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.
“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.”
“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?”