caern, an Ahtro Rank Garou, waiting on a log in the snow while you goof off in the Spirit World.” He smiles and walks up to Joseph, looking down on him (even though the two men are essentially the same height). “Tomorrow, you’re going to learn a lot of perspective. I suggest you be receptive to learn those lessons, or you may not make it very far. Now pick up the pace, my Sept has been waiting on me far, far too long for my return.”
He turns and sets off at a brisker pace.
Joseph is surprised that he even gets a reaction.
He shrugs to the rest of his pack and moves to keep pace. He moves to slightly off to Blood on the Wind’s right and behind.
“My apoligies elder, I meant no disrespect. Please understand we have not had control of where or when we do things for some time.”
“Expect that to continue. Here is your free lesson for the day: humility. You think, as all Americans do, that by nature of your birth you are somehow entitled to things like information and respect and control. Your government’s so called policies of transparency somehow leave you all thinking that simply by having an interest or a stake, you get to have a vote.
“You are not entitled to anything.
“You have the privilege of being in consideration for membership in a glorious military, the only military that can literally spare the world from its being devoured by a force of primeval. You are privileged to be a possible recruit into the most important battle the world has ever known. Therefore, you are here for your audition, to prove that you are, in fact, worthy of anything. You will be given only what we decide you are worthy of having. Right now, understand that you are a liability. You have been given an astonishing power and you have no idea how to use it properly, how to direct it towards a worthwhile goal.
“So, before you gripe about not being given your due, ask yourself: why should I give someone who hasn’t even earned a name information or knowledge that I do not know that pup to be responsible enough to possess?”
“Do not expect that to change. You Americans, always so entitled, thinking that just because you were born, somehow you get the keys to the world. You have no rights. I am certain that the members of the Sept of the Second City called you Garou, lauded you for your cleverness, patted your head for every mediocrity they could construe as a success. That will not continue. You will make no demands. You will be given what others determine you to have earned.
“Though it is a great privilege to be born a Garou, it is not a free ticket. Think about this: you have been told, I pray to Gaia that you have been told, that even as we speak, the Wyrm is attempting to devour Gaia whole, to rot her from the inside, from a million points outside. Perhaps you have not comprehended yet that we Garou are the only thing standing in the face of the very literal destruction of the world, the end of human life as you know it.
“All you are entitled to is the attempt to join this battle, the potential to maybe contribute to preserving reality itself. And yet, to even qualify for this mere possibility, you have been given untold power. Now what do you expect the rest of us to do? To simply give you more power without knowing how capable or competent you are in its usage? Do you expect that by virtue of having had your first change less than a year ago, I, a Garou of fifteen years, fifteen years of war and death and triumph, will simply acknowledge you as an equal and fulfill your every request?
“Or maybe you are both young and naive enough to think that all Garou are automatically inclined to serve the cause, maybe you think that all Garou deserve to be given free information and power because no Garou would ever turn on his own kind, because no Garou would ever serve the Wyrm.
“And for that matter, tou are not even Garou. You are merely werewolves who have seen a glimpse of the bigger picture. Perhaps you will receive some degree of accord if you survive your Rite of Passage, that is what will allow you to at least claim the title of Garou. Perhaps, if things go well tomorrow, you will be deserving of the respect to be accorded to one who has just proven themselves to be a competent member of society. But right now, you are all nothing more than unproven children and potential threats. You will be given the only thing you deserve: the chance to prove what you deserve.”
Tinny turns his head to Joseph with a sad look in his little black wolfy eyes. Maybe his friend misspoke, but damn, the punishment for his impatient curiosity was a harsh dressing down from a guy that looks like he could skin the five of them with one finger. Was that necessary? Tinny supposes it is. Doesn’t make it any less crappy feeling, though, watching his new pal get scolded like a child.
Tinny matches step with Joe and nuzzles his hand, a gesture that he hopes passes along the message: “It’ll be OK. We’ve all got each other.”
The elder leads the pack around a small ridge, and presents them with a longhut. Inside, they find relief from the cold wind, ready cots, and a pot of something simmering on a small stove. The elder brings each of them into the hut.
“You will wait here. You are guests, which means you are here by our graces. We will fetch you in the morning and take you to your Rite. At that point, you’ll be provided with whatever information you will need for the Rite. In the meantime, do what you wish, but stay here. I don’t want to have to explain to your Sept how some city kid wandered off into the woods and froze to death in the wilderness.”
And, once again, just like in the truck, just like in the basement in New York, the pack is once again abandoned and left to wait for whatever will confront them next.