Riposte Alpha

by D'Artagnon

Chapter N

Out Time

Nicky woke me with a gentle shake of the shoulder. I, in wolf form, promptly told him to politely go piss up a tree. Which was bad, because he shifted to wolf form as well and hiked his back leg over my face.

"Okay, I'm up, I'm up!" I shouted, narrowly avoiding a flood of epic proportions. He chuffed as he fell to his side, transforming back to human. His giggles continued. "No need to mark your territory."

"We marked each othah a while ago," Nick said, leaning up on his elbows. "It's early. Ev'ryone else is still cuttin' logs."

"You know I like to sleep in," I said, looking around for my shorts. My bladder needed the same type of relief Nick nearly doused me with. I yawned so hard it made my jaw hurt for a moment and shook my head to clear the rest of the cobwebs. "Why'd you wake me?"

"Thought we'd go for a run."

I stood, adjusting my shorts, and eyed him suspiciously. Don't get me wrong, I was mildly miffed to be missing out on extra nap time, especially with how hard we had been training of late. But there was something about the way Nick was acting that made me think there was some other reason behind his eyes. Life with Nick was never boring.

We moved out of the campsite by the waterfall and immediately shifted to Lupus form, galloping around the vast open field where the Unicorns stood, sleeping. As we roamed the flowing, rolling grasslands, I noticed other creatures in this bygone herd. Notably a small cluster of white rhinos, grazing and snoozing as they slept. A group of large, awkward looking birds, a bit larger than chickens, was startled by the pace of our advancement through the high grasses. We even passed by a large tortoise, its enormous shell like a small hillside.

We crested one rise and stared down at the river. Nick paused and I paused a moment later, looking back at him as he sat, majestically. The moon still colored everything in pale light, and seemed to line him in silver, the guard hairs of his coat picking up the light, almost glowing. Positively supernatural.

Gaia, I love him.

"What is it?" I chuffed his way, giving a soft whine as well.

"This valley. It's so diff'rnt from mah home. But it's still awesome. Still so beautiful."

I sat beside him, looking in the same direction. "I know. It's so different than my home as well. The trees are so… varied." I didn't know what else to say. "You worry that we wont get to see your home, your family again?"

"Ya'll're mah family now. You and the others."

"I mean your moms. Your sisters."

"Ah know what you meant, Glub-Glub," he said, with a lick to my face. "But the bayous're mah past. Got to focus on the future. But Ah could easily see why so many folks fall in love with this place."

That sounded ironically final. I had lost my home in Maryland, he chose to give up his home in Louisiana. Even Sven and Magnus had lost whatever their home had been in Europe. Looking down into the valley, the river snaking below, I could see why others could fall for this little town as well. Here, in this cross between the Umbra and the Dreaming, the buildings didn't show much, leaving a clear view into the bowl of the valley. I could see the lush greenery, the millions of different shades of green, the diversity.

"Yeah," I simply said, leaning in from the shoulder. "I see it, too."

A small bird came and landed before us. I noticed right away that it was not just a bird, but a bird spirit. But this wasn't a part of the bygone. Those were more common spirits. This was more a spirit avatar. I looked down and bowed to the bird and tried to identify it. It bowed back to me and spoke up with a chirp-chirp. Immediately, I understood.

"Greetings to you, Speaks With Water," the pigeon spoke, brightly.

"Greetings to you, as well." My woofs to the spirit caught Nick's attention and he twisted his head in canine interest and mild confusion. But he recognized that I was communing, so he stayed silent, that curious glint in his eye.

"You know," the pigeon said, "the other birds are all talking about you."

"I did not know."

"Oh, yes. The fire, the lighting, the unicorns, oh my. So many voiced talk of our actions."

"We haven't done much lately," I said, sheepishly.

"Oh, perhaps not, in this space-time here. But yes, yes, yes, so much going on in real time. The birds are all a flutter about it, yes, so much a flutter."

"I'm sorry if that disturbs you."

"Oh, my word, no. No, no, no. Having something to talk about is sooooo important to us pigeons. Mercy me, it's given us something interesting to do. My yes, it has."

"Oh, uh, cool," I responded.

"What's the airhead sayin'," Nick whispered. I merely shushed him. The little spirit glanced up at Nick and politely poked its tongue out at him.

Turning back to me, the pigeon spirit spoke up. "Well," it said, with an exaggerated rolling trill, "they are also talking about all the things you've done since moving here. You and your mate."

"I didn't know our activities made the news."

"Oh, well, perhaps not news as much as gossip. You know we birds. Flocks come and flocks go, but always talking. Unless there are other Garou boys working with Changelings in this area?"

"Not as I am aware. But is it good to know that our exploits are entertaining."

"Yes, well," the bird said, hopping about, nervously. "I am not sure how to tell you this. Really not my place to say."

I got the feeling that playing up to the gossip angle would get me further with this pigeon. Where the spirits are concerned, it sometimes helps to play whatever game or tact they generally follow. "No, it's okay. I can keep a secret."

"Weelllll… it's about that other boy you two were seen with. I swear, those sea gulls. Humph! If it's not nattering on about French fries, its endlessly complaining about fishermen. Can barely trust a thing they say. Except where their nesting places are concerned."

"What other boy?"

"Oh, that one you got into a fight with those other dark boys about. So much aggression! Mercy!" she said, fluttering her wings. Nick took a lean to the side, lifting his paw as she resettled her wings.

"JJ?" I spoke, getting a worried look from Nick. I traded him a worried whine as well. I refocused and spoke to the pigeon again. "He seems to be lost. I worry about him."

"Oh my, you will have to be very worried about him. The sea gulls were quite adamant about where he is now. It is so sad."

"Fair lady, what do you mean?" Now, mind you, in the real world it had only been a few hours since the fire at the YMCA building and the simultaneous attack at the docks. It was barely around 5 PM or so, at least as far as we could tell. So getting real-time location information about JJ was a huge advantage. It also showed that the birds were aware of where we were. I'm not sure if that was reassuring or worrisome.

"Oh, they see him. Talk about the condition he's in. Why, I'm certain they know where is, all the time. They squawk about the boy dragged past their nesting spot. The other boys kick at their nests and crush their eggs. Can you imagine? How scandalous! But he doesn't do that."

"That-that's good to know." Confirmation. JJ was alive. But was he safe in that… wait I still didn't know which building.

"Yes. Anyways. I just wanted to meet the famous ones before you go into battle. The girls wont be-lieve that you are so nice!"

"Can you tell me one thing, ma'am?"

"Oh certainly, certainly. Whatever is it?"

"Which building is it that the sea gulls say he's in?"

"Oh. That. Why, the human one that looks like a cliffside, right by the sea."

"I don't know which building that is?"

"Oh, I think you'll recognize it when you see it. Oh my, the sun comes so early now a days. Gotta fly! See ya!" And she suddenly took flight. "Good luck for the battle!" echoing in her wake.

"Whut da mother fuckin' whut was dat?" he asked, his wolf voice dripping with Cajun hot sauce.

"JJ is alive. The pigeons know. The sea gulls have eyes on him."

"Uh, we're trustin' second-hand information from birds?

"She was kind of chatty," I admitted. "But they know where he is. He's safe for the moment."

Nick sighed heavily. "Cody, he may be too far gone," he said, wearily. "Ah don't wanna give up on him, either. We don't know that he ain't playin' us for fools. Ah mean, Keith is gone," he whined, and something in his wolfly voice struck me. Nick was sad as well about JJ's betrayal.

"If we can save him, we gotta try," was all I said. It's really weird, that it's just two words in the wolf tongue. Even in more formal wolf speech, it's only two words.

Nick silently digested it for a moment. In the valley below, ani mals grazed in herds, the motions of the unicorn's necks and horns standing out. Time didn't stand still, but for me it seemed to hang on, like a conversation that you just can't give up on, wind up talking for hours. Yet we sat in contemplative silence.

"Ah guess Ah did sorta start this," he offered. "Defending JJ in da arcade." He looked to me with a grin. "And we do gotta steal back the maps."

"Guess that means you're in?"

"Long as you are," he replied with a shoulder check. "Race ya home?" And he took three steps before I could even raise my tail, chasing him like a rogue rabbit.

Robby's training wasn't as strict that morning. We goofed off, trading sword fighting moves. Mostly we trained for group moves. The kind of stuff you see in an Avengers movie. It's very free form and flowing, requires a lot of unspoken communication. And after the last couple of days in the bubble, we had gotten pretty good at that.

Hopefully it would all pay off in the end, meaning that none of us would be six feet under. I looked across to them differently today. Wondering how many of my friend's funerals I'd have to be rite master for. It was a sobering thought which all of us tried to bury with teasing, back slapping and generally being happy.

But I could see in his eyes, as clear as day, Robby was worried.

After a light lunch, mostly of the leftovers of the stuff the kitts had brought us, we started making preparations for the moot. It's a werewolf tradition, done differently by different tribes. For this weird pack mix of changelings, odd powers and Garou, we decided to keep it basic. No need to step on any one tribal totem's toes.

Preparations were pretty basic. There was a large slab of raw granite, thrust up from the grassy area around the pool. It actually provided the back side of the pool area, sheltering it for us on two sides. It poked up out of the tree line and made for an excellent spot for star watching. Figured it would make for an impromptu moot location, as we didn't exactly have a caern handy. With all the magic flowing around the bubble, I didn't think we'd need one. We each picked up rocks from around the bubble and brough them up to our flat rock, forming a fire ring. I then set about a cleansing ritual, which Kenny helped me with, mostly salting the rocks and bathing the area around the fire ring with water from the pool. It wasn't perfect, but it was kind of pretty, in a primitive sort of way.

At what we perceived as dusk in the bubble, we started. We set up a fire in our ring, getting it good and hot, like a bonfire. I was reminded that we almost were chewed up by fire, and the echoes of the dream remained strong in me. I had to blink away the image as we stoked the blaze higher.

Sitting around the fire, I started a howl. The other werewolves picked it up, changing their tones as wolves do, g radually adding to the song. The others joined in as well, getting very deeply vocal about it. There was sorrow, there was anger, there was joy in companionship. Robby really got into it, that Satyr flare for the dramatic coming across strong and clear. Even Jack got into the mix, howling like a heathen. And I swear I saw tears in Bethy's eyes. To me, it seemed she was letting out her feelings for Juan. He was sorely missed.

After a loud and long howl, I called the corners to open the moot. Basically, is an opening prayer called the Inner Sky. It's a call to the five winds. The East Wind, the bringer of dawn and our connection to the Umbra; The South Wind, who helps us channel Rage; the West Wind, the rain-wind, who grants us our shape shifting talent; the North Wind, he who brings cool logic to our Rage, the giver of wisdom; and finally the Inner Wind, the spirit of Gaia, the power of the eternal earth.

I could feel the spirits drawing near. Aspects of the sky grew darker, more moody. Heat lightning traded flashes among the clouds, letting me know that the sky spirits were still preparing for war. Some seemed to be left over remnants of the many fires put down in the last few hours, reveling in their dance of consumption. I couldn't help but think of that Wyrm spirit that tried to crack the dome, still nursing it's wounded paw.

I thanked the spirits, and began asking them to bless our weapons. I then had all the guys lay out their sabers and other gear, giving each it's own name. Kenny came beside me and sat, helping me arrange them around the fire.

Robby was first, walking up solemnly. Robby put in SkyFire and his saber Blue Streak, Kenny put in his Ikwla and his saber Glimmer. Our short leader took a seat beside Kenny, starting a ring around the fire. Nick put in his Klaive and his saber, Whisper. He sat beside me and gave me a grin. Magus and Sven contributed their sabers Dragon Fang and Stone Cutter as well, choosing to sit beside Robby as the fire circle began to form. Bethy, whose saber was broken at the Y, put in her bow, Reacher, and Juan's wicked, serrated-backed sword Long Tooth as well. She took a seat beside Nick and accepted a one armed hug, leaning on my boyfriends shoulder.

Paul reluctantly put in his golden saber, naming it Xiphos, or Zipper for short. But he even more reluctantly put in his skateboard. It had become as much a part of his weapons as anything else. He named it Hop, short for Hoplite, the Spartan shield, and put it in beside the fire as well, coming to stand halfway around the rock-ringed moot fire.

All eyes turned towards Jack. The smaller boy seemed to feel the weight of the stares and moved up to the fire as well. He walked up, the fire reflecting in his eyes and handed over his bow, calling it Jactor (pronounced as though the J were an I, E-act-tor), which I understand i s Latin for "one who throws". He started to move away, but stopped, holding the broken pieces of his metallic green saber. He looked around at all of us, his eyes trembling.

"I know I don't deserve this. All of you are creatures of magic, of myth. I'm just cast-off cybernetics. My strength isn't supernatural like yours. Nor my speed, nor do I have any gifts such as you have."

"Jack, it ain't about…" Nick started to say but Sven quickly cut him off.

"Let him speak. This is the way. Continue, Jack."

Jack silently thanked Sven for the help, and still gave Nick a glance that said he was good. Nick nodded and gestured for Jack to go on.

"I don't know how well the logical part of my brain is going to deal with all of this. I know it's real, I know that all of it is real. There are just some things that I resist on principle. So much of my understanding is changing. I hope this does whatever it's supposed to do. Science teaches us to look and observe, to measure, collect data, and draw inferences based on the facts. I may not have understanding, completely. I may never have that." He looked around, finally settling on Paul across the fire from us. "But I have faith. I have hope. And I am learning to let the magic be magic, and the truth be the truth."

His slight frame turned to me and presented me with the pieces of his lightsaber. "I hope that is enough. This is Shard."

I stood up and embraced him, feeling a great welling of pride in my new friends declaration. "I'm sure it will be enough." Thus Shard entered the arranged weapons. Walking around the fire circle, Jack got a pair of firm hugs from Magnus and Sven as well, on the way to the arms of his boyfriend. They shared a quick kiss, Paul leaning down to graze his boy's lips.

"All our weapons will receive, with the spirits blessings, gifts to make us stronger in combat," Kenny said, speaking up. "Join hands." We begain a second howl, but this time more a song than a simple gather of voices. Nick, Magnus and Sven had shifted to Crinos, howling deep and long and loud. I remained in human form, to direct the energies of Garou magic. Can't use Rage and Gnosis at the same time, so I needed to remain in form.

Kenny, using the combined energy of our circle, spread salt and water over our weapons, invoking deep changeling arts, and the power of the ritual was not lost on me. At one point during his ritual, he directly tapped into Robby's energy, Robby tapping directly into the Tear of Cerulean, and the entire circle flashed so blue and bright I thought the rocks around the fire might be bleached from it. As his ritual cooled, I could detect multiple glows upon the lightsabers, their energy replenished and renewed.

Then it was my turn. I called on the spirits themselves to grant our pack their gifts, both for the fight ahead and the growing conflicts which lay before us. It was a solemn moment, and the mournful howls of those around us kept up. I could feel energy building, washing over me, over us, over all our weapons. The fire suddenly flickered and changed, going from orange glow to brilliant white. And then I saw them, walking into the firelight, bathed in it.

The Unicorns, both White and Black, were among us. As were other spirits. I clearly could see Cat among them, and Rabbit. Masked Raccoon and slippery Otter. Wiley Fox, wise Owl. Fierce Eagle, noble Falcon and even tiny Hummingbird. Wolf was present, too, as well as a trio of bird spirits, standing back and watching as we began the ritual. Even far overhead, the dark clouds themselves seemed to be present, as if by Grandfather Thunder's decree.

But that's another story.

One by one, they strode into the middle, each touching upon the weapons as we howled on, struck by the awe and majesty of it. When the parade of spirits ended, the Unicorns remained. White Unicorn came forward and used her horn to push on my chest.

"You are now more than my children," the spirit spoke, "you are a pack. And in my name, this pack shall quest."

"We will, gentle Mother," I spoke. It took me a moment to realize I had spoken.

"My mate and I charge thee, Cody Speaks With Water, thy pack leader, Robyn the Blue, and all your pack brothers, now and in the future days, to always help those you can. Defend the weak, root out evil, where it lives and where it breeds. Your days will not be easy, but you will be strengthened by your struggles. This is my decree. And if the time comes, you shall offer yourselves to my brother Phoenix, to be as his pack."

"We will, Mother." I found myself looking over and saw Robby had stood and spoke it as well. The others had also arisen, even Jack. Only Bethy remained down, kneeling upon the ground, looking on in awe. The Unicorn strode to her side. They had some private conversation that I could not hear, and she nodded, crying. But she shook her head, sadly, mournfully. Then White Unicorn turned and walked into the blazing white of the fire.

The Black Unicorn strode to Robby's side. He pointed his massive horn to Robby's narrow chest as well.

"Know you this, dragon slayer. I am watching you. You still have my favor. As I have called all this pack, I must call upon you harder still. War can be a terrible thing. Be sure you are prepared for the outcomes of what you set in motion. This pack has my blessing, but it is charged with absorbing much suffering as well as meting out righteous fury. The things you do will weigh heavily in the balance. Be mindful."

"Yes, Father," Robby replied.

"We have chosen well," the black one said, with some humor in his voice. "Don't disappoint me." Robby looked up into the spirit's eyes, and I could see the challenge of Robyn staring back, fiercely, agreeing. Then the Black Unicorn tu rned to enter the bright column of white as well, but stopped, looking at Paul and Jack. "I have chosen very well," he said, and bowed in Jacks direction before stepping into the blaze of light.

And like that… it was over. The wash of light left me a bit dazzled, and I had to rub my eyes. But when I opened them, there was still a residual glow coming from our fire circle. It was pale, but it was there, somewhat brighter than the fire, which seemed dull by comparison.

"Uh, Glub-Glub?" Nick asked, looking on in awe. "Did we just… did we build a caern?"

"I think we did," Sven said, leaning in to touch the stones of our circle in wonder. "We created a caern!"

"I what?" Paul asked, totally bewildered. But Jack saved him.

"A caern is a place of power, usually a place of either natural splendor or other geological phenomena, occasionally marked by stone monuments or earthworks. It is something of extreme religious significance around the world. I think the werewolves mean something more than that."

"It feels like a balefire," Kenny said at length. "We changelings have something much like that, a place for conducting rituals, for tapping into the raw power of the Dreaming. I think, no, I know what we just did basically light a balefire here."

"Wow," was all Robby could say.

"Congratulations, guys," Bethy said, standing. "You have your own caern-slash-balefire now. You are guardians of great power."

"Don't you mean we?" Nick put in.

"No. The unicorn talked to me. Said I had a different purpose than this pack. She said that my destiny wasn't tied to all of yours. That I had a different purpose. I could walk beside you, but my path would eventually lead me away."

Robby was by her side in that moment, gathering her into his arms. It wasn't long before we all piled on.

"I will proudly wear your colors, my lord Robyn, in my beloved's honor," she tearfully vowed.

"I will be happy to count your name among ours, always, Elzbeth Oakenbow," he said. "And you will always have a place by our fire."

"Thanks guys," she said, humbly, and broke up the group hug.

"Ah guess that means we have some pack business t' attended to," Nick stated, getting us to shake off our feels. "As it so happens, Sven and Magnus have gone through their trial by fire. As such is Garou tradition, that means they've passed their rite of passage, and must be recognized as such."

The two foreign werewolves stood and presented their arms out, fists showing inwards. They were stiffly at attention, when Robby spoke up.

"They aren't the only ones. Jack, Paul. As pack leader, I call you out as well. You will also be recognized."

"Uh, but we didn't do anything," Paul protested, standing. Jack likewise stood, mimicking the older boys.

"Perhaps not anything other than what everyone else did, but if I have my guess right, this is a ceremony to grant you your pack names, based on your performance. Kenny and I already have our pack names. Our changeling names cover that, right Nick?

"Uh, yeah, Ah guess it does. And Cody an' Ah already had our rite of passage. Just gotta recognize these four."

"Right. Well, as master of ceremonies, you have the floor," Robby smirked and sat down.

"Gotcha!" My Nick turned and dove right in. "As ya'll all know, these four critters is proper packmates, havin' showed not only courage in the face a' danger, but grace under pressure, and a willin'ness ta do what's right even if it's difficult… with some promptin', in Maggie's case." There were some chuckles around the fire. "And we know here abouts what they done. No need to talk it ta death. So it is my honor to rename them in the tradition of our Garou ancestors."

First he walked up to Sven, the size difference apparent between them. Oddly, his accent seemed to drop off. "You stand in the balance. The middle of all things. You stand strong for what is right. You are fair and balanced, keeping our traditions and our new ways, always with a spark towards owning the truth. When things get weird, we can always depend on you ta look to the past an' the future. You stand before me as the truest friend. Sven, I name here, before everyone, as Fulcrum." And he slapped Sven in the face hard enough to shake him. But to his credit, Sven remained standing. Across the fire from me, I saw Paul and Jack share a look of surprise, but quickly returning to their stoic pose. Sven, for his part, looked happier then I had ever seen him, and a tear of pride rolled down his cheek, still glowing with Nick's handprint.

Next Nick walked up to Magnus, a smug look of pride on his face. "You are always ready for a fight or a laugh. You are strength when it's needed, endurance when demanded and Rage when called upon. You ain't the smartest guy, but you make up for it in heart and guts and courage. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You practice what ya preach, and always speak yuir mind. And watching you in a fight is like poetry in motion. An' ya keep me honest, which ain't easy. You are everything yuir dad doesn't want, and everything he should be proudest of. Therefore, Magnus, I name you here, before everyone, as Mond Ritter."

His accent was something out of a nightmare collision of Cajun and German, but Magnus seemed to like his new name, which translates as Moon Knight. He smiled despite the haymaker that Nick slugged him with, shaking his head afterwards, grinning ear to ear. Nick had to shake his fist out after that one, but moved on to where Paul nervously stood, awaiting his fate.

"You have never failed to show your heart, your courage or your ability to learn. Ya'll took on a burning building, twice, fer folks that was strangers to you just hours before. That's double tough! Ya'll faced monsters. Ya toed the line, stood y er ground and always did yuir family name proud. Ya showed compassion when in the face of horrors, and never blinked. And you brought to mind what was always in your heart. Paul Carver, I name you here, before everyone, as Spartan." And Nick hauled back and slugged Paul in the chest, really hard. Paul winced, but didn't seem too put out by the blow.

When Nick came to stand before Jack, he found the other boy staring straight ahead in anticipation, arms held stiffly out. "Your mind is as sharp as any blade on that pile. Your wit and wisdom rivel my own, humbly." That drew a giggle from Robby and Kenny. "You know so much stuff, and you hunger for more. And while you may not have werewolf strength and resiliency, or changeling agility or wiles, you have an uncanny way of doing exactly the right thing at the right time. You deserve to be one of us, and you got the will and heart to back it up. You are the sliver that finds the tiniest crack in someone's armor and pierces through. That's precision, ya'll. And it takes guts to hang in there for that perfect shot. Jack, I name you here, before everyone, as Toothpick." And Nick thumped his ear with a finger, really hard.

"Ouchh. Thanks, I think," Jack said, holding his ear.

Then Kenny stood, and all grew silent again. The changelings shimmered and suddenly stood before us revealed. Kenny stood as Kay Neth, the Steel-Eyed, looking a good bit more tanned and decked out in leathers and furs, a warrior from the vast expanse of Egypt in the time of the pharohs. His ornaments and decorations reflected in the firelight, his eye makeup tracing out the Eye of Horus. So too did Robby stand revealed as Robyn the blue. His goat legs were covered in light armor, protecting the joints, as were his chest and hips, but for the most part, his Satyr heritage stood out proudly on his head, his four small horn nubs showing where his goat horns would one day spiral up from. Bethy retained her regal bearing but even more so, suddenly bedecked in a silken gown of pastel hues that were impossible to pick out, as they flowed from one to another and seemed to dance with inner light. Her vestments were bound at wrists and waist by what looked like golden fibers spun so fine they moved like cloth.

"As our Garou allies have made of us their pack, it falls on us to make them part of our motley. It is as sacred a promise as any made by our kind. An oath made unto the Dreaming itself. As the truth speaker of this oath circle, it falls to me to give the words. They must be repeated thrice while hands are conjoined. I will give the words the first time, and we shall intone them thereafter. All stand and complete the circle."

We rose and joined hands, Magnus reluctantly at first. His former tribe had so much hold on him, but I saw Jack reach up to take Magnus' hand, and all pretense seemed to leave him. Any doubts about changelings he had in the past washed away from him and his took a cleansing, deep breath.

Kenny spoke, and we echoed his words, tone and rhythm. The second time through, they seemed to catch on something in my chest as I spoke them. The third time… something magical lifted me through the chest and I not only spoke his words, I meant them, felt them. Believed them.

"Blood for blood, bone for bone, life for life, until only we stride the earth.

My life is in your hands, my blood is in your veins.

Hold me well and I will lend you my strength; break your bond and may we both perish.

Brotherhood I swear to you; an oath of clasped hands and shared hearts."

And I kid you not, that third time through, lightning struck the fire ring and surged out to each of us, striking at our hands where they were clasped. But instead of incinerating us where we stood, it seemed to bond us. I can't speak for the others, but I felt like my chest swelled, rippling waves of energy poured through me and between all the guys of the circle. It lasted for nearly ten seconds and then the lightning receded. I don't know how else to describe it other than it was fucking lightning and we all still survive it, unscathed. I had to put my hands up to my head to make sure I still had hair, and that it wasn't stuck straight up in the air.

"We are bonded, brothers." Kenny couldn't have been more right. I just felt so close to all of them. So just plain connected. After a few moments of silly, sheepish grins, we sat around talking about different things. Robby and Kenny shared their experiences fighting the dragon. Paul and Jack go into how they had fought Jack's mad scientist dad. Sven and Magnus talked about going into an Antwerp heroine den and burning the place down. I even managed a few words in edgewise when Nick told about our defeat of that Black Spiral pack months ago, along with my battle with the water elemental. It got to be a very good story telling environment around that fire. We should have had the kitts bring more marshmallows.

"Hey, Shadow Foot," Jack said from across the fire, practically sitting in Paul's lap. "How did you pick our names?"

"Shucks, ain't no thang, Toothpick. Ah chose 'em based on who ya'll are. Plus, Ah had a little bit o' advanced knowledge 'bout what ya'll might like from yuir boyfriends. Ain't no secret Maggie's a big sword dancer type. Sven is our balance, being a keeper o' the ways an' all. Robby already named Paul 'Spartan' afore, and that fits him to a tee. And you just about light up when Spartan calls you Toothpick and looks at you like that. Plus, it's a sign of respect for yuir talent."

"Talent?" Paul asked, his arms tightening around Jack's slim waist.

"Not shure if you noticed, but ya got a gift with the bow," Nick explaine d. "Ah bet ya could rake an arrow across a toothpick, on target, with that bow a yours, an' split it down the middle."

"Laterally or axially?" Jack grinned.

"Either way you'd split it near perfect in half."

"He's good," Bethy said, looking at her protégé. "He's still raw, doesn't know all that a bow can do yet, but he'll get there."

"Speaking of splitting," Robby said, picking up his weapons. "I think we all need to get some sleep. We got a battle in the morning."

"Agreed." And we performed a brief rite to close our caern, the fire in the pit returning to the dull red glow of banked coals. Our new packmates seemed to be enthralled with their new enchantments placed on their weapons. Jack was even impressed with his Shard, although his blade seemed far shorter than everyone else's. It lived up to the name.

We marveled at our renewed weapons, taking time to acquaint ourselves with the new features. Kenny's changeling alchemy renewed the light blades aspect for the sabers, making them bright and true again, as well as granting them that uncanny ability to return when summoned. A neat trick if it gets knocked from your hand in a fight. From the spiritual side of things, our weapons now gave us the ability to fight on any surface and fall from tremendous heights without getting hurt. Useful when storming a castle. Plus, they greatly enhanced our ability to leap over things.

So in effect, our Jedi class fencing training had become more a reality than Master Mitch could have dreamed. Or Dreamed rather. I began to think of what happened to the Jedi in the movies and how that path was sort of what had happened to us. We were inspired by the past, but forced to complete our own training without a master to guide us. Somehow, I found that fitting.

I just didn't want to be the one to lose a hand. But that's a separate story all its own. With many lessons.

After some goofing around, doing impossible moves off trees, boulders, the cliffside, each other… we wound down from the moot and split off by pairs for rest. Normally the moot ends in something called a Revel, where the Garou go a bit wonky racing around the area of the caern in a physically demanding race, all emotion, all shape shifting, all crazy chaos, releasing their energy to the caern itself, renewing it, strengthening it. But our new caern was strong. It didn't need rededication of purpose from us. It need the calm before the storm.

So it was with that in mind that they others drifted off, using their pack names, slapping each other on the back. We had never felt so interconnected. So at peace. Even Bethy smiled as she sat by the near side of the pool, far back from the waterfall. I approached her with a smile as I got closer and she smiled back, reaching up to tie her hair into a pony tail.

"That was quite a ceremony. I didn't know Nick could be so insightful."

"Yeah, he has moments," I agreed and sat near her. "We didn't know him much. Juan. Croaker. But we know how much he means to you. And to Kenny and Robby."

"Kind of you to say," she replied, clearly holding back the tears. "But his Long Tooth will be with me, even if he is in the Mysts."

"He's a warrior. A fighter. I… when I laid hands on him for mother's touch, with your hand in as well… I got a glimpse of his heart. Not just in the medical sense. He is gonna make it, Bethy," I said, as she broke down into tears. I held her and she just bawled against my chest. "He's gonna make it back to us."

"I know," she whispered back, gentle as moth wings. "I just fear he wont remember. That when Juan comes back… Croaker will be gone."

"Time will tell. I will do what I can to bring him back. Kenny knows far more about these things, but we'll pool our knowledge and bring him back. I promise." A flash of heat lightning rippled across the sky, just as I said it, and I remembered that promises made in the Dreaming always had consequences, sometimes ominous ones.

"Thank you, Cody Speaks With Water," she said, drying her eyes. "But this is my burden to bear. I'm kind of tired. Perhaps you should get some rest as well."

"Perhaps." I stood and held out my hand. "You coming?"

"I think tonight I need to be alone, reflect on my own preparations. You go," she stood with my help. "Find Nick and give him this for me," she said and planted a kiss on my cheek. "And one for you as well," and she gave me another kiss on the opposite cheek, and then embraced me tightly. I held her for a bit, realizing she was a bit taller than me, and let her go when she pushed lightly. And then without another word, she turned and walked into the waiting woods, vanishing into the night.

I turned and looked back up the cliff made by the star watching rock, its cool granite partially blocking the moon, to see a figure backlit there. Lean, limber, with an attitude, standing with one hip popped forwards. As I looked, the shadow figure moved, shifting weight on his hips, before stepping away. I knew it was Nick and moved to follow. The fresh enchantments on my saber helped and I easily leapt the thirty or so feet up the rocky escarpment in a single bound.

But by then the shadow of Nick had moved on, a single bush betraying his movement. 'A chase, then?' I thought, and shifted to Lupus form. Instantly the night became ALIVE to my senses. The earthy scent of leaves on the ground; the charred smoky remains of our fire; the wind, blowing scents that the unicorns would rather you not know about their biological necessities. The moonlight made the nighttime as bold as mid-morning sun to my awakened senses, and I could hear the distant droning rush of the waterfall. I spied a trace of motion and was off, attracted to the whip of a tree limb or the flick of a bus h branch.

I followed the trail or scent and motion, of barely glimpsed motion and the sound of another wolf breathing heavily. He crossed his own trail several times, leading me on a chase through the woods, over open granite rocks, around boulders and small depressions in the earth, teasing me as he went. Finally he burst out of the woods and I spied him, resplendent in the moon light. A black furred wolf with white lower body, his piercing eyes cast over his shoulder, tail fluffy and full. He winked at me and ran down towards the pool.

I was so taken aback by the sight of him, I had stopped and stared. It took me a moment to realize he had resumed the "catch me if you can" race. I bolted down after him, running right past Magnus and Sven, both laying in each other's arms, talking as young lovers do. I must have passed them running crazy, because they both looked up and laughed. A howl came from ahead of me, sounding echoey and flat, but definitely Nick's tone. I persued him down to the water fall and searched for him again, my nose leading the way.

At the water's edge, I lost the scent. No other motion betrayed itself. Even the wind was unmoving. I had run hard for what seemed an hour, and breathlessly sniffed about for any possible trail. By happenstance, I looked up at the waterfall and noticed a flicker of firelight behind it. It was barely there, but hard to miss now that I stared directly at it. It was if something in the water had captured an unearthly glow.

Then I remembered. Nick had said there was a secret cave behind the waterfall. And that he had "arranged" for us to have it tonight. I walked towards the hidden cave, seeing the light flicker and ripple in the cascading waters, streaming over the smooth rocks. As I approached, there was a slight opening, where the moss and vegetation barely covered a recess in the rock face, covering a path carved into the stone there. It was a simple matter to push the hanging vines aside with my nose. The path was completely hidden from view by the overgrowth and the waterfall itself, and nearly invisible. I shifted to Homid and could easily walk behind the falling waters without getting wet. I marveled at the smoothness of the rock to my right side and the sheerness of the water on the left, nearly three feet from me. All behind the curtain of plants was dry, and led exactly to the center of the waterfall, where it turned inwards, under the hill itself. Flickering candle light drew me onwards.

There wer sconces every few feet, with crystal mirrors carved with great care and skill, into the rock facing, reflecting some inner fire. The tunnel traveled up slightly, then left, right, further right, left again, and opened into a wide, cavernous room. The place was laid out in furs and silks, blankets and pillows, and featured another larger of the illuminating crystal s, set in a wide brazier, although no fire was in evidence.

And there too stood my Nicky. He was in Homid form as well, dressed in only his gym shorts. He had a brushing of moisture on his skin, although whether from the exertions of his chase or from the falls, I could not tell. In the light from the crystal, though, he glowed. His arms had become more sculpted than when we'd first met in that campground so long ago. Really it was but a few months, but we'd both changed so much in that time. He still had that lop-sided grin and shaggy brown hair from when I first laid eyes on him. He regarded me with that grin, his eyes twinkling.

"Thought you'd never get here," he said, quietly but with such sureness.

"I was chasing something."

"Found som'thin', have you?"

"You're Yoda imitation needs work," I replied, looking around the cave. "So this is the big secret room behind the waterfall? Kenny and Robby should rent it out. They'd make a killing on air bnb."

"Tonight it's all ours, Speaks With Water."

"Is that a fact, Shadow Foot?" I asked, using his Garou name. I'd gotten into the swing of using pack names early tonight, with our newly minted pack mates. "And what do you think we should do with this awesome room, on this night of nights," I said, feeling some kinda way. I felt like there should have been, like, some retro jazz music playing. That one of us should have had, like, a martini in his hand. It seemed, I dunno, kinda like an old movie.

"Just you an' me," he said smoothly. "Ah don't wanna think about anything else but you an' me."

He was still breathing heavy from our romp through the woods when he came to my side and kissed me. It was like the first kiss we ever shared, months ago. More lightning striking me. His next kiss was more passionate, more sensuous as his hands gathered my body into his. I felt my arms clutch onto his chest and could feel the warmth of his skin, the quickening of his breath. Still kissing me, he brought us down, onto the pile of soft things, I'm not even sure what they were, pillows or blankets or cast-off ski jackets for all I knew.

I sat up above him, breaking our kiss and gave him a knowing smile. I pulled my shirt up over my head and threw it over my shoulder. I didn't care where it land, the sooner I was naked, and hie was naked, the better. His hands went to my hips and I could feel his excitement under me. And I knew in that moment, in that infinite lifetime of seconds, that this was a now or never moment.

"Shadow, I'm excited, but I'm scared. This is no going back. This is for life."

"Ah know, beloved. Mah Speaks With Water."

"I'm ready this time." I said, grinning down on him. I lifted up off his hips and rolled to the side. My shorts were off in a second, his following. I looked on him, naked, pure as the day he was born, then looked up to his eyes. He looked me ove r as well, jaw hanging open, his tongue going out in an almost canine expression. He looked hungry. And I realized, it had been a while since we'd used mouths on each other, or hands.

"So, uh, what do we do next?" he asked. Of course, we knew what to do, just not how to do it. I couldn't believe how turned on I was in that moment, how hard my dick was. I reached out to his dick and felt the shaft. It was hard as a rock and I grabbed it, squeezed it, gave his foreskin a little roll back. Nick groaned and I watched as a small drop appeared on his cock head.

"Oh, yeah, Cody. Ah love you, so much," he said, laying back. His hand wandered down to my dick as well, his fingers grazing over the prominent vein on top near my body. I don't know why, but I really like when he does that, almost scratching my dick. I leaned in to kiss him, making little noises as I did. He moaned as my gripping turned to whole fist stroking. His hand wrapped around my dick and I couldn't help myself, moaning into his mouth.

"Shadow," I breathed out, "I want you so bad. I want you to be with me. Inside me."

"Are you sure," he asked, almost without accent. We both knew what the other was thinking. It would hurt. Like really hurt. But I had a plan to make the hurt easier. I rolled onto my back, sort of pulling him upright by the cock. He knelt between my thighs while I pulled by calves up and held them. Then I switched to Glabro form, my body looking like a teen age caveman. Bigger, stronger, heavier. And more importantly, it made my ass bigger too.

He smiled and leaned over me to kiss me. His body felt so good, pressed against mine. For a while we just made out, me feeling his body with my thicker muscles, grabbing his cock, feeling how it jiggered and danced against my dick. I let my legs down to rub on his ribs, using my foot to push on his butt so he kind of dry humped against me.

Then he pulled back, smacking his cock on my hole. I knew it was going to happen, and I didn't much care. I looked up to him and smiled.

"I love you, Nick. Make us one."

"Cody, my love, ah am so in love with you. Okay, here goes."

They say the first time making love is difficult. And it was. His cock seemed enormously larger to me going into my butt than just in my hand. And since we'd had our first change, well, nature had us both growing in ways that other boys would be envious of. We weren't gigantic, but I'd say definitely on the bigger end of the spectrum. Still, my eyes went wide as he pushed, and finally got in past my muscles.

Let's say, the world opened up as my anus did. His cock slid in past my muscle and stars exploded in my brain. Not stars of joy, but of pain. Sharp, hard, stabbing pain. He had me by the ankles, looking down at where he entered me and I grunted out, angrily. There's just no other way to say it. I put a hand on his ch est, tried to put my feet on his chest, to push him out. I thought to myself 'there's no way Robby and Kenny do this all the time!! It fucking hurts like a motherfucker!!'

He held me in place as I panicked, kept shushing me. I twisted under him and tried like holy hell to get that thing (yes, I thought of it as that thing, not my Nicky's penis) the fuck out of me. He held me, talked me through it and calmed me down, the whole time keeping just the tip inside me.

And then, suddenly, it passed. My ass felt raw, roughed up, like I'd lost a fist fight, but the pain faded to a dull ache. My breathing calmed down, and I lay there under him, gripping his hand in mine and we both just breathed. I looked to his face, saw how concerned he was, and loved him all the more for it.

"Are you okay?" he asked, and I grabbed his head in my stronger form and kissed him. That seemed to relax me, because when I let him have some air from that kiss, he'd sunk half way in.

"Gaia, it's enormous. Oh, damn, Nick. It feels like a lead pipe." I groaned and he shifted his weight above me. Something clicked. Something else shifted and then… whoooosh! "Oh fuck," I breathed out, as his cockhead slipped over something inside and made my heart flip. "Whaaa!" I squeaked out. Yes, squeaked.

"Oh, shit. I'm sorry, Cody," Nick said, near to tears. "Okay hang on," he said, about to shift his hips and pull out. But I clamped down with my butt, wrapped his narrow waist with my legs.

"Don't you dare pull out, Nicholas Belanger," I almost shouted. For a long moment, neither of us moved. I looked up around the ceiling of the cave, slowly flexing my muscles. I can't believe I never realized how low my Glabro voice sounded. I looked up at him to see his eyes barely open. My clenching was having some effect on him, and it made me giggle. "Is it that good?"

"Oh, babe, ya gotta try this some time. It's so much better than a mouth."

"Okay. Push it all in."

"You shore 'bout that?"

"I can take it. Once your all in me, I'm gonna shift to normal. Okay?"

"Oh, Ah see it now! Cody, yuir a fuckin' genius!"

"Literally, I hope. Gaia, your cock feels so good. It's pressing right on…. Unghfff on something good."

"Ah love you."

"I love you too, Shadow."

He pushed it all in and it was like… heaven. Or at least as close to heaven as two teenaged werewolf boys could get to. When his balls finally met my tail, and I pushed out around him, and he was laying directly on my body, my balls around the base of his cock, and we were staring into each other's eyes, it was awesome! My ass still tried to push him out, but that steady feel of him pushing in at the ribbed inside of me, feeling that spot inside get constantly slid over… I was crying. Literal tears of joy, crying.

"You got it all, babe."

"Fuu-uuck, Shadow…" I breathed out. And I shifted back to homid form and it was n ight and day better. His cock seemed to swell inside me as my insides compressed around him.

"Uhhhgg, Cody!" he yelled out and I could feel his cock twisting in my guts. He went deeper, or rather I got smaller around him, but my legs stayed tight round his waist, keeping him from pulling back as I shrank down. His cock lurched in me and I could feel something running down my left ass cheek. When I shifted down, it pushed his cock deeper, but it also felt like his whole shaft was pressing that spot.

Call it a virgin's quick trigger, but I couldn't hold it. Everything felt tingly and hot and cold, like lightning striking inside my butt. I shot all over both of us. I was so concentrating on his cock that I had no idea what my own dick was doing. But as he was compressed in me, his eyes closed in the throws of his own orgasm, my dick flared to life and spit all over the both of us. It hit near my chin with the first blast, and the rest sort of decorated his chest and my chest with looping strings of liquid lust.

When both of our spermings had ended, we lay together, unable to move, and just giggled furiously. I pulled him down to my chest and we hugged, giggling like idiots. I kissed the side of his ear. He pulled back and kissed my chin, cheeks and forehead.

"Is that supposed to happen?" I asked, heaving for breath.

"Ah dunno. Holy fuck!"

"No kidding! My heart can't slow down!"

"Mine eitha!" he said, and punctuated it with a kiss. "Ah think we did it all wrong. That was ova way fasta than Ah thought."

"Yeah. Guess we were too excited. Fuck, that felt good! Why the hell did we wait?"

"Ya got me," he said, and made to get up off me, out of me. But I held his body in, clamped down on his cock.

"Stay. Okay, like, leave it in me. I like squeezing it."

"Ah like you squeezin' it. Ah ain't hurtin' you or nothin'?"

"No. You're not heavy and…. And I like having your hard cock inside me, even if we're just resting."

"Oh good," he replied, shifting his weight slightly, settling in more. "Ah think Ah like this. And Ah think Ah'm gonna like being on the receivin' end of this," he said, squeezing my dick in his hand. I shuddered at the oversensitivity feeling, but held on to him just the same.

For many moments neither of us spoke, just lost in the little twists and feelings of our first true love making, although it was much more like a quickie. I felt him grow heavier on me as he got comfortable, and I grew wider through the hips, pulling his weight down onto me. I saw weight, but he didn't way much more than I did. Two barely fifteen year old werewolves, relaxing in the afterglow.


"Yes, my Cody."

"I should be worried about tomorrow, but I'm not."

"Why's that?"

"Because we can't stop tomorrow from coming. We can't make it stop. We can stop the actions we take, but the day itself… we just have to live in the moment ."

"Ya'll just now figuring that out?"

"I guess so. It just all makes sense to me now."

"You say the sexiest thangs when we hook up," he said around a grin.


"Oh yeah," and he gave me a kiss. I could feel that he hadn't gotten soft inside me.

"Then you better do something to make some more sense of things. Slower, at first, this time."

Three more times, much slower to start, much harder to finish, we tried to make more sense of things. Why the hell did we wait so long?!

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