Riposte Alpha

by D'Artagnon

Chapter K

Battle of the Y - Children of the Moon

Narrator's Note: Robby and I compared notes for the next couple of chapters. We quickly realized that there was far too much going on for just the two of us being the only voices. A lot of things happened, simultaneously. And to be honest, I don't think I'm quite getting everyone's personality and point of view right. So, for this chapter and the next one on Robby's side, we decided to get some of the others to write a little bit as well. I hope it helps you all understand what happened that day. Because from that day on, well, you all know what happened next. We're all living the aftermath of that. I hope this explains at least a little of where things went crazy. I split things up based on Auspice, phase of the moon for those of you who aren't familiar with werewolf lore. I hear Robby is having more Play Station ideas. So, it'll start with the New Moon and go up through Gibbous Moon, going through all four of us werewolf kids.

And for what it's worth, I'm really sorry. We did our best. We just didn't know.

Cody Reynolds/Speaks With Water

Tain't never no right way to be ready for a fight, other than to get yo' head into where you are and what's goin' on around you. Guess in that way Ah'm always ready for one, just not as prepared, ya might say, as Ah was just then. Cuz, first off, watching Robby dance around the room for 'bout half an hour, makin' Maggie look both graceless and stupid without takin' anythang away from the big goof had kinda inspired me.

Ah mean, it don't take much to get a Get to be all riled up and lookin' for somethin' to claw-bite-rip a few dozen times a second. Hell, even Ah lose my temper sometimes and feel the need to make stuff bleed. But seein' scrawny Robby hold his own against Garou muscle, even when it was driven by that muscle-headed fool, put me in a mood to show off as well. Not that I'm some kinda attention starved, prima donna type or nuthin' like that. Just gave me an ideal to live up to when slingin' steel around.

Besides, it was fun watchin' them go at it, even if me an' the other werewolves in the room knew there was more goin' on in their little go around than just pride and glory.

So, like, the bad guys got their jump orders and they still took a moment to nut-check before comin' at us. Dunno why. They kinda had us outnumbered and trapped in a box. Weren't like they didn't have all the advantages.

Ah should start this by sayin' it was dreadful cold. Like dead a' winter cold. And Ah'm from Louisiana, so cold ain't doin' me no favors. And it was dark. The lights in the gym was flickery at best, almost out cold dim the rest of the time. Again, somethin' that kinda happens when Dauntain get together in packs, so Ah'm told. Too bad we cain't figure how ta use that on global warmin'.

Most of the light and heat in the room came from the changelings. The four of 'em on the line with us were glowin' with golden auras of fire, 'ceptin' for Robby's glow was blue. Go figure, everythin' else about him seems ta be blue. Ah quickly could make out how things could go really bad for us. Werewolves got heightened senses and shit. So in the dark, in the light, don't make no never mind ta us. But goin' back and forth bewixt the two short notice…

Distracting. Dangerously so. And some werewolves, when they get up to top rip and claw speed in a fight, they track by sight alone. So that could mean the difference between hitting the bad guy where it counts most, or missing the bad guy entirely, maybe goin' ta claw city on a friend afore you know which one's where.

"So, uh, what's the plan, *jeffe*," Ah asked Juan, our group leader. He stood starin' across the line at bad guys, grindin' his jaw like he wanted ta eat someone, but in a refined sorta tea and axle grease kinda way.

"You heard the plan. We wait. Let them make the first move, the first mistake." He turned to look at me and his face turned all ashen, like not quite white, but definitely not blackened. And his mouth were all kinda wider. Like with flat teeth, and big ones too. I was reminded of the merciless crunch power a' them garbage mashers at junk yards. Ya know, them ones for makin' old junk cars inta blocks a' metal ready to ship off fer meltin' down. Ah had to blink to realize Ah was seein' Juan's changeling side, the Red Cap named Croaker.


"When they make that mistake, we take them down. I'm gonna be setting them up for you guys. You hit them hard. No mercy."

"No need to worry about that," Sven said, mirrorin' what Ah was thinkin'. "These will offer us none. We will return their savagery." He said it calm, but with a sense of conviction. Like it was somethin' that needed doin', an' he was ready to do his part. Ah was beginnin' ta like ole Sven more every day, despite his dipshit boyfriend.

"When ya'll say, settin' 'em up…"

"Just stay loose. Attack quick. Don't get bound into dueling. Dautain get stronger the more contact they have with you."

"They get stronger," Sven asked, "or you get weaker?"

"Both." He got this look in his eye that told me this was about to be an even more lopsided fight than Ah imaged. "Look, with the Dragon's Ire going like this, they're gonna focus a lot on me. That should give you a very tiny advantage. They'll be distracted by all the Glamour I'm kicking out."

"So if'n yuir all bein their firefly, we get to swing the bug zapper? Izat whut yuir sayin'?"

"Uh… close enough…I guess."

Before Juan could spread out a bigger map for our side of the fight, though, the enemy seemed to get their balls off the ground and moved in. And then both me and Juan cut loose with our first weapons, our mouths. He was a wizard at cussin' and Ah just let my own yap go as well.

"Oh, izat your mom's idea of what the big girls is wearin'?" I taunted one Dauntain boy.

"Your fuckin' face is a fuckin' disgrace to fuckin' shit holes every-fuckin'-where, ya drippy shit-breathed muthafucka!" Juan screamed at a group of three comin' his way. Not sure which one he meant, they wuz all candidates for top ugly awards.

"Is that yuir head or did yuir neck throw up?" Okay, not one of my best but still a classic.

"Last time I saw this much shit on the floor the toilet was broke!" Juan screamed. "Yeah, I'm looking at you, the freak with the green hair. Pokémon called, nobody choose you!"

"Oooh, ain't y'all just soooo scary? Which one of you is Dipshit Spice?"

"A Spice Girls reference?" Sven asked, screwin' his face up in confusion. He literally did the head twist. It's a canine thang. "Not Brittany?

"Growing up with nine females in one house means ya hear a lotta crap girly music," Ah shrugged. "Gets me angry."

"Maybe we just slay them in silence?"

"An' where's the fun in that?" I asked back in Sven's direction. Sveny just shrugged his shoulders, with a slight head tilt. But I could see his grin.

Juan's mouth was a constant stream of obscenities and boy howdy was it ever artful. Wished Ah coulda taken notes. But there was fightin' ta do, and it was alla them bringin' heavy pain our way.

They swept forward, screamin' as one. Juan, true to his word, hopped inta the fray ahead of us. He slashed wild and three blades got pushed sideways ahead of him. He landed and kicked one guy's legs out frum under him. He spun in place, his blade singin' out and he hamstrung one an' gave a shallow risin' cut up another's spine. It was a beautiful and violent display. Inspiring!

Juan immediately got the attention of four or five of the nasty bastards facing us, and Ah had other things ta keep my attention occupied. One guy jumped in my face, swingin' his hybrid at my hip. Ah turned his blade on mine, steppin' in close to him and buryin' the point of my elbow inta his chin. I mighta missed his chin and smashed his nose. Didn't have time to check, 'cuz one of his buddies came at my head with his blade. Ah ducked and freed my saber frum the first guy's hybrid and went crosswise and up on the newbie. He was quick, though, and he blocked me low.

So Ah head butted him over our crossed blades. He backed up shakin' his brain case. Ah had to blink a few times muhself. Good thing Ah got a hard head. His was plenty hard, too. Gave me a chance to see him better, even as ah blindly hacked back towards the first huckleberry challengin' me. My blade rang offn his as he still had a paw over his busted mush.

The guy in front of me turned out ta be a girl. Ah'd tell ya what she looked like, but it would kinda sicken you. Oh, what the hell. She obviously hadn't seen water, or known what it was for, in a while, 'cuz her face wuz diii irty! The eyes was dark and had no shine, despite all the lightsaber glows and changelings glowin' like a Dragon Ball episode. And her hair wuz like a rat's nest. Cain't say whut proper color it mighta once been for all the greasy dirt and chunks 'a stuff clingin' in there. She moved like an alley cat.

Lordy, plagued by females again. She was so covered in filth Ah couldn't tell if she was one'a them Dauntain or Formori or what. Ah considered maybe possibly sometime in the future regretin' that dumb Spice Girls joke. But she didn't give me time ta voice that as she came at my head with the silver side of the hybrid.

Her slash went in close an' Ah had ta take a step back ta get my blade up into a proper * secunde* parry, my knuckles turning up like Kenny showed me. Proper form and all that. It gave me an opening for a thrust to her body and Ah took it, strikin' my arm out quick as a rattlesnake. She turned her wrist over and backed up, pushing me just off line from stabbin' her guts out. She was outta my reach for a second, so Ah spun on my heel and took a poke at huckleberry. He was still holdin' his nose with one hand, but managed to block my slash. It kept him off balance and forced him back. So far back that he tripped over one'a Juan's playmates and they both hit the deck.

But ugly girl didn't give me no time ta chuckle. She rushed me with a feral cat scream, leapin' at me with both hands on her hybrid's grip. The blade made what Robby'd call a "wicked hiss" as it came at me, lookin' ta cleave me down the middle. Ah dodged it, barely, and had to duck as she immediately spun a backhanded slash at me. Ah caught her blade behind as it sailed past me, preventing her from using one of the tricks Juan showed me an' tryin' to stab into my leg. Give her credit, she did try it. But it was my turn now. Ah had my blade inside her guard and Ah used that advantage.

Ah speared forward, point up and twistin'. She backed up and tried ta bring her blade around to bat me aside, but when she made the wild swing ta try that, Ah pulled my blade back and then struck at her again, straight for the heart. My weapon passed over hers and slid against it as she panicked and parried up. Ah scored on her shoulder and she backed up four quick steps, clutching her wounded wing. A small, smokin' hole appeared in her "filth armor" as she backed away, growlin' at me through dirty, yallered, grit teeth.

Ah heard more than felt Huckleberry comin' at me from behind. The mats kinda squeak under sneakers. Ah turned and slashed at the same time. Our blades caught and held, so Ah pushed my point forward over his, threatening his face again. He pushed up, so Ah followed the motion. Spun on my heel, steppin' inside his guard again, and made to give him another elbow to the face. He totally bought it. He actually dropped his blade. Ah dropped my shoulder, turned inside and then stood up, slashin' from the ground to the sky, right through his belly.

Huckleberry fell to the ground, nearly spillin' his guts like a bucket of strawberries knocked over by a cat. He was outta the fight, so Ah turned my attention back to the crazy girl. Ah figured even a wounded alley cat still had fight left in her. Sometimes Ah hate bein' right.

She cut me, kinda high on my left arm, from behind. I'd turned just in time ta see her rush but not enough ta get more than a step away. The point sliced me shallow, but in a long cut, and I felt the blood dribble out almost at once. I turned and brought my blade up over my shoulder, point down. It was a purely defensive move, and a good one, 'cuz she rained a series of topside shots at my head. It was a pummeling few seconds, mostly with me enduring her anger and rage, but it fed into my Rage.

Before Ah put more down here, every bit of what the changelings taught us, all the little tricks and hints about movin' our feet as well as our weapon, all that stuff was spot on. Don't think Ah'd have done so well, or lasted so long against these guys without that trainin' from earlier that day. Sayin' that, Ah came to the party with some tricks of my own.

So, cat scratch beaver there had landed a long cut to my arm, and Ah was takin' a poundin' blockin' her two handed strikes at my head. She was screamin' with each hit, puttin' all her anger and aggression into the blows. It was pissin me off. So Ah let the Rage flow.

With a controlled burst of Rage, Ah spun under her hammerin' between blows and dragged my blade across her midsection. It was too fast for her. Rage speed often is. The saber bit hard, bit deep and as Ah drew it through her flesh, using a samurai style move, her blood sprayed on me and the mats. Even her blood smelt horrid, but Ah felt awesome. Ah completed the move, standing up and stroked the blade down across her body, shoulder to hip. Her guts flipped out of her body like they was spring loaded. Ah had to back up. The stench was brutal, but then again, so was this whole ambush.

You know that crazy soon ta be snoozing pile of Wyrm stinkin' maggot wagon still took a poke at me with her sword? Ah mean, she's literally got her heart hangin' out between those gross excuses for titties, walking through her own insides come out, and she still thinks she's got a shot at the title. And stupid me lets her get almost close enough to be kissin' cousins afore Ah realize what she's fixin' ta do.

Her lunge was less than what might be generously called graceful, but it was on target. She cocked back that arm and tried to spear my chest. Got ta say, it was an awesome try. Ah mean, if ya'll gonna die in combat, take as many down with ya as ya'll can, right? Ah stepped back and thought Ah was clear, but the point of her blade scored again, lancing into my… sneaker. How it missed my tootsies, Ah'll never know. Ah hacked her head off for good measure. Well, more out of stunned reaction, really.

Although the expression on her face as her head went tumblin' without a neck was kinda cool. Ya know, in that sick sorta Evil Dead kinda way.

Ah did the math in my head, quick like. Juan had taken two out in the openin' kick, had about five doggin' his heals now. Ah'd just dealt two out of the game. I risked a glance at Sven and he had troubles of his own. Ah thought for a moment of going over to deal with the things about ta test his backdoor when Ah realized Ah had troubles of my own. Result of muh redneck reckonin's: we were still heavily outnumbered, still stuck in a box an' about ta get surrounded.

That's when Ah felt a sharp, agonizin' stab o' pain punch inta muh leg frum behind. It burned in its passin' and I was barely able to step away. Lordy, it hurt! Ah blind slashed behind me as Ah turned to see what had sliced into my second favorite calf muscle. Thank Luna's bright beams, my backward cut hit somethin' soft and squishy instead of somethin' hard and clashy. Somethin' that cried out in a voice Ah was gettin' all too familiar with.

It was Chuckles. Ah brought my saber up, pointin' at his arm, where a fresh red mark showed under his now ripped shirt sleeve. The tip of his own weapon was wet with my blood as well. He held onna them hybrids, but it looked like he used the Cold Iron edge on me instead of the silver. The burning pain Ah felt surely was the silver just greasin' the wound the other edge sliced in me. Still, it hurt like fire, like a paper cut dipped in peroxide then smashed with a hammer, only louder.

"Ah see ya'll came ta play this time, Chuckles." Three of his buddies lined up with him, makin' a semi-circle 'round me. Ah cain't be completely sure, but one of the enemy fighters looked kinda sickly, bloated through his face, and Ah thought Ah saw the flutter of gills beneath the sides of his jaw. All of 'em armed with them hybrid swords that keep dancin' in and out of muh senses, makin' muh eyes hurt. This didn't look good.

"You will die now, you Cajun trailer trash reject," Chuck said, no mercy, no mirth, no maybe in his voice. Just the dark assignation of someone prepared ta die to make his own prophecy become scoreboard. And he came with backup. Ah sensed that two were movin' in on muh tail, frum both sides. Ah shifted up to Crinos, ready to dish it out as well as take a few. It was about ta get swamp ugly. An' this lil swamp wolf was not about to just roll over and go down easy.

"Don't sing it, Up Chucks. Bring it!" Ah screamed, Rage flowin', ready for the fight of muh life. Chuck smiled, all sinister like, and lowered his sword. Totally overconfident.

Now as weird as this sounds, an' as pissed off as Ah was, an' as scared Ah was at the same time, but all excited an' happy in the moment of the fight, Ah heard somethin' or someone in muh head shout, echoey-like, "Duck, Grommet!"

And they all up'n attacked at once and Ah went down in a pile of hacks, slashes, fangs and claws.

[tag image here – AuspiceTheurge.jpg – left justify]Crescent Moon: Cody Reynolds ("Donersly")/Speaks With Water (Theurge)

There were few times in my life I was ever this scared, this mad and this focused all at once. Or cold. It had been a warm summer day when we started and now it was so cold you could see your breath. All of us were wearing just sweat soaked tee shirts and gym shorts. And under those shorts was just a jock strap. So, like, add that shivering frustration in, too. My ribs quaked it was so cold, and my arm hair was prickled up like the spines on a cactus.

Near me, Robby and Magnus were strong presences. I could feel the Glamour in Robby and the Rage rolling off Magnus and it helped me center myself. Fortunately, some of that Glamour pouring out of Robby was also heat, from the fiery nimbus pulsing out of him. Out of all the changelings, I noticed. It was like standing near a roaring campfire, blasting out heat and light.

The enemies across from us were harder to sense, other than by smell. That was a different matter entirely. I could have fought them blind with the power of their stink and the heavy sounds of their breathing alone. But those weapons they had kept trying to hide from me, like they were pushing my eyes away. I had to fight to see even the half of them that was the dark metal. I kept in mind that the other half, the part I couldn't see, was silver.

Silver that kills werewolves. _Invisible_ silver that kills werewolves.

Yeah, things kinda sucked a whole lot.

One of four copies of Chuck was staring me down, his weapon extended. And here I was, with barely three hours of training in how to fence, armed with a Glamour infused wooden dowel mated to a set of plumbing parts and batting tape. And it was so incredibly cold all of a sudden. Outnumbered, boxed in, defending wounded changelings, and split up by our defacto war leader into triads.

How in Gaea's name did we get to this point?

They were a motley assembly, our gathering antagonists. Saying it like that now doesn't even begin to show how anxious and afraid I felt. I guess in a way, when you get to look back at something you've already done you can mask the terror with more details than you remember focusing on in the moment.

Like I said, they were an odd assortment. Kids ranging from Robby and Kenny's age to Sven and Magnus' ages, dressed in dark jeans that had seen better days, and dark, ragged t-shirts with metal band names and violent themes on them. One or two wore hats, not that I was worried much about head gear. All of them looked uncomfortable, unwashed and unwholesome. There was just this sense of things not being quite right with any of these guys. As if their particular brand of crazy was something you could feel in the air, smell in a passing waft, or perhaps just a vibe you got at the mere sight of them.

Some of them I easily picked out as being Formori. Beings given dark powers to help them feed darker appetites. Natural enemies of the Garou, and by definition, servants of the Wyrm. In the old days, like the steam train and gun slingers and horse powered everything days, they were called Mockeries, because they mocked nature with their unnatural abilities and, well… habits. Think super inbred hillbilly freaks that wind up as villains on like old TV shows like the X-Files or something like that and you get the general look. And that's even before they uncork whatever gifts the Wyrm has granted them to put them on a more equal footing against a werewolf.

So yeah, there were at least four or five of them there. Then there were the actual werewolves I saw walk in as well. At least three, two boys and I think a girl, all older than Nick and me, more Sven and Magnus' age, I guess. But they also had that twisted and corrupted look like the Formori and the Dauntain kids. They weren't exactly hiding being in Glabro form, and it was from that I could tell they were obviously Black Spiral Dancers, like that pack we'd fought almost 6 weeks back, when I still had parents who didn't think I was dead.

One of the BSD boys had patagia, a stretch of extraneous skin between his wrists and hips (and sometimes lower) that he could use to glide like a flying squirrel or a bat. He was wearing one of those old rock concert t-shirts from like the 80's with no sleeves, but the sides opened down to the hem at the hips. That's where the flaps of his patagia hung out, like excess skin, sickly looking, decorated here and there with small tufts of gross, wiry-looking hairs, the occasional wart and the telltale spiraling burn marks that BSD's make on themselves as a sign of how tough they are. How devoted to the Wyrm. Because the spiraling burns are carved into their skin with silver.

All that plus the at least six giant squid-faced bearish, doggish things that somehow could climb the walls like spiders. In case you are wondering, I was more than a little freaked out. We were outnumbered by fiends and horrors, and that mist was mucking up my magic viewing, so I couldn't see exactly how deep we were into this.

This wasn't what I had in mind at breakfast when I agreed to join the Jedi class. Did I mention it was cold? I felt my three "best friends" try to climb back inside. I think two succeeded.

"Cody," Robby growled back towards me. He was a few paces ahead and to my right, Magnus several paces further on my right, forming a triangle facing the enemy formation.

"Yeah," I called back. The enemy group was holding their position, at least in the front row. There were so many of them that I couldn't keep track of all of them, especially with a few of those big squid-looking bear things crawling up the walls like bugs.

"I'm going to let the first one that comes at me pass by me. I'm gonna parry his first strike really hard and he'll bank your way. He's yours," Robby said. "It'll be an easy spearing attack. Clear him and be ready for the next one, likely coming at you from the left. Magnus is going to get swarmed."

"Let them come!" Magnus growled. He reeked of pride and defiance. No lie, I could smell it on him!

"They will big guy," Robby intoned. "When they do, just remember who your friends are. Soon as I clear a few, I'll give you some breathing room. And watch out for those weapons you can barely see. They're silver on one side."

"This is your strategy?" Seeing them standing there like that, with Magnus in Glabro form, I got a better appreciation for Robby's situation. He was maybe all of 5'2", I guess, and in Glabro form, Magnus was showing his Germanic heritage at nearly seven feet tall. Yet here was the little guy, a full head shorter than me in my normal form, barking orders with not only confidence, but authority. Like he was born to lead folks into battle.

"No. It's just how it's going to happen. Look, the sooner we break the middle, the sooner we can all help our boyfriends fight these things off, or defend the injured from the guys about to encircle us." Magnus looked around us, seeing the big things going up the walls, and he grunted in assent.

"Humph," Maggie grunted. "Maybe you aren't the soft pawed whelp I took you for."

"Yeah, well, thank me later if we survive this. I get the feeling we're about to have one hell of a fight."

"Nothing would please me more," Magnus said, gripping his lightsaber with anticipation. I noticed his red blade had grown to match his Glabro form, which told me that Nick had likely recommended they use the Rite of Talisman dedication on their chosen blades. Not a bad idea. If I'd had more time at that time, I would have done as much for my saber, too. Magnus' red blade now had at least five feet of reach. Considering his already basketball player-like arm span, that gave the Get a lot of sweep with the business end of his weapon.

Now, for the three hours before lunch, we'd been learning from the changelings the art of the sword. And learning those lessons the hard way. My wrist and elbow, despite the padding, still stung from all the times I'd exposed them. It's one thing to hear someone tell you to cover your arm with the blade. Takes bruises to learn exactly what that means. So when I was getting ready to face these hybrid sword armed kids, that lesson was still fresh in my mind,

And then I got to see Robby go to work.

He came set as the Dauntain charged, his blade held low and away, sorta behind his hip, two-handed style, like a samurai. The first one that came at him had a friend, so he basically faced two. He took a step towards the left and caught the incoming slash on his blade, raising it up high and perpendicular to the ground. Using some kinda strong and fast shifting move, his elbows changing up and down, he hooked he enemy's blade around and hip checked the kid hard. The effect was just as he told me it would be. The Dauntain was off balance, spun partly around, and his sword was well up and out of play.

So I stabbed with the full length of my blade, stabbing about the first third through the kid's back. He staggered as I struck and I could feel how the blade caught in his body, how the weight of him suddenly going limp nearly tugged the weapon out of my hands. If I hadn't been in Glabro form, it might have left me defenseless. My own added weight and strength served me well there. I pulled hard and freed my weapon, and just in time as another Dauntain swept in behind the point of his own weapon.

It was a blur, the dual nature of the hybrids making it difficult for me to see the incoming attack. I blindly parried up, taking a step back. I came set with my feet, squared my shoulders to the new opponent and found him already in motion at me again. He came in low at my hip, then switched high at my right shoulder then tried to poke into my chest. But that rote pattern that Master Mitch drilled into us the first hour came in handy. I parried with two low, three up high and blocked across my chest with five.

My opponent stopped, each of his attacks had been matched to a shuffling step forwards, putting strength behind his hits, but they were more to test me than anything, to look for a weakness. I had taken steps back with each thrust. But now, with his momentum halted, I struck back.

I hooked the end of my blade around the length of his, wrapping around over the top, to the outside, then back under, brining my point up inside his guard. He backed up, trying to cross his blade over mine, to push me down, and I used that to my advantage. I'd seen Kenny do it a number of times during our training this morning, and actually doing it makes so much sense than just seeing it from the side, or even having it used against you. When the Dauntain kid pushed down with his blade after my encirclement, I simply speared forward, turning my wrist over to stab into his leg. A move Kenny had called a _coupé_.

The Dauntain backed up, retreating from my attack to his leg. I felt my confidence rise as he stepped back, holding his blade out at full arms-length. Clearly, he hadn't been prepared for my skill, despite not being able to see more than half of his weapon. It occurred to me at that moment that the best way to be able to know where that hybrid was, aside from trying to look for the Cold Iron side, was to actually have my blade on it. I could feel his strength resisting my own in that contact. I could sense which way he planned to attack by how he held it and moved behind it.

As the one I'd speared in the leg retreated, one of the Chucks moved forward. He waved his blade back and forth, only the width of his shoulders, keeping the silver edge up in my face so I could barely see the Cold Iron half. The other two that had attacked came in with brute force and speed. Chuck apparently knew what he was doing. And oddly, he seemed skinnier somehow. Trimmer, in better shape, moving like a much lighter Chuck. More information to file away for another day, though. That weapon he held in my face was trying hard to distract my attention.

"You can't win, Cody. We outnumber you, four to one."

"Interesting choice of words. Funny how you know my name," I replied. He made three shallow cuts at me, which I blocked, keeping my own weapon centered on him.

"You could join us, Speaks With Water," Chuck said, gathering his arms for a hard strike. Behind him, I saw Magnus slash through a pair of tentacles from one of the squid-bear things. Near him, completing some sort of spinning move, Robby dispatched two more, deflecting an attack at the same time. The last enemy Robby's blade had passed through evaporated in a scream and a fading ripple of sickly green flame. The two of them were doing well, but about to get heavily outnumbered. As I watched, another of the Chucks moved in on Robby's blind side and attempted to stroke him from behind, right between the shoulder blades.

And like the Jedi our class sought to emulate, Robby's blue lightsaber blade flashed up over his shoulder and blocked the incoming strike. Chuck was just as surprised by it as I was. And by that I mean the Chuck facing Robby, not the one trying to talk me to the dark side. Robby's glow flashed in what I image was annoyance, he was already way past angry.

"Sorry, Charlie. I have other plans."

"You poor idiot. You think you're saving that bitch, JJ?" He launched a quick flurry of attacks, testing my defense. I dodged two of them and blocked the next four, before making a brief attack of my own to back him up. "Or that you can somehow get out of this with your hide intact. Your boyfriend is targeted for destruction."

"Funny," I said, slashing hard at him with my Glabro enhanced strength. "We seem to be doing well so far."

Charlie lowered his weapon, and took two steps back, grinning. And I heard why a moment later, as the sloppy growl of something gruesome and large sounded behind me.

"You were saying?" Chuck said as I dodged out of the way. The squid-bear thing tried to swat me down with its heavy paw. The claws slammed into the padded mats on the floor, ripping through them like paper. That kinda pissed me off some. Well, and all the things that Charlie said about JJ and Nick. And that trying to kill me with silver thing.

Pretty much, I just got pissed. And I let the Rage flow. I swept forward, angry as hell, and went to hack town on the squid-bear thing. It tried to wrap me with a tentacle and bring me into its mouth, which it opened wide to bite me. It was like a giant parrot beak. And the tentacles stung as they wrapped my left forearm. The smell of rotting seaweed and cat food hit my nose like a wave of pure disgusting!

I spun my blade through a quick upwards cut, going through a clock movement to free my arm. That added Glabro form strength again came in handy, because the squid-bear things were no slouches. That tentacle was very strong. But it sliced easily under the lightsaber blade. The hum of the weapon in its combat mode was oddly comforting as it burned and cut through the tentacle. Again, the scent of cooked fish reached my nose as I backed up.

Good thing I did, too, because even losing that tentacle the thing tried to snap me with its parrot face. The mouth opened up a lot wider than I would have given it credit for. Probably could have bitten me in half with one chomp.

It reared up in anger and pain as I slashed it and backed up. The tentacle hit the ground and writhed around wildly, bumping into my feet once or twice. I centered myself, took a moment to glance around me, but held the blade up so it could serve as a little bit of deterrence for the monster.

What met my eyes was shocking to me. Robby was a blur of slashes and parries, covering a wide area between Magnus and me. He had no less than five enemies surrounding him, all of them trying to move in on him, none of them succeeding. He had them crowding each other, constantly having to switch their tactics, and he was scoring hits almost at will, while they seemed to be missing by close fractions of an inch on every strike.

Past Robby's whirling blade storm, Magnus had two dead or wounded lying at his feet, and was fending off both a squid-bear and one of the Dancers. And the Dancer was in full Crinos form. It had patches of fur missing, as well as canine teeth that seemed too big for its twisted muzzle. Still, it towered over Magnus by at least two feet and kept trying to leap in close for a claw strike. Magnus' extra big lightsaber was effective at keeping the Dancer at bay, however, and had already trimmed a few whiskers off the squid-bear's muzzle as well. I also noted that the Dancer had a limp, but wasn't sure if he started with one.

There was too much motion going on for me to see how Nick or the others were doing. Too many bodies in the way, too many blades singing around, and far too many of those hybrids to keep pushing on my senses. Well, and that squid-bear in my own face kinda obscured some of my view as well.

I quess Chuck got tired of waiting, because while the squid-bear was lamenting the loss of its face, he swung in. The hybrid in his hand was a wide blur to me, but I'd been watching fencers charge at me all morning, so the body language of the attack spoke to me as much as the yell of anger as he slashed at me. I blindly parried in the Three position and stepped to the right, twisting away. Our blades disengaged, and he whirled through his back at me. That hybrid slashed around low, singing towards my hip with an evil hiss. I parried in Two and the momentum of the contact carried my blade across my body. It stopped his swing, but he had pushed me with that blow. Pushed me hard.

I came set and put my blade up, offering it. I could see the squid-bear behind Chuck, looking around for me with its three eyes. As it located me, and my glowing blade, all three eyes narrowed in hate. Chuck also had a very angry but focused look. I had the two of them in my vision now, so they couldn't divide my attention.

"Someone's taught you a few things," Chuck said, looking at me with something like respect mixed with disgust. "Probably one of those faggot fairies. It wont be enough. You can't win. I've been trained by a master of the sword. You've only got some lessons at the Y under your belt."

"The measure of a warrior isn't always the pedigree of his training, but the will to win," I said. I don't know if that's a famous quote or nothing, or even just close to a famous quote, but it sounded good at the time. And it kinda pissed him off.

"You'll regret not joining us," he snarled. And then he stepped forwards, making like he was going to lance his blade forward in a direct stab to my chest. I leaned back and swung my blade in a quick _parry in quarte_, except his blade wasn't there. He'd completely faked me out and gotten me to commit to the parry. His blade pulled back and then came back in on the same path, like a striking rattlesnake. I stepped right bringing my blade across in a panicked Six. It barely caught his weapon, the silver edge to the outside. But the Cold Iron edge scraped through the loose fabric of the sleeve of my YMCA t-shirt and cut into my shoulder. It was only a scratch, but it hurt, burned like fire, stung like ice. I retreated before the blade could taste my blood, using a turning step to force the hybrid away. Chuck laughed as I came set again, his face twisted with sadistic glee.

The squid-bear saw this as its opportunity. It pounced from about fifteen feet away, leaping clear over Chuck's head to come at me again, its front paws reaching for me, its tentacle shrouded mouth spread wide to bite. I let the Rage flow in me and swung my blade with both hands, making a small jump of my own. The lightsaber edge crashed into the squid-like head between the third eye and the left one, at an angle, just as its huge forepaws dug into the mats like a four-year old jumping in a puddle. The edge dashed into and out of the hard flesh of the thing's head, contacted bone and sort of skidded against it, even as it burned through it.

But it had momentum from the leap and it carried that into me like a linebacker going at the quarterback. The impact whooshed the air out of me and bore me to the ground. The bulk of the creature was above me, pinning me in place. The angle of its tackle conspired with physics to tug the blade back out of its head. It had been a glancing slice at best, despite how clean a strike I'd thought it was. It had me on the ground, on my back. Every instinct in me screamed to get up, get it off me and get some fighting room.

Because that beak was no joke, and close to my soft, tender skin.

Chuck said something in a language I didn't understand. To be honest, my ears were ringing from that hit, so I probably wouldn't have understood it anyways, but the creature didn't bite. I could feel the beak through the thin cotton of my t-shirt and the chest protector underneath. The saliva of the thing soaked down in such a wide pattern, I just knew that it had to have that enormous mouth nearly wrapped around my middle, somewhere under the massive weight of its body and that over-sized head.

"I get the glory of this kill," Chuck said, coming along beside the squid-bear's head. "Looks like you struck bone," he said, a little bit impressed. "Not an easy task. Even with an enchanted weapon. Still, your skill is not enough to take one of these babies down. Nor your pitiful strength."

"You talk too much, Chuck," I called up to him. "It will be your undoing, Dauntain!" Under the thing's head, I tried to leverage my free arm so I could heave it off me, but at least one tentacle was keeping it pinned down. Possibly one of the paws as well. That arm was beginning to feel limp, weak. I wondered for a moment if I'd been poisoned. My sword arm was bent in such a way that I couldn't lift the weapon. I felt a lot of pain there and wondered if the Cold Iron edge also might be poisoned from that scratch.

Either way, I was in a bad situation, and it looked to be getting worse. Keeping Chuck talking instead of hacking my head off with that silver-edged, soul drinking weapon in his hand was my best bet to survive the next few seconds. I just hoped that someone had seen me go down in time to save me.

"Interesting choice of words, _puppy,_" he growled at me. I felt a little dizzy, suddenly, despite being flat on my back. "But I wont be Undone today, not here, certainly not by a lightweight like you!" he raised the hybrid up so I could see it, spun it in his grip like a tennis racket, and then made a show of showing me the silver edge. It swirled and bucked in my vision, but it was plain he wanted me to see it coming.

"We had orders to spare you. That if you could be converted, to capture you. But I'm going to enjoy what it takes to subdue you. I'm gonna enjoy a little payback for all you and your boyfriend and your kind did to me. Almost as much as I enjoyed almost ending your little bitch-boy's life the other night, when I killed that surfer punk that helped you two defend JJ." My eyes flew open at that. He'd just admitted he was the one that killed Rolf! And that he tried to kill my Nicky!

"And if you die while I get my fun… burning you… and cutting you… until you plead for a quick death… well, these things happen in war." He grinned widely and lifted the blade up, spinning it again through the long axis. It came up with the silver edge down, facing my way. With a two handed grip on the weapon, he stared into my eyes, his whole body tensing for the strike he was about to land on my head.

Imagine both of our surprise when three arrows suddenly sprouted from the squid-bear's body. One landing through the right eye, one lancing into the thick neck of the beast, and the other spiking into its back right foot, pinning it to the floor. And when I say arrows, I'm not talking about the two-foot aluminum shafts you might pick up at Wal-Mart. These were almost a yard long, slender shafts of clear crystal!

Both Chuck and I craned our heads about to see Bethy, no longer holding a saber, was nocking another of the thin arrows. Her bow was a thing of beauty, dark polished wood with pearly material at the handgrip and two blades facing up and down along the recurves. As I watched, she aimed up the wall at another of the squid-bear things which was closing on the wounded changelings in the back area. She'd already wounded that one and had taken a moment to help me. I'd already gained respect for her skill and friendliness from before. Now I felt some genuine love for her as a packmate.

Beside her, Sylvia had managed to regain her feet, although her stance told me something was clearly not good in her leg. At best it was sprained. But that didn't stop the dark haired girl from standing with her blade up, ready to defend Bethy and the three wounded friends at her feet. To Bethy's other side, Jack also stood, his weapon raised warily, keeping an eye on the action not only in front of him, but watching to make sure no one broke through to his side where the girls were easy prey. His eyes did dart to where Beth stood from time to time, watching her fling those crystal shafts with unerring precision. I would have to ask her later where she got the bow and arrows from.

Beth's attack gave me a moment and I made the most of it. I took Robby's example from his duel with Magnus, got my feet up into the beast's belly, one foot actually torqued around enough to find some of the huge ribcage, and I pushed, hard. The beast was already reacting to the pain of Bethy's arrows. Chuck had backed away as the thing stretched up and turned to face whatever was stinging it. So when I pushed through my legs, my back, even my shoulders, I was able to leverage the beast in Chuck's direction.

Blindly, Chuck hacked at the thing as it reared his way. I was able to roll away from it, dragging my lightsaber with me, although my arms still felt suddenly so weak and tingly. I managed to regain my feet and brought my saber up, having to use both hands. I felt the scratch in my arm seal up, my werewolf super healing kicking in. I still felt kinda shaky, but knew there was no time to rest.

Taking out the Chucks was the key, I felt. Having four copies of himself here was significant. Meant he was somehow directing our enemies. It also meant that each copy probably had a specific job to do. A specific one of us to kill. He'd tried to recruit me, said that Nick was on the hit list. Claimed he was responsible for killing Rolf. And past the Charlie clone struggling to get back to his feet, I saw Nick get dog piled.

I decided that it was time to let my inner wolf let his Rage be known. I shifted to Crinos, the war form. The lightsaber in my paw was now more like a long knife than a longsword. Didn't matter. I had a mission. I shifted the blade around so that it was more like a dagger, with the point under my pinky instead of over my pointer, and launched myself at the squid dog. Using both paws, I drove the point into the creature's eye. Right behind the attack on its eye, I sank my teeth into its neck, high up near the top of the skull.

The beast went slack beneath me, it's horrid tasting blood dripping down my jaw. I yanked hard on my saber handle, planting my foot on the side of its head for leverage. It slid out with an angry hum and zap sound, the glow of the blade accompanied by hissing steam from the immolating stab wound. I yielded to an instinct and howled in victory.

And then Charlie sliced his blade in a desperate, looping cut, leaving a long, deep gash in my right thigh. The pain was blinding. I literally closed my eyes as the agony of silver dashed into my consciousness. I whipped my blade around, but in my much larger size, Charlie had the advantage. Plus, my blade hadn't been dedicated to me, so it was still original size. He easily dodged.

And that cut had now made me lame. Silver wounds take a lot longer to heal for we werewolves. The same cut made by any normal weapon I could likely heal up in a few minutes, especially if I just rested while in one of my hairy shapes. Silver, however, screws with that at the magical and physical level. A cut like this might take me three days to heal just trusting my werewolf super healing ability.

And Charlie wasn't going to give me that time. I shifted back to Glabro form, so the saber would be more natural in my hands than feeling like a disposable pen held by a fork lift. Just in time, too, because he launched a flurry of attacks. Thrust, slash, sweep upwards, crossing cut aimed at my chest, kick to my wounded leg, backhand hack with the widened edge. He kept slashing and hacking at me, and I was barely blocking them all. Some, to be honest, I just stepped back from, turning. My injured thigh throbbed with the burn.

"Oh, I am enjoying this," Charlie exclaimed. "You have no idea how much pleasure I get out of killing your kind. Fuckin' effete noble bastards! Lucky rich kids! Genetic freaks of nature! All of you! It just feels sooo good taking you all down a step."

"And what does that make you?" I snarled, letting him continue to circle towards my weakened right side. The blood was soaking into my gym shorts, running down to my socks. I could feel my body trying to heal, the maddening hot itchy feel of the silver singed wound still flooded my mind with pain. IF I could keep Charlie talking, maybe I could get some of it back. But that wound was also messing with my Gnosis flow. And the cold of the room, especially flowing from Charlie, was getting to me as well.

"The winner!" Charlie said, dashing two steps forward and lashing his point at me in what Robby would call a flech é move. He was aiming to put that blade through my chest with that mad rush. But he had gotten me madder. He'd gotten me hurt and frustrated. All of which equals Rage, and I uncorked it his way.

Despite the agony in my thigh, I sidestepped Charlie's flech é charge. With both hands I brought my blade down on top of his, crossing it and hacking with Rage strength. The point of his weapon sank towards the mats below us with tremendous speed and sank into the mats all the way to the concrete floor beneath. My blade seemed to spring board off his as it buried itself in the floor and I used that to surge through a two handed circular cut. Rage speed was still with me, anger and pain fueled my strength and I felt the lightsaber's humming wooden shaft bite through something meaty and crunchy. My injured leg prevented me from stopping the swing after the hit and I swirled around. A full 360 degrees and then some! When I had completed the move, I fell to the mats, my leg going pins and needles and icy and burny and itchy and sweaty and crampy under me all at once.

And I wasn't the only one that fell to the mats. Charlie's body landed on the ground, less than two feet from me. His head landed closer to me, but rolled backwards, a look of shear surprise on his face. And then his body and head, both not even leaking blood of any kind, began to evaporate. Like rolled up newspaper thrown on a campfire, the outer surfaces of his body and face began to burn with an eerie green glow, consuming itself. The tissues lifted like ash, fluffing up in some phantom updraft. His eyes went from surprise to hatred as his face was traced with lines of green fire, burning, burning, burning away. His hair melted inwards towards his scalp.

"Not today," I whispered, watching his body dissolve in the weird green fire-lines. I looked around for any additional playmates, but everyone seemed to be busy with someone else. I took that moment to evaluate what to do next. Robby was doing well, keeping at least half a dozen busy. Magnus had his hands full, and more were heading his way. I needed a few moments to recover, feeling my leg stitching itself at least together enough that I could stand.

And then Magnus howled in agony as the Black Spiral Dancer he was fending off sank its oversized fangs in the Get boy's thigh. I got mad, felt the Rage flood me and rode the wave of it forwards, surging to Magnus' side. I forgot all about the pain in my gimped leg, driven by the need to help a packmate, and let a little Rage into these evil things around us.

And as I surged forward, I couldn't help but let the little voice in the back of my head ask if Nick was doing okay.

[tag image here – AuspicePhilodox.jpg – left justify]Half Moon: Sven Angstein / [no Garou name yet] (Philodox)

I was prepared for battle. My mind and spirit were balanced, and I had fresh memories of the lessons we had learned for fighting with the sword today. And while Magnus and I had already been well trained in the ancient war arts, the changeling approach to things gave me new perspectives. Also, this new knowledge showed me how my allies fight. I felt I could integrate myself into their form well enough without losing my own wolf.

The enemies were a diffuse lot, and I found no trouble in locating one I would single out. I remembered the words of the sword master, Mitch, and prepared for the quick dispatch of whichever foe came at me first. I also remembered to stand my ground and give my comrades the protection of my presence.

The one I selected also selected me. He was a tall one of our species, although not of our affiliation. He was clearly a Black Spiral Dancer, a Garou born into the service of the Wyrm, and therefore my enemy. I nodded to him as the lines formed. The formori in front of him began working themselves into a frenzy of bloodlust, yet this Dancer and I remained calm, focused on each other.

His fur, for shortly after he entered the room he switched forms to the Crinos war form, was sleek and black, only a few patches of spiral scarification showed through. He bore no weapons that I could discern, save those honored to him by birth. He had no obvious deformities, so I assumed him to not be of Metis birth. His ornamentation stayed with him through the transformation, however. Three strings of what appeared to be canine teeth ringed his upper arms and draped his chest from his neck. Had I been asked to guess, I would have said that such teeth looked like the fangs of other Garou.

And to display such a trophy spoke of only two things: that either he as a warrior of great skill and experience to have claimed so many teeth, or that the items were some sort of magical relic passed through his family line. Neither gave me hope that a battle between us would be a simple matter. Or one without a chance of losing.

Our diminutive battle leader, the skinny Spanish changeling boy named Juan, instructed me to the outside of the triad, nearest the retractable seating apparatus which connected to the wall. This suited me, for I had intentions of going after the abomination walking up the wall to that side, seeking to go around us and either attack from behind or seek easy prey among the wounded few behind us. Such a tactic, while effective, lacked honor, and that offended me to the point of Rage.

"We're the muscle," Shadow Foot chuffed at me in the Garou tongue. "He's the brains," he finished, nodding towards Juan. I nodded back, understanding completely. We had to act as a pack, and so I would do my part. Unto my final breath, I would do my part.

I risked a quick look over to my treasure, Magnus. He was exchanging words with the Satyr boy he had fought mere moments ago. They seemed to have found some consensus. I took hope in that. Magnus can be hot-tempered at times, lose his will to the wolf inside, give himself over to the Rage instead of harnessing its might. Seeing him keep his head allowed me to focus more on the task at hand.

The evil voice from the mist gave the enemy their permission to attack, referring to them as the Black Circle. I do not know what importance this will be, but such a name suggests greater organization than a mere war party. I fear that in this respect, our enemies have been far better prepared for this battle than we were.

The enemy broke ranks and surged at us. I stood with my left shoulder to our foes, my blade held up close by my chest, partly hidden from their view. One of the formori swept to me, his hybrid weapon brandished forward. Immediately I could see why this was a good tactic for them. The blade seemed to be trying to hide from my vision, or at least it felt like it was pushing my eyes away. Only in seeing the darker half of the sword could I detect it.

I swung hard as he approached, my elongated blade giving me a wide swath. I timed my heroic sweep so that this charging enemy would be completely out of range with his weapon, while still allowing my weapon to cleave his flesh. It mostly succeeded. I managed to sink my humming blade into his body about halfway through, catching on his hip or his spine. This impaled the weapon and as he sank to the mats, he hacked at my arm. I was forced to let go of the blade or else his swipe would have lopped off my hand.

I grabbed the handle of my weapon as his slashed past and he sank to his knees. I intended to plant a foot on his chest and free the blade for other uses, when the Dancer surged towards me, claws outstretched to rake me from both sides. I had no time to duck the attack, not with the enemy still stuck on my blade as he bled out onto the mats, so I simply used the handle as a point of balance and struck out with my foot, aiming at the Dancer's chest.

My boot connected to his chest moments before he would have hit the ground, and it forced air from his lungs. The force of our combined vectors had two direct effects. For my part, I was knocked to the ground. The Dancer was flung backwards several meters, where he bounced off the masonry of the wall.

I regained my feet, and sought to retrieve my blade. Around me I saw Shadow Foot had two enemies upon him, but he was dealing well with them. A third, a male Dauntain who smelled of fecal release, lay at his feet, bleeding, one of the enemy's weapons stuck in his own chest. Shadow Foot appeared unharmed. His movements were to allow the enemy to attack, and then counter. A wise plan.

The formori I had impaled was still struggling for breath when I gripped the handle of my weapon, still lodged within the bones of his torso. He feebly attempted to attack me with his hybrid weapon as I approached, but his body rapidly was losing the will to fight. Still, I felt a surge of mercy for him. Despite dying, he was fighting to the end. Our enemy might not be noble as a whole, but there were pockets of honor among them. I kicked his weapon hand to disarm him, sending that cursed blade under the seating benches. I then put my foot to his chest and tugged my weapon free. Upon my next stroke, I uttered "May you find peace," and sank my blade into his head.

A curious thing happened. His body began to dissolve upon his death, burning away as ash in a bonfire, although limned in a green glow instead of the cheery red of hearth flames. And the burning was as embers rather than as flames, for it gave off no heat I could discern. Only lifting ash remained, and the body was consumed in moments.

One of the Dauntain thought to challenge me next, leaping off the raised seating benches to my right. I caught sight of him as he leapt and brought my blade around. The weapon cut through the air with an angry hissing sound, and it contacted his blade with a crash of energy and sparks. The Dauntain's hybrid rang off my blade as he passed by me and he spun in place, seeking to draw his blade through my large leg muscles from behind.

I dropped to one knee and kept my blade over my shoulder, pointing down. It intercepted his attack and I was then able to use both arms to lever his blade up and away. This also provided me with leverage to turn upon the point of my knee and bring my weapon to bear, slashing across his body in a diagonal arc, shoulder to hip. But he was trained in the sword and was able to parry my strike. His body seemed stronger than a boy his age should be. After knowing the changelings for only a few hours, I had to guess that if they considered these Dauntain to be mortal enemies worthy of fear, then there must be more to them than meets the eye.

Despite my advantage of size, the Dauntain warrior continued to offer lone battle to me, and he faked an attempt to spear into my chest, only to make a shallow cut aimed at my arm. I have seen such attacks before, but the advantage of the hybrid weapon confusing my senses allowed his second intention to land a glancing blow. It was a shallow slice, his tip barely intersecting the meaty part of my forearm, nearest the elbow. Thank Gaia it was only the Cold Iron edge of that dreadful weapon. The training of these beings became clear to me. They would wound with the edge we could see hoping to panic us about the edge we could not detect with our senses. Thus they could gain an advantage suitable enough to use the edge capable of causing the most harm on subsequent attacks.

His strike was painful, but not distracting, nor enough to cause me worry. My natural healing would deal with it soon enough. He seemed emboldened by this, however and moved to attack from the other side. I felt the Rage rise within me and made use of it.

We Garou are famous in folklore for allowing Rage to overcome us. And while this can, and often does happen, it is not Rage's only use. For those who can maintain their capacity and use Rage at the same time, the results can be spectacular. And I have spent the last few years learning to master my Rage. Here is what I did.

I fueled my Rage into speed, increasing the ferocity of my attacks. The enemy Dauntain before me was skilled with the blade, and strong, but I doubt he has ever encountered Rage speed before. I slashed at him, through the middle, which he barely deflected, and the speed and power of my strike, put him slightly out of position. Thus was I able to change my attack and come at him from above, swinging my weapon in a wide, hard arc. Again, he managed a parry, but the blow carried hard into his block and he needed both hands to support the weapon from that strike. His arms deeply depressed to absorb the shock of it. I lifted my knee to his ribs, under the crossed blades, which pushed him back a step and disengaged our weapons.

Then my Rage sang. I spun in place, slashing downward and across his body, knocking his weapon out of line to the other direction from before. He staggered from the blow. I the hammered down on his weapon, held out and slightly loose away from his body. This knocked the point into the ground, gouging into the mats below us. Before he had a chance to recover either wit or weapon, I spun again and reached out with my furthest edge to slice across his neck. The blade sang with Rage as well, for it seemed to make a sharp zipping sound as it cleaved through his neck. His body fell to the ground, already beginning the green burning away as his head hit the mats well before him, four meters away.

My appreciation of the changelings, their fighting style and their weapons grew with that lightsaber. It has become my most trusted weapon other than the natural armaments Gaia has granted we Garou, her chosen defenders.

With a growl of anger, the Dancer was upon me again. In my dealing with the two previous enemies, I had lost track of the Wyrm stinking Garou race-traitor and nearly paid for it with my life. He came in with all four clawed paws extended, his full weight behind an impressive leap. Had I witnessed his initial launch, I might have had time to intercept it with my blade. But as I had been turned to deal with the Dauntain and his hybrid, the leap attack caught me off guard. He was going to land on me, all claws piercing my flesh.

So I ducked into the Umbra. I had to step sideways towards his incoming attack as I left the material plane for the spirit realm. The Shadow was full of flame spirits, dancing in joy, and several hulking banes, of many different sizes and shapes awaited there as well, drawn to the din of dark emotions and battle. The Gauntlet into the Umbra had been difficult to pass through, instead of its usual velvet pressure, it was as if grinding my way between sanding paper blocks. This was not good. We would find no solace or escape through that route until this battle and the blaze it inspired had passed.

Almost immediately I stepped back to the solid world, with the Dancer squatting on the mat, looking for where I'd gone. I was behind him, my blade already moving forwards as I stepped clear of the Gauntlet between worlds. Our eyes met as he glanced over his shoulder at me. All other motions seemed to fade to nothing.

He turned oddly, lifting one of his hind legs to sweep up at me in a raking kick. I leaned away from the ripping edges of his claws and saw in their near passing to my face that they were sheathed in silver. This was truly a powerful member of his sect, and thus I afforded his attack my full attention. He continued the movement from the first kick, spinning as he resumed an upright posture. He combined the movement with a slashing fist full of claws, aimed at taking my blade out of my hand.

I'd felt strength like that acting upon blades before, but was unprepared for how the silver claws rang sparks of the humming orange glow in my paw. Nor was the Dancer, I'd imagine, for he glanced briefly to his claws before returning his attention to me. In this strange new world of sharing magicks and techniques, there was little time to fully examine the particulars. There was a battle to survive. I would have to investigate the wonders of things later.

From this changed point of view, I saw a press of enemies surround and rush at Nick from all sides. His blade flashed as he moved within the circle of foes, but it was evident to me that he had gone down under the press of so many attacks at once. Rage flared in me, but I held it in check, knowing that I had to deal with this traitorous Wyrm stinking fiend before me.

"Cleverness will not avail you, Get whelpling!" the Dancer called out. I ignored his barb. I am not of a kind to be rattled by bold words alone. However, this fiend followed his words with actions. He slashed at my blade, the curves of his claws seeking to turn my weapon aside. At the same moment, he used Rage speed of his own and pushed forward with his other set of claws. I freed my blade from his disarming attempt and stepped back, bringing my sword up to parry his rush.

But he was quicker than I'd anticipated, and my blade was again knocked out of line. He continued his attack with a lunging, spinning kick of his hind claws, raking for my chest. The impact stunned me and I nearly lost balance. His claws, thankfully, didn't penetrate my skin, for they had the smell of silver upon them!

He landed, lightly, and reached out to test my guard with his silvered claws again. Sparks rang off my orange weapon as he struck at me, but his temporary burst of Rage speed had worn off. I allowed his jab to push my blade away only to circle it back in at him, point first, from under his chest level. The point speared up near his face and he backed up a step. I held my ground and watched as one of his enormous paws swept up to his chin to feel the spot where my lightsaber's singing orange glow had singed his fur down to skin.

This angered him. He leapt upon me, clearing the distance with speed and ferocity born of Rage and knocked the saber from my hand with a clubbing, chopping motion of his own massive paw. His body fell against me and we began to struggle, chest to chest. This was no novice to combat, and he clearly knew how to take advantage. He tripped me with a clever sweep of the leg and we went down in a pile.

His breath became a physical assault to me, as his mouth was opened and going for my throat. I had his chest upon mine, only the mercy of my forearm wedged under his collar bone keeping his fangs from delivering a painful, crushing bite to my face or neck. His slobber fell upon me, sickening me with the stench of decay and rot. He snapped his jaws at me three times, barely missing my cheek and nose, before I could shove him off. He twisted to the side and transformed from Crinos to Hispo, the dire wolf form. He was every bit as massive in this shape, but had the stability of four legs beneath him. And he maintained the massive jaw with which to strike.

I rolled a short distance, looking for my blade. Separated from me, the weapon had lost its glow. But the bright orange paint showed up in the new light sources from overhead. Looking up, I spied flames, chewing through the ceiling above us in rippling waves. The flickering light still was not powerful enough to deaden the cold that the Dauntain brought into the room, but it was only a matter of time before the conflagration caught up to us.

I could only surmise that this had been a well-constructed trap, and that our enemies had no problems with sacrificing pawns to take out royals. Information for another day.

The flames overhead produced a short rain of burning materials, some dripping from melt, some smoking and flashing from the lick of fire blazing as it fell. A segment of overhead lighting also came crashing down, followed by another segment, the two lined up in pairs overhead, remaining partners as they lost their grip above and plummeted to the mats. I was forced to jump back from the falling debris. Some of it fell to where Shadow Foot had been. I heard cries of surprise and pain from there.

And then I heard the growl as the Black Spiral charged over the fallen lighting array, his mouth already reaching out to taste my throat. The leap was impressive. The wide jaw full of broken yet sharp teeth, dripping saliva, was on target to snap shut on my flesh. I lifted my paws back, claws strengthening for a counter-attack, but I knew his bite would land first. A killing bite.

Yet the blow didn't fall. As I watched, my own arms slashing up and forward to sink my claws into my foe, his lunge at my neck was cut short. His eyes widened in panic. His jump fell surprisingly short and he was beyond my reach. Both of us looked behind him to see what had arrested his lethal leaping attack.

Standing behind the Spiral, his tail firmly in mouth, was Shadow Foot, in Hispo form, his smaller form dug in against the mats below us. He had literally jerked the Dancer out of the air by the tail.

"Anmy tim youff ready!" Nick managed to say around a mouthful of Spiral tail.

The Spiral moved first to dislodge Shadow Foot's oral grip upon his appendage, only to realize that he was now outnumbered, outflanked and facing the wrong part of the enemies arrayed against him. He turned back in my direction in time to find my fist smashing his face to the ground. His muzzle bounced up and I gave him good with my left claw set, under his jaw. He stiffened, tried to twist his head around to bite at my arm. Which opened him to my other hand, and I dug into his other jaw. His foul blood flowed and coated my paws, and he snapped his muzzle closer towards my chest. His breath rushed into the fur over my heart. One good lunge and he'd still penetrate my chest with his fangs.

The Spiral tried to push my arms off, twisted his hips, shifting shapes from the Hispo to the Crinos form. In doing so he, managed to dislodge Nickolas' grip. I put one foot on the Spiral's now wider shoulder and tugged on his head, hard. And then something heavy landed on the Spiral's back. It was Nick, and in his Crinos form paw was his newly awarded klaive! The point of the blade sank between the Black Spiral Dancer's shoulders, even as I was trying to pull his head off, both of my paws buried to the second knuckle behind the curves of each jaw.

The fiend's head popped off and flew from my hands, speeding across the gym to knock cold one of the Dauntain attempting to attack Kenny, many meters away. A cheerful "thank you!" was shouted from Kenny's area. I rolled to my back, turned and found Nick crouched beside me in the Crinos form. He dropped something onto my chest.

"All in one piece?" he growled at me.

"Intact!" I growled back, reaching for whatever he had dropped on me. It was my lightsaber. I grasped the handle and the metallic orange paint flared to light and life again. "How did you escape?"

"I went to the Umbra. Not a place we'll be escapin' through. Banes and burnies kinda outnumber us there more than here."

A quick look revealed that we were doing much better than anticipated. To our side, Juan was doing well against four or five. Three others from Nick's previous area were still intact and gathering to come back at us. The one that was seemingly a quadruple twin was also among them, although the head I had launched across the room seemed to have taken down one of his brothers. I could see, from my laid out position, the large enemy that seemed to combine ursine and mollusk traits, moving across the wall, outflanking us.

"Then we still have work to do," I growled back.

"Good, I'm goin' after some rascals down here. I got yuir back if you still wanna go after the wally-crawly."

"Good plan. Fight well, brother!" We slapped paws and took off in separate directions. He ran to help Juan deal out death to our enemies on the ground and I turned to leap at the fiend on the wall.

It saw me coming and thus we were moving towards each other. Tentacles reached out, my blade spun and shown in angry orange light. We met with a wet, meaty smack and tumbled back to the ground, struggling mightily. I stabbed, I clawed. I bit into tentacles, through them. I felt the beast wrap and squeeze my chest, bite and scrape at my flesh. We rolled and smashed at each other and gave battle with all that was within us. I felt my Rage grow and flow. I took wounds, I moved with the speed and muscular fury of my Rage. The creature and I gave each other out best. For several minutes we struck and fought savagely, neither giving nor able to take advantage.

And when it finally stopped resisting, laying back on the ground, my orange blade buried deep in the creature's body, through its neck and through the top of its head, I howled my victory. I yanked my blade free and looked to aid Juan and Nick deal with the last four enemies that remained.

It was then that I heard a female voice raised in a cry of excruciating pain and anguish. Much of the fighting ceased as all heads turned to look towards the back of the gym.

[tag image here – AuspiceGalliard.jpg – left justify]Gibbous Moon: Magnus Ragnarson/ [no Garou name yet] (Galliard)

I let the battle Rage fill me as the enemy line broke ranks and charged at us. This was what I had been waiting for and preparing for my whole life. Gratefully, and with a silent hope that the spirits watch my fighting with honor that I might please them with my skill and strength in Gaia's name, I roared as we closed for combat.

The first one that came at me was one of the Dauntain children, a little younger than me, but armed with that weapon that my eyes refused to fully focus on. He was unprepared for the strength of my initial parrying stroke but he held to his weapon strongly. Still, he was turned away from me directly and this left my blade open for the next two that came at me.

Those two I stepped between, a Dauntain, much similar in age to Robby, the changeling leader I had dueled with before this interruption, and a formori, one with an extra pair of arms and additional layers of Wyrm stinking fat as armor. I parried a strike from both of them, as I got between them, and then stroked my changeling weapon through the Dauntain's flesh. It peeled from the cut like slicing into warm fruit. In anger and pain the Dauntain speared its weapon for my heart. I dodged, stepping away from the point just as the formori stroked his weapon down with all four arms. The two of them struck each other with great power. The Formor's weapon cleaved through the Dauntain's shoulder, splitting nearly to the hips, while the Dauntain's point found lodging in the formor's eye socket. They both fell to the ground and twitched with eldritch green fire burning from within, like tobacco leaves smoldering.

I heard the step of the first enemy I faced as he came up behind me. I turned and crashed my practice weapon upon his sword. The blade vibrated under my eyes and under the touch of our blades as I felt him try to push the point into my leg. He kept both hands on the weapon. He was strong, especially for one of such meager height. But after the duel with Robby I reminded myself that size does not always indicate how dangerous, powerful or skilled an enemy may be. I would not make that mistake so soon again.

He freed his weapon and swung high. I blocked him easily, and with strength. But he was waiting for such and quickly rebounded off my blade to swing under at my elbows. The enemy's weapon so resisted my senses that I nearly did not interpret his movement as an attack. This forced me to step back and I barely managed to parry the blow. The Dauntain wasted no time in pressing his attack, his speed and strength considerable. His skill was lacking, though. I used a flick of my wrists to push his weapon away and closed to ram him with my shoulder.

Only he wasn't there. He had somehow moved back away from me with such speed. I cannot now remember if his feet even moved. But it was clear, he had moved past my shoulder tackle, and I was thus off balance.

Three more fell on me, all at once. One a formori who had scaly skin and a body lengthened as if a snake. The snake boy wrapped his body around my right leg, his arms seeking to ensnare my left leg as well. The other two were both Dauntain, and they attempted to cross blades through my spine from opposing angles. It was a desperation move, I am sure. As Robby said, I had garnered much attention from our foes due to my obvious physical superiority.

I managed to block the one Dauntain to my right side, our blades clashing with an evil hiss. I relished the sound of it. The other, however, I had no easy way to prevent his attack. So rather than put my hand in danger of separation, I grabbed the arm that held the evil blade. I do not believe they were prepared for my maneuver and thus it was a shock that my boldness succeeded. I hauled hard on the one who's arm I had grasped and pointed his blade to his comrade's chest. The comrade disengaged my blade and was forced to parry his ally. I pushed rudely on the back of the one I'd hurled to oppose and turned in place.

The snake-formori attempting to grasp my legs struggled hard. I must admit, his strength was formidable. He was resilient and vigorous. He also was unarmed and extended, exposed. I hacked down with the lightsaber weapon, noticing it sheathed in an angry red glow. The blade smashed against the snake formor's body, cutting, but not severing him. The scales on the mockery of nature were tough and blunted much of my attack. He was harmed, however and I heard his blood hissing against the blade as I pulled it up for another strike.

But the first attacker was suddenly back, spearing his point up towards my neck. I forced myself to duck under the strike, slashing outwards under his attack. He was quick, however, and parried my cut using the *secunde* defense. As I resumed my vertical base, the snake-boy managed to wrap both of his arms around my leg. His body constricted powerfully, preventing me from taking steps. I was immobilized, but not out of the battle.

The first attacker moved in, his blade a blur in my vision, both for his hand speed and the curious and maddening shifting the weapon made in my vision. I bashed his way with my own weapon, seeking to get him back long enough to deal with the snake-formor hampering my movement. It was not to be, however, as he moved to my left, forcing me to twist in order to keep my weapon in play. This one was smart and used the advantage of the snake's gambit against me. I was reminded of Robby's use of similar tricks and maneuvering. This situation could not continue.

His blade rang against mine several times. Teasing, testing cuts, forcing me to torque my middle about as fully as I could. On his sixth such cut, it occurred to me that he was keeping my blade active without stepping close enough for either of us to score a wound. He was distracting me. And in my anger and eagerness to fight, I had been drawn into this situation.

Several fell upon me. I know not how many, but at least more than three based on their weight and the number of arms that gripped me. I tried to shrug them off, twisting with my upper body, swinging my blade with force. But the snake-formor's continued efforts and the weight landing upon me was enough to bear me to the mats.

And then the Black Spiral Dancer with the patagia lunged at me. I tried to free a paw to slash at his face as he came at me, but the snake boy and the others pinning me prevented this. The Wyrm tainted Garou traitor sank his fangs into my thigh while I was held to the ground. The pain of the bite went deep. The saliva of his mouth left a greasy, burning feeling, even as he ground his teeth around, widening the wound.

And that was when Speaks With Water came to my aid. He swept through my opponents, scoring multiple cuts on several of them at once with a great running strike. His blade cleaved through them disrupting enough of their efforts to hold me down that I could throw them off. The snake boy reared up to strike at Cody, freeing my legs. I lost track of that battle as the Black Spiral Dancer ripped his teeth from my thigh muscle and leapt for my throat. I backed off, escaping the initial strike, but it started a pattern of me retreating.

Robby's lesson flashed into my mind. I stepped backwards. I was tired of being a victim of such tactics. So I employed it. I stepped back again, purposefully leaving my throat exposed. The Spiral was closing, every step he took towards me and advancement under his own slashing claws. They glittered in the strange orange twilight of the gym. The gathering flames were now much more apparent in the changing illumination, and gave a burning glamour to the expanding smoke.

I heard a clattering sound overhead and jumped back hard. As I watched, a section of the ceiling and one of the lighting fixtures fell down before me in flaming ruin. My arms were down as I looked about. The battle was still in the enemy's favor on numbers, but our strategy had apparently whittled them down to just over two to one. Against the odds, we were doing well.

And then the Spiral leapt over the debris, through the fire, at me. His eyes wild with Rage, his patagia spread wide, demonic, as if he were riding some hellish wind, his mouth hung open with his savage, twisted teeth, lunging for my throat. I planted my feet and with both hands on my weapon, I slashed at him. He landed to my right, turning to slash at me wildly with both sets of claws, the fur on his back and tail and patagia spotted here and there with flame. I turned to face him, dropped to a knee and slashed as well, aiming between his outstretched arms.

We both stopped. His breath was shown in the parting of the smoke around us as he exhaled. My breath felt chocked and dry in my throat. He gathered his arms, displaying his claws and his rack of life-ending fangs, drool slipping from his mouth. I raised myself to both feet and centered my blade, the red glow steady and firm before me, the point level with my eyes.

And then the Spiral's eyes rolled up under his brow as his body tilted forwards, cut deep by my weapon. His innards decorated the floor mats as much as the rapidly decaying ceiling above us littered the ground with flaming bits. He struggled to reach towards me, his claws losing their glittering menace of silver. We both knew he was dying. So I granted him a swift journey to the great unknown.

"It is ended," I said, reverting to my native tongue, and I brought my blade across his neck so hard that I felt the floor mats and concrete beneath part as well. The Spiral's head rolled clear.

I threw back my head and howled in victory. Four more enemies flocked to my call and I met them head on. It was a blur of swords and I felt my body sing with the power and fury of Rage and battle. It was glorious. It was intoxicating. It was what I felt my destiny should be, reveling in this moment of flashing blades, spinning away from attacks and laying my enemies low. This is what it means to be the Get of Fenris! This is what it means to be a warrior! This is what it means to be Garou!

Three fell by my blade and the fourth fell to the back of my paw as I slapped his face to the opposing side of his head. As the last one fell, Speaks With Water moved up beside me. He had dealt with the enemies in the manner they deserved. The snake boy was in three pieces behind him, tail and head both separated from torso.

"You're hurt!" he said, gesturing to my side. A long scratch under my left arm, along my ribs bled freely there, but I already felt it healing. The Spiral must have scored on me during our final pass, but I was so into the fray that I did not register it. Even know it was but a fading memory of pain.

"Just a scratch," I replied. "How fares?"

"Better than expected, but we need to get out of here. And we need to free up our boyfriends."

"Agreed." It was the first time I realized that the word "boyfriends" was exactly how I felt about Sven. Moments of clarity are often the result of enduring stress. It is how metal and warriors alike are forged. I felt as if I had been just pulled from the anvil, hardened by fire and quenched in oil.

Yet there was more to do. We both looked around to see where we were most needed, when we both heard a blood curdling cry of agony behind us.

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