Tooth and Claw

Blood on the blade

In the instant that she saw the two men standing there with the spear, picked up that smell that had invaded their territory and that they had followed all the way to the cave in the mountains, she knew who they were. When she saw the older man holding it almost casually in his hand as if it wasn’t designed to destroy the world, her primal instinct took over.

The pulse of wyld energy left her hand in a raw unfiltered bust as she lunged forwards with a snarl, drawing her sword with the other hand. It splashed across the chest of the younger man in a slick of coloured light and fire that left him screaming and twisting in panic. She heard movement from inside the cabin behind her as the others reacted to the sound and headed towards the door, but she was already going and she couldn’t stop. The world slowed as she crossed the gap between her and them, feet hardly seeming to touch the grass. The older one was raising the spear with a look of confusion on his face, the other was screaming and trying to put out the flames that were engulfing him.

It didn’t matter. She was faster. The door opened behind her as she pulled her arm around again, flinging the energy as if it was a ball. It left her fingers, breaking across his body. He screamed again, one final horrified cry and then he simply wasn’t there anymore. The light burst and faded, leaving something strange and unfamiliar on the ground where his body should have been.

She brought her blade up to meet the spear as the remaining enemy tried to bring it around against her, catching it expertly and tearing it from his hands. His face barely had time to register a look of surprise when her foot caught his chest, knocking him to the floor. He started to scramble to his feet again unexpectedly quickly, but the blade of her sword was already at his throat, silver coating lightly burning his skin. Her other hand reached up and grabbed the spear as it flew through the air in a path that defied gravity. It strained against her grasp and the world appeared to return to a more normal time flow, spear in one hand and sword in the other-

She stood in the Caern, covered in blood as the crude facsimile of the ritual they had seen Barks at the Moon perform twice for Cal stuttered to life. The sword was still clutched in her hand, stained with the blood of the woman she had decapitated at the scene of the crime. Annie was crouched down, staring intently at the prone form of the wolf in the circle, barely breathing even in the energy of the Caern. Both of them seemed to be willing the woman to live, to tell them what had happened, for the death of an elder not to be on their hands.

She could see the guards from here out of the corner of her eye. How had they heard nothing, seen nothing, done nothing? Noise like that, the sound of fighting from within the sept, surely would have been something to at least alert authorities to even if they couldn’t risk leaving their posts. With the time it had taken her pack to get back here… the enemy couldn’t have just been loitering for hours and waiting for a moment to strike. The fight had to have gone on for at least a while, an elder wouldn’t just keel over – hell, two enemies had died before they’d made it. There were always people in the sept. Why had nobody else heard, done anything, waited to show up until it was conveniently too late? She felt like this had somehow been engineered, to be as incriminating as possible for the Stormbringers until you looked closely to find the cracks.

It didn’t matter. They had a chance, maybe, to save Barks at the Moon. They’d technically broken into the Caern to do it, but that could be dealt with later. If she survived, she could corroborate their story and tell what had happened. If she died, then it would look even worse than it already did. They’d managed to construct as close a replica of the ritual as they could, better than nothing. But she didn’t know enough about healing or what the enemy had been able to do in the time before they had arrived to be sure that anything she could offer would work. The lupine elder’s breath was wet, bubbling with blood. If she just knew _more_…

Damn it all to hell. Cal and Nahuel had gone through a dark portal after the shadow wolf and disappeared, a portal that had been sinkingly familiar. All other enemies that had been in the sept were dead. There were still the others that had broken into their territory who might have answers about the enemy, what he could have done to fell an elder. But she didn’t know if there would be time to chase these people down, if it would even be worth it before Barks at the Moon died.

This was their fault. They had been foolish to think they could lure this thing away, that it would go after them. After all, any good psychopath would go after the people they cared about, as well as sources of power far greater than they could provide. The Outsider had gone after this Caern before, encountered them enough times as well. If you knew anything about their pack, it was that they would drop everything to help and protect those they cared about. And how could this enemy not know about the Stormbringers, when he was effectively one of them? Her hand clenched tight at the hilt of her sword as the blood dripped onto the grass-

She stared at the wall of the cave. It was scrawled with names, carved crudely into the stone. On this side it just looked a little messy; on the Umbral side it looked frantic, as if the names had been scratched over and over. They were all familiar names, names of people she knew and cared about. If anybody ever saw this, it wouldn’t take too long to make the connection between the names on the wall and her pack. After all, it was effectively a detailed inventory of their friends, their families, their loved ones, even people who were just acquaintances. It would be easy to assume that this was the work of somebody who knew their lives incredibly intimately. After all, it was.

Her hand wandered towards the hilt of her sword as she watched Annie study the names. Cal was standing stock still in the middle of the cave, staring at the wall. Nahuel was in the shadows somewhere, keeping a look out towards the cave entrance – not that it would do much good when their enemy could wander in and out via umbral portal. The hairs on the back of her neck were up and her fingers were twitchy, expecting an attack. They would only have a moment if she was correct, fleeting seconds as the portal opened before anything came through.

How had it come to this? How could she not have wondered why Cal was suddenly so much calmer and happier, wondered more deeply what had changed? They had all been so glad that he seemed to have finally tempered his rage that they hadn’t truly considered what could have been the cost – after all, everyone who had studied his tattoo had said that the bargain was done and there wasn’t any way to discover what that bargain was without visiting the Outsider. It had been easier not to wonder, to focus on other things right up until they’d had to get those memories back, to pay the price to undo a small part of what he’d wrought on himself. And then they had found out what he’d actually done to himself.

This… wall of madness, of hate, was something that was a part of him, that had been festering inside. She knew Annie wanted Cal to be reunited with his other half, that the little woman believed he needed both sides to be a complete person. But looking at this, she wasn’t sure she agreed. To put this back in, return Cal to the kind of person who would make the kind of deals he had made… the thought of that turned her stomach. True, a person needed balance, needed the outlet of sadness and anger and pain. But not like this. Not mad scratchings of darkness on a wall, a promise to misery and pain to everyone important to them.

She heard movement and voices outside, turning sharply as Nahuel gave a low whine of warning. Somebody was outside, but it wasn’t the scent that they had tracked here. Had they been followed? Were there more, here to ambush them? Her hand reached for her sword even as she stepped back into the shadows-

Cal’s hand moved to rest over hers on the hilt of the blade. She bristled at his presumption, at his attempt to take it from her. The other man remained kneeling on the floor, staring up at the two of them with a mix of contempt and resignation as the sword remained completely steady at his throat.

Do you trust me?

She had wanted to say no. In that moment she had wanted to give into that part of her that had been growing louder and louder every time he fucked up, that said that she shouldn’t forgive any longer. It was practically screaming at her now. He no longer had that right.

But it hadn’t been her place, for all that she was their alpha. So she hadn’t answered, not truly. She had given the spear to Annie, the one that he had hurt the most with his deal. Let her packmate decide whether or not Cal could be trusted. And despite everything, despite having good reason not to, Annie had given the weapon to him. So that was that.

But now, after everything, he wanted this as well. He wanted her to give him this man, the one that had been recruited to help with the horrifying things the shadow wolf had done, that had come to give him his doomsday weapon. He wanted the opportunity to hide his mistakes, whether it be to kill the man himself or do something else. A lingering part of her whispered that perhaps they hadn’t truly defeated the other side of him in his mind, that given the chance he would turn on them again with his ‘packmate’ by his side.

She knew that they had to hide this mess. That if this Garou was ever allowed to tell the truth, Cal would be killed and the rest of them would probably also be punished – after all, they hadn’t really told anybody about this, besides Barks at the Moon who was now dead. They were going to be punished anyway, but the less evidence they left behind the better. Never mind her ‘honour’ and expectations of her role as a Philodox. They couldn’t leave any witnesses to the trail of destruction Cal had caused. But she would not let him have this. Her inner wolf was howling for blood, to prove her authority as alpha; that part of her that she so often tried to ignore, pushing to the fore as if it was finally freed. It called for vengeance, for punishment.

She stared Cal dead in the eye as she killed his ‘packmate’, the sword sliding through his neck in a swift, perfect motion that practically severed his head. Behind them she heard a small sound of shock – Raven? One of her pack? She wasn’t sure who. She could feel the wyld energy still surging through her.

Stepping back from her packmate, she dropped her sword.



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