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: "The Marvelous Toy" by Tom Paxton
[I actually have all this music and more as a Changeling playlist. :-)]
One more drawback to this assignment: Bill wasn't spending enough time in wolf form. He was being kept busy, with school and espionage, and there really weren't many places around here where a wolf - even one with a collar and tags - could run around without attracting unwanted attention. When he could, Bill would drive to an isolated wooded area, strip, change and romp, and sometimes do a little hunting. But even that procedure could cause problems; one time he came back to find an orange sticker on the rear window, left by police to mark the car as possibly abandoned.
It's not that old! was Bill's outraged thought, as he angrily peeled the sticker off.
So, he just needed to find some other way to have fun. Most forms of socializing were tainted by his goal of gathering information. Dating was out of the question, of course; at least honestly. He recalled someone talking about the "hidden in plain site" Changeling places in town. Places abandoned by human society which were officially empty, but actually housed the homeless... or some secret Changeling spot. The Smith Brothers warehouse was supposed to be among the best of those.
Even in his non-wolf form Bill's senses of smell and hearing were more sensitive than a human's or most non-Pooka Changelings'. To human senses the old six-story brick hardware warehouse was dark, dusty and quiet, giving every impression of being long empty, except for a distinct bouquet of urine. But to those who had the proper sensitivities there was also a distinct tingle of Glamour in the place, and the level of banality was much lower than outside. Bill caught the scent of fresh oil and metal, and could hear some distant activity. He figured he had Changeling company, but it was somewhere up in the huge interior. Recalling what he'd been told, Bill found the stairs and began climbing.
Originally, the place had been used to fill orders for parts and tools. To help with this a conveyor belt, roller track and slide chute system had been used to move things around by gravity, once they had been lifted by freight elevator. Much of that was long gone, of course... but what was now in its place was far more fantastic. Incorporating the remaining bits of the old transport system, the... thing which currently occupied much of the interior of the upper five floors looked as if it had been designed by an admirer of M. C. Escher. Chutes, ramps, banked tracks and even a couple of elevators turned the interior of the structure into a three-dimensional puzzle which shimmered with eldrich energy.
"It's a self-altering skateboard obstacle course!"
Bill jumped, and turned to see a female Nocker Wilder who looked vaguely familiar. She grinned at Bill's surprise for a moment, then continued over to where part of the device had been disassembled. She was carrying a large tool box and wore an apron festooned with more tools.
"You're... Judy!" said Bill, remembering.
"Yeah. Leo's sister." She smirked. "Twin sister, if you can believe it."
Bill nodded and resumed his examination.
"I feel like I'm in a Warner Brothers cartoon, just about to start..."
A rolling sound approached from above.
"That's not bad," said another - and male - voice.
Through the clatter of his approach Bill could tell the man was Side just from the intonation, although the phrasing was more casual than what most of the high elves used. He turned and tracked the source of the voice to see Leo rolling down a ramp from the next floor. The young male Sidhe was wearing t-shirt and shorts and athletic shoes and pads and helmet; he rolled off the end of the ramp to Bill's left and braked his skateboard to a stop.
"Hi, Bill! Say, Judy, Lord Blutcher said to remind you about the meeting this afternoon."
"Uh, I'm Bill," the Pooka replied, to Judy since he already knew Leo. He winced at his awkwardness, and hoped they'd mistake it for Pooka humor.
"Yeah," said the Nocker, nodding absently in his direction, her hands busy deep in the guts of some component. "You're a bit famous. Aren't you the guy who kicked a Redcap in the teeth when he was just a Childer?
"Well, he was trying to stop me from jumping out of a moving car," said Bill, innocently.
The others laughed at that.
"Some day I'm going to have to hear that whole story," said Leo, giving Bill a nod as he walked over to his sister. "How's it coming?"
"Almost done," she said, tersely. "Don't rush me. You can have it quick or you can have it right."
"Wish I'd brought my board," said Bill, who'd never skateboarded in his life.
"Oh, we keep some here," said Leo. "Not top quality, but they can give you an idea. Just be aware that Flang, here, is no ordinary skateboard course. Flang fights back."
"None of the obstacles and traps are intended to actually cause harm," said Judy, giving a nut a final twist, then applying a torque wrench just to make sure. "But there's no way to take into account the full variation of all the users, so wear protective gear. Okay! That should do it."
She closed and fastened the access hatch and stood, dusting her hands.
"I think I'd better just watch for now," said Bill.
"That can be a sport in itself," said Leo. "There's viewing galleries all through here, but the boarders can move pretty fast, so keeping up is a problem."
"Yeah, but there's firemen's poles to slide down," said Judy, pointedly.
"Which doesn't help when following someone going up," said Leo, with a smirk.
The two continued to amiably bat the pros and cons of the building's features back and forth as they and Bill took a refurbished freight elevator to the top floor. None of them wondered that this - and all the other equipment in the building - could work without external power. They came out near the start of the course and the entrance to the viewer's gallery. Bill waited while Leo snugged his safety gear straps, and Judy tugged a couple of them a bit tighter; then Bill and Judy moved into position to watch the top level. Leo gave a war whoop, and pushed off...
* * *
Theme for this section: "Power House" by Raymond Scott; alternate selection: "Beetlejuice Main Title" by the appropriately-named Danny Elfman.
Leo got a good start, and hit the Left Whirl with plenty of velocity to ride high enough to take the First Offramp, instead of staying on the main - and less difficult - course. Judy, sticking with Bill, named the portions of the course and gave commentary, as well as guiding him to the best viewing point. She grew increasingly excited as her twin proceeded. Once on the Ramp, Leo had to slow some to successfully negotiate Snake Road. They could hear the squeal and actually smell burning rubber. Once clear of that he kicked frantically for the Big Loop. He wasn't quite fast enough, actually feeling his wheels come off the track a bit at the top. He planted again on the way down, and rolled screaming into the Car Wash.
"He's going for the Grand Tour!" Judy shouted excitedly. "Come on!"
The next few bits had names like Slicer, Dicer, Poll Tax and the ever-popular Evolution in Action. After surviving these Leo was headed for a shifting ramp, the end of which swung back and forth to offer three choices of path... and two large pads if the choice wasn't made correctly.
"High Road!" screamed Judy. "High Road!"
Leo, grinning manically, nodded and took the right ramp. Judy grabbed Bill's arm and led him to a polished brass pole leading down to the next floor. There, she quickly guided him to a balcony and let him go to grab the railing with both hands so she could lean out and watch for her brother. Bill could hear Leo but not see him yet. He edged left, stretching upwards to get just a glimpse of motion. He moved further left... and tripped over something. Bill was holding the rail and managed not to fall, but there was a huge racket as a large bucket of miscellaneous parts, fasteners and tools tumbled down onto the course below. The bucket and much of what it had contained began rolling, sliding and rattling lower into the building.
"Abort! Abort!" screamed Judy, turning to give Bill a dirty look.
Leo braked to a stop and looked around confused.
"S-sorry," said Bill. "So busy watching my feet I completely missed what he was doing."
"Well..." She sighed and swallowed. "Yeah, you should have been more careful. But that shouldn't have been there. Damn Boggans..."
"What's going on up there?" an adult male - and human - voice called out from below.
"Oh, God..." Leo looked paler than usual. "It's Uncle Thomas!"
"What's he doing here?!" hissed Judy.
"We can't let him off the ground floor," said Leo, hurrying towards them. "He's so banal he'll dissolve anything chimerical just by getting close!"
"Hey! I'll call the police!"
"Good afternoon, Uncle Thomas," said Judy, in a pleasant tone, leaning over the railing and waving down.
As always, Bill was amazed by the fact that humans could look at the same thing he was looking at and see something completely different. To "Uncle Thomas" there was no marvelous construct, no fae mien for Judy, only a collection of old industrial junk, and the mortal seeming of a slightly grubby teenage girl with short, spiky hair, instead of a thing from a nightmare (well, as a unaware human would view her, if he could view her...).
"Who is that?"
"He has glasses but won't wear them," Judy hissed to Bill. Then, more loudly,"Oh, come on; how many nieces do you have?"
"Judy?! What are you doing up there?! I've told you this place is dangerous. What would your brother think if he knew you were here?"
"Good afternoon, Uncle Thomas," Leo said, loudly, still out of sight.
Bill smirked, then had to cover his mouth to stifle a laugh.
"We were just showing a college friend of ours around," said Judy, leaning casually on the railing. "He'd heard about this place and wanted to see it."
"Well, pretty soon there won't be much to see," said Uncle Thomas, proudly. "We finally sold this clunker! They're going to turn it into an art center."
His expression spoke volumes about what he thought of such frivolity. The kids all felt their spirits fall. Another playground, torn down by heedless adults. An art center would be nice, of course, and most likely a source of Glamour instead of needing it to exist, but still...
"Now, you kids have had your fun. Come on down and get out of here."
The trio looked at each other, sighed, and trudged down the multiple flights of stairs. They acted and felt much younger than their years.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen
"So, how are you adjusting to the Changeling life?" Bill asked as they walked to his car.
The twins had ridden the bus here, but Bill had driven, and consequently offered them a ride. Leo was far from enthusiastic, but Judy wanted to see Bill's "classic car."
"I'm... doing surprisingly well," said Leo, nodding. "I was confused at first, but mostly because I remembered so much, and it so contradicted what I knew was true from my mortal life. After meeting other Changelings, and getting used to our life, it feels like this is the way I've always been."
"How are you doing, wolf boy," teased Judy. "You doing okay in the new college?"
"Great," said Bill, with a sigh. "I have plenty of time to devote to my studies and have lots of friends and acquaintances to ask for help."
"Oh," said Judy, her smile vanishing. "Here's an idea. The Duke has a private school near his Freehold. It's mainly to help educate Childlings in the Changeling Way, but also offers tutoring in a number of areas. Why don't you see if someone there can help?"
"Terrible idea," said Bill, nodding thoughtfully. "No reason to follow up on that at all. Thank you."
And yet, as they seated themselves in his car, he gave vent to a heartfelt sigh.
"Now what?" said Leo.
"Oh, more of the same," said Bill, carelessly. "Plenty of time and opportunity for just being me. Even when being me means being a wolf."
"Oooh, I'd like to see that," gushed Judy. "It always fascinates me how Pookas can actually, physically change into a real animal."
"So take him for a walk," said Leo, with careless humor.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles
"That's pretty neat," said Judy, crouching down to examine Bill more closely. They were in an little-used rear area behind Bill's dorm. She scratched him on the ruff. "And you're a real wolf? Not a big, wolf-looking dog?"
"Cool! Though there ought to be some way you can make your clothes change with you."
"Yeah, I guess you've tried," said Judy, grinning.
Bill snorted, then gave her a wolfish grin and played at licking her face. Judy pulled back and laughed. Then she abruptly snapped the lead to his collar.
Bill growled, briefly, then relented with another sigh. This appeared to be the most convenient way for him to get some wolf time, as well as some lupine exercise. Besides, he still hadn't checked out all the contact points StormRunner had given him.
Despite the constraints Bill enjoyed the next couple of hours. Judy was amused and curious enough that she didn't get bored or resent the favor. And she seemed to enjoy the attention walking a large wolf brought.
"Is that a wolf?" asked one woman, looking like she wasn't certain whether she should be frightened.
"Algonquin Wolfhound," said Judy, easily. "Very rare breed. They're essentially a more southern variety of Husky."
That became her standard response. A Pooka would have said something different to each person, even when within earshot of someone she'd already answered.
Can't have everything, thought Bill, with a lupine grin.
He did enjoy being petted and skritched, and not only when a wolf. And he was amazed at how relaxed parents became once assured he was friendly. For a while he was actually giving rides to a couple of little kids. When he got tired of that, he simply started licking them in the face when they approached for their turn. They'd shriek and laugh, and their smiling parents would quickly retrieve them.
Of course, no other dogs would come near Bill. Fortunately, there weren't a lot of people walking their canines here and now, so that wasn't much of a problem. Bill, when not occupied with being a "cuddly woof-woof" found time to explore, mostly through scent. He led Judy over much of the campus and most of the nearby park. He found the two contact points he was looking for. Both had some Garou scent on and near, but it was faint.
Finally, Bill decided he'd had enough. Which left Judy actually a bit disappointed. Once back at the dorm he got her to unhook the lead and hopped into the bushes where he had hidden his bundle of clothing. Human - and dressed - again, he invited her up to his dorm room.
"Won't your roommate object?" she asked.
"Edward Bellamy got himself expelled - and three days in jail - for expressing too much outrage over his not being treated like a sports hero," said Bill, not sure whether to smile or sigh. "He apparently got a swelled head over the way his high school treated him for winning so many games, and didn't realize that wouldn't carry over outside that milleau."
"You're serious," said Judy, since one could never be certain with a Pooka.
"Come up and see."
Indeed, not only did the room only contain Bill's stuff, the second bed had been shoved against the wall and was being used as an auxiliary desk.
"And they didn't give you another roommate?"
"Too late in the semester," he said, throwing himself on the bed with a contented sigh.
Judy may have taken that as a hint. She lay down on the bed beside him and gave him a slow and somewhat mild kiss, testing the waters. It felt good, so Bill cooperated. However, when she reached for his shirt he gently pulled her hands away.
"Thanks," he said, gently kissing the back of each, "but I have someone."
"She won't mind," said Judy, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hands away.
"She wouldn't. But... I'm not interested."
"Which means she would, and you want to, but she'd make a fuss?"
"No," said Bill, sitting up and pulling her with him. "Judy. I'm so in love with Debbie I can't consider any other woman as a sex object, except as an intellectual exercise."
She still didn't seem to believe him, but relented.
"Oh, well," she sighed. "Guess I'll have to find someone else to show me how to do it doggie style."
"I could introduce you to some Garou," said Bill, smirking.
"So, when do you start getting tutored?" Judy may not have known what a "Garou" was.
"Never use that word around an animal shapeshifter," said Bill, sternly. "Oh, wait... 'tutored.' Never mind. Next Tuesday."
Judy giggled. And leaned in to give him one more kiss.
"Let me know if you ever do get interested. Seriously."
"I'll put you on the list."
"You know, I actually believe you'd have a waiting list of girls who'd want to bed you. There's some sort of primal attraction about you."
* * *
Theme for this section: "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
Bill yawned as he walked across the manicured lawn to where he had parked his car. The special school the Duke had set up near his Freehold was an odd mix of private academy and Summer camp. Just figuring out who was what (in terms of social structure and management structure) was tiring. Still, once he got started, he learned a lot. The few weeks he'd been coming here had greatly helped his flagging grades at college, though at the expense of further curtailing both his social life and his mission for Baron Haldrin. Bill was almost to his car when he sensed a rise in Glamour nearby. It seemed to be coming from the trailhead. Curious, he changed course to cut across another part of the lawn, entering the boundaries of the Freehold.
He stopped well away from the entrance to the Trod, but close enough to watch. Several of the Duke's security Trolls were approaching rapidly as a group of attendants in fancy dress exited, and then presented a noble in even fancier dress. Behind him came more attendants, accompanied by three Changeling teenagers.
"Duke Loethenlau of Queen Maab's Court, here to see His Grace," said the most important of the retainers.
That was typical. Of how most Sidhe did things, that is. Bill much appreciated the Duke's more casual and informal approach. From what he knew of history, that was actually closer to how real nobility had operated in the old days. Trust the Sidhe - well, the non-Scathatch Sidhe, who hadn't actually lived here for centuries before 1969 - to pick the pomp and circumstance used only for special ceremonies as the SOP.
Bill watched for a while, along with a number of others, and eventually learned that Queen Maab had sent the children - Wilders all, actually - for education in the Duke's school. That seemed like a lot of fuss and bother, until Bill learned that Loethenlau was also staying in the area for a few days of vacation.
Okay, he's combining two functions as an excuse to flaunt, thought Bill, nodding.
Satisfied, he turned to head to his car. Only to find Her Grace, the Duchess Ilsthene heading straight for him.
What did I do now? wondered Bill.
"Young Pooka, I would show you something," said Her Grace. "Please follow me."
Bill bowed in acknowledgment, and trailed after the beautiful woman as she unhurriedly led him into the mansion and through the library, to a small room in the back. The air was filled with the concentrated odor of old books and dust, both spiking as she pulled a particular volume from a shelf. Bill noticed that although the room appeared rarely used, the lighting was excellent for reading.
"Not long after the Accordance War ended, a Boggan arrived here carrying items salvaged from a Commoner Freehold. Since there had been very few survivors of that assault, and those were now widely scattered, she felt that we should be the caretakers of what was left. One of the items was this."
She opened the book and pulled out a glazed-looking, thick sheet. There, ironed between two pieces of waxed paper, was a bit of parchment.
"This is a prophecy - or what remains of one - made by a Sluagh seer during the War. What is left reads '...day, shall the chalice be restored, and with the sword welcome the True King.'"
"That echoes the prophecy of Balin, from the time of the Shattering," said Bill, nodding. "'The Highborn shall return to bring light into the darkness, but the light brings little warmth to those huddled in Winter's cold. Even that wan light dims as blades snuff it out, but one among the Highborn stays the hands of the others and joins High and Low together. In his moment of happiness the good king falls to betrayal, and anarchy and darkness return. Yet in the midst of the chaos, two Kithain, one Lowborn, one High, will meet as equals. Together, they shall discover the key which will reopen the Silver Gate. When the light of rarefied Glamour pours forth from the gate, then comes the True King, who brings light and fire great as the Summer sun! Seelie or Unseelie, all shall kneel to the King, and peace shall be restored to the land. Banality's grip on the world will be broken, and a new Mythic Age will arise.'"
"You know that by heart," said Duchess Ilsthene, impressed. "And said it true."
"With what happened to the High King, it was a hot topic when I was at Sally Goodin's school." He shrugged. "As for not elaborating, well, that's not wise with prophesies."
"According to what our scribe has been able to learn, the rest of what the Sluagh seer wrote mentioned wolves, demons, Winter and Vampires. Unfortunately, no-one agrees on the details. However, all say it promised a time of Spring following Winter."
"Just how reliable was the seer?" said Bill.
"According to those who knew him, he rarely made such pronouncements, and when he did rarely understood them himself. But eventually they all proved true, if not always in a way clear beforehand."
"Most of us, when we speak of Winter, speak of something approaching. Implying that we're still in the Fall. But if those prophesies really do speak of the disappearance of High King David then we're already deep into Winter."
"That is one interpretation," the Duchess acknowledged.
"It's obvious why you showed this to me," said Bill, sweat on his brow both from tension and the effort required to speak directly. "And I know there have been prophesies about wolves which are true and definitely about me. But I'm just one little Pooka!"
"Remember the Tale of the Steadfast Boggan," said Her Grace, firmly. "When all others were panicking or ignoring the problem, one little Boggan saved the day by simply and steadfastly doing what needed to be done."
She put the prophesy back into the book, and the book back on the shelf. Then turned to again face Bill.
"This most likely has nothing to do with you. But I know the Duke, my husband, has spoken with your Lord on this and related matters. I suspect that your visit here has many purposes behind it. Besides gathering information on recent unusual events. Please, consider what you have learned, and what you do, carefully."
"Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, bowing deeply.
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