Disclaimer: This chronicle is for mature audiences only.
Ken shook his head, “No, it told us to take care of our self-appointed duty of protecting the borderlands between Realms.” It had actually said more than that, and in that tone of its. Ken had kept his composure, but couldn’t wait till his power rivaled that of his grandmother. Then see if that spirit would talk to him and his fellows like dogs.
“Alright, then let’s get to work.” Cain dropped into his seat around the coffee table. Was he subtly asking, or perhaps commanding, the others to join him? Regardless, the others knew that the problems facing their territory would not go away on their own. “So what’s the first move?”
“We don’t want to go in there blind,” Anthony stated. “I could go up there and use my Gift of Two-World Eyes to take a look around. Don’t know much about boats though.” He didn’t mention that he didn’t really feel like rowing all around what looked to be a pretty big lake.
Planning things was never her big thing, Val had no illusions what the Full Moon called her to do. Sunder. Rend. Kill. However, life in Miami wasn’t all the werewolf life. She loved the blue of the ocean and had spent plenty of time both above and below the water. “I’ll take you up. It’s not much of a run. I know my way around a boat, but I sold off all my SCUBA gear. Didn’t think I’d need it in the woods of Pennsylvania.”
Cain nodded, “Good, recon is a good idea.” He was glad that Val said what she said. It allowed him to bring up a subject that had sat too long. “And you’re right, it’s not much of a run in a truck. But it’s a different story in the Shadow Realm. We’re going to have to run up there, do what we have to do, and run back.” He looked directly at Ken, “We’ll be gone for awhile.”
Ken returned Cain’s gaze. Fuck, but the guy was right. “Yeah, we’ve put it off as long as we could. Let’s go and talk with Drowns-in-Lace.” He had been trying to figure out a way around having a Fear spirit near the locus. Again, he silently cursed his lack of power. His grandmother and her pack would make short work of her. “Let’s take care of this.”
The group crossed over and stood before the pond in which the Fear spirit rested. It was murkier than the one in the real world. Looking into it, you felt that you could be lost and forgotten forever in its unknown depths. “Drowns-in-Lace,” Ken simply stated to the black mirror surface of the pond.
Slowly, a form rose to the surface. Gone was the illusion of a pretty little girl out of a Victorian painting. There were no crisp white frills or neatly tied velvet bows. Drowns-in-Lace stood on the water as a Fear spirit, looking like a bloated dead thing. As she spoke in the First Tongue, pond muck dribbled from her mouth, “You have summoned me Uratha?”
Ken steeled himself, it knew. He had not summoned the spirit. It had chosen to heed his call. It had spoken formally because it knew they were here to negotiate with it. It knew they needed its aid. He had to be careful what he said in the First Tongue, “We wish to make an agreement with you to protect our locus in our absence.”
The spirit smiled, through its cracked teeth maggots crawled, “What will you present me with in return for my service?”
Ken had known they would have to offer chiminage, but how much should he offer? No one had brought it up. Cain and Troy had been, ‘Let’s make a deal,’ from the very beginning, but no one had suggested terms of that deal. Maybe they all expected him to make that decision, since he had led the way with their approach to spirits. Ken rolled the thought in his head, ‘He had led the way.’ “The Serpent’s Creedhad a pact with you. What was it?” They had all been Bone Shadows, surely they had made a fair deal.
“I was allowed to sup nightly upon the power of the inner locus. They feared how I might feed myself across the Gauntlet. In return, I kept all away from their home. I did this for them for all turns of Luna’s face and I will do the same for you.”
Damn. There it was. She wasn’t going to do this every now and then for a price. It wanted to be kept on retainer and was threatening to cross the Gauntlet to feed if she wasn’t. He knew it was trying to be clever, though. It had said it could ‘sup’ on the Essence of the locus. There was no way a Bone Shadow would make that general of a deal. Each spirit had to spend a measure of Essence to remain Awake. He glanced at the others, and hoped their strength would back his words. “You can have enough Essence to remain Awake in return for your services.”
Troy was trying to follow the conversation, but they were using words that he had never learned. He caught something about ‘eat’ and ‘Essence.’ He had never even been allowed to speak in front of spirits in Philadelphia, but that was when he was so far behind the others in power. “Ken, what are you saying?”
One of the spirit’s eyes turned towards Troy, its other stayed focused on Ken, who seemed unmoved by the other werewolf’s words. “And what would you have me do with interlopers?”
Troy spoke up again, “What’s she saying?” This deal involved all of them and the font of their spiritual power. There was no way this should be left to just one of them.
He knew the spirit was trying to push for more Essence. If it did more for them, it would want more of their resources. “Your power is so great that even we tremble in your presence. Clearly, your mastery of fear would drive away interlopers.” Grandmother said two things were true about spirits. One, they were always hungry. Two, they all loved to have their egos stroked.”
Frustrated, Troy turned to the only other Ithaeur in the group, Anthony. “What’s going on, damn it.” The tone in his voice drew Val’s attention.
“He’s making a deal with the spirit,” Anthony responded, keeping his attention focused on the conversation. “He’s offering it enough Essence to keep it Awake in return for guard duty.”
Troy had never made a deal with a spirit before. Even when he learned his initial Gifts, the spirit taught him at the behest of his packmates. “Is that a good price? Shouldn’t we talk about this before he makes the deal?”
Val rounded on the two, “Will you shut the fuck up?” For the love of all that’s holy, didn’t Troy realize that arguing in front of outsiders was a bad idea. It made them look weak, that they weren’t a unified pack. Sure, it made sense now that they should have talked about what to offer Drowns-in-Lace, but that chance had passed them by. She figured that they needed to trust Ken.
Skin cracked and tore as the spirit smiled, “Indeed, my power is great. But what of those who wish to challenge my power. What should be their fate?” The Fear spirit’s gaze slowly turned to the black waters of the pond, suggesting what she felt should be the answer.
“Ken,” Troy stepped forward, “don’t you think the pack needs to decide what to give her?”
He wouldn’t be ignored any longer.
He looked to Cain, “Do you think we’re paying a good price?”
He repeated himself to Val’s angry gaze, “Do you even know what we’re offering?”
Shut the hell up, Troy, Ken thought bitterly.
He even looked to Jake, “Do you?”
Just because the others were unsure how to deal with spirits, didn’t give Ken license to do as he wished. The pack needed to protect their territory and his Oath was to keep all sacred places in it pure. The pack’s home and locus weren’t things that just one of them should be allowed to use as he wished. It needed a unified consent.
Ken whipped his head around. Troy’s comments in the background had been buzzing in his head like a cloud of mosquitoes. He met Troy’s gaze, “Do you still think this is a democracy?”
He had been used to Jake’s venom lashing at him. Troy had even become accustomed to Val’s mouth flying off the handle. Ken’s words left him speechless. Had he heard what he had just heard? Had the others? Did the Bone Shadow just declare himself Alpha of the pack? It was there, right? Didn’t the others hear it? If they did, was he alone in challenging Ken? Stunned, Troy stepped back.
It hadn’t come out the way he expected. Ken had wanted to get Troy to back off and let him finish with the Fear spirit. Instead, he realized that it sounded like he had just declared the race for Alpha to be over. Hell with it, Ken thought, why not?
Turning slowly back to Drowns-in-Lace, “When none of those present before you are in this house, we wish for you to defend it. None should be able to enter the house. Your powers should be able to chase away any mere interloper, physical or spirit. Should an enemy attempt enterance, you can use your powers as you see fit.” Ken hoped that he had worded it right, that they wouldn’t be trolling the pond daily for pizza delivery boys and mailmen.
The spirit took measure of the pack and its offer. It wanted more, but it would have sustenance on a regular basis again. It would have to hunt less and its aura of fear would still affect those who came near. “Then we have an accord, Uratha.” Just as it came, Drowns-in-Lace sank slowly beneath the still waters.
As he returned to the Creed House, Ken breathed a long held sigh, and said to no one in particular, “I’m going to bed.”
The next morning Val and Anthony drove out to Lake Hammond. On the way, Anthony noted a number of dump trucks, practically a convoy. A glance in the rear-view mirror showed them to be empty, beds coated with residual earth. Mastodon Construction was what the truck had advertised, complete with the picture of the extinct elephant pushing against a mountain. Construction always stirred things in the Shadow. He reminded himself to bring this to the others later.
Photo is taken from here.
At the lake, Val rented an electric motorboat and took Anthony wherever he asked. Part of her wanted to talk about what happened at the pond, but she was a bit unsure. If Ken wanted to be Alpha, that was fine with her. He seemed to have his head on straight. She knew that she shouldn’t be in charge. She always saw herself as the claws behind the leader’s words. But what about the others? What did they think? Clearly Troy had issues.
A midnight blue film covered one of Anthony’s eyes as he looked into the Shadow. He was surprised that the lake hadn’t fully appeared in the realm of the spirits. Instead, he saw what looked to be a swirling moat around a mist shrouded form. Even when Val piloted him into the mist, he couldn’t get a clear look at it. All he could see was a dark solid form, about the size of the Creed House. Surrounding the moat, which Anthony guessed was the spirit of the lake, was a number of tiny water spirits, with more being Awakened as he watched. It was a similar situation by the dam. Two large Electricity spirits stood sentinal while smaller spirits were being Awakened.
On the way home, a billboard caught Anthony’s attention. It had a picture of that asshole who wanted to buy the Creed House off of them, Greg Chastain. He was proudly announcing the construction of “Elysian Hills, a community of luxury homes.” But what was really interesting was at the bottom of the billboard. A picture of an extinct elephant claiming that the homes were being built by Mastodon Construction. “Hey, Val, we got some time to check something out?” He continued to tell Val that he thought the construction might have something to do with their current situation.
Back at the Creed House, Troy couldn’t sleep. After Ken had announced he was going to bed, Troy decided to go on his usual patrol. The whole time he was plagued with questions. A brief talk with Cain brought the toughest one. Cain had not seen Ken’s statement as a declaration of command. He had merely seen Ken repeating what Val had said earlier, that werewolves were not bent towards group decisions. While Cain had not liked the idea of one of them seizing command in such a way, he dropped a bomb on Troy. ‘Well, what would you have done differently?’ Troy had as much success responding to that as he had to Ken’s question.
He wanted to talk with the others. He needed to know how they felt. Why weren’t Anthony and Val back yet? It was a relatively quick trip. He texted them, ‘Where R U? Want 2 talk about Ken = Alpha.”
Val’s cell phone chirped with the incoming text, responding, ‘Looking in2 construction, be back l8er.’
Seconds later, her cell chirped again, ‘Dont U think we all should decide on that?’
Val felt that she was back in high school, passing notes and all. She dialed Troy’s phone and put it on speaker. “No, I don’t think that we need to vote on Alpha. I thought that I’d said that when Cain said we should all be Alphas.”
“Listen, the only thing that Ken’s got is that he knows the First Tongue and Anthony can do that as well.” Val thought that Ken was doing more than just talk, but she decided to let Troy continue. “I don’t think that’s enough to claim the title. Do you?”
Val looked at Anthony for his reaction. What was the other Ithaeur’s stance on Ken’s play? Anthony shrugged and continued to watch the dump trucks being loaded with earth at the site. “It looks to me like he’s taken Alpha. If you’ve got a problem with it, then you should take it up with Ken.” Still staring out the window, Anthony nodded his head in agreement. He pointed out the trucks pulling away. “Gotta go.” Val hung up.
As he put the truck in gear, Val glanced at Anthony, “What do you think?”
Anthony had been thinking about it. While he wasn’t sure how they should pick an Alpha, or even if an Alpha should be picked, he didn’t think that claiming it in front of an outsider was the way to go. It was a good play, though. He had always been told to look strong in front of spirits, to look unified. Ken was clever making his play in a situation when it would hurt them all if they disagreed then and there. He looked over to Val, “I think we don’t have an Alpha yet.”
The two werewolves followed the dump trucks back to the lake and watched as the earth was loaded onto a barge. “They’re dumping the earth into the lake,” Anthony stated. “That’s why the water is so muddy, probably pissing off the spirits too.” They drove back to the Creed House and reported everything they found to the others.
“Well,” Cain started again, “that brings us back to last night. What’s our next move?”
“We think it’s the town, right?” Jake spoke first, “Why don’t we roll up there and kick the shit out of it and tell it to stop?”
“I’d like to talk to the lake spirit first, it’s doing all the damage. Maybe we can get it to quit.”
Cain had been mulling it over. Maybe it was like the Paranoia spirits at Moore’s house. With the information that Val and Anthony discovered, maybe the town and the lake were just pissed at being dumped on. “How about taking care of Chastain?”
“The town’s been killing people since it was flooded, not just since the dumping,” Ken explained. “But I agree that we’ll need to do something with Chastain sooner or later.”
“Alright,” Cain declared, “looks like the next step is to step into the Shadow and run up to the lake.”