It was on the eve of Midwinter Celebration and five days before Christmas when the sept of the Burning Heart called for a gathering in the Caern of the Stone Cauldron. But Silver Shadow, Blood Oath and most Get of Fenris was away on a Tribal moot. Blood Oath had left a message written in large crude characters to Ray, Aya and Veronica. It simply read “DONT FUK UP”.
When the trio arrived, Ray in her crinos form, while Aya and Veronica were in their homid forms, it seems like the gathering was just about to start, as most had gathered in a semi-circle around a podium where Creek Mother faced them. A few galliards drummed a foreboding rhythm. She locked impatient at the trio as if she was disappointed that they just arrived.
Ray gave voice to a thought that the trio shared: “We got here as soon as we could” and several of those that already had sat down gave her a stern look. “I mean, sorry” she continued, and got shushing from a few of them. They sat down quite quickly with the others.
Creek Mother then begun to speak to those whom had gathered:
”As the Darkest time of the year is approaching, I have gathered thee here for Midwinter Celebration, but also to learn. So, today we shall go thru the entire Litany.”
Several of the younger garou muttered, most about how they already knew the Litany. Creek Mother gave them a stern look and they quickly stiffened up and became quiet, and then she continued:
“I will ask the newest Cliath to come up and cite the tenets of the Litany.”
One after another, the younger Cliath were called to cite one tenet of the Litany, in order. A few made some minor mistakes, but Ray and Aya both managed to do so without any errors. Ray had a low conversation with a young Get of Fenris in the meantime and suddenly laughed out loud and got a few stern looks. Then the young Fenrir then said:
“Come on, man. I did not give myself that name. It’s an embarrassing story.”
With Veronica as one of the few exceptions, almost everybody looked at Ray. Ray then answered:
“His name is Spring Pisser.”
There were a few muted laughs. The young Fenrir tried to plea:
“Come on, guys, it wasn’t me. You gave it to me.”
Suddenly Creek Mothers voice cut thru:
“Would Ray step up so that the rest of the gathering, so we can all see her in her Ragabash glory.”
“Sure, but I already did my turn.”
“I’m on my way”
Once Ray once more was on the podium, Creek Mother spoke:
“Can you tell me the sixth tenant of the Litany?”
“Yeah, people have been telling me that all the time.”
“Tell me the sixth tenant of the Litany.”
“’Respect those of lower station, for all are of Gaia’, but he is not of lower rank than me, is he?”
Creek Mother leant forward towards Ray and spoke to her, loud enough for others to just hear it:
“Even if someone’s name is a mockery, we do not point it out in a moot.”
“I know”, answered Ray, somewhat rueful. “It was just so funny!”
“You are starting to disturb me, Ray”, answered Creek Mother I a normal voice, but continued in a harsh growling tone that made the ground vibrate. “And you do not want me disturbed.”
“Fare, it is your gathering”, answered Ray. “I go sit down and try to shut up.”
“Next time, I will bring out punishment.”
“That sounds scary.”
Laughs at Death looked at Ray with a serious expression and nodded eagerly.
Ray went down to the others, and whispered to Spring Pisser:
“I respect your silly name”
He looked sad. Creek Mother continued:
“Now, let’s take someone with a more promising future. Veronica, please come.”
Veronica did like the others before her, and went up the podium and stood before Creek Mother, whom continued:
“Please, tell us the seventh tenant of the Litany.”
“The first share of the kill for the greatest in station”, answered Veronica in her usual low and serious voice.
“Great, that is a prime example of garou society. And also we have one of good linage before us here, haven’t we? We are to pair you up with a kinfolk soon.”
Veronica raised an eyebrow at that, somewhat confused, and then went back to her place after being indicated at doing that.
Creek Mother continued to call up young Cliath and made them cite tenants of the Litany, and most did well. When all was done, Ray raised her paw.
“What is it?” asked Creek Mother
“Aren’t we always at war? So, what counts as peace?” asked Ray in a somewhat uncharacteristic serious tone.
Everybody went quiet, and Spring Pisser whispered to her:
“You shouldn’t really have asked that out loud.”
Creek Mother answered so that all could hear:
“When we are not in direct conflict or the sept leader declares a period of peace, would be the straightest answer.”
“What are we at now?” asked Ray.
“We are considered to be in a war time.”
“Thank you, Creek Mother, I just thought it was a good opportunity to know more of the Litany, sense we are learning about it.
“Good, young Ray” answered Creek Mother, both inspecting and slightly annoyed, but also somewhat approving.
“Without further ado, let’s discus something which is very important, now that I have all younglings amongst me. The matter of fact is that we are lacking warriors for this great battle that is garou existents. Especially sense the sept is running short due to the assault that occurred on the Caern of the Burning Heart, which you all know is overtaken. This means that you all will need to pitch in to reproduce. Although we will do so in an orderly and arranged fashion, which means that there will be some arranged marriages and the ilk to come during the year. Only however to those of those that I consider of appropriate maturity and age, for a quick reference, that means girls of the age of 17 or higher in human counting for homids, or 2 or higher for lupus.”
Ray at once got stone faced and bitter, Aya got stone faced and worried, and Veronica first seemed worried and then relieved. Creek Mother continued:
“Male members on the other hand are supposed to give their contribution from the age of 16 for homids or 2 for lupus. The seed needs to be planted. This of course only is for you garou is a different matter, but that will be arranged among those of you who are in charge of your kinfolk.”
Ray raised her paw, but Creek Mother ignored that and continued:
“Metis on the other hand you will have other important duties. You are equally useful to the garou cause, especially when the time comes, when those around you are in laboring times. This means that more responsibilities will fall upon your frail hands and I expect you to take up your full responsibilities of arms and defend that which needs to be defended, while your brave brothers and sister will go out and reproduce and create the next generation of the greatest warriors of Gaia there is.”
Most rejoiced, a few hesitating, but Ray still kept her paw in the air. The Creek Mother still ignored that and continued:
“And of course those metis who will step up to service during that time will in talens and possible fetishes, the same will go to all who willingly go to bear children or making them. Now, time for questions. Oh, I see we only have one.”
“Am I allowed to speak?” wondered Ray.
“Speak, but utter no stupidity or mockery.”
“What would happen to someone if they refused? I am not talking for me, I would fight just as I do now, but you know… curiosity and all that. Sounds like a lot to… never mind.”
Creek Mother gave an amused look and answered:
“Choice? There exists no choice in the garou nation. There is only the war against the Wyrm and our duty for which we are sworn. We are the foremost protectors of the world.”
“So, you would force them?”
“We would make sure that their Gaia given right and opportunity will be made.”
Veronica’s great grandfather, Pioter, whom sat a bit away, seemed to be a bit repelled by all of this.
“Okay,” answered Ray. “Good that we got that clear.”
“Oh,” continued Creek Mother and met Ray’s eyes. ”For those who tries tricks there will be serious repercussions. There can be no escaping the garou society.”
“What do you mean by ‘tricks’,” wondered Ray.
”Oh, I think you as a Ragabash perfectly know what I mean. But for those who are more dimwitted than our dear Ray here. You cannot flee, and you cannot hide, for the eyes of the nation are wide seeing and eyes of this Caern are as well. But now, let us not dim down our spirits with future concerns. There is a feast prepared; there is a smorgasbord of drinks and food to be had. Enjoy yourselves. “
The galliards started once again to play, but not a foreboding rhythm, but rather a joyful melody, led by Laughs at Death who in a magnificent voice sang a ballad about drinking and feasting.
Ray transformed into lupus and left. Aya seemed very upset and walked away in a different direction with a steady pace. Veronica just sat there in deep thoughts, but after a while she noticed that her pack mates were gone and followed Ray.
A few Get of Fenris tried to get Aya to drink with them, but she answered with a somewhat forced smile:
“No thank you, I need to punch something.”
“You should enter the wrestling competition,” answered to you Fenrir.
“I can enter a wrestling competition with you face, if you want to.”
“Oh, man,” answered the Fenrir somewhat unsteady. “I will put some talons on the ground for that shit.”
“No thank you”
“But I got these sweet bane arrows and all, man.”
Aya ignored him and went away.
Veronica went after Ray, and on a cliff edge a bit away from the Cairn, she found her, in lupus form, very sad. She walked up to her and sat down next to her and asked:
“Do… do you want me to leave?”
Ray shook her head, but did not answer. Then she put her muzzle on Veronicas shoulder. Somewhat hesitating and stiff Veronica leaned back. After a while Veronica asked:
“I guess, this is not something you want to talk about?”
“Do you know why I am sad?” asked Ray.
“I know that you are a metis, and I know what that means regarding these kinds of things, but I guess you are sad about something connected to all of this, what they were talking about. I am sorry; I am not really good at this.”
“Silver Shadow and I are more than friends.”
“Yeah, you are very good friends.”
“Eh, I love her, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. And she will not accept this, and they will force her to do something that will destroy her. I don’t care if I can’t be with her, but I don’t want them to do that to her. It’s wrong. It’s disgusting. ”
“Yeah. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t think about Silver Shadow when they said those things. I thought about myself and I was kind of relived when understood that it didn’t apply to me for a couple of years. But for her, what happened to her. Her family…”
“Yeah,” grunted Ray.
“I… I don’t know how we are going to tell her when she comes back.”
“I am quite sure there is a reason why she is at that moot and I am here. Creek Mother knew. She gave me a quite long stare, which could write novels. I’m quite sure that is why Silver Shadow isn’t here, so it can be dealt with separately.”
“Okay. I just hope they don’t do anything… mean…”
Rays eyes then went wide and she ran off into the forest and left Veronica behind. After running for a while she encountered a black wolf with silver streaks on his muzzle and heavy side burns. It was Laughs at Death, who said:
“Hello there, friend. I see you are troubled. I want to see what’s going on with you.”
“Can’t a garou take a stroll in the forest? Getting away from all this music?” answered Ray between clenched teeth.
“They are not going to do what you think they are.”
“Oh?” wondered Ray, raising the wolf equivalent to an eyebrow.
“I am a Galliard and a Shadow Lord; I know secrets in this place. Not much escapes my view. Well, the Galliard part undermines my argument, but I know a lot and I see these kinds of things. Let’s just say that I know of your current predicament and you don’t have to worry. Nothing is going to happen were they are now. They are having a celebration.”
“Of course you are saying that. We are having a celebration too, but…”
“I mean, they are not goanna force something upon her now.”
“It is the ‘now’, that worries me,” answered Ray.
“And I have a feeling that they are going to… as long as you got Blood Oath on your side things are going to get hard for anyone who tries to do anything to you.”
“I don’t care what they do to me.”
“When I say ‘you’, I mean your pack.
“So you are saying Blood Oath isn’t on our side?”
“No, what I mean is people who are trying to do stuff to you are going to have a hard time, because there will be an eight foot tall motherfucking werewolf with a huge fucking silver-iron hammer!”
“He can’t be there all the time. He’s got his own missions. But I can and I will.”
“Ray. You got to understand that there is more to this that the whimsies of Creek Mother.”
“If you know anything, you know what she went through.”
“I… am not sure about her backstory, but I do know that she don’t want to do things when forced.
“She had puppies. And they died during her first change. This is not about me. This is about her not being hurt. I don’t care if I can’t ever be with her. I would rather never see her again than she having to go through that.”
“If I know Creek Mother there is always a loophole. You just got to pay the toll to pass through the loophole.”
“Oh, you are dense,” answered Laughs at Death and put his paw on his nose. “Through the thing, the mating program.”
“Oh, I know, obviously, but what are we supposed to do? You are being vague, as, well as a Shadow Lord. I am not dense; it is you who are not being able to communicate, because you are so… sorry.”
“I don’t know what she wants, but you can probably make a deal with her is what I am saying. Although I am not sure you want to pay the prize she offers… because she can charge you heavily.”
“I will do anything for Silver Shadow,” answered Ray.
“Very well then. You know where to find her.”
Ray nodded and answered:
“Also, it is a lot easier when you actually say what you mean. If you want to tell someone something if you don’t try to keep it back. It ruins the purpose of talking.”
“I am being as clear as I can. What I am saying is that there probably is a loophole in this thing. And you can probably find it. What I am saying is that you can probably bribe Creek Mother, or…
“Yes, yes. I realized after that. It just took, like ten minutes to get there.”
“I am a Shadow Lord, what do you expect?”
“I am a Bone Gnawer, what do you expect from me?”
“Eh, not much. The only thing I expect is, well… not to desecrate the Caern.”
“I expect you to have flees.”
“That is my level of expectation of you,” he finished with a wolf grin, as Ray laughed.
“Is that why everyone is so impressed by me?”
“Yeah. What I mean is, due to your low status, Creek Mother can demand a pretty high prize from you.”
“I don’t care. I’ll go to her. Thank you.”
“Just be aware of that.”
“It is not like we have a few year, like Veronica, and she will grow in to it.”
“Oh, by the time Veronica… this breeding program will most likely be off the charts.“
“It is this thin that Creek Mother has convinced the council of Elders and other ruling parties here of.”
“First time I am happy to be a metis,” answered Ray.
“Maybe not for long.”
“What do you mean by that?” wondered ray as she narrowed her eyes.
“Well, who do you think they are going to put on the front line guard, while about one third of the Caern is pregnant?”
“I’ll do my duty as I always do,” answered Ray with a shrug.
“And beside, Creek Mother is probably going to have some hefty, hard prize.”
“Yeah, but… thank you.”
“We metis goanna stick together, you know,” said Laughs at Death and grinned with his wolf smile.
Ray nodded and answered:
“It is goanna be hard just the, like five of us. It is going to be a tiny front line.”
“I think there is probably more like fifteen of us now.”
“They are breeding like rats then.”
“Well, they are going to pull in some people from the Bone Gnawers and some contacts from other places, and you know shamed outcasts.”
“Didn’t you already mention Bone Gnawers?”
“No, I meant shamed outcast who have not yet stooped to the level of becoming Bone Gnawers,” he answered with a grin. “Wait. That eye. It is somewhat familiar.”
The black wolf took a closer look at Ray’s snakelike left eye.
“What?” wondered Ray. “What’s with my eye?”
“I don’t know. I think I heard about that somewhere. I’ll look it up in my notes. I might be able to find out who are your parents. Because I believe I heard of someone who had a similar deformity as that eye.”
“What?” wondered Ray, quite confused.
“What I am saying is that some metis ‘Get of Fenris’ with such an eye, but its goanna cost you a favor or a talen.”
“Well, I’ll go see Creek Mother and then I’ll see what’s left of me”
“That might be more accurate than you think,” answered Laughs at Death and laughed.
“At least she is not a Shadow Lord. I heard making deals with you guys are harder.”
“I… I think she is worse than a Shadow Lord,” said the wolf and laughed.
“I’m just saying, that if she was a Shadow Lord too…” said Ray.
“Oh, then you would be in Malfeas,” said Laughs at Death.
In the meantime, Veronica figured two things out. First, that Ray probably wanted to be alone at the moment. Second, that Aya was nineteen years old. Old enough that the breeding program to apply to her. Veronica run back and tried to find Aya, but she was nowhere to be found. She asked around but no one knew where she was.
“Hello,” a voice suddenly said. Veronica did not recognize it at first, and then she did. It was Wyvern, talking in her head. “You are looking for the Black Fury.”
“Yes,” answered Veronica. “Yes, I am.”
“She is currently running in the direction of the Silver Oak,” the Wyvern mind spoke back.
“I think I better catch up.”
“If you come to the Umbra, I will give you a lift.”
“Can you?! Whoa,” Veronica wondered excited.
As soon as Veronica managed to get over to the Umbra, Wyvern swooped in and landed next to her.
“Hello Wyvern,” said Veronica. “I’m sorry but we got some bad news about Aya, and I didn’t understand how bad they were at first. I think I need to catch up to her.”
Wyvern grabbed Veronica in one of his claws and flew up. Veronica found it a little bit scary, but also very exhilarating. After a while, Wyvern spoke:
“We are in front of her, about 200 meters.”
Then he threw Veronica to a pond. She started to dive, shifted from to the Realm as she fell, dove into the real pond and swam to the edge and crawled up, dripping with water. This was how Aya in her lupus form saw her, somehow having managed to get in front of her, in her quite small homid form with wet cloths. She stopped quite hastily.
Veronica then went down on her knees leaned forward and hugged Aya. Aya however, backed away to get out of Veronicas embrace.
“I’m sorry,” said Veronica. “I didn’t think about what it meant for you back then they were talking. I’m sorry. I only thought about myself for a moment. It is quite upsetting for you isn’t it?”
“That old hag,” answered Aya, “want to force me to marry someone I maybe don’t even know the name of cause she just want more warriors. I will have none of it!”
“Ehm… You are quite angry now, aren’t you?”
“Oh, you guessed? Oh, amazing that you can read me that good!”
“Sorry,” said Veronica in a very miserable voice. It was apparently to no avail. Aya had been working herself up to frenzy and started to shift into crinos. Aya shoved Veronica to the side and started to rush forward and simply plowed through the undergrowth. Veronica started to run after her, but simply could not run fast enough in her homid form so she started to shift through the forms all the way to lupus. In that form she continued to run after the frenzied Aya, but did not try to run ahead or stop her.
Eventually Aya calmed down enough to get out of frenzy about a hundred meter from the Caern of the Silver Oak. Veronica quickly ran ahead, sat down, shifted to hispo and asked:
“You in there angry?”
“If I want to go in there angry? You ask me that?! Really?” asked Aya still quite angry.
“You need… vent anger.”
“I need to talk about this with someone of my own tribe”
Veronica then walked a bit to the side, to get out of the way, showing that she would not stop Aya. Aya, still in her crinos form, started to walk into the caern. Veronica, shifted back to lupus, followed a bit behind.
A bit into the caern Oak Friend walked up to Aya and said:
“Oh, friend. You’re in a rush.”
“Do you know where Eve or Water Mother is?” asked Aya
“Oh, oh. I think she is training behind the tree, in the training yard.”
“Which one of them?”
“The big one.”
Aya walked around the enormous oak to a training field covered by sand. There a quite large werewolf in glabro donned in bronze armor wielding a labris battleax against training dummies. Aya went to the side, waiting, though a bit impatient for the woman to finish her training, and shifted to homid. Veronica followed hesitating a bit back still in lupus.
“Hello young daughter, what brings you here to my sept?” asked the woman known as Wind Daughter.
“It’s… It’s Creek Mother,” answered Aya. “The sept leader in Stone Cauldron. She has… She has decided that… She will have a breeding program of some sort.”
Wind Daughter took a deep breath, and snorted thru her nostrils. Aya continued:
“She wants every girl over 17 and every boy over 16 to create children.”
“What is this forceful blasphemy?!” asked Wind Daughter in a tone she just barely manage to keep from a shout.
“I don’t… I don’t know what to do,” said Aya, beginning to show fear in her eyes.
“I shall have a word with the old hag. That witch will not befoul one of my brood. But I will not rush in there unprepared. I will summon my council of elders. You will stay here within my camp… and the daughter of Pioter is also welcome to stay,” said Wind Daughter as she look at Veronica who anxiously sat a bit back and waited.
Wind Daughter then walked, almost stomped, away and casually cleaved one of the training dummies in half on her way out from the training area, while shouting:
After a while, Oak Friend walked over to Aya and said:
“Oh, this does not look good.”
“Creek Mother, the sept leader in Stone Cauldron intent to have a breeding program,” answered Aya.
“Not undone before”
“And it was quite obvious that if you didn’t want it, you didn’t have a choice.”
“This will be… how do you say it? an interesting turn of event. Your mother and Wind Daughter are close friends. Well, I can tell you directly, that you will probably not have to do anything. But this might increase tensions between tribes and harden further collaborations, but when it comes to garu law Creek Mother is to do as Creek Mother pleases with her own sept. Thou you are technically kind of a part of it, but kind of… borrowed. This put you in a weird gray zone, so this can be a whole lot of a mess.”
“I am scared,” said Aya with a miserable voice.
Oak Fried walked towards Aya and put his hand on her shoulder, and answered:
“I am confident it will be solved in the best way. Believe in your tribe sisters. They will protect you.”
“I hope so,” said Aya with still quite a sad voice, but with a bit of hope in it. “I hope that I have not done anything to put anyone at risk by coming here with this.”
“No, news would have come here sooner or later. But she is of a hefty temper, although Autumn Leaf tends to be able to calm her. We will see what happens. We will see what happens.”
In the meantime, Ray had walked to Creek Mother. She was at the main table overviewing the activities of the feast with an alcoholic brew in front of her.
“Ah, the jester has approached my table,” said Creek Mother with a slightly joking tone.
“Hello Creek Mother,” ray responded.
“I am here to discuss something with you. Is it a good time?”
“That depends. Will you preform proper etiquette?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, giving the impression that Ray had neglected to do something.
“Creek Mother, I will do anything you want. I am not used to your customs here.”
“What do you think I want you to do?”
“Right now? I don’t know. Honestly. I have been drinking too.”
“Do the pups usually come up to Rust Wolf without any formal humbling gesture?” asked Creek Mother.
“Depends on the pup,” Ray answered. “What does the pup do to him that I didn’t?”
“Kneel,” said Creed Mother with a glare.
Ray shifted to homid and kneeled.
“Put your face to the ground.”
Ray made a very uncomfortable face but did put both her keels down and bowed until her face touched the ground.
“Now, you can talk to me,” said Creek Mother. “But keep your eyes down.”
“Is there anything I can do to protect Silver Shadow from this?”
“The breeding?” asked Creek Mother.
“She will fight it, and will not make it. I do know that during such events if there is shifting at the end the offspring might die and…”
“What can you offer me?” asked Creek mother with a cunning smile.
In the meantime Aya had found some cloths to put on, and sat down next to a fire, when Veronica walked up to her, naked and with a sad face.
“Do you know that Ray is totally devastated?” asked Veronica.
“Aren’t we all?” asked Aya.
“No, not for herself. Well, she connected the dots a lot quicker than I did. Silver Shadow.”
“I did not think of her.”
“Neither did I.”
“I just… It’s not really… I did not really think of her as an adult in the same way as me. But she is. Even more.
“Yes,” answered Veronica. “And we know at least a bit of her past.”
“Yeah, I looks like you know more than me.”
“Hmm. Ray is the one who really understands Silver Shadow. She has spent a lot of time with her. And Ray says that Silver Shadow won’t be able to handle this… at all.”
“But how… How could Creek Mother ever think that people would just get on with this plan? It’s just… It’s just not decent to force people into… this.”
“No, it isn’t. At first I only thought about myself. And I was first horrified, and then relived, and then I saw you and Ray stomped off in different directions. I followed Ray first and she explained that she was thinking about Silver Shadow. And then I tried to catch up to you, but you… were not ready to listen to me.”
“How did you catch up to me?” asked Aya.
“Wyvern helped me.”
“Wyvern helped you?”
“Yeah. I shifted to the Umbra and Wyvern gave me a lift. It was quite… extraordinary, exhilarating.”
“Yeah, I guess” chuckled Aya. “So, what now?” she continued in a more serious voice. “Do we just sit here to…?”
“No, we have to think of something. And despite that you rushed away, you actually did think of something. I did not. You thought about coming here. And I think… well I hope they might be able to help. At least with you, but I don’t think they will be able to help Silver Shadow.”
“I do not know if they want to.”
“No, but I definitely think that Ray will try to do anything to help Silver Shadow out of this. I just hope she doesn’t do anything foolish.”
“It’s Ray we are talking about,” said Aya with a bit of a snort. “What do you think will happen? She will make a snorty comment, and then get punished and then charm her way out of it.”
“I hope so,” answered Veronica, still with a sad voice.
“Well. Hopefully I haven’t started a big war between Silver Oak and Stone Cauldron by going here.”
“Well, you didn’t start anything. They were going to find out. Weren’t they? If you hadn’t come here, they would have found out tomorrow, next week, well at least a couple of months from now, they would know. Wouldn’t they?”
“At least before all cubs started to pop out,” answered Aya with a smirk.
“So, no,” continued Veronica in her low sad voice. “You did not start anything. Well I guess you will be staying here, for at least a little while now? Is it anything you want me to say to Ray when I go back, and later to Silver Shadow?”
“I hope they don’t feel like I am abandoning them. I just feel that… I don’t have a choice. I don’t want to be forced into having kids yet. And I don’t want to be forced into having kids with a person that I don’t love. With a person that I don’t know the name of.”
“Well, I don’t really understand all of this, but I can’t think of myself as a mother.”
“You are just a child,” said Aya.
“Well, she said they wouldn’t do anything until I was 17, and that is a couple of years away.”
“But still, you will have this hanging over you until then.”
“Well, a lot can happen in that time I guess,” answered Veronica with a miserable voice. “I mean, it was just about three months ago that all of this started happening for me. I guess it is something similar for you?”
“Yeah,” answered Aya. “It is all a bit scary. I… I can deal with that there is a greater force wanting to corrupt the entire world, and that my whole life I am meant to fight it. But I don’t want to get forced into marriage with a person that I don’t want to. That scares the whit out of me.”
“Well, I really hope they are not forcing you to do anything.”
“I hope that there is a way out for Silver Shadow.”
“Me too, so… do you still need to vent that anger?”
“I think I am good for now,” answered Aya with a tired smile.
“You definitely need to vent it sooner or later.”
“I’ll just go and punch a few more trees, than I get the need.”
“I don’t think that would be enough, but we are a bit different so…”
“Yeah. You know what I would like now? A milkshake! I actually want a milkshake. Really cold, really big with lots of whipped cream on it. Strawberry. I want strawberries in it.”
“I hope everything will be alright, I think I will go back to Ray now,” said Veronica.
“Do so; I think she needs you more than me.”
But just as Veronica shifted into lupus, Wind Daughter came walking with her labris over her shoulder, and with Autumn Leaf walking next to her, who was talking to Wind Daughter:
“But you cannot just rush into this; you have to think calmly my friend.”
“Fuck that!” answered Wind Daughter. “I am going in there to put the stones down.
“You cannot just rush into a hard diplomatic situation like this. Think it through, ok?” said Authumn Leaf.
They continued to argue back and forth for a while. At the end, Wind Daughter said:
“I’ll think this trough. I will go there myself with Aya I will have a discussion with Creek Mother.”
Wind Daughter put her labris in a holster over her shoulder, shifted to lupus and nodded towards both Aya and Veronica to come with her, and then she started to run. The three garou started to run in their lupus forms towards the Caern of the Stone Cauldron.
Over at the Stone Cauldron, Ray faced Creek Mother’s final offer:
“So, Ray, my mead is almost to the bottom.”
Ray took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and answered between clinched teeth:
“I’ll do it.”
“Excellent. Let’s make the signing.”
Creek Mother brought forth what looked like a ritual dagger.
“Now, where to put the mark, somewhere not seen. I think I have a good idea,” said Creek Mother with an insidious smile. She continued:
“Now, I will sign our little contract.”
Creek Mother signaled to Ray to approach, and said:
“Why don’t you take your shirt off?”
Hesitatingly Ray removed her shirt, to reveal for a woman quite a muscular upper body and with bare breasts who easily could be mistaken for those of a young man. Creek Mother looked a bit disapprovingly, and said:
“That does not really work. Your usually wear cloths, right?”
“Yes,” answered Ray.
“Good enough. Now, this will sting.”
“Not as much as this deal.”
Creek Mother laughed sinisterly, and said:
“Put your hands behind your back.”
Ray did so, and Creek Mother started to carve a rune just below one of Ray’s breasts. Ray grinned while Creek Mother continued to carve as well as in a low voice chant a spell in a strange language. Then the old woman bit her own thumb and smeared blood from the wound on her thumb over the wound made in Ray’s skin by the carving of the rune. Then she put a bandage over the wound, and proceeded by picking up Ray’s shirt and throwing it to her. Ray immediately put it on.
“It will not be visible in you more wolfish forms, the fur will cover it,” said Creek Mother. “But I would prefer if you did not go flaunting that thing about.”
“I will not,” answered Ray.
“Although, for good measure, I will fix it when it is healed.”
“You will notice. You will not be able to disappoint me now.”
Ray shrugged, and mumbled:
“Won't be able to disappoint anyone more than this.”
“Oh, and Ray?”
“Enjoy yourself tonight. It is a night of celebration.”
Ray laughed bitterly and walked out of the tent. She shifted to crinos and did go towards the celebration to grab two huge pints of beer to take with her. A young Get of Fenris went towards her and said:
“Hey, you, Ray… you drinking. You good at handling drinks, right?”
“I am not good with company right now.”
“We are having a drinking competition, wanna join? The winner gets this pot of… things.”
“Nae, that is all right. You enjoy.”
“Okay… buddy. Have… fun,” he said with two thumbs up and walked away.
Another Get of Fenris, Spring Pisser, walked up to Ray. Despite being in crinos form he was not very large, and said in a soft voice:
“How are you doing? You don’t look so good.”
Ray downed half of one of the beer pints, and answered:
“I’ll think I just fucked up the rest of my life.”
“Do you want some water with that?” asked Spring Pisser.
“There is some water in it,” answered Ray.
“I was more thinking that you will have some sting in the head tomorrow.”
“I don’t care.”
“Oh, okay. Would you like some of my meat pie?” he asked and held a homemade pie towards Ray, and continued:
“I do a lot of catering here in the caern.”
“What kind of meat is it?” asked Ray.
“It is pig. I picked it up from a local butcher I know.”
“As long as there is no rat in it, I’ll take some.”
“I don’t think Jimbo the butcher would have any rats in his prime steak.”
“I just have my principles, apparently.”
“There is no rat in it, I can guarantee that.”
Spring Pisser cut a generous piece of the pie and gave it to Ray on a plate.
“Why are you called Spring Pisser?” asked Ray. “Did you piss in water someone was drinking out of?”
“It is a long story. Story short is that I was really wasted one time, and we were in this like, weird deep Umbra place and I had to go take a leak you know, and when I took a piss, instead of it becoming regular urine, I pissed a rainbow with flowers and shit. And my pack saw that, and they were like ‘haha, spring pisser’.”
“That was pretty funny actually.”
“And the name just stuck.”
“Have you owned it yet? Or does it still sting?”
Spring Pisser shrugged, and answered:
“A little bit of both.”
“Well, you get used to it,” said Ray as she tasted the pie. ”As long as you accept it and won’t take it as an insult, it will be easier. Also, you should be called Pie Maker.”
“Thank you, I did my best.”
“Pie gone, pie pie,” said Ray with a voice who was a bit slurring.
“Three point fourteen?” asked Spring Pisser.
Ray, who had intended to go to the cliff where she both left Veronica, and last saw Silver Shadow, instead ending up chatting with Spring Pisser, eating pie and drinking beer. The time just flew by, until the music suddenly stopped.
At the edge of the Caern of the Stone Cauldron, Wind Daughter, Aya and Veronica had arrived. Veronica who had followed them till the Caern now went a bit to the side, to find a private place, shift into homid and put the cloths she had picked up on the way and carried in her mouth while she ran in her lupus form.
Wind Daughter shifted into crinos, walked with determined steps with Aya at her right side. As she walked into the Caern, she shouted:
“Creek Mother! Show yourself!”
Along with most people in the Caern, Ray heard this. She wanted to see it, but she found that she was lying on the ground, still in crinos. She half mumbled, half shouted:
“Spring… Pie Pisser. That the one.”
“No… that’s not…” answered Spring Pisser anxious.
“Can you help me see this?”
Spring Pisser helped Ray up.
“I like Pie Pisser better, for if you make pies, you can like, piss them out quickly, so you can make really quickly.
“But… But I don’t on my pies,” protested Spring Pisser in a quiet but somewhat desperate voice.
“No, you piss out pies; you don’t piss on you pies.”
“Please don’t call me Pie Pisser. The pie thing is all I got.”
“Oh, I’ll call you Party Pie then.”
“That… I’ll actually kind of like that.”
They were not the only ones who talked while news traveled to Creek Mother who then came out from her tent, met Wind Daughter, and then spoke:
“Ah, greetings to you… my allied friend. What brings honored Wind Daughter of the Black Fury Tribe, sept leader of the Silver Oak to my humble domain?”
“We need to discuss business,” answered Wind Daughter and grunted. “This breeding program of yours, is in no good standing with Black Fury philosophy”
“Well, not much is in good Black Fury philosophy, is it?”
Wind Daughter did not answer, but growled and looked with cold eyes on Creek Mother.
“And also,” continued Creek Mother, “you do not have many warriors, do you? You come to my sept, trying to make demands, from me and my Get?!”
Quite a number of the garou at the feast gave approving shouts at those words, as well as some voices gave rise to disapproving of Black Furies. Creek Mother continued:
“But even so, what demands would you put to me?”
“I wish that you did not force this breeding program on any of your females.”
Creek Mother seemed to be taken aback by that statement:
“How dare you assume that you have any influence over how I should use this power, and what tactical decisions I make? As you might be aware of, we had a hard hit. Our warriors, many of them have been killed off; we are struggling to hold our defensive lines. And yet, you come here and say I cannot replenish my troops? It is almost as if you want to weaken my defenses.”
Wind Daughter seemed to hesitate, and said:
“No, it is not what I am saying, is that I do not want you to force people to do anything.”
“Well, we can’t all be idealists, like you Wind Daughter. Some of us have to be hard realists. I know that my brave Get, and the Shadow Lords will stand with me, that they are practical and will sacrifice some of their personal freedom for the betterment of both tribe and sept. So, if you have no further things or evidence to point out… I do believe that I am in the just and you are the intruder upon my ground.”
There was completely silence for a while. Creek Mother then continued:
“I will not take this as a personal offence; sense we are both proud members of the garou nation. However, we can maybe arrange a deal when it comes to the young Black Fury. It has come to my attention that she has a love interest, a human. Is this not correct, Aya Crawford?”
Aya looked at Wind Daughter, who looked back questioning.
“Yes… Yes, that is the case,” answered Aya.
“And, does Aya Crawford wish to be a part of this sept and this pack that she is already in?”
“Yes, that is true too.”
“So, is it not fair that Aya Crawford does the same brave sacrifice as all sept comrades or do you think you are in some manner better than the rest of us? More deserved of rest?”
Some of the other garou looked at Aya a bit disapproving.
“In the future, yes, I would want kids, but not yet. I don’t know if he wants kids now. I can’t force him to.”
Creek Mother laughed, and said:
“Humans opinions have never been a problem. There are always tricks to get into the pants of a man.”
Some younger garou chuckled at that.
“So, you have a boy you love? You want to help this sept? You see I can’t go over to ‘pure blood alliance’ as they call themselves. You know, the Wendigo and scattered Uktena and Red Talons who attacked and slaughtered our comrades. I can’t go over to them and say to them ‘Oh, wait a moment, I am sorry, but I have one Black Fury that does not want to deal with the problems of growing up, so you just have to wait to attack us’. I can’t do that. If we don’t get more warriors, we will fall. That is just a matter of fact. Sure it will take a while for the next generation to grow up, but the sooner the better, because we have lost so many, and we are struggling to keep that defensive line by the day. And yet you come here and you tell us ‘I will not sacrifice any of myself, I don’t want to pull my weight, I am fine with being a part of this sept and pack and taking the protection and food and friendship, but I don’t want to do the hard sacrifices’, that is what you are saying to us right now. ”
Some voices from other garou was then heard questioning Aya, asking her what she was doing or shouted disapprovingly. It was hard to make out individual sentences, but the overwhelming meaning was clear; that Aya disappointed them.
Wind Daughter growled:
“She is still a part of my tribe! And on my command! I will not force her to do anything that she is not ready to do, and if that will mean war, I will declare it!”
A tense silence quickly spread at those words. Ayas soft voice was eventually heard:
“I… I need time to give you what you want, but I will. I don’t want war or conflict, but I can’t promise that I will have a child within a year. I can’t give you that. But I can promise that I will do my best.”
“Excellent,” said Creek Mother. “Then we don’t have a problem. We will just see this as a temporal little scuff. And we shall just move along with what is happening, and I do appreciate your effort for this sept. I know how hard of a request this is. I myself bore children at the age of fourteen for my tribe and sept. I know what you are offering and what you are giving away. But to be a garou is to sacrifice oneself for a greater cause. That is just fact.”
Wind Daughter then turned toward Aya and asked:
“Are you sure about this?”
“I don’t want war over this,” answered Aya. ”And, I think I do love him. And if this is what I should do for all of us, then let’s move things along. I know that I want to bear kids in my life, and if I need to do it now and not in four years, then let it be so.”
Wind Daughter nodded seriously.
“Your sisters will always support you, no matter what you choose. But I want it to be your choice, and no one else’s. If this is what you want to do, let it be so. But I will fight for you and do everything I can to make sure that you are not forced to do anything you do not want to.”
Veronica in her homid form, then calmly walked up to Wind Daughter, and in a normal voice, just loud enough so that those who were close enough and listened was able to hear, asked:
“Wind Daughter, would your sept accept a pack that suddenly does not feel welcome in its current sept?”
Mumblings quickly spread to the whole camp. Veronica who made a hasty look towards Creek Mother saw Piotr a bit behind her widened his eyes in chock. A few voices that could be made out asked if the pack were going to go against the will of the garou nation, if they were going to leave the sept.
“We are not going anywhere, we are not going to run,” said Ray, but as she was among the crowd few heard her.
“You are welcome if you wish to,” answered Wind Daughter.
“Good to know,” said Veronica and walked away.
Ray laid down on the ground right where she stood.
“Are you okay?” asked Spring Pisser, now also known as Party Pie.
“Yeah,” answered Ray. “Fine. Perfect. Lovely. Everything is going to hell.”
“Would you like a cold towel or something?”
“Where would you get a cold towel from?”
Party Pie reached in to a bad and draw out a towel, then did something with it and frost spread over it.
“Tada,” he said. “I have a cold towel now.”
“That is fucking amazing,” said Ray, accepted the towel and put it over her eyes.
In the meantime most had waited quietly to see who would speak next. There was an atmosphere of anxiety. Some looked at Creek Mother, some at Wind Daughter and Aya, and some even at Veronica.
Aya bowed hastily towards Wind Daughter and then towards Creek Mother, and then slowly walked away. Creek Mother then said to Aya:
“I take it that we have an agreement.”
Aya made a light sigh, and then answered:
“Excellent. Now, let the festivities continue. Do you wish to have any drink before you leave us, Wind Daughter?”
“I will have nothing now, thanks,” growled Wind Daughter, and walked after Aya.
The tension seemed to have being loosed and music once again started to play. Just as Creek Mother said, the festivities slowly started again. Aya had a bland stare, and slowly walked away.
Ray reached up with her paw, still in her crinos form, and still with the towel over her eyes and shouted:
“C’mhere! Aya! I can’t come to you, so you have to come to me.”
But the one who came was not Aya, but Veronica.
“Well,” said Veronica in her usual serious voice. “This won’t do.”
“I fixed it,” said Ray, still from under the towel. ”Silver Shadow doesn’t have to. I took care of it.”
“What did…?” Veronica started to ask, but cut herself of. “No. Not here.”
“You can trust the Party pajer”
Veronica kicked lightly on Rays side and said a bit annoyed:
“Change to something you can come up in.”
“Ehh. I can walk in crinos better. I’ve been since child, like literally.”
“Then, get up. We need to talk.”
“Well, maybe I should be in something else, so I don’t make you fall over if I stagger. Ohh. Four paws are better than two!”
Ray staggered up and shifted to lupus at the same time. She came quite close to falling to the ground a couple of times, but manages to just keep herself from doing that.
“Okay,” asked Ray. “Where are we going?”
“Somewhere we can talk.”