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: "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra
After a hard Saturday afternoon's work of being tutored, spying and being told he might be involved in a prophecy, Bill was definitely ready for some relaxation. And he meant relaxation, and not partying. So, the Campus Revel was out, and the Pride of Erin was in.
Only, as he passed the bar, looking for a place to park, he saw crime scene tape across the door. There were a number of Changelings standing around, talking, but obviously none in the bar. After making sure his car was secure he walked back towards the Pride of Erin. He saw the old goat himself, Patric Saul, standing with the chief bouncer, the Troll Roget, as well as a number of regulars and many others. Most of the Campus Revel, in fact, seemed to have turned out in support due to whatever had happened. There was the Satyr who called herself Lady MacBeth; the Piskie who liked to introduce himself with "Hi! I'm Danny the Elf!"; Donna, a rabbit Pooka who looked like something from a CLAMP anime; and Trudy, another Satyr, and the Revel Rumor Rajah. As Bill approached he could tell that most, like him, had no idea what had happened and that all were clamoring for information.
"All right, quiet!" said Roget, at a word from Patric. "Just quiet down and we'll tell all of you, at the same time, what happened!"
"It was Reavers," said Patric, spitting the word. "They broke in here about an hour after everyone left in the wee hours and ripped the Glamour from the place. Alarm went off, but the police didn't bother showing until Tilley got here just before Noon, saw what had happened and called them. She and Gloria are inside, cleaning up and taking stock. I already know there was some vandalism and theft, but most of what they took was Glamour. It'll take us years to restore that!"
That brought another clamor, which died quickly at a glare from Roget.
"Besides the police we called in a private detective who is kinain," the Troll explained. "We've also contacted the Duke and a few other nobles. There's a lot of people already working on finding out who did this, and they don't need any enthusiastic amateurs getting in the way."
"Is your balefire still living?" asked Leo.
"Yes. It wasn't directly harmed, but is now a pale shadow of what it was."
"Lady Fang has piles Dream Stones," said Plucky, excitedly, "and hates this place!"
"That's overstating it a bit, I think," said the Satyr, thoughtfully, "but it's worth asking."
He looked at Plucky. Who looked at Leo. Who looked at Bill.
"Okay, okay, I'll drive," the wolf Pooka said, throwing his arms wide in mock exasperation. "Don't know when we can get to it, though."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Centerfield" by John Fogerty
Theodora "Teddy" Hobbs made a quick check of the runner on third, then whipped into her pitch so quickly she caught the batter by surprise. He swung, but too late; the fastball zipped over the plate and into the catcher's mitt before the bat had moved much off his shoulder.
"Strike two!" the umpire called.
"Damn," breathed Leo. "Can that girl throw a baseball."
"Not to mention fill out a t-shirt," said Plucky, snickering.
They'd actually come to ask His Grace, the Duke for his blessing in requesting some dross from Lady Fang. Learning that he was watching a ball game out by the school the trio had walked over to the field. Since the game was almost over, they decided to watch it, too, rather than interrupt one of His Grace's few pleasant pastimes.
"Strike three!" shouted the Troll umpire, with a dramatic gesture.
He was about to announce the batter out and the game over, when everyone there froze and went silent, turning to look in the same direction. All of them - all Changelings within Columbus and for a fair distance beyond - sensed a strong and sudden Chrysalis. It peaked, wavered, then crashed.
"What..." said Bill, dazed.
"That was not good," said Leo. "A bad ending. Don't think it even completed."
Their mission to the Duke had to wait. It was every Changeling's duty - though one all too many nobles treated casually - to find newly emerged Changelings and bring whatever help they needed to adjust to their new life. The umpire quickly closed the game, and several people - including the Duke - rose quickly to see to the matter. The trio trying to help the Pride of Erin followed the Duke and those with him, partly because of their original mission and partly to see if they could help.
"Did you know that most of these kids are the Duke and Dutchess'?" said Leo, wondering, to Bill, as many childlings of multiple kiths scattered. "They can't have children of their own, so they've adopted or fostered dozens."
"I knew that," said Bill, suddenly seeing the Duke in a different light. "Did the school start because of that? Or did they get the idea from kids at the school?"
"No idea," said Leo. They were entering the library, now, so neither pursued the matter.
The Duke's method of locating Chrysalises was both simple and effective. He had his people make several phone calls to widely scattered contacts, and plot perceived strength and direction on a map.
"Not all that far from here," His Grace mused, rubbing his chin as he examined the plot. "In a very upscale neighborhood, too."
"Road trip!" shouted Plucky.
"Not for you, young Pooka," said the Duke. "I'll have some of the more senior people I know in the area investigate. Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?"
Leo took over and explained about getting his blessing to request some dross from Lady Fang to help restore the tavern.
"Yes, I heard about the reaving," said His Grace, expression hardening. "That such a thing would happen in my city... you have my support. In fact, I'll write out an official request to Lady Fang for you."
"Thank you, Your Grace," said Leo, with a graceful bow.
In minutes they were on the way to the cemetery. The hurry was partly because evening was growing close, and they had much to do if they wanted a nice ale before closing time.
"For someone who officially chastised Lady Fang for being too closely associated with his Court, the Duke sure seems to disrespect her," said Plucky, as Bill sent the Fairlaine careering around country road curves.
"That's for show, for the other Sidhe," said Leo, resisting the urge to grit his teeth as the wheels left the pavement on the far side of a steep crest. "He actually likes her and respects her wisdom, but because she isolates herself from changeling society... There's the turn!"
"Yeah, I see it," said Bill, casually, as he whipped the car onto the side road with squealing tires.
Soon - though not soon enough for his passengers - they were at the ornate gates. Bill slowed to below the speed of sound to enter the small parking area, then slid to a stop in a spray of gravel.
"Whoah, there!" shouted, Liam, hurrying up and waving his arms. "What's all the rush about?"
"Sorry," said Bill, as they climbed out. "No emergency whatsoever."
"Good Liam," said Leo with a nod towards the minstrel. "We have an urgent request for aide, supported by His Grace, the Duke. I have his petition here, and would like to present it to Lady Fang soonest."
"Oh, okay," said the old man, though he still looked doubtful. "This way."
He led them to the balefire crypt, but asked that they wait outside. He knocked, and entered on being summoned. A few seconds later he was back out.
"Just you, please, young lord," he said. "You two can head over there. We were just setting up our evening meal and you're welcome to join in."
The meal was taking place under one of the shelters used for services in bad weather. Once again, Bill found himself staring at Sue, wondering just what the big fellow was. The two Pookas explained why they weren't there in enough detail that the residents figured out the nature of their mission, and expressed sympathies. Bill wasn't really hungry, but Plucky dug in, as well as flirting with Maisy. As Bill fidgeted, though, Liam approached him again and spoke to him quietly.
"They'll be a bit, fetching enough dross," said Liam. "Can I speak with you privately?
"Sure," said Bill, curious.
"All right, then. Meet me over behind that huge sycamore in a few minutes."
Unfortunately, his pointing was vague, and Bill didn't think to ask specifically which sycamore, and there were several very large ones in the immediate vicinity. Bill shrugged, picked what seemed to be the largest one, and walked around behind it. To find a large, noble-looking dog relieving itself on the bole. Only this one was of no ordinary breed.
It was a Faerie Hound, one of the rare beasts brought over from Arcadia before the Sundering and somehow left behind. Bill had heard that some of them remained, either spending ageless centuries in freeholds or somehow learning - or being made - to reincarnate as Changelings did. He had never before seen one, or spoken to anyone who had. The dog looked at him with more than canine intelligence, sniffing a bit in his direction. Then, with an almost human shrug of dismissal, it turned and walked away.
Bill forgot about his meeting and followed the hound, fascinated. He saw it approach a statue of a woman which was nearly hidden in the gathering shadows, and was only mildly surprised when the statue reached out to stroke the hound's neck.
"Good Rowlf," said the statue, softly.
The large animal looked up, tail wagging and tongue hanging out of its mouth.
"Hello," said Bill, approaching slowly, smiling in anticipation of meeting something - someone - new and very interesting. "I'm Bill. I'm a guest of Lady Fang's."
The statue looked up a Bill, and he noted that at some time it had been severely damaged then skillfully repaired. Abruptly, he realized that this was not a chimera, but an actual statue, somehow animated.
"I greet you, Bill," it (She?) said, in an odd, whispery voice.
Bill smiled shyly and nodded his head. And turned as he heard someone approaching. It was Liam.
"Wrong sycamore," he said, brusquely. "This way, please."
Moments later they were completely out of sight of even the chimeras.
"Lost Illyan is a Sidhe Inanimae of uncertain provenance," Liam explained, quickly, not because he didn't want to talk about her, but because he wanted more to talk about something else. "She rarely speaks, and then only quietly, and about inconsequential things. I'm surprised she said even that much to you."
"An Inanimae?!" Bill whistled. "They're quite common, and very mundane, not to mention mediocre in power."
"Yes, but using that power requires both knowledge and will," was Liam's sad reply. "And Illyan currently has little of either. Whatever happened to her is taking centuries to heal."
"Oh," said Bill, feeling a pang of sadness. He turned and swept his gaze over the landscape. "Truly, Lady Fang has gathered no wonders here. How does she spend her time?"
Most fae in the mortal world were Changelings, who were born as humans, hopefully awakened to their true nature, lived as a mixture of mortal and fae, and died to be reborn. Most Sidhe now in the world had come here directly from Arcadia during the Resurgence, choosing a human to trade places with to protect themselves from the erosive effects of Banality, sending the mortal they displaced to Arcadia in their stead. If those Sidhe died here they stayed dead, something which deeply frightened them. The Sidhe of House Scathatch who had stayed behind during the Shattering had, like the commoners, embraced the Changeling Way, reincarnating over and over through the ages. But a very few of the fey who could not flee back to Arcadia had chosen another way. They merged their essences with something either nonliving, or very long lived. Trees were popular for the latter. Bill had heard of Inanimae who were merged with statues, or even manikins, but never seen one before. They were supposed to be awesomely powerful. How they managed to shift themselves to a new host when an old one died or was destroyed he didn't know. Considering what he had just learned about Lost Illyan, he figured some - perhaps many - didn't.
"What I wanted to ask you about," said Liam, uneasily, startling Bill back to the here and now, "is Sue. I hear you know the Garou."
"Well, I've met a few," said Bill, modestly. "I don't think I really know them. I doubt anything not actually a Garou can."
"Yes, but you know about them."
"Yes," said Bill, reluctantly.
"Is Sue a Garou?"
"Definitely," said Bill, nodding.
"So you mean you're not sure. "
"He looks nothing like one, but smells and feels and acts like one," said Bill.
"That's what I thought." Liam sighed, now. "I am fianna kinfolk. Do you know what that means?"
"I've met some fianna," said Bill, not mentioning that Debbie was one. "Many of them can see the chimerical seeming without being enchanted."
"And I can, as well," said Liam, with a trace of pride. "I know Garou - probably more than you, and definitely for longer. And that is not one of Gaia's warriors. But it was..."
Bill thought about that for a moment. And remembered just how Side who wished to enter this world did so. And blanched.
"I see you understand."
"Oh, you've definitely got to introduce him to some Garou!" said Bill, almost gasping.
"Yes. I have no love for the boy, nor do I approve of what he did. But he did it out of ignorance. And has been through several kinds of Hell already because of it, barely finding his way someplace safe without being hunted down and killed. He can't change, you see. I would not see him draw the ire of the Garou."
"So I'll be sure to tell them," said Bill, nodding.
"Please. As a favor to those of us here, if nothing else. I suspect some Garou would slaughter all around him, simply for being with him."
Bill nodded, chewing his bottom lip in a worried fashion.
"Bill!" came Leo's call, from a distance. "Where the Hell did that Pooka get to?!"
"Over there, by the car!" Bill yelled. He turned to Liam. "I'll tell the first Garou I see all about Sue."
"Thank you," said the old man, appearing relieved.
Leo had taken Bill's reply to mean they should meet by the Fairlaine. He was waiting there, holding what looked like a gym bag, as Bill and Plucky approached, trailed by some curious Boneheads. The bag - assuming it contained dross - must have been heavily shielded, as it possessed only a vague chimerical seeming.
"She gave me enough Dream Stones to have the Freehold up and running in a few hours," said the young Sidhe, smugly.
"Great!" said Plucky. "But after we drop that off we need to find some place to rest. I ate my fill, here."
"I found this terrible huge fast-food restaurant near campus," said Bill, almost drooling with the memory. "They offer a beef hash that's putrid! And for Midnight snack they have something they call Omelet Wham. The maitre d' told me that they originally had it in the menu as ‘Omelet W/Ham And Peppers' and the customers hated it because of all the spicy stuff they added and started calling by a nickname. Even Redcaps hate the place."
"I'm not sure I want to know what a Redcap won't eat," said Plucky, seriously.
"Then it's settled," said Leo, though he didn't appear particularly happy. He sighed and shook his head. "There's got to be some connection between Pookas and Redcaps, the way you two eat."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Come Sail Away" by Styx
Patric opened the bag, looked inside, and began swearing softly in Gaelic.
"Is there enough?" said Tilley, suddenly concerned.
"More than enough," said the Satyr, quietly. He suddenly laughed. "That woman! She never volunteers anything, but if you ask and your need is genuine... We asked for enough to help us reopen our humble little Commoner Freehold, and she provides enough to make it stronger than it was before!"
Cheers went up, and Patric had Tilley and Roget begin distributing the softly glowing crystals which filled the bag.
Few participating had ever done exactly this thing before, but all had used Glamour to strengthen a Chimerical Seeming. Patric jumped onto a table and balanced there while he joyously shouted instructions. He'd brought in the Boggan Grump who had first helped him light the Balefire to handle the heart of the magic. Patric himself was the focus. All those participating - and there were thirty of the stones, with one each to thirty volunteers and others supplying their own Glamour to the task - were told to focus on sending their power to Patric, who would in turn channel it to the balefire with the help of the Boggan. Even those charged with releasing the Glamour from the Stones would donate as much as they could of their own once the dross was spent.
"But no-one start until I tell you!" was the Satyr's final bellow. He glared around the room to make sure none of the volunteers had become so entranced with their stones that they weren't listening. Satisfied there would be no early or late starts, he nodded. "Stiltskip! You ready?"
"Fire in the hole!" came the cheerful reply.
"All right!" cried Patric. "Now, slowly, there's no hurry. Release the Glamour and send it to me."
Bill complied, fighting not to let the magic out too quickly. A small part him couldn't help but think that a Sidhe in charge of such an undertaking would have spent at least a week organizing it, and had much more ceremony. He glanced over at Leo, and was surprised to see Judy standing next to her twin. Both were concentrating far harder than Bill. Who, embarrassed, returned his attention to the task at hand, and the glowing stone in hand.
Like a mist of pastel light, the Glamour rose from people and objects, gathering in slow swirls like some living smoke. It flowed into Patric at a controlled rate, the Satyr looking like he was trying to hold off an orgasm. Which, considering how Satyrs often worked magic, may have been exactly the case.
From Patric the Glamour flowed in a tight, bright, white stream into the back of the tavern. The entire process, from when he said to start until the last trickle was released, couldn't have taken more than three minutes, but the interval stretched vastly longer to their perceptions. Then, it was over. Patric gave a gasp and swayed. Roget grabbed him and set him gently on the floor. Patrick gave the assembled group a tired smile and a double thumbs up.
"Done!" came a cry from the back. "Sweet Danae, it's much better than before!"
The cheer the group emitted at that announcement dwarfed their earlier one.
"Well, my friends," said Patric, his voice slowly regaining strength. "I never thought I'd be saying this, but... Drinks are on the house!!!"
That was probably the only thing he could have said which would cause an even greater cheer than the second one.
All that night, and 'till the dawn, they partied. Police were called, and never arrived; several precautions by the revelers saw to that. All interested in interfering were fuddled and made unable to find the Pride of Erin. And strange doings were about through the whole neighborhood until the sun finally chased the last home.
This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org