Champion of Honor
#1
[Image: eric-christian-olsen-326301.jpg]

richard larson.
fostern cliath fianna philodox.
guardian.

taken by the beloved horror.
possessed by none-no-what.
destroyed.

buried beneath the the cold crescent
with the rest of the guardians,
his pack,
who failed.

but it's been no bed of roses
no pleasure cruise
i consider it a challenge before
the whole human race
and i ain't gonna lose
and i just need to go on and on and on and on

-- queen
my whole life is thunder.
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#2
Chances are the ceremony isn't very grand. There aren't many mourners. You can hardly blame anyone: the Sept is in chaos, in tatters, and Champion of Honor is to blame. At least, that's what some people think. That he was turned. That he became the worst sort of traitor. That he was rescued at great peril, and turned on his own kind at first opportunity.

That sort of betrayer deserves no honor in death. That sort of traitor deserves a posthumous loss of rank. A smear of shame on his grave. That sort of turncoat deserves worse than that, deserves to be forgotten, deserves to be spit up, deserves to have his name struck from the records and annals of history.

There are those that think like that. And you can't blame them.

He was Fianna, though. And the Fianna talk. God, do they talk, and god, do they love a story. Some say good things and some say bad, but word goes around and around and far and wide, and in the end words gets to one Stagsman living all the way at the northern border of the state. By then the story's mutated, blown out of proportion, turned into something fantastical and even more horrific than reality was. By then, the story turns Calden's stomach.

Still. He comes by the graves. He lays white roses over the headstones.

And over Champion's, one more tribute: the shed antler of some great stag, seven points branching from the shaft; the eight snapped off and left under the arch.
BECAUSE OF LIGHT AND DUTY AND REASONS.
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#3
Caleb is not the only kin to visit the newly-dug graves of the never-washed and ever-shrouded dead.

Two days after 1999 Broadway is closed and reopened for fumigation. Fumigation. There are scars, mostly invisible. The things that can be covered. An elevator shaft or two, perhaps, remain closed. The swarm of tenants at 8:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. is denser in front of the elevator bays.

Still, the whole place feels disconnected, free-floating. Unmoored. She walks in shadow of the building, heels on pavement the sunlight cutting a bright swath all around and looks, see: up and up and up. Lets her gaze fall. What the hell can she see in the place that they cannot.

The shadow feels darker, though; this bleak chill crawls up the ladder of her spine, a resonant sense of disconnection.

--

The graves, underground. Hidden in the roots of the building. There are no guardians. If there are no guardians is there even a Sept?

She visits them all: all the freshly dead. Says nothing to the corpses entombed in concrete-and-earth.

And she leaves nothing behind.
But my heart is wild and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.

- Phosphorescent, Song for Zula
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#4
She had heard the story, and yet she was not frightened away.

They felt betrayed, they felt as if a man who they had once stood beside had turned his back upon everything he had once sworn to protect and defend. In the most technical sense they were correct, but Sophia knew all too well that a matter such as this was never a simple one. It is a rare case in which a garou simply awakens evil and dedicated to the destruction of all they believe. This was, in essence, a fairy tale told to the young Garou to keep them from dreading the very real possibility that corruption comes slowly, and without the slightest hint of warning. Doubt, fear, hopelessness, these things sink in and for the good of our pack and loved ones we keep them shielded from the truth.

The sad truth of corruption was that it functioned as any disease and it slowly infected the body bit by bit and the only way to stop it when it sinks it's teeth in is to first realize that is is happening, a fact which most garou will deny to their graves, and to next seek help from the only people who can help, and garou are not exactly known for being the most helpful to those who are succumbing to corruption. Since neither of these possibilities is likely to result in success the garou is forced to hope they overcome their corruption or seek out some means of overcoming it themselves.

Sophia arrives at the grave with sympathy in her heart. Sympathy for a life lost, sympathy for a soul ripped apart by it's own emotions and internal struggle. You see Sophia knows that somewhere deep down inside there was a Champion of Honor and he did not take this lying down. He fought with all his might as his mind was ripped apart, shredded by the overwhelming power of something far more dangerous than anything any garou had ever likely faced. The sad fact of the matter is... When the Wyrm actively decides it desires your soul, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Brave as this garou might have been his battle was hopeless... Because the Wyrm is not an enemy which can be overcome with strength of body, strength of mind, or strength of soul. This was the other great delusion that the Elders fed to the young.

It was sad, really, that this creature was seen as a traitor when, in her mind, it was the elders of the Garou who committed the greatest betrayal by masking the truth of what they face from the young. By feeding their minds with the belief that somehow courage and honor will save the day. When, in the end, Every garou who had ever sacrificed their life believing the war could be won by tooth and claw, had been ripped to shreds the very way they sought to solve their problems. Why is this you ask? Ask Sophia and she'll tell you softly. "War... Is... The Wyrm". How can you beat War itself... With more war?

Secrets, understanding... The path to winning this struggle would not be something that would be gained with tooth and claw. It was something that would only come through seeking to understand the problem, and in figuring out what the problem is, taking the time to set that problem right again. That is why Sophia was here, no to threaten, not to condemn, but to seek out answers.

She placed, at the site of the Half-Moon's grave, a single dandelion. The flower might be seen as a weed to some, but to Sophia the Dandelion represented the garou themselves! A plant who seeks out homes between the cracks and crevices of a world that it toxic to it and no matter how many times you kill it, no matter how many new ways and means of learning to confront it and do away with it once and for all... It still thrives, proudly peeking it's ugly head from beneath the concrete to reach for the heavens overhead. So in that she honors the fallen man, not the monster who was killed but the man who lived before the wyrm had devoured it's soul.

Then, when she is certain there is no one else around, she takes the time to close her eyes and she simply lets her mind wander. For Sophia meditation wasn't about emptying the mind, there were too many voices in there to ever expect anything close to quiet, instead she let her mind wander through the seemingly endless catacombs of lives long since gone. It mattered little to her if she drifted off to slumber, or remained in a state of meditation, either way would work for her. She came to see if spending time at this grave would give her anything that would help those who still lived to solve the questions that were eating at them.
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#5
For all that she's been noticeably affected since that horrible night, Keisha has never actually been seen at the cemetery level of Cold Crescent (aside, of course, from that night a little over a week ago when several packs went down and struck a mighty blow against the Beloved Horror). She stood up at a moot alongside Ingrid and Thomas and offered her apologies, her plea for forgiveness. She's thrown herself full-bore into every effort that she could think of to put an end to the threat that Green Dragon's minions offered. And the gentle smile that she was known for before August tore at her soul has been missing in large swaths; even when it's been shown it has been noticeably dimmer since the horror of The Floor 43 Incident. Some, then, might think it odd that with all that it's affected her, she didn't attend the Gathering and hasn't actually come to pay her respects to those that died in the terrible, awful conflagration and spiritual perversion that occurred up there.

Others, perhaps her packsisters, may have guessed at or sensed the truth of the matter. Sometimes, the guilt you bear is so crushing and so debilitating that if you allow yourself to feel it, you'll be crippled. You'll be driven into the ground by the weight of that metaphorical yoke around your neck, so insubstantial and yet as heavy as a pillory of lead. And so in order to go on at all, you shove that guilt down, bury it deep in your heart by piling plans and brainstorming and the next thing you need to do on top of it. If you've done it right and you've piled enough on top, only a little peeks out and you can still function.

The problem with this is, of course, that eventually that pile is sorted through. Tasks are discarded from the pile once they've been accomplished; plans slip away and fall into the cluttered refuse piles of the mind. And you can only brainstorm so much. At that point, the only thing left to bury it under is experience, washing it away with sensations that take your mind away from it. And down that way lies a road from which you'll never come back; the current is too strong. And Keisha's practiced a life of moderation since the night of her First Change, making that simply...not an option for her.

Thus, so she has nothing left to bury It under. And so she comes.

She comes to the cemetery dressed in a simple, plain white dress. She steps out of her sandals when she touches down on the earthen floor, bare feet taking her across the distance, past the resting places of so many others (some of whom were also victims of the Beloved Horror) until finally she comes to a stop in front of the place where a once-Fostern Fianna rests. Her hair is unbound, falling free over her shoulder and the dreads rustle as she lowers herself to kneel in front of the grave.

Truth be told, she doesn't have a lot of stories she would be able to share with anyone about the Philodox. She's only met him once or twice and she liked him; he seemed nice. But he was taken when she was still new to the city and thus she doesn't have a lot of memories to share. There is one she could share. One that she came across while investigating the apartment where he was held under Kelly's watch. But the specifics of that memory are something that she doesn't plan on ever sharing with anyone. Some stories don't need to be told, and it's the least that she can do for this man.

And so she purses her lips and she sits there, kneeled, for a long time. She says nothing because she doesn't need to. In the end, he rose and he struck a blow back against the Beloved Horror after death. He found his redemption in the end, and although there is much about all of that--the raising of the dead, the ending of more life--that Keisha can't quite come to terms with, she lets that moment through. That, she can be thoroughly okay with.

After a long time, she reaches out and sets her hand to rest on the earth. Her eyes shut and she whispers softly to his memory that she's sorry. And then she rises to her feet, and moves on to pay her respects to the others she's been unable to bring herself to visit. There were many Guardians who perished that night, after all.

One thing does not continue on with her. Her Iskakku staff remains where she placed it, over his headstone. She'll start on a new one tonight, but that one is his, now.
"The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules."
"Good men don't need rules. And today's not the day to find out why I have so many."
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