The Crescent Moon of Wisdom [attn.: EVERYONE]
#1
1 November 2013
Waning Crescent Moon

It is All Saint's Day.

It is Día de los Angelitos.

It is -- or was, prior to the early sunset -- Samhain.

It is a holy day among many mortals, but mortals do not own the night. They fear it, and they burn any fuel they can get their hands on to ward it off. It is a darkening, chilling time of year in this hemisphere; the feasts of plenty and the celebrations of light seem very far off, and hard to see when the sun is so scarce and the shadows stretch ever longer.

The night is not holy. And it is not for mortal folk.

--

All who are known hear the call. The blissfully unconscious jolt to awareness as though from a nightmare, and those that hunt after dark arrest their steps and lift their muzzles to the south. Spirits of crows and hawks and small rodents and spirits of strange emotions and half-imagined things carry messages. Garbled messages appear on phones and in e-mail in-boxes that delete themselves upon reading. Garou and Kin alike are called, though the instinct is stronger and the demand is greater upon the former. Even the cub that is out there these nights, new to this life, feels on instinct even before her mentor tells her: we must go.

Those closer to the caern get there soonest, naturally. The rangers and volunteers who help guard the state park have the gates open, and unattended kin are given flashlights if they need them. There are few who do not know what they are being called to witness. Two adren and three athro garou still await judgement.

The summons lead the called to Persse Place. The homestead is obviously too small to be suitable for a gathering, but the path and the meadowland around it will suit. The house is for those who may need shelter, those who may need warmth. Such as the children.

Pulled from their beds, lifted into the arms of parents and aunts and uncles and guardians, bundled against the cold, eyes bleary and some with tears falling, the children of the nation's common blood are called as well. They do not understand. Some of them will drift from the nation, even run from it. Some of them may even grow to be garou themselves; the rites of true divination that once foretold who would change and who would not have been lost for a very, very long time (though that does not stop some from making attempts anyway). For tonight, though, they are just children, being raised by their people.

They are all, in the end, one people.

--

Luna is angled in the sky, thin and sharp at her ends, the sickle-curve of harvest, the gleaming silver knife that can cut so deep with so little rage. It was not, originally, the moon they were to be judged beneath. This is not a moon of judgement. It is a moon of difficult choices, of bindings and bargains, remembering and forgetting, sometimes soul-selling and sometimes soul-stealing and yet also: healing. Creating. It is a strange moon, and its particular lunacy --

you are all moon-mad, in your way,
don't forget


-- is one of the hardest to understand by those outside it. Even those inside of it. Luna casts only a thin light, but she sees many things.

Beneath that light and the long shadows it casts, the garou and their kin gather together. Some of the kin huddle inside the homestead, a fire lit and an infant fussing until nursed. That would be Amanda Brown and her newborn; Clamor of Night's son. Miles brought a couple thermoses of coffee and a flask of whiskey, but then: he always has the latter. Most stand at the door or windows or just outside, watching as the wolves gather. More than a few of the kin carry firearms of one kind or another, because this is Colorado and this is not the city and even if they were not ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment, they would have that 9mm, that .45, that shotgun. Most of them say, whenever they are asked: you never know.

You really don't. Until you do. And often by then, it's too late to do anything about it.

--

The leaders of Cold Crescent stand with their counterparts from Forgotten Questions. They stand with the garou who were mentors, who were icons, who were ideals to strive for as often as they were traditionalists to rebel against. There is anger between them now, and betrayal, and shame. But they are not enemies. They have never been enemies. Even the Master of Rites of Forgotten Questions, hard-eyed and brutal and threatening under a few full moons past to tear the throat out of Warning Threshold, is restrained. For it is often one thing to talk of punishment, and it is another to mete it out.

It is an awful, sacred thing.

Time ticks by as the wolves gather, and then somehow it is simply known that all who will come have come. Then Summer's Early Dawn, the Keeper of the Land who tends the spiritual side of Forgotten Questions where so many kin and rangers and the state itself tend to the physical aspect, comes forward with Hunter of Peace, Goddess's Silence. He is much taller than his caern counterpart is, and not quite as dotty, nor as good at managing groups of people.

Summer's Early Dawn turns to him, and it becomes clear to all in attendance that there will be no soliloquy here, no setup, no speechifying. There has been enough talk. They are getting right to it.

"Hunter of Peace-yuf," she says, "we show you mercy. Signs of your care for your sept can be found from the hidden levels to the very rooftop of Cold Crescent. Til violated, the spirits were pleased there and the shrines well-kept. I have spoken with the soul of your Challenge Floor, which was tended neatly. After the violation, you fought those above you to allow lower-ranked Theurges to join you in recovering, cleansing, and healing the place given into your care, and under your watch, even the Gauntlet was made thinner in the midst of the city."

She puts her hand out to her tribemate, her brow stitching. "You spoke up, but you did not speak loud enough. You fought, but you did not counsel with the needed strength. You did not seek outside help from your allies in the caern when you should have." There is a pause. "I know from our talks these past weeks that you were trying to balance respect for your elders with loyalty to your people as a whole. I know that in trying to do your best, you disregarded your own instinct. I believe the city has dulled the wolf in you, and made you forget how to honor Luna's touch on your mind: you have tried to turn moonlight into ice to make it solid, and this is the work of the Weaver.

"You cannot remain as a leader in the city," she tells him, shaking her head. "You cannot remain in the city at all. For thirteen moons, you will remain in Forgotten Questions. You will forsake the comforts of mankind and live in the three forms furthest from man whenever possible. You will eat what you hunt. You will seek a pack, as you have not since you went to the city. You will keep the land with me, and find your redemption in wildness."

Hunter of Peace bows his head in a deep nod to Summer's Early Dawn. And then, without preamble or hesitation, he removes his glasses. He removes his clothes, down to the last thread, putting them in a pile to the side. Slowly, he shifts down to lupus and crawls forward on his belly, licking at the Keeper of the Land's toes. He knows how merciful this is. He knows he is not forgiven, but he is spared.

He follows her, when she leaves the center, loping behind her heels, leaving the trappings of his human disguise behind him.

--

Retribution's Fist is next. His back is unbowed, his head held high, his shoulders squared. He will not crawl on his belly to lick the feet of anyone, whatever his judgement. His eyes are steel-colored, his jaw shadowed by the beard that has grown in over the last few weeks. When he comes to stand face to face with the Master of Challenges of Forgotten Questions, All Is Shadow When Turned From the Sun. He has been the Master of Challenges at Cold Crescent longer than she has held her post at the caern. They are born from the same tribe and equal in rank, though he is a bit older. They have tangled for a long time, each accusing the other of presumption more often than not. He refuses to call her rhya, though she is now his judge.

All is Shadow does not seem to have much love lost for him, either. There is a bristling, crackling energy between the two of them that trends towards outright loathing but is held in careful, respectful, aching restraint that longs to be unleashed.

She takes a breath. "Mercy," she says, flatly and clearly, though it's obvious she wants to spit the word at his face. "In your role, you did not take action that allowed your sept to be desecrated.

"You didn't do much to stop it, either," she goes on, a little more harshly. Retribution's Fist nearly bares his teeth at her, but controls himself.

"It is the Challenge Master's duty to watch the leaders of the garou for weakness, for mistakes, for taking steps on a path that could lead to the downfall of us all. In this, you failed not only your sept, but your tribe, your moon, and all of your people. You must answer for that failure. Because you did not serve your nation and protect them from the weaknesses of their leaders, you may not be a part of this nation."

All is Shadow hesitates a moment. Strange, that, as she watches him, hating him, she hesitates.

"Retribution's Fist-yuf, you are ostracized." She closes her eyes. "Gaia, I shun Retribution's Fist. Of all your children, I have no such brother." She turns on her heel to her left, sharp, sudden, like tearing off a bandage.

Another garou, an elder of the Lords, steps forward and calls out as well: Gaia, I shun Retribution's Fist. Of all your children, I have no such brother. He, too, turns away from the former Master of Challenges of Cold Crescent.

Again and again, first the grandchildren of Thunder and then more and more of the garou present -- then almost all of them, their voices a cascade, several speaking at once until the words resound in the gathering, echoing: no such brother. no such brother.

None see now but the kinfolk. All have turned their backs on him, even those who did not speak for the rite. From the doorway of Persse Place, Retribution's Fist sees his mate watching him. She is uncomfortable here; she's never fit in out in the sticks, she was glad when they moved to the city. She was glad when they left behind his neverending feud and tension with All is Shadow. She looks uncomfortable now, having watched all of this. She looks sad, and she looks

strong,

as she turns widdershins from her mate. Those kin inside who see her face can see the tears she does not shed, the anger and the resolve in her jaw. Those kin inside know: she is being punished, too. Not intentionally. Not spitefully. Just by association. Just because this means closing her door on her mate for five, six months. Miles gives her a steadying nod, his regard for her honor, for her loyalty to the nation, for her cunning; and it is cunning, for when spring comes, her decision tonight will make a difference in the way Retribution's Fist is welcomed back by the garou.

And no one sees, but when the initial shock and kneejerk anger and pain leave the eyes of the Ahroun who was just punished, he looks strong, too. Resolved. And he is looking at no one but her, making her oaths in his mind and heart that he does not speak aloud,

before he leaves them all, walking past the discarded clothes left by Hunter of Peace and slipping through the ranks of werewolves, heading down the long path into the darkness.

--

Forge of Nótt is not restricted to the caern or her lupus form. She is not shunned from her people for half a year. The Ritemaster of Forgotten Questions, even more gravely filled with rage at the Cold Crescent's leaders than perhaps any other, looks as though he wants to tear her to pieces where she stands, but she does not receive this most final of judgements. She, like her counterpart, is tasked with knowledge, with instruction, with understanding.

It was up to her to learn enough to understand what they faced in the pit, to teach those beneath and above her of its dangers. He shouts at her, shames her for the fact that those beneath her rank were the ones to question, the ones to discover, the ones to share what they knew. He dresses her down, and then, shifting into crinos, the Ritemaster towers above her.

Forge of Nótt, Adren Godi, faces him, preparing for her death with honor, with iron will, without fear or cowering. But his claws never reach for her. He whuffs a steaming puff of air, turns from her, and leaves the circle for a moment, only to return with a rock the size of a small child. He throws it to the ground, sending dust outward, and points at it.

"You will be Scorned by your people," he snarls at her, growling from the depths of his throat, the words shifting along with him as he returns to his human form. "And you will speak to them in the voice of the Jackal. Your voice will return with your honor... should you reclaim it."

What follows then takes far, far longer than the rite to ostracize Retribution's Fist. There are many, many garou in the crowd who have things to say about the Theurge who failed them, her pride, her oversights, her mockery of those more ignorant. The claims and accusations grow audacious at times, vengeful, but the rite cannot be stopped. At times there is laughter, and the Godi looks sometimes as though she is on the verge of losing her mind with anger, but she does not retaliate.

Especially not, when almost three hours have passed and people are finally starting to run out of things to say about her, and the Ritemaster lifts a handful of dust from the earth and throws it over her head, into her face, telling her that her pride and failure have shown her to be of jackal blood. Forge of Nótt looks brokenhearted by then, even if she does not bow her head, even if she does not slump her shoulders. There is fury and pain in her eyes.

"Now," the Ritemaster says, staring at her in her shame, standing beside that stone covered with carvings and paintings of the stories told about her, "you will still teach. In the voice of your cowardly breed, and to anyone who comes. And you will teach until your throat is raw and your fingers bleed, without chiminage, without renown, and you will not escape these punishments until all you know, you have taught another. Now get out of my sight."

--

The night is long, and yet it is still hours from dawn. Some of the kin have fallen asleep. Some of the cubs and cliaths have been nipped awake by their betters.

There is a stirring when the Forgotten Warder stalks forward in crinos, on all fours, her thick fur braided in places with stones and feathers and bits of bone. It is hard to see any light in her eyes, for there is almost none. With her walks Warning Threshold, in homid, but when they come to the center of the gathering, he immediately shifts to lupus. He is large, compared to many wolves. He seems impossibly small when he stands in that form before the Forgotten Warder.

She reaches into her own chest, it seems, drawing something out with a faint glimmer of gnosis, barely perceptible as a rippling glow before it fades. She holds in her hand a... box. The box itself is small, but carved with glyphs that seem to shift and move even after the glow has dissipated. Even those several yards away can feel the power of that creation, which the Forgotten Warder simply drops in front of Warning Threshold.

Who does not whine. Who does not keen or howl or back away as the lid to that box falls open as though of its own accord. A great feeling of void enters the hearts of the wolves who watch this. There is something very cold in that box, very empty, a loss that to most seems unimaginable, even if all know that it is survivable.

The Forgotten Warder rises to her hind legs, baring her teeth at the Glass Walker who, though her counterpart, is utterly different from her,

particularly in how deeply he failed his sept.

She does not speak. She reaches down, wrapping her enormous crinos paw around his throat, lifting him from the ground. He twists in midair, letting out an instinctive but truncated yelp as his jaw is pushed back to an unnatural angle. With her other handpaw, the Forgotten Warder

carves

off

several inches of his skin, fur and all, tearing it with tidy brutality from his side. Warning Threshold cannot stop himself from flinching, though his throat will not let out anything but the barest noise of panting, of pain.

The Forgotten Warder drops him unceremoniously back to the ground, and he remains in lupus, trying to push to his feet, trying not to shrink away from her, trying not to beg,

as she drops the bloodied strip of his fur into the box. There is a sudden blast of that darkness, that chilling sense of vulnerability and loss and even imprisonment, and even some of the higher-ranked garou in the gathering flinch. In that blast, that flash that blinds but not with brightness, Warning Threshold turns suddenly into a man. A man with torn clothes and a very, very bloody torso. Which hurts him, as it must, because even he does not try to touch the gifts Gaia has bestowed upon him to push the pain away.

The Forgotten Warder stares down at him as she reaches down, lifting the box and simply closing the lid. Some of the howling feeling of depression and fear dissipates through the gathered septs, but not the cold, sick feeling of what they are seeing: the Wolf being stolen from Warning Threshold. She begins to walk away, to go bury his fur, and his rage, in a secret place.

"When!" he calls after her, his voice harrowed

and yet unbroken.

Even pressing his shirt and his coat against his wounded side to try and staunch the flow of blood, he pushes to his knees, then his feet, watching her go. "How long?"

The Forgotten Warder turns to look at him. Her voice is dark, as her eyes, as her fur. She does not growl or snap at him; she does not need to. Her voice flows into the high tongue, a sound that is both primordial and sacred.

"When. You. Atone."

Warning Threshold lowers his shoulders, hearing that.

Because he may never be able to.

--

There is no pack for Warning Threshold to go back to. There is no theurge willing to step forward and heal him. He wouldn't let them. He looks to the kinfolk, but not for succor; he just looks to them, as though looking for someone, then looks away.

He does not know why he is not killed.

He follows that thought by wondering if that is what he wanted.

--

Last of all, the Great Alpha. He did not have to send anyone to escort Curved Sky from her post in Cold Crescent; she was summoned, and she left. Nor does he have to call her, or drag her forward now. She follows him to stand in front of all the assembled garou, and though she does not know what is coming, she seems to know it will not be mercy. She is dressed simply, in a grey suit. Her hair is tied back. She does not look up.

The Great Alpha is, as ever, in his hunting for, standing as a great wolf among them. He does not change. He is unmoved even by this, at least as far as the eyes of his people can see.

"Tell them,," is all he says, and Curved Sky, Sept Leader of Cold Crescent, takes a breath.

She does not lift her head.

"When I led the movement to establish a sept in the city almost a decade ago, I knew of the pit beneath 1999 Broadway. I told no one but my packmates and my closest allies. Even without knowing that there were nightmares below, many others supported our vision to create a headquarters and gathering place -- a home -- in Denver.

"As we argued with the elders of Forgotten Questions and began establishing the sept of the Cold Crescent, fights erupted amongst our number as well, within the inner circle. Some wanted to make sure it was known to everyone what was beneath us, and what we were trying to guard." Curved Sky takes another shallow breath. "I and my party were dominant, and we kept it a secret."

There is a pause there. A place for her to defend. But she does not defend. Still: she knows she has to tell them why.

"The opposition to a city sept was so strong at the time, and is strong even now. I thought that if it was known what was beneath 1999 Broadway, the sept would never be established. But that decision should not have been mine and mine alone. I was so wary of its creation being stalled or killed that I did not even give most garou a chance to voice their thoughts.

"When they did, through the years, I quashed it. Until this simply became the way I led: to resist questioning. To stand above the garou who flocked to Cold Crescent, to only permit those closest to my rank to even approach me." Her throat moves as she swallows. "I believed we could handle anything ourselves, a sept wholly independent of Forgotten Questions.

"Even when the Beloved Horror first discovered what was beneath us and turned their eyes away from the caern and to Cold Crescent. Even when we lost so, so many lives to kill only half of their number, I refused to tell my elders or my peers or those beneath me what we were atop. Those who stood with me, knowing the secret -- I threatened them with their lives if they should speak of it, warning them that they would destroy our sept. Even when the Beloved Horror returned, impossibly strong, I only tightened my grip harder."

Even in profile, her head down, her eyes on the earth, it is not hard to see that Curved Sky is ashen.

"All who have fallen in battle to the Beloved Horror trying to defend not only the pit and the sept but my secrets... their deaths are on my head.

"All who followed me, who lied for me, who failed for me... their punishments are on my head.

"River of Clouds, Slaughter, Wind on Concrete, Champion of Honor, Raspberry Sky, every guardian who died violated and desecrated by the Wyrm... their deaths are on my head.

"Every garou who made mistakes or missteps because they simply did not know... their shame and guilt is on my head. Everyone who has faced the Beloved Horror and been terrified for their life, wounded, their packs and kin injured or lost... your suffering is on my head."

There should be more. Some sort of grand summation of her mea culpa. Some extremity she could go to in order to truly show remorse, some poetry she should spew, but

there is nothing.

--

The Great Alpha lifts his head after a long, long moment of silence and looks behind him. The Forgotten Warder, the Ritemaster, Summer's Early Dawn, and All is Shadow walk back towards him from wherever they have gone to stand now. They each change shape until they are crinos, standing enormous and hulking in an arc to either side of the Great Alpha and Curved Sky.

It is the Ritemaster who lifts a sharpened stone from the ground and drives it into his palm. It is the Ritemaster who walks forward and smears the blood rushing out of his hand across Curved Sky's face, touching her brow and eyelids, smearing it onto her ears, covering her mouth. His handpaw moves to her head, as though to crush her skull, but her punishment is worse than that.

Curved Sky's tears leave tracks in the blood on her face, but no one hears the way she begins to sob, the way she begins to beg for forgiveness but not mercy, the way she just says

i'm sorry i'm sorry i'm so sorry

because these words are hidden beneath the howl that the Ritemaster lets out, lifting his head and releasing a cry of grief and rage that echoes throughout the park, filling the whole sky with their collective pain. And

many cannot help but join him. For many have lost

so much

to her sin.

It all lands on her head. It all falls with her tears, with her blood, to the hard packed earth, the rocky ground. And then, with the howl beginning to fade, the septs -- elder to cub, kin to infant -- starts to hear the screams that even the town nearby will hear in their nightmares, only lost slowly to the erosive forgetfulness of the caern's power.

Curved Sky is shrieking, horrified, as the ground beneath her spikes upward in knives of silver, through the soles of her feet, into her legs. She falls, and she shifts, but no form can take this. Her hand-paws hit the ground when she finds crinos, only to find that razoring argent rage slicing through her palms, breaking through her bones.

That is when the five elders of Forgotten Questions lower themselves to all fours. That is when, a pack of war-formed, snarling hounds of justice begins to nip at the already bloodied flesh of the galliard. That is when they start to make her run. And she does run. It doesn't matter, and it won't matter: all of Gaia now is lancing, searing agony to her. The Earth itself no longer welcomes her.

No longer forgives her.

Garou scramble to get out of the way as the sinner is harried from their midst. She is chased towards the hills and the vast sandstone formations that have existed here since before the time of man, before the time of garou. She will not survive this rite. No one survives this rite. She will not be given to the Gravestone. She will not be mourned with any rite, any gathering. Her screams echo behind her, even as her name

starts

to fade

from the minds and memories of her own people, turning to a curse, an obscenity on their tongues.

--

There are no elders left behind to shepherd the people. Only alphas and their packs, garou and their kin. Amanda's baby is wailing now, hiccuping sobs that seem so immediate, so strangely real and mortal and alive, after what was just witnessed. And Amanda herself, shh-sh-sh-shhing her son, trying to calm him despite the fact that she is shaking, shaking.

Even though it is over.
my whole life is thunder.
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#2
They are all shaken from their sleep. Not merely the adults and not by the flat pounding of a hand against the door, but by an urge that is bone deep and instinctive, by the nameless imperative of the sickle moon.

--

Among those kinfolk navigating the trails through the dark and enduring light to Persse Place: Éva and her children. Listen, none of them are crying. Ellie, now a very adult ten, takes the flashlight handed to her mother by the kinfolk guardians and handles it with a steady gravity, conscious that she is lighting the way for her family. Conscious of the slice of moon visible through the threaded, angular slices of dramatic red sandstone. Conscious of the strangers all around.

Éva carries Jozsef, wrapped in a well-worn blanket. He is an armful, heavy, but wraps himself so readily around his mother, arms around her neck, forehead resting on her left shoulder, index and middle fingers tucked thoughtfully into his mouth, watching the trail they hike uncurl like a ribbon behind them through sleepy, half-open eyes. Andris, who is five, has been wrestled into jeans and tennis shoes but is still wearing the Batman pajama top he went to sleep in. Ellie velcroed his cape back on at his insistence, but the pleasure of the thing is wholly lost when he was wrapped up in the coat he tried to insist he did not need. Sometimes he holds his mother's free hand. Sometimes Ellie's, and once or twice the girl permits her younger brother the deep honor of bearing the flashlight and lighting their way.

Rozsa waits at the park's entrance for her other children to arrive, then comes after. She is older, slower on the trails, but knows them as well as any here and despite the pain in her knees and her shoulder - there will be a change in the weather soon, Rozsa always feels them in her bones - she will arrive in the clearing soon enough.

The boys resemble their mother. Dark hair and pale skin, although Jozsef has his father's blue eyes where Andris' are as dark as Éva's. The girl though, who is turning leggy now, almost but-not-quite pre-adolescent, has darker skin, and long, gleaming, near-black hair. All of them smell like thunder.

--

The quartet stand with the rest, outside the homestead. Éva shifts Jozsef from her left shoulder to her right, but never puts him down. It is cold, but they do enter the shelter reserved for those who require it, although when Rozsa finally reaches the clearing - in the hushed few minutes just before the gathering, and judgment, begin - Éva surrenders the half-sleeping toddler in her arms to his grandmother, who takes him inside. Then she crouches down, picks up five year old Andris, not to shield him from what will come, not precisely, but to be close, assured, steady, protective, and

(perhaps)

because she needs him too. So they stand, now a trio, mother, and daughter, and son. The boy wraps his legs around her torso and his arms around her neck. The girl is kept close, just in front, and sometimes feels the rough, present slide of her mother's hand through her hair.

--

And thus, they bear witness.

Éva keeps her arms wrapped around Andris, keeps him there, but facing away from the center of the loose circle of Garou and kin. Ellie, oh Ellie, the girl watches nearly all of it, serious and wide-eyed and grim-mouthed. Nearly all of it,

but, she is a child. Ellie turns away at the end, seeks refuge against her mother's body. Ellie turns away at the end.

Éva never does.
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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#3
Phoebe's sleep is restless on the nights of the waxing crescent. Those nights are not her nights, they are not when she is at her best, not even when she's at her baseline. Her tie to Luna is simply too strong, so strong that when her face wanes, Phoebe wanes. When she waxes, though...

This is not one of those nights. One might argue that this is one of the darkest of nights. The night of judgement for the leaders of Cold Crescent. Georgie drives Phoebe and Winona to the park. Once there he looks his sister over once before turning abruptly on his heel to join the other Kin heading toward Persse Place. Phoebe looks weak, tired, wan, but she has her pack, or will soon.

Sophia and Keisha will find them easily enough, following the tug of the pack bond until they see the head of their Alpha rising above some of the others. Phoebe smiles when they're finally together, but that smile fades as the proceedings begin.

The Black Fury is not impassive, there is a tightness to her brow as first one after the other after the other is stripped down or cast out or weighted down. She moves when it's Forge of Nótt's turn, shifting briefly to Crinos to carve into the stone. For a moment she watches the Godi, and perhaps that is significant but it doesn't linger. She will have a student, though, at least one, and more if Phoebe's packmates choose to join her.

Then she moves, shifting back into her breed form, hands folded before her as she bears witness to the mercy of Forgotten Questions.

=====

The spirits find Ingrid on the hunt. She is always on the hunt these days, always searching for the one, the two, the three that got away. Should she find their trail she does not engage, only makes note. Even with their power broken, she knows it's not in her best interests to try to take any of the remaining Beloved Horror down alone. Instead, she makes note and she reports findings if she finds things, and she goes out again the next night, and the next, and the next.

Tonight, she is not alone, not really. She and her hunting partner for the night (an Ahroun, it's almost always an Ahroun) turn their noses to the south when the spirits find them. Not long after, a small sleek black Audi pulls into the lot Park District building. There, the duo shifts and parts company, Ingrid slipping swiftly away to cross the distance on four legs and find her own place. Returned to her breed form, she stands somewhere with a good view, a part and yet apart. She is bound to no one again. She is alone. She is free.

She watches, eyes hard, her posture relaxed, appearing to neither enjoy nor dislike what she sees.

=====

The spirits pull Samantha Evans from her slumber, pulling her up from a dream of a quiet blond teen with kind, dark blue eyes shifting suddenly into a towering, brutal monster. She wakes before the carnage begins, blinking her eyes in the darkness of her bedroom and picking up her phone to check the time. She only groans a little before swinging her legs off the bed and getting up and getting ready.

At the park, a bundled up Jake held to her hip, she shakes her head to the offer of a flashlight. Let someone else use it, Sam lets her eyes adjust to the pale, faint light cast by the sickle moon. She'll see just fine, or at least well enough as she makes her way to the house with the other Kinfolk. She looks for Hosea in the crowd. When she finds him she places her hand on the back of his arm, just above the elbow, and she gives it a small squeeze. She offers no more comfort or support than that, she doesn't think he would accept it and anyway what can she do? She can empathize with him, but she has no words that could possibly help him get through the tension of what's about to happen. She stands near him for a while, Jake falling asleep against her shoulder. But her son is too young to be out in this cold for very long. Eventually she has to go inside. But, she witnesses as long as she can the justice of her people.

=====
niko @ 8:03AM
[nightmares, +1 diff GEE THANKS SPIRITS]
Roll: 7 d10 TN8 (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 9) ( success x 3 ) VALID

niko @ 8:03AM
God dammit, Samantha

jamie @ 8:13AM
Get it together Samantha, jeezus.
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#4
Hector told Lola a story about Gaia's Vengeful Teeth once. No one had told the story since it happened and her mate did not tell it well because there was no way to tell it that could make it real. He did not want to make it real and he did not think she'd ever have to see it.

A Garou whose name did not survive any more than his body did. Dragged before his Sept alone even though his former brethren held the chains. His rank and his moon did nothing to keep him from betraying his people. They killed the Black Spiral Dancer with whom he'd spent more than one night and they killed the rest of her pack and then the Athro Theurge who led the pack that took in a Lost Cub, who led the rites there in the desert for a time, he screamed the litany of sins committed by this wolf and anointed him with his blood and his tears and then his former pack harried him onto the earth that chewed up his bones.

Echoes of the Lost had no name then and he had no rank and he had no pack. He had seventeen years behind him but they were seventeen years of a mortal life and a lawgiver of his tribe and fostering pack held him by the back of his scrawny soft neck and growled at him not to dare look away. This is what happens to traitors.

Four years gone since then and he comes to the Caern when he's called. Neither scrawny nor soft anymore. He and his pack and the Kinfolk who run with the pack. And they stand and they watch. No children cling to their legs and none of them call themselves children anymore. They are all gone from their parents in some way. The War and the way they fight the War has made metaphors and orphans of them.

And he sat at the Moot and he did not say a word. With the moon hung heavy overhead he sat with the people he's chosen and he watched and he did not say a goddamn word. The moon is a scythe now and he does not sit. The entire time he does not sit. He blinks because he has to blink and he holds his kinswoman's hand because she has not seen this before.

He has seen it before but that does not mean he does not turn away when one of their own is shunned. That his jaws don't work when a wolf goes along with a patch of fur, that he doesn't put his arm around Lola's shoulders and tuck her in against his side when Warning Threshold asks a question with an answer sharper than the knife that flayed him. Because Hector knows what's coming he reaches out to grab Tamsin's elbow. Not for his sake but for hers.

Don't look away.

Four years ago Hector tried to leave. He'd thought he'd had enough and could just stroll back to his old life like nothing happened but the lawgiver grabbed him and hit him until he showed his throat and he never thought of leaving again. Not even a reverb of a thought of leaving now.

He stands until the judgment is done and when it's done Echoes of the Lost, silent, guides his pack home again.
Look. I have school. And RP. And all my other time is taken up by sheer, unreasoning panic. I don't have time for Reddit.
-- ixphaelaeon
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#5
"Stop it."

That's the first thing Erich says all night. The first thing, after being summoned here by a force greater than his will; pulled out of the mountains where his tinypack lives in their cozy little tinyhouse. After sitting off at the edges for hours, disgruntlement turning slowly to discomfort and dread as Garou after Garou is dragged before the Septs. Is dishonored. Is shamed. Is brought low as low can be.

His lips thin when he watches Hunter of Peace grovel before his counterpart, but he says nothing. He winces as Retribution's Fist is shunned; grimaces as -- wise or not, cunning or not, foresightful or not -- his tribesman's mate turns from him. But he says nothing. He folds his arms tightly across his chest and scowls as Forge of Nótt's name is quite literally besmirched with so many curses, mockeries and indictments that the Rite begins to feel gratuitous. Actually, no: it always feels gratuitous to Erich. Immature, gratuitous, cruel as schoolyard bullying. But:

he says nothing.

And nothing is what he says when Warning Threshold is stripped of his Wolf. Nothing is what he says, though his fists are clenched under his biceps, his arms folded tight, his jaw tighter still. Nothing.

Nothing, until --

-- until Curved Sky tells her story. Until she finishes her story. Until the Ritemaster begins to smear her face in blood, until a ripple of horror and awe spreads through the gathered Garou.

Erich doesn't understand what is happening until those around him whisper it. Gaia's, they say, snatches of whispers caught here and there. Teeth. Gaia's Vengeful Teeth. Vengeful. Gaia's Teeth. And then,

when his synapses spark, when the circuit closes, when he pulls up the fragmentary training and teaching her received as a pup and understand what is happening here,

oh, that. That is when he speaks.

--

"Stop it."

Again. Louder. Some near Erich are turning their heads. Some curious. Some glaring. He sucks in a breath; Curved Sky is weeping now, she is sobbing, she is not begging for mercy but she is begging for forgiveness, she is begging. Erich is shouting:

"Stop it! This isn't fair. This isn't right. She confessed her crimes. She owned up to it. Hasn't she earned herself some measure of honor? Hasn't she earned the right to a name and a memory? You wouldn't do this to a Dancer. You didn't do this to Beloved Horror! This is not fair,"

he's shouting and he's pushing forward but the sheer mass of the Garou, the sheer number of the crowd holds him back. Someone yells back at him, shut up Cliath!, and someone else is clocking him upside the head and all around him the howls are rising up,

the rite is rolling unstoppable to its terrible conclusion,

Storm's Teeth isn't howling but he is shouting, he's screaming it over and over:

"STOP IT. THIS ISN'T RIGHT. STOP IT. STOP,"

until his shouts are superceded by the sounds Curved Sky makes. Which are nothing human. Which are nothing Garou. Which are bloodcurdling, soul-scarring, noises of horror and pain that every last one of them will remember to the day they die.

That's when Storm's Teeth snaps to warform. That's when he starts leaping, lunging over the masses; starts chasing Curved Sky, but not to harry her with the rest. Not the harry her at all but to kill her, to give her some semblance of honor or -- at least -- some peace, some end to this, some mercy. That's when those around him turn on him,

that's when he's grabbed, that's when he shoulders free, that's when he's shoved back and borne down, that's when he tries to scramble up snarling, snapping in every direction; that's when someone far stronger and older throats him and bears him down, that's when he completely loses himself and turns wild, frothing, bucking, mindless; that's when someone else grabs an enormous stone from the ground and smashes it into his skull.

--

Erich does not, in the end, succeed in anything he attempted. Curved Sky is harried into the hills. Her Rite is not interrupted. She is given no mercy.

She is devoured by the earth. No; no euphemisms. Let's be blunt about what we have done:

She is burned by it, scorched away by it, her skin peels and blisters and cracks, her flesh melts off her bones, her bones sear to dust. The damage is unsurvivable, but that does not mean it is quick. She is alive for most of it, until she is not anymore. She is alive

for a very

long

time.

--

when erich comes to it is quiet. the gathering has dissipated. the ground is cold mud, and he is facedown in it. the smell of blood and scorched flesh still hangs in the air.

he is sore everywhere. he is heartsore. he curls in on himself, and he covers his eyes with his hand, and he sobs.
BECAUSE OF LIGHT AND DUTY AND REASONS.
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#6
Some Kinfolk carry guns with them. Some carry children. Others carry hesitancy for what is about to happen, and hide from it and the cool of the night in the safety of the house build onto the property where all had been summoned that night. Lola fits only one of these descriptions. She doesn't have children at her side or on her hip, and she absolutely refuses to go hide in the house. She does have a rifle strapped to her back, though, and it looks as natural there as the nose on her face. That's just the kind of personality she is.

She stands with Celduin, at the Alpha's side through the duration of what we'll call a 'ceremony' for the sake of literacy. She looks right here, with her chin high and her shoulders squared and the expression on her face somewhere between stern and stormy. She could very well be a part of the pack, truely, lending her teeth and claws to their cause. Well, she may not have teeth or claws that are worth a damn, but that rifle and the raw iron strength of her limbs seem to suffice, if you're to believe the spirits and Wolves who speak her praises.

She's stock still and unchanging, unmoving, unflinching through much of the affair. Hector will hold her hand, and she'll lace his fingers with his and return the gesture, but at points she'll break away to shift her posture and stick her hands in her pockets instead. She is disciplined enough not to become restless through the lengthy punishment set upon Forge of Nótt, though a certain light does flash in Lola's eyes at something she heard the Forgotton Questions Ritemaster say and her eyebrows do lift as a thought occurs. But that passes, and her expression returns to the hard expression that says you deserved all of this once again.

The last two to be punished do cause a chance in the Kinswoman, though. When a wolf is seized by the throat, flayed, and dropped as a Man, the cold air catches in her lungs and her spine stiffens and she squeezes Hector's hand, just a little, just for a moment.

But the Uktena Galliard knows what comes next because he's seen it before, and he loops a surprisingly strong arm around her shoulders and pulls her into his side. She doesn't resist because there's a cold dread that has settled in her bones, put there by the mysterious box that ate a man's Wolf, kept there by all that followed. The story that her Galliard had shared about a terrible punishment rite that's surreal and seldom starts to prickle in her memory when she watches the Elder of the City Sept have her face smeared with blood. Lola's all too willing to press herself into Hector's side while this happens, but does her best to keep her shoulders turned straight, to not look away, because The Wolves are Watching.

A certain Shadow Lord Cliath causes a fuss and frenzies in his outrage. Wolves cuff him and pin him down and steal his consciousness when he goes into a fit and cannot be contained. Lola's attention is pulled after him, her attention to what fate was falling upon the Grand Elder broken, and she shouts something in a tight, strained, highly stressed voice at Erich that is lost to the screams of Curved Sky and the roaring snarls of the Garou that contained their brother.

There's outrage in her chest, stress misdirected at a Cliath Ahroun who couldn't hold himself back, but Hector doesn't let her go (even though she had pulled away from him to try [stupidly] to lay words and hands upon Erich for his behavior) and she stays with Celduin after all.

By the time all is said and done, families gather their children, Wolves find their Kin, and they all drift back home. In this time Lola will touch with both Tamsin and Thomas in ways that suit them best-- for Tamsin a hug, for Thomas a laying of her hand on his neck and jaw. The gestures were bracing, affectionate in their own way, but brief none the less.

She was tired. And she already knew that nightmares would follow her slumber tonight.
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#7
Javed is not asleep when the call sounds. The Strider finds his rest when he can; he has a series of buildings around the environs of the Denver metropolitan area that he rotates between. It is a practice that he began when he first arrived in the city in the wake of the Beloved Horror threat and he has continued it, as it proves useful to ensure that there isn't one location he can be tracked to by enemies of Gaia. When the call does go out, he is out and about, traveling his way through Aurora. It is serendipitous, as it means he is close to Ruby's house. Within a few minutes, Javed is knocking on her door.

"We must go," is all he tells her. And then they are off, heading to the location that they are called to. When they are able to in a place that doesn't risk rending the Veil, he bids Ruby to take her wolf skin and does so himself, so they can travel there quicker.

Upon their arrival, the Metis grows in bulk, up into his breed form. A time of judgment is not a time for wearing false skins, and Javed was born in war form. He will remain in such throughout, as he finds his place next to Reverence of Dawn, Radiant Honor. His packmate.

He has been wanting to introduce Ruby to Avery. There will be a time to do that; now is not that time.

There are no words from the metis to his new charge during the rendering of the judgment. Javed stands there, watching impassively, as the judgments are levied from the merciful through the harsh, and even into the final. There is no sympathy in the Strider's eyes for any of those judged, nor is there hatred. When he had argued against their lives at the most recent moot, he did so because he felt they had betrayed their Honor. He was explaining his opinion, arguing his beliefs. And he feels passionately about those beliefs, as much as any of them in attendance do. But while his convictions are strong and his inner, Gaia-born fury high, he does not take pleasure in these sentences. The judgment of any Warrior of Gaia must be just and not vengeful; it must serve a purpose beyond simply sating a call of blood for blood.

These are things that he will tell Ruby once judgment has been rendered and the wolves and kinfolk have scattered away. He will travel with her back to her home and he will explain exactly what each of those judgments were, what the purpose of them are and the crimes for which they were rendered in more detail than was delivered that night. Ruby will be told the long and detailed history of the Beloved Horror saga, and all of the losses that lay upon those elders' heads. He will point out to her that, unlike her own actions during her First Change, those elders' actions were made by choice. He will tell her that justice among the Garou is harsh, but it is fair. And that those who can earn their redemption will have that chance; the one that cannot, whose name will never be spoken again…that one is a rare thing indeed.

But those are words for later. This night, in this moment, the Anubis-headed Garou watches. He came from the Old World…the oldest of Old Worlds, the cradle of civilization itself. He has seen harsh judgment rendered before, and he does not flinch away, even when Curved Sky is subjected to that hideous, nightmare-inducing death sentence. And a war-formed hand comes to rest on his charge's shoulder…not harshly, not painfully. But not exactly comforting either. It is merely to steady her in the face of this, and a silent notion:

Do not look away.
"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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#8
Ingrid is nowhere near the Shadow Lord Ahroun when he starts shouting, but she hears. And when she turns her head she sees the commotion that surrounds him in the distance. She does not watch for long, her attention turning back as the Elders of Forgotten Questions begin to chase Curved Sky, harrying her away. But she hears. Despite herself she listens until Erich's snaps and snarls cease.

When the punishments are done and the crowds begin to disperse Ingrid is lost in it and to it until she finds her way out of it. The Ragabash has zero desire to explain what she is about to do next, so when she finds herself alone she shifts, down into her smallest form, a slender wolf of dark and shadow in itself. Reaching out, she calls the shadows to her, to wrap around her as the edges of her figure blur.

So, though Erich has his pack to stay with him another figure watches, a wolf cloaked in darkness and giving off no scent. When he finally stirs, shadows in the wilderness shift, and any sense of being watched that Baklava Republik may or may not sense lifts.

=====
For flavor purposes. If anyone wants to find themselves an Ingrid-wolf you will need 8 successes at +1 diff, and scents don't count because she does not have one. As of this posting there was no one around to witness these lovely rolls, but they're still chillin' in the OOC if anyone doubts their validity.

niko @ 8:19AM
[-1G, dex+lupus+occult, diff 7]
Roll: 7 d10 TN7 (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 8, 9) ( success x 3 ) VALID

niko @ 8:19AM
[manip+stealth, diff 8]
Roll: 7 d10 TN8 (1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 7, 8) ( success x 1 ) VALID

niko @ 8:20AM
[dex+lupus+stealth]
Roll: 10 d10 TN5 (1, 1, 2, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 10) ( success x 8 ) Re-rolls: 1 VALID
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#9
[[Tossing in a "Witnessed!"]]
"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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#10
Ruby feels it, that tugging pull. It's different this time than before, more insistent. She's not surprised to find Javed at her door, or his command.

She isn't used to the wolf-form she takes. It's uncomfortable, like a new pair of shoes, yet to be broken in. But Javed likes to go on foot. It's understandable.

When she gets to the gathering of wolves, she imagines that this is simply something that she has yet to learn, something that her mentor has not explained yet. It's expected.

What's not expected is what happens next.

There is no understanding here, though she does stay silent as Javed, taking her cues from him. Each judgement is more hard than the last. But one of them intrigues, even as it horrifies the others. "When?" a man asks, and a voice responds, "When you atone."

When you atone. It sinks within her, this justice. Why will they not make her atone?

Then, a woman names her crimes, is smeared with blood, and tortured. Ruby doesn't know, but suspects that the woman is intended to die. Someone begins to scream and is dragged down by the others, someone else smashes his skull in with a rock, and she turns to look at that commotion, just once.

It's then that Javed's massive handpaw corrects her, makes her watch.

What has she gotten herself into? Seriously, what?
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