In our next guest-ST story, journey together to the farthest of the north to aid Long Runner, the Red Talons, and Mammoth! It will take Razvan’s skills in modern medicine, and Zero’s high tech expertise; no doubt there will be something useful for the others to do, too.
Zero certainly hasn’t forgotten the preserved mammoth blood samples they have, and the possibility of restoring the mammoth back to real-world life. In fact, he’s been looking for some new path away from the pure machinery of cybernetics, perhaps cutting edge biotechnology or something beyond? Perhaps this will lead him in the right direction…or give him more of a reason to look for one.
Don’t worry; Dave knows it can’t all be glorious runs in the woods in wolf form and smashing Wyrmthings and butt-sniffing. We all know Razvan’s been corrupted; the first thing he wanted after the Legendary Realm was a hot shower and a hamburger. You’re not fooling anybody, Spine-Render!
After a respite of several months, where we tend to local affairs, the call to adventure once again sounds. Our old friend, the Red Talon Theurge Long-Runner, has once again literally run across much of North America to visit us, bearing grim news…the sacred Tomb of Mammoth has been discovered and possibly despoiled by the humans! He asks our help in righting this great wrong, and perhaps more…is there a chance to bring Mammoth back? Perhaps we’ll get to answer this question. But first, a cyber-war by Zero, who managed to defeat aggressive anti-hacking by what he thinks is a leech, a ’Nosferatu" in service to a great lord of their kind, Baba Yaga, who appears to exert tremendous power behind the scenes in the WoD Russia. Stamping out any hope for the Russian Garou appears to be on their list of things to do. Not that surprising, considering we remain, despite our falling numbers, a significant threat to the leeches.
Zero manages to infiltrate top secret leech/Russian special forces servers, snagging several pertinent files. The files do indeed reveal a large cave, hidden in the mountains of Wrangel Island, where Mammoth made its Final Stand and its kind breathed their last, dying out a mere 3600 years ago, much later than thought, due to the sheer remoteness of the location and suitable climate. Russian scientists, with a small squad of military (Zero can identify them from their markings, with a bit of work, as Spetsnaz, their elite troops – a small squad of 4 of them, and a team of three scientists are visible in the video. They are seen in a cave, with various bits and partial bodies of mammoths in view. The corpses seem amazingly well preserved. The pack can see how Long-Runner obtained his artifacts and mammoth blood, still fresh. While some have the red-brown fur we’ve seen in movies and documentaries, many have a frost white fur that shimmers in the low-light of the cave and limited lighting provided by the humans, who are seen eagerly recording the find. After a bit of time, one scientist notices a few huge plates of shale, they seem too regular to be random…they look like some sort of lid or cover. With the help of the soldiers, they manage to move one slab aside, revealing a deep, dug pit. A primeval coffin. Within it, a completely whole mammoth lies, with the same shimmering frost white fur as some of the partial bodies. They examine it excitedly, amazed at how well preserved it is…perhaps too much so…its…still warm? Though it does not seem to stir or even breathe, the scientists shout to one another, making record of this amazing find. It’s limbs and trunk are still supple, astounding the scientists.
The camera pans over the body of the mammoth, and as it reaches the belly, still partially hidden from view, a polar bear is discovered. What’s this? The scientists stop and wonder, but one soon steps up, poking at the bear with a ski-pole. The bear’s eyes snap open! It glares about with fierce pale blue eyes, shoving aside another shale plate as it rises up with a great roar! Despite that it’s in a deep pit, it still towers over the humans. It appears rather manlike in body shape, with a human-style shoulder joint, chest, and surprisingly manlike hands, tipped with gigantic talons. It uses these talons to make short work of the scientists and soldiers alike, roaring in Rage as it lashes back and forth. We see one strike cut a Spetsnaz clean in half!. The remaining soldiers recover quickly, raising their guns, and pepper the creature with bullets. But, these seem to have little effect, the bear Rages among the humans. It quickly reducing them to pulp. Though it does bleed from their shots it does not seem to be very weakened by them, much like ourselves. The last thing we see is it pondering the wreckage, and the camera. The video goes black as we see the creature look at the camera, a paw raised and then coming down…
Although we’ve never seen one, we can recognize a fellow shape shifter. This bear must be a Gurahl, which Long-Runner confirms, stating they, too, protect the Tomb of Mammoth, who they also honor.
Mila’s caern responds to the call, establishing a very rare Moon Bridge between a Red Talon caern and a homid caern, with some assistance from our pack, Willow in particular, to open the bridge. We return to our various homes and prepare for the journey, Raz bringing his EMT kit, perhaps modified for potential surgery on a mammoth. He also pays a quick visit to the embassy, drawing on his family’s funds with MIla’s ok, taking a sizable stack of rubles and a few gold coins (of Chinese origin, where you can buy ingots of gold freely). We’ll need some cash, he thinks, if we have to deal with any humans. Packing his sword, dedicated body armor, and Bloody Bandages as well as his EMT/doctor back pack, Raz is ready to go. The others also prepare, and soon enough we return to the caern and join Long-Runner in a quick trip first to his current home caern, which both Raz and Scully have visited. Just prior to our run, Long-Runner inscribes two runes upon us, one on each shoulder, then on himself. Using a mix of ocher and mammoth blood, he scribes runes for Griffin and Quest on all of us. We don’t stay here long, just long enough to meet and greet, and to have a run across another Moon Bridge to a Red Talon caern in eastern Siberia. The sacred runes Long-Runner painted on us do their work. As a Red Talon only caern, we would normally have been greeted with immediate challenge and likely attack, but this time…free passage.
A great elder of the Red Talons, Tundra- Runner, greets us himself, making sure any young bucks looking to challenge us won’t dare it. It’s a peaceful meet and greet, and we pick up another traveling companion, the Silent Strider lupus who met and taught Long-Runner his various traveling gifts. She’s on the old side for a lupus, going by the name of Hotah. Willow takes a bit of interest in Hotah, perhaps this is a chance for her, and us, to learn more about the Striders? Hotah does offer to teach us a gift of fast travel, and begins instruction as we make our way to the coast, preparing us for the spirit teacher She will soon bring to instruct us further. In two days time, we find ourselves on the bleak Silberian coast, where winter never really leaves. A successful duck hunt and berry gathering allows Willow to make a few kilos of good pemmican, food for our journey. Hotah warns us that after a long-run, you must feast and rest, or be greatly weakened for a few days. Speaking of days, here they are practically 24 hours, the sun doesn’t quite dip below the horizon during the “night.” here at the peak of the short, cold summer. It’ll be colder still on Wrangel Island. We now know why the squad sent by Baba Yaga consisted of a pack of BSD and 2 dozen Spetsnaz, but no leeches. There is no proper night this time of year for them, only the light of the sun.
We scout out the little town, from it’s size it holds a couple hundred humans at best. From his research prior to our leaving, Zero knows this town has an American name, Billings. It’s the only town that runs several little (less than 30 people/trip) tours to Wrangel island a year during the summer months. In fact, we spy a modified fishing boat, with English writing on it, advertising the eco-tour. As Zero curses our luck at once again spending our time racing about the most wild of places, he spies a mushroom shaped device among the communication gear on the upper deck…an Iridium Pilot, one of the only means, this far north likely the only, means to provide wifi!
Other things we note about the town, are a number of windmills to provide power, no lack of wind here from our experience thus far. The homes seem better kept than one might expect for this wasteland, perhaps due to the small tourist input? A couple thousand Euros/USD would probably go a very long way here. Maybe a couple of the people speak English? Feeling a little more hopeful about making our way to and from Wrangel, we (minus Hotah and Long-Runner, who remain in lupus hiding on the outskirts of town)) walk into the little town, to inquire about passage…
We’ve fared forth, having found and then spent a bit of time with a kindly, wise fisherman who is one of two who carries eco-tour groups to Wrangel a few times a year, during the summer. His wife, much younger than him and a political refugee from the Putin administration, is the town medic (a nurse by training) and was happy to lead Razvan around to employ his higher doctor-level skills as partial payment for our trip over the angry seas. The fisherman and his wife shared a rich dinner with us, hot showers (a rare luxury this far north) and a most rare one, wifi! Zero takes full advantage, conducting more searches as well as gathering some files on elephant/mammoth anatomy…Razvan suspects he may have to do service as a vet!
In the morning, after a heavy breakfast, the couple presses upon us numerous tins of fish in oil, a few sacks of root vegetables, cheese, hard bread and butter as well as a few blankets – we travel far too light for such a bleak land. But then, they don’t know we are Garou. We take the gifts with a smile, and Razvan provides a full cash payment in rubles, his family freeing up the funds due to the potential for scoring points with the Red Talons as well as raising Razvan’s own fame. The Shadow Lord Margrave, Grand Alpha of the Tribe, is aware of this quest and wishes Razvan and the rest of us well, as he is very keen on befriending the Red Talons.
We board the ship, enjoying for the last time in a while the creature comforts of humanity, and make our way to the island. Our pilot grants us two weeks, promising to return for us, and get the other half of his payment. Besides, he seems to be an honest man of good heart, trying to make the best of things in this bleak land, and we’ve come to trust him a bit. Hotah assures us she can teach us to run back across the water, if worst comes to worst.
Employing our newly learned gift of Tireless Running, we make our way quickly several hundred miles north, winding our way up the mountain paths and river valley until we finally reach the Final Resting Place of Mammoth. This is a large cave, one we’ve seen before via Zero’s stolen files. As we approach, though, a giant of a man wearing rough fur robes greets us, simply sitting on a rock near the entrance. His only weapon a massive harpoon of apparently great age. After a bit of talk, he reveals himself to be the guardian Gurahl, Finds-Thick-Ice. He decides to welcome us, based on our quest markings and more, Long-Runner’s prior visit, which was evidently noted. We, too, at least for now, are in service to Mammoth, same as the Gurahl. He beckons to the stone scree behind us, and his younger sister de-cloaks, we did not detect her at all…must be some gift of theirs! It’s a good one, to hide her so well. The ursine born Gurahl are not big conversationists, but Finds-Thick-Ice is one of their Elders, and has much experience so can communicate with us well enough. He and his sister reveal the basics of the foe, and also that the were-sharks! (Rokea) have aided them, hauling their boat out and sinking it into the icy cold waters. No way home for the foe now…but then how would such as these know of modern humans, their navies?
The foe approaches overland, along the great northern plain, which gives us some time. We use it well, Razvan and Zero combining their skills to repair the homid-inflicted wounds on the last mammoth, a young, white furred male, then we manage to restart it’s heart. Once that is done, no small feat, The garou pour their healing into the creature, allowing it to rise once again! It trumpets, then shambles out of the cave, to feed and drink, the first of it’s kind to do so in more than 3,000 years! The gurahl could have used their gift of raising the dead upon it, but why bother? He is a lone male, no females to mate with. But we think with the pure DNA samples from all the bits and pieces of mammoth’s flesh and bone brought here after the final slaughter, we can bring them back. Even a few mammoth ovaries were preserved, in a couple of mostly eaten females.
We feast, using the little camp grill we brought with us, cooking up some of the food given to us, as well as a freshly caught salmon from the nearby river. After that, we rest, tell tales, and get ready for the battle. As Razvan sends out a scouting spirit Raven, Long-Runner and Willow explore the depths of the cavern system, discovering a hot spring fed pool…a spirit lies dormant within it. Some sort of water elemental, perhaps…and the pool was once a powerful heart of a caern of healing! Long forgotten, but it could be awakened and kept by our kind again. Even now, the waters provide some healing benefit, when touched. Long-Runner immediately resolves to make this his own caern, but that is for the future…
We lay our battle plans, digging a few trenches in the frozen soil, no easy task. We take cover in several different spots, deploying ourselves for maximum surprise and mayhem. With so many silver shooting soldiers on the way, we’ll need to be crafty to win! Soon, we shall see how effective our plans are…
and so the Battle is joined! The first squad enters the Mammoth Cave, 4 spetsnaz along with an unexpected BSD…still, we go forward with the plan as the foe arrays themselves around us as we’d hoped. We can just hear the pop of the submachine guns as Raz engages the first group, hopefully hidden in his Abyssal darkness. As the battle unfolded, however, Razvan discovered that the BSD was some sort of champion, with power to see in the dark, and armed with a klaive…the BSD proved a very stiff challenge, and the spetsnaz also managed to wound him. Even with all the stolen blood his trusty blade provided, he was unable to regenerate much damage before he had to charge out and face the other patrol. Using his command over the dark, he split the two patrols outside the cave mouth into two groups, as planned…this worked! Finds-Thick-Ice used his great strength to cause an avalanche great enough to bury one patrol in many tons of fallen rock…on the other side, his sister hurled a boulder at the other patrol, which also had a BSD tagging along…this worthy survived, to leap down into the trench where Willow and Scully had been hidden, until Scully began using his trusty bow to thin their ranks…even landing a shot in the eye of the cyclopean formori, preventing it from unleashing whatever gaze weapon it had…the eye had just started blazing with greenish balefire when Scully’s arrow found it’s mark. Long-Runner took this time to summon an avatar of Mammoth, and the great creature materialized, as planned, among yet another patrol group, stomping and tusking them with great fury…Mammoth’s last child’s life is at stake! Long-Runner and Hotah then enter the fray, leaping a supernaturally long distance to engage that same patrol, while Zero pops up and lights up yet another with a borrowed submachine gun…even more surprisingly, with a great gurgling war-cry, a Rokea, one of the Shark-men, joins us in battle, helping us end the other fomori and BSD…we take this in stride, having had many strange allies over our short but wide wanderings.
In the end, we are victorious, earning a great victory over far superior forces! Our battle plan went very well, with one exception…Razvan, already badly hurt, was caught in the legs by more silver bullets, fell, and was gunned down. But, if one is going to die on a sacred mission, dying among the Gurahl, on the same mission, was the way to do it. Although the Gurhal seemed reluctant, Find-Thick-Ice, having been commanded by the avatar of Mammoth, brings Razvan back from the dead with his Gaia’s Breath, the one gift Garou are forbidden to learn above all others.
While Razvan sleeps and recovers from his death, the avatar, who is actually an Incarna, as Willow and Scully wonder, tells us many things of import. It also tasks us with several quests…this battle must be entered into the Silver Record, a very rare tale of hope, glory, honor and wisdom that must be known among the Garou. This is the first time in perhaps millennia where Gurahl and Garou fought together, and even another Fera, the Rokea, gave aid. We succeeded in hauling Mammoth back from the edge of the Abyss, where despite Griffin’s efforts, Mammoth was slowly but surely falling in, never to be seen again…and worse, perhaps transformed into some Wyrm servant as other lost spirits have before. A caern of great power, long lost, has been found, and it is ours to claim. Who shall claim it? Long-Runner already, in his excitement, claims Razvan as future caern alpha, or at least Beta or Warder. Who knows what tribe had this place? Maybe it was never just one tribe, considering its great age. But, it’s not something to just hand over, and we have planted our flag here. Mammoth indicated as much, so we’ve a choice ahead of us. Last but certainly not least, Mammoth has entrusted Zero with bringing more mammoths back, using whatever means he must. This is a heavy task, but if anyone can manipulate living tissue into something more, it’s Zero. Razvan, certainly, can use his medical and science skills to assist, and also bears this burden. Willow was told she must be one of the ones to re-awaken this caern, and have some place here. Although half the pack is metis, their hearts are warmed by the Incarna of Mammoth, who welcomes them as worthy. Not that the garou will…but we’ll see…
Long-Runner’s pack, via his own pack-link, will already know the basics of what happened, before we cross the sea. Word quickly spreads, and by the time we return, perhaps some of the other tribes will be waiting at the RT caern to greet us upon our return to Siberia.
Finally, one small matter…the kliave Razvan claimed by his victory is not what we might have thought. It’s clearly not BSD manufacture. Instead, it’s a wakizashi, a samurai shortsword, kanji engraved upon it, family crest embedded in it’s cross guard. It has the appearance of great age, and the spirit within it seems extremely eager to bond with Razvan. Perhaps after a long time in BSD service, the weapon wants to return to our side. It likely had never been attuned to it’s owner, the BSD. We may never know. But, perhaps this weapon should be studied, and returned to the family it came from?