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.