Silicone Lupus

Face lift
I don't get no respect!!!!

She sat at the back of the room, the slow burn of irritation needed only the smallest of kindling to flare into an outright inferno. Grace tried to interject a few times. Didn’t matter, the rest of the pack wasn’t listening. The bickering debate about the next step forward was being passionately waged and it was clear whose opinions weren’t needed. Whispy argued with Matt while Jake and Brian tried to talk over the room. Bri watched the arguments unfold with amusement or maybe it was distain, she was always so damn hard to read. Mo was trying to be the peace keeper and Alex did what Alex did best, which was basically nothing. It was clear that he wasn’t going to call any sort of order.

Grace shook her head as if to clear it, but the anger kept building. Her hands folded together into tight fists even as her shoulders rolled forward. Just as she rose from her seat, a gentle hand came down on her shoulder.

“Easy killer.” The touch made Grace flinch even as it fed her anger. Grace’s gaze followed the offending arm up to its owner.

“Chris, these fucking assholes…” Grace began.

Crystal made a sharp gesture cutting off the rant mid-stream. “No point in bitchin’.”

“That’s obvious,” Grace sneered. “They’d never hear it above the sound of how fucking awesome they think they are.” She had to raise her voice to be heard over the increasingly loud arguments of her pack.

“Well, you can’t spell Garou without ‘ego’.” Chris commented dryly.

“Are you stupid?” Grace responded testily. “Yes, you can.”

“Sorta like you can’t spell kin without ‘liability’, or maybe it’s ‘weakness’, or it could be ‘burden’. Don’t know, it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a dictionary.” Crystal gave Grace a long sideways glance. Despite her anger, Grace let out a laugh, and then a sigh.

“They don’t want to hear a word we have to say.” Grace said.
“And here I thought I was the smart one.” Crystal replied.

“Hardly.”

“Look Grace, you just need to understand that from a Garou perspective you’re the weakest link in the chain, what with having the kid and all.”

“Yeah, well your stock has fallen quite a bit, what with being a traitor and all.”
“Fair enough,” Chris replied. “But neither of us are helpless in this deal.”

“Don’t know that I believe you.”

“Bullshit, Grace. When you’re not getting a seat at the table, you’ve got to demand it.”

Grace sat forward and even as the voices around her grew louder, hers lowered. “What do you have in mind?”
“I’ve already got a plan and Sparkle is on board. All you have to do is make sure those guys don’t see me slip out the back door.” Chrystal explained.

“What’s the plan?” Grace asked.

“I’m going to go get that damn horn. I’ve listened to Bri talk about it, and I’ve watched her study it. If I don’t make a move, she’s going to.”

“Sounds stupid as hell.” Grace said.

“But also necessary. Grace, if we don’t start stepping up to the plate, we’re gonna get permanently stuck in this lovely mountain side wilderness for the rest of our lives with titles like ‘kin coordinator’ or ‘nursemaid’ or some other made up crap designed to keep us pacified and off mission. Now you do whatever, but that’s not how I envision my destiny.”

“So what do you want?” asked Grace.

“Same thing as you used to, to actually make a damn difference.”

“That’s not fair.” Grace protested.

“The truth often isn’t.” Chris replied. “Look, are you gonna help me or snitch on me? Because acting like throwing a fit is somehow going to make them respect you is dumb. It won’t. It will just make them see you for what you are.”

“And what’s that?” Grace could feel the blood rising back to her face.

“A scared little kin, in way over her poor pretty little human head.” Chrystal let her words rest as Grace digested the thought.

Grace focused back in on the Garou still arguing about strategy when she heard Mo suggest, “Ok, so we’re in agreement that Chris and Grace fall back. Now, who is taking point?”

Grace leaned in to Crystal, “I’m in. What’s the plan?”

“We need to take the long view on this, but for the next ten minutes or so, here’s what I need you to do…”

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King's Pack Session Notes 3
Crystal's Face Gets Melted Off

The “A Team” decides to weigh their options. They want the insurance of having the Jacob’s Horn, but the whole Trail of Embers is too daunting to everyone to go and retrieve it. Some yelling takes place back and forth about who gets to go and who doesn’t, when it’s finally noticed that Crystal and Sparkle are gone.

Oops!

The pack contacts them and Crystal claims she’s on the shitter and don’t bother her. Nero confirms they are in the Umbra traveling very quickly away. Matt tells Whispy that this is all her fault, as she is currently the Beta. Whispy stomps off, intent on catching up with them. Before anyone can react, she’s gone into the Umbra as well.

Knowing fully well that there is no way that Whispy can catch up with them, and not wanting to chance another pack member on this task, Alex orders here to return to the Caern through The King’s Writ (the Silver Crown). Willpower rolls ensue and Alex wins, barely.

Whispy returns in full on Raged out Crinos! Alex and Matt beat her into submission after taking a few scratches as well.

And the pack waits…..

…and waits…

…and finally after a full 24 hours goes by Crystal is dumped out of the Caern gate in a messy pile. She isn’t breathing and is barely recognizable. Matt thumps her with his club, healing her. However, she is so heavily scarred on her face, she has no eyes, nose or ears. Matt’s healing isn’t strong enough to heal the scars.

The Thunderheart Caern, while a badass Vision Caern, isn’t ripe for healing. So they head back to their caern, New Hope, which is a Healing Caern.

The entire pack spends most of the entire night preparing a rite to open the caern and it’s healing magic.

The ritual is so successful (8 successes on the roll!!!), that a blinding light erupts from the caern and heals everything on its entire bawn. Physically AND mentally. All renown scars, all mental deformities, everything!!! (yeah, there won’t be any fallout from THAT!!!)

And with that, Crystal is returned to her sarcastic self, AND she and Sparkle managed to retrieve Jacob’s Horn.

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Kings Session Notes 2
Planning, Parents and Promulgate

Briana is tasked with investigating “The Octopus Realm” aka Hakati. While the realm itself might not be too dangerous, it is guarded by The Trail of Embers. After some rolls, it’s been said that those who have walked the Trail of Embers faced their greatest fear, regrets, failures and sins. Most never return from The Trail.

It was quickly decided that King Alex should definitely NOT walk this path!!!

However, Briana started asking Johnny what he knew of the Trail of Embers. Which of course led to her snitching to their parents about their dangerous mission. Invariably leading THE ELDER’S OF GAIA’S TALON PACK TO HUNT DOWN THEIR CHILDREN FOR SOME ASS CHEWING.

After getting some of the details they approached Mari first, forbidding her from taking their kids “On this Death Wish of a mission.” Unfortunately for Mari, the pack had yet to reveal their plans to her, as they were still being formed and researched. Mari deflected admirably back to King Falconhand.

An hour long ass chewing commenced before Alex was fed up and ordered Gaia’s Talon to go ahead and inform Ethan’s Wife and Daughter that they wouldn’t be saving Ethan because it was too dangerous. Unceremoniously they all left to do just that (not that anyone believed they were going to do just that immediately!!!).

Annoyed with their parents, Briana reached out so Elder Sun Moon instead.

While he was strongly against them traveling the Trail of Embers, he gave what little knowledge he know. Unfortunately, he knew of no way around the Trail either.

It was then that the pack approached their totem spirits for some advice. Nero didn’t know shit. Sparkle claimed she did, but was to pissy with the pack, as they had been lax in their service to her. So the pack performed a rite of accolades on Sparkle, giving her a much needed ego (and Gnosis) boost that she wanted.

Sparkle claims she might know a way around the Trail. But before Alex can ask, a long, wasteful discussion of why Alex can’t go on this part of the mission is had, as he is too important. Alex waits and finally puts his foot down with the pack and says that they either all go together, or this part of the missions is scrubbed.

Whispy starts the planning of mission: “Trail of Terrors”

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King Session Notes 1
Since we can never fucking remember where we left off...

The King and Crew convince Mari to join them in their quest to rescue Ethan. They agree to meet at the Thunderheart caern as soon as possible.

Once at Thunderheart, Matt has dinner with his parents AND Mari. There is discussion about the “friendly duel” that took place between Mari and Matt. Johnny and Mari discuss Matt being mentored by Mari, essentially leaving Matt out of the loop (even though he was present).

Alex sits down at the caern to meditate in an attempt for a vision (it is a level 5 vision caern after all!) to see if Ethan had a “backup plan”. He discovers that Ethan had a very powerful fetish made that would open a gate from anywhere, transporting him back to safety. Unfortunately, on the way to “Valhalla” Ethan was accosted by a number of Sokta. Before he ran, the fetish was thieved away by them without his knowledge. Alex then discovered that the fetish was now in a sub realm in a “treasure horde” guarded by an “octopus looking” creature.

The pack discusses retrieving the fetish, but as a backup plan, they decide to build their own fetish that can allow them to always find the North Star. It’s decided that the fetish will basically look like a crystal monocle that hangs on a necklace.

Alex makes the TN#10 Wits+Rituals role with 1 success, most everyone spends a temporary Willpower to boost the fetish’s power.

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The Prodigal Son Returns
An A Team Adventure

Alex started the long walk towards the hearth stone of New Hope. He’d been gone for months and if he were being perfectly honest, he was a bit nervous about his first face to face meeting with his pack since he’d lost the challenge that had left him ousted. His pack had called the meeting in which the terms of his return were to be discussed. He ran a hand through his spiky short hair to brush back a few strands that had fallen across his forehead. His finger tips touched the edge of the crown he’d begun wearing again just that morning. The artifact had remained unusually silent. Maybe it was judging him too.

As he drew closer, he could see a large fire had been built and he could hear a rhythmic clanging noise. His brow furrowed as he tried to place the sound. Around the fire, he could see the members of his pack, standing with arms folded and severe looks upon their faces. They were dressed, well, ridiculously. Each in an ill-fitting black business suit with a starched white shirt and pencil thin black tie.

As he approached the clanging sound increased in intensity until it finished with one final loud ‘CLANG!’ Alex took that as his cue that he should stop. No one said anything, so finally he spoke. “Hey guys. Is someone banging on the back of a frying pan?” The hints of a smirk curled his lips.

“It’s a shaman’s drum,” Brandon replied.

“But you’re holding a frying pan, dude.” Alex said. The smirk was full on now.

“You’re such an asshole, Alex.” Grace retorted.

“We made due with what we could find.” Brandon explained as he gestured with the pan in one hand and a rubber mallet in the other.

Before the event could get anymore off script, Matt cleared his throat and stepped forward.
“This Council convenes to discuss the future and fate of our banished Alpha, Alex Falconhand. “

“Look guys, I came here to say….” Alex was interrupted by a clang from the ‘drum’.

“The exiled will remain silent until addressed.” Matt announced.

“Got it.” Alex responded. He didn’t bother to hide his amusement at the theatrics.

“Our Alpha has made grave errors in judgement. He has had lapses in wisdom. He has allowed his ego to overshadow the sage advice of his counsellors and for this reason, he has been turned out, to wander the world as a lone wolf. It is only through the forbearance and mercy of this pack that reconciliation may be possible.”

“That’s a little over dramatic, don’t you think, Matt?” Alex asked.

“What’s dramatic is that you got your ass kicked by a fourteen year old girl because you’re a dick. Dick.” Crystal responded.

“Touche.”

“Can we please get back to this?” Matt asked waving a sheath of papers in his hand. His frustration was starting to show.

Alex nodded his assent.

Matt muttered the last few words he’d read off before recovering his spot and cleared his throat once again as he continued to read aloud. “As such, The A Team has called forth…”

Alex raised his hand. Matt suppressed his irritation. “Yes, Alex?”

“Who the hell is the ‘A’ team?”

“That is our pack name.” Matt replied.

Alex shook his head. “It was decided that the pack name is Falcon’s Pride.”

“Yeah, we never really liked that name, bro.” Jake supplied.

“So we took up a vote on a new name.” Bri said.

“No, no, no. That isn’t how any of this works.” Alex interrupted. “As the alpha…”

“Alex, could you just shut the hell up for one damn minute???” Matt’s patience was at an end. His eyes had narrowed and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

Alex made a conciliatory gesture. “It’s cool, man. Continue on.”

“Thank. You.” Matt snapped back. He tugged at the lapels of his badly fitted jacket, rolled his shoulders and took a breath before continuing to read. “As I was saying, the pack has come up with some rules and conditions for your return. You will wholly and without reservation agree to these terms or face the consequence of our considerable wrath.” With a dramatic pause, and a clank from the frying pan for good measure, Matt began to read forth from a mostly unofficial looking collection of notes and scribblings made on scrap papers.

“As it concerns for the operation of the pack, the following decrees have be created by our collective.
Rule One: A group vote becomes pack law. Votes shall be tallied and a simple majority shall be the victor.”

“The Garou Nation is not the fucking Athenian Agora, guys.” Alex protested.

“No, it’s not.”Bri answered. “But our pack is. Like it, or leave.”

“Rule Two: To balance out the dictator leanings of our alpha, every ¼ moon the pack beta shall be elected to the post by a majority vote of the pack.” Matt read.

“No way, guys.” Alex shook his head. “If we’re in battle, I need to muster the troops as I see fit.

“You’re still the General in this war,” Mo explained. “You can choose your Lieutenants as you always have. But in pack matters, we choose.”

Alex looked doubtful but said, “Fine, continue on.”

“Rule Three: We are not your booty call babysitters. You deal with your own woman problems and leave us the hell out of it.” Matt read.

“That’s fair.” Alex responded, looking a little dejected.

“Rule Four: Alex is not allowed to take the last beer. Ever.” The last word was read with finality, and maybe with a touch of a threat. Alex just nodded his agreement.

“Rule Five: We are all allowed to have our own careers. If Grace wants to work down at the Best Buy, or if Whispy wants to work at the salon, that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Alex just shook his head in amazement. “As long as it does not interfere with Garou operations, I guess I don’t care.”

“A sub clause of that rule is if Mo requests an auto part, it will be provided.”

“You still sour about that junk yard run, man?” Alex asked Mo.

“Damn right I am.”

“Rule Six: The pack totem is to be selected, interviewed, and voted upon by the pack.” Matt continued.

Alex was beginning to feel exasperated. “We already have a totem.”

“No. You have a totem.” Bri responded. “Nero only responds to you, and we’re not putting up with his bullshit anymore.”

“I’m not dismissing Nero.” Alex stated flatly.

“No one is asking you to,” Matt said. “Because the sub clause of Rule Five is that our pack totem is to be treated as an equal to Nero by you.”

“Whatever.”

“Another sub clause to Rule 5 is this: Nero is a dick.”

“Am I supposed to do something about that?” Alex wondered.

“No,” Bri responded. “We just wanted it on the record.”

“Rule Six: Alex must treat the pack respectfully. This is followed by a sub clause that Alex can’t be a dick.” Matt read.

“Good luck enforcing that one.” Alex said under his breath.

“Rule Seven: There will be transparency on pack resources. We all share in the spoils.”

“There’s spoils?” Alex asked. “Like how much?”

“The rule is in place for when we actually have some.” Grace clarified.

“Oh.” Alex looked disappointed.
“Rule Eight: Alex may not wear anymore of that douche bag cologne as defined by the collective noses of the pack.”

“Really, guys?” Alex asked.

“Really.” The pack responded in perfect unison.

“Rule Nine: There will be breaks during the week where we will not train.”

“Training is not a laughing matter, you guys.” Alex replied seriously. “This is how we start sharp, to stay alive.”

“It’s important, but we need some down time too, Alex.” Mo said. “If we can’t ever enjoy our lives, what the hell are we fighting for?”

“Rule Ten: His Highness’ survival is key to the survival of the Garou Nation. In dire security situations, his Highness will respond to pack commands regarding his safety. This is non-negotiable because if his Highness is killed, we’re all fucked.” Matt paused to see if Alex understood the rule. Alex didn’t look happy about it, but he gestured for Matt to go on.

“Rule Eleven: Recognizing that Alex has abilities granted to him through his ascendancy to the throne, he agrees to never use his powers of persuasion against the pack for his own personal gain.”

Alex winced a little bit. “Sorry about that thing that one time, Jake.”

“I still reserve the right to kick your ass over it.” Jake said with a nonchalant shrug.

“Rule Twelve: Alex is required to call his mom weekly so that she’ll leave the rest of us the hell alone. We’re serious about this.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “Now we’re down to micromanaging my behavior?”

“Apparently it’s needed.” Matt said as he continued on. “Rule Thirteen: We recognize that Alex is in a low level shitty little garage band with no chance of reaching a larger audience, much less making a dime off of his efforts, but whatever. Band practice does not happen at home. The sub clause is that everything is not about Alex’s music. “

“My band rocks, you assholes.” Alex responded defensively. The pack just silently stared at him. “We’re gonna hit the big time. You’ll see.” There was a bit of sulking.

“You want a tissue for those bitter tears of reality?” Chrystal asked with mock concern.

“Fuck you, Chris.” Alex responded.

“Moving on to Rule Fourteen:” Matt said.

“Dear Gaia, just kill me now.” Alex plead to the sky.

“Rule Fourteen: We can eat processed cheese whenever we want.”

“Ok, now you guys are just fucking with me.” Alex replied.

“Rule Fifteen: Alex is not to hide his location from the pack. Nor is he to ignore pack communications directed to him.” Matt intoned.

“I only wish I could ignore this.” Alex muttered.

“Rule Sixteen: When in public, Alex will speak respectfully of the pack.”

“Wait a second, I always do.”

“Just making sure. Rule Seventeen: Rules are determined by pack vote and addendums may be added later and ratified by a majority vote.”

“Are you all really serious about this?” Alex asked.

“As a heart attack.” Grace said.

“Alex, you’re my brother. “ Mo said. “We’d follow you to hell and back. But some things have to change around here for this pack to work. We’re telling you what we’ve got to have from you. We’re your family, and you gotta start treating us like it.” Mo’s face was filled with sincerity.

Alex stared at the ground for a bit considering his next move. A part of him wanted to tell the whole lot of them to fuck off. He was the King of the damn Garou nation. He didn’t need to bend knee to a bunch of absurd rules and regulations. With the snap of his fingers, he could have a new pack, an obedient pack.

But they wouldn’t be this pack. They wouldn’t be his pack.

“What’s the penalty for breaking a rule?” He asked as he paced back and forth.

There was silence for a moment. Alex could tell they hadn’t planned that far ahead. Finally Whispy spoke for the first time. She stepped forward from the group, facing Alex nearly toe to toe. She had to tilt her head up in order to look him in the eye. In that quiet unassuming voice of hers she explained, “If you step out of line with us ever again, I will make the last challenge look like a friendly sparing match. Is that clear enough?”

“Yup.” Alex believed her.

“Ok, gang. I’ll agree to your rules. But know this: There will come a day, sooner rather than later I fear, when I am going to ask you to follow me to hell. And then I’m going to ask you to do it again, and again. I’m not going to paint a pretty picture where there is none. When that happens, you will do as I command. There will be no focus group, no committee, there will be no debate, and there sure as shit won’t be a vote. I’ll need each of you by my side doing what is required for victory. If you can follow that rule, then I can follow yours.” He took the time to look each member of his pack in the eye, to let the gravity of his words settle.

“Are we in agreement?”

Heads slowly nodded in ascent.

“Great, who’s up for a grilled cheese sandwich?”

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Paradigm Shift

“Are there actually any living people here?” Amelia collected her stake out of the latest undead they’d come across.
Charles shook his head and wiped the blade of his klaive off on the tatters of fabric remaining from the vampire foe they’d just vanquished. “Higher population of them than I would have suspected.”

“You look like hell, Severns.”

He took a long look at Elder Stoneburn. “Can’t say this is your finest look, either.” The Glasswalker who typically spent her days behind a desk was covered in grime and gore. He had tasked her with basic staking of the leaches. Although she had a klaive herself, after seeing her wield the weapon he had serious concerns that she would accidentally lop off his own head in an attempt to take the enemy down. Such a maneuver would not serve either of them well at the end of the day, and so he had tasked her with stabbing the blood whores through the heart with a wooden stake he’d fashioned with his own klaive out of a piece of scrap wood they’d picked up along the way. Most of the time, she didn’t even strike true. He was beginning to wonder about her worth. Surely he’d never seen such a helpless elder in all of the nation. He swallowed his distain. One didn’t always get to choose the best or most useful of allies. He’d make due. Wasn’t like he had any other choice.
“Check that out.” Amelia moved past the ashen corpse to point out some graffiti scrawled on a worn and run down alley wall.
Charles gave it the barest of glances. “We need to keep moving. No doubt, this one had friends and this is not a defensible position.” He motioned for them to move on, and yet Elder Stoneburn was steadfast, staring at the work of vandals. He was quickly growing wearisome of the Glasswalker’s distracted behaviour. “Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear…” His voice rang out into the night, bouncing off of the alley walls.

Amelia shushed him with a sharp gesture. “Pay attention, Chuckles.”

“Refer to me that way again, and I swear…” His voice trailed off as he noticed hidden amongst the layers of spray paint and chipped bricks was a nearly hidden symbol.

Amelia looked over her shoulder at him. “This is it.”

He could scarcely believe it, but she was right. “The gate.”

“Yup.”

“You should wait here. I’ll scout ahead.” He ordered.

“Screw you. I found it. I’m going first.” Amelia responded.

“This isn’t some kind of game. If the enemy lurks beyond, they’ll cut you down like a hot knife through butter.” Charles made sure to use the correct balance of command and ridicule in his tone. Surely she could be brought to heel. After all, she was the weakest link in the Falconhand chain.

It was with great surprise that he found himself pinned firmly against the same broken brick wall he’d just been observing. He heard the clatter of his klaive hit the pavement and echo into the night even as he felt his wrist being crushed by the force applied to it.

“Listen up, Charles.” The guttural growl coming from the meek Glasswalker caught his immediate attention. “You’re along for this ride because I wish it so. Mock me again, and I’ll gut you where you stand and no one will much give a shit. Got it?”
Charles struggled to free himself from the suddenly crinos Glasswalker. It should have been an easy task, he outweighed her. But no matter how he shifted his weight, she still held the upper hand. The break started to spread from his wrist into his forearm, as though it were being splinted from the inside out. He refused out of pride to cry out, but the pain was excruciating.
“Understand?” The word coming from Amelia’s mouth was so gravelly that it barely registered as English to Charles’ ear. Her breath was hot against his neck and he could nearly feel the razor sharp bite she promised to deliver if he did not promptly acquiesce. He gave the barest of nods that he was in agreement of her demands.
Charles felt himself released and slide down the rough wall, his shirt catching along the way. The beast within him was screaming to be let out, but he understood that a duel to the death would not serve his goals. He swallowed the pain, and a fair amount of his pride.

As suddenly as the pain had been delivered, a very human looking Elder Stoneburn took it away with a prayer to the Goddess. Charles refused to give out a sigh of relief.

“I’m glad we’re on the same page, Chuck,” Amelia said casually. She didn’t show a single sign that seconds before she’d nearly murdered him.
He tried to pick himself up from the pavement. It took three attempts “How the hell did you know how to do that?” He wondered aloud.

“My brothers taught me. Don’t test me again. I might have to get really nasty and I promise you wouldn’t like that.” Her voice held the tone of corporate professionalism. While the words were harsh, they were delivered with a certain kind of neutrality that made his skin start to crawl.

In a sudden epiphany, Charles realized that he was serving with a true elder of the Garou nation. He also grasped that he was not the Alpha here. He also knew without a doubt that she was far more infected by the enemy than he was. He sent a silent prayer to Gaia and because he no longer had a choice, followed Amelia’s lead.

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Strange Bedfellows

She sat in her office, phone in one hand while the other typed furiously across three keyboards.
“Five million, Scarlett. Make it happen.” Amelia hung up before the laundry list of objections had a chance to start. She didn’t know why Johnny had made the request for cash. Ultimately it didn’t matter. She trusted him implicitly, if he’d asked for a billion dollars, she’d of figured out some way to make that happen to. Of course sums like that took some creative accounting to cover, but the ledger from last quarter was solid, so there was plenty of room for discrete withdrawals from here and there to make up the sum. Amelia knew Scarlett was clever enough to find those gaps and exploit them without raising too many eyebrows.

Amelia paused to open a line to Kasha. “How is he doing?”

The falcon spirit took a moment to reply. “Morgan is with Alex right now. And he’s doing how one might expect.”

“What’s Johnny up to?” Amelia asked.

“Tending to the wounded.”

“Let him know I’ll be on my way.”

“No.” the spirit answered. “Elder Lao has requested you remain at Silicone Lupus and complete the tasks he has laid out.”

Amelia didn’t even bother to respond as she cut the communication. She’d been left out of the loop, on purpose, again. She understood why. Since she had a piece of the enemy firmly lodged in body from which the bastard could see and hear everything she did, she was an operational security nightmare.
Being left out still pissed her off.
Her office door opened and without even looking up she said, “Janet, I told you I wanted no interruptions this morning.”

“And I’m certain she would have followed your directives, but she seems to have stepped away from her desk for a moment.”

Amelia looked up sharply. “What the hell are you doing here, Severns?”

He took that for an invitation, entering the room and closing the door behind him. “I thought we should talk, Elder Stoneburn.”

“Get bent, asshole. I’m busy.”

“This is important.” He persisted as he took a look around the executive suite. He noted the décor was tasteful, if a bit sparse. Furnishings were of a high quality and more modern than most CEO offices he’d visited. Amelia’s desk was filled by computer screens, multiple keyboards which he noted she typed on separately with either hand and didn’t seem to ever miss a stroke. There was a small framed photo on her desk. Her children when they were young, he recognized. It was really the only personal touch.

There was a sideboard, fully stocked with liquor of various types and a box of expensive cigars. Severns figured that must have been placed there for when Morgan came to visit. Amelia didn’t strike him as an aficionado. He walked over to it and surveyed the bottles. Expensive, tasteful, well curated. He picked up one of the cut crystal glasses and gestured to her. “Drink?”

“No. Leave.”

Severns ignored the last part of her statement and poured himself an aged whiskey. He took an appreciative sniff. Very nice. Drink in hand he crossed the room to sit in the guest chair directly across from where Amelia was working.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear,” she started.

“You and I have a common enemy, Elder Stoneburn. I’m here to propose a temporary alliance.” He interrupted.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nor do I care, Chuckles. Get. Out.” Her words held a note of finality to them.

“I can see the invisible hand of the enemy all over you, Elder Stoneburn. His fingerprints are as clear as mine are on this glass.” He held the whiskey up to the light to illustrate his point.

“I have no idea what you’re going on about.”

Severns lowered the glass and gave her a thorough once over. Amelia remained as emotionless as possible, even though she wanted to squirm a bit. Morgan had a way of looking at a person like that. Must have been a Silverfang thing.

“Elder Stoneburn, despite your rather obvious distain for me, I am also an Elder in the nation. I am not easily fooled or deceived. I know you’ve been in direct contact with our mutual enemy. I think it likely that contact has been recent, perhaps extremely recent.” He let that thought sit and watched her carefully.
She was good, he had to admit. Very few tells, but there they were. He was on the right track.

“What do you want, Chuckles?”

“The same as you, I suspect. To put our mutual enemy in the ground for good.”

“You have no idea what you’re even getting yourself into,” she scoffed.

He sat the whiskey down on her desk with a definitive clink. His eyes darkened as his shoulders rolled forward. “I know more than you think. I know this little ‘accident’ that has sidelined your alpha and the King himself is part of a bigger play. It’s a distraction to keep eyes off of the real plan.”

“Fine, I’ll bite. What’s the ‘real plan’?” she asked

“That’s what you and I are going to find out.”

“You’re nuts, Severns. I’m not working with you. I’ve got a pack.”

“A pack that’s been consistently leaving you out. A pack that keeps you at arm’s length and has very grave concerns about your motives and actions. A pack that doesn’t fully trust you.”

“Bullshit.” Amelia dismissed his words.

“Is it?” He wondered aloud. “If so, what the hell are you doing here while your pack is in dire need of all of the help they can get? I’ve heard they are calling in favors from other septs because they need manpower, and yet here you are, sitting in a high rise in the city.” He saw the blow landed true.

“You don’t know anything about us.” She bit back.

“Now who is speaking bullshit?” He replied. “Your pack is very well known, and I’ve studied you more than most. Besides, I know I speak truth on this.” He said.

“You look into a crystal ball or something?” she mocked.

“No. I am…afflicted in a similar fashion to you. I can sense the enemy in you, and if you were paying closer attention, you’d be able to sense it me as well.”

Amelia turned to face him. She removed her glasses and set them aside. “What did he do to you?”

“You mean besides murdering my pack, ruining my reputation, casting chaos and instability onto my cairn, and forcing me into an untenable position? Not much, I suppose.” He picked the whiskey back up and drained it with one swallow. “I’ll give your alpha this, he does have exquisite taste in booze.” He rose to his feet to pour another.

“Cut the crap, Severns. We’ve all seen hard times. Your sob story is nothing new.”

“No, it is not.” He agreed. “But this particular enemy we share, he has a way of getting into your head. Of course, you’re already familiar with that, so I’m not telling you anything new. He also has a way of getting into your body.” He rolled up his sleeve revealing what at first glance appeared to be a scar no different than anyone might collect over the years. But as Amelia studied it closer, she recognized the symbol.

“You’ve been marked by Him.” She spoke it as an accusation. “You’re compromised by Him.”

“I hardly think you’re one to throw stones, here.” He replied.
“My situation is different.” She replied.
“Uh huh.” There was a touch of mockery in his tone.
Her face grew red. Whether it was anger or shame that was winning out, Severns wasn’t sure, but he understood the feeling well. He softened his tone. “What I am saying is that you and I are in the same boat, whether we prefer it or not. No one trusts us. No one wants us to be a part of sensitive operations. No one will work with us. We also share the same fate of having been carefully selected by this particular enemy. I’m certain there’s a very considered strategy behind all of that. Unlike the generally random nature of our enemies, this one has a very specific vision.” He gestured to the bottles again and lifted an eyebrow to see if she would now accept a drink. This time she agreed.

“So what’s this nut job’s vision?” Amelia wanted to know.

“That’s the million dollar question,” he responded as he sat a drink in front of her. “We figure that out, then we can know his next moves. If we know that, then it’s a question of marshalling resources and executing a plan.”

“This guy can’t be killed.” Amelia stated flatly. “He’s got some kind of magic that makes him immortal. He’s immensely powerful.”

“I’m sure that’s true. But, with that kind of power comes hubris. With hubris comes carelessness. With carelessness comes opportunities for us to exploit.”

“You’re out of your mind, Severns.” She stated flatly.

“Does that mean you’re in?” He gave her a winning smile that reminded her enough of Morgan that she laughed.

“It means I’ll think about it.”

“Fine, don’t think too long. We don’t want to tip our hand. Like it or not, we’ve already started down this path, and we’ll probably only get one shot at our mutual enemy.”

“Morgan and Johnny will be pissed.” She mused.

He nodded in agreement. “Rightfully so. Good news is that they’ll pin the blame on me, so you’ll be fine.”

“You’re awfully cavalier about a couple of guys who’d hardly be heartbroken if they had to put you in the ground.”

“I am not. I’m just realistic about the current state of the battlefield. I cannot win their true alliance, and I’ll certainly never have their affection.”

“So what do you want from them?” She asked.

“Nothing. That’s why I’ve come to you instead. You are perhaps the only Garou alive who can help me obtain what I crave.”

“And what’s that?” she wondered.

He studied her once again in that thousand yard stare of his before responding.

“Justice.”

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Bad Moon Rising

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.

“Sleep.”

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.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

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Man Down

The aroma of camomile, sage, and lavender hung heavy on the summer air. The Den Mother found it cloying and took a deep breath through her mouth to avoid the scent. It didn’t matter, she could still taste the herbs and it made her mouth take on a flavor too bitter to swallow. Lemongrass, ginger, thyme, and more. The mourners brought their bundles, some elaborately braided and plied, others offered little more than a fist full of loosely collected weeds. All spoke the same words, “I have come to honor your fallen. Please receive this as a symbol of his strength…”

“Wisdom.”

“Courage.”

“Leadership.”

Or some variation thereof.

And with a small nod from the Den Mother, they laid their tributes next to the tiny casket sitting near the hearth stone.

The King had ordered a funeral in the style of the old way, an affair typically reserved for the most decorated and gallant of warriors who had passed to beyond the veiled realms. It was full of rituals, rites, and days of preparation preceding internment. Den Mother spared a glance over towards the hill where a sept cemetery had been constructed out of necessity years before. Indeed, the young theurges were blessing the ground where the burial would occur.

One would have thought this was the memorial of a grand hero. But this was no warrior who lay in state. No songs would be sung of this one’s bravery or prowess on the battlefield. No one who gave the gifts had ever even heard of, let alone met the deceased. Den Mother felt her stomach turn and forced herself to respond each time, “You have honoured Samuel Bryce Falconhand. Grandson of of….Son of… Brother of…” It was rote phrase, befitting the ceremony, but not to the little boy in the coffin. Honestly, she didn’t know what else to say.

But truth was, no one would remember what they had never known. The mourners were either currying favour with the King, or perhaps his father. In the Garou nation, a dead kin child wasn’t to be widely mourned. After all, there were plenty of kin to go around. But Den Mother remembered. She remembered a little boy who’d come to her kitchen looking for ice cream just two days earlier. He’d wanted two scoops, one chocolate, and one vanilla. She’d bargained him down to a single scoop. Chocolate had won. Now she wished she’d given him both. It wouldn’t have harmed him, and might have given him more delight in his last days. She regretted that very much.

The pile of herbs grew quickly surpassing the height of the hastily assembled casket. It had been colored with the same white paint they’d used to freshen up the lodge house a month or two back. Den Mother had liked that shade back when the sept had gotten together for a painting party. They’d all been laughing and talking about the future. Sam’s entire family had been there. Kids running around outside, and adults conversing easily about how it would be different once the children took charge of the place and so what was the point of painting it anyway? Many drinks consumed, more cheers raised into the night. To the future of Thunderheart! Now she felt an irrational hatred of the color. It didn’t feel like the future anymore. In the old tradition, herbs were offered in lieu of flowers. With their pungent scents, it was said they masked to odor of the deceased better. Den Mother disagreed, but kept her opinions to herself.

Normally the highest ranking relation of the deceased would have accepted mourners. But the little boy’s family remained in isolation being tended to by the elder theurges. They had said the family had been in a terrible car accident. That it was simply a bad turn of luck, an unfortunate roll of the bones. Den Mother wasn’t buying that any more than she was buying the manufactured tears of strangers who came calling.
She’d seen Morgan early that morning. He was unshaven, his dishevelled hair pulled every which direction from his customary tidy braid, and with circles darker than the night surrounding his eyes. She’d offered him coffee, perhaps a bite to eat.

As if it had taken a moment to even recognize who was speaking to him, his gaze finally settled on her. His normally bronzed skin was flushed angry red and spread so tightly over barely contained muscle and veins that it seemed he might burst apart at the seams. She could see the predator in him, yearning to slip out with every pulse of his heart. The easy going alpha she knew was fighting to keep his head above water and not slip down a rabbit hole of savagery. Who could blame him? His son was dead. Morgan had responded to her offer with a guttural, “No” and moved on. Everyone had given him a wide berth. It seemed wise. Den Mother knew then that what had happened was no simple car accident. She’d seen her alpha grieve, she’d seen him angry, even outraged. This was different. This had felt like he was going to war. Against who, she couldn’t say. But she knew that whomever the target for Morgan’s ire, well… she predicted they had a poor prognosis for long term survival.

But even as the King had ordered a grand funerary in the moments after her encounter with Morgan, there was no one to stand with little Sam. His father was attending the rest of the family who were gravely injured and lucky to be alive. Those who weren’t injured stood guard on the bawn. Another sign that what had happened was no accident. And so, Den Mother stepped in to stand with Samuel. After hours of trivial platitudes and politically motivated condolences, she kind of wished she hadn’t.

And then Xavier stepped up. His face was its usual unemotional mask. Den Mother never really knew how to read him, and since he wasn’t much of a talker at any given moment he could have been perfectly content or ready to wage war. His face and body language never changed no matter the circumstance. Den Mother had always taken him for being cold, unemotional, and certainly never sentimental. She waited for him to say the traditional words. Instead, he silently brushed many of the herbs aside placed a battered blue teddy bear upon the coffin. Den Mother could hear the gasps from the line of mourners who stood in line behind him. It was, to their thinking, a grievous breach in protocol and manners. Den Mother recognized the toy. It was a favorite of Sam’s. Her eyes burned with tears. That Xavier, of all people, had thought to bring it.

He spoke: “I thought he might want this for his journey.”

Den Mother bit her bottom lip hard enough to draw blood so she could speak. “You have honored him.” It was the first time she’d spoken truthfully all day.

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Girl's Night Out
Sometimes the line between good and evil is razor thin

“You be a good girl for Daddy,” Bethany handed a swaddled Mika to her husband with a kiss.
“Have fun with the kids,” she said. Johnny gave a bit of a helpless shrug. “C’mon, you battle nightmarish creatures and you’re worried about a play date with the Falconhands?” Her smile was wry.
“They are more chaotic than any beast I’ve faced,” he responded as he settled his daughter into the crook of his arm. She laughed. They certainly were a handful.
“Don’t worry about anything here. We’ll make certain that everything is prepared for our guests.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.” Johnny responded, giving her a peck on the cheek as he walked out the front door.

Bethany smiled and waved, and after he was out of sight she took a heavy seat. This baby had been tougher than her sons. She was bone weary. She felt old and wrung out. There was a light knock on the door as it opened and Tonya came in already bubbling over with plans and to do lists. Bethany wondered how her friend managed to have endless energy and enthusiasm. She felt a pang of jealousy arise and she quickly smothered it. It would help no one for the two of them to be having cross words on the eve of an important gathering. The alliance with North Country was a big deal for them all and their new partners needed to see that Thunderheart had a united front.

“….and so if we have the dinner at the lodge table, we can probably work out enough seating….” Tonya trailed off. “You alright, Beth?”

“I’m fine.”

Tonya’s face wrinkled in a combination of concern and annoyance at the white lie. Before she could even draw a breath to speak, there was another knock on the door. Bethany suppressed a sigh and rose to her feet, “I’ll get it. It’s probably Walt wanting to know about the guest quarters.”

Bethany opened the door and was surprised to see Alex’s impeccably attired bride standing on her front porch. Rumor had it that the King’s Consort had deeply sunk into a months long bender and showed no signs of surfacing anytime soon. “Katherine!”

Katherine gave a small bow and a demure subservient smile. “Matron Lao,” she softly spoke, using the formal kin title that Bethany tended to avoid. “I beg forgiveness for the unannounced intrusion.” Her voice was quiet, even deferential, but still carried notes of old world culture. “It is my understanding that Matron Falconhand is here.”

“Of course, come in.” Bethany cast a quick look at Tonya and saw that her friend was equally surprised by their visitor.

Katherine greeted Tonya as formally and with even more deference than she had Bethany. “Kin Mother. Please pardon the interruption.” Her hands spread before her in a conciliatory gesture and her body language was submissive. The scent of her perfume lightly danced on the air as she moved. Bethany struggled to place all of the elements. It was light, fresh, and more spice than sweet. Garou as a general rule disliked perfumes as being too harsh on their senses, but Bethany couldn’t detect a single offensive or off putting note. If nothing else, she found it soothing.

Tonya approached Katherine for a hug. “Nonsense. You’re always welcome here.”

“You honor me.” Katherine replied, enduring the embrace of her mother in law.

“Perhaps we should sit, have tea, catch up?” Bethany suggested.

“I would enjoy that, Matron Lao.” Katherine replied.
Bethany listened from the kitchen as Tonya made small talk with Katherine. Katherine’s replies were elegant in their formality, but Bethany noted there was little substance behind the words. At best, Katherine seemed to be little more than a subservient debutant. Bethany wondered for the hundredth time why Alex had shackled himself to this pretty, but worthless girl.

Bethany served the tea, herbal this time with a little kick. God knew, she needed the energy shot.

Katherine sipped, smiled in approval. “Matron Lao, your talents have been understated.”

“Kat, why are you here?” Bethany asked with a bit of a blunt edge.

Kat lifted a perfectly groomed eyebrow. “I was hoping we could have straight talk.”

“It’s the only kind we prefer, Kat.”

Katherine laughed. “I had heard that.” She took another sip of the tea. “So straight talk it is.”

Bethany watched as Katherine’s entire demeanor changed. She sat a little straighter, her gaze became direct, and the shy serving girl routine fell away. It was a nearly breathtaking transformation and the hair on Bethany’s neck stood on end.

“You are about to invite a den of vipers into your home,” Katherine began. “This is a time of great peril for you, Kin Mother.”

Tonya laughed. “We’ve hosted more questionable people than I care to recount, dear. This cairn is one of the safest places on earth. I’m not concerned.”

“Then you are a fool.” Katherine’s words landed like a slap. Bethany watched Tonya recoil at the reprimand. Her fair skin flushed and her red headed temper was about to make an appearance.

“Kat, you listen to me. My husband…”

“Can do nothing about the war that’s about to waged in your borders.”

Bethany interrupted, “You think there will be an attack?”

“Of that, I have no doubt.” Kat replied. “But it will not be with guns, or klaives, or fists. It will be the systematic dismantling of your alliances with other kin folk. All of the sweat and tears you’ve spent to fuel kin allegiances to your cairn are going to be infected and eaten from the inside out by a malignant force that you don’t even see coming, and by the time you sense the danger, it will be too late.”

“Bullshit.” Tonya replied. “Our allies are like family to us.”

Kat gave a dismissive shrug. “Then I guess we are done here.” With military precision she removed the napkin from her lap and folded it to be left on the table.

Bethany leaned forward. “What do you know? And don’t give me any of your political double speak.”

Kat smiled. “Well, it is the language I’m best versed in, which is why I know that the alliance His Highness has hastily arraigned between the New North Country Proctorate and Thunderheart can really only go one of two ways.”

“And how is that?” Tonya demanded.

“In scenario one, they come here and quietly sow the seeds of discontentment amongst your kin even as your greet them as family with your elaborate meal plans and shows of solidarity. No one will actually hear a single shot fired, but I promise you this cairn will be a battle field. Old alliances will be renewed, old grudges brought to bear, and this will have real world consequence, not only to the kin, but to our Garou brothers. More critically, it will adversely affect His Highness. That can not be allowed.”

“And plan B?” Tonya asked.

“Plan B is where the North Country kin fall in behind His Highness’ banner, completely and without reservation. That their loyalty is so complete and abiding that there is no doubt that when His Highness must marshal forces, North Country will respond.” Katherine said.

“All of this assumes that the Garou will follow the lead of their kin, which we all know is crap.” Bethany commented.

Katherine’s eyes narrowed and critically studied Bethany for a moment. She felt like a bug under a microscope. “You are the wife to an elder in the Garou nation. You are mother to one of His Highness’ key advisors. You wield more influence than you could possibly know.”

“I am not manipulating my husband.”

“Nor do I suggest that. I understand that is not how things work here. But you can pave the way for your husband, and your son to focus on the true enemy out there. This is all within your power.”

Tonya interrupted. “Do you manipulate my son like that?”

Kat smiled, and for once it seemed genuine. “His Highness is particularly sensitive to such behavior. Therefore, I do not offend him that way. His Highness is a brilliant tactician, but his war has many fronts. It is incumbent on me, and on you, to insure that he is not distracted by petty things.”

“Do you even love him?”

Katherine sat back for a moment. “I do. But more importantly, I am a loyal soldier. Make no mistake, I will do whatever it takes to build his monarchy, so that when the time comes he is an unstoppable force of nature. I listen to his words, and I know without a doubt that the final battle is coming. If the Garou fall, we certainly will as well. This happy home you’ve built? Wiped off of the face of Gaia along with everyone you know and love. In that scenario, it would be a blessing to be killed first. But we know how the enemy likes to inflict the most damage possible, so it would be very likely you’d outlive your children. For a time, anyway.” Kat idly pressed the folds on her napkin and let her words sink in.

There was silence.

“What do you have in mind, Katherine?” Tonya asked.

“Let’s discuss your house guests in some depth, shall we?”
Bethany sat forward to pay close attention. The aches, pains, weariness, and doubt she’d been suffering for weeks fell away.

It was time to take action, for her family, for her cairn, for herself. Hell yeah she was all in.

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