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.

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The Road of Trials: Downtime!
...of indeterminate length

After the mind-shattering events of Hush, it’s not clear what the characters will do next. Rites of Cleansing, hot showers until your skin is raw, or bleeding…but who to talk to about what happened? What details will they give out, and what do they keep to themselves?

It’s not just every day one journeys to Malfeas, and however unwittingly, it appears most of the pack has danced the first steps of the Spiral (some more than once).

You may have noted that I did not hand out Renown awards at the end of the story; this is because the pack, I think, needs to decide what they will admit to doing — and what they will not. There are rewards to be earned from defeating Dream Banes, protecting helpless humans, and protecting the Veil. Completing a spirit quest, though…how far do they dare to go with their exploits here? Suffering a frenzy? Could the adventure’s end be seen by their peers as conscious cowardice?

Garou are of course encouraged to tell tales of their adventures at Moots, to have their deeds acknowledged and Renown and Rank gained as a result, but the pack may need to think carefully about what tale is spun. Then again, perhaps lying will come back to haunt them later.

As for actual downtime, that’s partly up to the characters…some calls to adventure may be undeniable. But let’s see what kind of time the pack wants for rest, recovery, research projects and the like.

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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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Story 10: Long Pig
The other white meat

Brace yourselves, friends, for your first guest storyteller. Dave will be entertaining and horrifying us for the foreseeable future. Perhaps there will be DOOM!

He should be able to fill us in with some commentary below, and if not I’ll just do it myself. After all, the log is here in part to record our exploits, because we’re forgetful!

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Almost two moons have past since the great BSD-throwdown and the dust is still settling. Wounds have healed, though some scars remain. For us, it has not been entirely peaceful, as banes continue to assault the re-taken caern, where Razvan’s cousin holds sway. In his new role as Wyrm foe, he has an occasion or two to lead various garou against the banes and drive them away. His recent Rank 3 test (which may not yet be complete) proved(ing) a decent test of his self control, and he gained? a new, little friend in the process…the rest of the pack’s tests may yet be ongoing…

In our now much greater freedom and free time, Razvan has thrown himself into work at the clinic, and has also volunteered at the worst emergency room (from a crime victim standpoint) in Baltimore, mainly to hone his skills as a healer, but also to keep an ear to the ground regarding strange killings and the like.

A recent victim, a college-age female jogger, was viciously beaten, raped and evidently left for dead near the entrance to the Susquehanna State Park. Razvan gets called over to take a look at her, maybe there is something he can do…he’s built a reputation as a bit of a miracle worker, either via pure skill or perhaps, a trickle of Mother’s Touch now and then. Raz’s contact in the police department gets a quick call, who sends Raz (and Zero) a few relevant files. This is more than it seems. Evidently, this is the second case with a similar MO in the past few weeks – 2 other girls, jogging near nightfall, are missing. The other case where a body was found was in similar condition to the wounded girl, except fully dead, and her legs both evidently bitten off by a very large dog or perhaps a bear? Forensics have not been completed as yet.

There are some odd things about the survivor, though. One, there is no sign of struggle where she was found, nor any sign of the perp. However, a few hundred meters into the forest and a bit off the trail, a crime scene was found. The girl’s blood, bits of her clothing, even an imprint of her body in the soft loam and fallen leaves. Further, there is sign of a great struggle, and a rather large pool of blood. Some of this blood, other than the girl’s, was identified and ID’d to a notorious skinhead and serial rapist, a man in his late 40s. Some large, canine-esque paw prints were also noted in the immediate area. Oddly, there is no sign of the likely perp, other than a few bits of clothing and skin, found in an area on the edge of the disturbed site, as if he was either running or being pulled into the thick trees…but that’s it. No trail or tracks of any sort (dogs were brought in), and no luck finding anything in the park so far, despite quite a bit of looking.

After a very successful surgery, the girl looks to most likely survive. The beating, which had fractured her skull and left her brain swollen and likely damaged, seems to be not quite so bad as first thought, or Raz really knows his way with a scalpel…perhaps when she awakens, we might learn another clue or two.

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Third Confluence: Downtime!
Razvan, teen wolf-dad? Or teen wolf/dad?

Our next instance of downtime will see the rise of the reborn Sept of the Hidden Spring, and some parting shots/RP with the regional packs and Garou who came just to help make it happen. After that, we may have a few months’ downtime, as the new sept’s Garou will need time to rebuild. They have tunnels to cleanse, Banes to continually drive off, and the nearby city of Baltimore — still their home, sort of — is changing around them.

What will the pack have to say, after all, when they see what’s decorating the skyscraper where the Shattered Glass Hive once held sway? Signage proclaiming a corporate buyout, promising new development and jobs for the city, courtesy of the Foundation for a Better Life? What will the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, the City Father, look like when the pack meets him next? Change is afoot in Baltimore, and just maybe, not all of it is good.

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(And yes, if enough time passes, Razvan will become a father. Zounds!)

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Ninth Story: Non-State Actor
They're dead where it doesn't count

After dark my city’s a fuse
One day, I say, today, we live as a lion
And when our cubs grow
We’ll show you what war is good for

— One Day as a Lion, “One Day as a Lion”

Not long after Last Call’s initial dive into the Dream Zone, the sept is put on a serious war footing. Garou from all the packs may be looking to claim credit for their accomplishments, but the sept elders refuse; time enough for rites and challenges of renown and rank when the crisis is over. There may be members of Last Call who by now might challenge for Adren rank, but they’re not alone in wanting to claim what they’ve earned.

Patrols are more frequent and expansive, but the Warder instructs the caern’s Guardians to explore with caution and stealth — learn what you can, but do not give away anything to the enemy! Others, like Willow and Scully, are obliged to summon spirits and build new Talens, promising minor Gaian Gaffling spirits that they won’t have to sleep long before Bane Arrows are fired, Arrow-Killer is spread to protect caern defenders, and Hero’s Mead will be guzzled ere long. Any other spirits that can be cajoled into service scout for the sept.

Some few Wyrm spirits that are caught near the Brewery, of course, may be confined by Wyrm Scales or worse.

Before the moon can wax to fullness, however, an unusual and extended power outage strikes the city. For the first few hours, it might be dismissed as a joke — just another random failure of the city’s infrastructure. When the power doesn’t come back quickly, though, batteries and generators begin to run low, stored food begins to thaw, and tempers flare during the first rush hour from hell.

By nightfall in the warm Baltimore spring, chaos grips the unnaturally (or is it naturally?) dark metro area. Residents and commuters trapped there by circumstance must survive for who knows how long without power, refrigeration, and the ready electronic access to everything they take for granted, including the cash stuck in their bank accounts. The human authorities are swamped, overwhelmed with emergencies. And although our misfit pack of Garou might easily escape the chaos, the Brewery, standing in the midst of this outbreak of rioting, looting and random acts of destruction, must still be defended.

Might this be the ideal time for a strike on the country Hive? Or is this how the Wyrm prepares for a decisive counterattack? And just how long can Zero last without WiFi? You thought the Atrocity Realm was bad!

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Eighth Story: Reoccurring Dreams
We ain't gotta dream no more, man.

Quiet
I am sleeping
In here
We need a little hope

— Smashing Pumpkins, “Quiet”

Have you ever had a lucid dream — one where you become aware that you’re dreaming, but you don’t wake up, and the dream just goes on?

What about a dream that seems more than a little familiar? Dreams can be variations on a theme, experts, scientists speak of archetypes, common to dreamers worldwide — always fitting everything into its place, categorizing, naming. But this is more than that.

Lately, the Garou of Last Call have been afflicted with a little of both. A familiar dream, that’s nothing worth bothering anyone with. But this is a pack of Wisdom, in service to a Dream Raven, part of the spirit brood of Chimera — mistress of Enigmas, caretaker of dreams. So when your dreams call to you, you might want to listen.

What do these nightmares portend for the pack? Could there be something sinister ahead for them — for the Garou of Baltimore, perhaps the entire city? Or is it just that they really have no true refuge from the Wyrm’s corruption, not even in their dreams. They’re about to find out.

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Seventh Story: Desire
No one wins. One side just loses more slowly.

What’s my drug of choice?
Well, what have you got?
I don’t go broke
And I do it a lot

— Alice in Chains, “Junkhead”

Months have passed since the xmastime raid on DNA in downtown Baltimore, and the disastrous explosion that destroyed the facility — and put the humans in the city on high terror alert. Although the quiet time since has dulled their fears somewhat, the city itself is more on edge than ever. After all, it’s not really on the side of the Garou these days.

The Last Call pack remains the guardians of the Sept of Abundant Grain, weathering attacks from swarms of Banes and the occasional Black Spiral pack testing the caern’s defenses. Reinforcements to the Shattered Glass Hive have made it a formidable target; however, the Hive of Desolation in the nearby countryside seems to enjoy less support. Even so, if the Garou hope to take back the crippled Hive in the country, they know it will be incredibly difficult — as they always knew it would. The stuff of legend.

While the urrah pack endures this time, stuck as caern-guards while others fight for Glory, they dig for clues — on the enemies they’ve stumbled upon in their adventures, and for clues on what to do once they have the freedom to take action. Still some conflicts in the city land on their doorstep whether they want it or not.

Take Razvan’s low-cost, inner-city medical clinic, for example. Does he charge full price for pitifully few clients? Exploit what government programs he can to do some good? Barter service for service? Give it away as a charitable deduction? Who knows…

What could happen, though, if the pack’s Bone Gnawer allies drag one of their addled Kinfolk into Raz’s clinic? A Kinfolk suffering from withdrawal, begging for the latest drug that’s hit the streets of Baltimore? A drug that promises to ease their pain, even as it makes their flesh rot like they’re already dead? What’s changed in the city — what could force Baltimore’s users to resort to such obviously harmful narcotics?

This might be another problem for Last Call, a mystery better suited to their unique (if mistrusted) talents and investigation skills. While the other Garou packs brawl with the Spiral Dancers over the fate of Baltimore, it’s up to the guardian pack to cure a new plague that promises to further corrupt the city they hope to take back from the Wyrm.

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Second Confluence: Downtime! pt. 2
The winter of our discontent

Another season is passing in-game for the pack. Time for your characters to explore any longer-term projects or training as they endure the hardship of being the caern-guards while everyone else gets to venture out in search of battle and glory.

So, what does Willow do to pass the winter? Likely a quieter time for her urban farm — although they do have some greenhouse space. Or Razvan, has he taken the chance to hook up with his would-be Kinfolk paramour, Jessica Volk? How goes the work at the clinic, or their efforts to outfit a little Bat-cave of the pack’s own? What about Zero — does any of his treasure trove of purloined data from DNA find its way onto his blog, or would that just make him an easier target?

We’ll take some time for the characters to recuperate at the Sept of Exiles’ Rest, but soon enough the next story will begin. And as the pack is finding out, being the sept’s Guardians isn’t always as boring as the job is made out to be.

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Sixth story: Ghost Trail
You can't choose your family

Some months have passed since the Black Spiral Dancers’ failed attempt to take the Sept of Abundant Grain. Surviving the siege has been good for the Fianna, along with everyone else there, it would seem. The youngsters of Last Call are not the only ones to gain new respect and power. And the sept is building ties to surrounding caerns, after proving that for a bunch of beer-swilling party boys, they’re still a tough nut for the Wyrm to crack.

Naturally, Willow has been helping Moira with the rites establishing Moon Bridge paths to these neighboring caerns; the Ritemaster’s struggling a bit to keep up with just one arm.

The Sept of the Exiles’ Rest is one such caern in the general vicinity. A small, perhaps insignificant caern of Calm, it’s the place where Willow was raised — a safe haven for the rearing of metis cubs, like her. An unfortunate necessity, these days.

With the stories spreading out from Baltimore, of a bold, desperate pack that’s half metis — led by a metis — the little ones at Exiles’ Rest drink in these tales like the mothers’ milk they never had. For poor bastards like these, exceptions like Willow are their heroes. So, it might not come as a surprise when one of them, a cub of an Ahroun naturally called Social Justice convinced one of the tiny sept’s Kinfolk to drive them out to Baltimore to meet this renowned alumnus of the metis nursery.

…a story the Last Call pack learns some time later, when the cub and Kin never arrive.

The urrah pack is gaining a reputation for their skills, not just as warriors for Gaia but as investigators, wise Garou with unlikely allies and advisers, the sort who can solve mysteries as well as fight. And so, here’s a problem that the Guardian pack might be able to help fix, without interfering overmuch with their duties guarding the lone Gaian outpost in Baltimore.

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