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 Rites of Passage: Iron Riders

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PostSubject: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Sat 07 Sep 2013, 16:24

Zoe was jolted back to consciousness by the sound of voices outside her door. There was a brief knock, but Zoe barely had time to sit up, let alone dress before a dark-haired woman in a loose woolen shirt and pants complete with chaps strode into the room, her sod-kicker boots tromping heavily on the protesting wooden floor. A tranter heavy revolver hung at her side, it's size making it impossible to conceal. Her pretty face wore a serious smile, made even more grim by the jagged scar on her chin.

Mrs. Rogers followed closely in the strange woman's wake, protesting halfheartedly. "God's wounds, Red, all I am saying is that you don't need to wake her up right this instant... she's had a long trip."

'Red' glanced back at Zoe's host with a look that curtailed any further argument before turning back to Zoe and her aspect softened.  "Sorry for the rude awakening, little one. I am Red-Oath, and Harriet is my sister."

Harriet and her 'sister' looked nothing alike. Where Harriet was short and sturdy, Red was tall and lean, moving with the precise intent of a hungry predator. They even smelled completely different: one smelled of inexpensive perfume and stale alcohol, while the other carried with her a funk of gunsmoke, fresh earth, and damp leather.

Red-Oath walked over toward Zoe's bed and gave her a toothy smile that almost managed to be warm and inviting rather than intimidating.  

"Me and mine are having one of our little get-togethers and I'd be honored if the daughter of Tycheros Kostas would join us."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Sat 07 Sep 2013, 21:09

Zoe sat up quickly and dropped her legs over the side of the bed.  The mention of her father, Tycheros Kostas, elicited intense feelings of excitement at the prospect of discovering yet another piece of her past. Until two weeks ago, O'Toole had been the only family she knew. All of a sudden she had a real name and the name of her father, not to mention people who actually know him.

She nervously ran her fingers through her raven hair as she considered the new woman and her offer.  Harriett's so-called sister did not feel quite as warm to Zoe; however, something about 'Red' felt familiar. Zoe was desperate to find out more as her rapid-fire speech indicated.

"My name is Zoe, but you already knew that.  Shoot, you probably know more about who I am than I do."

Zoe pulled on her beige slacks and brown boots with the white shirt she had slept in, all of which were covered with dust from the road, as she continued with a barrage of questions.

"Who is Tycheros Kostas?  I mean, I realize he's my father, at least you think he is, but I mean, who is he? What does he do? What is he like? Is he still alive?  Is he here in Nacogdoches? Can I see him?  Will he be at your gathering?"  

Once dressed she picked up her satchel and her rifle, all the while continuing her frenzied interrogation as she followed Red-Oath to the door.

"Who else will be at your gathering? You and yours, you said, but who are you and who are they? Will others of my family be there? Are you part of my family?"

Zoe finally paused long enough to take a breath, though her hungry eyes betrayed a hundred more questions hidden right behind them.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Sun 08 Sep 2013, 17:48

"Hold up there, Little Kostas." Red-Oath held up a rough hand to stop the barrage of questions, but her impatient expression had been replaced by a searching, almost pitying look. "Your papa passed on a few years ago. Now isn't the time or place to recount his tale, but I can assure you, he died with honor. Later, you'll find others who could tell the stories of your father and do him justice."

The tall woman watched as Zoe gathered up her things, and though Red-Oath said little, she cast several curious glances at the watch and unusual rifle, one dark eyebrow curving in a bemused arch. When Zoe assembled her gear and then began asking more questions, Red scowled slightly. "Every werewolf in the county is coming. We are the Camino Real sept, and yes, we are your family now."

Red-Oath offered Zoe a smile, and then turned and swept out the door. "Try to keep up, little one. We don't want to be too late- first impressions are important, especially among wolves."  

Harriet looked at Zoe, gave her a reassuring grin, and then nodded for the young girl to follow after the strange dark woman.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Sun 08 Sep 2013, 20:20

Zoe had taken a few steps to follow Red-Oath when the news of her father's passing stopped her cold.  

"He's...dead?"

Her eyes grew wide and sad, but anger and frustration quickly displaced her grief.

"What do you mean he's dead?" she spat vehemently.  

"Why did you even bring him up just to tell me that he's gone?  What about my mother?  Is she dead, too?  Let's just go ahead and cover all our bases, alright, 'Red'?  Brothers? Sisters? Cousins? Let's make sure this orphan girl knows just how alone she really is in the world, okay?"

Zoe clenched her fists as she breathed deeply through her nose.  She sniffed a snort of derision in Red-Oath's direction.  

"'First impressions'?  I don't give a damn what your stupid werewolf family thinks about me.  I don't want any part of it.  I came out here to find out about my parents and based on what I've found out thus far, I won't be sticking around much longer."

Zoe narrowed her eyes at Red as anger and heartache grew within her.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 00:11

Red-Oath turned slowly on her heel and looked Zoe in the eye as the younger woman vented her anger and frustration. As she listened, Red's thin mouth closed tighter than a steel trap. One of her hands was resting easily on the butt of her heavy pistol. Harriet silently excused herself and disappeared.

As Zoe finished and glared at her nocturnal visitor, Red stepped back into the room, the floor boards creaking under her heavy tread. Her low voice took on a hard-edged tone.

"I told you of your father's death because you asked and I am not a liar. I don't know if Galveston is some kind of fairyland, but out here, folks die a lot. In droves. Our kind aren't exempt from the bloodshed, either. Like as not, we're in the thick of it. I know that Tycheros' death isn't the news you wanted to hear, but it is the truth."

The tall dark woman paused and relaxed a hair, her hand reluctantly leaving her weapon. "You might not want to be part of our family, but it's in your blood. You don't have human cousins or siblings. You're set apart. What you do have is me and mine: we were of the same tribe, your father and I- we're Iron Riders. Lord willing, you will be too."

"I don't have all the answers, Zoe; but if you want to learn about what you are, what your parents were fighting for, you are welcome among the Garou of the Camino Real."


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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 02:07

Zoe took note of Red-Oath's use of the past tense when describing her parents' fight. So her mother was gone, too. No cousins. No siblings. Set apart?  Apart seemed a rather lonely place to be.

Zoe didn't understand everything Red said, but she knew one thing was certain: these people were the only thing she had left in this world. Her parents were gone.  O'Toole wanted nothing more to do with her. There was nothing left but to find out what Iron Riders, Garou, and Camino Real were all about.

Zoe bowed her head apologetically.

"Please, forgive me, ma'am.  I've not felt much like myself lately.  I ain't got no place else to go, so I reckon there's no reason not to come with you."

As Zoe looked back at Red, the older woman could not mistake the grief, confusion, and lostness that flooded Zoe's heart. It took every bit of willpower for Zoe not to burst into tears.

The time for grieving, however, was not now. Now was the time for what she believed would be a very complicated answer to a very simple question: who is Zoe Kostas?
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 15:01

Red-Oath pressed her hand on Zoe's shoulder gently. "I've had to fight cubs over some pretty stupid things over the years. This wouldn't have been one of them, though. Don't apologize."

With that, the pair went out into the night. The air was warm and still, and Zoe could smell the evergreens and the distant musk of the sluggish bayous. The moon hung high in the sky, a glowing sickle cresting far above the pines and willows, and Zoe felt her sadness and loss melt away in the stirring heat of her rage.

A distant wolf cry rang out, and Red leapt off the low porch and took off at a swift walk, continuing down the dusty road heading out of Nacogdoches. A faint breeze stirred around them, and Zoe heard (or did she remember?) the drumbeat of horses' hoofs and the clatter of giant spoked wheels. Red-Oath didn't seem to notice, and despite her breathless pace, she pointed ahead, indicating their course. "It might not look like much, but this is the Camino Real. It is one of the greatest achievements humans have made in Texas. It's the link between the Old States and the wild frontier, the jugular of the Republic."

After several minutes, they had lost sight of the town and were following the road through the forest. Animal shapes darted among the shadows along the road, occasionally stopping to watch the two women, curiosity in their eyes.

They had walked for well over a mile before Red-Oath turned from the road without checking her pace, following what appeared to be a deer path. The winding trail led gradually down, and that was when Zoe heard another howl. This one was different- it was high and long, and it carried with it a wistful feeling of good times long past and friends parting.

Soon it was joined by others close by, their cries combining into a disharmonious union expressing hope for future meetings and pride in their bonds of kinship. There was something instinctual about the wolves' song that Zoe intuitively grasped without even thinking about it.

Then the trail ended abruptly in a large clearing that looked like an ancient racing track. The center of the concourse was dominated by a hoary old stagecoach, 'NO.1' emblazoned on its side in glinting bronze paint. Four figures stood or crouched nearby in the moonlight, chatting and murmuring, and as Zoe followed Red into the open, she felt their eyes on her. The howls died away and three more lupine shapes came loping out of the surrounding woods.

"Aha! Our glorious leader has returned! And she even brought us a stray!" One of the first to approach was a man wearing a brown tailed suit and a top hat, his glasses reflecting the light of the waning moon. Behind the dandy towered a giant specimen, his patchy fur scarcely covering his rippling, scarred muscles. The creature's eyes were deep brown and intelligent, but set into a fanged, bestial countenance.  

"Slick-Blood Sanchez, at your service." An unshaven man with long white hair tied back into a pony tail sauntered up, wearing the much-patched remnants of a US cavalryman's uniform. As he offered an exaggerated bow, Zoe couldn't help but notice that each of his old hessian boots had half a dozen knives jammed in the top outside of the pant's legs. Still bowing, Sanchez glanced up at her and smiled. "Hell. You look a lot like your padre." He said matter-of-factly. "Glad to see Rogers didn't scare you off."  

"'Rogers' can hear, you, Sanchez." Red-Oath snorted. "For those of you who don't know, this is Zoe Kostas, daughter of Tycheros. She just blew into town, freshly changed. She's here to find out about her family and to learn about her heritage."

"These are the members of my pack, Kostas. That," she said, indicating the top hat, "is Poet-Slayer, Slick-Blood already introduced himself, and in the back is Ramirez. It's ok, he won't bite." The hulking crinos waved shyly.  

"Together, we are the Spinning Wheels pack, and we are half of the Camino Real sept."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 16:59

As introductions were made, Zoe snarled at the one they called Poet-Slayer.

"Call me a stray again, you pompous flea bag, and I will tear you and your fancy clothes into unrecognizable shreds before you even have a chance to transform."

She knew she was a stray - a girl without a family and a wolf without a pack. She didn't need a complete stranger to point that out.  

Turning back to Sanchez, Zoe scoffed, "Her? Scare me off?  Ha! Don't make me laugh."

Ever since her transformation, Zoe had felt nearly invincible.  Fear was a distant emotion that had been replaced with pure, unbridled passion.

Her eyes scanned over the four new acquaintances then glanced at the other four who were standing off in the distance.  She faced Red-Oath with a mockingly bemused expression.  

"This is your grand gathering of every werewolf in the county?"

She made a grand gesture, which took in the entirety of the nearly deserted clearing. Turning her right palm upward, she pointed at Poet-Slayer, Sanchez, and Ramirez.     

"And this is all you have to offer as family?  No offense, but I think I'll be better off on my own.  Thanks anyway."

Zoe shook her head in disappointment as she turned to leave the clearing the way she and Red had entered.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 17:33

Zoe had barely turned around before Red had grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, pulling Zoe's head back with a sudden savagery. In the half light the werewolf leader seemed to tower over the younger girl, and her voice had become a low growl of barely contained fury. "I don't care if your daddy was Tycheros and your momma was Gaia herself, no one talks to my pack that way. If Tycheros Kostas really did sire such a self-pitying whelp, I think he'd consider it a favor it I knocked some sense into you." Zoe felt Red-Oath's grip tighten and her feet left the ground.

"Red-Oath, that is quite enough. She's rude, but she is young and stupid and doesn't know any better." A new voice interjected, a strong but soft masculine voice. From where she was held, Zoe couldn't see the speaker. "We've all been there."

Red loosened her grip and set Zoe back on the ground. She didn't seem to acknowledge the speaker directly, but continued speaking to Zoe. "I don't know where you get your little expectations that we evidently don't live up to, but that is just God-damn tough. I brought you out here to prove that you are worth being a Garou, and instead you are acting like an idiot prey animal that doesn't know it's surrounded by dangerous predators."




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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Mon 09 Sep 2013, 17:52

The fear Zoe thought was long gone came racing back with a vengeance as Red-Oath snatched her up with ease. Along with that fear came a healthy dose of common sense, which brought a few thoughts of its own

A) This woman can and just might kill you if you don't hold your tongue.

B) These people are like you and for some reason are willing to help you.

C) Your father was one of them. How would you feel if a bratty kid spoke to him like that?

D) You have two choices: join a pack or continue living the lonely orphan life you know and hate.

E) I really think she wants to kill you. Shut up!


As Red-Oath dropped her to the ground, Zoe turned to face the newcomer. Common sense had convinced her that her best course of action at this point was to speak only when spoken to and sometimes not even then.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 00:08

The other wolves in the clearing had begun shifting into human form. The first among them proved to be the one who spoke out: a tall, weary-looking man who wore a similarly tired business suit. A long musket was strapped over his shoulder. His face was deeply lined, framed by a neat beard. He seemed to sense that Zoe's rage had subsided, at least for now, and he smiled at her.

The other wolves became a short young Indian man, his skin marked with tattoos of crucifixes and the virgin Mary. Another transformed into a Hispanic female wearing a worn dress, a bonnet hanging forgotten behind her like a hood. The last became an unkempt older woman with pale skin, her tangled blond hair falling in front of her bright blue eyes. They gathered around, intermingling with the Spinning Wheels. Slick-Blood could see Zoe's confusion and emotional turmoil. "These are our friends and allies, li'l Kostas. They're the Irregulars, the other half of our little ad hoc sept."

"I wouldn't be too rough, Red-Oath," the wild woman practically cut off the roguish Iron Rider and nodded forward without really looking at Zoe, or anyone else for that matter. "The spirits are drawn to her like moths to a flame. If she can learn her manners, she could become something great."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 00:32

As the others shifted and began mentioning septs and spirits, Zoe could no longer contain her curiosity, though common sense did its best to keep her emotions in check. She turns first to Slick-Blood.

"Please forgive me, Mr. Sanchez, for my hastily spoken words earlier. What exactly is this sept that you all keep mentioning? Is it simply the term for two or more packs, or is there more to it?"

As the older woman remarks on Zoe's attractiveness to the spirits, the pup turns a quizzical eye to her.

"Spirits, you say, Ms...? The only spirits I ever heard of were the Holy Spirit and all the evil spirits. I don't reckon drawing out evil spirits would be such a fantastic trait, so is there something I'm missing?"

Zoe turned again to Poet-Slayer, Red, Ramirez and the rest of the Camino Real sept. Her eyes reflected her repentance as she spoke.

"I am terribly sorry for insulting you all and your group here. You have all shown me such kindness and I have been most disrespectful. I promise you that I do indeed have and know how to use good manners. Ever since my first change, though, it seems my emotions, specifically my anger, seem to have a mind of their own."

She bows respectfully to the group. "It is an honor to meet members of my father's tribe, and I would like to join you if you would have me."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 15:45

"A sept is what ya see here, and what is unseen too. A sept is both place and a people, not to mention spirits, all workin' together." The elder tilted her head up toward the moon, her luminous hair running amok in the gentle wind. "Even now the creatures of the ephemera attend to ya, m'dear. The spirits can't speak to ya, but if they could they woulda named you Iron Rider already." Her clothes were a tatterdemalion assortment of what appeared to be Indian leather garments patched with gaudily dyed bits of fabric. A long necklace of rosary beads, bearclaws and broken glass spilled down her front.

"I'm Larissa Reilly, but you can call me Lune-Stalker. I'm the Rite Master of the Camino Real, theurge of the Irregulars, and proud owner of many other grand titles that I've bestowed on m'self over the years." Her voice remained grave, but as she glanced at Zoe her well-worn laughter lines crinkled into a wry smile.

"Care to introduce the rest of us, O Master of Rites?" The man in the business suit chuckled, amusement in his voice.

"Hmm? Oh. This is All-Friend Marcus Sewell, he has such a nice singing voice. He was leading the howls you heard on your way in." The Garou mystic pointed out first the white, then the Indian, then the Hispanic in turn. "Peace-In-Strength is our wonderful Ahroun, and if the sept were a town, Hunts-The-Darkness would be our sheriff."

Red-Oath scratched idly at her scar. "The Irregulars are not just a separate pack, they also belong to a different tribe calling themselves the Children of Gaia. Some septs are much, much bigger, but ours is only two packs." Many of the others had fallen to whispering or chattering among themselves, and Red-Oath cleared her throat, barking her next words with rapid authority that silenced the gathered wolves. "Enough with the introductions. The night is getting old. I think it is high time for the pup to learn what it means to be a true Garou." Slick-Blood and Poet-Slayer cheered, and the rest howled their approval up to the waning moon.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 16:34

Zoe listened with rapt attention as Lune-Stalker, the Rite Master, made her introductions. When Red-Oath pointed out that the Irregulars were of a different tribe, Zoe began to notice subtle and some not-so-subtle differences between the two packs. Nevertheless, they seemed to work well enough together.

When the so-called theurge finished, Zoe had a dozen questions about rites, theurges, ahrouns, and who or what a Gaia was, but Red-Oath seemed intent on moving things along. Her questions could wait.

As the sept members began howling in excitement, Zoe found herself joining in, though her howls sounded less like the melancholy melodies of the others and more like childish yips and squeaks. She didn't know what being a true Garou was all about, but she was eager to find out.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 22:34

Above the raucous din, Red-Oath's voice rang out. "The first challenge of the rite of passage begins now!" The others quieted down and all eyes turned toward Zoe. "Since you were born under a Sliver Moon, your trial will not be one of strength, but of wits. As philodox of the Iron Riders, I declare that Zoe Kostas' first task will be a spirit hunt."

Ramirez snorted and made a sort of chuffing sound, and Poet-Slayer gasped. The rest of the assembled Garou were silent. Red-Oath, unperturbed, turned to the older theurge and ever so slightly inclined her head. "If you would be so kind, Lune-Stalker, to call up a few gafflings for her to play with...? Perhaps some of a more... structured bent?"

Lune-Stalker sighed and pushed a single lock of hair out of her face. "I can and will, if ya want."

"Excellent. Our would-be theurge will test herself against the spirits." Red-Oath smiled grimly and looked to Zoe. "Stay close, pup," she said, before walking out of the strange race-track clearing. Zoe followed, glancing back over her shoulder at the others. Lune-Stalker had turned toward the immobile stagecoach and began to chant in some barking, gutteral language as she kicked off her moccasins. Sewell threw back his head and began a long, sonorous howl.

Slick-Blood stuck an old cheroot in his mouth and winked at her, and then they were gone, obscured by a curve in the path. Zoe knew they were heading back toward the Camino Real highway. Red-Oath slowed her pace ever so slightly. "If you have any questions, Zoe, now is the time to ask."


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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Tue 10 Sep 2013, 22:45

Zoe's eyes grew wide as Red spoke and the others reacted to her words. She watched nervously as Lune-Stalker began chanting toward the stagecoach before she followed after Red-Oath, practically running to catch up.

"Questions?" Zoe's voice cracked.  "How about what's a rite of passage?  What's a spirit hunt?  What does the sliver moon have to do with my wits?  What are gafflings and why do I get the feeling they won't be happy to meet me?"

Zoe's pulse quickened as her breaths became somewhat panicked. She took a few intentionally deep breaths as she questioned Red further concerning the parameters of her challenge.

"Am I supposed to fight these things? Talk to them? Remain in this form? Change into my animal form? I'm not sure I know how to do that at will."

She knew running was out of the question. Fate, Gaia, God, the spirits, someone brought her here for this and she knew that that same someone would get her through this rite alive. This was not the first time she had been thrown into a situation with little to no preparation. That basically defined her life with Rosco. She knew what to do then; she'd figure it out now.

She stood as relaxed as she could, bracing herself physically and mentally for what was to come.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Wed 11 Sep 2013, 13:22

"A rite of passage is what marks you as an Iron Rider. This is an initiation- not just before other Garou but also before the spirits. There is another realm beyond what our human senses can see and hear. It is strange and different, like plunging into the ocean for the first time. It is inhabited by creatures that reflect reality, beings that represent animals, objects and concepts. Gafflings are among the least of these, spirits almost literally on the low end of the totem pole." Red-Oath shrugged.

"Your task will be to track down one of these summoned gafflings. If it attacks, defend yourself. If it hides, find it. Talk to the beings of the ephemera, get a feel for moving through the umbra. Learn the ways of the spirits without losing yourself."

The pitch of All-Friend's howls changed from a celebratory song to a cry urging alertness and cunning. Up ahead Zoe could see the Camino Real stretching through the forest but Red-Oath stopped just short of stepping onto the road. "It's time, Kostas. You need a reflective surface to cross over to the other side. Heck, if it's polished enough, that fancy pocket watch of yours might do the trick."  

Zoe pulled out her watch and looked at it. Sure enough, the metal cover was polished clean, and her own puzzled features were clearly visible even in the moonlight.

Red-Oath nodded and gave the young theurge a tight smile. "Focus on your reflection and then look past it. It sounds crazy, I know; but this forces your mind to acknowledge your spirit half and pull you into the umbra." Zoe stared into the eyes of her tiny metal double, and just when she opened her mouth to tell Red-Oath that it wasn't working, Red-Oath was gone.

Zoe was standing in the woods, naked as the day she was born. She still held her watch in her hand, and she still felt the strap of her rifle over her shoulder. The light of the moon seemed brighter and more wholesome, and she could see the woods around her perfectly. There was no breeze, but leaves floated weightlessly through the air. She could practically hear the slow, happy creaks of ancient trees growing taller and deeper. Ahead of her she saw the Camino Real, but the highway was no longer simply a lonely dusty road: it was translucent in places, shot through with what appeared to be steel webbing.  

A chirping call rang out through the preternaturally still forest, and overhead flew a bird. It looked like nothing so much as a large, sooty dove with long, billowy wings. It chirped again before circling Zoe, and then the spirit banked sharply, flying off along the road, heading back towards Nacogdoches at a terrific pace.


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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Wed 11 Sep 2013, 16:45

Zoe stood transfixed as she took in the sights and sounds of the spirit realm.  It was clearly the forest in which she had just been standing, but everything was different in one bizarre way or another.  The previously hazardous forest floor, with all its sticks and rocks, now felt like plush carpeting under her feet.  The bark of the nearby elm tree seemed to glow ever so slightly in the moonlight. She reached out and touched the tree. As she pulled her hand away, her palm glowed for a brief moment before regaining its normal - well, normal for the spirit world - color.

Though normally such absurdities would render Zoe frustrated for lack of explanation, the forest itself seemed to exude such anticipation that Zoe could not help but share in its excitement.  The feelings were almost uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. It was as if the trees and the leaves did not want her to waste any time mulling about. They wanted her to go, experience life, find adventure, and fulfill her calling.

Zoe ducked instinctively as the dove dashed around her head.  The creature seemed to radiate a feeling of playfulness.  Though the forest and even the road seem to encourage her to head out and away from town, the dove was the first thing to resemble Zoe's idea of a spirit creature, so she chose to pursue it.

The dove's rapid pace required Zoe to run to keep up. She called out to the dove as she ran down the path she and Red had trod earlier that day.

"Hey!  Wait up!  I just want to talk to you! Hello?"

As she stepped on the webbed portions of the road, she was struck with the smell of machine oil and lye soap that stopped her in her tracks.  Something about this piece of the road felt so familiar. She ran her fingers along the steel webbing, which actually gave way a little, like a spider's web, yet remained unbreakable as steel.  Her thoughts flashed back to the webs and decor at O'Toole's house and the spider that had crawled upon his shoulder after he managed to subdue her that night of her first change.

"Were the spirits with me even then?" she asked to no one in particular. Her gaze was drawn to a faintly luminous feather lying in the road. For some reason it smelled like smoke, cooking fat, and spices. Zoe picked it up and since she had no pockets, she held on to it for the time being, twirling it idly in her hands.

She stood up and looked in the direction of the town. Having lost sight of the bird, Zoe sighed and continued on her way.  

As she approached the city, the atmosphere changed.  Where the forest felt natural and free, the town felt ordered and sterile.  The metal webbing that was sparse along the road became more abundant here. In the umbral light of the moon, Zoe could see that some buildings seemed to be completely covered, or maybe built from the strange steel silk. 

She scanned the town carefully looking for any sight of the dove.  She saw an occasional large white spider creep up the side of a building or across the steel webbing in the streets, but the bird was nowhere to be seen. She realized that a faint humming noise suffused the air.  

"Okay, this is a test of wits, right?  So, I just have to figure this out."

Zoe closed her eyes and replayed Red-Oath's instructions.  

"Talk to the beings of the ephemera, get a feel for moving through the umbra.  Learn the ways of the spirits without losing yourself."  Losing myself?  Wonder what she meant by that.

Upon opening her eyes, Zoe saw another spider crawl across the road directly in front of her. It smelled like glass and arsenic powder and dry, stale bread.

Talk to the beings of the ephemera, eh?

"Excuse me.  Um...hi.  My name is Zoe...Kostas.  Don't know if that means anything to you or not, but it is what it is."

She felt strange talking to a spider, but everything she had experienced since crossing over was bizarre, so she saw no reason not to try. The creature paused, regarding her with its multifaceted eyes, its mouthparts working silently. The ubiquitous buzzing sound seemed to permeate the air around the Weaver spirit.  

"See, the thing is, I'm here on a mission...a quest of sorts.  I'm trying to join my father's tribe, but they told me to come here and find a gaffling, and well, to be honest, I don't rightly know what one of them would look like."

Scratching the back of her neck, she tilted her head to the side.  

"I guess what I'm asking is if you've seen one 'round here lately because my dad's passed on and this is the only chance I have to share something of his in my life.  So, I'd really appreciate your help."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Wed 11 Sep 2013, 23:38

The Weaver spirit uttered a chittering burst of crackling static before leaping at the young theurge, long metallic forelegs outstretched. Two needle-like claws pierced into Zoe's temples while the terrifying droning sound reaching an unbearable crescendo. She felt the raw primal chaos of the world underneath her feet, and it terrified her. The thunderous static became words, wonderful poetic words describing the glories of the universe and the purpose inherent in all things-

-and then it was over. All the knowledge and wisdom of the Pattern Web was forgotten in an instant. Zoe was simply standing in the street on the outskirts of Nacogdoches, staring at the spider spirit. The buzzing sound receded into quiet lyrical music.


Now you hear our voice
And can bask in the Onesong
Such gifts are not free.

What does a lone pup
have to offer chiminage?
Time is most costly.


Last edited by The Laughing Stranger on Fri 13 Sep 2013, 10:16; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Thu 12 Sep 2013, 00:16

Zoe's instinct was to swat the spirit away, but something about the spirit seemed willing to help.  She winced when the creature's claws dug into her temple, but the pain was quickly overwhelmed by the wonders of the pattern web.

The thoughts passing through her mind astounded Zoe and delighted her greatly.  Her innate desire to understand how things work made her hungry for more.  Unfortunately, as soon as it began the knowledge and wisdom ceased and she couldn't for the life of her remember what she had just heard.

Zoe's eyes grew wide in ecstasy.

"Your voice is beautiful and your song is intoxicating!  I think I could listen to it forever and never grow tired of it!"

At the spider's question, Zoe cocks her head to the side and frowns.

"I'm afraid I have nothing of value to offer you, spirit, in exchange for your gift. Is there something I can do for you to repay you?  I don't know much about being a Garou or moving through this spirit realm, but I'd gladly help you any way I can, kind spirit."
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Thu 12 Sep 2013, 17:22

The Weaver spirit skittered up a web-shrouded wall and then slowly lowered itself before Zoe on a single steely cable until it was at eye level with the Garou. The ephemeral creature's movements were so clipped and precise it was almost hard to look at.


We are never kind,
We must fulfill our purpose,
You must pay your due.

Our drive is simple,
Building and calcifying,
Yet some now slumber.

To pay off your debt,
We suggest that cockroach's child
Go find one of us.

Awake the builder,
The mighty numb architect,
The ruins it calls home.

Do this, we are even,
Your chiminage satisfied,
Your renown intact.


The spider began ascending on its metallic thread, apparently considering that its part in the conversation was over.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Thu 12 Sep 2013, 18:58

Zoe listened carefully to the spirit as it spoke in poetic prose. Though its words were not as clear as she would have liked, her mission was understood: find and awaken the builder who lives in the ruins.

As the spider ascended its web, Zoe nodded and smiled.

"Don't worry, spirit. Well, you probably don't worry, seeing as how there's not much purpose in it.  Either way, I will find your builder and wake him up for you so that you may continue your building and calcifying. Thank you for the gift. You have been most help- er- purposeful."

As the spider left, Zoe stood and surveyed the town.  Most of the buildings appeared sturdy and in good order. She saw nothing resembling ruins.  Though she had entered town in the 'real' world, a term she seriously began to reconsider the longer she stayed here, nothing she saw on the way in from Galveston resembled ruins either. Seeing as how this realm seemed to reflect the other to some extent, she decided her best course of action would be to head north of town to seek out the builder and the place he calls home.  

As she walked, she wondered what form the builder might take.  Would another of 'our kind,' as the spirit had referred to him, just look like another spider?  Perhaps it took the form of another creature that builds, like a beaver or an ant or a bird of some kind.

She then began to wonder why someone known as 'the builder' was sleeping among ruins. Should he not be building something?  Why would a spirit need to sleep anyway?  Was he simply laying down on the job?  She had heard that one should let sleeping dogs and babies and bears lie. Did that apply to spirits, too?  She hoped the appeasement of one spirit did not come with the angering of another.

Zoe picked up her pace, willing herself onward as she made her way around the shadowy web-shrouded Nacogdoches. She did not want to let the gift-giving spider spirit down.  Furthermore,  she wasn't sure, but she had a feeling that being in a spirit's debt was not a place she wanted to stay for long.

After looking around for a quarter of an hour, she spotted a low belfry rising toward the north of town. The church building seemed old, and if it were physical she might have described it as decrepit. She decided to head in that direction.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 12:17

As Zoe moved through the penumbral Nacogdoches, she found herself heading outside the cluster of the Weaver-entombed buildings. This section of the town was older, but less static and harsh. Before her loomed an old Spanish mission, bronze bell gleaming in the moonlight. The pale stone face of the mission was cracked and withered, but its hoary oak gates wide open. Within she could see the tough, knotted cord rope hanging down from the belfry into the empty sanctuary.

Around the old church squatted half a dozen brick buildings. They were large, rambling abodes, with gently sloping clay tile roofs. Despite their size, these houses seemed almost delicate and brittle, little more than facades. Incongruously set amongst the empty old Spanish houses stood a massive, jagged pile of cast stone and polished iron, partially embedded in the dusty ground. Nearly as tall as the mission's bell tower, the spire of refined stone and metal was clearly an ephemeral construct, without analogue in the physical world. Zoe could faintly hear the music of the Weaver's Onesong echoing in her ears, quietly emanating from the strange pillar.

A brief, high cry echoed through the spectral night and a faintly luminous, familiar shape alighted atop the belfry. The bird spirit cocked a head toward Zoe, giving her a quizzical look from its high perch.

"Your hunting method confuses me, wolfling! What's your game? What are you playing at?" The gaffling chirped, bemusement in its voice.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 13:22

Zoe stood still, entranced by the Onesong and her  longing to hear more. Not to mention that the song likely emanated from this architect builder that she sought.  She had taken just a few steps in the direction of the pillar when the bird landed on the mission and began questioning her methods.

An hour ago she would have seriously questioned her sanity at hearing a bird speak, but even this brief time in the umbra was quickly acclimating her to the bizarre. Zoe craned her neck to look up at the bird spirit and smiled at it as she spoke. "Oh, hello there, stranger. Nice to see you again!"

She raised an eyebrow at the bird and smirked.

"You find my methods confusing, do you? Would not a hunter always fail if her prey fully understood her methods?"

She rubbed the back of her neck and grimaced.

"Would you mind coming down here so that we may talk more easily? I would love to hear your advice on how best to hunt such a wise spirit as yourself should I be asked to do so again."

Zoe turned her head to the ground and stretched her neck side to side, fully committing to the sore neck bit.
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PostSubject: Re: Rites of Passage: Iron Riders   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 13:50

Her words elicited a quick, squawking laugh from the ephemeral bird. "Ooh, good try! I am too smart for that, though! Good try! You are just gonna grab me if I do that! Then the hunt is over!" The gaffling shook itself and another glowing feather fell gently onto the steps of the old mission.

"Good try!" The bird cackled to itself once more as it took flight and winged its way back into the heart of Nacogdoches, the peculiar, inviting scent of hickory smoke lingering in the penumbral night. Zoe stood among the lonely buildings, the waning moon hanging low in the sky behind her.
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