February: Stories and Songs
Tonight, the garou find their Talesinger in Bright Spear, a Cliath Galliard and Guardian of Forgotten Questions. She's still a teenager, lean and energetic and with hair best compared to summer wheat.

When she follows up the Cracking of the Bone by walking into the Gathering, she gleefully high-fives Avery. Avery just grins, and it's obvious the two have some friendship outside of this, a mutual fondness. Some who know Avery know that Bright Spear attended and accompanied her on her Fostern challenge, in part because Bright Spear really likes to talk about getting to go to Vegas.

Today she's not chewing gum and yammering about that trip. She's carrying an acoustic guitar slung over her shoulder with an embroidered strap, and she's already tuned it so in her very thick sweatshirt and her somewhat muddy jeans, she clears her throat and gets right to it.

It's a song that was written almost half a century before she was born, but it's one she grew up with. She's nervous when she starts playing, but there isn't much of an intro before she starts singing a song about re-purposing tools of labor for the good of the people typically enslaved by them, reminding listeners that they already have everything they need to change things. It's a song that changed in meaning over the decades to encompass the civil rights movement, and it's a song that Bright Spear sort of just wants to sing because she grew up with it and she was actually pretty sad when she found out -- not so long ago, since she doesn't exactly have Twitter -- that the song's writer had died.

She knows she's going to catch so much shit for this song when all is said and done, because she's a Guardian, she's not exactly a peacenik, she's certainly not a Child of Gaia but y'know what, the other Guardians and fresh Cliaths and stuff can just make fun of her, because this song reminds her of her grandpa so they can all just go screw themselves this is totally applicable and stuff to the garou.

"If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning,
I'd hammer in the evening, all over this land
I'd hammer out danger, I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and sisters,
All over this land..."
my whole life is thunder.
[[i am actually a little sorry to hijack this thread before the Galliards get a chance to work their magic, but this is what the Fool does so, uh, sorry!]]

Ingrid sits as she usually does for the moot, lupine body resting on the ground, long forelegs stretched out before her, golden eyes intent on the proceedings. The Cracking is over, the discussion of the fate of Cold Crescent has come to its conclusion, and all without the Fool's interruption.

That's because Ingrid had a different intention when she challenged for the position some weeks ago. The interruption comes after a few tales have been told about Denver, about Colorado, about this or that Garou or pack. Someone is singing a different song when Ingrid rises and makes her way on four legs to the edge of the cleared space around the singer. Even though it is her right to interrupt, she doesn't. She waits until the song has completed before snapping into her breed form and walking into the space for talesingers and anyone else with a story to tell.

With a nod to Bright Spear, she turns to address the gathered Garou of two septs.

"Two weeks ago, Echoes of the Lost-rhya, Storm's Teeth-yuf [or [New Deedname]-rhya], Anubis-Sight-rhya and his pupil Ruby, and I went to investigate the penumbral reflection of Denver International Airport." Here Ingrid pauses to allow her gaze to pass over the crowd, gauging the reaction or lack thereof. "I am certain some among you have an idea of what we found. I have heard the stories the humans tell of that place. My Question, then, is this.

"What have the Garou of Denver learned of that place and its residents? Please, tell your stories so that we who are newer to the city may know and understand."

With that she takes a few steps back, hands folded before her as she remains in her human form, and she waits.
Avery steps forward, hearing silence from those who were there. She is no Galliard, so she puts no spin on the tale, but the Fool called for reports. So: she reports.

"I only know what the Shadow Lord kinswoman Eva Illeshazy told us when we gathered in September, before the battle with the Beloved Horror. Some of what she said may not have gotten around to those who weren't at the m--"

she almost shies. She almost avoids the word, but then simply closes her lips on the 'm' sound and licks them, opens again, continues:

"--warmoot, especially after the assault. She told us that while the pit beneath Cold Crescent appears to be a natural and mysterious occurrence, the source of the airport's problems appear to have been constructed, brought about by interference in the planning and building. As many of us know, the architect of 1999 Broadway and Denver International Airport are the same man.

"However," she goes on, glancing toward Milton briefly, "Pokes the Mind's Eye learned when he and the Uktena kinswoman Lola Hawkes went to the architect's office that it appears that adjustments made to blueprints and plans were not the work of Curtis Fentress, but an assistant who was secretly inhuman. Pokes the Mind's Eye and Ms. Hawkes destroyed it."

She takes a breath. "According to Ms. Illeshazy's research, no nest has been discovered in the years since the airport was built and encounters with these reptilian creatures began. There are guesses that the design of the airport may be somehow attract or shelter or open a gateway for these creatures, who do not appear to be of the Wyrm but are far, far from being our allies."

She turns her eyes back to Ingrid. "Will you, or one of those who went with you, tell us of what happened and what was learned when the five of you went to the airport?"
my whole life is thunder.
"Okay so I guess Hector's lost his voice or something," Erich totally looks for Hector in the crowd and makes a face at him, "so I'll tell you guys what we found.

"On the otherside, the airport's ... pretty lively. I mean a lot of the statues and artwork and stuff? They're actually Awakened. Which is weird 'cause... who woke them up? Or did they just wake up by themselves? Anyway, they're all spooky and weird but they actually seem pretty friendly. They helped us, I think. I can't really remember? I uh... kinda went RAR when Hector got yanked into the darkness.

"Yeah, I'm getting ahead of myself. Lemme go back:

"We went in there looking for clues. It was me, Hector, Javed, Ingrid, and Javed's fosterling Ruby. And we wandered around a bit and looked at all the Awakened stuff, and then Hector led us down into the basement. And there was like this black smoke there. Kinda like how the Pit has that milky white shimmer obscuring it? Well, the airport has black smoke. You couldn't see anything. Just stairs down into that gunk.

"So Hector decides to scout things out with Ingrid. Javed wanted the Ahrouns to go along for backup, and I wanted to ask the spirits what was going on first. But I don't think anyone knew how to talk to spirits, so that was that, and then Hector told Javed to just stay behind and come running if need be.

"Now, I know Heck's getting heat for that decision. A lot of people are like WHY DIDN'T YOU SEND THE AHROUNS FIRST WHEN SHIT LOOKED SCARY. WHY DID YOU MAKE THEM STAY BEHIND.

"But dude. Look. Hector was leading this thing. When you lead, you have to make calls on the spot. They're not always right. Show me a guy who made the right call every time and I'll show you a guy who's never had to make a tough call in his life.

"Sure, now that it's all in the past and we know exactly what was down there, it's easy to say Heck was wrong. It's easy to say he should've been thinking, scary shit ahead! I better have my whole team together for maximum firepower!

"But dude. All Hector knew then was: black smoke ahead. No one, not Hector, not any of the people shitting on him right now, knew what was actually in that smoke. And I bet Hector was thinking, okay. That shit is dangerous. But Ingrid is the scout, and I'm the leader. The scout peeks first. The leader should never be far behind. I bet that's why he made the call he did.

"And you know what? It might have been the wrong call, but that doesn't make it a bad call. There's a difference.

"'Cause he couldn't have known he was gonna get jumped the second he got down there, y'know? For all he knew it was gonna be like a lair of sleeping monsters down there. And if it had been, and we'd gone in en masse instead, then I bet I would've tripped over something and woken them all up. And then he would've been getting flak for bringing the whole team when he should've sent the scout.

"So like I said. It wasn't the right call. But it wasn't a bad call either. Not at the moment. Not knowing what we knew.

"Anyway. Enough on that. Going on:

"So then Hector and Ingrid go down in there. And IMMEDIATELY they get... like... yanked in! And so the rest of us are like OH SHIT and we run down in there. And there are like a DOZEN of these things, and they're like... they are just... not of this world. I dunno if I'd call them reptilian, but they were weird and they had these eyes that were just dead, like dead-fish eyes, and -- yeah. They weren't the Wyrm? But they were not our friends.

"We barely made it out of there alive. The weird thing is, they weren't actually attacking like they wanted to kill us 'cause they hated us. They were ... hunting. They were attacking 'cause they wanted to kill us so they could EAT us. I mean I seriously saw one take a bite out of me and then EAT IT. YEEECH.

"Anyway. Yeah. We killed a bunch of them and then grabbed Heck and I'm pretty sure there were more coming so we just ran like hell. And that's what we found."
Once the others who have been more involved have finished answering Ingrid's question, Thomas shifts to homid to take a turn telling a story. There may yet come a day he doesn't do that, but it still isn't today.

His stories have overwhelmingly been stories about their sept. About the Garou here he has fought beside. He tells those stories almost as if he had no part in them, but he tells stories about things that he has seen. About Denver.

Until tonight.

The night is dark and cold. Things like dawn and spring seem far away. The end of the world seems to be close enough they can feel its breath in every stirring wind. There will be a verdict but no true harmonious consensus on who will lead Cold Crescent and what exactly their role should be. There are unearthly alien creatures who are not of the Wyrm and who are not of Gaia and who lurk and wait and dream uncertain dreams.

There are no new dramatic stories about how they have driven back the dark to offer them. Less legendary things, after the discussion of the creatures that live beyond the nightmare gate beneath Cold Crescent and what one can only assume are siblings or cousins or perhaps neighbors seem to fall shy of conjuring things like hope. And sunlight.

"Long ago, when even the snow felt young and the Veil that came to separate flesh and spirit had yet to become so difficult to step through as it is now, there was a Garou who came to be known as Guardian of the Forgotten Gate, but like the snow and the Veil between worlds she was young then too and did not yet have that name.

"There were terrible creatures who walked the earth then, who were not so hindered by the divide between flesh and spirit. One of these creatures, a great serpentine beast that some remember as a dragon with four legs, or a true serpent with no legs at all, or even as a beast with countless scuttling legs was feasting on villages near her sept. It was an unknown creature, possessed of no known desire but hunger. What is remembered, as the few who saw it all remembered, is that shadowy tendrils trailed outward from where its eyes should be.

"It was not hunting the Garou, it stayed well clear of the caerns and places where Gaian spirits were strong. Some thought that they should hide their kin and let it move past them.  At the rate it was sweeping across the country to feast it would not linger long. It could be left alone, they reasoned. Others wanted to chase it, to drive it toward their enemies and let it devour them. But Guardian of the Forgotten Gate knew that if the creature was left to its feasting, it would devour everything it could easily devour and then turn, now well fed and even more dangerous, back to try to devour their caerns.

"She stalked the creature for weeks, over ground seared by cold and hung heavy with shadow. She spoke to the few who had seen the creature and escaped. She learned when and how it fed easily enough, but she kept stalking it until at last she learned what it feared. 

"Fire. So she ran and ran until she passed by the creature and when she reached the next place it come she sang. She started at the first hint of dawn and she kept singing until the clouds let go of the last traces of color after sunset and when she stopped singing there was a wolf of flame standing ready her side. 

"They waited until the creature came and they attacked. The fire wolf drove at the creature, blinding it and driving into Guardian of the Forgotten Gate's claws. 

"They fought all night and as the sun rose and the creature tried to flee into shadows they drove it further into the open. It burned where the sun touched it, sizzled and blackened and eventually crumbled into nothing but charcoal dust. Guardian of the Forgotten Gate was bloodied and the fire wolf was more embers than crackling flames, but they stood victorious.

"The name Guardian of the Forgotten Gate came later, after she had gathered more secrets and was known more for her knowledge than for slaying great beasts, but everything she would be began there when she triumphed over that creature by learning its secrets."
Keisha Ballard isn't a storyteller. Far from it. The girl, the Cliath who gets awkward sometimes in social situations...well, it's safe to say that she doesn't have the gift of gab. She's more comfortable talking with spirits than with people, and with humans her age than Garou. But sometimes, a story doesn't have a Galliard there to tell it, and this is why she steps forward, sets the end of her staff on the ground and leans into it slightly. Forget that it may make her look frail to some, that she needs her silly Iskakku staff for support and doesn't stand proudly with feet planted apart and shoulders square. To her, it is a part of her as much as her feet or her spine or her heart, and for her there is no shame in using it as such.

"I have a story to tell. One involving Milton."

She looks to the Ragabash, wherever he is within the crowd. Keisha fixes the young man with a look, quiet for just a beat, and then looks among the others.

"So, this happened last month. I was on my way home, heading through the downtown area, when I saw Milton--Pokes-the-Mind’s-Eye--making his way across the street looking, I won't lie, a little silly to my eye." She can't help it; she smiles a little bit. "He was striking a pose like he was in some superhero comic book...you know, some larger-than-life exaggerated idea of what a hero really is. Don't get me wrong, I like a superhero as much as anyone, but..."

She shakes her head. She's off point there, briefly. "Anyway. He looked silly. Lola happened to be in the area, too...Lola Hawkes. I'm sure most of you know her. And just as I was about to ask what the hell Milton was doing, we all picked up on it at the same time. A baby crying."

She frowns, thinking about it even now. "It...didn't seem right. I mean, more not-right than a baby's cry normally seems. And we all went to go see what was going on with it. We ended up in an alleyway, with no baby in sight but a hell of a lot of crying. I mean, it was really bad, to the point of screams. Something was definitely wrong. Lola and I went chasing to find out what, and suddenly...like out of the blue...Milton was gone. As near as we could tell, he'd run off and left us there to deal with it alone. Or more likely, just fallen behind."

Uh...Keisha, what kind of story are you telling?

She shakes her head. "Not gonna lie, I was a bit pissed. Anyway, I took a look across the Umbra and I saw a Bane coming our way. Lola backed off and went to find another way after the baby screams and I readied to fight it; even got a couple shots off with my staff. But I really didn't need to. Because suddenly, the thing's spraying brains on me. Because Milton was smart enough to get behind it and put a shotgun slug through its head while it was focused on me. And it was down with no harm done to him, myself or Lola. And when we found the source of the crying, which was itself a Bane of a whole different flavor, he did more than his part to take that one down too."

She turns her attention to Charlotte then, smiles and nods to her. "And Charlotte, who had shown up by that point, risked her own life to protect Lola when the Bane blew up and blasted us all."

She takes a breath and sighs, and shrugs. "I guess the point of what I'm trying to say is, Milton may act a little ridiculous at times, but don't ever count him out. Because without him, that situation probably would have ended up a lot worse."

See, Keisha? That wasn't so bad. And her story told, she pauses there, gives a little shrug and then returns to her spot next to her packsister.
"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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