Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cave of Secrets: Bargaining (WtA)

Alright, so post-Gencon, I had some stuff to get caught up on, then there was the Gencon stuff to do, some freelancing work, and some stuff kinda fell into my lap... anyhow, I'm finally getting to this. And it was a pretty busy session in any case. So let's get to it.

So where we left off, the Sons of the Saga were headed to interrogate the Skin Dancer they captured. They plan to get her to talk, if need by, by offering her a chance to live -- a 24-hour head start, at least, as long as she gets the hell out of the area and stays out. Only issue there, really, is that they want to make it a legitimate offer, and not just betray her and kill her afterwards like the pack has done in the past.

Actually, Rebel's bigger concern is that they don't have any means of enforcing any sort of grace period. There's not a hell of a lot of incentive for any other Garou to honor an agreement made between the Sons of the Saga and a Skin Dancer of all people. Jerry says that he'll take care of it if it becomes an issue. He does say, though, that regardless of any deals if she can perform the Rite of Sacred Rebirth, then she has to die to prevent the Rite from potentially spreading.

None of them argue with that.

They go to the shed where they have her restrained with a talen that restricts her shapeshifting and tied to a metal folding chair. Jerry starts in the interrogation by calling her foolish, for not understanding the cause, for being willing to kill five Garou for her own selfish reasons. She counters that he doesn't understand her, that she does understand the cause, and it's not as simple as that. She refers to him, a metis, as an 'ape-raised slave,' and Åke almost frenzies. Jerry sends him to stand guard outside the shed.

I didn't exactly keep a transcript, but they proceed to banter back and forth a bit as Jerry tries to convince her to tell them everything she knows about Samson. At one point she asks how late it is, and then if Smokepaw (a local lupus) is still around, or if 'she's taken her nightly walk to cope with dealing with the apes.' Wants-to-Know goes out and confirms that she's still at the sept with the Garou observing the not-quite-wake for Noah. He and Åke keep a subtle eye on Smokepaw just in case she's in immediate danger.

Back in the shed, Jerry and the captive go back and forth about her pride, and she calls him on the fact that he was born with gifts no other Garou can understand, whereas she's earned hers. She was willing to kill for hers, and that she alone is worth more than the Garou who died to give her the ability to change forms and feel Luna's blessings. Rebel points out, though, that two of his pack were enough to take down four of hers, and she turns on him and asks who he killed to earn his place.

He looks her in the eye and tells her he killed his own brother. He was born to a litter of Spiral Kinfolk wolf cubs, and was rescued from a hive by a mixed pack of Silver Fangs and Bone Gnawers. The Silver Fangs wanted to write him off as a lost cause because of his blood, but the Bone Gnawers insisted on giving him a chance, at which point they gave him to the Millers to raise. One day the Spirals attacked the Millers trying to get him back, during which he had his First Change to help defend them and encountered his brother from that litter -- who had walked the Spiral -- and had to kill him to protect the Bone Gnawer Kinfolk. So that's who Rebel killed to earn his place.

She pauses and looks thoughtful, her guard dropped by the respect that Rebel had earned in that moment. She asks, politely, if she can shift and get comfortable. Jerry removes the talen and she shifts to lupus form, which she favors -- it was the wolf aspects of being Garou that appealed to her, after all. And she tells them that there's a cemetery nearby -- the Sacred Peace Cemetery -- where Samson goes to commune with a fetish that lets him draw upon the spirit of Sam Haight. She mentions that the fetish was a gift from their totem, which the pack assumes is Minotaur -- at which point she corrects him. Minotaur is the 'tribal' totem of the Skin Dancers, but her pack, the Vulture Walkers, follow Tick. And that the Supplicant's Compass can lead them to Tick's or Minotaur's realm as long as the blood of a Vulture Walker is on it.

So now that they have everything they think they can get out of her, they're about ready to let her go, until Jerry asks if she knows the Skin Dancers' ritual. She says she does -- that they have to perform it on themselves. And now there's a problem, because now they're waffling on whether or not they can follow through on their initial plan to execute her.

Rebel comes up with a plan, though. He asks Jerry to give him a bit of time. He goes out and asks around the sept to see if anyone has a Partridge Wing he can borrow. He manages to get one from an as-yet-unnamed member[0] of Aedan Thorne's pack and brings it back. The Patridge Wing, for those of you who don't know, is a fetish that can be used to remove someone's memories -- generally with their permission. So Rebel borrows one and tells the Skin Dancer (whose name they still haven't bothered to get) that she'll be allowed to leave in the morning if she uses the fetish to forget knowing the Rite (basically for fear she'll teach it to someone else). She agrees, and puts it to use.

But now there's an issue. The pack wants to go after Samson. But Rebel's afraid that if they leave her alone, then someone who's not necessarily bound by their promise will come in and just kill her. At first he wants to stay behind and watch her for her own protection. Åke thinks this effort is foolish, because if someone else kills her the pack can't be held responsible. Rebel points out, though, that he doesn't think it's good for the pack to get a reputation for their word only being technically good. He believes in keeping to the spirit of the agreement. Then they remember that they still have access to the pocket realm in Florence Slavin's old house. They could stash her there overnight because very few Garou know how to get in and out of it and they wouldn't think to look for her there anyways. Rebel and Åke go back and forth over this until Jerry puts his foot down and sides with Rebel.

So they take her to the pocket realm, restrain her again for good measure, and ask Black Unicorn to contact Deb (since they're pretty sure they could trust her) and ask her to let the Skin Dancer out.

The pack goes out to the Sacred Peace cemetery but can't find any fresh sign of Samson. Wants-to-Know uses Pulse of the Prey to try tracking him, but Samson is slightly too hard to find. So they figure that if he's not at the cemetery, then maybe they can track him down via his pack's totem, and they use the Supplicant's Compass to find the paths to the totem's lair in the Umbra.

They come across a cave in an area where the ground has become flesh, and the trees' trunks are scaly, like hairs. The flesh cave itself is unpleasantly warm with veins hanging from the ceiling like roots, pulsing with blood, and the walls faintly glow, like a hand over a flashlight. A parasite the size of an elephant crawls out from the depths of the cave, wanting to know how she can assist the 'Fangs of Gaia.'

Of course, everyone's raring for a fight when they first get to the cave, but become so increasingly creeped out that when Tick emerges only really Åke is ready to announce that the Sons of the Saga are here to squish her.

She's all too helpful and up-front, explaining that she is the totem of the Vulture Walkers pack, and that she made a deal with Samson to bring back Sam Haight in some form. She did this because Minotaur is sick and weak and about to fall to the Wyrm as Malfeas invades his Labyrinth realm. By making Samson powerful enough to command the respect of the Skin Dancers as a whole, she can make sure that he can direct them towards a new 'tribal' totem... her, perhaps. And as near as they can tell she's telling the truth. She's not a Wyrm-spirit, she's not trying to get people killed, but she is taking advantage of the situation. And she proposes that perhaps, under her guidance, the Skin Dancers could form an alliance with the Garou Nation. After all, she points out, there are so many Black Spiral Dancers -- would it be such a shame if every five or so of them that got killed could make a Kinfolk into another warrior for Gaia?

It makes a weird amount of the sense and the pack is considering the idea, despite knowing just how hard of a sell this would be on everyone else. But the potential of it, especially if they spend time finding ways to make it more palatable, is very tempting.

But part of this involves verifying what Tick is saying about Minotaur. Åke proposes that he and Rebel should go on a recon mission. The argument is that if it's a trap, then if everyone goes they get killed. But because they can communicate through Black Unicorn, Åke and Rebel can keep the others apprised more or less in real time.

So Åke and Rebel use the Supplicant's Compass to find their way to Minotaur's Labryinth to find the ancient stone maze ahead of them. Rebel consults his brother's skull for tips on finding their way through it and as they dodge what can only be described as incursions from Malfeas itself as they find the middle of the maze.

They see Minotaur there, weakened and crazy and half-blind as tendrils of the Wyrm sink into him and drain his strength. The two of them see an opportunity to, at least, weaken the Skin Dancers and deny the Wyrm a tool by putting Minotaur out of his misery. But there isn't time to round up the rest of the pack, they need to act swiftly. Åke reaches out to Jerry and informs him of the situation and asks whether or not to go through with it. Jerry turns to Tick and tells her that the pack can slay Minotaur as long as she agrees that if she takes over the Skin Dancers, she can make it a ban for them to hunt Gaian Garou. She accepts the offer, on the caveat that not all Skin Dancers have to accept her as a patron, she only has so much control, etc. But the deal is made, and she shakes Jerry's hand with her freakish giant tick-leg.

So Åke and Rebel go after Minotaur. The normally-powered spirit, severely weakened by the Wyrm, still puts up a bit of fight but the two of them manage to put him down like the sick animal he is. Rebel finishes him off by biting through his spine, and Åke takes his nose ring as equal parts proof and souvenir. And then they flee the collapsing Labryinth as it fades back into the ether of the Umbra.

The pack regroups and leaves Tick with a reminder of their deal as they return to the Sacred Peace Cemetery. (According to Tick, when they went to the Cemetery before, Samson was actually watching the funeral home burn.) The cemetery is wreathed in unnaturally-thick fog and a half-dozen hobgoblins coalesce out of the smoke to attack them, fae creatures conjured up by one of Samson's gifts. A Scrag, a dangerous Wyrm spirit, joins the fray as well. But Samson announces his presence by emerging from the shadows and running Åke through with a Grand Klaive. He stabs him again and Åke's Rage keeps him alive. Samson, having fully given over to the spirit of the Skinner, taunts them ("I'll admit it. I'm feelin' a little strange. Been asleep too long, right? Clothes don't fit right. But I feel good, too. Strong. Come and see.") and fends them off until Rebel manages to get a good shot on him with his Fangs of Judgement Gift. He almost falls until his own Rage picks him back up, but Rebel rips a massive chunk out of his throat to and Åke, despite his frenzy, manages to pick up the Grand Klaive and take his head off.

The hobgoblins and the fog dissipate, the Scrag already defeated, and we leave off on the pack hauling Samson's carcass back to the sept.

[0]-- Seriously, I'm not about to name every individual hypothetical NPC in the caern, especially this late in the story.

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