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: "Lullaby" by George Gershwin
Bill was again startled to find himself in wolf form when Lady Fang returned them to the boneyard. While he was still trying to work out the how and why of that Lady Fang left without his noticing. Bill sighed, thought briefly about finding his clothes and changing back, but then had a better idea.
A group of childlings were making a campout of their stay at the boneyard. Rowlf and a few of the cuddlier chimeras in the area were already curled up with them. Bill simply walked carefully into the group, found a spot among the little ones and lay down. He was surprised to find himself falling asleep quickly, what with the unusually long nap he'd just woken from, but decided he just needed the rest.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith
The next day the mass of petitioners outside the boneyard had increased even more. King Meilge was back, only slightly subdued. Finally, around 11, they were told lunch was being served in the pavilion, and the barricades were removed. Fortunately, the waiting Sidhe took the hint and maintained their decorum, though some just barely. The filed into the chimerical structure and immediately began jockeying for seating position.
Bill had expected to get back to school that morning, but instead found himself the target of a frantic search. Seems it never occurred to the searchers to look for a wolf. Bill had changed back and dressed and was walking to his car when he was all but tackled.
"You have to get ready!" one frantic Boggan babbled. "Oh! Oh! There's scarcely any time!"
"What are you talking about?"
"The High King's brunch! You're one of the star guests!"
"Why didn't anyone tell me about this ahead of time?"
He never did get a straight answer to that. Instead he was hustled off to the Pavilion, entering through a side door. Inside he was unceremoniously stripped, cleaned and dressed in garments so fine they made his teeth vaguely itch. All the while he was briefed on proper etiquette. He still wasn't certain what was going on when he was ushered into line with the rest of the usual suspects and Sir Seif - all of them also freshly scrubbed and outfitted - just before they were led into an enormous, gorgeously appointed dining hall.
Bill kept trying to ask questions of the others, but both he and they kept getting shushed by Boggans. He finally just gave up and decided to wait and see. Soon, they were taken to their seats, where the beginnings of the meal were already arrayed. Bill was surprised to see the Duke and Duchess already seated, and even more surprised that the Duke wasn't at the head of the table. Also present were Lady Fang, Duke Loethenlau and a few others. Gradually, it dawned on him who the two vacant seats were for.
David and Faerilyth finally appeared, without fanfare, about half an hour after the seating was completed. They joined the Duke, Duchess and the others at the small table - in this situation that meant one which only seated twenty.
As morning moved to afternoon the huge hall was filled with a muted buzz of conversation, most of it carefully regulated by the rules of behavior mandated by the nobles. Course after course of carefully designed dishes were served. Even though the portions were small, the number was huge. Finally, when Bill and some of the others were wondering if their bladders and stomachs could stay intact much longer, the High King stood. Immediately, the heralds shouted for the attention of the assembly. David and Faerilyth took each others' hands and stood. The looked at each other for a moment, then gracefully turned and together approached the nearby podium. Silence fell over the great hall.
"Ladies and gentlemen... honored Sidhe... It is good to be back."
There was cheering and applause. David waited, smiling, until it subsided.
"There is much to be done, and much of that is both important and urgent. However, before we adjourn to the council chambers Lady Fang has so generously provided, there is one duty which takes precedence over all others my wife and I must perform this day."
With that he turned and called Duke Wotchermacalt to him.
"Your Grace, you have proven yourself both wise and loyal, persistent and patient. You were determined when you needed to be, and properly patient when all around you were urging action. Wise in keeping as few people involved as possible, but wiser in seeking the best available help when you needed to. You and your lovely wife were also very gracious to myself and my lovely wife, providing privacy when we most needed it. For that and far more We owe you a debt We doubt We will ever be able to repay. However, please consider this a down payment."
A servant had approached unobtrusively behind the High King as this was said. Reaching back without looking, David was handed a scroll. He handed the Duke the document, a roll of vellum bound in fairey silk. The Duke opened this, read it, and simply stared, speechless, back and forth between scroll and monarch.
"Th-thank you, Your Majesty," the Duke was finally able to stammer.
"The Court of Glass is awarded the right to appoint a representative to sit on Our Privy Council," said David, turning to make certain this was heard by the assembly.
The two men shook hands and the Duke walked, a bit unsteadily, back to his seat, while the assembly applauded politely.
Faerilyth now called for the Duchess.
"For all the reasons my husband gave and more, We present you with this award."
The Duchess managed a more dignified reaction than her husband had, but was obviously still greatly affected.
"The Duchess Ilsthene is awarded the Queen's Ear. And in this instance that applies to both myself or Lenore, who has graciously agreed to this award."
Again the applause, this time seasoned with expressions of surprise. The Queen's Ear was license to have access to the High Queen at any time, simply by requesting it. In a way, it was a higher award than her husband had received.
Various other members of the Court of Glass were called forward and given lesser recognitions. Then came the turn of the usual suspects.
Leo was called up first, and not only knighted on behalf of the Duke and his Court, but also announced a member of a prestigious order. Plucky, Judy and Theodora were also knighted. Then Bill was called up.
"Young Pooka, you present an interesting case," said David, with a slight smile. "Your liege has specifically requested that he be allowed to invest you. That ceremony will take place at the High Court at a time yet to be determined. However, We do have something to give you now. A small and very appropriate treasure."
The attendant handed David a bejeweled case. David, smiling, in turn presented this to Bill, who opened it, then stared in confusion.
Inside was a silver collar. His Majesty lifted the item from the box, opened it and reached for Bill, who leaned forward to accept.
"I'm told this was presented to a former High King many centuries ago, by one of the Garou," the High King murmured quietly. "This will allow you to hide your clothing when you change to wolf, then restore your garments when you change back. It will also allow you to change when you are being watched, though that will still not be easy."
"Thank you!" Bill almost shouted, grinning broadly, and they straightened and shook hands.
Finally, Seif Raushan was called forward.
"Young Eshu, I barely knew you before I was lost," said the High King, breaking etiquette by using the first-person singular pronoun. "However, I have been told - repeatedly and passionately - of your dedication in seeking me out, and also your work in easing the conflict between my wife and my sister. That last demonstrating wisdom and diplomacy, besides loyalty and dedication. For those things and far more you have my eternal gratitude. More pragmatically, We name you Baron Seif."
David handed him a scroll, then also presented him with a sword in belted scabbard.
"Not so fine as Caliburn, I'm afraid," said David, dryly. "However, it should serve you well."
The applause was loud and long.
"Well, that takes care of the day's more pleasant activities," said David, turning back to the assembly as Lord Seif hurried to his seat. "Now we will take a short break, and then court will begin."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Music Must Change" by The Who
The arguments started almost immediately court was called into session. Disagreements old and new were brought up and discussed, sometimes in a friendly manner, sometimes with obvious hostility but politeness, but all too often with angry shouting. David began to despair; his long absence and the conflict over succession had resulted in too many problems festering too long without being lanced. Now he feared amputation might be needed.
For long hours, well into the evening, they shouted and ranted and sometimes even screamed. Some things were settled, but others went from a long simmer to a violent boil, and threatened to become a conflagration.
Then the arguments trailed away to silence as those in the room realized that a stranger had somehow entered unnoticed and was quietly walking around, examining the furnishings. He appeared to be human, tall and lean, at once dark and pale, his chimerical aspect identical to his mundane appearance. The others in the hall stirred uneasily. This was so unprecedented, so unexpected, so improper, they didn't know how to respond. David made as if to rise, but his wife put her hand on his arm.
"No, husband," she said, quietly. "I have a... feeling about this stranger. He has offered us no harm, and before has helped us greatly. Let us hear what he has to say."
"Excuse me," said the Sergeant at Arms, sternly, approaching the man. "This is a private meeting. And a sealed room."
"Hey, with all the noise you're making, I can't slee... Uh, I mean, 'meditate,'" said the stranger, shrugging. "Don't mind me. I'm just this odd, unworldly character who can span the omnicosm with a thought."
"And your name is...?"
There was a pause while the Sergeant at Arms waited for the rest of it, but the stranger went back to perusing wall hangings, giving the definite impression that was all there was. Or at least all he was willing to reveal. The Sergeant at Arms started to resume his approach, obviously meaning to evict the man, but David waved him back, trusting Faerilyth's judgement, at least for the moment.
"And I suppose you are here to offer us your sage advice on how to deal with our problems?" queried King Meilge, sarcastically.
"Oh, you're trying to solve problems," said Yehudi, whacking himself on the head in sudden revelation. He winced and shook his hand, then grinned. "Sorry. From where I was it sounded like politics was being committed. But if you're actually trying to do something useful, maybe I can help."
The stranger grinned maniacally, rubbing his hands together.
"It's showtime," he said, in a gravelly stage whisper.
He walked towards the front of the room, acquiring an untouched crystal goblet on the way, from which he took a big gulp. And then began choking and coughing, clapping himself on the chest for a few seconds.
"Wow," he gasped, in a hoarse voice, tears streaming from his eyes. "That's got a kick to it!"
"It's water," said the previous owner, staring at Yehudi in disbelief.
The assembled fey watched, nonplused, as Yehudi wandered around inside the U of tables for a bit, humming quietly to himself, eyes strangely distant as he seemed to look through, or perhaps past, the occupants. Then, he stopped in the middle of the U, and nodded. He turned to look at the High King and High Queen Dowager.
"Ah. I see what the problem is," said the strange, thin man.
"You do?" queried Faerilyth.
"Oh, it's obvious," said Yehudi, with an encompassing wave of his hands. He struck a dramatic pose. He was now wearing an outfit straight out of Grease, complete with slicked-back hair. "Y'see... it's all because... your momma don't dance... and your daddy don't rock and roll..."
"I beg your..." the High Queen Dowager began, confounded.
"Hmmm," said Yehudi, examining himself. "Doesn't quite go with the decor, does it?"
A string quartet began playing soothing music. Yehudi was now wearing Grecian robes... and pointed ears. Only... his eyebrows were also different, and his complexion had a slight but distinct green tinge.
"Your passions are running so strong that you're hurting your own causes following them," he said, in a calm but strong voice. "There is a time for emotional argument, and a time for dispassionate, reasoned discussion. You must make this a time for the latter, or risk losing everything you have built since the Resurgence, along with all the potential gain which peaceful negotiation could earn you."
Yehudi bowed solemnly, to scattered applause.
"That... travesty was so..." sputtered King Meilge. He stopped, took a deep breath, and tried again. "That... implied insult was totally inappropriate to the dignity of this assembly, and a distraction from the serious work being attempted here."
"Exactly," said Yehudi, now back in mundane shorts, t-shirt and running shoes, grinning as he waggled a finger at the elf. "You folks were just goin' 'round in circles. You needed a break, something to get you out of the grooves you'd worn. No thanks necessary..."
"Well, you have mine," said the High King, smiling. "I was beginning to fear we were on the verge of another Accordance War, or even worse. Thank you, for breaking the tense mood and helping add a little perspective."
"Then my work here is done," Yehudi declared, with mock-solemnity.
The music ended, and shortly thereafter was heard a muffled clunk. The strange man walked over to a table where a large boom-box incongruously sat, turned it off and picked it up by the handle.
"Don't you just love mundane explanations for wondrous events?" he asked, giving the room a Groucho eyebrow waggling.
Yehudi bowed deeply to the High King and Queen. Then, he turned and walked towards a tapestried wall. Without pausing, he stepped onto a path woven into the fabric, dwindling as he continued walking, until he turned a corner and vanished.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Rough Boys" by Pete Townshend
The next day most of those not actively involved in the talks were asked - very firmly - to return to their regular duties. Something which many of the Duke's court had done the afternoon before. Most of the participants in the revival and protection of the High King had already missed a day of work or school, and the humans were starting to notice. However, Bill and the usual suspects, as well as some others, were asked to return to the Court of Glass and help with security there. With so many of the Duke's staff at the boneyard there were fears of problems, both mundane and changeling.
Bill expected that with so many people actually showing themselves around the grounds of the Freehold and the school that there wouldn't be any trouble. He was wrong. Shortly before Noon, a car parked on the street to the west of the mansion. Bill and some of the others walked over to see what was happening with that. Realizing they'd been spotted, the five Changelings who got out of the car changed their approach from directly towards the ornate fence to down the sidewalk to the side entrance gate. It was locked, but currently guarded by only a bored-looking young Eshu.
Bill recognized the Troll and Redcap among the strangers; he'd seen and spoken to them his first visit to the Pride of Erin. He had a sudden suspicion as to who had ravaged the place. Still, that was for later. Now he had to focus on keeping them from doing harm here. With them were a Sidhe, a Sluagh and a rather mangy-looking Satyr.
Seeing that reinforcements were approaching the gate, the Sidhe suddenly lunged forward and worked a quick cantrip on the lock. The gate sprung open, and the strangers swarmed inside. The Eshu on guard, busy switching his gaze back and forth between Bill's team and the strangers, was caught by surprise and quickly pinioned by the Troll. They now had a standoff, with roughly equal numbers and strengths on both sides.
Weapons were drawn and fighting stances taken on both sides.
"Don't do this," said Bill, his voice firm but his expression smiling. "I learned how to fight from Garou."
"Whatever they are," sneered the young Sidhe. "Anselm, get him."
The Redcap started forward, giving them a nasty smile. Bill smiled back, almost as nastily.
"Well, boys," he said, conversationally. "Looks like we've got a man's job of work ahead of us."
And he kicked the Redcap between the legs.
The following fight was quick and furious, and ended with the Sidhe and his two wingmen running, leaving the Redcap and the Troll in various stages of lying on the ground, whimpering. While Bill had a nasty cut on one cheek and a broken left upper arm, and Leo and Plucky had received less serious injuries, there was little doubt as to who the victors were.
"I'm beginning to understand why predator Pookas are so rare," muttered Duke Wotchermacalt, later, peering at Bill.
"It's not just his nature," said Korgig. "He has been training to fight in various ways for nearly five years, with good reason. That's enough time to get pretty good at it."
"Any word, yet, on what they intended? And who, if anyone, sent them?"
"No. They were charmed against revealing anything. We will find out, though."
"Young man," said His Grace, turning back to Bill. "While I am grateful you repelled this intrusion, at a time when so much is at stake, and so many balances delicately poised, I wish you would try negotiation before violence."
"Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, straight-faced.
"I'm not asking you to deny your lupine nature," said the Duke. "I'm just pointing out to you that there's more to you than that."
"Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, seriously.
"At any rate, thank you. And I am both pleased and impressed that you are already nearly healed. Carry on."
* * *
Theme for this section: "When I'm Sixty-Four" by The Beatles
Eventually, the court session at the boneyard ended. Many matters had been settled, with others postponed - by the agreement of all involved parties - until a proper court could be called. The Glen of Eternal Repose returned to its accustomed placid state, and the Court of Glass to its normal quiet operations, as well. Bill again had to play catchup with his school work, as did many others. And there was also some other catching up to do.
Two days after the High King called an end to his court and the visiting Sidhe left for their homes, the Duke and Duchess had a private meeting with Leo.
"Leo," said the Duke, quietly, "as the Duchess and myself are childless, and I believe you are the reincarnation of my Uncle, the former Duke, I am naming you my successor."
The young elf was speechless.
"Don't worry," said the Duke, with an easy laugh. "You aren't taking power yet. You're still barely more than a fledge. I have much to teach you, and so do others. And I'm certain your sister will volunteer for much of that."
Even Leo had to laugh - though wryly - at that.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Hold on Tight" by Electric Light Orchestra
Finally - Finally! - Bill was ready to return home. His mission for Baron Haldrin was completed, and had brought results far in excess of what his Lord had expected. Bill also felt he had more than earned his keep with this one. Still, his joy to be leaving was tempered with sadness over the friends who were staying. He met with the usual suspects and a few others in a quiet corner of The Pride of Erin on his last full day in Columbus.
"Semester's over. I even managed to get good grades, thanks largely to the last of it being during quiet times from a Changeling aspect. I'm transferring back to Feyland to finish my degree. Then... we'll see what happens..."
They spoke quietly for hours, then drank a final, silent toast before Bill shook hands, hugged, or kissed each of them... not always performing the action the particular person expected. Then, back in his dorm room, he packed everything but what he'd need in the morning. He smiled fondly at the charter, medallion and sword the Duke had given him that afternoon, though he wasn't certain how he would pack that final item.
Among other last-minute events, Bill had been surprised to be awarded a Knighthood in the Order of the Court of Glass Polishers as a farewell present from the Duke. Though not a full commission, it was far more than honorary, and Bill knew he would both be returning here and having the resultant duties coming to him, wherever he was.
The long drive home the next morning was mostly uneventful, except for that one speeding ticket. And finally - Finally! - Bill was back home. Both his parents greeted him warmly. He made a point of staying with them when what he really wanted was to romp in the woods with Debbie. Bill was very happy with the way his father had become more human these past few years. And his mother more Pooka, though she had yet to rediscover her fey self.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Red Pony Suite - Happy Ending" by Aaron Copeland
With his familial duties taken care of the day and night before, his second day home was given to Debbie. Her greeting left Bill feeling glad he healed quickly.
The rest of the day passed in a haze of happy roughhousing.
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