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: "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull
"Thank Ghu our no-see-um spells were still up," said Plucky, weakly, as they waited for the ambulance. "Now, can someone please tell this poor little green duck just what that thing was?"
"It's a fomori," said Bill, for once deadly serious.
"It's a creature which exists in the Umbra. Some of them can affect the tellurian. The physical world. Only this one is affecting the chimerical nature of things, instead. It's something we need to tell the Garou about."
"You want to bring the Gallain in on this?!" said Theodora, outraged.
"Trust me. While we could probably kill it, we'd most likely have no casualties. They can talk to it quietly and convince it to change its ways without any of them getting seriously hurt. I've never seen Garou fight."
"This... this explains all those mysterious heart seizures," said Leo, quietly, as he knelt by his uncle's body, weeping.
An ambulance turned the corner, heading towards them.
"Okay, Leo needs a ride but the rest of you can stay here," said Bill, thinking. "Then I can take you all with me while I contact the skunks."
"Suits me," said Plucky, disappointed.
"Wait," said Theodora, deciphering that. "You mean you don't want us along when you contact these werewolves?"
"They'd probably have you for dinner," said Bill.
"Ow..." said Plucky, wincing.
"Well, I don't know," said Theodora, not certain. "Letting you go alone to ask them to kill something for us..."
"It's a wolf thing," said Bill, grinning to reveal his elongated canines.
They said quiet goodbyes to Leo, all three making physical contact, Theodora actually hugging him. Then they made room for the paramedics.
Bill dropped Theodora at the Duke's Freehold, and left Plucky at the Campus Revel, both of them charged with spreading the warning.
He could have gone to the woods where he met the Guardians of Gaia Pack, but that would have taken over an hour, with a like time to return. Instead he parked his car as usual, went behind some bushes near his dorm, stripped and changed to wolf. Tags jingling, he trotted to the nearest contact point, attracting little attention thanks to his outings with Judy. At the designated spot he carefully scratched a Garou glyph in the dirt. Debbie and her pack mates had only taught him a few of these, with this being among the most important. They emphasized the importance of getting the act right, far more than the exact size and shape of the lines. This particular one was a call for help. Now, to see if he could actually trigger the spirit embedded in the large boulder beside where he had scratched.
A few minutes later Bill returned with a squirrel, which he placed on the glyph. Nothing happened. Sighing, Bill moved off a bit, under some large bushes, turned around in place (well, he was domesticated) and lay down to wait. He glanced over at the glyph... and noticed the squirrel was gone. Bill lifted his head and peered. Could it have been stolen by some dog or cat in that short time? Something told him that just maybe he had more Garou in him that he had thought.
Sure enough, not fifteen minutes later he caught sight and sound of a feral-looking man approaching from upwind. Bill recognized him as Fleetfoot from the Guardians Pack. He rose and approached, tail wagging, head lowered and ears down.
"So it was you," the man said, nodding, as he crouched and acted as if he were a human seeing if a large dog were friendly.
Bill followed his lead and sniffed the Ragabash's hand. Then, with yelps, whines and postures, let the Garou know there was a fomori nearby which needed killing. Fleetfoot nodded. Bill then asked the Garou to follow him.
Shortly, dressed and human again, he explained the situation in more detail.
"I definitely think this is something my Pack would be interested in handling," said Fleetfoot, nodding again. "I'll go back and relay your request. Where can we meet?"
"That rock should be okay," said Bill, nodding in return. "How long will this take?"
"Travel in the Umbra is never certain," said the Garou, "but I think about an hour. By the way, just how did you manage to get that raven spirit to relay your message?"
"Gave it a squirrel," said Bill, easily.
"No, I meant... Oh, never mind." The Ragabash laughed. "I must be off!"
"I've long thought so," said Bill, appreciating a good straight man.
With another laugh, Fleetfoot glanced at his watch, and faded from view.
"Oooh, shiny," said Bill, grinning.
He didn't know if they'd mind him knowing, but he decided not to let on that he was well aware Garou needed to look at a reflecting surface to step sideways in to the Umbra. Just as he couldn't change forms if someone was looking.
"Secrets all 'round," he whispered, as he began walking back to the rock.
* * *
Theme for this section: "One Vision" by Queen
This time Bill actually was able to nap before some subtle shift in the feel of things alerted him. He sat up from where he had been dozing, leaning against the bole of a tree, yawned, shook his head, then stood. He could tell they were coming; every natural creature in the area, including humans, was suddenly tense and uneasy.
The stepped out from between two nearby buildings, from an alley which was a dead end. And every bystander in the area - as well as every dog, cat, squirrel and many other creatures - suddenly decided they had business elsewhere. Bill grinned with a feral empathy at the strange men and women.
"So, where is this monster of yours?" said StormRunner, actually looking pleased.
"Current whereabouts unknown," said Bill. He pulled out his cell phone. "Last I heard, word was being spread for all available eyes to watch for it. I haven't checked on their progress, but if you will allow..."
StormRunner nodded. Bill called Plucky.
"Yo, green duck! What's the word?"
He listened for several long moments, occasionally making a grunted interjection, then hung up.
"It's blatantly obvious," he sighed.
"He means they haven't seen it since the attack," said Fleetfoot, translating after StormRunner sent him a quizzical glance.
"If you will allow, noble lupine sirs, our liege has arranged a waiting place for you while we deal with this matter."
"That's fine," said StormRunner, though Bill noted a subtle increase in his alertness.
Well, that was understandable. He'd just been invited to wait who-knows-where by some elf while a bunch of Knockers, Boggans, Satyrs, and who-knew-what-else kept watch for a monster of a type they'd never heard of before. No reason at all to be nervous.
"If you will be so good as to follow me I will show you the way to the humble facilities we have procured," said Bill, smiling and bowing.
"He's worse than a Ragabash," one of the pack members muttered. Bill thought it was Fleetfoot.
As they approached the Campus Revel they were intercepted by Judy, Theodora and Plucky, along with some members of the Campus Revel.
"They spotted it downtown!" yelled Judy, as they hurried towards Bill and the Garou. "Near the convention center!"
"We know where that is," said StormRunner, nodding.
"And the consensus is they'll probably have to be enchanted to even see the thing," said Theodora.
"Wish I'd thought of that," said Bill, wincing.
"What is this process?"
"We grant you some of our magic, so you may see the world as we do," said Judy, a bit out of breath from hurrying to beat the rest of her group to the rendezvous.
She needn't have bothered. Except for her, Theodora and a couple of Trolls, everyone else was hanging back, obviously intimidated. Even further away were some humans, casting worried glances at the two groups as they hurried elsewhere. Bill wondered if the campus police would be notified of a gang confrontation about to happen. Few of those assembled in either group looked particularly respectable to mundane eyes, and most were in their late teens. Judy, though actually seemed enthralled by the newcomers.
"It's completely harmless, except to your worldview and peace of mind," said Bill, grinning.
"Don't bother on my account," said GreenEyes, a bit smugly. "It's not something I can do casually, but I have already done it, just after we arrived in Columbus. I can tell these two are a Knocker and a Satyr, and those two are both Trolls."
Bill was impressed, as were some of the others, both Changeling and Garou.
"I didn't know you could do that," said StormRunner, his tone actually a bit accusing.
"It just never came up before," she replied, with a shrug. "Sorry. Something some of us Fianna can do."
"And this enchanting is safe for us?"
"I've seen it done before, with no harm except that it might make us feel a bit intoxicated."
Mollified, StormRunner gave permission for the Changelings to proceed. Volunteers from the Campus Revel were assigned a Garou to enchant, and the process soon completed.
"Wow..." said Fleetfoot. "The colors..."
"Enough clowning around," said StormRunner, not quite managing to convey the attitude that the sudden revelation of the chimerical seeming was making no impression. "We have a Fomor to kill."
He nodded to the assembled Changelings and turned towards downtown. The Garou quickly formed behind him.
"We'll meet you there!" Bill called out.
Despite the Changelings scrambling for vehicles and driving above the speed limit, the battle was well underway when they reached the convention center. None of the observers needed to be told not to get too close; with half a dozen Garou in Crinos in full battle mode nobody was getting close. The monster seemed larger than before, and was definitely putting up a good fight. The man-wolf forms blurred around it like wolves harrying a moose in fast forward.
Humans scurried for cover, looking panicked. Bill wondered just what they were seeing. Few without some sort of supernatural connection could truly perceive a Garou in the dread Crinos war form, towering and raging. His attention was mostly on the fight, but he did hear several people desperately reporting giant dogs having a fight on their cell phones.
One of the Garou was caught by a vicious swipe which sent it (telling the gender of a Garou in Crinos is difficult) pinwheeling through the air. It glanced off a car windshield and slammed into the front wall of a bank, the impact setting off alarms in both. It dropped to the sidewalk, a broken and bleeding thing. The Garou then sat up, shook its head, healed and jumped back into the fight with undiminished fervor.
"Remind me never to make one of them angry," said Plucky, faintly.
Despite the size and vigor of their prey, the Garou made short work of it. Less than a minute after the last of the Changelings arrived the mantis-like monster was in twitching pieces, which were slowly dissolving into mist. Panting and bleeding but obviously happy, StormRunner approached Bill. The fact that he was still in Crinos, taller even than the Trolls, made those around the wolf Pooka cringe back.
"Good fight!" said StormRunner, in the Garou language, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
"What was that?" said Judy, timidly, perhaps worried he was upset about something.
"Uh, he says the fight is over, they were glad to help, and thanks for the workout."
"That's a lot of information in just a bark," said Theodora.
"It's a compact language," said Bill.
StormRunner laughed, shifted to Homid, gathered his Pack and headed out.
"So... what do we do with those pieces?" said Theodora. "Not to mention all the attention this will bring."
"Crab salad?" said Bill, innocently. "And you'd be surprised."
"Eeewww..." said Judy. "And you still haven't answered either of my questions."
"Look at the expressions of the humans," said Theodora, making a sweeping gesture. "They're out of it!"
"That, my friends, is the Delirium at work," said Bill. "The sight of a Garou in Crinos evokes such deep, instinctive horror in humans that their minds can't cope. They slide all around, mentally, to avoid actually admitting to themselves what they just saw. 'Oh, it was a pack of large dogs, attacking some poor animal,' they'll say. Between that and the Mists no-one here should remember more than the vaguest of details."
"I can believe that," said Judy, quietly. "I'm not sure I want to admit what I just saw."
"As for the remains of the Fomor," said Bill, "well, there's no reason at all to go into the Dreaming and see what effect all this has had."
"For that we need to talk to the Duke," said Theodora.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Caribbean Blue" by Enya
"His Grace has anticipated your request," said the Sidhe retainer. "This way, please."
Well, they had called ahead to spread the good news, and ask if anyone wanted to help explore the effects the fight had produced in the Dreaming. Of course, only the core four actually volunteered.
Bill had been shown where the Freehold's rath, or passage to the Dreaming, was, but not used it or seen it used. He felt a bit excited over the prospect of doing so.
The rath itself was in the form of an ornate oaken door in a wall of the Duke's study. As Bill, Judy, Theodora and Plucky waited, the retainer, smiling, unlocked the door and opened it to reveal a cedar-lined storage closet.
"Nothing up my sleeve," he announced, as he closed the door. He relocked it, then began humming as he unlocked and reopened it. "Presto!"
The door now opened upon a flowery field in the Near Dreaming.
"Have you ever seen a dream, walking?" said Bill, grinning at the Sidhe retainer, who simply winked.
"Since you now know the secret, simply use it to return when you are ready."
"Secret?" said Judy, puzzled. "What secret?"
The others had all missed the clue. Bill felt particularly smug as he led the way through.
The went down the frilly but sturdy silver stairs onto the lawn, the retainer closing the door behind them. Turning, they saw that the manor existed here as a small but dignified fairy castle. The land around the castle appeared to extend indefinitely in the Near Dreaming.
"I remember being told that several trods cross this land or terminate on it," said Judy, "but all are chimerical, with no Silver Path."
"Well, it's not all that far," said Bill, with a sigh.
There were few people around, most of them manor workers taking a break, but many chimeras could be seen. Winged fairies danced and sang to a determined-looking man wearing archaic naturalist's clothing and carrying a butterfly net.
They set off at a fast walk. As the mortal world's chimerical seeming was to its mundane seeming, so was the Near Dreaming to the Chimerical seeming of the mortal world. Colors were brighter, sounds clearer, scents more noticeable. There were fewer buildings, here, and those mostly of gingerbread or polished stone. The few exceptions were dark places they avoided. Places where twisted dreams lurked and gibbered.
Nearly an hour passed as they wandered through the dreams of Columbus, before they finally reached the convention center.
"Wow..." said Plucky, as the stopped to stare.
"I guess... a lot of dreams have happened here*," said Judy, a smile spreading unbidden across her face.
There was no sign of the soulsucker, as they had come to call it, but there were definitely signs of the battle.
"Wow..." Plucky repeated, as they stood examining the damage.
"Nightmares, broken dreams, deliriums..." said Theodora. "Do we try to fix any of this?"
"Certainly," said Bill, after a moment. "We're entirely qualified and there's more than enough of us. No need to tell the Duke about this."
"I think I have to agree," said Judy. "We might be able to do a fair job, but I doubt we could do it right. Better leave it to the experts."
"Okay," said Theodora, with a shrug. "It's not like anyone is likely to be sleeping here soon, anyway."
"*Among other things, it hosts MarCon every year.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Golden Years" by David Bowie
"Poor Leo," said Ilse, Her Grace, Duchess of the Court of Glass. "He was much closer than Judy to their uncle. He's taking this hard."
"He's also taking the responsibility for informing his family," said Adam, His Grace, the Duke, sadly. "He's growing up too fast."
"He's eighteen," said Her Grace, firmly.
"But to have this forced on him... to witness such a thing..."
She moved to him, put her arms around him.
"Some children naturally grow up faster than others," she said. "Just look at young William."
"I think in his case it was more a matter of being forced take on some adult responsibilities early," said His Grace. "I'm just impressed he retains so much of the Childling sense of wonder and excitement."
"I've heard this teacher of his is SÍochÁin," said Ilse, smiling. "Such a one would certainly be able to teach balance."
"I just wish we had someone like that at our school," said the Duke. "Lady Fang has repeatedly refused all efforts to entice her to teach. She says - and I can certainly follow her reasoning - that she is too dissociated from youth and childhood."
"Have you ever found out just how old she is?"
"At least a full century," said the Duke, obviously impressed. "That's how long she has owned the land, handing it over to herself under new names every few decades. That Freehold of hers is actually more potent than ours, here at the Manor, though she disguises it's vigor from the casual observer."
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