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: "We Have Heaven" by Yes
There were several revels in the area that night, the largest at the Court of Glass. After making a brief, formal appearance, the restored High King and his wife quietly left for parts known only to a few. Most likely, they were either in the Master Bedroom of the mansion, or the equivalent in the castle version in the Near Dreaming. And no-one at the celebration begrudged them this privacy even one little bit.
What they did begrudge was the outsiders - uninvited ones - who started arriving. Looking for High King David. Word had spread quickly about his return, and rumors of his possible return had gained even wider reign. The Court of Glass would later learn that stories of the event had spread around the world at ridiculous speed, though details were often lacking or just plain wrong. Still, enough had the location right that the Court was soon besieged by the important, the self-important and the merely curious.
Duke Wotchermacalt told his security staff to allow anyone not actively looking to cause trouble to enter the Freehold, which was a good policy overall. Letting them in, to look around on their own and see what was happening for themselves did a lot to reduce any resentment from not being able to have an immediate audience with David. The seekers of audiences also mostly got caught up in the celebration, deciding their business could wait for another time. Glamour such as that to be found at the revel was heady stuff, and many non-Scathatch Sidhe found themselves getting far more casual with commoners than they were accustomed to, and even liking the experience. Though some would regret this, come morning...
However, a few of the petitioners were insistent, and ignored the revel to persist in seeking an audience. They were told, firmly, that the Duke would not violate the privacy of David and Faerilyth for anything less than Doomsday, and that even then he'd have to hear it from Morewen or Lenore themselves. This created some bad blood, which was exacerbated by the jeers such rude people received from the partiers - commoner and noble alike - upon being turned away.
The party finally dribbled into silence, the last die-hards staggering home as dawn began painting the sky that Sunday morning. But with the dawn came another set of Sidhe demanding to see the High King. And soon after another. And another. With the party over, these were left waiting outside the gates, on the fringe of the Freehold and in the mortal domain. Something which only added to their discontent. Fortunately, the magics which had kept the non-enchanted from seeing or hearing most of what happened the night before were still in force. The police received only a few minor complaints about a block party, and couldn't actually find the mansion that night. Responding officers the next morning found several groups of businessmen in expensive vehicles, accompanied by assistants and private security personnel, all quietly waiting on private property. On being told vague stories about a large private auction (and having generous amounts of Chicanery surreptitiously applied to them) the officers nodded and left.
"Damn leeches could give Lord Exsanguine lessons," muttered Korgig, staring out through the closed gates. "It's starting to look like an armed camp out there. Or maybe a Republican presidential nomination convention. Things are getting ugly, with a capital 'ugh.'"
Indeed, the petitioners had started out firmly insisting and grown more strident with time. Some were actually accusing Duke Wotchermacalt of holding the High King captive, and threatening to bring in troops to free him. The only thing which had kept the peace so far was that so many interests were represented no one group could take action without several coalitions immediately forming against them.
The situation had not escaped the Duke... or his wife.
"There are major shifts in alliances being made roughly every ten minutes out there," said His Grace, as he peered through the curtains at the mass besieging his gates. "Not only are representatives of more factions arriving every hour or so, but those already here are acquiring reinforcements. Even if fighting breaks out and eliminates or drives off most of them, the victors would pose a serious threat if they decided to force their way in."
"Dear, I definitely think we need to take our primary guests somewhere less public," said the Duchess, as she put the remains of their breakfast on the serving tray. "And soon. Even if it means interrupting their privacy."
"I've already been asking around," said the Duke, sighing and letting the narrow gap in the curtains close as he turned back to her. "Queen Maab says she doesn't want them there yet; she hasn't had time to prepare. She will send some of her guards to help us, but even by trod they won't arrive for another couple of hours. There's simply no direct route. Morewen and Lenore gave a number of reasons for not bringing them there, most of which I find acceptable. They are also sending guards, but with the same problem. Even if the reinforcements for our side aren't hindered, I suspect we need to do something before even the earliest they can arrive. Such as take David and Faerilyth to some place more secure. But where...?"
"Please tell me you aren't even considering sending them to that vampire's place," said Ilsthene, smiling but with a strand of iron in her tone.
"I hadn't even thought of that until you mentioned it," said the Duke, with a slight smile. "Don't worry. He's not currently on the list. But 'where' is only part of the problem. 'How' could be just as significant. We can't risk either another kidnaping, an attack, or the well-intentioned but poor of judgement effort to see the High King."
He went thoughtfully silent for nearly a minute.
"I do believe I have an idea."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Roundabout" by Yes
"I need the services of you and your rather large automobile," said His Grace.
Bill was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He was standing in the Court's private audience chamber with the Duke, the High King and High Queen Dowager, and Sir Seif. Bill glanced over at latter, noting that the Eshu seemed as uncomfortable as the wolf Pooka. He might also have been hung over. Having fulfilled his task, Seif had considered himself done, and spent the evening partying with the rest. However, his name was the fourth most often spoken outside the gates this Sunday morning, and he now found himself reluctantly back in the thick of things.
"Ah, Your Grace, your Majesties, my vehicle is entirely appropriate to royalty but quite slow and clumsy," Bill offered. "Seeing Sir Seif ride out with me would lead no-one to suspect we were up to something. The only advantage is that I drove back to my dorm last night instead of staying at the school."
"Do you think you could quickly and safely transport the High King and Queen to safety?" the Duke asked.
"There would be no need for deception," Bill bragged. "Though once through the gate and away from the immediate area anything on the road could catch us."
"If I may, your Grace," said David. "Ready your own finest vehicle, as if preparing to go somewhere in it. Then, those outside will see us enter... but with a glamour at work to make things seem not quite real. Meanwhile, our young Pooka will be preparing to leave in his own vehicle, with passengers not clearly seen."
"Yes, that would work," said the Duke, rubbing his chin as he thought things through. "I am ashamed that such subterfuge is necessary, and that even my own Rolls is inadequate for..."
The High Queen lifted her hand and he fell silent.
"This is not a matter for pomp and finery," she stated, firmly. "What matters here is not what resources you have for providing elegance, but those you have for safely getting my husband and myself to this place you mentioned."
"Yes," sighed the Duke. "And, at the risk of bragging, that is a service I believe I can definitely provide."
The Duke's old Rolls was cleaned and polished to within an inch of its stately life, and its chimerical glory reinforced to such a degree it literally glowed to the sight of the properly perceptive. Meanwhile, Bill's Fairlaine was made to look less impressive even than usual, with multiple concealment and "mind your own business" cantrips cast upon it. Bill drove around to the side door of the mansion, where he tooted his horn. At the same time, the Rolls arrived at the front entrance. To those watching, inside the Freehold as well as out, the High King and Queen were escorted with proper posh and frippery to the car by the Duke, while around to the side Seif hurried out to Bill's car accompanied by a pair of bundled, spell-blurred figures. And if the Eshu and Pooka seemed uncharacteristically worried and hurried, well, who would notice while the High King and Queen and Duke Wotchermacalt entered the Rolls and were slowly driven down the drive and out the gate?
The Fairlaine roared to life and followed in an unhurried manner. Which, for it, meant rapidly accelerating to 30 mph in the driveway, slowing abruptly and briefly at the gate while Bill checked for oncoming traffic, then roaring away in the opposite direction. Bill had wanted to drive past the Rolls in a show of bravado, but had been overruled by the Duke. Instead, he turned to follow a different route.
"No sign we've been noticed, except for the Zeppelin chasing us," said Bill, cheerfully.
"It seems that nearly all the less desirable petitioners have someone following us," Seif stated. "Not as complete a success as we hoped, but still enough to considerably reduce the risk."
"A bit of a show of trying to escape them could increase the attention being paid to us," said Leo, one of the two bundled figures.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please return your trays to their upright and locked positions," said Bill, grinning. "We're expecting turbulence. Not to mention speeding tickets."
"Oh, God," groaned Judy, the other bundled figure.
Bill had been in town long enough to have a good idea of when and where he could drive outside the legal limits with little expectation of being caught. Not that he did such things normally, mind you; he just liked being prepared. At the next light, the Fairlaine signaled a right turn, but was traveling at a speed apparently too high to make it. Bill waited until the last moment, then whipped the car hard right, shoving the accelerator pedal down to help kick the car around the corner. The car came out of the tight turn fishtailing, tires screaming. Bill let up, briefly, to let the rear tires catch, then stomped the pedal again, quickly let up to shift, then stomped it again. By the time their pursuers came around the corner the muscle car had gained three blocks.
Bill made an abrupt - and unsignaled - left turn while those in the other car were still trying to catch up. A few more maneuvers like that, and they were on a narrow country road with trees growing high and wide on both sides, meeting in a concealing canopy overhead.
"Okay, I think we gave them perfect directions," said Bill.
He glanced in the back, and grinned at the illusion of the High King and Queen, which was only now beginning to fade to reveal, instead, a brother and sister.
"A double fake-out," he said, sighing. "Such a simple, straightforward plan. Worthy of a Pooka."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Try It" by The Hollies
They arrived at the boneyard not long after the Rolls. There were already several other vehicles parked outside, most of them belonging to petitioners. The residents were having a hard time keeping them from blocking the entrance, and as the Fairlaine approached had an even harder time keeping them from swarming that car. By dint of cleverness, mundane skill, Chicanery and a bit of luck, Bill's car got through the barricade without anyone entering who wasn't supposed to. He quickly parked beside the Rolls, though was careful to give it a good berth. The occupants of the institution were already escorting the guests of honor to a chimerical hall hastily erected for their use, while the Duke lagged behind to discuss something with the Dark Man. Bill whistled as he walked towards the structure, definitely impressed. He wasn't the only one.
"How did the master of this Freehold manage such a construction in such a short time?" said Sir Seif.
"I've learned not to underestimate Lady Fang's abilities," said Leo, though he was just as mystified.
Back at the entrance the latest arrivals of audience seekers were told the same thing as the first.
"Your petitions will be heard," said the Dark Man. "A conference will be held when the High King determines the time is correct to do so! He requests that he be allowed to catch up on all he has missed during his absence. In the meantime, the privacy of the High King and High Queen Dowager will be respected!"
Given that Rowlf and several members of the Stone Gang were standing menacingly behind him, there was little dissent.
Bill, Leo, Judy and Seif moved towards the Duke, joined shortly by the rest of the usual suspects. They chatted quietly while the Duke finished some urgent but not really important business. He then turned towards them.
"You youngsters - except you, Sir Seif; the High Queen requests your presence - are finished for now," said the Duke. "I thank you, and the High King thanks you. But stay handy!"
* * *
Theme for this section: "Heroes" by David Bowie
"I," said David, "am very tired of others taking risks to protect me."
"As am I," said Faerilyth. "The King and Queen are supposed to defend the realm and its occupants. Not be dependant on them for protection."
"The pact works both ways, your Majesties," said Lady Fang, firmly. She smiled, revealing the canines which inspired her name. "If we were unable to protect you, we would soon be without your protection. So, please, allow us this application of enlightened self interest. And depend upon the Fang of House Scathatch to ensure your safety."
High King David looked startled.
"I beg your pardon, Lady Fang," he said, recovering quickly and bowing, much to the confusion of his wife. "I had thought that title only a legend. Please, carry on with your duties, and be assured that we are now much more assured of our safety."
Faerilyth said nothing, but obviously wished to know more. David spoke quietly to her as they followed their escort to the pavilion. The High Queen Dowager's eyes widened several times during the short trip, and only part of that was due to their new quarters.
The structure was far larger and more well appointed than the Duke's mansion, but was entirely chimerical. If some person of sufficient banality approached... Well, that was unlikely, to say the least, but just for the sake of safety the sprawling structure had only one floor, at ground level. The view was exquisite.
* * *
Theme for this section: "La Mer" by De Bussey
The rest of the morning passed mostly uneventfully. There were minor problems at the Duke's Manor and the boneyard, and even some of the local commoner haunts. Fortunately, quick and appropriate responses saw that the problems stayed minor.
Bill and the usual suspects were pretty much left free to relax and enjoy the spectacle. Which suited most of them just fine. Leo, however, had an over-developed sense of duty... at least, as far as the others were concerned. Shortly after lunch he began to become antsy.
"Brother, dear," said Judy, sighing in aggravation, "leave it to the experts!"
"Surely there's something I can do! That we can do!"
"Let's rest and save our strength," said Plucky, who was actually dancing with one of the more personable chimerical residents of the boneyard, who looked surprisingly like an early version of Daisy. "No telling when we might be called on to take action."
Bill, in wolf form for the first time in a long time, was curled up in a patch of sun, eyes closed, looking quite blissful. He snorted mildly at the duck Pooka's advice. Then lifted his head and pricked up his ears. He growled a bit and stood, tail up, looking towards the gate.
"What now?" said Judy.
Like Bill, most of them had been lounging on one way or another. Like him they now stood, and looked towards the gate. Even Plucky stopped dancing and moved to join them.
"I do believe that's King Meilge," said Leo. "Small surprise he'd be here. If nothing else, to check on Faerilyth."
They moved closer. And saw Maisy hurrying away, towards the chimerical pavilion. The King was speaking in a low but very tight voice, obviously angry.
"You know who I am!" he all but hissed. "You know my authority! Let. Me. In."
"No, Your Highness," said the Dark Man, who couldn't help but reply quietly, being a Sluagh. "These orders come from my Lady, and were confirmed by the High Queen Dowager to me personally."
Every mobile inhabitant of the boneyard not assigned a security post was moving towards the entrance, even Lost Illyan. So were some of the invited guests. The expressions on the faces of the King's entourage at the sight of so many strange and possibly powerful creatures arraying themselves behind the Dark Man were almost amusing. Bill and his group, without a word, joined those at the gate, the wolf Pooka actually making a point of moving beside Rowlf. The big faerie hound looked askance at the large wolf, sighed, and returned his gaze to the King.
King Meilge was starting to actually consider ordering an assault. Besides his own forces, there were several here, outside the gate, who were under his rule or otherwise would support him. However, while he considered, Lady Fang approached.
"Lady Fang," said Meilge, tautly. "I will see the High King now. I must ascertain his state, and arrange for his protection. Let me in or I will be forced to make the issue a violent one."
Behind him came a general stirring. Some were preparing to act on his threat, but others were simply trying to get a better view of the confrontation.
"No, you will not," said Lady Fang. "I have no interest in your ephemeral politics, but I do have loyalty to my House, and affection for many of those you are attempting to harm. As well as good reason to protect those who have proven to be friends to those I sympathize with. You will remain outside until David is ready to hear you."
Meilge snorted and started forward, actually reaching for his sword. Lady Fang held up a hand, and he rebounded from something unseen. His eldritch blade clattered to the asphalt.
"I have lost much since the Shattering, but my loss is not a shade of yours," she stated, flatly. "You say you came here to protect the High King and his chosen wife. Be assured that while here, they are very well protected."
"She's one of the Ancients!" exclaimed a member of Meilge's escort, reaching to steady his King.
"That is a human body," another pointed out.
"My nature is none of your concern," Lady Fang. "You will leave here. Now."
King Meilge gestured, and several other sidhe moved up beside him. Together they began working a bunk, something arcane and powerful. The King took point, and as the spell reached its climax he directed it at Lady Fang. She simply stood, and waited. At the climax of the spell the powerful magic rebounded, literally throwing all those involved to the ground. Most soon rallied to their feet, but Meilge was unconscious. Lady Fang said and did nothing more, but stared until the intruders gathered their liege and left.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Walk Don't Run" by The Ventures
After such a demonstration Bill didn't see any reason he and the usual suspects needed to stick around. He also didn't want to be involved in or even witness all the discussion Lady Fang's actions would cause. Bill had a very wolf attitude towards fights; "we won, it's over, let's eat." On the other hand, he didn't want to leave. If nothing else, Lady Fang was certain to set a good table for supper. However, it was Sunday, he was a wolf in a semi-isolated area, and he definitely needed a break. Without consulting his companions - which would have required him to change back so he could speak as humans do - he quietly sneaked away. Soon, he was loping through an empty part of the boneyard, basically an overgrown wilderness inside the boundaries of the freehold. He was surprised how large it was, especially since what he found was apparently the size in the mundane world, as well. There were two other accesses into the land, both with three guards currently on watch. Both also had Changelings on the outside, keeping just as studious a watch inwards. No way out through those, then. He also discovered that he could not cross the boundary of the Freehold. So, his romp - and maybe some hunting - would be confined to the Freehold, itself.
Bill hunted a few squirrels, mainly for the fun of it, not harming them. A few chimeras watched his antics, but most of those were back at the main event. Finally, yawning, Bill settled beside a long-fallen, moss- and vine-covered tree for a nap.
He awoke much later than he had intended; night was well established. Still, he could see a dim glow from the direction of the pavilion, and even hear occasional traces of music and laughter. He stood, shook himself, yawned, stretched, and set off at an easy lope.
Bill soon came across one of the narrow internal roads going in roughly the right direction and moved his travel onto that. He noticed recent signs of vehicle travel, but figured that had simply been for taking people to and from the watch on the other gates. Until he saw the limousine stopped ahead, lights off. He slowed and approached cautiously. Many of the scents were definitely non-Changeling. He thought he might even be smelling a vampire, but since he'd never scented one in wolf form wasn't certain. He stopped when he heard voices.
"I thank you for this audience," said someone who was definitely Lord Exsanguine. "I know this is not my realm, and appreciate the courtesy."
"Please be quick, My Lord," said Lady Fang. "I have important guests to see to."
"Yes, yes, and that is exactly what concerns me. I still have received no explanation of just who my recent guest was."
"The King of the Elves," said Lady Fang.
Bill's hackles rose, and he barely suppressed a growl. Why would she tell him that?! Carefully, worried their host was betraying them but also not wanting to be heard, he moved off the road and towards the pair. He couldn't hear them as clearly, now, but could tell they were not in agreement about something. Bill took note of the those by the car, two humans with strange taints to their scents, and another vampire. Given the increasing animosity of tone, and the way the three with the Prince were obviously preparing for action, he now worried that Lady Fang was in trouble for not betraying her guests. Finally, he could see them. They were literally in fighting stances, not quite to blows yet, but close.
"As you said, this is not your realm!" said Lady Fang, literally snarling. "Your agreement was with the Duke; when he is finished here, he will tell you all you are allowed to know!"
"That is not good enough!" said Lord Exsanguine, fangs definitely showing. "I expected better from you! We have been allies - even friends - for over a century! Now you treat me this way! Beware, Lady Fang! I am not without my means, and some of those would leave this place a blasted ruin!"
And, quick as that, Lady Fang was at his throat. Her fingers were daggers, her teeth stilettos, mouth opened obscenely wide. She stopped, frighteningly elongated fingernails barely penetrating his undead flesh, fangs hovering over his jugular. For a frozen moment the tableau held. Then Lady Fang relaxed and stepped back.
Without a word, the Prince bowed, then turned and hurried away.
Bill blinked in confusion as the vampire quickly returned to his car, which backed carefully to a turn-around and drove off. Lord Exsanguine's servants had actually started forward as he approached, but he had waved them back, face expressionless. Bill pulled a bit further back into the underbrush, trying to sort out what the scents and sounds were telling him. The vampire Prince had definitely been enraged, ready to resort to violence, his anger approaching that of a Garou in full cry. And then... Lady Fang had moved so quickly Bill hadn't even seen it. Lord Exsanguine had definitely reconsidered his situation after that demonstration, and chosen wisely.
Deciding that Lady Fang did, indeed, have the best interested of the High King in her heart, Bill turned and began slinking away.
"Stop," said Lady Fang, still looking down the road.
Bill hesitated; there was no way she could know he was there but who else could she be speaking to?
"Come here, Pooka."
Well, that settled that.
Sighing, Bill slunk out of the woods, ears and tail low. Lady Fang examined him for a moment, her expression unreadable and even her scent revealing nothing in detail.
She turned and walked away, moving quickly. Bill hurried to keep up.
She led him back towards her crypt, stopping in a concreted area with a grating in the center, part of a drainage system keeping water out of the vaults, tombs and graves, just a bit to the east of her home. Lady Fang stared at Bill until he reluctantly joined her. And, then, they were abruptly somewhere else. It felt like the Near Dreaming, but there was no resemblance to the boneyard. Instead, they stood in a moonlit meadow, surrounded by old-growth forest. There was no sign of anything constructed, human or fae. Even thinking of such despoilment while looking at this place of literally supernatural beauty made Bill wince. He'd seen places like this twice before, on trips into the deep Umbra with Debbie. And, as had happened those two times before, the feral part of his nature sang with joy inside him.
"This is a Glade!" Bill blurted.
It occurred to him that he shouldn't be able to do that. Looking at himself, he saw he was now back in human form, though still on all fours. He was also naked. Oh, well; he wasn't all that shy. Bill stood, and looked expectantly at Lady Fang.
"You will say nothing of my meeting with Lord Exsanguine."
"No, Ma'am!" said Bill, eagerly.
Bill grimaced. And swallowed nervously.
"I will say nothing of that event, unless not doing so would endanger my friends or family, or violate an oath I have taken."
She considered that. And nodded.
"It is very important that the Prince continue to think that I am, like him, a vampire," said Lady Fang. "Do you understand?"
"Not a bit. Your scent is obviously identical."
She sighed in exasperation.
"Vampires do have senses keener than those of humans, which is why they also often disguise their scent. Don't worry about my deception."
"Now, you will also keep quiet about this Glade. Most of those who live with me already know, and I will be the one to decide if it is the business of anyone else. Understand?"
"Now, let us return to the boneyard. There is much to do."
This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: email@example.com