The Storm Eater
As they had when the Aztecs fell, the Wyrmcomers awoke sleeping Banes with their stumbling around. Sometimes, they did destroy the monsters, but at the cost of several packs. If they were lucky, an Uktena who knew the proper ritual could be found to sing the evil to sleep or wrap it tightly in a cocoon of power. More often, the beast escaped into the Umbra, and we would eventually have to hunt it down ourselves.
The great Banes would stir now and again, awakened by activities on the surface or the neglect of their bonds. One in particular – I would not say its name even if I knew it – became more than what it was. Its Tenders dead and forgotten, the caerns powering its wards defiled or abandoned, this great Bane awakened when a railroad was laid directly above its resting place. One day, it rose up – and ran into a powerful spirit of Grandfather Spirit. The two spirits commenced fighting, each trying to destroy the other. Instead of destruction, they merged into a terrible joining. The drive for perfect order acquired a hunger; the urge to corrupt gained focus. And this abomination earned a name, Storm Eater, and it took a new purpose: to consume the energies of Grandfather Smoke.
Some think it was trying to achieve the unity lost so long ago, others said it hated what it could not have. It raged through the spirit world, devouring everything touched by the Wyld. With each Wilding consumed, it grew more powerful, and as it roared through the spirit world it shed strange mixtures of Bane and Weaver spirit, some of which possessed anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby.
It took a great deal of effort to find a rite of binding for what the Bane had become. But it took even more effort to get the Pure Ones and the Wyrmcomers to trust each other enough to work together. If it was hard for us, it was nearly impossible for Younger Brother. Our greatest hero of that time, a Songkeeper called Silent-Storm, reminded the Wendigo council of MiddleBrother’s honorable sacrifice; surely, the Croatan would not shirk their duties because of mistrust? He spoke with conviction and passion and knew how to melt their frozen hearts. In the end one of their own heroes stepped up to take his place at the rite, while a fine pack of Wendigo died to draw the Storm Eater to the site where it was bound. And Silent-Storm and the other twelve heroes died to bind the beast again.
But we must remember that this Weaver-Bane was only one of many Banes we imprisoned. We cannot forget the many Uktena who have died before and since to bring down the great evils, and all those whose vigilance keeps us safe. The other tribes may distrust us, may slander us, but it is because they don’t know – and should never know – what horrors we keep locked away.
At the worst of this already dark time the great Bane called the Storm Eater came, reveling in our sorrow and growing strong on our split blood. It was one of the many servants of the Wyrm that we, along with the Uktena and Croatan, had bound up so long ago that the binding was more myth than fact. The bindings once required rites and the constant vigilance of our caerns to maintain. Then our watch was broken. Our caerns were defiled or usurped by those who did nothing to uphold the old magic and beasts began escaping into the world once more. The Wyrmcomers didn’t listen to our stories or continue our rites. They thought they knew better. In “helping” us, they nearly brought the ruin of the Pure Lands in the form of a Storm Eater replenished by its long captivity.
Even now, we are not sure what the Storm Eater was. Perhaps it was a cousin of the Eater of Souls that had claimed the Croatan. Perhaps it was a horrible crossbreed of something ancient from the Pure Lands and something brought by the Wyrmbringers from across the ocean. It was certainly the largest Wyrm beast to slip the ancient rites. This great Bane and its minions brought sickness and death to the Umbra throughout the Great Plains. Imagine a dust devil bred with a Wyld storm and mix in the terrible cunning of a Wyrm beast. The resulting spirit-storm killed many and made it impossible to travel the Umbra through most of the West. Many good spirits were lost or driven mad even as we called upon them for aid against the Wyrmbringers. Many of our Theurges were lost to Umbral storms as they tried to learn the source of this new sickness. In a time of despair and confusion, it feasted on our pain.
The Uktena were already fighting the Storm Eater as it spread to their lands. The Wendigo knew we could not defeat the Storm Eater alone. Like the Croatan before us, we called for aid and, at last, the Wyrmcomers answered. We trusted them to act out of self-interest at least and they did not prove us wrong. Like us, they were unable t cross the sickened Umbra in safety; they too would be swallowed up should the Storm Eater grow stronger and sicken the Umbra all the way back to their own homelands. We saw our moon bridges falter and how the Bane’s minions spread to our caerns in the north and “their” caerns in the east.
The Strom Eater was a clever foe and sent many spirits to lead us astray. It tried to trick us and kept our hatred of the Wyrmcomers fresh so that we would not agree to work with them, even for the good of Gaia. Even though we suspected this tactic, some of our tribe said that we should leave the Wyrmcomers to their fate as they had left us to ours. If we had listened, the Pure Lands would now be a wasteland of storms and dust.
But the Wyrmcomers’ treacherous ways are not the ways of the Pure Ones.
Working together with our enemies, our shamans learned of a way to defeat the Storm Eater. That wisdom is lost to us now. We lost so much in those dark times. We do know that part of this powerful rite one of the greatest heroes from each of the thirteen tribes had to willingly to serve as sacrifice. The combined essence of these thirteen heroes fueled a weapon that when added to the magic of the Theurges was potent enough to destroy the Strom Eater.If we had not discovered this together with the Wyrmcomers,
I do not think they would have believed us, but as it was, the solution was indisputable. Word spread throughout the Pure Lands and soon a hero from each tribe came forward. Our hero was Spear of Winter, a northern Wendigo who had come south to join the heart of the battle for the Pure Lands.
The rite lasted from full moon to full moon, claiming the lives of many of the Theurges who performed it as well as the hero-sacrifices. When it was completed, the Strom Eater was vanquished. The cleansing of the Umbra took far longer and was the work of Wyrmcomers and Pure Ones working together for the first time. Perhaps the greatest aspect of this victory was that it temporarily brought peace to the Pure Lands. For a moment at least, the Wyrmcomers were our allies.