Disclaimer: This chronicle is for mature audiences only.
Troy looked between the group and the wheezing town spirit, “Is there any way we can back out of this without losing face?”
Ken didn’t want to give up. The answer was with the Lake spirit, but he just couldn’t see it. “Why do you serve Cooksfield?” Perhaps it had made an oath to serve, or had been trapped in a promise. If the Shadow was a reflection of the physical world, then the Lake should have consumed the Town. He desperately searched his thoughts to find a solution. Just as Troy whispered, they would lose face if they retreated.
Photo is taken from here.
A puzzled tone entered the voice of the Lake spirit, “I can only be what I am.” Its sounded as if Ken had asked it ‘Why is the sky blue,’ or ‘Why is water wet.’ Lake Hammond was merely stating the obvious.
Anger tinged the grinding metallic voice of the Town spirit, “Because you have aided my quest, I permit you to leave. Do not tarry, Uratha, or you shall tempt my wrath.”
Ken looked back to the group. It had been a mistake to come here. He had underestimated the desire of spirits’ willingness to deal with werewolves. In West Virginia, the local spirits already respected his grandmother’s pack. Clearly, the spirit of Cooksfield had no respect for him and his housemates. “I’ve got nothing here. We should go.”
The group returned to the Creed House in silence.
“None have,” Drowns-in-Lace began to report her watch when she saw the Owl spirit riding on Val’s shoulder. The putrid color drained from her face. The muck slipped from her dress. Soon, the Fear spirit looked the part of a petite Victorian girl ready for Sunday Mass. The spirit lowered her eyes and curtseyed to the Owl spirit.
Val cocked her head, “Hey, bird, you know her?”
The Owl spirit swiveled its head between the Fear spirit and his new werewolf friend, then hooted.
Back around the coffee table, the group began to discuss ways to tackle the problem. Troy sarcastically stated, “Well, that didn’t go well for us. What do we do now?” He pointed looked at Ken. If the man wanted to be Alpha, now was the time to step up or back off.
“We could always just blow up the dam. It’ll solve our problems for sure,” Anthony confidently said. “No lake, no power for the Lake spirit.” It had been doing all the work for the Town spirit, he reasoned. With no power, the Lake spirit would have to give up its service. It would be like pulling the plug on a bath tub.
“Sure,” Cain stated blandly, “that would only cause an ass-load of water damage to Wellsboro, not to mention we can’t get our hands on the explosives we would need to get the job done.”
‘Down to the beginning,’ Ken thought to himself. The dam was there at the beginning of the lake, it was there when the town should’ve been consumed. “Val, you think you can drive me up to the lake?” It had to be the beginning. There had to be some answers to be found there, perhaps hidden in the remnants of Cooksfield.
“Sure, when you want to go?” She didn’t think that the problem was going to be solved on this side of the Gauntlet, but at least it wasn’t sitting around and talking about solving the problem.
“Right now.” Ken wanted to keep things moving. He had seen the challenge lying in Troy’s eyes. His failure in facing the Lake spirit weighed on him. He needed to find the answer to defeat the Town spirit. Maybe there was some clue on how to free the Lake spirit from its servitude. “Who’s coming?”
“I’m in,” Cain stood up. Val and Ken had done well on their action against Mr. Stir Fry’s, the Chinese food place. He might as well keep the ball rolling.
Anthony was tired from running around all night, as well as emotionally sapped from facing the negative power of the shoal. “I’m going to have breakfast first.”
“Breakfast sounds good,” Troy commented. “We’ll catch up with you guys after.” He felt that another trip to the lake was going to be a waste of time. No need to waste time on an empty stomach.
The three werewolves pulled into a lot near the lake. By the water’s edge, there was a shack labeled, Dave’s Dive. Val had remembered seeing the place the last time she had been up here, noting its location. Not necessarily for the group’s knowledge, but because she had enjoyed the activity in Miami.
It was closed. The entrance was padlocked and so was the hinge at the service window. Cain took a look at the lock. It was nothing he hadn’t gotten past before. He would only need the tire iron from the truck.
“Dave ain’t opening today.” The voice came from another shack nearby, steam billowed out of Tim’s Coffee Hut.
The group wandered over to the Coffee Hut. They didn’t want to appear over anxious in their need to get dive equipment, especially if they had to come back later and break into the place. Val asked, “What makes you say that?”
“Hasn’t been here in awhile, the lake being so muddy,” he glanced warily to the north end of the lake. “Nobody wants to dive.”
Ken shook his head. Nothing seemed to be going right, “Well do you have a number for him? We’re looking to go for a dive.”
“Well, I don’t know.” Tim, they guessed his name was, scratched his head. He wasn’t sure about the three, there was something odd about them. “He did give me a number in case of an emergency, like if his place was being ripped off.”
Cain leaned in, “Consider it one, then.”
Tim decided that waking up Dave was not that much of a problem. He dialed the number, “Hey, sorry to call you so early, but there’s some people here that really want to rent some gear.” He looked to the three in front of his stall, “It’s going to be about two hundred each, are you still up for it?” Val rolled her eyes and nodded. “Uh-huh, yep, sure,” Tim hung up the phone. “He’ll be here in a bit.”
After an hour of waiting, Troy and Anthony arrived and heard the story of the others’ wait. Troy looked to Anthony with an ‘I told you so’ look on his face. “We’ll be back. I’ve got a lead to chase.” The two returned to Anthony’s truck and drove off.
Val turned to Cain, “I really hope that his lead doesn’t involve our couch.”
Shortly after, another truck pulled up. A shaggy-faced man stepped out, dressed in a bath robe and flannel pajamas. He flip-flopped his way down to the shack, “You my divers? I’m Dave. Got to tell you dudes, you’re not going to see much.” He fumbled through the pockets of his robe before he produced the right set of keys for the padlocks. “There’s so much mud out there that it’s like driving through a thick fog.”
He opened the shack’s service window, revealing a number of photographs of the drowned town. One in particular caught Ken’s eye. Surrounded by a watery sky, a statue of a Civil War officer stood, hand pointing to the sky. At the stone base, there was a dark patch, possibly a plaque of some sort. “What’s this one, here?” Ken pointed at the photo.
Dave paused in gathering all the waiver forms, “Oh, that, that’s a statue of Cooksfield’s founder, a guy by the name of Colonel Cook. It used to be part of my regular tour, but I doubt you’ll see it today. What with all the poor conditions.”
Ken only had a bit of training in diving, perhaps this guy might have the information they needed. Running this business, surely he had been down to the beginning plently enough times. “You know anything about him?”
“He was an officer for the Union. Didn’t really stand out, with the exception of his men. Documents say that his men loved him. That’s why he brought them here after the war was over, to start something peaceful together.”
“And do you know what it says at the base of the statue?” Ken had latched on to the idea that the statue was the core identity of the town. If there was any clue, then it had to be there.
Dave scratched his head, trying to dig the information to the surface. It was too early, he hadn’t even had his morning coffee yet. “Something like as long as something, we’ll rest something. I think it mentioned children.” He looked at the group’s puzzled faces, “Yeah, no, I got nothing. Sorry.” He laid out three copies of the paperwork. “Here, I’ll need you guys to fill out this stuff. Standard disclosure and waiver and all.” Looking at the forms, Cain thought it would have been better if the others had let him break into the place and steal the equipment that they needed.
Elsewhere, Troy and Anthony arrived at the town of Mansfield, the closest one to Lake Hammond. On his map, it showed that there was a university in town. Troy thought that it might have some information about the history of the town of Cooksfield. The wierd Owl spirit had told the others to go down to the beginning. He thought that down in history to the beginning of the town was what the bird was suggesting. Troy began digging through the card files of the university’s library.
Anthony was hopeful for the first two hours, but lost interest in the search. “You got this, right?” He stood up, stretching the stiffness from his limbs. “I just thought that there might be something in the periodicals section.” He left as Troy barely registered his comment with a nod. Anthony returned, arms loaded with back issues of Maxim magazines. Hell, if he was going to waste his time, mind as well look at something more attractive than Troy.
Back at the Lake, Dave had found the latitude and longitude location of the statue of Cooksfield founder. It was a difficult dive. Even with high intensity lights, Val could only see about a foot in front of herself. They only found the statue when her flipper banged against Cook’s raised arm. The group swam down, gathering around the statue. Ken moved hand over hand down the statue, searching for the base. Instead of stone, he ran into a thick mud at Cook’s iron knees. The statue in Dave’s photo showed a full body soldier. Had Chastain dumped that much here? He made a digging motion to the others. They had to find the message at the bottom.
Troy had made his first find. “Hey, Anthony, the dam’s,” he paused when he noticed that his companion had left again. He had found information about the building of the Hammond Dam. It’s initial stone bore an inscription that stated, ‘This work will serve all the towns it comes to touch.’ A weak quote, to be sure, but it explained why the Lake spirit served the Town spirit rather than having consumed it from the start. But that was only part of the answer, what moved the Town spirit. He continued to dig.
Val, Cain and Ken returned to the surface. They had been successful in their own dig. Ken had run his fingers over the face of the plaque, commiting the letters to memory. The sliding mud and corrosion of the iron had prevented them from just pulling the message back to the surface. Cain pulled his rebreather out, “So, anything useful?”
Ken smiled, his hunch had played true. The statue had the clue they were looking for. He now felt that he knew the town’s ban. “As long as the heavens are above me, the children of Cooksfield will find rest here. So, all we’ve got to do is make sure the heavens aren’t above him.”
“Crap,” Cain stated vehemently.
“What,” Val confusingly stated, “that’s good news, right?”
“No, crap, because that asshole Chastain is actually doing the right thing by dumping earth all over that statue.”
Troy had decided he had reached the limit of what this library had to offer. It didn’t help that Anthony was quietly mocking him by pretending to have fallen asleep, the last pages of ‘War and Peace’ playing pillow for his resting head. He had found out a good bit about the history of Cooksfield and its founder. The only thing he thought was useful was that the man always started making promises by pointing his hand to the sky and saying, ‘As long as the heavens are above me.’ It had registered with him that he had seen the same raised arm rising from the head of the Town spirit. “Come on, Anthony, let’s head back to the lake.”
Anthony pulled in next to Val’s truck. The group was discussing their next move. At the other’s arrival, the group exchanged information. Ken explained that they needed to bury the town statue to ensure that the heavens were not above the statue. Troy gave the reason why the Lake spirit served the decrepit Town.
“So tonight, we steal that barge that Val and Anthony told us about and bury the fucker.” It was pretty clear cut to Cain.
Troy nodded his assent, “I agree. We could use the barge to knock it over and bury it in the mud down there.”
“Why wait?” Anthony asked.
Cain shook his head, “It’ll draw too much attention during the day. Barge out there, divers going into the water with chains.” These things were supposed to be done under the cover of darkness. That’s just the way things were.
“Clearly Chastain’s been doing this for some time. People here should be used to seeing the barge on the water.” The others shrugged and decided that it was worth it to take a look at the barge.
Anthony had been correct in his assessment. The barge was just tied up there, nobody really cared as the group pulled away from the dock.
After all their work in the Shadow realm, the group moved to finish this challenge to their authority in the physical realm. Val, Ken and Cain returned to the water to wrap the anchor chain around Cook’s statue. Anthony and Troy drove the barge, pulling the iron founder to the lake’s muddy floor.
Back on the surface, Ken used his Gift of Two-World Eyes to look at the result of their labor. In the shadow, the mist shrouding the Town spirit of Cooksfield had been replaced by a muddy brown veil. Soon, the wieght of the earth broke timbers and bent metal. Though he could only see the Shadow, Ken felt that if he could extend his hearing there, he would no longer hear the grating metal wheeze of the killer Town. “It’s done,” he stated with relief.
“Let’s go home then,” Troy threw the barge into gear.
Val and Ken returned to the rental boat. “We’ll meet you at the barge’s dock, after we return all this gear,” Val noted.
Cain had begun tying off the barge when he caught a scent in the air. It was faint, and it wasn’t a normal scent. He more felt the scent than smelled it. The scent of his kin. Other Uratha were in the area. “We’ve got company, guys.” Troy reacted quickly, calling upon the Blending Gift, taught to him by a spirit of Shadows, and fading from view. A howl announced that the other werewolves had noticed the groups presence. It was a call beckoning allies closer.
Val had heard the howl as she and Ken parked the truck. She immediately shifted her form to the large near-wolf form and howled. It was not a call to her allies. Her howl let these new werewolves know that they were invading another’s territory and that such tresspass would not be met with kindness. It was a challenge.
Closer now, an equal howl answered the challenge. From his vantage on the barge, Anthony could see them all. Four huge wolves stalked through the area, converging swiftly on their position. He called out, revealing the enemy’s location to his allies.
Troy passed by Anthony in a blur as the Gift tried ineffectively to hide him, Blending only worked when Troy remained motionless. He ran wide in an attempt to flank the approaching werewolves.
Ken ran towards the howls in his human form, joining him in their powerful wolf forms were Val and Cain. He hoped that this could end amicably, but doubted it.
Soon, the invading wolves came into view. Matching their foes stride for stride, three wolves came forward. A female shifted into her human form behind the two others. Her black hair seemed to absorb the moonlight in its darkness and her naked pale flesh seemed to reflect it. “I am Starry Night of the Freedom’s Trident pack, you tred on our territory.”
Ten yards behind the enemy, Troy crept low to the ground, slowly closing on the enemy.
Ken knew that this was a ‘No Man’s Land’ to both packs. He had not seen any sign either here or while they were in the Shadow Realm that another pack had claimed the area. “I am Seeker-of-Truth, Tioga belongs to us, Chaos’ Shadow.” The name was the first thing that had come to his mind. He couldn’t have very well told them that they didn’t have a name. It would have put them on uneven ground. “Your territory is only what you can claim.” He hoped that his voice was calm and solid. Heart-Drinker had said that the pack across the border in New York was an established one.
“I’ll claim your nutsack in my mouth, dog!” One of the large wolves growled.
Val took a step forward, placing herself between the invaders and Ken. Sure, his crescent moon was in the sky, but it would take precious seconds to change his form and be ready for battle. She curled her lip, showing her fangs were ready to back anything Ken said.
The other large wolf matched Val and growled low and deep. It reverberated with spiritual power as the werewolf called upon a Dominance Gift well known to her. The wave of power bristled her fur, but Val had experience with the Warning Growl Gift. She had learned it from an Ancestor Spirit of the Storm Lord tribe, and she had learned to steel herself to its effects. She gave no ground to the interlopers.
Starry Night stepped back, returning to her own wolf form, “As you say, Chaos’ Shadow, your territory is only that ground you can hold.”
Val grinned, the time for talk was over. She howled as she transformed into her Gauru form, the destructive half-human, half-wolf war form of werewolf legend. Her pack would defend its claim.