Wolf Penned In
This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.
Theme for this section: "Are You Experienced?" by Jimi Hendrix
The Duke looked concerned. So did his advisory staff. The follow-up survey had determined that, if anything, the original one made by the youngsters had underestimated the problem.
"We need to get someone in there who is familiar with such damage," said Sir Lorisal, the Duke's chief aide. "Sir Pederel, who would you recommend?"
"Uhm, uhm, uhm," said the Boggan, who was the Court's scholar in residence, as he rubbed his chin. "I'd say, besides myself and Korgig, I'd say Lady Peggy, from the school. That's assuming you don't wish to explore options from further afield."
"No, that should do," said His Grace, nodding. "You and Lady Peggy were able to handle the Monthatten Distortion, and Korgig has much experience with dispatching twisted dreams. I suggest you three get together and plan your effort this afternoon, at the latest."
"Yes, Your Grace," said Sir Pederel.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Thunder and Lightning Polka" by J. Strauss, Jr.
"So how did the cleanup go?" said Bill, as he encountered Plucky while heading for the Duke's school, a few days later.
"Oh, you know," said the black duck Pooka. "This 'n' that 'n' the other happened, but all worked out well in the end."
"Glad to hear it," said Bill, with a grimace of sympathy for those involved.
Their exchange was interrupted by a commotion in the small stand of trees where the trailhead for the trod was located. Chimeras were fleeing the area, and odd gusts of wind tossed branches while weird flickers of light gave the impression of a sudden, very small storm. Abruptly, an apparently human figure burst forth, running pel-mel across the Duke's well-tended back lawn, spindly arms and legs pumping wildly.
"'Scuse me! Pardon me! Coming through! Hot soup!"
"What the Hell..." said Sir Lorisal, stumbling to a stop, staring at the strange apparition, head turning as he followed the odd figure's flight.
The puzzled attitude on the part of the witnesses was replaced by sudden alarm as a trio of hellhounds charged out of the trailhead after the stranger. They were gaining rapidly... but the stranger - who appeared to be a human, if an unusually configured one - was fast approaching the wards on the border of the freehold. He simply ran through them with no obvious detriment. The hellhounds, however, vanished in bursts of dark glamour on contact.
"Okay," said Sir Lorisal, with a fragile calm. "Anybody have any idea what just happened here?"
"Just a typical day at a faerie Freehold," said Plucky, dryly.
Seeing the expression on the Scathatch Sidhe's face, Bill promptly grabbed Plucky's arm and hustled him away.
"Hey!" said Theodora, a few minutes later, as the approached the school. "What was all that fuss about?"
Plucky started to answer, but Bill clamped a hand over his mouth. His own mouth, in turn, was covered by Judy's hand. The Knocker did the explaining, while Theodora alternately smirked at the spectacle before her while looking worried about the events of the spectacle she had missed.
"I've heard from a lot of people that strange chimerical events have been happening all over this area," she said, when Judy was finished and the Pookas' mouths were uncovered. "And some not so chimerical. Wonder what it all means? And if Seif Raushan still being here has any connection?"
"Does it have to mean anything?" said Leo, who had joined the small group during Judy's recitation. "Say, Bill, what's this I hear about you getting in trouble with your psychology professor?"
Bill scowled and lowered his gaze. While he appreciated his friends helping keep him on track with his studies, sometimes they were a little too nosy.
"Son of a bitch listed Doctor Soames as a pioneer of new approaches to child psychotherapy," the wolf Pooka muttered.
The others looked at each other in confusion.
"Wait," said Plucky, with sudden revelation, "is this the guy who treated you so well after you were kidnaped?"
"Not a chance."
"Don't blame you for singing his praises."
"Ottorn asked me to go explain matters to one of the assistant deans," said Bill. "After hearing my story, he was completely in agreement that Soams' work should be widely publicized."
"Good for you!" said Judy, with a quick, tight nod. "From what I've heard, that guy should be forced to undergo treatment by someone who follows his example."
"Wouldn't wish it on him," sighed Bill. "Anyway, now Ottorn is pleased with me for pointing out how he was keeping up with current events in the world of psychotherapy. He's greatly cut back on my assignments."
"Didn't Soames flee to England to avoid the court settlements?" said Leo.
"South of the border," said Bill, nodding. "The civil and criminal penalties had nothing to do with it. Not even the jail time."
"Can't they extradite him?"
"Oh, the current British government just hates people like that."
"Well, tough luck on Soames getting away," said Leo, "and your teacher being an idiot. But congratulations on convincing the assistant dean of the justness of your cause."
* * *
Theme for this section: "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles
Later, as Bill was staggering back to his Fairlaine with a load of borrowed books on psychology and psychiatry and neurochemistry, he was approached by the Duke's Court Scholar.
"Sir Pederel!" said Bill, smiling at the bandaged Boggan. "I'm sad to see you still in sick bed!"
"Yes, thank you," said the Boggan, with a bit of a wince. "Uhm, I have a request from His Grace, the Duke. You and your friends know what this..."
He stopped to consult a handwritten note.
"This young Master Marcham Gambolle looks like."
"Not a clue," said Bill, nodding.
"Well, he's regained consciousness, and is at home. You've also been there, if I recall correctly."
"Not a chance."
"Well, seeing as how you have been there, and know what he looks like, His Grace, the Duke would like you and your friends to see if you can visit him. Seems he still hasn't completed and/or resumed his Chrysalis."
"Stimulating a hang-fire Chrysalis might be a great idea."
"We know, we know," sighed Sir Pederel. "Still, our local experts, and Queen Maab's Advisory Council on Chrysalises both think a mild sort of stimulation might help more than hurt."
"Not interested," said Bill. "And I'm not planning to see any of them tonight."
"Excellent! Thank you, Master Peabody."
Shortly, Bill and friends were gathered at the Campus Revel, discussing the matter. After a call to the Gambolle residence revealed that the father was out at a meeting, they schemed briefly but intensely. Soon they were on the way.
"Remind me again of why we keep taking Bill's car?" said Leo, as they tore through the slowly darkening streets of Columbus.
"It's big enough for all of us, and he pays for the gas," said Judy.
Plucky began singing a bawdy song about a cheapskate Sidhe. And was quickly mobbed by everyone but Bill, who actually kind of liked it. Of course, he was also driving...
They were soon parked behind the Gambolle home. Bill and Theodora - the strongest - boosted Plucky - the lightest - and held him up while he peered over the fence.
"Day-um, that's a big back yard," said the duck Pooka. "I think I actually see him. Sitting out on the sun porch like an old man."
"Anyone else there?" said Leo.
"All of 'em," said Plucky.
"Anyone up for a little Hopscotch?" said Bill, grinning. "I think I can handle this Scene."
"You can charm all of us?" said Leo, impressed. "In that case, lead on. I was thinking Portal Passage, but that's a higher level art. If we can get over easier than through..."
Plucky started singing that song again, and this time even Bill helped silence him.
Bill, inspired by Plucky's crooning, sang a verse of "Boundin'" as his Bunk, then easily hopped over the fence. The others quickly followed. They peered around; no-one seemed to have noticed them, so they began walking towards the back of the house. They were almost there when the figure sunning himself started, jumped up and began backing warily towards a sliding glass door.
"Marcham Gambolle, I presume?" said Bill, cheerfully.
"Wh... what are you people?!"
That stopped them.
"He can see our chimerical seemings?!" said Theodora.
"Well, he does have a bit of one himself," said Judy, peering at the frightened boy.
"Listen, it's all right," said Leo, calmly. "We're here to help you learn what you are."
"I hear you had a few friends over to celebrate after getting out of the big house," drawled Bill. "Just a small gathering of about a hundred. Upset your old man no end. Says you do too much of that sort of thing."
"I study hard, so I party hard," said Mark, suddenly angry, and very defensive.
"Sounds about right," Bill acknowledged. "As well as typical."
"Typical of what?" Mark was now wary, and suspicious.
"Like me," said Theodora, grinning and raising a hand.
"You can... They told me it was the drugs..."
The young man shook his head and stared at her for several seconds, then down at himself for a like interval. There was a long, tense pause. Suddenly he cried out and grabbed his head... and realized he had horns. Eyes wide, he stood there, as his chimerical self grew stronger, clearer.
"I...," he tried, weaving on his hooves. "I'm..."
"A Satyr," said Leo, gently. "Reincarnated as a human boy."
Mark suddenly threw back his head and laughed, his voice louder, clearer, deeper, more self-assured. The accompanying surge of glamour from the triumph of his fae self over mundane reality left them all feeling a little giddy.
"I knew it!" he shouted, throwing his arms wide. "I knew there had to be more!"
"Congratulations," said Bill, beaming. "You're about to take a walk on the weird side."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Wouldn't it Be Nice" by the Beach Boys
"Well done," said His Grace, the Duke, upon hearing the report. "I know it's probably too soon, given his presumably still fragile state, but the next time you see him please extend my invitation to visit."
"Of course, Your Grace," said Leo, bowing. "In fact, we have already undertaken the initial phase of his re-education into the ways of our kind, which included noting that a visit to the local liege lord for introduction was considered a formal requirement."
"He's already been introduced to the Campus Revel and the Pride of Erin," said Theodora.
"I'm sure they're entirely qualified to provide his formal education into matters fae," said Bill, a bit sourly.
"You really don't understand the way of the Scathatch," said Leo, almost sadly.
"He's right," said Julie. "They're Changelings, just like us. And while there's not complete harmony between Scathatch Sidhe and Commoners, there's a lot of mutual respect and understanding."
"Otherwise, we'd all be executed for having this conversation in front of the Duke," said Plucky.
"A bit of an exaggeration, I'm sure," said His Grace, smiling in amusement.
"I... sincerely apologize," said Bill, bowing to the Duke. "I meant no criticism of either Noble or Commoner. I simply meant that my personal experience was that formal education was superior to informal."
"No apology necessary," said His Grace. "However, it is appreciated."
"If I may be excused," said Bill, "I promised my fiancé I wouldn't call her at all while I'm away."
"Of course," said His Grace, nodding.
They all left, actually, their report being finished. Outside, Theodora sidled up to Bill.
"You sure you don't need a little companionship, being all alone here, away from your girl?"
"Sorry," said Bill, with a slight smile. "I'm monogamous."
"Besides, I think how we all know how the 'Garou vs. Goat and Wolf' match would end, if she found out," snickered Plucky.
"His gal's a Garou," said Plucky, airily. "You know; nine feet tall, fangs, claws, the whole works."
"She is?!" said the Satyr, eyes going wide.
"Well, that's what Bill claims," said Leo, straight-faced.
"I think I'll go see how Mark's doing," said Theodora.
"Well, that's good news," said Debbie, a short time later. "One more bit of magic in the world. And that Duke sounds like a pretty nice fellow."
"And how often is a nice fellow a good leader?" said Bill, with a sigh. "He's so on top of things nothing escapes his attention. Very strict and consistent."
"Well, hon, you know wolf politics aren't always appropriate for every group," said Debbie.
Bill felt a pang of loneliness; he could almost see her toothy grin, smell her warm scent.
"Telephones are a wonderful way to communicate," he said, with another, and different, sigh.
"Yeah, especially for those of us with better than human senses," Debbie said, understanding what he meant and definitely agreeing with it. "Well, you're over halfway through the semester. And there's a small chance I'll be in the area in a couple of weeks. You could introduce me to all your new friends. We could even have that goat girl for dinner."
"Oh, I am so going to steal that," said Bill, laughing.
Debbie realized what she'd said, and joined him.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Solace" by Scott Joplin
"What's all the rush?" said Bill, as he pulled the Fairlaine onto the shoulder of a road near the Duke's school.
Dusk was near, the early Summer afternoon slowly fading into night. Bill had planned to go romping as a wolf before the emergency call from Leo changed his plans.
"Some of the younger kids boarding at the school heard about the tradition of stealing something from the home of the head of the local vampires," said the young Sidhe Changeling. "We're trying to catch them before they get into real trouble."
Bill muttered dire nasties under his breath as he motioned for the usual suspects to enter his car.
"Why did they wait so late?" he asked, as the started off.
"That's part of the dare," said Judy. "Get in and out while the vampires are awake but still groggy."
"I do not understand people," groaned Bill. "Uh, by the way, where is this place?"
Plucky dug around in the glove box and started pulling out maps. They used the second one of the area (the first one being from 1978) to plot a course which was not the shortest, quickest or most direct, but gave them the best chance of heading off a bunch of young Changelings on foot.
"Why didn't we just have Plucky turn into a duck and fly there?" said Theodora. "He could find them and come back and tell us where they are a lot quicker than this."
"I'm not a bat," said the duck Pooka, waggling his eyebrows.
"Oh..." said the Satyr.
They found no sign of the youngsters on the way. However, shortly after they parked near the vampire Prince's house they caught sight of several dark-clad figures scampering along a ditch. A ditch which led to a culvert which passed under the mostly ornamental fence around Prince Exsanguine's mansion. Sure enough, it was the group of four pre-teens who had gone off to raid the vampire's mansion. They squealed in fright when Bill and Theodora jumped into the ditch ahead of them. Spinning around to escape, they squealed again upon seeing Plucky, Judy and Leo in the ditch behind them.
"You are lucky it's us," said Leo, ominously, "and not a vampire or werewolf."
"Grrr," said Bill, undermining the Sidhe's attempt to frighten them.
"We just wanted to see what the place looked like," lied the young Sidhe who seemed to be the leader.
"Why don't we walk them around the place?" said Judy. "Give them that much satisfaction of their curiosity and they'll be that much less likely to try again."
"Uhm, point," said Leo, reluctantly. "All right. Let's walk around the vampire's home, out in the open, on public sidewalks, in plain sight. Then you can brag about that act of bravery, without having to go inside and maybe get caught and drunk."
"I don't drink yet," said the Pooka of the group.
"No, but the vampire does," said Bill, in a menacing tone.
The place didn't look like a vampire's home. Even with traces of the sunset still coloring the sky there were windows open and music could be heard.
"That's an interesting piece," said Leo, cocking his head a bit. "I'd almost swear it was fae."
"Well, I've heard the vampire does know about us and have an interest in us," said Judy. "They say he and the Duke have a formal agreement to stay out of each others' ways."
"That is really a nice piece," said Leo, not paying much attention to his sister.
Once around, then back to the Fairlaine. The youngsters were disappointed, but mainly because nothing scary had happened. Soon, they were safely back at their dorm.
"Another job well done," said Plucky, easily. "Anyone up for a trip to the Campus Revel?"
"Sorry," said Bill, enthusiastically. "Homework."
They all pretty much agreed with that sentiment.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Solace" by Scott Joplin
The next day, as Leo was tutored in his duties in the Duke's court, he kept humming that music from the night before. He knew he'd never heard it before, but it seemed to appeal to something in his Sidhe nature. He was still humming it when he brought a report on some minor matter out in the boondocks of the Court of Glass to Her Grace, the Duchess.
"Where did you learn that piece?" she said, looking puzzled, as she received the papers.
"I heard it at Lord Exsanguine's, Your Grace," said Leo, a bit confused by her reaction.
The Duchess was startled by that bit of information.
"You're certain you never heard it anywhere else?"
"I, uh, I'm not certain, but I definitely heard it at the..."
To his astonishment she grabbed his arm and promptly hauled him off to her husband.
"Pleas, Leo, hum that piece again."
He wasn't a musician, and just now was suffering severe performance anxiety. However, after wetting his lips, he managed a good rendition of the music. And saw the Duke frown.
"He heard that at Lord Exsanguine's home," said the Duchess.
The Duke sat up straighter, looking... well, Leo wasn't quite certain how to interpret his expression. He asked basically the same questions Her Grace had, though in far more detail and then adding more.
"This can't..." He stopped, frowning, as he examined Leo. "No, I think you need to hear this. That minuet was composed by a musician who is a bard in the Court if the High King. For the wedding ball. It was put on a CD as part of a compilation just six months ago. Only a few dozen copies were sold, mostly to the friends of the musician. Now, was this a recording, or being played live?"
"Both," said Leo. He shook his head and elaborated, lest they feel he was associating too closely with Pookas. "I mean, I heard it playing, I think on a stereo, and also heard a man whistling it as it played."
"I didn't see him; the shade was drawn. But I saw his silhouette on the shade. He was very tall and broad-shouldered."
There was an odd feeling of tension in the air, accompanied by a rise in Glamour. This, in turn, attracted several chimeras. One of which began whirling around the room, shouting.
"He's near! He's here! The king of the elves with crown and train!"
This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: email@example.com