Awakening: The Battle of Cinder Cone

This sequence is a cutscene related to chapters 2-3 of The Enemy of My Enemy, the second story of the Awakening Chronicle.

*     *     *     *     *

Joseph Chases-the-Dream rejoined his pack after consulting with the mixed task force of mages, Garou and Kinfolk that had volunteered to strike at the witches beneath Cinder Cone and found his pack alpha Mingan Leaps-Like-cougar, the Wyrmfoe of the Sept of the Boiling Earth, addressing the several gathered packs. Joseph noted that a ways off from the group stood a tall, ragged bespectacled white man with close-cropped hair: Marcus Falcon’s-Resolve, who had been Ostracized. The other Garou present were ignoring his existence, neither welcoming nor forbidding him: he did not exist in their eyes, and Joseph blinded himself to the disgraced Silver Fang as well.

Mingan spoke: “We of the Warpath shall be the head of the arrow aimed at their hearts. Spear Dancers, follow immediately behind us, and the rearguard shall be the Black Wings,” Leaps instructed them as he reviewed the plan of attack. He gave each pack their assignments of which portions of Cinder Cone’s peak each was to sweep clear.

“The Wyrmbringers have numbers. They have high ground, and distance, and they are armed with silver ammunition,” Leaps stated gravely, “We must advance up a steep slope to fight them, and we have no cover other than what we ourselves can create. Also, there are Banes on the mountain that may materialize to join the fray, and the Umbra on the mountainsides is warded to impede an approach from that angle,” He paused a moment to let that sink in, but then he added, “That will not save them, for we are Garou, the fangs of the Great Mother. We are half of the strength of the Sept of the Boiling Earth, the children of mighty Tehama, the manitou of the volcanoes of these lands, and the mountain upon which our enemies stand belongs to him. We have the patronage of wise Uktena, of fearsome Wendigo and all of the other manitou that serve the Great Mother.

“Yet to defeat them we must be wise, fierce and cunning. There are Namebreakers on Prospect Peak that are calling the winds and the rain so that we may have some advantage in our approach, but that alone will not be enough,” he said, opening a hand to receive drops of the mild yet chilly drizzle that had begun and was progressing towards a proper rain. “We have a number of our Kin in position on Prospect Peak to provide us a measure of covering fire. Many of you are children of Older Brother and know the secrets of the spirits of night: just before we break the treeline, summon a shroud of darkness to blind the men along the volcano’s rim. Children of Younger Brother among you, call upon the Manitou to lash those men along the rim that can still see with still harsher winds from the depths of winter. Then, we make all speed up the path and strike them with all of our might. Run swiftly, and run as silently as you may until battle is joined. Now we put on wolf’s skin to wait for the strong rains and my signal.”

The assembled Garou shifted into their lupus form and collected within the cover of the edge of the tree line, watching the skies and waiting. Chases-the-Dream pawed the ground, eager to get to grips with the men that had killed Silent Medicine. Leaps-Like-Cougar looked to him and whuffed patience, and Chases became still. He wished success and safety to the ad hoc pack of Steve, High-and-Tight and Alexis that was set to accompany Amrita, Linda and the Namers into the bowels of the volcano. When he had broken company with her to return to his pack, Linda had given him a kiss that carried the promise of much more behind it should they both live through the day. He reminded himself not to dwell on such matters at that moment, for he would need his mind clear and his wits about him so that he could both fight effectively and properly observe and remember the actions of his fellows. If they came away victor, there would be many songs to be sung of that day, and he meant to be prepared to sing them.

 *     *     *     *     *

 The winds and the chilly rain grew in intensity, and Leaps-Like-Cougar signaled that it was time. As those Garou present that knew disruptive curses employed them against the HSL men above, his pack broke from cover. The Warpath dashed up the hiking trail with every ounce of supernatural speed that they could muster without the slower pack members falling behind: each knew instinctively the pace that each the others could keep, and adjusted their stride accordingly. Moving as one body, they coursed through rain and the sound of scattered gunfire from above, joined almost immediately by shots fired upon the shooters from across the valley. Somewhere behind them, they heard a Garou from one of the following packs yelp as silver bullets struck him on the flank. They wound their way around the path up the volcano’s side, drawing ever nearer to their prey. The pounding rain made the trail muddy and treacherous, but they were surefooted and low to the ground and had nowhere near the difficulty that a two-legged runner would have had. It was certainly easier for them to run this path than for the men up above to aim their weapons at the swift-moving shadows of the racing wolves in the minimal visibility that the foul weather afforded.

As they reached the top of the trail, Chases saw that a row of men where kneeling there waiting to rake them with gunfire. As automatic weaponry clattered and men shouted to their fellows to hold steady, the Warpath surged forward through the hail of bullets, snarling as one. Leaps-Like-Cougar surged ahead of his packmates and bounded into the center of the human line, shifting into Crinos form as he landed and lashing about himself with his claws. Wherever they passed, a man fell back screaming. Just behind the deadly Ahroun came Chases-the-Dream, who while less swift was actually larger and more muscular in build. The big Galliard followed up his pack leader’s example, pouncing on one of the men and shifting into Crinos as he struck, crushing the falling human’s head into the muck beneath his full  weight. Theodora swept in at his side laying about herself with her huge labrys, scattering the limbs of foemen in her wake, while beyond Leaps, Chases could see his small Ragabash packmate Laughs-Like-Coyote driving her spear clean through both a gunman’s arm and torso as the man tried to fire his weapon at her. All of them felt the bite of the silver that flew all about them, but they were intent on their work and had Rage to drive them forward for they had a fallen packmate to avenge.

The pack broke through that front rank of human gunmen and loped over to the left where there were more men trying to fire on the other packs of Garou that were still dashing up the trail. Though every member of the pack was bleeding, they tore into that band of mercenaries as fiercely as they had the last, buying the packs behind them more time to reach the first ragged group’s remnants and finish them off. Joseph seized a man’s head in his massive paws and heard a satisfying crack as he whipped the man by it to sail across open air over the rim of the cone. More of the wyrm-soldiers were coming, but the enemy was under fire from outside as well: the Kin across the valley were doing their jobs well.

That was when Leaps-Like-Cougar roared and collapsed, his body riddled with silver bullets, and Theodora in the next breath did the same. For the barest moment, Chases and Laughs stood alone in the rain, surrounded by enemy gunmen. However, before the bodies of their two fallen packmates could hit the ground, both drove themselves to their feet as their Rage overcame their injuries and carried them back into the fray, driving startled men before them. Both were consumed with a terrifying berserk frenzy that no pain or fear could impede from carrying on the fight.

Once again the Warpath descended on their enemies in the pounding rain, as the other packs nearby howled and engaged in fierce close-quarters fighting with the human killers. Lightning danced about them and struck several of the humans, the booming thunderclap deafening Chases for several moments and lending an eerie silence to the battle. He could see but not hear as Rain-of-Icicles, a Wendigo Ragabash from another pack, summoned a powerful icy wind that covered a foeman in frost and blew him off the edge of the cone to tumble head over heels down the slope. The humans, while well armed and equipped specifically to fight and kill Garou, had been robbed of their greatest advantages: distance and easy sighting lines. Had it been a clear day, perhaps a few of the Garou would have reached the top of the cone and then been shot to pieces. In the fierce winds, rain and other obstructions to their visibility, they had been reduced to fighting up close and personal with nine foot engines of destruction that could move many times as swiftly as they could.

The HSL men had two advantages left to them however: numbers and silver. Chases was reminded how very dangerous those advantages remained when his berserk pack alpha leaped into the midst of a squad of the men who gunned him down while he was occupied ripping one of them in half. The rest of the pack plunged in just after him and butchered them, but Mingan was already in his human form lying amidst the muddy, bloody heap of slain enemies. Chases could make out his weak breathing and tell that his mighty alpha was still alive. There was a respite for the briefest moment as all of the surviving enemies seemed to be occupied with other packs, but then the berserk Theodora continued her rampage in the direction of the back of the Black Wings.

Knowing that her frenzied mind could not distinguish anyone outside her own pack from an enemy, Chases called to Laughs to support him and leapt upon the dangerous Black Fury’s back, plowing into her with all of the force that he could muster. She lost her balance and fell face-first into the mud with Chases atop her and then the much smaller Laughs pounced as well, helping Chases to restrain her. The two of them pinned the wildly thrashing Philodox for several very long moments until her struggles finally ceased and she growled to them that it would be okay to let her up.

“… Where’s Leaps? And my axe?” Theodora inquired raggedly as Joseph helped her to her unsteady feet. She was still badly injured, and with the rush of Rage subsiding the burning pain of the silver bullets was catching up with her. She growled and invoked Gaia’s blessings to help her push through the agony, and rose to her full height again.

“He is down, and you dropped your axe somewhere over there in your Rage,” he replied. “We will tend to him soon as we can, but we must first see to it that the healers survive. Come,” Joseph said decisively and ran on all fours around the flank of the squad of men that were trying to fight off the Black Wings and barreled into them with his two remaining packmates just behind. Thunder crashed and lightning raged across the mountain again as they struck.

 *     *     *     *     *

 Though a swarm of Banes had indeed arrived in an attempt to turn the tide of battle, they had not been enough to stop the Garou packs from sweeping the mountaintop clear of the Wyrm’s minions. Several Garou had been killed in the fighting and nearly all had been wounded, but they had wiped the HSL men out completely and only a few of the Banes had managed to flee.

Joseph saw to it that a healer was advised of his fallen alpha’s condition and dispatched him along with Theodora to see to Mingan’s recovery. When she demurred, he locked eyes with her and reminded her that she herself was too badly injured to continue fighting until she should recover somewhat as well. After a moment, she nodded her head and assented. He then took Mary with him and trotted across the caldera, gathering a few more Garou who could be spared and advising the others to send word of their victory back to the sept, and that he was taking some warriors with him down to determine the fate of the group that had entered the tunnels and reinforce them should that be necessary. If the Bane’s binding was still in jeopardy, than however costly this battle would be rendered pointless.

Along his path, Joseph passed the place where Marcus’ body lay half-submerged in a pool of blood-fouled water. Despite having no support from anyone else, the Silver Fang warrior had fought with desperate fury and it had taken several Banes attacking at once to bring him down. One of the Garou present hauled the insensible warrior out of the muck and checked his pulse wordlessly, making sure that he would not drown before the incoming Kinfolk could reach him and render assistance. Until such time as his presence in their midst could be lawfully acknowledged, that was all that they could do for him.

With several Garou at his back, Joseph descended through the breach into the tunnels. Once out of the wet and rain, he carefully removed his bow from its oilcloth covering and strung it. He gestured to the others to follow his lead and set out through the tunnels with a nocked arrow going on before. Though the lava tubes branched out into a maze, the scents of blood, gunpowder and death would be easy enough to follow back to their source.

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