Elder Charles Edward Severns III rather disliked the new King. Actually, dislike was an understatement. Loathed, detested, abhorred. The usurper mule King had not only forcefully married his only heir to an unworthy candidate, but had ordered an alliance between his sept and that of one Morgan Lucas Falconhand, provocateur, metis maker and asshole. And that didn’t even begin to touch on his opinions of the rest of Falconhand’s crew. A smarmy Glasswalker weakling who had eyesight so poor that she wore glasses, and a pompous self-promoting Stargazer who couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut.
And yet, there he was, in the most ‘luxurious’ accommodations sept Thunderheart had to offer, which was little more than a log cabin with a coat of paint so fresh that it burned his nose every time he took a breath. It didn’t take him long to pick apart the place, discover its every flaw, and conclude that this shitty little upstart cairn had no style, grace, or manners. Why, he’d even had to go and fetch his own meal the evening before, even though there were plenty of kin to serve his needs.
“They do things a little differently here, Father,” his daughter had commented. Her words were meant to soothe, but he could only feel a slow rolling anger boil through his guts. It had been building since the moment he’d woken after receiving a beat down worthy of song from the aforementioned Falconhand. Although, if he were truthful with himself, it stretched back to when his pack had been manipulated by the enemy into nearly destroying their own cairn. His pack, his brothers, were all dead now. They’d been branded as traitors, their names to be stricken from the record and never spoken of again. But for all of their flaws, Charles knew they were casualties of war, heroes of the battle field. The anger crept up a notch. He paced like a caged animal for a moment before declaring to his daughter that he would be going out for a breath of fresh air.
“Father, I don’t know if that’s wise….” Her voice trailed off at the look he gave her. She knew well her father’s temper. Best to let him go and hope that no trouble would ensue. She gave a helpless shrug.
Charles could see the concern. It wasn’t just the worry of a daughter about her father, it was the words of an advisor on the eve of an important diplomatic endeavor. She was warning him to not cause an incident. She looked so serious that he smiled and grabbed her hand. “I won’t embarrass you, my dear. I promise.” She shot a skeptical look at him, but dutifully nodded anyway. It made him laugh, which sounded odd to his own ears. It had been some time since something had tickled his fancy. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time that had been precisely.
He opened the door and noted that the hinges squeaked. He shook his head in dismay and stepped into the night. It was nearly the full moon and Luna spread her light freely. Charles had expected to have to deal with the ‘honor guard’ who had been assigned to the shack in which they were housed and for a moment was pleased that the young Garou wasn’t there. But then he felt the hair on the back of his neck raise. There was no way that even as inferior as his hosts were, that they would leave him unattended. They saw the new King’s orders for what they were, a circus side show. The alliance would be in word only, not in deed.
Something was a foot.
He took a cautious scent of the air. He could smell nothing amiss, but his instincts had never led him astray. It was why he had managed to reach the ripe old age of 49, a feat nearly unheard of in the Garou world. He slipped off of the porch and into the night.
Thunderheart, for its many, many flaws did have excellent tree coverage. The hiding spots and unseen spaces were many, and Charles took advantage of them all, skirting the public areas and following his intuition. Despite the late hour, many were out and about. He stopped within ear shot of the cairn warder’s voice, whose name he never bothered to learn.
“They’re coming in hot. I want full coverage on north patrols. Wake Walt and get him and his team on the western edge. You two, go sit on Guardian’s Point. Send a spirit messenger to Crystal Towers, tell ‘em we need every grunt they can spare. Go.”
“How bad is it?” A younger voice wondered aloud.
“Bad enough that if you don’t put some pep in that step, I’m going to start feeling real un-neighborly. MOVE!”
Charles listened to the sounds of scattering feet. One young Garou nearly stepped on him in his haste to get to his post, but never even noticed that he was tucked away in the weeds. Clearly, the cairn warder inspired the fear of Gaia. Charles could respect that.
‘Why don’t they sound the alarm?’ Charles wondered silently. Curiosity had gotten the better of him, and so instead of reporting for service, he carefully made his way through the woodland brambles to get a better view of what the cairn warder was up to.
He could see the Garou, standing in front of the cairn gate. Again, despite its flaws, Thunderheart had a gate so strong that Charles wouldn’t have been surprised if it could stop the Wyrm itself. It was, in a word, impressive.
The warder stood before the gate and on some unseen signal enacted the ritual to open the seal.
A body flew through the gate and skidded to a halt with a thunderous thud perhaps thirty feet from whence it had been launched. The warder had already started to move towards the crumpled form when the Metis King burst into the physical realm dressed in all of his battle glory. The King stepped past the warder intent on his prey who had already risen from the dirt and was howling as if grievously injured. Charles could smell no blood, and a quick assessment of the Garou who had been unceremoniously tossed into the earth told him that all major systems were a go, and the punk King was in for one hell of an ass beating. That suited Charles fine.
The infuriated Garou in question came up swinging, clearly in the throes of rage. It took a moment for Charles to understand that he was witnessing the inventoriable Morgan Falconhand completely and without reservation, losing his shit. He felt a shock of surprise. One of the things he hated most about Falconhand was his ability to remain cool under pressure. He was impossible to taunt, his rage kept in check by some unseen nearly mythical force.
It was clear that whatever it was that kept Falconhand’s beast in check had been well and thoroughly removed. Charles had to admit, he was glad to not be on the opposite side of the monster that raged before him. Charles had heard once through the grapevine that Falconhand had a beef with the King. It was said that he planted a klaive through the metis’ chest, and promptly mocked the kid as he struggled for air. He never doubted the tale.
If that had been the case when Falconhand was sane, Charles could only guess at the carnage that was about to ensue. Gaia knew, he’d been on the wrong end of those meaty fists once. His jaw still ached from it. But this time, Falconhand was out for blood. This didn’t seem to mind the King much, he advanced, dodged, took a blow that would have laid most flat, and with a series of deft moves, brought Falconhand to the ground.
The order was soft, but undeniable. Despite what the beast in Falconhand had in mind, the body obeyed and slumped in a messy tangle to the dirt.
“God damn!” The warder exclaimed. “You alright, kid?”
“No.” the King responded.
The warder approached the King and laid a familiar hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, kid. I am.”
The King nodded. “I’ll take care of him. A spirit courier will be bringing….” His voice trailed off, and Charles noted that the King and warder shared a long solemn look.
“Shit” the warder responded. “What about everyone else?”
“Johnny’s taking care of them. I’ve got my pack on it too.”
“Threats?” the warder asked.
“Other than the asshole who just killed my little brother and damn near murdered the rest of our family?” the King asked. His voice was strained.
“Understood.” The warder went off to see to the security of the cairn.
“You have no idea.” The King muttered at his back.
Charles watched as the King woke Falconhand from his slumber, only to be assaulted, and put the elder Garou back down. The King took the hits and with a voice so gentle that he might have been rocking a baby, ordered Falconhand back to slumber. Over and over this repeated until finally just before the break of dawn the King roused the old man and asked, “You actually with me, Dad?”
A crackled and broken voice responded, “I’m here.”
The King sat the old man up, offered him a drink which was brushed away. Falconhand looked like he’d just walked through the gates of hell. Charles knew he should look away, but felt compelled to witness.
“Dad, I need you to get your shit together.” It was a plea, and not an order.
Falconhand looked as if he might rage at the very suggestion. “My son was murdered…by that….thing.”
“I know.” The King spoke with a weariness that outweighed his youth. “I know.” Silence prevailed for a moment. “We’re going to get him, Dad. I swear to you with everything in me, he’s going to pay.”
Falconhand started to lift his mass off of the earth as if to start the task of vengeance immediately. The King rested a hand on his father’s arm. “Dad, right now, I need you with Mom. And the others. They need you. Let me take care of things here. Ok?”
Falconhand gave the barest of nods.
“Where’s Sam?” Falconhand seemed hardly able to form the words.
The King merely pointed towards the hearth stone. Falconhand shambled his way up the hill and Charles had to change positions to get a good view. Resting near the hearth was a small handmade casket. There were no tributes, and only the cairn warder stood guard. Charles watched as Falconhand fell to his knees with one long arm stretched out to the top of the box. Heart wrenching sobs escaped from the man who they said could not be bothered by anything, including the Apocalypse itself. The King stood behind him, with a hand resting on his heaving shoulder.
Charles finally looked away. He knew what it was to bury a son.
Charles was not certain exactly who it was that was implicated in the boy’s death, but judging by the size of the coffin, it had been a coward. Only the most craven would steal a child to punish the father. Charles still didn’t give much of a damn about Falconhand, or his metis King son, but the boy in the coffin deserved justice. If he had anything to say about it, it would be swift and merciless.
Charles summoned his daughter. “Make sure that the kin come to honor the little one Thunderheart has lost today.”
“What’s going on, Father?”
“Ask your husband. I have work to attend to.”