The following is a bluebook that I received for Marcus on 9/2, between Boiling Earth I and Boiling Earth II. It is part one of a multi-part bit telling of Marcus’ travels towards the Caern of the Boiling Earth. Written by Mike L. and posted here with permission.
Hours stretched out behind Marcus. He had been driving for what felt like an eternity. After a drive of almost 600 miles, 10 hours cramped behind the wheel of his Chevy Avalanche, even the roomy interior of his quad-cab began to feel claustrophobic.
Marcus stuffed his legs up under the steering wheel to hold the vehicle steady while he removed his hands and rubbed his face vigorously. It was dark now, and his headlights stretched out before his truck casting light onto the dark expanse of asphalt before him. He was on some rural route just outside Redding now – he had left Seattle earlier today, after saying his goodbyes to those he was acquainted with back at Aeolus’ Shroud. He recalled the burning tension as he set out for his commute – and how it gradually abated as relaxing music drifted out of his speakers and distance behind him grew. Aeolus’ Shroud was no home to him anymore. He was like a shell there – just going through the motions. He needed this change. That damnable pocket-watch was just the trick, thank Gaia.
His drive had taken him through the outer boroughs of Seattle – the areas the Sept Leaders had told the pups to avoid. It didn’t seem so bad, at least in passing. But he could sense, almost like instinct, the oily stains that seemed to blotch the shadows – just out of perceivable vision. As he would try to focus his attention, it would drift further beyond grasp – like an eye-floater that when you attempt to focus on, it runs away. The Wyrm taint was subtle – but as he opened himself up to the passing scenery, it was everywhere. Now he understood. This was the Leech territory.
Further beyond Seattle he hit the open highway – that was a nice relief; he could put on more speed, and no traffic lights – less annoying people on the road to deal with. Eventually he came through Portland Oregon.
What a shithole he thought. The most environmentally green city in the world.
Bullshit. Sure, the city may look beautiful, but it’s a manufactured beautiful. Social Engineering, neighborhood redlining, non-white gentrification and all that crap. Portland was a testament to discrimination on a city-wide scale. On the outside it looked nice, but deeply rooted within was a Leech Infestation so pervasive that it would take decades of warring on the Vampires to root out their evil and help begin to return the city to the something resembling a balance. It was here that the council seat of the Leech infestation was. From here they spread out little fungus-like tendrils and had managed to establish a hold in Seattle long before the werewolves ever realized what was happening. They were like that – insidious, decrepit, infectious – just thinking about it made his blood pound in his ears.
I guess I still do care about Seattle a little, as an afterthought, after realizing this place made him want to just burn it from the map.
Marcus was glad when he was beyond Portland and back on the open highway. There were so many places that the Garou were needed, and having to just ‘put the blinders on’ made him feel helpless. One thing at a time Marcus, he thought to himself. Even places like that will have their day of reckoning, eventually.
The sun had set some time during the drive, Marcus didn’t remember exactly when. After his odometer ticked over the 400th mile it all just started to blur. In his mind he was trying, with little success, to formulate just how the fuck he was going to go about investigating this watch. Postal Marks helped point to the origin of the parcel, … but how the heck do you work from there? That feeling of helplessness began creeping back in – this was not perfection, and it warred with his psyche. He liked solid plans, good background, polished detail – this was all too ‘unknown’ for him. It not only annoyed him, but made him doubt the possibility of success – his flaw of breeding trying to stab at his outlook. He fought it back with a mental exercise he had developed during his Martial training. You get thrown and beaten quite often – and he had learned to erect a strong mental barrier because if not, there were times he might have frenzied. After hours of being thrown across a room or kicked repeatedly – if you don’t develop a mechanism to help things can turn ugly.
Marcus had stopped at the Suncrest (southbound) Rest Area just north of the California State Border. He desperately needed to stretch his legs and when the green sign passed him advertising of its location just up ahead he bailed off the freeway to welcome the change of pace. It was dark, and there were quite a few semi-trucks parked for the evening, not so many motorists. The quite of the area was broken by the steady thrum and idle of a few of the trucks, and the occasional passing high-speed semi or other larger vehicle. Regardless, even this artificially engineered mini-green was a welcome diversion. He killed the engine of his pickup, reclining the driver’s seat back just a few degrees, letting out a long sigh. That watch was still occupying his mind, and he unlatched the cover to his center console, where he had placed it for the trip, to look at it again. Why did he have it? Who sent it? And what on earth? Was the damn thing ticking again?!
Sure enough, as his eyes finished adjusting to the sodium-diffuse light filtering in from the outside, the mechanical motion was finishing a few swings and wobbles. He didn’t remember what the face had read before, so he was really unsure if it had indeed moved to a new time, or if the wobbles and swings of the mechanical motion were from his vehicle coming to a stop.
He closed the center console with another exhalation and then reached over, opening his door and stepping out into the night. The air was a little thinner than he was used to, and definitely cooler.
His mind pondered what lurked in the shadows just beyond the reach of the street-lights here – what he might be beset with at any moment. Then it drifted over to considering what heinous acts were transpiring in one or a few of those semi-trucks. Was one of them transporting toxic chemicals? Was one of the refrigeration units full of poisoned cattle-beef, and somewhere deep within the back the latest Mafia elimination hung disguised among for discrete disposal at whichever processing plant the truck was headed for? He grinned at the thoughts, knowing that if anything tried to come down upon him, they’d be in for a rude awakening when the realized they picked the wrong target to besiege. He didn’t want a fight, but part of him grinned at the prospect of one happening – as the enemy realized they were sadly mistaken in their choice of targets.
Finally, taking in a big lungful of the cool night air, he got back into his pickup, and left the rest area – committed to finish his travel with no further distraction. Now with more miles behind him that in front of him, a comfortable feel of finality to his trip drifted down upon him – though the cab of his pickup still felt claustrophobic and his rump was sore from sitting in poor posture behind the wheel.
Finally the lights of Redding appeared in the distance. Marcus decided he would go venture towards the Sept during the daylight hours – he was friggin’ tired of driving now and committed to checking into a motel for the evening. Besides he didn’t entirely know where or how to get to the Sept from Redding and would need to consult the local area maps for a better idea.
He exited when he saw the 2nd sign for a Motel-6 in downtown, and rolled his window down while he idled on the off-ramp waiting for the light to change. The wafting smell of the nearby restaurants called to him, and come to think of it, he was hungry. There was a sign for a nearby Outback Steakhouse, and a quick check of the clock showed he still had time to get in before the doors closed. Rage be damned, he wanted a good steak. He wasn’t out to make trouble and his money was as good as anyone else’s, they’d just have to deal with it.
As expected, the maitre d’ tried to hide her grimace as Marcus got nearer. He could see the sinking feeling in her stomach as well as the seating guide & door greeter next to her when he got to the threshold. Regardless, he smiled and greeted them with a “Good evening. Just 1 please,” before they could even ask. The maitre d’ nodded quietly and handed a menu to the seat guide – who quietly led him to a smaller table. He got no argument when he asked for a seat as far removed from the rest of the patrons as possible – even if it was a slightly larger table. He ordered, he ate, a few patrons left in a hurry regardless of his attempt to keep as far from them as possible – mentally in the back of his mind he flagged each of them as the weaker willed of the populace. It was uneventful, and the steak was actually quite good.
He had been tempted to try and order a beer, to see if they’d even bother daring to card him – but he was tired from a long drive, and didn’t want any trouble or stress right now. Towards the end of his meal another table had been seated, and Marcus’ hackles were already rising even before the 4 of them started looking his way on occasion. They were not, as he would have expected, asking to sit as far across the restaurant from him as possible. They muttered to themselves and conspired – voices kept low. He did not like them already and as the minutes ticked by, he liked them even less with each passing moment. Something was up with them, and either it involved Marcus – judging by the continued glances his way – or his presence there was as concerning to them as theirs was to him.
Ultimately, the evening ended without a conflict. Even though he did not get the best service, he still left a good tip – part of him was annoyed his waitress didn’t check on him more (more of him was annoyed by those suspicious four sitting nearby conspiring and scheming), but the rational side of him had already expected and forgiven the waitress for the behavior, because it was largely him as the reason she didn’t come by his table that often. He returned to the Motel-6 he had passed by, and got himself a room with little problem from the desk clerk. Either he had his blinders on, or was used to dealing with ‘odd’ sorts in the evening. Tomorrow would be a challenging day – he had to enter another’s territory and supplicate himself, and Gaia knows how he’d be received.