Tooth and Claw

Epilogue

These are the chronicles of our queen. I cannot claim a definitive account, but a collection of my own learning and recollection for the benefit of others to come. May I do them the justice they deserve.


Chapter One

In the aftermath of the fae attack, our world was left in turmoil. We had lost more caerns in that one attack than we could begin to truly comprehend, and our numbers were severely depleted through the traitors within our own ranks and deaths in battle. We would not be able to grow those numbers at any speed, given how rare Garou children already were and how few lupus kinfolk we had left. It seemed that even though we had defeated the foe that had attempted to destroy us, we would still be left crippled and helpless before any predators looking for blood.

Our young queen did not waste time. Within a few days of her victory, she was already on the move. First, she severed the ties with her own pack, for she could not be alpha to them and to our whole nation at the same time. Then she acquired a selection of elders and supporters from the various tribes to travel with her, to act as counsel. Each tribe was given an opportunity to present someone for the role, and a limited timeframe in which to do so. It was clear she did not intend to allow for extended deliberation and ‘negotiation’ within the tribes – she did not have time to waste whilst we fought amongst each other for the privilege. If the tribes could not provide fast enough, then they would not have a voice in those early days. They chose fast.

Her methods were direct. Many disagreed with them, but the Garou could not afford to be divided or stubborn. An alliance had been made with the mages, and one she intended to honour. Further alliances were to be made with the fae, building on the existing relationship she had with their royal family and the debt that they arguably now owed for the saving of their realm and lives. She made no bones about redressing the great damage that had been done in the war of rage, about extending the hand of friendship and contrition to those remaining fera. If the remaining caerns were to be protected, then we needed help. If we were to reclaim and rebuild what was lost, we would need help. And if there was truly to be a chance at restoring the balance of the Triat, it was time to look for help.

There were months of negotiations. The course of politics never did run smooth, not helped by power grabbing and posturing on all sides. There were many who opposed the alliance with the mages, even after they had worked with us in our time of need to help us guard our caerns. Some opposed working with the fae as well – after all, if they were weak enough to have needed our help, to have been unable to prevent this ancient creature from threatening our world, then could we trust them to be our allies? And few would accept an attempt to reach out to the fera, for admitting an ancient wrong was a step too far in their eyes. Nevertheless, she persisted.

She travelled throughout our world and others, attempting to broker deals and peace where she could, and to display strength where diplomacy did not present itself as an option. She refused to back down, negotiating fiercely and reminding of how often people had told her she could not do the things she needed to do before, and yet she had. She reminded the garou that the fae and mages had indeed stood beside us in our time of need, that without them we would surely have failed. As time passed she became increasingly heavily pregnant, a difficult time for any woman and more so for Garou with the rage that dwells within, never mind a queen attempting to save the worlds. Everywhere she went she was followed by her mate and by those who had seen the way that the wind blew early enough to carve a place at her side.

And again and again, she did things that people considered impossible, and the seeds of caerns were planted anew. We had always had rites to create them of course, and we used those rites where we could afford to under her watchful eye, augmented by the power she was able to carry within her. But the cost of such things is far greater than we can often afford to pay at the best of times, and these were not the best of times for werewolf numbers…


Chapter Three

The Great Moot was held in July of her first year as queen. She made her intentions clear early on after her victory against the archfae, sent the messengers out fast. She wanted to meet the leaders of each tribe face to face, to properly greet all of them and allow them to present themselves and their tribes to each other. Unofficially, it was a show of power, a test of obedience for those who so far had been distant enough to avoid anything more than lip service.

Originally the intent had been to hold it after the child was born, expecting its arrival to be in June and wishing to avoid being openly pregnant with a metis before the more traditional members of our nation. However, that was not to be the case. While it had always been intended that the leaders of our tribes from around the world would travel to her, now she was so heavily pregnant that going to them was clearly no longer an option, had any been reticent. Most attended, coming to what they believed would be the damaged Sept of the Green in America to offer their fealty. Only the leader of her own tribe refused; a notable absence for those who were aware, but the other Silver Fang authorities who were there easily covered it up. After all, why would he need to be present when she was a Silver Fang? Others could easily speak in his stead.

Those who did come swiftly discovered that the sept was no longer the ruined shell it had been. They found a sept that had been rebuilt, expanded using the magics of both mage and fae to provide a greater space to use as her chosen base of command – a potent reminder of the capabilities of those she worked with, and the value of alliances with them. In the centre was one of the most powerful caerns many had ever encountered. She had been promised a boon from the fae queens for services rendered before the battle, and used it to uproot and relocate the caern which she was spiritually linked to. It was a complicated process, especially since it required intensive involvement from her and was done when she was almost six months pregnant. Now one of our oldest American septs had been restored. It was a symbol of hope, and a clear display of power that brought some of the more belligerent visitors in line as they saw first-hand what she was capable of.

Her pregnancy was a point of concern for many. There were numerous reasons, the most obvious being its litany-breaking nature for both the first and second tenets. Metis had never been well regarded among our people, and the knowledge that it was the child of a Black Spiral made things even more fraught, regardless of his cleansing. However, by the time of the moot there were other concerns as well. On the eve of the moot she was midway into her seventh month of what should have been a five- to six-month pregnancy. Further, she had not Changed, an event that was normally forced onto Garou women in her situation somewhere in the fifth month, a few weeks before the birth. There were rumours that perhaps her mate was not the father after all and the child was Homid, although it was difficult to believe on seeing them together. There was considerable speculation among those present.

It was revealed upon questioning during the moot that the reason for the queen’s Homid form was because she was unable to shift and had been trapped in her breed form for two months. Ultimately the questions proved irrelevant, as it appeared that the child had the same sense of dramatic timing as the parents. Her waters broke during the Fianna delegation’s presentation to her, although she refused any aid until all thirteen tribes had been given time – likely an uncomfortable situation for her, given that she had insisted they present alphabetically to ensure no accusations of favouritism. In the end, she gave birth in front of everyone at the moot, surrounded by theurges from every tribe and watched by one of the largest gatherings of our people that had ever been held. There could thus be no doubt about the events that transpired and the unique nature of her child.

There are many theories about how it came to be that her daughter was what she was. Some posit that it was the location of the child’s conception, created atop a caern and born beneath its boughs. Some attribute it to the changes the queen had made to her body, to the fundamental restructuring of her very soul that made her far more wyld than any other Garou – when she was part fae, part fera and regularly interacting with raw wyld energy, how could it not affect the growing child in her womb? Some have suggested it was the father instead, that since both his children were similarly unconventional metises then clearly there was something in him. And some claim that it was part of her fate, and unavoidable.

Regardless, the child that was born that day in a great beam of light beneath the caern was not a Garou metis, but a child half-human, half-wyld in nature, made of mortal flesh and light…


Chapter Four

In the aftermath of the birth and the moot, there was still much to be done. The queen had little time to rest and experience the traditional trials of being a new mother.

First, she was forced to address the insubordination within her own tribe. She had sent her father as an envoy, to convey her invitation to the moot and attempt a reconciliation of sorts after Lord Albrecht had been less than welcoming of her arrival onto the Silver Fang political stage. The steward instead chose to hold the messenger captive, believing a betrayal in the ranks and that the queen was attempting to usurp his throne. There was increasing concern among the orders of the tribe as younger members and those who had already met the queen faced off against those who refused her rule in favour of the steward. Tensions had been rising to the point of duels and blood spilt, and when news of her father’s capture arrived it became clear that direct action was necessary.

Attempts were made to reach out and reason with Lord Albrecht, but to no avail. When this proved useless, she journeyed personally to the courts and found a man deep in the throes of tribal madness, unwilling to bend a knee. He claimed an ancient prophecy of his own that supposedly labelled him as the last king of the Silver Fangs, calling her the betrayer and pretender – in fact, it was a mistranslation by a theurge and misinterpretation of the spirits’ will on his part. He issued a formal challenge of a traditionally bladed Silver Fang duel, which she accepted reluctantly. Many expected this would end poorly for her – she was young and had only recently given birth, he had decades of experience and a reputation as a great warrior. The reputation proved to be somewhat outdated.

First she disarmed him, taking his ancestral glaive, and he refused to surrender. Then she drew first blood, and he refused to surrender. Finally, when it became clear that the madness gripped him and he would choose no other option but death, she slew him.

The duel was honourably fought and recognised in the records, and as such even those most loyal to Albrecht who were present could not dispute its outcome. After that, the dissenting factions faded and became little more than the odd discontented murmur behind closed doors. It was hard to face down such a singular presence as hers, especially given how involved she was. The Silver Fangs fell in line with the rest of the tribes, or as much as any werewolf truly can…


Chapter Seven

She inherited one of the largest corporations in the world from her moth at the age of thirty. It had been prepared for some time – the older woman was mortal, and although still sharp-minded and formidable, she had been experiencing ill health. The handover was gradual, allowing the queen time to learn how to balance bother her royal and business duties and ensuring a proper support system on both sides. By that point most of the more traditional werewolves had learned to keep their dissent behind closed doors. The youngest of our people were fiercely loyal and she had become virtually impossible to challenge.

In a way, it was more to our advantage than the Garou nation could ever have expected. Having a hold over such a significant part of the human world allowed an unprecedented level of access to halls of power we had only dreamed of before, and a chance to make a difference we had never been able to – even with the mages on our side, we had still been limited. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as all that, but these things rarely are. The more human tribes welcomed the opportunity, and even those more in tune with their wild nature such as the Red Talons were able to see the advantage of holding such power – albeit reluctantly, and with very different ideas on how to wield it.

In other ways, it made things much harder for her. She had already been a target before by forces of Wyrm and Weaver alike. Now that she held even more power in her hand, the threat against her and her loved ones was even greater, limiting her ability to move freely. Although she had become far more experienced and capable with age, and was prepared for this eventuality, it was clear at times that she chafed at the loss of freedoms she had been used to and the forcing of delegation of tasks that she had grown used to handling personally. She also had a greater challenge to protect her daughter, now that the human world was once again more focused on her. The eight-year old was still in the pre-change stage of her metis life and could not go out in public.

Nevertheless, the queen put her focus on balancing this stage of her life. By this point she slept perhaps once a week, having little requirement for it. There were several occasions in the first two years of this new stage when she became seriously ill due to overwork, but a well-mixed team of Garou and mages allowed her to regain control and help the business flourish again.

Pentex and its subsidiaries remained the main rival of her family company at this time. They had taken a severe blow at the time of the fae war as the wyrm and weaver balance had shifted, and the loss of one of their highest-ranking operatives had hit hard. The Garou had made good use of the information that the queen’s mate provided, using it to claim major victories in the early years of her reign as the Wyrm’s commercial face struggled to reclaim its global financial position. As such, whilst its reach remained long, eight years on left it still not in the position it had once been. This did not mean it could be disregarded as a formidable threat, however, as the information gained was only useful for a short time. The attention then became on finding new ways to bring it down, while still protecting her own company…


Chapter Twelve

Over time, it became clear that the things she did had left an indelible mark on her soul, and as a result she was becoming less and less mortal. Whilst she had known that her actions would have consequences, the regularity with which she’d had to use the abilities that the fae queens had granted her changed her further and faster than anyone had expected.

She was able to slip far more easily between realms as the ties that bind our mortal bodies and our spirit selves loosened further. She was able to communicate with caerns on a level that few others could understand, particularly those that she had helped rebuild and the seedlings she had planted the world over. Her aging slowed to a near crawl, such as to be virtually undetectable. All these things might seem positive, even desirable to some. Initially, she agreed. But eventually, that changed.

Over time, she was forced to stand by and watch as those she loved grew old and died, while she lingered on. First her parents: her mother of complications in surgery to help with heart issues, her father in a battle against a wyrm creature when he realised that the tribal madness left him unfit to stand at her side any longer. Then her mate, a rare werewolf that died of old age with her sitting beside him and holding him in his last breaths. Then her child, and her child’s children, until she could stand among her own great-great grandchildren and scarce look older than them as they welcomed their own families into the world.

She sought further information, of course, allowing theurges and mages to examine her and returning to the fae queens. All told her the same thing: the changes she had made were irreversible, and given her unique nature they could not accurately predict how it would continue to affect her. It appeared to have at least delayed the tribal madness of the Silver Fangs, an affliction which continued to claim their numbers.

After her mate passed, she withdrew from courtly life for a month. It sent a stir through our people, for she had never before abdicated her duty in such a way. When she returned, although she was still a wise and capable ruler, it was as if some light within had diminished. It returned only when she was with her daughter and her grandchildren; perhaps as the last pieces she had left of him…


Chapter Fourteen

She reigned for nearly two hundred years. As time wore on, she became increasingly distant. She was more wyld than mortal, and she spent more and more time alone in the Umbra, sometimes for up to a month.

Nobody knew where the excursions took her, why she went or what she was doing. The galliards love to make up fanciful tales, of course. Some said she was journeying into the deep umbra to fight or speak with beasts and spirits we could scarce comprehend. Some said that the Silver Fang madness was finally upon her and she sought a cure, or perhaps the quiet release of death that had been denied to her for so long. Some said she was looking for the Triat, or Gaia herself, to more directly redress the balance or ask some great boon from them. And some said she was searching for the ones she had lost so long ago: her first pack, her mate and her family, all taken from her by the ravages of time.

In the end, it mattered little. There were no answers and we have never found any. Our theurges and the mages could not track her magically on these journeys, and our hunters did not find a trace. The fae would not give answers, if they even had any, claiming it was not their place to tell. Spirits were similarly elusive. We had to learn to be content that she would return, that she was still our queen and had done right by us for longer than any other Garou had been alive. She had ruled us wisely and well, even as she became more distant, and we had prospered and flourished as the balance had been more evenly addressed than in centuries.

And one day, she simply didn’t come back. We searched, of course, once we realised she had been gone for almost two months. There was no note in her quarters or favoured places, and we still could not trace her. When the theurges thought to reach out and ask the great caern that she was connected to, the power in the heart of the Sept of the Green, it told us that she was gone. It did not tell us why, what had happened. She was simply no longer there. We still searched anyway, but in the end we accepted that we would have to once again find our own path.

It is possible that she finally found a creature too powerful, met her end alone in some far distant realm where we will never find her. Maybe the galliards are right and she faced death on her own terms, meeting it head on and embracing it like a true werewolf.

Some believe she is simply resting somewhere, having grown apart from the world that she felt no longer needed her and waiting for a time when we will again. After all, the Shadow Lords say that the crown has not returned to its place in their realm as they would expect if she had died, waiting for the next owner to claim it. There are some who hold onto that hope, still call her our queen.

Or perhaps she has finally found what she was looking for, and she no longer has need for us. Maybe she is finally reunited with her loved ones, at peace in whatever comes after this life. Maybe she can finally be free.

I admit, I hope it is the last.

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Marlene

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