Rage Across Baltimore

Story 11: Hush

I need to get clean

Hush is all I need, hush the misery;
Hush belongs to me, like the hush inside a dream
Hell’s where I was born! Hell’s where I was raised,
This hell is where I’m from and this hell is where I’ll stay
— Hellyeah, “Hush”

Some months have passed since the conflict and confrontation of our last tale, Long Pig. The intervening months have not been idle ones for the pack, as their new sept has challenged its resident Garou in many ways. From the physical labor of cleaning up after a generation or more of defilement, to repeated assaults by waves of Banes and the occasional Black Spiral pack from the Umbra, to the lack of modern conveniences. Not to mention the pack’s inner turmoil — has it been changed forever, even torn apart?

On the other hand, Last Call has the joys of chasing rabbits, Razvan’s newborn child, and most of all — freedom from the sometimes-stifling duties of caern Guardianship. Perhaps influenced by your own experiences, and by the surprise Bane attacks, guarding the new sept is more of a shared responsibility. And as the sept’s Wyrm Foe, Razvan’s cousins encourage him, and his pack, to contribute their insight and experience.

While the pack is not free of responsibility, they are much freer than they once were. And on a good-will trip to New York City’s Sept of the Green, they may have the opportunity to chase down some of the loose ends left after their many battles over the soul of Baltimore. Will our intrepid pack come together for the sake of a possibly deranged Silver Fang, mocked and dismissed by her fellow Garou of New York?

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Downtime: First off, the events of Long Pig occurred during a six-month span of downtime, of which we had gone through two, so four months remain. Think about what you want to do with your characters for that time. During these months, while the pack is busy with their own projects and with protecting the new sept from frequent attacks by the Wyrm’s forces, Baltimore is changing.

The two septs consolidate their gains, along with the majority of the city’s Bone Gnawers, as they have split up into three packs, with one joining each sept (the third keeping to itself). The Brewery expands its bawn, the territory it claims and watches, and more of its Kin (Fianna, Glass Walker, and Bone Gnawer alike) find places to live in the neighborhood. Of the Black Spiral Dancers, sightings are scarce, but their Hives are clearly lost. None of you (or your friends) have spotted Tanner, but you just know that bastard’s still out there.

In the place of Shattered Glass, well…you’re not sure. The skyscraper was reportedly raided by federal agents, supposedly having to do with the recent terrorist activity downtown (see Story 6, “Ghost Trail”). Some time later, the building now bears the signage of new ownership, the Foundation for a Better Life, along with promises of new development in the city. The sheer volume of black helicopters making stops on top of the building makes it resemble a scene out of The Matrix.

The skyscraper’s Penumbral aspect is even more forbidding, with Pattern Webbing so thick it looks solid, and the Gauntlet is correspondingly sky-high. There is no sign of the enormous machine, but the building swarms with spiders. And when Willow’s attempts to summon or track down the City Father of Baltimore finally succeed, she finds old father Poe skittering and twitching his way down the Penumbral streets, with tiny Pattern Spiders crawling in his hair and clothes, patching holes in cloth (and flesh), his cryptic pronouncements stuttering and mechanical.

Vampires continue to infest the city, though. With so much of their prey packed together in one relatively small metro area, how could they not? The Brewery’s Garou may know more of it than you, but from them you hear that the ‘Sabbat’ (as the Followers of Set named them) have not gone away, or been replaced by some more peaceful breed of Leech. They’ve just gotten a bit more careful.

Undoubtedly they have undergone a change in leadership, and the city’s Leeches seem to be maintaining a lower profile. But stories continue to occasionally surface of bloodbaths in the urban blight, unsolved murders, and desecration of graveyards, but the rumors are quickly quashed for lack of evidence. And after so long, those snake-loving vampires have disappeared — perhaps a bit of relief, or sadness, for Razvan; he was kind of smitten with one of them.

Zero’s mage allies have unfortunately gone rather scarce. Felony doesn’t respond to texts and calls any longer; instead, Zero receives messages from her via handwritten letters and phone calls left at the Brewery for him by pay phones (do they still exist?!) and cheap burners with numbers he doesn’t recognize. From what little Zero can discern from these one-sided conversations, the Hollowers are on the run, and warn of “Black Hats and Mirrorshades” on the march in the city.

They don’t seek out help from the Garou, not expecting it from your sept, and not wanting to put you into further danger…at least, so far. It may be that they’re just not desperate enough. But as far as the Garou can see, there’s been no invasion by secret government agents or jack-booted thugs.

On the contrary! An air of excitement grips the city, as news spreads of some select items slipped into this year’s federal budget. The era of pork may be over, but anything you can fold into the “war on terror” gets funded these days. And many of these projects, even the infrastructure-based ones, are often tied to antiterrorism programs whenever possible. But who in Baltimore cares how they do it? People in the city are finding jobs!

Money is flowing into the city for lead abatement for high-rise apartment blocks and Section 8 housing; for demolition of old, empty, blighted neighborhoods; and for some radical new jobs and tech openings in windmill and sea turbine construction, and computerized, server-driven, modular urban farms built into shipping containers.

The Garou of Last Call have done quite a bit, in not more than a year or two, to catalyze change in the city. It’s not clear if it’s all to the good, of course, but time will tell.

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 1:

Polly wants a cracker
Maybe she would like more food
She asks me to untie her
A chase would be nice for a few
— Nirvana, “Polly”

In the company of some of the Charming Backstabbers, the Bone Gnawer pack that’s taken up life in the country sept, our intrepid heroes journeyed by Moon Bridge to the Sept of the Green in New York City to enjoy a Gnawer Moot and their own special hospitality. More than a few traveled from New York to help reclaim the Sept of the Hidden Spring, and so our pack is welcomed — for once! — with open arms.

Cheap pizza and beer aside, it’s a good opportunity to swap stories with the New Yorkers, to reminisce about good times (and good fights), and relax. Unfortunately for the pack, their Galliard Scully was in no mood for it. Could be the Galliard’s moon hanging over their heads, could be something else. But instead of him, it was Razvan who shared the pack’s adventures with the Gnawers from the Rotten Apple.

The laid-back Moot is interrupted, however, by the arrival of a certain Silver Fang of questionable sanity, teased, mocked and ultimately dismissed by the locals who paid her any attention to begin with. Naturally, Zero was drawn to her.

Loba Carcassone quietly, but insistently, demanded their attention and their aid in getting some lost children out of the city. Though they are apparently not Kinfolk, and so most Garou scoff at the prospect, it would seem this is what Loba does with her time. And so, the pack hopes to perform this simple errand for the eccentric Silver Fang and get back in time for the last of the free beer in the park. Just what they need — a bit of a hike through the city, perhaps a bit of bloodshed to go with it?

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 2:

I’ll haunt you when you laugh
Oh, I’ll haunt you when you laugh
You might sleep
But you will never dream!
—The Smiths, “Suffer Little Children”

In the Upper West Side between the park and the Hudson River, the pack found a plain enough apartment building…with a broken front door, and blood smeared on the walls in the stairwell. The apartment they sought was likewise broken into and abandoned, although the pack took some time to examine it.

Lacking the others’ detective skills, Scully wandered back downstairs, following the more obvious blood trail. In the basement, the pack discovered a freshly killed body, Loba’s contact…and an unexpected, open access point to the sewers.

Scully’s wolf nose and Faerie Light led the way, that is, until the pack could hear voices well enough to track by. A group of unkempt street folk had cornered five children, but an errant splash from Willow spoiled their surprise. On the contrary! Imagine the pack’s surprise, when the men changed suddenly from snarling anger at the sight of Garou, to outright Delirium!

Zero and Willow quickly deduced that the men were possessed, and the spirits had vacated their shells. With the prospect that Banes might be jumping into the kids, first Scully, then Willow dove across the Gauntlet to engage in a furious battle. Razvan and Zero were hardly idle, however — the noise drew the attention of some Wyrm-tainted monstrosity from the sewer, and then Black Spiral Dancers emerging from a nearby pipe dripping some green foulness.

Meanwhile, the kids looked on, some shocked, some fascinated, but none … Delirious. Zero and Raz were forced to retreat rather than fight, in order to protect the children. They met back up with their packmates on the way, and made their escape as quick as they could.

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 3:
I’ve come round full circle
My lamb and martyr, this will be over soon
You look so precious…
— Tool, “Prison Sex”

Emerging from the sewers just off the Hudson, the pack climbed back up to the Upper West Side neighborhood, not far from where they’d started, having beaten down some Scrags and pissed off some Black Spirals. With no time to dawdle, they herded the kids — some curious, some hysterical — to a nearby 24-hour car rental outfit, in order to make their escape from the city.

Unfortunately, at that moment they discovered one of the kids was familiar to them — when a formerly silent girl with dirty blonde hair covering her downcast face showed herself to be none other than Social Justice, and she lunged for Willow’s throat.

Finding Willow’s long lost Metis friend from her old sept brought back bad memories — the Sabbat Archbishop had unleashed some hell on the Garou when the pack called his bluff, and in the process, Willow’s home was raided, her boyfriend Seth was almost killed, and SJ — a most improbable pregnant Metis — was lost. Evidently, her memories were just as terrible. And, perhaps more ominous, she was no longer pregnant.

This complicated the rest of the rescue effort, as the pack still had four kids to deal with, including a young girl of five whose little sister had been lost before the pack arrived. But they made it to the nearby town of Greenwich, and a small, remote home in the country where Loba Carcassone was waiting for them.

Loba didn’t take kindly to Scully, however, and Razvan took the opportunity to go for a run with the on-edge Fianna to talk (as well as wolves can talk, anyhow). For her part, Loba explained to Zero and Willow that Scully had a familiar look to her, the look of someone abused — possibly, to become an abuser, a vicious cycle far too familiar to the eccentric Silver Fang.

The pack has the beginnings of a mystery to unpack. Who exactly are these children, and are they Kinfolk, or has their trauma shattered the Delirium for them? Are these kidnappings related to what took place with the children of Baltimore, including some Bone Gnawer Kin, not so long ago? What happened to Social Justice — where has she been, what happened to her unborn child? And, can the pack’s particular skill set help and heal these abused children?

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 4:

And all the children, he warns “Don’t tell,”
Those threats are sold
With their guilt and shame they think they’re to blame
For Candyman — oh Candyman
— Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Candyman”

Finally gaining a moment’s peace from the battle, the flight from New York City and the children’s nightmares, the pack questioned Loba Carcassone for some time about her work. The eccentric Silver Fang was skeptical of the pack, and very suspicious…possibly by nature, or the nature of her work. But given some time and persistence, they learned.

The pack’s past adventures have touched on Loba’s secretive work aiding lost children, what with their own battles over captive Kinfolk. They had to explain some of their own talents to the Fang, however, who was unfamiliar with their totem and with such renowned Wisdom-seekers as they.

The potential for helping the children through their dreams, their nightmares, intrigued the Silver Fang — though it also reminded the pack of Scully’s ill-fated search for Social Justice through her nightmares, which resulted in his dishonor. And it would seem Scully’s anger of late has not been missed by others; Loba’s reluctance to join forces with the pack stemmed from that anger. To her distrustful eye, he has the look of the abused, and perhaps the abuser…

As for the newfound CoG, Willow looks to her tribemates from the Sept of Exiles’ Rest to take care of Social Justice, if she can be. The wounded cub may be past explanations from the pack — even if they were bogged down by assaults from rampaging Sabbat and Black Spiral Dancers when they lost her, there’s just no reasoning with some people. Especially children…horribly traumatized children.

So, the pack looks to break out the Rite of Dreaming and do battle for the souls of these kids through their nightmares. Will they be prepared for what they find there? Can they find an enduring resolution that doesn’t require nightly trips into the Dream Zone?

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 5:

Little child, looking so pretty
Come out and play, I’ll be your daddy
Innocent child, looking so sweet
A rape in my eyes and on your flesh I’ll eat
— Korn, “Daddy”

The pack’s aisling into the Dream Zone would have to wait for Willow to acquire the necessary ritual trappings. Antonine Teardrop had trained her in the recipe for a special herbal paste, eaten before sleep in order to enact the Rite. And since the pack had originally gone to the Big Apple just for fun, Willow didn’t have her Theurge gear with her. Nothing a quick trip to Chinatown in NYC couldn’t fix.

…in the morning, that is. So, while Willow and Scully drove out to the city to search for herbs, Zero busied himself playing with the kids in the snow…while Razvan tried talking with the found cub, Social Justice.

It didn’t go well. SJ was nursing some deep pain, which she blamed on the pack, Willow in particular. After all, she was at Willow’s place when it was raided, after the pack’s dust-up with the Sabbat. Razvan’s patience ran thin, and he tried to awaken her Rage, calling SJ weak and giving up on the conversation.

Imagine his surprise, then, when a moment later he and Loba found the cub had slit her own throat?

Zero had better luck talking to the other kids, Kirsten in particular. Although his questions disturbed the younger children, Kirsten — who looks twelve, at most — was clearly more mature (or jaded) than the others. Having been stuck with the other kids for a while, though, she’s heard their stories…stories she passed on to Zero. Possibly, some leads are hidden in those details, for further investigation, or clues to help heal them in their dreams.

Razvan’s troubles with SJ did not endear him, or the rest of the pack, with Loba. Already suspicious and secretive by nature, doubly skeptical of Scully for some odd reason (Silver Fangs are a bit insane by nature), nevertheless the pack prevailed upon Loba’s sense of duty. It was the Stargazer, Antonine, who brought them together — perhaps for this very purpose, to uncover this kidnapping ring and heal these traumatized children.

Loba and the pack resolved to work together, to let the pack try their luck in the Dream Zone, and to return to NYC to look for the child they lost, little Reyna’s sister Janessa. As for Social Justice, the pack spilled the beans on her (now former) pregnancy, although the Silver Fang was, as always, skeptical. It seemed more likely to her that some monster was implanted in the Metis than anything resembling a “natural” pregnancy. And the only clues left to the pack about that may be in her dreams…

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 6:
High in the sky, a pattern of clouds dyed red like a burning flame
showed me the road I had lost that day, that day
Pursuing the wind that oft blows in my dreams, I descended time,
and along the riverside, along the riverside, beheld an unknown flower of joy
— Susuma Hirasawa, “Byakkoya no Musume”

Following their reconciliation with Loba Carcassone, the pack prepared for their next trip into the Dream Zone. Razvan found to his good fortune that his new sword fetish appeared with him in Dream, much like Willow and her eye, and Zero and his…er…brain? Eyes? Arm? etc.

Although they found Scully’s dream-dojo training ground in shambles, hinting again at something wrong with their talesinger, regardless the pack was there on a mission. And so they dove into the Dream in search of what dreamscape they might find nearby.

Finding themselves in an unexpectedly bizarre mind-trip, they discovered it was little Reyna’s dream. Each of the pack found good use for their auspice-related dream powers, as Reyna moved through a series of dreams, rapidly becoming less enigmatic and more frightening (especially for the little girl). The pack was patient, however, and they were rewarded when the Dream Bane finally showed up.

The pack witnessed firsthand, albeit filtered through the whimsy and warped lens of dreams, some of what led Reyna and her sister into the hands of their captors. But when Scully and Razvan combined their powers to transform the dreamscape and lash out with Rage, they managed to convince the dreamer that the power was hers — hopefully, arming her with the awareness and the self-confidence necessary to defend herself from her own nightmares. Also, Reyna seems to have really connected to the pack, and Razvan in particular.

Choosing to dive into Dream a second time, the pack found their way into the middle of one of Jaxon’s dreams, a dream of being chased. However, the pack soon realized a theme behind much of Jax’s dreams, that he was often the odd one out, a victim of bullying and largely abandoned by his parents. The pack had difficulty, though, finding an angle to use their powers to Jax’s benefit.

By the time the dreams reached their nightmarish crescendo, the pack, frustrated and angry, went on the attack directly against the Dream Banes. In response, the Banes literally melted down the dreamscape, and a shady motel where Jaxon had once been molested collapsed into so much corruption, sticking to them like black tar.

Willow managed to salvage the situation when Scully’s dreamshaping and Razvan’s spent Rage weren’t quite enough, convincing Jaxon that he could find his own way to fight back. Instead of ninja turtles, or changing into a werewolf as Zero would have had him do, Jax’s counterattack came from the blackness, the corrupted darkness of his nightmare, swallowing the Banes.

After puzzling and brawling their way through two journeys through Dream, the pack had had enough for one night. The dreamquests always hit Razvan the hardest, as his special dream power is dramatic and damaging to the Banes they find, but also quickly exhausts his Rage. With only a little time left to spend at the remote house in the country outside NYC, the pack has much to do if they want to rescue these young dreamers from the darkness in their souls.

Story 11: Hush
 

Chapter 7:
What are you trying to say, I’m crazy?
When I went to your schools, I went to your churches,
I went to your institutional learning facilities?! So how can you say I’m crazy?
— Suicidal Tendencies, “Institutionalized”

After the previous night’s spirit quest, his mental exhaustion from the Dream Banes’ predation led the pack to do what they always do in trying times — split up!

So, after Willow and Scully’s trip to the city, returning with pizza and gifts for the kids, Razvan stayed behind in the ‘real’ world while his packmates took another trip into the Dream Zone. Time was running short to intervene for these lost children.

Razvan was not completely idle, of course. He spoke with Loba at length, about her problems with Scully, her hopes and plans for the children’s future, and Razvan’s misgivings about his perceived weakness in the Dream. His idea to go out and hunt again, however, was cut short when his pack returned from the Dream Zone, changed — screaming.

For the others had been to Dream, and much further than that. Although they first found themselves in young Chad’s nightmares, they knew enough about him to craft a suitable response, disguising themselves as his favorite superheroes — pleasantly surprised when the dreamer took the bait and joined in!

Later in the night, however, the aisling took a grim turn. Just as they’d suspected (or feared), the next reaching into the Dream Zone led them into Laurel’s — Social Justice’s — nightmares. And those nightmares bordered on something terrible. By the time they thought to escape, Scully was suffering flashbacks, and went mad trying to flee.

But the pack wouldn’t be so lucky as to stumble clear of Malfeas. No, instead they stumbled into something else, and in their broken and traumatized minds they fear it was the Black Spiral Labyrinth itself. Fooled into taking the first steps of the dance, they were gifted/cursed with visions from the Wyrm, perhaps of Laurel’s lost child, and certain knowledge of the Banes hidden within their own souls, feeding on their most cherished sins.

And Laurel herself? By the time the pack returned from Dream, gibbering and shrieking, scaring the other children…Razvan found the young Child of Gaia where he’d left her, still sleeping, but eternally so — her face frozen in a rictus of horror.

Story 11: Hush
tytalus

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