Disclaimer: This chronicle is for mature audiences only.
The group of werewolves began to travel to the Shadow location of Lake Hammond, still unsure of what to expect. Were they going to be able to talk to the spirit of Cooksfield, or would they have to fight it into submission? These thoughts raced through them as they raced northward in the realm of the spirits.
Miles into their journey, Cain’s ears flicked forward catching the sounds of battle. Ken joined him and they slunk towards the sound of the fray. It was not just some argument that they had chanced upon, but a full battle for supremacy of the land. Huge dump trucks sporting metal tusks roared their heavy diesel engines at thick-trunked trees. The trees swung their mighty branches, their roots tore at the ground beneath their enemies tires.
Photo is taken from here.
“Probably where Chastain’s building his little houses,” Anthony commented when the two reported back. Ken wasn’t thrilled about it, but he suggested that the group take a westerly path through a thick wood. It would take longer, but it would be out of the battle’s path. Still, it would be better than having to backtrack to find a route that bypassed both battle and wood.
The group had to change between forms to make progress in the thick woods. In wolf form, they scraped underneath logs. In near-human forms, they used their short claws to climb over seemingly ancient growths. The wood bothered them somehow, and for some time, none realized just what it was. Ken was the first to realize something unnatural. “There’s no moon.” After travelling the twisted grey woods, he had begun to feel turned around. He had looked above to Mother Luna to find strength in her half-lidded eye.
“No moon and no spirits,” Cain added. He had felt uneasy in the woods and finally placed the source of his feelings. There had been nothing. No birds, no rabbits, not even an Awakened tree had crossed their path.
Ken focused his will and shifted his eye’s vision to the physical realm. “Something is definitely odd here.” They ought to be further along than they were. In his vision, he saw the small post office for Middlebury Center. “Let’s get moving.”
The group had been travelling for almost an hour, but they grey logs and thick canopy seemed unchanging. This time, Anthony shifted his vision to the realm of the flesh. They were still in Middlebury Center. He could still see the American flag that marked the post office, waving gently in the night breeze. “We haven’t moved far,” he looked intently at Ken.
Ken read the message that Anthony hinted at, “Hello?” Something in this wood was messing with their perceptions, trapping them here. Silence greeted them in the dark wood. “Come out and state your purpose!”
Even at the insistence, nothing responded. It wasn’t the silence that had bothered Cain. It was that there was no end to this wood. Not just that, his inner voice commented quietly, it feels a lot like back on that day. Cain tried to crush that thought. Memories of his First Change were still unformed like a pile of broken puzzle pieces. What he did remember filled him with fear, fear of himself. Some of his team had still been alive when he changed. Wounded, yes, and gravely so, but alive. Nightmares had brought some of what had happened back, gunfire, screams, blood, but he had never remembered if his fellows had finally fallen under his own claws and fangs. He hoped he never would remember. Cain looked around, maybe he should die in a place like this. “Go on ahead, leave me here,” the weight of his supposed sins held him to the spot.
Cain’s depression was infectious, touching on the others. Ken stared up, trying to glimpse the moon, the stars, any kind of sky. Anthony looked behind, wondering if they had come so far as not to be able to return the way they had come. Were they hopelessly lost? Lost. Defeated. Shoals. The thought spiked in Anthony’s head. His previous pack’s ritemaster had told him of traps in the Shadow Realm called shoals. They were places of emptiness that acted like lodestones. Once in the area, they rarely allowed escape. He looked at Ken, “I think this is a shoal.”
Val overheard Ken and Anthony speaking about something odd in the Shadow terrain. She knew something was wrong with this place. The rotted spores on the grey trunks reminded her of her time at home, how her dad’s cigarettes had burned into the couch fabric when he had drunk too much. She knew it wouldn’t stop her, just as he would. She was stronger than this. She shook her head, “You know, Cain, I’m going to leave you here if you can’t keep up.” There was no way she was staying in this place. The group had a job to do, and by Father Wolf, she would see it done. She glanced at Ken, his own resolve steeled in his eyes.
Focused on escaping the negative well of the shoal, the group began making headway. They heard a quiet voice, “Take me from here.” Almost invisible, a grey owl spoke the First Tongue in a hollowed voice, “Please, Uratha, take me from this terrible place.”
Like they needed something else to slow them down, Val thought. She didn’t want to bother with the stupid bird, but knowing Ken a negotiation was brewing. “Come on,” she beckoned the owl. Its weak flutter managed to transport it to her shoulder.
The moonlight washed their faces in a cool light, the whirlpool depression of the shoal lost its grip on the werewolves. Ken made a mental note to see what had happened in Middlebury Center to have created such a force. He looked to the bird perched on his ally’s shoulder. “I am called Seeker of Truth, what is your name?”
The owl was staring at the moon as if gathering strength from it, just as the wolves had done when they had escaped the power of the shoal. “Eyes-of-Moon,” it responded offhandedly as it cocked its head towards its rescuers. Ken could see why it had been named so. The Owl spirit’s eyes were like the waxing moon. Even with the spirit having been drained by the shoal, Ken could feel an intensity in those eyes. He knew that many Owl spirits were known for their depth of knowledge, but there was something more in the vision of this Owl. Again, the Owl spirit cocked its head towards the moon, as if something had caught its attention. Its eyes shone silver, collecting the moonlight and reflecting it twofold. “To find the answers you seek you must go down to the beginning,” the words it spoke had the weight of truth on them.
The resonance was not lost on Ken, he sensed a change in the tone of the Owl’s speech. “What did you just say?”
Eyes of Moon’s head swiveled back towards his rescuers in a curious manner. It had known in the past that the children of the Wolf and Moon were strange beasts, but they had never been known to have poor hearing. Poor listening, perhaps, but they had inherited their Father’s ears. “Eyes of Moon, I said,” then the spirit took wing.
“Great, now we get to hang out with a crazy spirit,” Cain noted, hoping that the bird was out of earshot.
The Owl fluttered heavily down upon Val’s shoulder. “There are strange Lightning spirits ahead,” it breathed heavily, having tested its strength too much, too soon. “They go in straight lines and linger, very odd. I have always known them to be quick and erratic.”
Lightning spirits? Ken hadn’t seen any storms on the weather report. There shouldn’t be any such spirits in the area. Stable lightning spirits? Did the Owl mean Electricity spirits? “Do you mean Electricity spirits? How long were you in that shoal?”
Time had always been a problem with Eyes of Moon. So many travellers in the Shadow were so concerned with it. The Owl thought for the right term, but it didn’t know one. It had been so long, or at least it had seemed so. Its memories had been dulled and jumbled in that horrible place. It searched for something, “I remember Crow spirits talking of fields of dead flesh in the physical realm. They feasted on the Grey and the Blue ones.”
Grey and Blue ones? The Civil War? Ken knew that the Owl wouldn’t know anything about human wars. “Do you know anything about the area ahead?”
The Owl thought. A vision of a man in a blue uniform raising his hand to the sky rose from the shadows of its mind. “There was once a Colonel Cook who wanted to bring a town to life.”
“Let’s go around,” Cain suggested. It wasn’t the Electricity spirits they were concerned over. It was the Lake and the Town spirit.
As they travelled east, the group encountered the tiny water Gafflings that Anthony had seen on his reconnaissance in the physical world. Instead of interrupting their movement, the water spirits allowed the werewolves and their owl companion to pass. Words of encouragement and alliance bubbled in their mouths. “Help,” some annnounced to their fellows. “Aid,” others claimed a union of intent with the werewolves.
The others looked questioningly to each other. “They’ve probably heard of our battle in front of Moore’s house with the Paranoia spirits,” Ken mentioned wryly. “Probably think that were allies with Cooksfield and Lake Hammond,” he added, remembering his misjudgement at the Moore house.
A thick mist shrouded what the group thought to be the Town spirit and the rushing water moat of the Lake spirit came before the group. Val measured the distance. It was about twelve feet across, she guessed. A simple matter to jump. “Right, then, let’s get to it.” Her four powerful legs surged forward in a leap.
Her jump should have easily crossed the wide moat, but she was intercepted. In mid-air, a wall of water rose and clasped her in a liquid grip. Val’s eyes widened. She couldn’t move. She was surrounded by water and had little breath inside her lungs. She had expelled it all as she left the ground. The wall of water moved, throwing her to the ground. Val shook her fur angrily. She was pissed that it had caught her so easily and dismissed her just as easily. Unlike the quiet bubbling of the small Water gafflings, the spirit spoke with a strong, fluid voice, “Why do you trespass Uratha?”
Strength, Ken thought, they needed to show that they were not to be trifled with. “We do not speak to servants. We come to talk with your master.”
A quiet, yet harsh, metallic whining was heard behind the wall of mist. “Yes, I live to serve, Master,” the Lake spirit spoke in a humble tone.
The water rose at least thirty feet high, completely shielding the town from view, and then fell. It revealed a rotting pile of metal, wood and brick. The Town spirit looked broken, metal was corroded, wood was bloated, brick was crumbing. Anthony noted the fragments of a statue, a thin, moss green arm stretched to the sky. It spoke in a wizened voice, “Dogs of the Moon, leave or I shall have you all drowned. Your will is no concern of mine.”
“Master, you could show your strength by allowing them to live in your mercy. My children have told me that they have aided our mission.” It seemed as though the spirit seemed unwilling to fight the werewolves. Did it not like fighting, or did it think that it would lose to the Uratha?
Val called upon her Warrior’s eye, the gift of Mother Luna to all her Full Moon children. She sized up the Lake spirit and shuddered at it’s physical power. It was far beyond her capacity to defeat, at least on her own. She told the others so.
Now the group was faced with a difficult decision. Do they fight, or do they seek answers elsewhere?