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Wolf Penned In

by

Rodford Edmiston


Prelude


The Talk


Hi. I'm Lee, student body president, a Knight of House Scathatch and a member of the Court of Glass. This is Sand. He's a Knight of House Fiona, and an assistant teacher. The reason we're doing this is that they figure you'll pay more attention to someone closer to your own age.

You are Changelings. However, it's more important that you know who you are than what you are. Since your Chrysalis you have probably been having things come back to you. The purpose of this little meeting is to explain a few things to help prompt more memories. That's also why the first formal ceremony you will probably participate in is your Saining. This will reveal to you who you are and your role in Changeling society, if you haven't already remembered. What you still don't remember after this you will be taught in classes.

Your Kith is what kind of Changeling you are. The Kith are Boggan, Eshu, Nocker, Pooka, Redcap, Satyr, Sidhe, Sluagh, and Troll. Together we call ourselves the kithain. You've already heard some of those names used; you'll be taught what the rest are later.

There are other supernatural creatures who are not considered Kithain, the Gallain. Some are like us - mostly the Native American fae and a few from other areas. Some are very much not like us. These include the werewolves, the vampires, and similar creatures.

Yes, werewolves and vampires exist. Our paths and theirs rarely cross, and most of what each group knows about the other is more myth than fact. Try to avoid both groups if you can, at least until you can learn something about them.

Our society is basically feudal. This means there are leaders - the Sidhe, usually - and followers - the Commoners, made up of all the other kith. Some in both groups believe this is the natural order of things. Many do not. House Scathatch is in the latter group. Our Liege, Duke Wotchermacalt, is pretty typical of that House in that he believes that while the Sidhe generally have the qualities which make for good leaders not all of them do, while some Commoners definitely make good leaders. Because of this, those Sidhe - and even many Commoners - who hold to a strict feudal view of how things should be run dislike this House. Something to keep in mind.

We Changelings exist in a dual reality. Mortals cannot see us as we really are, unless they have been enchanted or have some form of magic themselves which grants such perceptions. What they see is your mortal seeming; currently, that's what you looked like to yourself before your Chrysalis. The Chrysalis is the moment of revelation, when your fae nature overcomes the banality of the mortal world and you are reborn into yourself. This reveals your fae mien to all who can see such.

Your voile is what you wear in your fae mien. For most of you this is currently an altered version of your mortal garments. Some of your have already recovered your full Changeling voile. The rest of you will either recover it or make a new one.

We fae gain our abilities - and our very nature - from the Dreaming. There are a lot of different definitions for this, and much discussion over its actual nature. Some say it is the source of all dreams and wonder. Others that it is the result of human dreams. Our magic comes from glamour, which is the active ingredient of the Dreaming. You might say it's distilled power of imagination.

You can gain glamour from many sources, and in several ways. You can take it directly from humans, or by being granted permission to take it from a freehold by its master. The Court of Glass is a level 4 freehold, established by the current Duke's great-grandfather and several of his other relatives over a century and a half ago. The current Duke has reigned here for nearly thirty years.

That brings us to an interesting property of freeholds. You may have heard tales of how humans taken to fairy lands return unaged, even though decades have passed. People don't age in a freehold. The current Duke is in his eighties; his wife is younger, but still older than she looks. This is why the school and boarding house are not in the freehold proper, though the playground is. We can't have people wondering why none of you are growing up.

Keep in mind that while you are creatures of magic, you aren't gods. Affecting the mortal world with Changeling magic is very hard. Even causing a mortal to see you as you really are is hard, and they generally don't remember for long, due to the Mists. That's what keeps mortals from believing in us. They can even keep Changelings from believing in us. Which is why you didn't see yourselves as you are now before your Chrysalis. If you aren't careful, they can make you forget who and what you are, and you'll go back to being only your mundane selves.

You can much more easily affect things fae and things chimerical. Those latter include some of the odd creatures you've seen around the freehold, your voile, and those parts of things which you can see but mortals can't. Like the turrets and flags on the freehold. And, with effort, your magic will affect the mortal world.

The reason we are so limited has to do with Banality. That is the force of denial, the exact opposite of the power of Dreaming. Banality keeps mortals from seeing the world as we do, and it can wreck the chimerical world. Though normally it just drives it away for a while. Never invite an unenchanted mortal into a chimerical place, unless you want to risk making it purely banal. The symbol of Banality is cold iron, and its mere presence can harm us. You will be instructed later as to just what that is. For now, be assured that you'll know it when you see it.

To shield ourselves from banality we changelings follow the Changeling Way. This is a special ritual allows us to be born into mortal human bodies, which protect our fae essence from Banality. Many Commoners did this, ages ago, as banality swept across the world at the beginning of the Dark Ages. So did some Nobles, mostly about half of House Scathatch. The rest of the Nobles and Commoners returned to Arcadia, the heart of the dreaming and our original home.

However, down through the centuries a few of those from Arcadia came back to the mortal world, and a few from here made the trip there. A lot of Fae - mostly Sidhe - returned when the Moon landings of the late Sixties and early Seventies caused a surge of Glamour. Unfortunately, these newcomers tried to enforce the old, strict feudal system onto a world which had changed greatly since they last were in it. The result was the Concordance War.

Remember how I said those who stayed behind and performed the Changeling Way Rite were born anew? Well, some of these new Sidhe did that. However, most simply took over already-adult bodies. What happened to the original owners is a matter of conjecture. Some, though, had more respect for humans than that. One of those, born as part of a set of twins, was a Sidhe noble who grew up to become High King David. He ended the Concordance War and did what he could to establish a modified feudal system which respected the Commoners while recognizing that the Sidhe were generally more fit to lead. Much like what House Scathatch has been doing for centuries. Unfortunately, just because we were first doesn't mean we are respected. The fact that many of the traditionalist Sidhe and Commoners firmly hold to the older form of rule means that our House continues to experience prejudice, and probably explains why High King David disappeared a few years ago. People are still looking for him.

Locally, however, Duke Wotchermacalt is recognized as the Liege of the region by nearly all the Changelings in it. His family has a long history of fair and wise rule. There are several smaller freeholds in the area, most held by Commoners. They, and the few Sidhe of other Houses, almost uniformly recognize his authority, though some reluctantly. This school is one of the reasons he is respected beyond his hereditary title and the recognition granted his Duchy by High King David. Many families, faced with kithain or kinain children who don't fit into mundane schools, have found this place to be a blessing. As I mentioned earlier, Sand, here, is of House Fiona. The local Fiona Baron and Duke Wotchermacalt have long had a mutually beneficial and friendly relationship. So while it is important to remember the general rules, you also have to take into account individual situations.


Partial Timeline


14,000 BCE Oldest Garou, fae, vampire and other mythic legends. 12,000 BCE First city.

5500 BCE Land bridge between Britain and mainland submerged.

500 BCE The Sundering begins.

900 - 1100 CE Medieval Warm Period.

1200 CE Climate changes in Northern Hemisphere bring cooler, shorter Summers, harsher Winters. Life in most of the civilized world becomes much harder.

1233 CE Establishment of the Inquisition. The Sundering reaches its peak.

1250 CE First European fae move to New World.

1347 CE Outbreak of the Black Plague.

1348 CE The Shattering.

1350s CE Last known Trods to Arcadia close. The Interregnum begins. (Year approximate.)

1868 CE Court of Glass freehold established.

1888 CE Industrial and Farming Exhibition (?) held near Columbus.

1969 CE The Resurgence.

1973 CE The Accordance War begins.

1974 CE David Ardry finds long-lost Caliburn, and claims the title of High King.

1978 CD The Accordance War ends.

1998 CE David Ardry disappears.



Part One

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: "Girlfriend" by Matthew Sweet

He shouldn't be here. Start of the semester was only a week away, and there was so much to do...

But that was the reason he was here. He needed a break. From graduating, from getting ready for college, from working hard all Summer to have money. So he had taken his favorite board and his safety gear and headed off to a place he'd heard of but never been to before. Leo prided himself on being a good son, a good student, even a good brother to his sister. But there were times when he had to rebel. To do something to get away from all the responsibility and rules.

Leo concentrated on the basics, just boarding up and down, back and forth, until he got used to this new place. Part of the city storm sewer system, it had the nickname Blood Bowl, supposedly because someone had died here after going off his board. That didn't seem likely to Theo. Sure, there were rough spots, but nothing he couldn't...

A dark figure came out of the large exit tunnel, just slipping between the bars to step right into his path. He swerved, too hard, and went flying. He tried to catch himself, but fell, hard. He felt bone break. Leo tumbled to a stop and lay, stunned. There was no pain, yet, but he knew it would come. At least the gear had done its job. Besides the broken arm he only had a few scrapes and bruises. Still, that arm was going to be trouble. He wondered, in that detached way someone freshly hurt can have, how he was going to get to a phone to call an ambulance.

The obstacle came over, reminding him that maybe someone else could call. The stranger was small and slim and pale, with long, greasy hair and big, dark eyes, and was draped in black, long out of date garments.

Oh, great; a Goth, thought Theo.

"I'm sorry," the stranger said in a bare whisper of a voice, kneeling and beginning to examine him. "I heard a noise and came to see what it was, then was dazzled by the light."

She - at least, Leo thought the heavily dressed figure was female - touched him with cold, rubbery fingers. Leo should have been repulsed, but it felt strangely comforting. He wondered what was wrong with her throat.

"What I made wrong, I put right, to make an end to this fright."

A strange warmth spread through Theo, focusing in his arm, where it was almost painful. He stared, eyes wide, as the limb straightened, the swelling diminished. In seconds it was if he had never been hurt. He looked up at the young woman in astonishment, only to see her disappear into the culvert. He could see that those bars were too closely spaced for even a child to squeeze through, yet both times she had simply - and deftly - turned and stepped.

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins

The two young wolves romped in the late Summer woods. Their time together was to soon end, but for now they focused on the moment. Pouncing, bowing, play-biting, chasing each other's tails, their antics would have made a hardened killer smile. Then a beeping sound from a pile of clothing stashed nearby began. The wolves stopped, their mood dramatically altered. Reluctantly, the female changed back to human, already wearing clothes, then looked away so the male could become his naked Pooka self.

Debbie watched appreciatively as Bill put his clothes on. Then she grabbed him in a fierce, protective hug.

"Come back to me, my little Pooka," she breathed.

"You can come and visit," Bill pointed, out, wheezing a bit.

He had grown a lot in the past three years, and was as tall as Debbie, now, but still no match for her Ahroun might. Of course, how many Changelings were? The fact that he was tougher and healed faster than most Changelings meant she could roughhouse with him... though not as much as she could with her pack mates. Bill tried hard not to feel inadequate, and usually succeeded.

"That's if I can get permission from my Alpha, and if I can get permission from the Open Skies Sept, and if..."

"Shush," said Bill, putting a finger on her lips. He smirked. "I'll find a way, even if I have to lie about needing help."

Debbie laughed, and hugged him even tighter.

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue

Leo couldn't get the events of the day before out of his mind. He knew he hadn't imagined them. That strange girl had, somehow, healed his arm. And ever since he'd been seeing strange things out of the corners of his eyes, hearing snatches of odd music... Unless someone had slipped him something, he must have hit his head as well as his arm.

Only... his arm, though sore, appeared straight and sound.

No; somehow, he knew those things were real. Something inside him kept whispering that he was missing an important lesson, that he should have chased down that strange girl and asked questions. Exactly what questions he still wasn't too sure of, though...

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Leave It" by Yes

The room had no chimerical aspect to speak of. Or rather, its chimerical and mortal aspects were almost identical. There were a few vague, shadowy features visible to those with the proper perceptions, traces of the dreams and imaginings of previous occupants, but otherwise it was exactly the same to both Changeling and mortal eyes.

Bill closed his empty suitcase with a sigh, and put it on the shelf in the closet. First day in a new town. First day in a new dorm. First day at a new college. First day of his mission.

He'd been of two minds when Baron Haldrin asked him to come here to check on reports of odd Changeling doings in the area. He had planned to start back at Feyland college, where he was almost ready to graduate. Coming to Ohio State had required a major change for him, and invented explanations for all those not meant to know the real reason. At least with his Changeling friends and acquaintances he could point to the large fey population in the area, especially among the students. His mortal friends were given a much less convincing story.

Fortunately, Ohio State University had an excellent business program, so the change wouldn't hurt his long-term plans too much.

The door opened and a tall, muscular fellow looked in.

"Oh, hi. I think this is my room."

"Come on in," said Bill, amiably.

The guy stared at him for a moment, then shook his head.

"I mean, this is the room I assigned to."

"William Peabody," Bill said, offering his hand.

The stranger shook it, looking a bit confused.

"I mean," he said, slowly, "this is the room where I'll be staying this semester."

"That's about what I figured," Bill replied, nodding.

The guy scowled, muttered something under his breath, and finally finished entering the room. He put one large suitcase on the far bed (the near one still having some of Bill's stuff on it) and another one on the associated desk. Then he turned and glowered at Bill.

"Well? Don't you want to know who I am?"

"You're Edward Bellamy. Both our names are on the rooming assignment."

The other looked astounded.

"But... I'm supposed to have a room by myself."

"Don't blame me. I didn't make the room assignments."

The larger teen looked like he wanted to do just that, but instead exited the room, muttering again. He hadn't returned by the time Bill finished putting his things away and decided to hunt up something to eat. As Bill passed by the ground floor offices for the dorm he could hear Ed's voice, loud and agitated, protesting that he was a football star and was supposed to have a room alone.

"Going to be an interesting semester," sighed Bill, quietly.

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf

Bill snuffled eagerly around the massive old tree, tail wagging. Definite Garou scent, here. He wasn't sure, using his wolf vision, but he thought he could make out one of their glyphs carved on a nearby rock, as well. He picked a spot reserved for visitors to announce themselves and marked it. Then he moved off a bit, raised his head, and howled.

The message was simple: Peaceful visitor requests meeting. He only gave it once. If they were close enough to hear that was all he needed to do. If they weren't, he could howl all evening with no result. Then, he lay down in the open to wait. He was sure, though, they'd have someone listening. And maybe watching.

The reply was less than ten minutes in coming, and Bill took as given they had spent a few of those checking him and the surrounding area first. It wasn't paranoia when everyone really was out to get you... The wolves strode from the underbrush, wary but showing dominance cues. Wolf etiquette was nearly first nature to Bill, and he responded appropriately, showing deference, greeting the obvious leader first, then the others in descending order of rank. All this before anyone tried beastspeech.

" *What are your tribe and rank?* asked the pack Alpha, obviously puzzled.

That was understandable. Bill did not carry Garou scent (though that in itself didn't mean he wasn't one, since some could disguise this, and some simply didn't have it). Though traces of his other form's scent carried over, just now he smelled mostly like a non-supernatural wolf.

" *Not Garou,* Bill clarified. *Friend and ally of Dragon Watch Pack, of the Sept of Open Skies.*

Outright lies were close to impossible in beastspeech, but Bill could still fulfill his Pooka nature by being ambiguous, not telling the complete truth, or some combination.

" *As we were told to expect,* the pack Theurge noted.

They shifted to Crinos, a form anything not also a supernatural creature would have found instinctively terrifying. Also, while Changelings were not subject to the Delirium as mortals were, most would still find even one Garou in Crinos intimidating. Bill, on the other hand, was mildly impressed. There were some spectacular battle scars and decorations among that pack. The Sept had sent their best - or close to it - to greet him.

" *My man-skins are there,* Bill stated, pointing towards some bushes with his nose. *I will be back soon.*

Actually, he felt little need for human clothing when around Garou, but he did need to be out of their sight to change back to human, something he didn't wish to reveal. Once on two legs and dressed, Bill emerged and finished his introduction in a more complete manner than the wolf form allowed.

"So, just what is this business you are engaged in which may require Garou help?" asked the Alpha, StormRunner, after the Pooka finished.

"It probably won't, actually," said Bill. "But it could. And we figured that since I'd be doing a lot of running around in wolf form it was better to tell you up front who the stranger is."

All of which was true, but told with an easy vagueness which let Bill fulfill his Pooka nature without actually lying to creatures any one of whom could dismember a Cape Buffalo in seconds.

"We appreciate your thoughtfulness," said Banesnatcher, the Theurge. "We rarely come into the city, and when we do the reasons are usually both dire and urgent."

"While we occasionally work with the local Changelings, we know little about them and they little about us," said StormRunner. "I welcome the opportunity both for more formal contact, and to learn more about your kind."

"Well, I'm not really typical for a Changeling, even a Pooka," said Bill. He grinned. "People say I must have been a Garou in a previous life."

Such a statement carried a bit of risk, since claiming a Garou could ever reincarnate as anything else might be taken as an insult. However, these particular individuals already knew he was an ally of another, and respected, Pack. Given that, they figured he probably had a right to claim to be something special.

The Alpha shifted to human and invited Bill to sit on a nearby fallen log. Most of the others also shifted to human to sit. Two, however, returned to wolf form and left. Bill assumed one was reporting to the Sept and the other patrolling the area. He'd seen the Dragons do similar things often enough.

To Bill's surprise, StormRunner was quite interested in him and his activities with the Dragon Watch Pack. Bill went into what he thought of as Ragabash Emulation Mode, telling things largely straight, but with an air of easy humor seasoned by occasional interjections and elaborations obviously intended to be both untruthful and amusing. He noted that the Garou were impressed with his command of their language, which contained elements of beastspeech and human sounds, making it quite flexible. At one point the Ragabash of this little group caught Bill's eye and winked. Bill grinned back. As kindred spirits they recognized and presumably understood each other, which was important if Bill was going to have good relations with this group.

Finally, StormRunner was satisfied.

"You have my promise that we will honor the agreement your Sept made with ours," he stated. "These are the places where you may leave messages."

What followed was a sight, scent and sound description of specific locations where Bill could leave a note or a scent mark or a scratched glyph. He knew that most - perhaps all - of these places would have in them spirits allied with the Garou, spirits which normally would relay messages left by Garou. StormRunner didn't mention this, and neither did Bill. Since he had no talent with spirits, and they were very unlikely to respond to a non-Garou, he wouldn't be able to communicate with them directly, anyway. Though presumably they would let the Garou know a message had been left.

StormRunner stood, Bill and the others immediately following his lead. He formally welcomed Bill to their region, and then surprised the Pooka by making him an official ally of the pack. This was an unexpected honor, and apparently surprised some of the pack members as much as it did Bill. The wolf Pooka, for once speaking the complete truth, formally thanked him for the honor.

"And now, I think you had better be on your way back," said StormRunner, grinning. "You college students need your sleep!"

It was a small joke, but any sort of humor was rare from an Ahroun. Bill and the others chuckled politely, and Bill made his farewells.

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Long Distance Runaround" by Yes

Bill's next task was to introduce himself formally to the local Duke. The Court of Duke Wotchermacalt was in a run-down mansion in a seedy neighborhood on the outskirts of Columbus. The area had at one time been upper middle class, but had slowly yielded to decay over the past few decades. The chimerical seeming was much grander than the mundane one, but still gave an impression of age and deterioration. Bill pulled his Fairlane into the main entrance, stopping to speak to the Troll in the guard booth.

"State your business."

"I am William Peabody, Pooka, of the Court of his Lordship, Baron Haldrin, here to make myself known to his Grace, the Duke," he said, formally.

Since he actually was here on a secret mission he could say the above straight out. Of course, that might make people wonder what he really meant, since Pookas almost never told the exact truth. On the other hand, people normally didn't think too much about what Pookas said, because that tended to give them headaches.

"Enter peacefully and be welcome," said the Troll, as he raised the pole.

Bill parked where indicated, and by the time he exited there was a retainer waiting to escort him. The inside was in a bit better shape than the outside, but still gave the impression that the place had been let go for years. Bill could feel the power of this Freehold, which while not ancient was respectably old. The magic seemed quiet and tamed, there but not insistently. The freehold's chimeras were mostly similar to the structure itself, appearing elderly, tired and a bit worn. They tended to resemble classical - and often caricatured - household servants.

"Sluagh must hate this place," said Bill, peering into a dim corner where he thought he actually saw one of the pale creatures.

"Thank you, young sir," said the servant, beaming.

They stopped while the servant opened a pair of double doors, then ushered Bill in. The wolf Pooka repeated his introduction, with a sweeping bow. The room looked, smelled and felt like an old house which didn't get aired out much, in both aspects. However, the chimerical aspect was Baroquely appointed, and quite attractive, if a bit gaudy.

"And how is Baron Haldrin?" his Grace asked.

"As well as can be expected, sir," said Bill, smiling politely.

"Well enough to think he needed to keep tabs on his old acquaintance, at any rate."

"Uh..." said Bill.

"Don't trouble yourself," sighed the Duke, with a tight smile. "You made a sudden change in plans to come here and insert yourself into our society. I don't know why your Lord has this sudden desire to learn of what passes in my Court, but I understand his methods. I hold nothing against either him or you."

"Thank you, your Grace," said Bill, with another bow.

"Now, tell me of Baron Haldrin and what his infamous crew of troubleshooters have been up to recently."

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren

Bill had been given names and locations of several contacts in the area, some of them right on campus. Three of these were in one dorm, which was the headquarters of a Changeling group known as the Campus Revel. Larger than a motley, not quite a Freehold, the dorm residents were supposedly all kinain or kithain. Bill entered a bit hesitantly. For a place which wasn't a Freehold, the Revel was strong with the force, and currently occupied by many Changelings. One of whom - a fellow Pooka - immediately approached Bill.

"Hi!" said the bouncy avian boy. "I'm Plucky."

"I noticed," said Bill, grinning.

"Welcome to the Revel!" said the avian Pooka. He leaned in close and spoke more quietly. "Not everyone currently in here is in the know, if you know what I mean, so ixnay on the agic-may."

"Oh, I am definitely accustomed to performing miracles among strangers," said Bill, snickering.

As on most Saturdays, this one was largely an all-day party for the Revel. However, that didn't mean that everyone there was there all day, partying. The membership changed through time, at least until after dark. Then most people who arrived stayed until the revel broke up. Finding that none of his contacts was currently available, Bill settled in for a hopefully enjoyable wait. Immediately, he attracted a small crowd, some of whom had heard a bit about his exploits, and some of whom merely wanted to get to know the newcomer.

On the other hand, he was far from the only person attracting attention.

"Who's that guy over there?" Bill asked Plucky, pointing to a tall, lean, blond young man, as the party began to really get started, in the early evening. "His chimerical aspect is rock solid, as if he can't decide whether he's a human or a Sidhe."

"The Eshu? He's the father of Judy, that Satyr over there, making sure he sees her constantly," the duck boy replied. "She says he had his Chrysalis over a week ago and is completely ready to join Changeling society, knowing everything about it. She's afraid the fact he's here tonight means he's finished his dream dance."

"Wow," said Bill. "I've attended every Chrysalis except my own, and like everyone else I remember everything about it."

"Nothing special to see tonight, then," said Plucky, grinning in anticipation.

              *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix

Reality kept slipping away from Leo. He tried to keep himself busy, setting up his dorm room and getting a start on his studies, but things kept distracting him. Things which most people would have been trying to convince themselves weren't actually there. But Leo knew they heralded something important. Something vital, and magical. If he could just figure out what it was...

Though Leo's family lived in the area he and his sister Judy had both made the decision to live in dorms, at least the first year. They'd both used the excuse that this would help them focus on school, but had admitted to each other that they actually wanted to focus on school life. Leo didn't want to start the semester by going to a raucous party, the way some students did to celebrate being back among their peers. Still, he was not having much luck ignoring the strange urge he felt to go out.

Finally, he gave in and went to the Campus Revel. Leo was a lifelong resident in Columbus, and had known about the place for years. This was his first visit, however. The Revel was actually the informal name for another dorm, one with a reputation for wild activities. For some reason, he felt that being among that sort of crowd might help with whatever was bothering him.

At first things seemed okay. However, the odd sensations he had been experiencing lately soon increased, until they were actually - for the first time - distracting him from reality. And as those sensations increased, so did the attention some of the others at the Revel were paying him.

Leo sat on a couch off to one side, in what appeared to be a quiet spot, at least for the moment. There had only been one other occupant when he arrived, a young woman who appeared even more uncomfortable than Leo. When he sat, on the far end of the couch from her, she gave him an odd look, then quickly rose and left. Leo sighed; she'd been quite attractive, but obviously had seen something in him she didn't like. Unfortunately, an older man - that is, someone who looked to be in his early twenties - seemed to see something he did like. He moved casually over to stand in front of Leo, and stood there for a long, quiet moment, examining him. Leo looked up at him, expectantly, hoping the guy wasn't going to make a pass at him.

"Yep," said the older man, nodding and smiling. "Harmonic tremors. Good luck."

He turned and left. Leo blinked and shook his head. For a moment - just a moment - he'd thought the man had goat legs and horns. This - whatever it was - had now reached the point where the people - and even the room itself - kept changing. That young man over there suddenly had wolf ears, nose and tail. The life-sized poster of a door opened and someone with pointed ears stepped through. And they all - even the odd things which weren't in any way human - were watching him, in eager anticipation.

Leo suddenly lunged to his feet and fled.

  • * *

Theme for this section: "It Can Happen" by Yes

The alley was cold and dark and dank. It also smelled. Leo felt... empty. At the Campus Revel he'd been too full - of beer, of company, of noise, of things he didn't even have names for - but now that was all gone, leaving just him. And he was no longer sure that was enough.

This is why some people get married to someone they don't love or even like, he thought, in revelation. They can't stand being themselves; they need someone else to complete them.

Was he really that... Shallow?! Or did it just seem that way, because of college and the beer and...

No, thought Leo, with a firm defiance which surprised him. I am not empty!

Color and sound filled the alley, and the scent of fresh-cut grass. Things danced in the corners of his eyes, and voices whispered manically. And there, in the distance, in a direction which he had never before known to exist, he could see... marvels. Leo gaped, and took a step back. For a moment, the magical scene wavered, even fading a bit, as he thought to reject it. Then, with a shouted "Yes!" he accepted, realizing that not only was he not empty, but so full it spilled over and tinted the world around him with wonder. And the Glamour soared.

This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: stickmaker@usa.net

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