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: "Ants Marching" by Dave Mathews Band
"I'll take care of this, Henry," said the Duke, waving the Troll away. The guard had brought Bill to a small, private chamber off the main court room to meet His Grace, himself, which startled Bill. The Pooka began to wonder just how much trouble he was in. After the big, green goon left, His Grace stared at Bill for a long moment, making the young man increasingly uncomfortable. "I want you to tell me what you think is going on here. Then I'll tell you what is going on here. Because I want to make certain - as foolish as such a hope might be with a Pooka - you tell your liege the whole, plain, unvarnished truth."
Bill swallowed, and looked the Duke directly in the eye.
"I suspect that Seif Raushan brought Caliburn here to select a new High King."
The older man actually looked startled.
"No, no," said the Duke, with an easy - and false - laugh. "Sir Seif came here to announce that Morewen and Lenore have accepted High Queen Faerilyth's offer!"
"What offer?" queried Bill, puzzled.
"That if they recognize her as High Queen Dowager, she'll abdicate in favor of Lenore, with Morewen as Reagent!"
Bill knew only slightly more about Sidhe politics than he did about human politics. That is, he recognized the names and some of the titles.
"I assume that's something good," he replied.
"Oh, very good. It means an alliance between two of the most powerful factions vying for control of the Changeling world. It allows the High Queen - soon to be High Queen Dowager - and Sir Seif to continue searching for her husband with the support of the High Court without nearly as much interference from Court duties or intrigues. And it quiets many of the baseless rumors which held that these two parties had good reason to be mortal enemies, and likewise the motivation for followers of one group to act against followers of the other."
Bill peered at the older man. Old man; Bill recalled that he was well past eighty, though thanks to the time he spent in this Freehold he appeared much younger.
"You seem quite happy about this," Bill said. "Doesn't it mean peace in our time?"
The bravely posted smile on His Grace's face faded, and he sighed, now looking much closer to his actual age.
"It never lasts," he whispered. "Glamor fades; we age and die."
"And are never reborn," said Bill, with the self-assurance of personal experience.
"With Winter coming?" said the Duke, mildly. His face became gloom-filled, his tone morose. "The twin towers have fallen and the world moves towards greater darkness. The Red Star is here. Already, it affects all of us, even the mundane humans."
Bill couldn't help but shiver. He couldn't see the thing, himself, but he'd heard others mention it, including Debbie and a few other Garou.
"So far," he said, dryly, "the only effects I've seen are those people think it has on them."
To his surprise, the Duke laughed, and meant it this time.
"Ah, Pooka," he said, actually putting his hand on Bill's shoulder. "Thank you. Sometimes it takes a jester to put things in their proper perspective. Yes, it is definitely foolish to make trouble before it arrives. Now, come on; I want to introduce you to Sir Seif, and hear the news from him directly."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John
(No, the lyrics aren't "She's got electric boobs! They're mohair, too!")
In Bill's opinion, the best thing about this whole mission was the Campus Revel and its members. He'd heard about kinain and even kithain bands, of course, but was surprised to find that not only did they actually exist, but one of them was based in Columbus. Fiery Blood was, in fact, just returned from a successful tour, and giving a "We've Come Home!" concert that weekend.
"They're all kinain," said Plucky, excitedly. "And all Enchanted! Not just the band, but most of the audience!"
"That seems... rather unlikely," Bill countered, naturally thinking the other Pooka was exaggerating.
He was, of course, but not by much. Though few of them could do much with Glamour, the band and audience could definitely generate it. The music was more folksy than Bill liked, but he could tell it was good, and intoxicated enough by the flood of magic not to care it wasn't exactly to his taste.
Afterwards, still more than a bit high, Bill accompanied several members of the Revel to a nightclub. This was a human institution, but there were several Changelings there, and a number of people were identified as kinain by Plucky and some of the others. Bill was surprised at just how many present were actively on the make, including his erstwhile guide. At one point Pluck sidled up to an attractive blond and grinned. Bill felt him use just enough Glamour for the girl to be partially enchanted, and see things which weren't quite what she was expecting. Since she was already mildly drunk, she took the revelations pretty calmly.
"Hi," said Plucky, in what he apparently thought was a sexy voice. "Wanna duck?"
The human girl stared at him for a moment, not sure exactly what she was seeing and hearing but obviously curious. Then she smirked.
"Gee, I dunno," she countered. "I generally don't go feather than a kiss on the first date."
"I think I'm in loooove," sighed Plucky.
As it turned out, Plucky went with her, leaving Bill alone and feeling a bit lonely. He'd had the usual adolescent lusts but never seriously been attracted to anyone except Debbie. Somehow, he'd always known - and she had told him the same, more than once - that each of them was the only one the other would ever want. Bill missed her greatly. All this courting and posturing seemed ridiculously shallow. He sighed and headed back to his dorm early.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Red Barchetta" by Rush
"This car," sighed Plucky, looking sadly around the old Fairlaine.
"What about this car?" countered Bill, defensively.
"I mean, well, look at it! It's old, it's decrepit... Why don't you get a new one?
"Fasten your seat belt and I'll show you," said Bill, taking a quick look around as he came to a halt at a stop sign.
Nothing was coming, and there was no traffic visible ahead. The old muscle car surged forward with a chirp of the tires far out of proportion to the roar of the engine and the force shoving them back in their seats. Bill shifted agilely, the car reaching the speed limit in just over 2 seconds. Plucky yelled as they entered a curve at a seemingly suicidal speed. However, the car held the road as if on rails, and Bill gunned the engine coming out of the turn to recover the lost speed.
After several seconds of this they were approaching traffic, and Bill slowed to a more conventional pace.
"This is a Ford Fairlaine 1970 Cobra Jet Ram Air 429," said Bill, proudly. "Symphonic exhaust, evacuated inlet, platinum spark plugs, rotary cam, flubber tires and rectabular excrusion brackets at all four corners... who cares how it looks? And the extreme appearance is actually a bonus, since it lets me take people by surprise."
"Well, I just left a surprise in your seat!"
"Can we please concentrate on getting where we're supposed to go without setting new land speed records?" said Leo, testily, from the back seat. He was coming to dislike Pookas intensely.
They were on their way to do a favor for the Duke. He had asked them to carry word of the agreement revealed by Seif Raushan to an isolated Sidhe outside the city. Bill's car had been one reason the Duke had asked him to provide transportation. He seemed to have a thing for big, powerful vehicles.
"What kind of Sidhe name is Lady Fang?" asked Bill, as he turned down the country road which was supposed to lead to the entrance.
"I couldn't tell you the details," said Leo, "but I'm assured it's appropriate."
"Should be a while, yet," said Bill, peering ahead.
"There it is!" said Leo.
The muscle car turned into the drive and stopped at the massive - but apparently purely decorative - stone and wrought iron gates.
"'Glenn of Eternal Repose'?" said Plucky, reading the sign on the left.
"It is a place of the dead which is also a home to several of us."
All three jumped and whipped around in their seats. There, leaning casually against the right gate - somehow unseen before now - was an elder Satyr Grump. He grinned at them.
"Good mornin'. I'm Dancing John. What brings you to our place of rest?"
"A-beeble-babble..." said Plucky.
"Greetings, wise Satyr," said Leo, unfastening his seat belt and standing inside the rear of the car to turn and properly address their greeter. "I am Leo, here on behalf of His Grace, the Duke, to bring important word to Lady Fang."
"Figured it was something like that," said the Satyr, nodding. "You can park to the right, inside the gate. Then I'll take you to her."
The Boneyard's mortal seeming was an old and well-tended cemetery, shaded by huge, ancient trees carrying much moss and lichen, with occasional outcroppings of bedrock poking through an exquisitely cared-for lawn. It was the sort of place many would choose - and, according to the testimony of their eyes, had chosen - for their final rest. Its fae seeming was like the mortal one, only moreso. They could feel that it was a Freehold, though not a strong one.
"What a place," breathed Bill.
"Sluagh have been known to swoon from exquisite melancholy on first viewing it," Dancing John observed with a smirk. "Some of them are convinced Lady Fang is actually one of them. She also has the local vampires thinking she's one of them."
"How do you know she's not a vampire who has the local Changelings fooled into thinking she's one to them?" Plucky asked innocently.
The Satyr laughed and patted the duck Pooka on the back. As he led them deeper into the cemetery they were watched by many chimeras, as well we a small number of Changelings and at least one human.
"That's Maisy. She's mortal, but a hedge witch. Hey, Maisy!"
"Hello, John," the attractive young blond replied, waving. "Who are our guests? The blond one looks especially yummy."
"Down, girl. They're here on business for the Duke. You can socialize later. Now, those grey chimeras over there are the Stone Gang. They're mostly harmless. The tall, thin, fellow in black with the measuring tape is the Dark Man, our legally required Sluagh. And that big wall of fur coming in from the left is Siruscue Gald, affectionately known as Sue."
Bill was startled. Very startled. Even more startled than Leo and Plucky, who froze in place. "Sue" was a Garou in Crinos! Yet, he didn't act like a Garou. And other people didn't react to him as they normally would the Crinos form. Though they certainly noticed he wasn't, uhm, normal.
"Sue's security. A lot of it. Dark Man! Messengers for our Lady! Any idea where she is?"
"I should think, this being morning, she would be by the balefire," the Sluagh replied, in a whisper which somehow sounded deep and ominous. "I am not too thrilled at being out even in these shadows, but duty calls. We have a service this late afternoon."
"Thank you! I'll be sure to spread the word. Okay, boys, this way to the sepulcher!"
* * *
Theme for this section: "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" by the Hollies
One of the metal doors to the large, above-ground vault was open; the eerie glue-green light of the balefire dimly reflecting from the polished stone of the inner walls.
"Lady Fang, we have visitors with a message from the Duke."
"Enter," came a definitely Sidhe voice.
The interior was vertical stone walls with a corbeled roof and rough floor, all of granite porphyry. What drew their attention first was the balefire, which was in a heavy bronze brazier in the middle of the slightly uneven floor. Against the far wall was a simple but comfortable cot. Around the walls, and on either side of the doorway, were sturdy bookshelves. The brazier appeared Grecian, and was decorated with images of Apollo. Many items on the shelves were also very old, the oldest being scrolls of roughly the same age as the brazier. To their arcane sight the room and furnishings appeared cleaner and better appointed than it would have to an unenchanted human, as well as much larger.
The strange Sidhe woman nodded and smiled politely at Bill and the others. Yet her gaze was distant, her manner preoccupied. She turned back in the same direction she had been looking when they entered.
"I think that is all, Shorty. Thank you."
And, dimly, they could see that there was someone there. A translucent specter of a short man in archaic clothes. He eyed the visitors briefly, bowed to Lady Fang and vanished.
"What was that?!" said Bill, his fur standing on end.
"My liaison among the Wraiths," said Lady Fang. "Now, what is this message you bring me?"
Leo swallowed nervously and advanced. He bowed to Lady Fang, introduced himself and his companions, then relayed the message and how it came to His Grace.
"Interesting," said Lady Fang, in a tone which said she considered it only barely so. "Yes. I think I shall have to speak with this sword-bearer. I suspect there is more to his visit than Adam is letting us know."
She frowned and peered at the trio of visitors. Especially Bill.
"Yes. Much more... I think Lord Exsanguine might even be involved, somehow. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Feel free to stay a while and refresh yourselves."
She turned back to the balefire, dismissing them.
* * *
Theme for this section: "obsession" by animotion
"Who is this Lord Exsanguine?" said Bill, as they wandered around the cemetery.
"Oh, he's the local vampire Prince," said Plucky, easily.
"Shyeah, right," sneered Leo.
"Lord Exsanguine," said Maisy, who was walking with them, "is an old vampire with a lot on his mind. Why, simply keeping the wolf from the door requires stringent precautions and great effort. Of course, it's all worth it. I mean, when was the last time you saw a werewolf around Columbus?"
"He really is a vampire, and he really is a Prince?" said Bill, not sure he wasn't the butt of some shared gag.
"Definitly," said Sue, nodding.
"He's not such a bad sort," said Maisy. "He's a Malkavian. You Pookas ought to get along fine with him. And he knows enough about Changelings that he won't be tempted to try your blood. He's crazy enough already."
"I'm not sure," said Plucky, smirking, "but I think we've been insulted."
"I'm sure," said Leo, stone-faced.
"He collects things," said Dancing John. "Compulsively, too. Actually has a knick-knack shop where he sells duplicates or stuff he's grown tired of."
The Satyr laughed.
"It's become something of a tradition for students at the school near Duke Wotchermacalt's place to sneak into Exsanguine's place and steal one of his treasures. The Prince isn't to happy about it, but has an agreement that the items will be returned or the culprit made to work off the value."
"The Duke knows about this vampire, and hasn't..." said Bill, startled.
"Trust me. This is one of the situations where the devil you know probably isn't nearly as bad as who might move in if we could somehow manage to get rid of him."
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