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: "Changes" by David Bowie
Leo didn't remember getting home. He should have gone to his dorm, but somehow wound up not only at his family's house but his own room. And, somehow, his sister was there, too, even though she should have also been at college. Even more remarkable, though somehow not surprising, she was different from what he remembered. Leo emerged from a dazed state standing in front of her. He felt... vastly different, yet he also felt he was coming back to himself for the first time in a long while.
Leo turned wordlessly from his sister to stare in the mirror over the battered dresser which had served him since childhood. He wasn't sure he believed what he was seeing.
"You've got to be kidding me!"
He was even lighter in coloring than before, his blond hair shining so that he felt it might actually glow if he turned out the light. His features were narrower, his lower face more pointed... not to mention his ears.
I'm gorgeous, he thought. Maybe that's why that Satyr and some others seemed to be coming on to me tonight.
He didn't think to wonder at how he now knew what sort of creature the goat-man had been. Or why he now accepted that there actually had been a goat man.
"Well, it is funny," said Judy, smirking. "You're a Sidhe. A high elf. With a Nocker for a twin sister."
They didn't look much like twins, now. Though still nearly the same height, where he had become fairer, she was now ruddy and coarse. Her ears were also pointed, but far larger and rougher than his. Her face looked vaguely mimeish, the complexion being a mixture of pale red and pasty white, with a ruddy bump of a pug nose. Her hair was white and wild, including her eyebrows, and her dark eyes beady. When she grinned, her teeth were pale yellow and all pointed.
"I... don't know what those terms mean. Or... sort of. Vaguely. And why are my eyes grey?"
"Sidhe often have oddly colored eyes," said Judy. She leaned in close and peered at him. "Y'know, I've often thought I could see grey flashes in your eyes, even before my own Chrysalis."
"Chrysalis," said Leo, testing the word. "That's what happened to me."
"Oh, yes," she said, grinning again. "I heard that you had an encounter with a Sluagh which sparked your Changeling nature. I've been waiting for this, but certainly didn't expect that my twin brother would be a Sidhe. Oh, well; can't have everything. From your colors, and the fact that you incarnated at all, I'm pretty sure you're House Scathatch, just like the local Lord and his family."
Leo abruptly staggered backwards and dropped heavily onto the bed.
"Mom and Dad..."
"Are mortal, but kinain," said Judy. "They have some faerie blood but not enough to actually see us like this without help."
Leo shook his head, and noticed for the first time that his hair went halfway down his back.
"I've never liked my hair long... but this looks... right."
"Well, brother, it's too bad you aren't a Nocker or a Boggan," said Judy, sitting beside him and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Still, I'm glad you finally woke. Now, suck it up. You've got people to meet. Nobility, and even some important folks."
* * *
Theme for this section: "Wondrous Stories" by Yes
The bookstore was prominent but located on a narrow side street. Bill was willing to bet it saw more foot traffic from the university and local residents than from further afield. An old-fashioned bell over the door rang as he stepped inside. Behind the counter he saw a man in late middle-age who wore glasses and had a bit of a stoop.
"Hello," said the man, smiling. "Welcome to the Media Medium. My name is Fred."
He glanced around pointedly, then leaned towards Bill.
"I'm kinain, and Enchanted," he murmured. "Welcome, young Pooka."
This appealed to Bill's impish nature, and he grinned broadly, which elicited a responding smile from the clerk.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?"
"Not really," said Bill, casually. "Someone told me that this place had some unusual books, and I am always interested in the unusual."
"Of course you are," said the clerk, grinning. "Feel free to look around. Just speak up if you have any questions. It's a small, quiet, store, and I'll hear you."
The place was a treasure trove. It was larger than it looked, apparently going all the way over to the next street, and into the buildings on either side - a craft store and a coffee shop - as well as up into a large attic. The chimerical aspect was very much like the mundane one - How could you improve on such a wonderful old bookstore? - except for a number of appropriate chimeras and some interesting decorations.
Bill found something he wanted in almost every room. He was even able to afford about half of his finds. Dithering about which half to buy took him nearly an hour. During that time several people arrived and left, most of them Changelings or humans who had something distinctly out of the ordinary about them. His decisions were mostly determined by the chimerical aspects of the particular books. Even a couple of the new ones had an interesting shine to them, reflecting the care and enthusiasm put into making them. And one of the old ones was not only brilliantly appointed like an illuminated manuscript, it had a small chimera with it who gave Bill a long evaluating look, then smiled and nodded.
"Will that be all?" Fred asked, as he started on the armload of books.
"Isn't that enough?"
"Of course not. There's never enough."
"Amen, brother!" said one of the other customers, a smiling man with a mustache.
* * *
Everybody gets the no-no.
Hear it ringing in their ears.
There's lots of ways that you can go-go.
Look around, No disappears.
Switching to glide.
- The Kings, "Switching to Glide"
Bill realized that his wandering feet had taken him in a direction he hadn't planned on. He stopped and looked around. There was something chimerical happening, here, but not entirely obvious. He could hear and smell it, more than see it. And it gave him a good impression. Then, he saw a male Satyr step into a recessed doorway. Moving to get a look at the entrance, Bill noted that it was, indeed, strongly chimerical. According to the sign over said entrance this was the Pride of Erin, a pub. And it was strong with the force... Smiling in anticipation, Bill walked towards the fancy but sturdy wooden door.
"Welcome!" a large, jovial, almost Jovian, Satyr, called out with a mild Irish accent as Bill walked in. The place was mostly empty, this being early on a Sunday afternoon, and most of those present weren't Changelings. "Welcome to our humble establishment. You're that new fellow some of my customers have been talking about meeting at last night's Revel, right?"
"Probably," said Bill, grinning.
"You'll need to show proof of age before ordering anything alcoholic, but otherwise good manners and good humor are the only requirements."
"Sounds like I'll hate it here."
He'd heard of this place, at the Revel the night before. The Pride of Erin was an interesting establishment. It was one of many pubs with attached breweries in this section of Columbus, part of an effort to give a European feel to a section of downtown. Glamor was higher and banality lower throughout the whole district, but especially (no surprise) in here.
As Bill sat a cute ferret Pooka came flouncing up to him.
"Hi! I'm Gloria."
"What prices, Gloria?" asked Bill, innocently.
She stared at him for a moment then burst out laughing.
"I've heard that one before!" she said, giggling.
"I'm surprised to see so few mundanes in here," Bill said quietly.
"Hey, if they can put up with us, we can put up with them," she replied, wrinkling her muzzle cutely. "Seriously, we don't let anyone in here at all, but if they fit, we especially keep them out."
"Ah," said Bill, nodding. "I'm a old hand at this. You don't need to recommend anything."
"Well, then, you certainly don't want to try the house specialty, Fairey Ale."
"Sounds like I'd hate it," said Bill, grinning.
He watched her sashay to the bar with his order, but with something more like academic interest rather than the lust most male customers experienced. It wasn't that Bill had no interest in other women. It was that other women simply didn't interest him. At least, not in the ways Debbie did. He sighed, as he thought about her. The things they both did for their packs kept them apart much of the time, but also gave opportunities for Changelings and Garou to work together. Six of one...
He looked around the bar, nodding at a few people he recognized, most of them from the Revel. He recalled that the Pride of Erin was a freehold, but a Commoner one. Small, intimate, friendly, with less of the power but none of the reserve and little of the formality of a Noble freehold. Bill couldn't stop smiling as he drank it all in.
His ale arrived, and Gloria waited expectantly as he took a sip. Bill wasn't much of a drinker, but didn't mind the milder brews. This wasn't mild. He managed to swallow without sputtering or choking, but was obviously startled. The taste was fine; it just had more alcohol than he liked.
"Not... bad," he said, his voice only a little hoarse. "Milder than I expected. From the name I though it might have pepper in it or something."
"Oooh, we've had that for years!" said Gloria, now surprised herself. "I'm sure Patric - the gal behind the bar - would never want to try that."
Bill resorted to sipping, if slowly, determined not to insult the house by leaving even a drop behind. Gloria took pity on him and brought over a tumbler of iced water. Bill was just starting to feel mellow when a Troll and a Red Cap came over and joined him. They both appeared to be in their early twenties.
"Don't want to disturb you," said the Troll, "but we're pretty curious about something. You were at that Revel last night, weren't you?"
"Never heard of it," said Bill, beaming at them in an exaggerated way intended to make them think he was far more intoxicated than he actually was.
"Well, what can you tell us about that Chrysalis which happened near there?"
The Troll thought this over for a bit.
"Do you know the name of the person involved?"
"Then don't bother telling us," said the Red Cap, whom Bill was startled to realize was a female of the species.
"Leo Somethingorother," said Bill, blurting that out more because he was startled by the revelation of her gender than because of the ale. "I can see why you're so curious. He'll never be formally welcomed into local Changeling society, right?"
"Leo..." said the Troll, nodding and ignoring the hint. "Well, it's a start. Thanks."
He clapped Bill hard on the shoulder, obviously intending to intimidate him. Bill just smiled at him, his feigned bleariness momentarily hardening into something more feral. The Troll, startled, quickly withdrew his hand.
"Be seeing you," said Bill, giving the Prisoner salute.
Neither got it.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads
The ceremony welcoming Leo as a new member of both House Scathatch and the local community was held just three days later. This seemed a bit rushed to some, but given the rarity of the event and the speed with which he was remembering his true self was probably appropriate. Probably...
While the Sponsorship ceremony itself was private, with only Leo, His Grace and three others present (none of them Leo's sister, to her great and vocal displeasure) the introduction and celebration which followed were quite public, at least among the Changelings. Welcoming the opportunity for celebration, the Duke's wife had sent invitations far and wide. While most of those who attended were from the domain, some others were from much farther away. Some of the latter actually arrived through the trailhead of the Trod, located in a small stand of trees on the edge of the Freehold. Naturally, all the Duchy's Barons and Counts were in attendance, often with much of their own court. The Duke was old money, and feted his guests well. Entertainers fae and human wandered the grounds or took turns on the temporary stage in the huge back yard behind the mansion.
Bill knew that according to folklore Changelings who spent much time in a freehold risked sliding into Bedlam. However, his personal experience was that many of those who wished to spend all or most of their time in such enchanted places did so because they were actually sliding towards Banality. Duke Wotchermacalt reminded Bill of Duke Torethyl, only with less money and a smaller, poorer court. Careful questioning of others attending the event seemed to confirm it. The Duke himself, and his family in general, were well considered by commoner and noble alike, but many in both groups felt he was getting old.
The introduction ceremony was definitely formal, but less so than others Bill had attended. When most noble families fled this world during the Shattering, House Scathatch had stayed, and joined in the Changeling Way. They bonded with human hosts, lived out their lives, then reincarnated, as the abandoned commoners did. During the Accordance War the previous Duke - the uncle of the current one - had thrown his support behind High King David, but only after seeing evidence that David was both honorable and determined to see that the commoners received their due. This had led others of House Scathatch - as well as those they ruled - to also support the new High King. Though many in the more traditional noble Houses expressed scorn for House Scathatch, for "living like peasants" this support had helped David's appeal to the commoners.
This support had also meant all the more grief among House Scathatch and the commoners who supported it when David had so mysteriously vanished, a few years back.
The bittersweet ceremony was nearly over, some people already preparing to leave, when an odd murmuring passed among those attending. Rumors were already flying, when Bill noticed that the Duke was being not-so-surreptitiously gestured to by one of his retainers. His Grace calmly completed his part, shook Leo's hand with both of his, gave him a quick but obviously sincere hug, then excused himself.
Naturally, everyone there wanted to see where the Duke was going, but propriety kept the majority of them from doing much about it. Fortunately, Bill was a Pooka.
* * *
Theme for this section: "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray
Bill casually wandered in an indirect manner towards where the Duke was heading. Using that as his bunk, he worked a minor cantrip to make himself less noticeable. Though he wasn't able to get too close, he was able to see that the Duke was speaking to an Eshu carrying a bundle, escorted by a pair of His Grace's guards. As Bill watched, the Duke listened to something the young man had to say, then turned and headed calmly towards the mansion, the Eshu beside him. They were joined by the Duchess, who was far less equanimous. Bill was baffled by these events. Yet the Eshu looked somewhat familiar. Where had Bill seen...
The realization left him feeling a bit faint. The Eshu had to be none other Sir Seif Raushan, arrived at the Court of Glass still carrying Caliburn.
Did that mean the High King was actually here?! No, impossible. There would have been some hint. Most likely, Seif was merely following up on some vague clue. But...
Maybe - just maybe - Caliburn had decided to bypass all the foolish Sidhe politics and choose a new High King.
"Well, well, well," said one of the Duke's Troll guards, his coming up behind Bill making the Pooka's fur stand on end. "What do we have here?"
"Would you like a subscription to Grit?" said Bill, his voice an octave higher than usual.
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