Castle Roland

Last Place

by D'Artagnon

Short Story

Last Place

Posted: 17 Sept 15

Last Place, 2 days later

"So de boys be out patrollin'?" the tall Jamaican asked, taking his place around the campfire. The beads in his dreadlocks glistened in the firelight, bathed in a soft amber glow. He lay a wreath of ganja upon the fire with a practiced hand, almost ceremonially.

"As instructed, the Cubs are learning their environment," Yoseph replied, casually. His sharp Arabic features also stood out slightly glossy in the fire's bathing light. "They will likely be gone for hours. We can talk."

"Very well, then," Veronica said, turning her eyes from the soft murmur of waves as the tide ran out. The sea often captivated her attention, but for the moment, she was content to focus on other matters. "What news have we?"

"Not much I'm afraid," the tall, bare chested blonde with the wild hair intoned, taking a large bite out of a hotdog. He ate it without benefit of bun or condiment, heedless of how hot it must be coming right off his roasting stick and out of the fire. "Nick's mom and her mate, my sister, were unable to find anything on Cody's genetic heritage. Could be his parents' kin folk connections go so far back even the spirits cain't make heads or tails of it. Best guess, based on his pelt is either Get, Wendigo, Walker or Fang."

"Rolf's right about that," Yoseph asserted, stroking his chin. "I see more Glass Walker or Silver Fang in him. Perhaps a bit of both."

"While it is important to how we help him grow, he is Child of Gaia now. We will raise him in our traditions. Rolf," the thin lady said, "you will instruct them in how to fight, how to protect themselves and others and in how to know when to fight."

"Sure thing Roni," the surfer said, running his hands through his hair, pulling the long blonde strands back to tie it with a leather strip. "We can start tomorrow."

"Good. I want them able to defend themselves by the end of the week, and be able to change forms while under stress." The lady turned to Yoseph. "As master of the sept, you still have full disposition over their other training. They have bonded with you."

"I did make Nick's mom a promise," the arab said, shrugging his shoulders. "Since we've reactivated two caerns now, Garou are flocking join us. I know of a few wily ragabash and wise theurges who can take the cubs under their wing for auspice training, but for the most part, I intend to bring them up to speed on our traditions the old fashioned way."

"Make them work their fool legs off?" the Jamaican grinned, resting his own loaded roasting stick on the fire so that the hotdog would cook in the growing smoke of the ganja ring.

"It is the way," Veronica said, taking a seat. "I sense something profound happening here, with these cubs."

"The scrawny one did fight a water elemental all by himself with no training. And won," Rolf pointed out, gnawing another bite off his hotdog. "Got to admit, even among ahrouns that's double tough."

"There's more to it than that," Veronica continued, her voice seeming tired. "The spirits are gathering, in greater numbers than I've ever seen before, and with greater strength. It's like the magic things of Gaia are coming awake, alive. And Wyrn spirits, too. The number of banes, scraglings, even thunderwyrms and psychomachinae, they are all significantly higher. I've fought more in the last three months than I have in the last ten years. I'm no theurge, but if I can see these changes, surely the rest of you have."

"My time has been split between building the sept and assisting our changeling allies. By the way, there are a lot more changelings in this area than I previously expected. They too are gathering in numbers, and seem to be enjoying a revival of their old powers as well."

"Just as long as the Leaches don't get stronger too, I'll be happy," Rolf said, clapping Yoseph on the shoulder. "Perhaps a more formal alliance is in order?"

"I agree. De blood suckers will keep to dem cities, but sooner or later, de will go huntin' as well. If dey find changeling blood to dere, likin', we might need get rowdy."

The assembled werewolves stared at the fire a moment, contemplating, inhaling the smoke from the wreath, eating. Each was filled with his or her own thoughts, Thus it came as a complete surprise when the fire erupted into a column of blue flame, twenty feet tall. A winged spirit spread it's talons, broad powerful wings and raised its noble head, glaring at the pack below.

"Phoenix!" Yoseph spoke, awe in his voice.

"I see you, members of my previous silver pack," the giant fire bird intoned with a voice like a roaring conflagration. "I am curious to the absence of four of your still living members."

"Tribal duties directed them elsewhere," Veronica spoke in a reverent tone. "We are yours to command."

"Not this time. My command is for you to do as proper Garou have always done. Survive, fight, build the packs, preserve your Mother. I will soon call a new silver pack. One unlike any other, for it will be made of those of your kind, and of other kinds. The old ways are good in some respects, but they are failing in others. The new pack I call will bring about the changes that are required. Those who resist will be judged harshly. Give the new pack the strength of tradition and honor, keep them honest and true, but let them lead. Teach them what is best of the old ways so they may bring the best forward into the new ways."

"We will do as you say, mighty Phoenix," Rolf said, bowing from the waist. "Is there a sign we should look for in who the new pack shall be?"

"We shall choose from among our children, Thrasher," Phoenix replied. "Look to my brothers and sisters to offer their chosen ones. Look to the young warriors among the fae. Look to the Gifted among the mortals. Soon will come times of trails for all of them. Soon they will all either bathe in my fire and be strengthened by it, or shall fall to the cleansing flames, purified yet found unworthy."

The great spirit turned towards Yoseph directly "Take heed, Strider. Thy charges are favored of Unicorn, my brother. They are destined to feel my flame."

"I shall do my best to prepare them, honored Phoenix," Yoseph said, bowing.

"Make of this place a stronghold, for the forces of the Wyrm are on the march, and soon, they will make efforts to take back what you have revived."

"We shall, oh mighty Phoenix," the Jamaican werewolf said in wolf tongue. Among the group, he had been the only one to shift to crinos, the war form, when the spirit shot out of the campfire.

And with that, the spirit blasted out of the fire, spreading itself into multiple fragments, all resembling the huge fiery bird of prey, streaking off into the distance, one straight up and four others to the cardinal points of the compass. The ensuing silence was eerie, the ganja wreath on the fire completely consumed. They looked around at each other, relaxing slightly with their thoughts.

"The boys must be taught right," Veronica said at length. "No shortcuts. No favoritism."

"Agreed," Yoseph said, a great weariness in his voice. "What fun times we live in, eh?"

"We need a theurge, badly," Rolf said, shaking his head.

"I think I know what else we need," Yoseph said. He stood and wiped the sand from the backside of his pants. "And I should probably see about getting it now." With that, he switched to wolf form, parted the Veil and jumped into the Umbra, trotting off.

"What got a burr under his tail?" Rolf asked to no one in particular.

"We just get a personal visitation from a totem spirit, and you wonder what got under his tail?" the Jamaican asked. "Next time I bring somet'ing to lay on de fire, I make sure it's not de good stuff."

Veronica stared into the fire, her own mind turning to what she saw in there. Images of demons given flesh, firecasters, beasts without souls, all surrounding the two cubs. Remembrances of her own gifted cubs, and their violent fate. Silently, she shifted to wolf form and let out a long, plaintive howl, encapsulating her sense of loss and pain. Gradually, other wolf voices lifted with hers, shifting in pitch and harmony, blending and clashing and blending again. The other wolf singers didn't need to know exactly why Roni was crying to the moon, just that she was. They sang long into the night, beautiful, wild and free. Voices and hearts.

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