August: Stories and Songs
#1
Only one Cliath is Talesinger tonight, but her packmates join her in the circle tonight. They do not speak. One packmate wears human skin, another wolf's fur, but she stands in crinos. Their pantomime moves slowly at first, a weaving dance. The forms do not always work together:

the warform is so large, so terrible in the firelight. The wolf seems impossibly small, too fast to follow, the movements nonsensical. The human is awkward, going too slowly, often moving right into the path of his packmates without regard to their trajectory.

They weave, and dance, and it is terrible and nonsensical and awkward and

familiar and lovely,

but it begins going quite fast. Hard to tell who begins it, who steps out of the beat coming from a fourth packmate's drum off to the side. Maybe they all fall out of turn at once. Maybe someone throws a stone that trips them. But fall they do, each one, til the wolf is all but chasing his tail, and the human is barely moving at all, and the Talesinger is taking brands from the fire, sticks aflame in her paws, and throwing them into the crowd.

She is howling as she does so. She is screaming as she does so. Embers hit dirt and scatter, Garou dash water from canteens or Gifts onto anything catching alight, but the Talesinger seems to have lost her mind. She looks on the verge of frenzy,

may be frenzied.

Eventually there is nothing left to fuel the fire. There are only embers, glowing, fervent, but ultimately doomed.

Eventually, there is nothing left of the light. There is only dead darkness among them, cold and silvery under the full moon. There is only the human standing motionless, the wolf spasming as though in seizure on the ground, and the form of rage itself standing over everything, chest and shoulders heaving, each breath a snarl of warning, eyes glowing in the aftermath of destruction,

still not satisfied.
my whole life is thunder.
#2
When the bone has been cracked and it is time for stories to be told -- or danced, or sung -- Avery Chase walks forward in her turn. She is dressed simply, in a white sundress. The sun has set and the nights are cool, which is probably why she's wearing that pink and gold pashmina around her shoulders.

"Several months ago, the wolf we call Storm's Teeth achieved the rank of Fostern. Silhouette of Clouds-yuf was the arbiter of his challenge, for which --" and a few of the Shadow Lords of Cold Crescent in the crowd have shifted on their feet, casting dark glances at Silhouette, at Erich, "-- she should be honored," Avery finishes levelly, watching them.

They are silent, though their minds don't change; the Fenrir are bristling, now, too. They are shamed by Erich's very existence and annoyed by the open distaste some of the Shadow Lords show for a wolf who came from their blood. But none of them have the stage right now, and Avery's purity -- and Avery's command of presence -- stills the rowdier ones. For now.

"I heard she challenged him to fight, and he fought well," she says. "No one who has fought alongside Storm's Teeth should be surprised by this. No one who was in the basement of Cold Crescent when the Beloved Horror came should be surprised by this.

"I heard she challenged him to tell her a tale of the Shadow Lords, and he told her of Last Flame," a ripple of recognition from a few, "and sacrifices made not for honor, not for glory, but simply to do what must be done in the face of suffering, even humiliation. It is not, I have been told, a very popular story, because it is grim and it is cold. But it is an important one, not just for the Shadow Lords but for all Garou: Gaia did not make us to be heroes. Gaia made us to do what had to be done. We sing each other's names for generations because those whose lives and world are saved because of our deaths will never know who we were."

Avery is quiet for a moment. She stirs then, taking a breath: "I heard that Silhouette of Clouds-yuf tested him with what would seem like a riddle to many: a question of fairness and rightness, and if they are equal, and if they are the same. No, she was not questioning him to see if he could stand as an adequate Philodox if his tribe should suddenly find itself without any to spare," she says with a touch of wryness. "But the warriors of our tribes must understand fairness, and when to set it aside. They must understand always keep in their vision what is right, and question it when they can, lest we truly become monstrous. I am told that he answered simply, and as a Philodox myself, I can tell you that only a simple answer to that question is needed.

"I heard that on the night of his challenge, Silhouette taught Storm's Teeth how to create a talen sacred to their moon. But without the skill to speak to the spirits himself or even summon them by name, he had to find them. Find their spiritual habitat, seek them out, and offer them correct chiminage. I am told he succeeded here, too.

"Many of you already understand the tests that Silhouette of Clouds-yuf set for Storm's Teeth: a cycle through our auspices, simple yet suitable tests in each phase. So of course his last challenge was a question. Not a riddle posed to Storm's Teeth himself, but the opportunity to question the spirits that so many Ahrouns never get a chance to directly interact with. The spirit he asked to speak with, and the question he chose to ask, would show her what sort of Ahroun he is, and what sort of Ahroun he may become."

Avery gives a faint smile. "Storm's Teeth asked to speak with an aspect of Gaia. Hungry Road-rhya, Crescent of Owl, asked him which one: for she is the earth itself, and she is our Mother, and she is our goddess. Every thing that has a spirit is of her brood. Storm's Teeth said,"

and she quotes here, because Hungry Road told her,

"'I want to look on the face that made me what I am. The one that most needs me.'"

The words hang in the air. Avery turns slightly where she stands, under moonlight and lit, from the four cardinal directions by the fires that mark the circle they stand in. "Hungry Road-rhya summoned into their midst Gaia Mother-of-Rage. Those of you who have heard of her or seen her in this aspect know her youth and her need. Her belly swells with all creation; her body suffers from trying to contain all that fury. She is vulnerable, in labor, beset on all sides by enemies who come from their burrows and hives to --"

she stops there. She cannot, or does not want to, say what Gaia's enemies want to do to her, when she is in the form of a young mother in agonizing labor. The mention of it, the idea of it, has more than a few under the full moon feeling themselves spike with fury of their own, sympathetic wrath. It is a fraction, an iota, of what the Garou present during the challenge felt while one small spirit of Gaia was with them. How rage drove itself like a railroad spike through their heads and hearts every time she screamed.

How her desperation, and her rage, called to them. Created them anew.

"All three of them frenzied. Enemies, hungry for even a taste of this spirit's pain, came out of every nook and cranny around them and were summarily destroyed. Their rage followed her screaming, their violence followed her pain. When it was over -- when the Primordial Mother was safe again -- she spoke to the wolf who had so longed to see her. Would you like to know what he asked her, given one question?"

There is silence. Some of the shuffling has stopped; much of the shifting eyes and nascent murmurs.

"'How can I best help you?'"

Those words, like others before them, remain still in the air long after Avery has said them. That is what Erich asked of Gaia. That is all he had ever wanted to know.

"This story, of how Storm's Teeth came to be Fostern, is not about the answer. Seek him out -- ask him, if you want to know, what Gaia wanted from him. What it meant. This story, tonight, is about asking that question. This story is about what it means for us as a people, to ask that question above all others."

Avery turns, finding Erich in the crowd. "Storm's Teeth has honored me by requesting that I name him. So, Erich," the only time she will call him that tonight, "I name you, under Luna and before the Sept of Forgotten Questions and the Sept of the Cold Crescent, before your pack and among your people:

"You are Storm's Teeth, Son of Rage, Who Gives His Heart and Blood to the Mother to Guard Her."

She smiles.

She's a Silver Fang. You have to know what you're asking for, when you ask a Silver Fang to name you.

"Welcome, Son of Rage-yuf," she says, and lifts her hands to applaud.
my whole life is thunder.
#3
It is

literally

too much for Erich and he can't even. He knew Avery was going to name him tonight; she'd talked to him about it and he'd asked her to and he knew it was going to happen during the moot, but he sort of thought it'd just be a little aside during the Cracking of the Bone, like: oh hey btw here's Erich's new nickname. But the Cracking comes and the Cracking goes and Erich is a little puzzled and maybe just a little sad because onoz was he forgotten? He wouldn't be surprised if he was -- no, wait, there's more of that negative thinking that Melantha was always berating him for.

And then.

And then.

AND THEN.

--

It's no small thing, see, when a Silver Fang stands up to name you. There's a lot of resentment amongst the Common Tribes and there's a lot of hate and a lot of it is for good reason and let's be honest, for every Silver Fang like Avery Chase there are probably two, three, or ten inbred, selfish, out-of-touch wastrels, but

let's be honest again: the Garou are a people of instinct and tradition. And seeing that shining blood, that gleaming purity, it's hard not to take notice. It's hard not to sit a little straighter, stand a little taller. It's hard not to feel just a little bit awed.

Especially when it's not just any Fang. Especially when it's Avery, strong and heroic and brave and pure; Avery, who is almost universally liked and respected; Avery, who Erich quite frankly looks up to. Avery, who is naming him, and in naming him, recounting the deeds of that fateful night. Avery, who is telling that story in a way Erich had never thought of it himself, making him sound not ordinary and fumbling and unremarkable at all. Making him sound not at all the strange boy with Fenris's blood and Thunder's soul, the strange boy that neither tribe really wanted or liked, the strange boy who spent the first seven years of his Garou life packless, shiftless, rootless. Making him sound strong and heroic and brave and pure; likeable, and respectable, and so very different from the way he sees himself that in the end it is strange, it is jolting, to hear her put his name to those deeds.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe with this new name, she's giving him a new glimpse at himself. Maybe that's the whole, entire point.

--

When she's done, she starts to applaud. And maybe the Fenrir contingent is uneager to join and maybe the Shadow Lord contingent is wondering why the fuck a Fang just named one of their supposed sons and maybe all in all the applause isn't exactly uproarious. That hardly seems to matter, though. What Erich hears is Avery applauding. And Charlotte. And maybe other people too, the ones he's fought beside, the ones he's bled beside. He hears applause, and then he's bounding up and going into the circle, heading in like he's going to accept an Academy Award or something except that's not it at all,

he's just going in to hug Avery. Which is what he does: throws his arms around her and gives her an endless, endless squeeze.

"Son of Rage," he says, muffled, like he's testing it out. "Thank you, Radiant Honor-yuf."
BECAUSE OF LIGHT AND DUTY AND REASONS.


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