|Chapter 1: The Pups
Noise. Roaring, clunking, clattering, howling. Bitter smell unlike anything else. Humans, so many humans. The Elder warned me that there would be many humans, but there is no end to them. Hiding between the trees of this little wood, but everywhere around is stone and light. Noise, especially the noise never stops. Scared. The Elder said that others will expect me, but the bridge faded away before its time. Happens too often these days they say. Nowhere to go.
"He has to be around here, I can smell him. Close, and intense, he stayed around here for a while and he's nervous. We got to find him before he does something stupid."
More noise, those weird sounds humans make. Two of them, searching for something. Have to stay hiding, their noses are crippled and they won't see me in the dark.
"But how did he land in Battersea, the bridge was supposed to come down in Regents."
"Bridges aren't safe anymore, he got lucky that it was strong enough to at least land him at a spiritually close place. I've heard stories of people getting dumped into the Atlantic."
More of their noise, how do they ever manage to hunt?
"He has to be around. Hey! We know you're here! We're here to help!"
"Does he even understand us?"
"No idea, hardly anyone has contact with Red Talons. They usually hate the human-born and wolf-born are very rare in my tribe."
Red Talons. One of the sounds I've been taught. Are they the ones sent to help me? I have to show myself. If they're just humans, they'll die before they can alert anybody else.
I step out of the shadows, slow. My growls alert them instantly and my body is tense to jump them when their smell shows fear. They stay calm though and actually look happy. As far as I can tell at least. No cloud of anger, no stench of fear.
One of them gets his second fur off and starts to change. Bones pop and skin tears as he changes into a bigger, more feral human, the little yellow fur he has on his head grows longer and more fur covers all his body as he almost doubles his size, most of it muscle. Then he suddenly grows by three feet into the massive Crinos, the war form. Now 9 feet tall, his face something that resembles a wolf's snout if not for the size, completely covered in fur that turned gray and massive teeth and claws bare.
But he doesn't stop there as this isn't a time for war; he gets smaller again, falls on four legs, the ancient giant wolf and finally smaller again into wolf. We study each other, everything about him is foreign. No doubt a wolf, but one who runs in a different kind of woods. Smells of different food and still there is the stench of human and their home. Even the fur is different, gray against my brown. Older too, much older.
"Better. Do you understand me now, young pup?", he asks while the other one stands watch.
"Yes, I understand. I had not much time to learn about the human sounds. But I'm ready for the first rite and I wish to begin it."
He only laughs at that. "This is not for me to decide. I'm here to guide you back to the Caern where you'll meet the rest of your future pack. You'll get your task soon enough. But first, you should change into human. Have you any clothes that underwent the rite of transformation?".
"Yes, it is too cold as human without them. But I can't speak with you while I'm human."
"Just follow us, you can change back when we're in Regents Park. But it will be a long walk and we'll have to pass many humans. In wolf it is too dangerous."
I change as the old gray does as well, going through all the forms again. Pain sears through my body as bones break and skin tears, but a few agonizing seconds later I'm human. Smaller, weaker and stumbling like a newborn.
The two human-born stare at me and make these weird noises again, something that sounds almost like a hiss: "Jeez. You got to be kidding me. This is going to get more difficult then we thought."
"True, how are we going to explain someone who looks like a twelve-year old on steroids, barefoot and clothed in fucking furs when we get stopped by any coppers?"
I wonder what's holding them up.
It isn't easy to understand these human-born. First they looked confident that they can lead me to my actual destination, now they're like paniked rabbits. I have to hide again while they get clothing when mine fits well and keeps me warm even in my furless human form. They gathered weird smelling and painfully bright clothing; you can't hide properly in these things and it doesn't look very warm either. They put things on my feet, can't even feel the ground anymore.
Finally we start going through the stone towers. I stumble and sway on two legs; they even need to hold me by the hands. They keep talking all the time, are these humans ever silent? Why do they need to make such noise all the time, even this horrible place never stops screaming.
The silence was only short before it gets shattered again. "Anyway, he's the first arriving in London? What are the others like? Hope they're able to look out for our wolf pup here?"
"Two are already here, they grew up in the vicinity. Both just as screwed up though; while he got his first change very early the other two were damn late. The girl is already in her mid-twenties, working as psychologist and got a husband and kids."
"Didn't slaughter them in her first change I hope?"
"Nope, but did slaughter a patient of hers I heard. Can't imagine what he told her to drive her into the Rage.
"I tell you, just telling our young members to spread their seed like candy with as many humans as possible isn't doing us any good. We lose track of too many who might transform and its only a matter of time until we can't cover up a first change properly."
"No need to tell me, the second one is the same way. His hunting instincts kicked in while he ran after a thief and he took him down a little differently then he was supposed to as copper. Luckily out of sight of humans as well, but this could've been real trouble."
We walk throught scores of humans, bunched together like herds of cows. But even more stupid as no cow herd would calmly walk around when wolves are among them.
"So, has their tribe been found out already?"
"Yes, the girl is a Child of Gaia and the copper is claimed by the Glass Walkers."
"Heh, a city dog and a Red Talon in the same pack? That will work out well. Perhaps the hippie girl is at least able to balance it out. They're all about peace and harmony after all.
"We'll see about that. But first we need to arrive safely. The way they're looking we should've shaved his head as well."
Finally their noise stops and we go on a long walk through stone. Often bright lights suddenly attack me, but they grab me firmly and lead me through it without any smell of concern.
The humans still don't show any fear, only curiosity..... Grght was right, they don't know us and are helpless prey whenever we decide to hunt. But I was ordered to go to the Caern of Stone peacefully to do my first rite and I'll follow my Elder as proper.
The three were not alone to arrive at the Caern of Stone. The forming of a new pack is always a good reason for a party and the King of London extended his invitation to many; London residents and outsiders alike. On a small isle in the middle of the lake of Regent's Park:
How could this happen to me?
"Uhhhh. .I'mmm... going to be sick..."
"Get your damn act together and transform! The regeneration will purge the beer faster. Or do I have to break a few bones first for good measure?"
A week ago I was a respected member of the London Metropolitan police with good chances for a position at Scotland Yard and now I'm getting threatened with violence by some Scandinavian Schwarzenegger lookalike?
"You... you ...can't talk to me like this!"
"I can and will. I don't care what you were before. Now I see a whiny little sniveling city dog pup too weak and stupid to get poison out of his body. Maybe that will help."
The punch hits me square in the stomach and he tosses me to the ground as I vomit my guts out. He kneels on my back to pin me down in the puke.
"Now! One step! Maybe you're even strong enough to get me off in Glabro. And don't even think about Crinos or I'll tear your throat out before you can lift a claw!"
The impact of a kick suddenly eases the load on my back. All is hazy from the beer and the massive punch to my stomach but there's Franklin standing over my tormentor. His usually well-groomed and side-combed brown hair is now hanging long all over his face and his pants and shirt are strained by much more bulk then you'd expect in someone who usually looks like the academic type.
"What the hell do you think you're doing Björn?", he asks surprising calmly after demonstrating what the strength of the Glabro is capable of.
"I'm doing what you aren't! Teaching this whiny pup how to properly make use of his abilities! This guy's wild urges are so weak that he needs to get his shit kicked out of him before he even thinks of transforming." He spits as he gets up: "But what else to expect from Glass Walkers? He's all yours again."
Franklin watches him walk off and changes back to Human, sighing as he grabs me by the collar and helps me back to my feet.
"You do realize that he's right? You have to choose now what you want to believe. That you are one of the chosen of Gaia and ready to accept this world with all it brings or that you're some batshit insane guy who has ripped out a thiev's throat with his teeth?"
My head is still spinning. The sudden yank isn't helping... . . . .at akk ll...
"Hey... Franklin... what's happening to me? You know, really. When I say no? That's not me?!
He just pushes my swaying body back to the ground. Kneeling over me like a snarling animal.
"No is not an option you stupid pup!", as he pulls me back up and drags me towards the lake. His voice grows somewhaty soft again as he drags me:
"By accident of your auspice you'll have to take the role of a judge and executioner in your pack. If you are a pathetic failure it will be the responsibility of the Glass Walkers for our failed education."
"But, but, but, I ... I.." are the last words I can get out before he shoves me into the freezing lake.
The young Metropolitan Police Officer isn't the only one going through a difficult time. Mother Sears is trying her best to prepare her pup for the challenge as well.
"The Forms are correct, repeat the Auspices."
I breathe for a moment with closed eyes. She's riding me harder then a drill instructor.
"Ragabash, the New Moon. The Trickster, the Changer of Ways, the Questioner."
"Theurge, the Quarter Moon. The Wise One, the Spirit Talker, the Rite Master."
"Philodox, the Half Moon. Judge, Mediator, Executioner."
"Gaillard, the Three-Quarter Moon. Historian, Keeper of Glory, Master of the Battle-Howl."
"Ahroun, the Full Moon. Warrior, Rager, Alpha if noone has the wits to take it from him."
She listened in solemn silence, but the last one cracks her up pretty fierce. Heh, I guessed that she has a low opinion of Ahrouns, even of those among the other Children of Gaia. When she calmes down I await her Judgement.
"Good enough, Sandrah. I do recommend that you keep your opinion to yourself about Ahrouns though unless you feel comfortable to duel them. Or even get beat up by their pack. Those of the third rite or above aren't bound to respect you at all."
"Wait, what? You mean they could really assault me for some little stab?"
"You are Theurge and thus the second weakest in the Rage. You probably can't understand yet the Frenzy that lurks in the Gaillards and Ahrouns from their very beginning. I wish I could teach you more before your First Rite, but it sounds like the King howls for the gathering. One last thing, you need to decide how to handle your family. The other elders agree. Your only options are to fake your death or disappear without a trace. We will help with both, so it's your decision. But nothing else is acceptable."
That revelation hits me harder then my original change. Lose them forever one way or the other?
"But, I thought we can show them the truth.... I'm a psychologist, I can handle it."
"No! They weren't raised as kin. They're way too likely to panic and do something stupid. I can't risk putting all of us in danger. The coverup of your First Change was bad enough."
Awkward silence is the only result for now. But as Mother Sears gives her some room to think it over she has her own thoughts and fears about the situation. And a conclusion that leads to a certain phone call:
"Mike Rathunter, are you good to go?
Good, hear your task for your Second Rite as a true Ragabash. You are to seek out and observe the mortal family of Sandrah Collin for a month, especially if they come close to uncovering the Litany. You will report your observations to Vikkie. She will decide what has to be done and to whom. When nessecary even to Sandrah. That will be Vikkies Second Rite as a true Philodox.
Shortly after the howl a single disshelved bald youth stumbles foward to the collected elders. Too early for the gathered pack and without the howls of introduction.
Finally there? So... tired...
"You ... the king?"
"What is this? Some kind of insult!? Introduce yourself properly and pay your respects!"
I don't even hear that or who said it in the first place. Collapsing is so much more important right now. 2000 miles is kind of a long run, even for a Silent Strider.
"I think that's our missing member for the new pack Your Majesty."
"Fear so too."
Coming back to my senses reveals quite a few ugly old guys. Battle-scarred elders poking me, one of them hopefully the king, to check if I need a drink or a grave. Rising seems too much of a bother when I repeat my question.
"Anyone here the king? I have arrived, bringing myself as gift from the most revered grand master of the Silent Striders."
"So it is true. If you deem yourself a gift, who are you? What use should I have of you or why should a pack call you one of their own?"
His melodial voice and careful chosen words are unexpected. Maybe Gaillard then, not Ahroun.
"The most esteemed grand master declined to give me a name and he was the only one with the authority to do so at my shameful birth. So I have only two of the three pup names to introduce myself: ... Gaillard of the Silent Striders."
Regaining my wits I choose to explain some more of my countless shames. I change my forms and show that every one is furless. I hope that the shock about my deformation conceals the other issue.
"Not only a living, breathing hideous break of the Litany, but also tainted by Jackal blood?!"
Damnit! Ah well, I guess it was too much of a hope to have it slip by them. Now how to avoid getting killed out of disgust?
to be continued...