The next morning after hearing Ariel’s vision, we awoke to Sheeba and Jason returning from their Rite of Passage. They immediately went to see Crafty and Ryan. We called in to the cabin shortly afterwards. Crafty told us that the pair would have quite a tale to tell at the next moot. Apparently, they were helped by a pack of Skin Dancers on their Rite. The pack asked if they could speak with our pack
After a little discussion, we decided we would speak with them. We owed them for helping our Sept members. Crafty mentioned they didn’t take advantage of the pair as they would have been easy pickings for more pelts. They were at the Talking Tree, north of highway 9 near the mountains where we met Tale Catcher.
We started to leave, but not even getting more than six steps towards it, Q implored Eli to head to the campsite. Making a mad dash there, we found the campsite in disarray, Serenity lying on the ground bloody and beaten. Jonathon’s backpack is nearby and neither packmate is anywhere to be seen. It was obvious a struggle had taken place. I healed Serenity and it was most certainly a Garou who was here as she was still struck by the Delirium.
Eli hunted for a scent, finding a weak lead on John and Jonathon’s going deeper into the woods. There was a drag path nearby and it was certainly his. About 125 yards down the drag path, we found Jonathon, dead and gutted. A wave of strong sorrow welled up my heart and I could see it in the other packmates, especially Eli.
Through Q, Eli called out to John. It turned out that he left the campsite because Jonathon was annoying him. He kept trying to learn about the bane, constantly going into the Umbra and back. After a day of this, John went back to the Sept to get a little peace. He had only been gone an hour.
I looked around the area and found a strange carving in the tree. It looked like a glyph of some sort with 8 – 1 below it. From examining him, we could tell that it was more than one Garou and that Jonathon didn’t even have time to shift. I swore to myself he would be avenged regardless of how I felt about vengeance.
We took Jonathon’s body back to the Sept. We dug a hole next to Kyle and Mackie did the Rite for the Departed. We all spoke of how Jonathon affected our lives before burying him. We placed the stones near his headstone and I softly said our prayer for the deceased. We then released his fetish and talen spirits back into the Umbra.
In spite of the tragedy that just happened, we resolved to speak with the Skin Dancer pack by the Talking Tree. The run took about an hour, but I’d been training so hard lately it wasn’t even draining. Looking at the tree, we could hear the wind blowing through it, making it sound like it was talking. Of course, Agnis realized it would truly talk to us in the Umbra.
Sure enough, our first vision in the Umbra was a tree speaking to us about a pack that stood before us. It didn’t want them near it, so we proceeded to get to business. The smallest of the pack, Lenny Jones, introduced us to his pack, the Fang and Claw pack. We politely introduced ourselves and Eli asked what they wanted.
It turns out that our actions in cleansing Minotaur, killing Samuel Haight, and redeeming the Vulture Walkers pack had caused a schism in the Skin Dancer ranks. A small portion of the Skin Dancers wanted to join the Nation and put their pasts behind them. However, the bulk of the tribe still followed Minotaur. More troubling is the fact that Minotaur called for war against the Garou Nation and was considering an alliance with the Black Spiral Dancers. This was very distressing to me. A pack of Skin Dancers trying to skin is one thing, but our deepest, most bitter enemy skinning us as well could lead to the fall of the entire Nation.
We thanked them for helping our Sept members, but we could tell they smelled of the Wyrm, especially the Theurge of the pack. They asked for sanctuary from our Sept but their Wyrm taint made going there impossible. Eli became upset after they mentioned they had trafficked with banes in order to learn their gifts. He tried to leave, but Bjorn and I asked to reconsider, my point being it was rude to leave in such a curt fashion and Bjorn mentioning this was a Sept decision, not his.
Reconsidering for a moment, Eli listened to the rest of their argument. The Skin Dancers could not access any Gaian spirits due to their taint, and even one cleansed would still find themselves limited. They found themselves with no other option but to traffic with banes. The Skin Dancers that make up the loyalists to Minotaur are considering making an alliance with the Black Spiral Dancers. The Fang and Claw pack was created by Nicolas Carver aka Samson to do just this. However, they want to turn away from this path.
They want to destroy the ritual, which I found curious as I didn’t know there was such a way to do so, and let the tribe develop naturally. We could tell from looking at them that the pack had its differences. Lenny was a survivor and would make whatever choice best suited his survival. The Theurge was especially troubling after asking if he would give up trafficking with banes, he lied. He also seemed to be heading deeper into the Wyrm’s clutches. In the end, we agreed to sanctuary, but not at the Sept. They would have the next three weeks to work on their attack against Minotaur and we would watch out for them.
As the night wore on, we returned to the Sept for the Moot. We told Crafty about the situation and he was cautious, but went along with us. John was sent to watch after Serenity and not let anything happen to her this time.
The Moot began with Scourge of the Woods breaking the bone. We all sat around telling stories of Jonathon at first. Mackie told a story about Jonathon complaining about the Fianna drinking too much. Mackie told him the Fianna drink to celebrate, ease the pain, honor those that are gone, and appreciate the spirits. Jonathon never complained about drinking afterwards.
We all had our own anecdotes about Walks with Spirits, but I could only add I hoped to be as good as a Theurge with the spirits as he was.
Afterwards, Jason and Sheeba came forward and told of their saving at the hands of the Fang and Claw pack. It turned out their Rite of Passage was to obtain a pathstone for the Sept. We would now be able to link quickly with any Septs within our Sept’s power range. Jason and Sheeba were threatened by a Garou who was Gaian and obviously from this area. The Fang and Claw pack scared them away. It was a worthy Rite of Passage and they were graciously accepted to Cliath rank.
Crafty then said that Lion was nearly completed with paying his debt to Griffin. He’s growing in power and when the debt it paid off, he might return to a position of power, even once again a tribe totem. It was exciting news to be sure.
He also mentioned that surveyors for William’s father would be in the area next week. I didn’t like the idea much because buying the land was about the least low profile thing William could have done. Still, the Sept thought it was right so I acquiesced. We would have to keep them out of the Sept for the obvious reason of protecting the Litany. He also mentioned Serenity is still being taken care of for a favor to the Sept of the Raging Storm.
Gruffy then took the bone and told us that Spot had joined the Irish Destroyers pack.
Anthony, after hearing about what was going on in the Skin Dancer ranks, became disgusted with it and offered his pack to take the Rite of Renunciation. No one disagreed and Ryan performed the ritual. He brought forward an earthen bowl and asked that everyone in the Sept give something of themselves. I choose my gold cross as it was precious to me as the Vulture Walker pack was to the Sept. After anointing them for lack of a better word, they were made Fianna at Cliath rank.
After this, a large debate broke out between our pack with occasional chime ins from the Vulture Walker pack about giving sanctuary to the Fang and Claw pack. Eli, being stubborn and capricious as he is, said we should just wash our hands of it, if not destroy any other Skin Dancers outright. He fell back on the same argument of not opening our Sept up to just anyone. It was a tiring discussion with Agnis and I emphasizing that the true victories against the Wyrm were small ones. We would view each person who came to us based on their merits and not an open invitation for anyone.
We finally decided to give them sanctuary, but away from the Sept as we couldn’t convince them to cleanse themselves earlier. The Vulture Walker pack would watch them for the time being.
Ryan then mentioned that what would found near Jonathon’s body was not a glyph, but part of a ritual. What that entailed is unknown since it appears we stopped it, but it was definitely Gaian.
After the breaking of the bone was taken care of, we moved on to our renown. After all was said and done, we were ready for our Rank 3 challenges. Bjorn would have to better the relationship between the Sept of the Three Waters, Miguel would do a scavenger hunt, I would lead a Rite which would be judged not on my ability, but that of my pack, Agnis would make a klaive in two months’ time, Eli would complete a staredown challenge, and William we could not say for certain as we lacked a proper Galliard to initiate his.
Eli started his staredown with Scourge of the Woods immediately. He lasted for four hours into the early morning as others spent time watching and going about their business. Sadly, Eli broke and was not able to win his challenge. He would have to try again at the next moot.
The rest of the night was a joyous affair. We danced, drank, and cheered as we always do. I decided tonight was the night and had sex with Magnus at the lodge for the first time. I took him as my mate in the hopes I might have another child. I still missed Ryan and constantly thought of ways to get him to the Sept. Still, I kept quiet about this, not wanting to bother my packmates.
Two days later, Miguel did his scavenger hunt. He succeeded in it and was the first to earn his Adren rank. Meanwhile, Bjorn and Eli worked on forging the klaive with the newly finished forge. I pondered how I would lead the Rite while teaching Agnis the finer points of Rituals. Eli managed to best Scourge of the Woods in a rematch after honing his skills for the month. He beat him in an hour flat, becoming the second member of the pack to be Adren rank.
After learning that Falcon was the Three Waters totem, we got to work on finishing the klaive. I spent some time with Eli and Bjorn to learn the basics of metalsmithing. Agnis managed to finish learning the Rite of the Fetish from Ryan. I needed Bjorn to learn the Rite of Cleansing for my summoning and to cleanse the klaive so I agreed to teach it to him for a favor: better his relationship with his brother.
In the meantime, three weeks had passed and the Fang and Claw pack needed our assistance to summon Tick for their mission to stop Minotaur. I obliged and it gave me time to refine the technique I would use later with the summoning for the klaive. I finished up after a few hours and politely left so they could be alone with Tick.
Bjorn and Eli did an excellent job on the klaive. They partially decorated it with engravings in the blade. Afterwards, they gave it to Agnis who placed it in the river for one month and then placed it in the belly of a freshly killed Elk for three nights. Bjorn then cleansed the klaive. I prepared my meditation for the next task.
Finally, the moment of summoning the Fetish spirits had arrived. We determined that we needed a spirit to align with the Sept of the Three Waters and Wyvern would be it. I was going all out and was going to summon a Celestine. I had Agnis mark the area in a circular pattern and Bjorn went around after her cleansing the markings. I then had William howl songs of greeting for the spirit while Eli and Miguel hunted a fresh kill.
After a significant bolstering of spiritual energy from my packmates, I dug two large holes for my feet in Crinos form, shifted, placed my feet in the holes, and covered them with dirt. I cut myself, bleeding from my arms and hands, held the kill up for Wyvern, and howled to summon him. Suprisingly, my preparation worked out stunningly well. Wyvern came immediately and was friendly.
Now, it was Agnis’ turn. She began dancing and howling to Wyvern. He seemed interested and after Agnis’ sacrificed part of her spiritual essence, he agreed to have an avatar of his bound into the klaive. He asked what the ban would be for the klaive. Agnis stated it must be used honorably and never against the Sept of the Sleeping Lion. With that, he asked what the name of the klaive would be. Bjorn suggested Wyvern’s Sting and so it was.
The rite was finished and Agnis took the time to decorate the fetish with traditional Fianna garb. It was agreed by Leein that both Agnis and I had passed our rank challenge in superb fashion. We had obtained Adren rank.
It was agreed by the pack that Bjorn should give the klaive to the Sept in order to pass his challenge. A meeting was set up at the Pin Gallery where the pack, Stands-With-Claw, and No-Hands-Catches-Fish stood by watching. Bjorn’s offer was rocky at first, wanting to get William’s challenge done and trying to make amends for past negative deeds, even though most were unintentional.
Before things got out of hand, Bjorn asked that Stands-With-Claw view the klaive we had wrapped in the pelt of the elk we killed earlier. She seemed impressed, but tried to diminish our work. Still, we knew the klaive was great and likely one of the best she would ever see so we didn’t press the issue. She mentioned all of the various negative things we had done like snatching up Ariel. After a little more negotiating from Bjorn, Stands-With-Claw relented and agreed to let challenges be done with their Sept, but added one more provision: we would have to try to convince Crafty to support the Sept of the Three Waters more in a show of consolidation.
Agreeing to this, Stands-With-Claw looked at No-Hands and asked him if it was good. He agreed and we could tell he knew his Sept leader had just been making a big show of things for no other purpose than to look strong. Bjorn passed his challenge and went to Adren rank.
With the door open for challenges, we asked that William be allowed to take his challenge. They agreed and he was taken to the Sept. There, in front of the entire Sept, he met a Lupus by the name of Ga-Ga-Baroot. William was to write a song, poem, or story about him and how great he was. After learning a bit about him, William succeeded by singing out a story of his life. The Sept approved, though Prestige looked less than interested, and William made Adren rank. The only packmate left to do so was John and he would have to wait until he finished guarding Serenity.
With the challenges complete, we had another moot. It was a fun affair with less seriousness than the last two. During the moot, our pack pledged more dedication to Q and strengthened him even more. We spent the rest of the cheering and having a great time. I made love to Magnus in the hopes of having another child.
The night after the moot, Cliff came to Sept in a panic. We needed to go see Lindsey again. Taking a moon bridge, we immediately arrived into her trailer to find Massacre, the vampire Eli had met earlier. He wasn’t happy and I tried to keep him from doing anything rude lest we break Q’s ban. She tells us she has a problem. There is a vampire making more vampires by simply drinking from them, which should not be possible. This was something new to me as I had to no knowledge of vampires.
The vampire is in Santa Cruz, hiding in the sewers for the next few days. Massacre agreed to not arrive at Lindsey’s anymore. We now had a hunt on our hands.