Rage Across Baltimore

Story 12: Tribal Convictions

Call it a crisis of leadership

Hear the drums they come from the sea
Bring the tribal spirit on me
Cause my pride and my roots I believe
No this tribe you can’t take it from me
— Soulfly, “Tribe”

While Last Call’s Ahroun, Razvan, missed out on the ill-fated trip to Malfeas, he shares the burdens and troubles of his packmates. And yet, he can never truly know the horrific, mind-shattering visions that Willow, Zero and Scully experienced in their first fumbling steps on the Black Spiral Labyrinth. Worse, there’s the question of how much they can admit to their sept, their friends, their Kin.

The pack was already in conflict, and the others’ new mental quirks don’t help much. But for Raz the Biter, there’s always the peace and quiet — or the satisfaction of a good brawl — to be had on patrol. Even if he has to hold his wolfie tongue, at least in the material realm: it won’t do to have the nearby park rangers thinking wolf packs have moved into their park! They’re not all Kinfolk, yet.

It’s on one of these patrols, however, after a long and satisfying Moot and Revel, that the Shadow Lord receives an altogether different call to adventure. He’s no Theurge, not wise in spirit ways. But he’s far from stupid, no typical Ahroun, and he does hear the call of his ancestors. And so, during one of his regular patrols through the new sept’s territory, cutting loose in the Umbra, Razvan finds an Airt — a spirit track — a trail that smells like home, an inexplicable sensation, deep in his soul.

He wouldn’t wander off on a spirit quest by himself, though, would he?

It’s time to bear witness to legend; live the legend; become the legend.

ShadowLord2.png

Comments

Chapter 1:
In a world beyond controlling
Are you going to deny the savior
In front of your eyes
Stare into the night
— Disturbed, “The Night”

The end of the Revel sees the pack split up as soon as the ceremonies are over, many of them still troubled by the mind-shattering visions they received in Malfeas. Not so experienced (or troubled), Razvan instead finds himself on his usual Umbral patrol, and also on the precipice of a journey. A spirit track, or airt, a call from his ancestors? Or just another trap?

Raz’s fractious packmates decide to join him on the trail before he’s lost to them, When they arrive at a crossroads, marking their entrance to the Legendary Realm, the pack changes, taking on personas more suitable to the realm and its quasi-medieval setting. With the change in appearance comes a change in mindset, in memory — they all gain access to ancestral knowledge, some building on the connections they already had, others feeling the connection for the first time.

The pack is now a prodigal son and ronin knight of the Shadow Lords, Night’s Honor; a wandering monk and steampunk craftsman, Claw-of-Tomorrow; a fallen and exiled bard dressed in a borrowed, faded kilt, Goltraige; and a striking Russian, still marked by her albinism and odd fetish-eye, Iva Fists-of-Oak.

Although this realm appears to be Razvan’s homecoming to his own tribe and family’s ancestral land, it is marked by perpetual shadow and twilight and failing crops, a Midnight Land. The darkness and blight, and the suffering it inflicts on normal humans and Kinfolk, seems a bit much for our resident Shadow Lord. What sort of welcome can he expect, as the pack/knight-plus-traveling-companions approach Castle Dragomir?

Story 12: Tribal Convictions
 

Chapter 2:
Back to the primitive
Fuck all your politics
How it used to be
Check your reality
— Soulfly, “Back to the Primitive”

Although the castle seems welcoming enough, open to its master’s returning younger brother and to Garou from all lands, it’s clear from the outset that not all the tribes are interested in the Dragomir family’s call to join them in the Midnight Land. There are other Lords, of course, Red Talons and Fenrir, a few Fianna perhaps — notably no other City Warders, no Gaia-Children, no Silver Fang heroes.

While the others take in the scene and watch their backs, Razvan is treated to a spot at the head of the table with his family, of course! From that vantage point, he gets to listen as his elder brother Radu makes his pitch to the assembled Garou guests. And the appeal is evident, for most. Radu Dragomir’s plan to spread the Midnight Land throughout the realm could bring down the City, bring the humans back into line, end the rule of the tribe of Helios over their rightful mother of Rage, Luna.

Razvan, Willow and Zero take all of this in, stoic and grim-faced, sharing their ill thoughts on the pack-link. Only Scully joins in the festivities, cheering with the rest — owing to his skills as a performer, perhaps, or some growing skill in lying. But it’s an angry, axe-wielding Get of Fenris who speaks up against it first, denouncing the Leeches in their midst, threatening them and Radu both.

That is, until darkness engulfs him long enough to make a corpse out of the Fenrir, Snarls-at-the-Dark.

Radu Dragomir nevertheless offers the Fenrir pack free passage out of the castle, and things settle down after the brief outbreak of bloodshed, leaving the pack wondering about Razvan’s family. Are they vampire mind-slaves? Is this how they got their start as Light-Bringers among their tribe? Radu’s convincing speech belies the vampiric influence, clearly swaying most of his guests to make things right with the land and the humans in Gaia’s name. Even Razvan’s vampire-empowered blade points to the possible use — and mixed blessing — of undead allies. Is the pack so pure compared to these Dragomir ancestors?

But the pack remains skeptical. Unsure where to go or what to do just yet, they choose to stay, to blend in and learn what they can before taking any action. Clearly the pack cares more for humans than most here — and in this darkness, can even their Kinfolk survive? To these Garou of the realm, evidently the ones who do not survive didn’t deserve to. The pack learns from some Red Talons just what they think of the soft tribes, the City Warders, the Gaia-Children.

And on the other hand, the pack’s stories confuse the Garou of the realm, making them scoff and question. In this place of living legends, who would believe tales of caerns taken by Black Spiral Dancers? Of caerns in cities? Of honorable charach-spawn? Even Razvan, after longing to reach this realm, seems to find it ill-suited to him. There are no hamburgers anywhere to be found. Surely this cannot stand…

Story 12: Tribal Convictions
 

Chapter 3:
Chase the horizons, catch the illusion
Remember the child within
There’s no tomorrow just sadness and sorrow
Hold on to the ancient dreams
— Candlemass, “Ancient Dreams”

After sharing the hearth-fire and the feast, and swapping tales with the Shadow Lords’ guests, it’s clear that the Midnight Land has some appeal to the less civilized tribes. Many seem willing to take the risk, to set things right as it were. And to our pack, fresh arrivals from the modern days of overpopulation and environmental devastation, who’s to say that it might have been better had the Garou nipped it in the bud? Is this the balance the Garou seek? And would the pack want it, at this cost?

Taking a break from the feast-hall, the pack steps outside for a run around the estate in their fur. They speak openly of bringing down this state of affairs, this Midnight Land. But the question of vampiric influence nags at them; they’re well acquainted with the Leeches’ powers of supernatural compulsion. So they decide to stay the night (eternal?), sleep over, and learn more the next day. Scully in particular decides to continue his snooping around outside, as he lacks the others’ skills and Gifts for investigation. Instead, he’ll use what Gaia gave him.

As it happens, the pack doesn’t quite manage to stay the whole night. Instead, Scully comes looking for Zero and Willow some hours later with a disturbing discovery to show them. Razvan is otherwise… occupied… in his private chambers, but manages to extricate himself at the prospect of a fight. And so, the pack does their best to sneak quietly out of the castle and over the wall, so as to avoid being noticed in their escape.

Scully found that while the Fenrir pack was permitted to leave the castle, they didn’t get far — far enough, it seems, that their deaths wouldn’t be noticed by the other guests back at Castle Dragomir. Scully’s tale of Garou bodies being dumped in the forest, overhearing Garou and Leeches arguing over letting the Fenrir blood go to waste, is damning.

Naturally, at this point one of the damned intervened. As it turned out, the pack’s suspicious activities and talk had been noticed, and a vampire assassin, skilled in manipulating shadows and minds, went after them. The vampire, calling himself Ramon de Meza, swayed Zero with his powers, commanding the Glass Walker to defend him.

The subsequent conversation nearly halted Razvan in his attack, but the rest of the pack took on the assassin. Once outmatched, the Leech fled through shadows, only to be called back by Scully’s Call of the Wyrm. Unable to flee, and with only Zero’s somewhat inept defense to aid him, the assassin couldn’t hold up in a stand-up fight with Garou. He soon fell to Razvan’s blade, which drank deeply from the fallen Leech — perhaps too much so?

But the pack has finally chosen a path in the Legendary Realm. They will go to the City, and spread the news of this Midnight Land that threatens it to the Garou they can find there — likely Zero’s City Warder ancestors, perhaps Children of Gaia and others as well.

Story 12: Tribal Convictions
 

Chapter 4:
I don’t know who I should belong to
All I know is that I don’t belong
So if you feel the same that I have always felt
Let’s walk this path through flame and flood
— Kreator, “From Flood into Fire”

The pack sought a surreptitious route away from Shadow Lord territory, although they were found by Marina Spirit-Shadow, a young Garou from the Ionescu family, vassals to the Dragomirs. Marina’s family has already chosen to stand with Dragomir against the fabled Fimbulwinter, but Marina saw fit to offer the pack a deal — safe passage in return for slaying a pack of vampires preying on her family’s land from their lair in a nearby cave.

The pack, already wounded and worn down, achieved a narrow victory. Afterward, they recuperated at the cave, then journeyed south for the City.

Arriving a week or so later, the pack was lean from long running, and still beset with conflict, what with the personal demons they’re still dealing with. They found the Children of Gaia first — in a church of sorts, a church of Gaia, set in a well-managed park resembling a forest.

There, Willow found friendly tribe-mates, even if some of them took her for a Silver Fang. And here, Willow was in for a bit of a shock. Although the Gaians were happy to help her make peace, and counted her as one of their own, they were also quite certain she was born from a Silver Fang — news to Willow. Time will tell how this new clue to her identity will shape her.

Next, the pack sought out the tribe here called the Syndics — some City Warder jargon perhaps, as “Glass Walkers” is the modern-day name for the tribe. Zero, the steampunk monk, didn’t exactly fit right in with these wealthy, even hedonistic Garou. However, Zero did enjoy a much nicer welcome than he’s come to expect from his tribe in the real world.

Negotiating with the Syndics in one of their city tongues, something vaguely French or Italian-sounding that no one else in the pack understood, Zero was given the opportunity to challenge for aid and he took it. Demonstrations of his mechanical arm’s power and finesse, along with an epic chess match, earned Zero a company of Kinfolk musketeers, a brace of cannons, and the promise of something extra-special for his victory over Girardino Della Scalia, the elder Syndic.

The city warders and Gaia-children alike, however, politely laughed off the idea of fielding an army of Garou to fight Radu Dragomir and his forces. Not for Gaian peacemakers, and City warders of humanity, to fight in some brutal werewolf melee. For Garou aid, the pack chose to turn to the Fianna — putting Scully on the spot. His warnings of certain doom and death for him and Willow by the metis-hating Fianna were not encouraging.

Nevertheless, Willow and the others insisted that he try. So, they left the City, making for the isles the Fianna called home. A chance encounter with a lost ancestor, Banecruncher, gave Scully a little hope — and a new fetish axe, rebuilt by Willow. Having promised its spirit to show his courage by singing the Banecruncher’s praises to his people at Silver Tara, Scully and the pack were committed to a risky challenge indeed.

With his pack surrounding him on the path up to Silver Tara, though, Scully had his chance to sing for his ancestor, his fabled axe, and past glories now forgotten, to the Fianna’s shame. Seven times he sang, once for each gate they would pass through on the way up to the ancient Fianna caern. Time and again, Scully’s packmates fought off metis-hating Fianna and intercepted axes and arrows meant for him. With their courage and song, the pack won over Silver Tara…or at least, most of it.

Scully was rewarded with a new name, Seven-Songs, and with the aid of his tribe in the war against the Midnight Land. Not to mention, reconciliation with his ancestors — perhaps the greatest gift his packmates could ever give him.

Now, the pack returns to Shadow Lord territory, this time with an army of Fianna and faerie warriors, Syndic muskets and cannons, Children of Gaia healers, and a variety of spirit allies. And the pack itself is stronger for their journey, old grudges and seeming betrayals purged in the forge of an epic quest.

All that remains is the battle with Razvan’s family — one they hope will not end in the slaughter of dozens of Garou. The Leeches, though…they’re quite expendable.

Story 12: Tribal Convictions
 

Chapter 5:
Brothers I am calling from the valley of the kings
With nothing to atone
A dark march lies ahead, together we will ride
Like thunder from the sky
— Manowar, “Hail And Kill”

The pack set sail with their Fianna warriors, sending word to the City for their allies to march forth and meet them on the road to Shadow Lord territory. Managing packs of over-eager Fianna, though, proved somewhat difficult, and the army did not come together as perhaps it should have. This provided an opening for Radu and the army of the Midnight Land to exploit.

By the time Razvan and the pack reached the outlying Shadow Lord estates, they received word (from a much more desperate Marina Spirit-Shadow) that Radu knew of the invading army, and worse, had stealthily gone around the Fianna to run down the ‘soft tribes’ from the City.

After taking over the castle of a less welcoming Shadow Lord family, the pack secured it for their camp followers and wagons. Then, they took off with anyone fast enough to keep up, intent on catching Radu — and saving their Syndic and Children of Gaia allies.

Radu chose an open field to turn the tables on his younger brother, with many packs of Shadow Lords, Get of Fenris, and Red Talons emerging from the surrounding forest to face them. Whatever corruption had led to this battle, it would be Garou fighting Garou, with our heroes leading one side against the other.

And it was a fierce battle, with the bold Fianna taking on Radu’s forces with their faerie kin at their side, and the pack directing the combat as best they could. Razvan of course could not resist the urge to attack Radu directly, as the prospect of an honor duel degraded into a raging, bloody fight to the death — one Radu only narrowly escaped with a flight into shadow.

Because the stalwart Fianna fought until their allies from the City arrived, and Syndic muskets and cannon began to rip into the Garou fighting for the Midnight Land. Radu denounced his victorious opponents, scorning what he saw as a dishonorable slaughter, and promised revenge.

And this, Gordias explained as the Legendary Realm faded from view, was the story being told — the legend of the Nightmaster. In defeating this villain-to-be (perhaps creating him in the process), the pack had played their part in the story and fulfilled their quest.

Although the pack’s epic quest was not literal history, it raises questions for them: what corruption still hides in the Dragomir family? Is the Nightmaster truly one of Razvan’s ancestors? And, what of Willow’s parentage? Does her albinism hide Silver Fang blood, and if so, whose? The answers could shake the pack, even the Garou nation. But the pack is stronger, true friends again, and ready to face the peril.

And in the end, upon their return to Baltimore, the pack found their Umbral journey, that felt like it had taken a month or longer, had taken only a few hours’ time in the ‘real’ world.

Story 12: Tribal Convictions
tytalus

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.