A New Quest Called

Several moons have passed since the founding of the Battle Oak Cairn and our Garou have fallen into the routine of the daily life of a warrior of Gaia; learning the ways of their auspices and tending their duties to their clan.  But though their differences drew them apart, their bond as a pack drew them together again every night.  They made their home in a clearing at the edges of the camp, in a small clearing.  Though simple, it was their home.

In the deep of the night, Ari was awoken.  She noticed almost immediately the lack of night sounds and a mist crawling over the ground, and she attempted to awaken her companions, but to no avail.  The desperate cry of a wolf in distress drew her into the trees, and before long, she began to hear human speech and the sound of metal on metal.  The wolf’s cries of distress were joined by others until it was clear there were several gathered nearby.

Ari approached slowly and quietly to a scene of horror.  Wolves and men fighting beasts that defy description and though their numbers were great, the wolves and men were losing ground.  A body flew through the night and landed at her feet.  The man looked up to her and spoke – in a tongue that Ari shouldn’t understand – “Run.  Tell the others,” before he died.  A final breath, and he was gone, the creature that threw the now lifeless body moved towards her.  So she ran, back through the forest that she was growing to know so well.  The crashing of fighting surrounded her as she fled, though it seemed she never gained any ground.  Finally, she was surrounded by the grotesque creatures.  One reached out for her as she stood transfixed – though his motion was arrested as the call of a raven rang through her mind.

She jerked awake, the sound of the raven still sounding, to find the mist gone and the night sounds returned.  She quickly awakened her companions, telling them of her dream and Morna stated that they should take the warning to their Elders when the raven’s calling drew Ari’s attention and she remembered its voice awakening her from the dream.  They quickly spot him – a large bird, even for a raven – and decide that there must be more to him, so they step sideways to find a raven the size of a man.  Before their eyes, he becomes a man and he speaks to them.  “Tell the others.  They no longer listen, but you are perceptive.”

“And who should we be telling?  There are many people in the world,” Morna states, skeptical and slightly grouchy from being awoken.

“Well, I can’t tell you everything.  But I give you this.  And remember….Run.”  With that, the Raven lunges at Ari, only to vanish into a puff of feathers.

“Well, Morna, you said something about the elders.  Maybe we should go,” Wind says, his nonchalance having Morna growl at him, even as they set off for the heart of the camp.  Arriving at the base of the mighty oak, Ari poured out her story to the Elders.  The Elder Theurge approached, kindness in his eyes, as he took her hands in one of his and placed his other hand on her head – commanding her to think back and remember the dream in its entirety.

Several moments pass in silence as the Elder Theurge gleaned the needed knowledge from Ari’s mind and determined that our Garou must take a journey.  The Elder Philodox stepped forward then and told them that equality will be needed, a balance must be struck; they are to take his pupil, a young Philodox named Nox on Wood.  Wind, being the creature that he is, immediately began to taunt and tease their newest brother and, in the way of siblings, Ari and Morna add their good-natured laughter.  The Cairn Seer, Elder Drapin, for told that they would start their journey on the new moon, a few nights hence.  While Morna and Wind prepared their weapons and themselves for the quest to come, Ari gathered her much-needed herbs and supplies.  Nox, not having joined them in their quest for the new Cairn, traveled forth with his mentor to seek the mighty oak who would give of itself to make the fetishes that called to him, a pair of tonfas.  Ari preformed the Rite of the Fetish, imbuing them with the spirit of a Snake, giving them the ability to hit whatever he aimed for.

Their quest would begin with a spirit hunt and with their farewells given, they stepped sideways into the Umbra.  The four wolves stood a moment, orienting themselves, when the scent of a stag reached them.  Morna’s voice rose in a call to the hunt, joined quickly by the harmony of her pack, one by one.  They pursued their quarry relentlessly, and yet their snapping jaws and raking claws only found air; their quarry managed to stay ever a step ahead.  Through twisting warrens and  gaping expanses where the spreading branches above prevented anything to grow below, they gave chase as their blood raged.  When they suddenly found themselves in an open glen, they stopped.  In the center of the glen, grew two tall trees, and between them stood a chair of woven vine.  Upon the chair, sat a man; it was an unnerving sight for those still high on the hunt.  He spoke to them, his voice jovial, and with a sweep of his hand, a feast appeared where once only stood forest.  “You have finally arrived!  Come, eat!”

While this was all Wind and Nox needed, Ari and Morna shared a look – one that spoke volumes without saying a word – and shifted to give them mouths to speak.  “And who in blue hell might you be?” Morna asked, her voice making light of the hard question, though her eyes showed just how serious she was.

Her question was met with a hearty laugh that soothed them despite themselves.  “I am the avatar of Stag, His embodiment to your pack.”  With that knowledge, Morna’s practiced smile spread to a genuine grin and Ari relaxed beside her.  As they joined him for the feast, he told them why he had called their quest.

They stood and the edge of the domain of their totem, Stag.  Unicorn had come to Stag to ask for help.  Some of Her children were trapped in a city of men and the tribes close enough to help refused, their fear and hatred of mankind overwhelming the call of Gaia to stop wave of Wyrm-spawn that threatened.  They were Warders of Men and those who are now known as the Children of Gaia, and their neighbor tribes held their love of humanity against them.  “Will you aid them?” he asked, though he knew their answer before they spoke.  “I can lead you to a Lune who’s bridge will take you where you need to go.  But be wary, as he is tricky.  He will have a request or quest for you, but listen closely, for he is in a capricious mood.”  With this, he lead them to the path to the moon bridge.

They walked only a short way before they reached the base of the moon bridge and on a pole, high above their heads, was a glowing light.  There was nothing else in sight, but Morna didn’t hesitate in calling up to what she was sure was the Lune.  With a yawn and a stretch that should have toppled him, he slipped down the pole to stand before them.  He was jovial if more than a bit eccentric and Morna traded witty remarks that had him laughing – always a better idea than angering one.  When finally they could present their request for him to open to the bridge – after a bit of confusion – he presented them a riddle that they must first solve.

“No legs lays sleeping on one leg/Two legs watch over.  Sits on three legs/Four legs don’t sit at all.  Three legs fall over/Four legs grab no legs/ And two legs none.  Who am I?”

The pack exchanged a series of confused glances until Ari and Morna began repeating the riddle, their bafflement growing with each recitation.  Finally, Morna looked to the Lune, as surety spread across her features.  “Thorn,” she said, recalling the Lune’s name from his earlier ramblings.  There was a moment of silence before a laugh echoed around them and Thorn motioned flamboyantly, opening the bridge before them.  The four Garou stepped onto the bridge and the Lune took to the air, calling out, “Watch that last step, it’s a doozy!” and he was gone.

They walked to the end of the bridge and stepped from the Umbra, into a glen that shouldn’t have been much different from the one they left behind.  But the ground crunched beneath their boots – what wasn’t charred, was rotted and sickly.  The worst part, though, were the scents that filled the air, not the plants and animals that should have lingered even despite the fire that had obviously devastated the area.  They were the scents of emotions – fear, anger, hatred, and sorrow; and faintly on the wind was the scent of blood.  They followed it to the scene of a massacre, the bodies of Garou and ken laying among the remains of Wyrm-spawn.  A sound drew Ari to the homid form of a Garou girl, still alive but barely, and her heart would allow her nothing less than to try to use her gift to heal the girl.  Morna motioned for Wind to keep an eye on the Theurge as she and Nox moved among the fallen, following a scent she couldn’t quite identify.  They found in the form of a creature crossed somewhere between a dog and a great lizard, a spine of bones protruding from its back.  As they approached, the bones began to rattle and a feeling of dread began to fill the air.  Morna and Nox shared a look before Morna closed her eyes and took a deep breath, calling on that well of strength to force the unnatural feeling aside.  It appeared dead but for the rattling spines and Nox threw a rock at it to see if it reacted; the rock hit and other than the movement caused by the blow, the creature remained still.  But the rattling didn’t cease.  Pulling Bain Greim from its place on her back, Morna struck the creature with a single, devastating blow and the rattling finally ended.  A breeze began to blow, and the air around them seemed to clear, so they returned to Ari and Wind and the dying Garou girl.

Ari did her best, pulling every ounce of her gift from herself to try and save the girl.  As that fresh breeze blew across her, the girl’s eyes cleared, that glaze of pain and death retreating, and she lifted the pouch she held clutched in her hand.  It was a bag, carrying the Garou symbols identifying it as a Pouch of Holding, its knottings clearly stating to Ari “DO NOT OPEN”.  There were other symbols, but none recognized their meaning.  As Ari took the pouch, the girl admonished her to take it to the Flowing Waters Cairn; with her mission at an end, the pouch and whatever its contents passed to the hands of one she could trust to see it carried to the end, the girl gave a small smile as her final breath slipped from her lips.  A moment of silence was given to the passing of their sister before Morna, Wind, and Nox began searching among their kin for some sign of who they were and where the Flowing Water Cairn might be.  A map was found and a wand carrying the markings equivalent of “boom stick” and four pouches of dust – pouches of darkness – that would allow them to fade to shadows for a short time.  Each was gathered together, the pouches of sand parceled between them and the wand – along with the Pouch of Holding were tucked into Ari’s enchanted bag.  The map was quickly scanned and the pack set off.

It wasn’t long before movement was heard ahead of them through the dead and dying brush.  A closer inspection revealed it to be 12 men – though the term didn’t quite fit the twisted, Wyrm-tainted creatures that moved through the forest little more than animals – and another creature like the one Morna and Nox had found before.  This one walked held on a leash by one of the twisted men.  The pack moved stealthily through forest and set up an ambush, boxing their prey in.  Four massive shapes leapt from the trees, obliterating nearly half of the Wyrm creatures in the first rush, Nox managing to slay the beast before it had time to react.  The others were felled with the quickness and battle joy as only the Fianna could.  But they didn’t tarry over the small victory, moving on through the trees until they found the cliff that the map showed would lead to the valley and the keep of the Flowing Waters Cairn.

They stood on the edge, the valley flowing out beneath them like a sea of green and brown; and in the distance could be seen a massive keep, its walls high and proud.  But littering the valley like a black tide, was an army of Wyrm-spawn, creatures so completely twisted by the Wyrm’s corruption that it was impossible to tell where one ended an another began.  But on the wall emerged a man, his form clearly seen despite the great distance – not a man, but a Garou in the full glory of his Crinos form.  He lifted something and pointed it out over the roiling mass as it made what couldn’t only be assumed to be another rush for the walls.  The Garou there lifted his free hand high and as it swept down, fire leapt from whatever he held, clinging to whatever it touched like magical napalm.  Great, wretched cries filled the valley as the dark creatures ran from the consuming flames, those that were consumed trying to douse the flames on their bodies, but doing little more than spreading the fires further.  The horde receded and as it did, the fire ceased to fall, though the flames in the field continued to burn as its victims finally gave in to their miserable deaths.  The pack shared a look and Morna said what they were all thinking…well, kind of.  “Well, now, I don’t think it’ll be too hard to get in,” she said with a grin.

Opening the Cairn – part 2

We return to our Garou into hour five, a cry for help rings through the night from the pack behind them.  They turn back, hoping to stop whoever had gotten past them to the inner ring of protection and aid their tribesmen.  They find only one still standing against three Black Spirals and a Scrag.  Morna moves quickly on the offensive, cutting down one Black Spiral and incapacitating another as Ari ran to assist their downed tribesman and Wind stepped up, crushing the third Black Spiral to a pile of squishy goo.  Calling on her Gift of Mother’s Touch, Ari is able to heal the other Garou and they both rise to join the fight.  The Scrag attacked Ari but did no damage and a quick swing of Bain Greim brings the Scrag’s physical form down.  Wind and the once-injured Garou quickly step sideways after the Scrag’s spirit form as Ari delivers the killing blow to the remaining Black Spiral.  In the Penumbra, Wind and their new companion meet battle with the Scrag and quickly dispose of him before stepping sideways back out.

They enter the sixth hour of the ritual, their new companion staying on with their pack to hold the fight.  As if the Wyrm-spawn could sense the coming dawn, they began retreating, the skirmishes coming fewer and further between, until finally the first rays of dawn broke the horizon and a glad cry rose from the heart of the Cairn.  Battle Oak Cairn was born!

Among the celebrations during the moot that followed were Rites called for by individuals and packs of the newly formed Battle Oak Cairn, including our Garou.  They approached for their Rites of Accomplishment, wishing to be recognized within their new sept for their accomplishments.  They approached the Master of the Rite, the list of their accomplishments – singular and as a pack – ringing out over the assemblage and stood before the sept as the Master of the Rite performed the Rite over them.  He finished saying, “They each are made greater in their tribe, their sept, and greater among the People everywhere.  Let this be known!”  They glowed with pride, knowing they had earned the respect of their people.

Opening the Cairn – part 1

((so tonight we began rp’ing at 7:30…and actually got to line 7 below at around 9…30….ish.  Lol for some reason tonight we had the giggles and just couldn’t seem to get started.  So instead of a full chronicle, we’ll just have to try to finish this one tomorrow night))

The new passed and on the rising of the waxing crescent, the day finally dawns that marks the beginning of the Rite of Cairn Building.  All the Garou are gathered together and the Rite of Cleansing is preformed over those gathered.  Our Garou were given the duty – along with other packs – of defending the Cairn and the Theurges who would be performing the Rite of Cairn Building.  The Wyrm and His minions would do anything to stop the successful spread of Gaia’s warriors and such a powerful rite was like a beacon to agents of the Wyrm.  So our pack waited, standing their guard, through three hours of the ritual with no slightest movement in the darkness.  Into the fourth hour, they began hearing skirmishes around them, none growing closer.  They would not leave their post and leave this way exposed.  They heard a crashing through the underbrush before them that materialized into a young, panicked man – claiming that all the packs had been massacred.  But, using one of her new Gifts, Ari discerns that this is a Black Spiral Dancer, and drawing Morna’s attention – which had Morna reaching out with her Gift of Mindspeak – tells her pack mate of her knowledge.  With a single powerful swing of Bain Greim, Morna cuts him down.  That is when the giggling began.

A twisted and stunted Garou – in Crinos form no larger than Ari in Homid – steps out before them, his tongue handing out of his slacked jaw.  Despite a mouth that looks like it shouldn’t work, he grumbles out and attempt to intimidate that leaves our Garou unimpressed – not even annoyed, really.  A slight sound from above has Ari and Wind leaping back – Wind grabbing Morna who stood more ahead of her companions.  The movement was just in time as three more Spiral Dancers leapt where our Garou had been standing.  Wind moved quickly, and with four massive swings took down two of the damned creatures.  Morna swiftly followed suit and with a single, biting swing of her sword, taking down the creature closest to her.  Following close behind, Ari delivered a series of staggering blows, leaving the final opponent limp but for the twitches of electricity coursing through his body.  The deaths were easy, leaving them wary of what else was to come.  They still had 4 more hours before sun rise and the end of the Rite.

Once Upon a Fight Immemorial

The Garou awaken from their revel-induced slumber to find the glade empty.  They know they are still in the Umbra, but are confused, since after the last night of revelry they awoke outside the Umbra and they take a moment to look around.  A golden glow draws their attention to a small path and, to their awe and amazement, out steps Stag, their pack totem.  He had not come to them during their Rite of the Pack Totem; and though Elder Keegan – the Theurge who had presided over the rite – had assured them that Stag had accepted them, it was seen as an ill omen that Stag had not made His appearance.  The Garou knelt before their totem before he prompted them to rise.

He tells them He has been watching following their adventures and He is pleased with their progress and proud they are under His care.  He knows that they quest for a new Cairn and that He has a quest for them to follow.  Once they complete the quest, He will show them their new Cairn land.  It’s a hunt – for the mythical golden hind – and they must complete it in their human forms.  With that, He nods towards the path He took coming in and there stands a majestic hind, hide golden in the bright sun, before it bounds into the darkness.  He tells them there are trials to be faced and lessons to be learned within the darkened forest and to travel well.  They turn back to where He stood only to find him gone and the hind already fleeing.  They take chase, and quickly throw themselves into the maze of game trails, following small signs of the hinds passage.  They find themselves suddenly in a small glen, with five Scrags blocking their paths.  They make quick work – Ari’s code of honor no longer prohibiting her from releasing the power of her rage with these Wyrm-spawn.

They travel down another warren of trails, finally catching sight of their quarry once more.  They dashed and jumped, dodging low limbs and stumble vines until finding themselves in yet another clearing.  A sound can be heard high above, like the wind moving through the trees, but with a rhythmic beat.  They move cautiously to the far side of the clearing, searching the ground for any foe, when Wind is struck in the back of the head.  Ari, following close behind him, sees a black form strike out from above and, her eyes traveling upwards to the sky they never consider, she sees a massive flying horse.  Drawing weapons, our Garou turn the attack.  It’s a fierce but brief battle before they are able to bring the winged beast to earth.  But rather than dying, it rears up, giving a shrill neigh, before it bends one leg in a near-courtly bow.  It speaks, telling them it is Pegasus, the spirit totem, and that they must learn respect – respect for Gaia and all Her creatures as well as respect for one another.  With a triumphant cry, it launches itself into the air and disappears from sight.  Our Garou explore the two paths before them before taking up chase once again.

Again, they run down paths no wider than their hips – and some narrower – choosing quickly and with decent accuracy, but their quarry stayed always just ahead out of sight.  Again they find themselves in a glen and in the center stood a proud griffin blocking their path.  They take to battle, again they throw themselves almost joyfully into battle.  And again, when they defeat their foe, it lets out a proud cry, before bowing briefly to them.  He said he was the totem Griffin, and he represented their need – as Garou for battle – but also their need to understand what war means.  They pass him by and take up the chase, growing weary of the constant battling and their prey staying so far from their grasp.  Another turn and another glen, this time they find themselves confronted with a creature they’d never seen before.  The body of a large predatory cat with golden fur and the head and tail of a snake, they find the creature curious, but they struggle to overcome it.  It tells them it is Uktena, a spirit from a far distant land and that it represents wisdom and the understanding of things unknown and unseen.  When it bounds away, they turn down yet another path only to find themselves almost instantly to another.  This time, there is no quarry obviously present, though Ari and Morna see movement at the far edge of the glen.  First it looks like a human coming towards them.  But then, no, it’s a horse.  No, a wolf.  Or is it a hare?  It lashes out in attack and they struggle with it.  Its attacks do little damage, but all their strength of arms seems almost useless against its ever-shifting form.  Finally, the last blow is struck and the creature take a solid shape – a human woman.  She says she is Chimera, and she represents wisdom through cunning.  She reminds them that things are not always as they seem and that sometimes they are as they seem, but not as you perceive them.  She finally directs them to the lone path, where a horned man – Stag in His guise as hunter, tells them it is now time to hunt.  If they take the hind, it will provide them with the sustenance they need.

So the hunt is called and they take flight after the prey they struggled so long to catch.  They bring it down, with a grace and speed demonstrating what they have learned in their time struggling to consolidate themselves as a pack.  They sing the Prayer for the Prey and Stag comes to them again.  They have completed His quest and learned well the lessons taught to them.  He gives his blessings, healing them of the wounds they sustained, and telling them to eat.  They feast, finding themselves full and fulfilled, but not to the point of lassitude.  They turn to seek their Benefactor again, only to find Him gone and where once stood an empty glade, stood a giant oak.  At its base can be seen three large men with the smell of Garou.  Our heroes approach and are greeted as friends and allies.  They speak of the great danger that comes and welcome the support, as they feared they would be the only ones to stand this ground.  The obvious leader of this pack informs them that the danger comes and all the Garou shift into Crinos.

Ari’s coat is a gleaming black, Morna’s is of a shining copper, and Wind’s is of the rich brown of fertile soil – all colors normal for Fianna.  But the three Garou before them stand a gleaming white – a hide not seen in more than a millennium since the White Howlers had been turned to the Wyrm.  They wore only kilts and woad tattoos wrapping every visible surface.  One – the largest of the bunch – pulled out a cudgel that was 6 inches across and nearly as long as Ari stood tall; on its end was a massive boulder and the entire length showed scripts that looked to be of an ancient language.  The smaller, more lithe Garou grimaced in pain as his claws grew, and when they caught the sun, the distinctive glint of silver was visible to all.  Finally, the leader pulled a flint stone from his pocket and with a grin, raked his claws across it, causing sparks to fly, catching his fur on fire.  Crossing his arms, he spreads the flames up both arms.  Ari, Morna, and Wind exchange a glance, wondering what help they, as young Garou, can offer to brethren of such power.  A sound from the far side of the tree draws their attention and they circle around the mighty oak and they watch as a sea of black, misshapen masses crest the hill like a wave of madness.  The greatest of the three companions lifts his voice in a song unlike any our three heroes had heard before – somewhere between a snarl of rage and a howl of victory, the Song of Battle – and power began pumping through the gathered Garou.  He began swinging his mighty hammer in a series of progressively faster circles before bringing it down in a powerful slam.  A sound like thunder rumbled through the shallow valley and in its wake passed a shockwave so immense, it cut a swath through the oncoming hoard.

As if refusing to not be outdone, the lithe Garou leapt into the fray and was quickly consumed by the force of bodies.  But within moments, there was an explosion of bodies, gore, and flame as the mass of Scrags are thrown away; the Garou stood bared with an eye glowing red with the gift of Balor’s eye as he slashed at any Wyrm-spawn within reach.  Finally, the leader rakes his flaming claws over the length and breadth of his body, spreading the flame before he dove into the fray.  The three companions passed looks to one another and Morna grinned, drawing Bain Greim before leaping into the midst of a group Scrags.  With the power coursing through her from the Song of Battle, she could all but hear Father Wolf howling as He joined His avatar – the wolf spirit who dwelt always within Bain Greim; the three of them sang the Song of Battle together, teeth and claws pushing the bone sword to rip ever deeper and she danced the sword forms all young Garou are taught through the masses.  Ari was quick to follow, her quarterstaff whirling, singing its own song of carnage as it moved through the masses.  What was usually no more than a sever shock now called down lightning upon her victims.  Finally, Wind hefted his mighty oaken sword and bulled his way into the fray.  The cracking of bones was a staccato rhythm pounded into the bodies of those unlucky enough to find themselves into his path – some bodies so badly destroyed that nothing more than bags of meat were being flung away from him.

The dance moved on and the cries of the dying slowly faded to join the silence of the dead as our six heroes found themselves near the crest of the hill – what Scrags were left fleeing back to whence they came.  The companions congratulated one another, keeping their adrenaline pumping by boasting of the kills they’d made so far, and the more yet to come.  Though the White Howlers were far more experienced warriors, in the moment they were all equals, washed in the ichorous black blood of the Scrags – they were all Garou, fighting for Gaia.  A rumbling sounded from the far side of the hill and several forms wrapped in a sickly green flame came flying over the crest of the hill, rolling until their bodies finally came to rest – the sickly green flame now trailing behind them in the grass.  Before any of them could decide what was to be done with the burning bodies, the rumbling from the other side of the hill grew more pronounced and slowly something broke the crest of the hill.  They watched as it rose.  And rose.  And rose.  Finally, it stood above the hill 20 feet, several feet taller than the mighty hammer-wielder, the largest of the Garou, its mouth little more than a gaping maw filled with teeth.  Showing no fear, he again began swinging his hammer around himself, picking up speed as he went.  Rather than slamming into the ground as he had previously done, he let the hammer fly and it struck the monstrous creature in the head.  The roar of thunder and a flash of lightning lit upon the creature before the hammer flew unerringly back to its owner.  The creature reared up its front legs – leaving several more in sight and an unknown number down the opposite side of the hill.

Its rage was evident  but did nothing to dissuade the attack of the vicious Garou.  The lithe man focus himself, as if he was the only thing on this hill in what was not long before a quiet and peaceful glen.  A deep and guttural growl sounded from far within his chest and before their eyes, he grew to a staggering 25 feet in height and his shoulders were easily as wide as Ari and Morna’s together.  With glee, he threw himself at the monster, slashing, attacking, and dodging to the best of his ability.  Only a step behind was the flame covered leader, joining his pack mates against the Wyrm-creature.

Our heroes moved to assist with the mighty foe, but between them and their destination, the burning Scrags were finally able to regain their feet and sought to attack the backs of the others.  Without hesitation, Morna, Ari, and Wind sprung into action.  It was a much more vicious fight than the previous one and the force pushing them from the Song of Battle began to fade.  They struggled valiantly and finally overcame the Scrags and turned their attention to the giant beast and their new allies.  The leader was nowhere to be seen, the now much larger silver-clawed warrior was missing an arm, and the hammer-wielder was swinging the now-stunted end of his hammer – most of the haft and boulder now long-lost.  Our heroes join the fray, attacking with blows more fierce than they’d ever achieved previously.  The massive creature reared up, flinging the hammer-wielder and Wind from his back, slamming the one-armed silver claw away before lifting one of his many feet in an attempt to squash the nuisance – Ari – that had been slamming away at the leg.  At the last moment, the one-armed silver claw managed to shove her away, beneath the beast; the move followed by a sickening crunch.

The hammer-wielder, regaining his feet and carrying on the last remaining fragment of his once mighty hammer – a small piece of the boulder – charged the beast, slamming the boulder into the mass of its body.  The crack of the crumbling boulder sounded moments before a deafening roar of thunder and wind, as the primordial storms that had been locked within the once-great fetish were released.  A sizzling bolt of lightning to rival the size of the mighty oak that stood far behind them flashed out of the sky, destroying the mighty beast.  The only ones unaffected by this mighty blaster were our heroes who were beneath its bulk.  Moving quickly, they dove from beneath the bulk that came crashing to the ground – the top of the beast now completely obliterated.  Within the depths of his body, a pain-filled moan escaped.  The heroes ran up, praying to Gaia that they would find at least one of their new allies still alive.  Within the gore of the now-dead beast, they found the leader of the other pack, his flames extinguished.  Her tears flowing for some time now, Ari let out a strangled cry as she ran to the Garou.  Laying hands on him, she called upon the gift of her Auspice – Mother’s Touch – hoping to heal him.  Slowly, his eyes opened, but when he spoke, his words were broken and painful.  Though she had done all within her power, it was obvious it had not been enough to counter the damage he had taken.

Suddenly, our Garou felt themselves being drawn away from the scene.  As they watched, a form coalesced before them – the form of a beautiful woman, her features neither young nor old, a and a gentle smile upon her face.  She reached down and touched the face of the downed Garou and Ari prayed beneath her breath that this powerful spirit would be able to offer the healing she had been unable to give.  “My child, you have done well,” was all she spoke to him before turning to the three Garou still standing.  “They have served me well and will take their place in the greatest gift I can offer, that of becoming Incarna to serve me ever after.  You have done well.”

With that, the scene began to fade away, almost like smoke, drifting away.  First the bodies of the defeated Scrags, then the great beast – leaving only the gently smiling woman and the three mighty heroes who had given their lives to protect Gaia and Her creation.  And then, even they were gone.  After the roar of battle, the silence in the glen rang like a struck bell and the only sound was Ari’s weeping.  The glen was largely unchanged from the way it had been when they first arrived except for the mighty  oak that stood as a testament to those who had given their lives.  And beneath its far-spreading branches was Stag, waiting patiently for them.  In that state of shock that follows immediately after battle, the three Garou approached.

“You have fulfilled all that is required of you and, as I promised, I have shown you where your new Cairn shall lie.”  He turned to Ari.  “Know that there was nothing you could have done to change the outcome of this battle.  It took place many millennia before your birth.  When the battle actually occurred, they stood alone, three against the horde.  This day, they had the succor of friends and had someone to assure them that their task had been successfully completed.  And you were given a story that has long been forgotten – a story of the valiant White Howlers – a story that has been lost in the struggles with what they have now become in the Black Spiral Dancers.  They were once one of the greatest warriors for Gaia, and you can now remind your people of that.  Here is the place where you shall make your new home.”  There was a rustle of breeze high in oak and the deep shading was briefly broken by a bright flash of sunshine and in that moment Stag vanished.

The Garou stepped sideways to exit the Umbra and studied the glen as it now stood.  What had once been just a large hill was a mountain ridge.  The trees were ancient and so covered in vines the only ways into and out of the glen were the few paths – one the very same they followed into the glen in the Umbra to bring them here.  Ari was broken-hearted, but she did her duty, calling on the aid of a spirit to send word to the Cairns that the new Cairn had been located.  Within moments, Garou began pouring into the glen – there was a moot to be had and a Cairn to be raised.

Morna approached Ari slowly, seeing the very real, very raw pain that filled her friend’s eyes.  “Stag said, it, there was nothing we could do, love.  But now we can share their story that they may live so long as our Cairn does.  Come, let’s get a drink,” she said, turning to include Wind in her offer, “that we may raise a tankard to our brave companions.”  Ari nodded and moved silently to where they were already setting up barrels of ale as Wind and Morna followed behind.  They had begun this quest as the members of two Cairns, but they ended it as pack mates, and when one was hurting, they would come together to join in their sorrow and try to ease their pain.  For once, there were no biting comments between the two headstrong fighters.

((notes for next time – new levels and fetishes attained, Cairn raising will be next time, as well as the naming of the pack))

Salting leeches

We pick up with our heroes fighting their way through the keep, following the wraith they set free.   Following the archers who fled from their previous attack, they find themselves again met by a room full of guards – the archers taking up their stations again.  After clearing the next area, they finally reach the top of the keep and find a room as bloody and stifled as the dungeon room had been.  When three Wyrm-spawned leeches steps out, frightening the three remaining humans to the point that they forget the giant Garou at their back – and the Garou snarl their rage.  Finally a fourth leech steps out – the man they sought on behalf of the Fae in one hand and the wraith clasped in the other.  He offered them an exit in the condescending way only a vampire can manage.  His three underlings throw themselves onto the three humans and the Garou leap into battle.  Each picks a leech for their own – their pack mentality having each moving to a different vampire as if planned.  Morna brings Bain Greim in two mighty swings, bringing her leech to his knees.  Ari ‘s Mellt sings as she spins him in close to her body before striking out at her target, injuring him before the spirit of Mellt – a spirit of lightening – lashes out and sends him to the ground shaking and unable to control the flailing of his limbs.  With a powerful dual attack of Bone Crusher, Wind rattles his shriveled brains in his head and snapped his arm like a dry twig.  Claws drawn, Morna and Wind’s foes – for Ari’s was still out and their master watched on, as if at a show – turned to attack, and though their claws struck true, the warriors laughed at the piddling damage.  With another mighty swing – the wolf spirit howling its blood lust – Morna ends her vampire’s life before turning to Ari’s foe – still incapacitated at her feet.  With an almost feral grin, she finishes him as Wind delivers the final crushing blows to his opponent.

Thinking quickly, Ari used her gift – Mother’s Touch – to heal her companions before turning her attention to their great foe.  With the grace and skill honed over centuries, he avoids her blow and turns his attack on her, striking a glancing blow to her.  With a vengeance, Wind and Morna bring their mighty Fetishes down on him before Ari strikes two quick blows, ending him.  A triumphant howl issues from first Ari and is taken up quickly by Morna and Wind before they turn to the room that the vampires had come from.

Before them they find a beautiful golden harp – knowing in that moment that it was the artifact they were seeking.  A quick search finds the final piece of the wraith and they quickly burn it, releasing the poor creature to pass to the Shadowlands.  “I will tell your story in the Shadowlands,” says he, before finally moving on.  Their search also turned up a conspicuous rope that, at a tug, reveals a passage leading back to the tunnels, which they quickly take, shifting back to human form before ascending from the well – the harp hidden beneath Wind’s cloak.  The town was now on high alert, seeking the demons who invaded the keep.  Our heroes begin moving through the alleyways in the town, silently evading those who sought them, until they came to a dead-end at the wall.  A sound from above startles Ari and she stumbles away from the wall, bumping into Wind.  A strange note sounded from the harp – though it wasn’t a sound so much as a feeling of change.  Suddenly before them was a hole in the wall.  Recalling the Fae’s command not to use the artifact, Ari quickly takes the harp from Wind, rewrapping it in her own cloak before dashing after Morna through the hole.  Their trip back to the forest to meet their Faeling guide seemed noticeably shorter than their trip to the town and before long, they heard the Faeling’s voice.  He plays a quick tune on the harp, shifting it to a flute, before leading them into the wood and to the Faery glen.  They are greeted by their host – the strange dragon man – who with a grand smile, invites them once again to feast with them.  At his request, Morna regaled them with the tale of their grand feats and they feast and sing into the night.

Raid from the deep

Morna and Ari sneak to the well and finding nothing amiss above ground climb down into the well and find a door.  After exploring it briefly and finding that it leads back into the city, Ari encourages Morna to go back and get Wind.  Finding him outside a guardhouse enjoying a drink with the guards, Morna projects her mind into his – finding it calm and mostly empty – and tells him of what they’ve found.  They make their way back to the well and into the tunnel.  After walking a way down this winding tunnel, they come to a large opening where two other tunnels meet their tunnel.  After a brief exploration, they find a man, crouched and confused.  They attempt to speak with the man and Ari remembers the wise woman the day before mentioning a baker who had gone to exorcise what haunted the well.  Deciding that there was nothing to be done for the man, Ari attempts to knock him out with her Staff, Mellt, so that Wind may carry him out of the well.  But he grabs her staff and – to the dismay of our Garou – is completely unaffected by the shock that runs through his body.  That’s when Ari notices that there is something behind him – something not of this world.   Stepping into Ari’s mind, Morna finds out what Ari suspects and they decide to step into the Penumbra; and after stepping to Wind’s mind, tells him as well.

Stepping sideways, they find a strange spirit – and Ari approaches in an attempt to release this sad entity.  He tells them he is trapped and tormented by a man.  All he can say is that the man has a particular look about him – something in his eyes – and he pleads with the Garou for their help.  He points them to the path that will lead them to the tormentor, but it is obvious he is terrified of the other tunnel and Ari senses magic.  Deciding that they must see what has frightened the wraith and at the end find his body – arranged in such a way to indicate his bound state.  Ari does a blessing and release before they set his body alight.  There is a part missing, so he is unable to be completely free; but they free him to the point that he can show them to his tormentor.  They find themselves in a dungeon and proceed to fight their way out of the dungeons – Ari hiding behind as her code of honor wouldn’t allow her to kill, or watch her compatriots kill, simple humans.  They fight through a dungeon of torturers and guards to a room full of guards in their full armor, taking down the full room and chasing the archers to a higher room.

((notes for next time – taken care of 22 of 40 foes – one at -1 with 4HP, onto level 6 of the keep))

Into the Fae…er..fray

Our heroes set out in the direction given by the strange spirit, loping along at a quick, but easy pace.  Time is different in the Umbra – fluid – and before they realized it, they found themselves confronted by the largest tree they’d ever seen.  It would take half a day to go around it, but before they began moving to move around they realized there was something in the tree.  The three shift to Crinos and move back from the now shifting tree.  After a moment, the trunk of the tree bows out, like a bubble being blown, and out steps a green man – 20 feet tall, his cloak appearing made of moss.  He spoke to our heroes, his voice like the wind rustling the trees of the glen around them.  Ari draws her courage and approaches the mighty guardian and tells him of their need.

As it turns out, he also has a friend in need, the guardian at the other end of the moon bridge.  The Fae at the other end have lost something of value to them, and if they will agree to assist the Fae, he will open the moon bridge for them.  After only a moment’s consideration, they agree.  They are, after all, Fianna – sworn by their very lineage to aid any Fae in need.  And they also carry the boon from their pack totem, the Stag, to offer their assistance.  So he waves his hand and a small bole in the tree begins to expand quickly, revealing the moon bridge.  Before leaving, they offer the guardian the hoof from the mighty elk – a valiant example of the spirit of the Wyld – as a gift for his assistance.  He lifts it high into the air with a smile, and disappears.  With the disappearance of the guardian the opening to the moon bridge began to shrink and the werewolves make haste across.

Coming to the other end of the bridge, they find a glen much like the one they left, but in this one rests a much smaller tree.  And around that tree, they are surprised to find a mighty dragon – the guardian of this end.  He quickly finds the antler offering and quickly devouring it before calling upon his Faelings.  With a glad cry, they welcome the werewolves and invite them to a feast.  After a promise that they will not be held in Faery – as the Fae are wont to do with those who unwittingly partake of the Faery feast – the Garou join in the feasting, adding music and stories.

As the night waned, the mood grew somber as their host breached the topic of the quest the Fae need the Garou to go on.  For a human came to them, lost, and they took him in and feasted with him.  Upon the morn, they found the human gone – and with him, a precious item.  He had fled to a city of men, where they Fae could not follow to retrieve him and their precious item.  They awake the following morning, refreshed, to find themselves out of the Umbra with a small Fae as their guide.  Two days finds them outside of a town and their small guide decidedly uncomfortable.  They wander into the hamlet and find the small inn.  Ordering breakfast, they offhandedly question the barkeep about the location of their “friend”.  He tells them of the strange goings on the next town over and they decide that is the direction they must now head.

They enter the next town and make their way into the largest tavern.  With music and a bit of coin, they get pointed to an old wise woman for more information.  Morna stays behind, hoping to illicit more information from her fellow patrons and Ari and Wind make their way to the healer’s house.  After a bit of back and forth – the wise woman testing Ari’s knowledge of herbs – Ari seeks what knowledge the woman may know.  She is told where the well is – and that it is under constant guard – and that the man they seek is currently a guest of the lord of the town.  Smiling, her herbs replenished, she and Wind return to the tavern, seeking Morna.  She has learned little in her time – the townspeople love their drink, and the guard will put up with no mention of the well.  When she sees her companions, she finishes her song and her ale – her third – and rises to leave.  Over the protests of the tavern patrons and a bit of cajoling from the tavern keep, she makes her way outside, her purse fatter than when they entered the hamlet that morning.

((notes for next time – it is decided that since we cannot reach the man we seek, so we send Wind to scout while Ari and Morna check out the well.  Once it is decided that what is in the well requires our intervention, we will meet up with Wind and go on the attack))