Awakening: The Scouring

This is a follow-up on the third chapter of The Boiling Earth, taking a look at how the aftermath of the events of that session played out in Lassen Volcanic National Park through the eyes of Guillermo.

*     *     *     *     *

Smoke billowed thick and black into the skies over Prospect Peak. Though the late morning light was thin and the wind was chill elsewhere on the mountain, Guillermo was sweating. He mopped soot and grime off his face again and stalked along the trail with his shotgun in hand and his sister at his flank. Flames that were literally alive licked hungrily at fungus-covered trees far too close for his comfort. He and Maria were accompanying a couple of young Garou and a Kin park ranger on this part of the path to take care of any more of those Bane-infested animals that might be flushed out of hiding by the fire.

Guillermo had never seen so much direct action by spirits in the physical world before as he had this day, and it left him no little bit unsettled. He knew that they were out there, certainly, but he very seldom entered their realm, and the cities where he was most comfortable were less susceptible to overt and spectacular action from beyond the Gauntlet. In this lull in the frenzied activity of the past couple of hours, he had the opportunity to reflect on the strangeness of it all. He had known that spiritual support was coming, and would be joining the fray on both sides of the Gauntlet as the Sept of the Boiling Earth sent every Garou and spirit ally it could spare to cleanse this Blight, but simply knowing that had in no way prepared him for seeing the ground buckle as an avatar of Volcano literally erupted from it in a welter of spirit lava  and stepped forth to purge corruption alongside the Garou pack that was sworn to it, or for seeing the Silver Fang girl he’d never met before (Zoe, he thought her name was) and the mute Metis Uktena shaman summoning spirits of ambulatory flame to walk through the forest igniting all in their path. While he had been focusing on shooting down a fungus-covered fomor hawk, he could swear that he had seen a towering figure made out of smoking basalt whose seams and crevices gave off a dull reddish glow wrapping its mighty arms around a suffering, corrupt tree in order to set it alight with radiant heat.

Forest Service personnel were on the way along with firefighters, Guillermo was informed by the ranger that was along with him carrying a rifle, but the sept’s Kin among them had managed to delay them enough to buy the sept time to complete the work on this side of the Gauntlet, and arrangements were already being made to paint this whole thing as a controlled burn. The local camps had already been evacuated, though there were probably a dozen or so hikers and campers that human authorities were never going to be able to account for. The Garou had made sure of that – the corrupted remains of the fomori and Scrag hosts had been among the first things that Volcano had obliterated. Maria had barely made it clear from looting the Scrag hosts’ car keys before the spirit had descended on them, in fact. Nobody had wanted to touch anything owned by the fungus-ridden Fomori, however.

“Maria, have you seen Marcus?” he said in his growlish Glabro voice towards his sister. He hadn’t seen the big Silver Fang in over an hour.

“Mingan sent him to help mop up the Umbra a while ago. Sent him into the thick of the worst of it. Not that I’m surprised,” she replied, shaking her head.

Guillermo sighed and had to murmur agreement. Yes, High-and-Tight was fond of the big Ahroun, but he would not for a moment deny that Marcus had earned his way into a whole lot of trouble. It wasn’t as if an Uktena sept was going to show its only resident Fang a great deal of leniency for almost killing a visiting Garou while there were Wyrm threats to destroy. Even if that visiting Garou was Steve of Cleansing Path.

After a few more moments, the howl-signal came: the area was clear of fomori and now only the fire needed to do its work until it was time to extinguish it. All Garou were to gather into the Umbra to take part in an ambitious and massive cleansing.

“That’s my cue,” Guillermo noted, handing his shotgun to Maria, who removed its bayonet and stowed the firearm in the duffel that she was carrying.

“While you’re there, I’m going to have to go with Ranger Rick here, put on a uniform and make sure to vanish some dead guys’ cars from the campground area. I hadn’t expected a chance for a little grand theft auto while we were out in the sticks, but The Veil Shall Not Be Lifted, right?” she threw her brother a wink and kissed him on the cheek. “Good luck, mijo. See you soon.”

“You too,” he replied. Guillermo could tell that she was physically and emotionally exhausted from the day’s grueling battles and being assaulted by Banes, but she was an extremely tough cookie and he appreciated her steadiness. It shored him up. That, as much as anything else, was why he needed his big sister. He watched her walking away with the Uktena kin fellow as he made the slow and difficult transition from one burning world into another.

*     *     *     *     *

Hours later and miles away, Guillermo found himself sitting cross-legged in front of a quartet of sept officers: the lean and cunning Wyrmfoe Mingan Leaps-Like-Cougar, the huge and quietly smoldering Warder known as  John Burning-Mountain, Henry Farsight who was the sept’s current Talesinger and as a Child of Gaia was one of the sept’s few white members and the pretty young Truthcatcher, a serious yet compassionate woman named Mapiya Sacred Hoop. The natural amphitheater where he was meeting with them had a breathtaking view of the mountainous national park, but Guillermo didn’t have time to focus on that. He was being debriefed, after all. He had already given them a summary of the events of the past two days and a detailed report of the several battles that his ad hoc team had engaged in at the Blight both before and after the arrival of Mingan’s pack on the scene. As the Galliard of the temporary pack, it was his duty to remember all that had transpired, both glorious and ignoble. He had a mind for details, as all Galliards were expected to, and he told them what he knew though he spared his speculation.

Now it was clear that they wanted some of his own thoughts, not just a report of the facts: “Tell us of the woman who causes the plants to bloom, this Amrita Singh,” Mapiya inquired searchingly. “What do you think of her claims?”

“She’s on the level,” Guillermo replied with a shrug. “She says that she’s some sort of avatar of something called Prishni, which I guess is either supposed to be Gaia, or one of Her servants… but she says that she’s only recently become what she is, and she knows next to nothing about the world we dwell in.  She does seem to carry a bit of Gaia around inside her, I think. There’s something about her… holiness, I guess.” The officers nodded, bidding him to continue. “She was apparently sent to find and help the Garou, but I don’t think she got a very good first impression of us; she was upset to the point of angry tears when she left with the Namebreakers. She seemed okay with me personally, and I hope that we have not chased her off for good.”

“Theodora confirmed what you say. She has an awakened spirit within her,” Mingan replied. “It is as if she is a fomor, but of Gaia rather than the Wyrm.”

“Mmm,” John murmured, “Contact her again. Soaring Condor will much desire to meet her, and may know lore of her kind. Invite her here. She will be our honored guest, and we shall show her that the Sept of the Boiling Earth still has honor. She, this Steve of Cleansing Path and his woman who found her.” Guillermo nodded his head in acknowledgement of the Athro’s order.

“About this Steve and his woman…,” Sacred Hoop asked quietly. “Do you think that there was any substance to the accusation that he is of Grandfather Serpent?”

Guillermo shook his head emphatically, “No, that was just fighting words that went too far because he got on Marcus’ last nerve. Steve is a hyperactive pain in the ___, but he fights hard and he’s no traitor.”

“But he did bring Weaver-tainted Namebreakers into our protectorate,” Mapiya probed.

“Sure, but they’re okay, or at least those two don’t want to make trouble for the sept. Steve didn’t offer to bring them to the Bawn or anything like that. I’d rather think of them as allies at least for now. They’re not going to go to all that trouble and then bring a bunch of their buddies down on our heads,” Guillermo replied thoughtfully. “They said that they think that Blight was deliberately created by a… what was the word? Oh, Nephandus; they said that means a magician who uses Wyrm magic. When they figured that out, they were pretty pissed about it too. Yeah, I think they’ll gladly help hunt down that son of a _____.”

“Which reminds me… Linda was able to read the Wyrm-wizard’s magic symbols and helped one of the Namers interpret them to figure out what they were for. Blondie said they were from some outfit she’d bumped into before, called um… The Pretanic Order I think.”

“So this woman claims to know something of the ways of the Wyrm,” Mingan commented.

“Yeah, she said some things I couldn’t follow about something called Urge Wyrms and Cardinal something-or-other,” Guillermo added. “She may be a pretty girl, but she’s creepy as ____. Fights like the devil against the Wyrm, though. Maria saw her charge four Scrags all by herself and engage them at point blank with a shotgun. Even shoved the barrel down one’s throat before pulling the trigger. Walked away from it with nothing but a cut on her jaw. Mousy little chica‘s tough as nails.” Then he chuckled, remembering something, “When I asked Maria if she thought Miss Linda is crazy, she told me that when the girl charged, she said she was doing it to ‘draw aggro’ away from the other two.” He shook his head in amusement, but then noticed their lack of recognition for the term. “Uh… to keep the Banes from attacking anybody else.” The assembled sept officers nodded understanding.

“I detected strong medicine in her presence when I encountered her, but Theodora tells me that she is Kin rather than a magician,” Mingan told his companions, “Unless the medicine that I sensed was meant to trick my pack-sister’s perceptions… in which case she could be both Kin and Namebreaker.” He exchanged a meaningful look with Burning-Mountain, who lowered his eyes briefly. Though the Warder’s facial expression was as stone, Guillermo sensed a measure of sorrow there, as of an old wound twinging.

“I don’t know, Mingan-rhya,” Guillermo offered, “the Namers didn’t seem to think she was one of them even though they listened to her advice on the Wyrm. But now that you mention it… when Marcus got pulled out of the Umbra, he accused Ashton and Odysseus of doing it… but Linda was the one that was hanging on to his fur. Later on, when they were discussing scratching out the Wyrm-glyphs in the Umbra, Amrita suggested that either Steve or Linda could do it. Maybe she is, or has some other way of affecting things across the Gauntlet. If it was her, Marcus owes her his life and she didn’t even claim the credit… those Banes had his number. She takes orders from Steve, and risked her life to protect Amrita.”

“Whoever this Linda woman is, she has secrets that we would be wise to uncover. Nevertheless, she and the sorcerers have fought well in defense of both Gaia and this sept today.” Mingan observed. He and Mapiya made eye contact and nodded to one another, and then they looked to John. The laconic Ahroun nodded slowly, granting permission to their unspoken request, though his brows knitted together.

“It is agreed,” Sacred Hoop stated as John sat in silence with folded arms, “She does not appear to be an enemy at this time. We shall take no action against her and observe only, until such time as we can determine what she is hiding, at which time we shall reassess our judgment. Though the sorcerers are not to enter the Bawn, we shall honor them as friends until they may prove otherwise. Burning-Mountain-rhya’s previous instructions stand, with one slight modification: Linda may enter if she is accompanied always by either Amrita or at least one Garou other than Steve of Cleansing Path.”

“What of Steve?” Mingan inquired of his companions rather than Guillermo, “the trickster came in good faith and has served mostly with honor. Though he was foolish to bring outsider allies without first informing us, he has been treated with more suspicion than is warranted and abused sorely.” The others nodded and Guillermo found himself agreeing as well.

Henry Farsight was the first to speak, “Your reasoning was sound. Leaving him half-dead in the care of his Kin woman was a regrettable necessity for you, Mingan-yuf. Had he been healed then and there, then I fear that he would have attempted revenge on Falcon’s-Resolve and we would have had to bury one or both of them… but now that the immediate danger is past, we ought to make it up to him.”

“Agreed, Farsight-yuf,” Mapiya inclined her head and looked back towards Guillermo. “We desire to cleanse the shame that our errant septmate has placed upon the name of Tehama. Go to him tomorrow, High-and-Tight. Bring the new Silver Fang shamaness with you. She is eager to meet with him anyways, and she is gifted in matters of healing… and it is well to have him healed by the hand of the tribe that felled him. Once he has been restored to health, bring him here and we shall honor his courage and seek his forgiveness.”

“Shouldn’t I call them up and go tonight? I have the woman’s number,” Guillermo asked.

“Let them rest,” Mapiya advised, “Though it would be wise to call her tonight to see where they are staying and advise them of your coming. Also, he have another telephone number to give to you, for the Namers: you said that they do not know any of their own society in this region. They need to know of one of their kind who can be trusted. ”

“Tonight, we need you here,” Henry said with a smile. “You fought bravely and have offered wise counsel. We believe that a Rite of Accomplishment is in order, and also your first battle wound is to be honored.”

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One Response to “Awakening: The Scouring”

  1. Awakening: Meanwhile, Not Far Away « Casewerk: More Internet Ravings Says:

    […] This is a cut-scene taking place a number of miles north of Prospect Peak during the early stages of The Scouring. […]

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